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Author: Lee Hill

Features, reviews and commentary to Cine-Eye (Iran), Sight & Sound, Resonance FM, Vertigo, SensesofCinema.com, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Cinemascope, The Times and others in the UK, Canada, US and Australia. I have also acted as a development consultant to Tiresias FIlm, the independent production company headed by Robert Chilcott.

Film Review: The Racer and The Jailbird

Reviewed by Lee Hill

Flemish director Michael R Roskam is best known for his noirish debut, Bullhead (2011), a searing character study of a young farmer caught up in the black market for illegal beef products. Bullhead made Matthias Schoenaerts one of the latest stars of European arthouse cinema to cross over to a global audience. It also established Roskam as a director who could combine character driven drama with suspense. Roskam and Schoenaerts worked on James Gandofini’s last film, The Drop (2014), and have reunited for a third time on this thriller about two seemingly mismatched, but obsessive lovers.

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Film Essay: Yellow Submarine 4K Reissue

Reviewed by Lee Hill

Where did the time go? Fifty years ago, if memory serves, when Yellow Submarine first hit theatres, I was mesmerized by the Gold Key comic tie-in owned by one of my neighbourhood pals. My other Beatle memory of 1968 was seeing the fab four on The Smother Brothers when their promotional films for “Hey Jude” and “Revolution” aired. I didn’t get to see the film properly until it began airing on TV in the 70s; by which time The Beatles had broken up and the decade they shook up seemed impossibly distant. However, as much as Beatlemania and nostalgia go hand in hand, the Chekhovian vibe of better yesterdays is kept in check by two things: the music remains as alive and vital as it did in the 60s, and our unending wonder that four Liverpudlians could do so much that was not just good, but great, in the space of eight years.

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Film Essay: Harlan Ellison Tribute

Harlan Ellison RIP: The Writer on the Edge of Forever

Essay by Lee Hill

Given that most of his books were out of print when he died, the widespread outpouring of love and admiration for Harlan Ellison belies the writer’s own cynicism about modern popular culture. During the heyday of his career in the 60s and 70s, Ellison dragged science fiction and fantasy (and legions of wallflower-like fans) kicking and screaming into the ferment of counter-cultural upheaval and experimentation. He did this not only as an award-winning short story writer, but through the anthology, Dangerous Visions, where he commissioned established and emerging writers, from Theodore Sturgeon and Robert Bloch to Samuel Delany and Philip K Dick, to explore themes such as sex, race, politics, the environment, the limits of technological progress, etc. with a revolutionary fervour that many in the parochial world of SF fandom were uncomfortable with.

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Film Review: Time Trial

Reviewed by Lee Hill

Time Trial is a mesmerising documentary portrait of Scottish cyclist David Millar. He competed in the Tour de France and other world class cycling events with success through much of the late 90s to early naughties. His career coincided with the period when the consensus culture surround doping was coming under greater scrutiny from the press, whistle-blowers and legal investigators. In August 2004, he was banned from the sport for two years. Like many a top cyclist, Millar did not exactly suffer from low self-esteem when he was accused of taking EPO, the illegal performance enhancement drug. He went through various stages of denial and self-reckoning before reinventing himself as the anti-Lance Armstrong.

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Edinburgh Film Festival: L’Apparition

Reviewed by Lee Hill

The Catholic Church has seen better days at the cinema. During the Golden Age of Hollywood in the 30s and 40s, The Church acted as gatekeeper and censor ensuring that both the Holy Spirit and Hays Code were affirmed. The clergy on film tended to come with a touch of the blarney a la Bing Crosby or as sympathetic, but ineffectual sounding boards like Karl Malden in On The Waterfront. More unorthodox or radical explorations of The Church, such as the work of Luis Bunuel or Robert Bresson, were relegated to film festivals and the art house Still every now and then faith would be explored with more than just good taste, but moral complexity in films like Fred Zinnemann’s A Nun’s Story or Alfred Hitchcock’s I Confess.

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Film Review: Path of Blood

Reviewed by Lee Hill

Terrorism is so often framed as an “us” vs. “them” proposition – First World being attacked by everyone else – in mainstream media outlets that it is important to be reminded that the worst impact is still being felt in the Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan and South-East Asia. Jonathan Hacker’s documentary, Path of Blood, is an absorbing examination of one such front line, Saudi Arabia. Drawing on over 500 hours of propaganda footage shot by Al-Qaeda cells from 2003 through 2005 that was seized by the Saudi authorities, as well as more traditional news sources, Path of Blood takes us straight into the hearts and minds of young Al-Qaeda members as well as the unwieldy efforts of the House of Saud to check the former’s campaign of terror.

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Film Review: In the Fade

Reviewed by Lee Hill

As clichés go, “revenge is a dish best served cold” ranks as one of the more vacuous. History is full of countless examples of eye for an eye retribution. Acts of vengeance may simmer. but are rarely far from boiling point. Much of the debate around how to deal with terrorism and its causes strives to get opponents to the negotiating table on the basis that endless retribution is futile. Yet the violence continues, and it is this all too human endgame that makes In the Fade such compelling viewing despite its missteps.

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Film Review: Studio 54

Reviewed by Lee Hill

In the mid-70s, reggae, punk and disco pushed and shoved a complacent rock scene into new musical frontiers. When two Syracuse University buddies, Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell, with the aid of $500k from silent partner, Jack Dushey, converted an old CBS TV studio in mid-town Manhattan into the legendary dance club, Studio 54, disco got a cocaine fueled boost into the mainstream. From 1977 to 1980, the club became mythic as a hedonistic living theater for celebrities, jet setters (or what was not so long ago called Eurotrash), bohemians, gays, die-hard eccentrics and people who just wanted to dance the night away.

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Film Review: Pandora’s Box BFI Reissue

Reviewed by Lee Hill

Film critics are known for superlatives with a shelf-life that makes the average fruit fly seem like one of the immortals. As newspapers and magazines became as quaint as brass rubbings, fewer critics make any money from what they do and being asked to contribute a blurb for a sub-adolescent comic book tie-in, paint-by-numbers rom com or earnest biopic now qualifies as a career high, I can appreciate the scepticism that some readers might have when I say Pandora’s Box should be an essential part of any film goer’s diet. This new digital reissue of GW Pabst’s 1929 masterpiece is not just one of the best films of 2018, but one of the greatest ever made.

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