Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles

Chantal Akerman

1976

Everything and nothing happens in this incredible film. Delphine Seyrig looks after her teenage son, does the housekeeping and occasionally has sex with men for money. The anger is subtle but nonetheless powerful. At over three hours you may worry you’ll be bored but never has monotony been so fascinating.

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Mom And Dad

Brian Taylor

2018

A surprisingly fun satire on the horrors of responsibility and you can imagine the sales pitch: The Birds only with parents instead of seagulls. Nicholas Cage gives great unhinged and is perfect as the suddenly murderous father resentful of his children’s youth, remembering happier times filled with cars and tits.

 

Funny Cow

Adrian Shergold

2018

“Poof” and “paki” were acceptable words in the 1970s. The Buckaroo and Spangles of hate speech regularly fell from the mouths of the most rancid comedian without so much as a flicker of disgust from an audience too busy smoking inside to care. However, by the time these words appear in Adrian Shergold’s film we’re surprised at how unsurprised we are. By then it’s obvious, there’s no love here.

Funny Cow stars Maxine Peake as a nameless comedian -‘comedienne’ is thankfully another disappearing word – with the stage name of The Funny Cow. It’s set in the North of England comedy circuit of 45 years ago; a time when very few women played the clubs. Englishmen, Irishmen and Scotsmen only drank together in jokes. Women were not welcome. So, can our funny cow make it to the top? Well it’s mostly in flashback so yes she does. There’s little jeopardy in this film. It’s hard to remember this is fictional. It’s familiar and blandly believable. Afterwards you may want to look up real life Northern club comic Marti Caine, just to double-check she never auditioned in front of a moustachioed Kevin Eldon. This is a good film with strong performances but frustrating moments: a bookshop looks suspiciously like a library, actors who have clearly never smoked and so many cameos you start to wonder if you’re in it.

We have an obsession with the sad clown myth: “But doctor, I am Grimaldi/ George L Fox/Krusty from The Simpsons/John Wayne Gacy,” and it makes an unavoidable cliché. But then a film about someone from an untroubled background having an okay time of it would be dull. Unless you’re Netflix or Jack no one wants the Jack Whitelaw Story. If Funny Cow were set in the modern day it would mostly consist of tedious Travelodges and ten pound notes. The levels of sexism would be similar, if a little less obvious.

Like every film with a comedian as the central character this is not a film about comedy. It’s about struggle, it’s about destiny and it’s about bloody men. Even though a woman is the only fully formed character we’re given it’s about how she deals with her violent father and violent partner, her well-meaning but ultimately controlling lover and the men, the shitting awful men, the sexist, dismissive comedians and her screaming, hate-sweating audience.

 

Meshes Of The Afternoon

Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid

1943

Surreal and experimental feel like lazy words for this haunting, strange masterpiece. It’s hard to imagine what you’d make of this if it were your first film because its influence is striking. David Lynch is clearly a fan and then Lynne Ramsay’s in your head and suddenly…oh god it’s everywhere.

The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie

Ronald Neame

1969

It’s odd how this film has aged. It feels jolly in places, like a musical with the songs removed. It gave Edinburgh a reputation for snobbery until Trainspotting replaced “my gels” with heroin. Maggie Smith deserved her Oscar, but Jean Brodie was a fascist sympathising psychopath and possibly Begbie’s grandmother.

The Fireman’s Ball

Miloš Forman

1967

A 1hr 13-minute long farce about firemen attempting to run a charity ball but bad luck, incompetence and their old libidos ruin everything. Forman was incredible at portraying madness: mad genius in Amadeus, mental illness in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and here, in a small town’s bureaucracy.

Ghost Stories

Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson

2018

Three ghost stories linked by Andy Nyman’s sceptical inquirer sounds promising – look at the filmmakers’ CVs, they worship the genre. So the biggest shock is how disappointing it is. Although filled with loving references and genuine fright the stories are merely ideas and the twist rips the film to pieces.