"The Monuments Men," directed by George Clooney

Movie, 2014 A strange throwback film featuring a crack cast playing a crack gang of allies foiling Nazis in a covert mission. In this version, it’s not a breakout or assassination, but the recovery of artwork. In a way, this is an easy film to like, though with the Germans stereo-typically mean and some of the cliches of camaraderie and character pumped to bursting, it’s … Continue reading "The Monuments Men," directed by George Clooney

"A Girl Made of Dust", by Nathalie Abi-Ezzi

Novel, 2009 Powerful depiction, from an eight year old girl’s point of view, living under the exploding skies of 1980s Lebanon, just outside Beirut. The use of a child’s point of view strips the grown up rhetoric of politics, so that what’s left is visceral stuff on the one hand, and some wonder, hurt and disappointment at the domestic world of adulthood. The book has … Continue reading "A Girl Made of Dust", by Nathalie Abi-Ezzi

"Woyzeck," directed Werner Herzog

Movie, 1979 Intense portrait looking at the disastrous effects of the military and psychological manipulation on a less than stable subject. The Herzog-Kinski combination brings in bucket loads of atmosphere and dread into a combat situation with no fighting, other than the destructive relationships raging through and around the main character. Beautifully shot and with a number of meditative scenes in among the high drama, … Continue reading "Woyzeck," directed Werner Herzog

"Traitor’s Purse," by Margery Allingham

Novel, 1941 A tangle of a whodunnit in which there’s no corpse and the super sleuth starts the piece far from either super or sleuth-like. While the plot trips over itself a little at times, the pacing and evocation are excellent. There are, in places, excellently evocative passages, and when bits and pieces slowly come together, there’s a pleasure in discovering through the eyes of … Continue reading "Traitor’s Purse," by Margery Allingham

"The Reader", directed by Stephen Daldry

Movie, 2008 Rather fraught, gloomy and affecting film, humanising an SS concentration camp guard and telling of her downfall through the eyes of a lover she briefly takes after the war. While there’s not much in the way of subtlety or surprise here, an atmosphere of decay and the struggle to rebuild is beautifully evoked through settings and acting. Ultimately, this is a tough film … Continue reading "The Reader", directed by Stephen Daldry