Film Reviews

jonny 1

Jonny – the Shaman of Rust

I am the Shaman of rust,” proclaims Jonny, both to an admirer of his painting and to us, the audience of this quirky yet riveting film. Massimo Salvato should take enormous satisfaction from his vision, which is as much an exploration of form as an exposition of its subject-matter. He now seems equally at ease as the master- craftsman of documentary while functioning as a ‘hitman for social conscience.’

Whether railing against the relentless advancement of urban regression or weaving Fellini-esque vistas of the Newport wetlands with claustrophobic shots of corporate vandalism of the Chartist mosaics, he sucks us into Jonny’s visually-oxymoronic world with refreshing integrity.

There is something for everyone, from 00-gauge model-railway enthusiasts and bibliophiles to psychiatrists and voyeurs of political vulgarity and capitalist stupidity.

Melted dolls become metaphors for a post-nuclear world, the alien civilisation we recognise as ‘now.’

As Jonny pours one pharmaceutical tablet after another into a cup of lucozade recalling how he attempted to control his depression, he quips, “No amount of Dylan is gonna solve that!” His self-deprecation is disturbingly, brutally funny.

Salvato constantly shifts us from uncomfortable truth to another with alarming ease and his editing, while ebullient and simultaneously charming, constantly excites. The soundtrack occasionally echoes the industrial landscape of ‘Nightclubbing’ by Iggy Pop and dreamy pianos offer hints of alluring classical melody. It’s all rather scary and exhilarating yet utterly transfixing.

The faceless corporate shits who haunt the film and hound the community-artists in ritual humiliation of this most noble of human concepts retain not one iota of credibility.

Consequently, Jonny is a wake-up call for all of us who are being sacrificed on the altar of the banal.

Set your alarm for tomorrow!

Taini Polypheme, March 2015

Documentary 60 mins Dir. Massimo Salvato

the awkward sax scene

Jonny – the Shaman of Rust

Jonny’s un-american….

Jonny’s a painter

Jonny’s imaginative

Jonny’s a sculptor of melted nuclear dolls

Jonny’s bipolar

Jonny’s articulate

Jonny’s an artist

Jonny’s a model railway enthusiast

Jonny’s gregarious

Jonny’s political

Jonny’s suffered depression

Jonny’s a Shamen of Rust

Taini Polypheme, March 2015

a must-see film by Massimo Salvato about art & depression


In a sleepy Welsh hillside something stirs…..and for once it has nothing to do with rugby, mining or the Welsh Assembly. Muse boldly attempts to tackle weaknesses of the human psyche, voyeurism, sexual power and war! And all in a parochial Welsh setting.

It’s much better than Stanley Donen’s Arabesque (1966), even though we were treated to the visual splendour of Sophia Loren galloping across Crumlin Viaduct on a horse.

muse 2

Julia Krynke’s performance as Ludmilla will have post-Deleuzian feminists purring as she metaphorically castrates the two male protagonist bombasts (who compete with equal measure for a literary prize and her affections) and as she systematically extinguishes patriarchal pride. As a symbol of neo-feminist sexuality, she is utterly convincing….

Massimo directing Julia
Massimo directing Julia

There’s a quirky yet funny narrative, enveloped by ambiguous time-frames, with a somewhat disturbing emphasis on the metaphysical and the uncertainty of one’s own past. As Johnny Thunders once succinctly put it, “You can’t put your arms around a memory!”

In this age of 3D blockbuster stupidity and superficial dabblings into hyper-reality, it’s good to see someone prepared to raise the ontological stakes.

The film’s innate humour and the director Massimo Salvato’s genuine affection for his characters carries the whole thing (all of 13 minutes) along splendidly.

If you get a chance, give it a whirl: you won’t regret it. It’s already making some favourable noises on the festival circuit, as those who witnessed it in Berlin, Sofia & New York will attest to.

Taini Polypheme March 2011

Dir. Massimo Salvato


Arabesque 1965

Foot fetishism, Loren-sryle
Foot fetishism, Loren-style


“If I were standing stark naked in front of Mr. Pollack, he’d probably yawn!”

Author: TJBNYC (

3 August 2001

As has been duly noted before, “Arabesque” is essentially an update of Stanley Donen’s own “Charade.” This time, however, the plot twists are more convoluted, the camerawork is decidedly more “mod” (shooting through chandeliers, reflections in sunglass lenses, etc.) and there is an even greater emphasis on the female star’s wardrobe. If the story is more confusing and less compelling than “Charade,” it certainly isn’t at the expense of entertainment. Its derivative nature (it not only incorporates parts of “Charade,” but also the drunk and crop-dusting scenes from “North by Northwest”) prevents “Arabesque” from entering the elevated realm of its predecessor, but it’s a delight, nevertheless. Its strongest selling point, really, is the utterly delectable Sophia Loren as Yasmin, the side-switching enigma. It is a strong statement to declare that the glorious Miss Loren has never appeared more beautiful, before or since, than in this film–but I’m willing to take the risk. Her huge, almond, almost Egyptian eyes; tawny, caramel-coloured skin; lustrous hair; and world-famous curves have never been seen to better advantage. (Her stunning Christian Dior costumes certainly add to her already formidable allure.) She also displays a very nice light comedic touch; it wouldn’t be difficult to dislike someone so supernaturally gorgeous, but instead, Loren’s natural warmth and humour shine through. Gregory Peck, on the other hand, looks more than a little ragged around the edges; Cary Grant obviously didn’t lend Peck any of his age-defying secrets. His performance isn’t nearly as bad or hammy as some other reviews have indicated, but where Loren’s charisma and beauty aid her in creating a completely different character than Audrey Hepburn’s in “Charade,” Peck comes off as an unfortunately blurred carbon copy of Grant in that earlier film. Having said that, “Arabesque” still stands on its own merits as a cracking good comedy-thriller; the final few scenes are terrifically suspenseful. Alan Badel makes a wonderfully oily villain (love the shades!), and Kieron Moore adds a healthy shot of dated humour as a jive-talking Arabian (!). Although the twists and turns might be confusing for some, just sit back and bask in the glory that is Sophia Loren. You know the good guys will win in the end, anyway.


note 'mirror' shot - twice as much Loren...mmm...
note ‘mirror’ shot – twice as much Loren…mmm…


Alfred Hitchcock Meets James Bond

Author: estabansmythe from Azusa, CA

12 December 2004

If I had the impossible task of naming one film as “My Favourite Most Enjoyable Movie” this and its bookend, “Charade,” would be it.

It is Stanley Donen’s near perfect blend of Alfred Hitchcock meets James Bond. Donen made two simply wonderful films in the Hitchcock mould. The first was Charade in 1963 with Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn. Arabesque is the second. They make a marvellous bookend set.

Both films are light, breezy and loaded with wit and humorous dialog. Both feature classic Henry Mancini scores, stylish female ward-robing by the likes of Givenchy and Christian Dior and both feature memorable titles by 007’s legendary title master, Maurice Binder.

But its Arabesque’s wildly inventive cinematography which sets it apart from virtually every other action film. The cinematography is pure art school. Its amazingly inventive use of reflection and shot within a shot camera work is what first interested me in the art of cinematography as a teenager. The cinematography in Arabesque fascinates me and entertains me no end to this day.

Gregory Peck’s square yet hip college professor plays perfectly with Sophia Loren’s chic spy – and Sophia was never more flat-out stunning.

Wow! Check out Arabesque. It’s two hours of great fun.


Carmen (filmed on location in Polla, Italy)

Massimo & Cristina
Massimo & Cristina


on location for Carmen
on location for Carmen


Dark Horse

Elation or Fear?

The tagline on the poster says it all:

‘The incredible story of Dream Alliance.’

That word ‘incredible.’

Often overused…….what an incredible goal!……..the incredible new single, etc.

And so, the word ‘incredible’, now ubiquitous in promotional language, is rendered meaningless.

A bit like ‘Fab!’

However, in the case of Dream Alliance & the film about him, the word is most definitely apt and it’s all true!

There’s this woman, Jan and her husband, Daisy, with very little money, no experience and no assets, who dreams of rearing a racehorse. Incredible. But true.

She thinks she could raise him on an allotment in Cefn Fforest. Ludicrous. But true.

She approaches a disillusioned accountant, Howard, (who’s had a very unpleasant experience with racing horses) with a mad plan to……..race a horse she wants to raise on an allotment. Insane. But true.

She persuades him to get involved. Ridiculous. But true.

They have an idea – to form a local syndicate – to pay for the upkeep and training of the animal. A tenner a week should do it! Mad. But true.

They get the experts on board – “I dunno nothin’ about horses!” Crazy. But true.

Then they have the audacity to go to the Hobbs’ Yard to ‘select him’ as their trainer.

Incredible! But true.

The best bit? It wins! Big races.


It’s an astonishing tale and in the documentary form the narrative becomes an emotional roller-coaster, remarkable considering the kind of conventions more suited to a Disney animation than a story about some deluded working-class folks from the South Wales Valleys taking on the racing establishment and, against staggering odds (I’ll take a punt on that), beating them at their own game. Louise Osmond, the director, has pulled off something special here – it’s already won the audience award at Sundance. She’s welded a romantic thrilling adventure of people who naively drift into alien territory with an obdurate passion, risk-takers who suffer unbelievable setbacks and heartbreak, explorers who are responsible for several unreal ‘firsts’ (one of which is the pioneering stem-cell surgery allowing the film’s subject not only to survive but to race again!). All the time they retain their compassion, dignity and integrity. There’s lashings of comedy, all unscripted, from huge characters who light up the screen with a natural charisma fees could not buy. There are tearful moments, too, especially when the trainer, Johnson White, who has been responsible for turning this game street-fighter into a national winner, almost breaks down. Perhaps that’s what gives this surreal enterprise its strange quality – the horse is almost human!

Incredible? Maybe true.

Some of the national UK broadsheets have complained that Osmond has strived too hard to force the issue of the class divide. All she was doing was attempting to contextualise the background for a global audience. Their ‘whinging’ is a bit rich and utterly shameful, coming from supporters for a woman whose sole purpose on this planet was to destroy working-class communities, industrial relations practices, the welfare state (including education and the dismantling of the NHS), the UK commercial TV industry, while simultaneously providing a framework for contemporary social attacks on the most vulnerable in society through ‘austerity’ and offering opportunities for neo-fascists to become trendy in 21st century Britain.

Give Louise a break.

She crossed the divide with those valiant folks.

They forged lasting friendships and respect.

Good word that…..respect.

Incredible? True?

Dir. Louise Osmond

Winner of Audience Award, Sundance Festival

Taini Polypheme, April, 2015


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