Masterpiece: Psycho

If five minutes is an eternity in pop culture, then 50 years is almost inconceivable. In 1960, America lived in fear of war with the Russians, Beatlemania was some exotic foreign disease, and cinema was in danger of being eclipsed by an upstart cathode-ray tube that had all but taken over as audiences’ entertainment of choice. The world’s come a long way since then, but Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho endures — casting as long and as influential a shadow over filmmaking as it ever did, half a century since the director pared back the shower curtain to kill off his leading lady to the shrieks of moviegoers. Cast your mind over any horror movie made since and you’ll see the influence of Hitch’s masterpiece; throw a rock and you’ll hit a pop culture reference, from The Simpsons’ Norman Bates-esque Principal Skinner to A Single Man’s all-consuming billboard, cementing the film as a cultural touchstone across generations.

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Interview: Duncan Jones on Moon

Space. Once film’s final frontier, over the years sci-fi has sometimes been the domain of cliche and inferior riffs on past glories. All the more surprising, then, to discover a new film that doesn’t just pay lip service to the classics, but rather captures the spirit of its predecessors to create a refreshing angle on the genre. Such is Duncan Jones’ Moon, the directorial debut for the British filmmaker that also ranks among 2009′s best films. Set in the near future on Earth’s lunar satellite, Moon explores the strange plight of a lone mining station caretaker — Sam Rockwell, giving the year’s most impressively frayed performance — a man who’s either made a puzzling discovery about his existence or… is completely losing his mind.

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Lars von Trier

Danish auteur Lars von Trier is used to controversy following his films; some of his critics have even accused him of courting it for sensationalism and reaction. Yet even with a career that contains the likes of The Idiots (rich kids mocking the handicapped), Dancer in the Dark (which drove star Bjork to never act again) and Dogville (leveled with charges of misogyny and anti-Americanism), the director’s latest may be his crowning achievement in outrage. When it debuted at Cannes earlier this year, Antichrist — starring Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg as a grieving couple who retreat to idyllic woodland where all Hell breaks loose — was so appalling to some in its graphic, sexual violence that it prompted uproar (and even a special “anti-humanitarian” prize from the jury). But are the critics really getting what von Trier is playing at? And does he even know himself? Moreover, who’s got the better talking fox — he or Wes Anderson?

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Freaking the Geeks

Lost and Cloverfield creator J.J. Abrams explains how his Star Trek reboot will boldly go where the franchise has never gone before.

J.J. Abrams has just called a phaser a “blaster”. To anyone not presently wearing Vulcan ears it’s a moot point, but the director knows he’s slipped up. “Phasers,” he stresses, sensing the Starfleet bloggers ready at the torpedoes. “God forbid I don’t say ‘phasers’.”

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Interview: Jane Birkin

janebirkinIt takes a proper icon not to admit that they are one. The legendary Jane Birkin talks to Luke Goodsell about music, fashion, her daughters, and the ghost of Serge Gainsbourg…

“I’ve never considered myself as an icon in any way,” says Jane Birkin, her voice older, more reflective — yet still lilting with that unmistakable, breathy Anglo-French girlishness. “Not as a fashion icon, not as a cinema icon, not as an anything icon — they’re terms that I don’t really understand. They might have been quite nice once, but they’ve been very flaunted.”

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Genre Benders

How Down Under’s unsung king of the action genre, his number one fan Quentin Tarantino, and a passionate local director turned an era of maverick filmmaking into the most explosive Australian documentary of the year…

Sydney, 2003. When Quentin Tarantino publicly dedicated Kill Bill Vol. 1 to Brian Trenchard-Smith’s lurid exploitation movie Turkey Shoot — traditionally reviled as one of the most sadistic and violent Australian films ever made — he raised the highbrows of more than a few critics who’d rather see that era of the country’s cinema dead and buried. For these moldy cultural arbiters, one of modern film’s most respected directors lavishing praise on a shoddy exploitation piece was a sour reminder of how low Australian filmmaking had once sunk. For those of us too young to remember or care, however, it was an instant point of curiosity: Who was this guy and why hadn’t we seen any of his films?

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