Michael Brooke

Freelance film journalist and editor

Location icon United Kingdom

I regularly contribute to Sight & Sound and the Journal of Film Preservation, as well as writing numerous booklet essays for such labels as Arrow, the BFI, Criterion, Eureka and Second Run, together with numerous one-off commissions. I was one of the creators of BFI Screenonline, produced the BFI's internationally acclaimed DVD compilations of the short films of the Quay Brothers and Jan Švankmajer, worked extensively on the Arrow Academy label from its 2011 launch until 2017, and have co-produced all of Powerhouse's Indicator releases since June 2017. I have also recorded commentaries for multiple releases, both solo (Arrow's 'The Night of the Shooting Stars'; Second Run's 'Black Peter') and in collaboration (Indicator's 'The Deadly Affair' and 'The Snorkel'). I've written about all kinds of world cinema, but have a particular interest in central-eastern European film.


BFI Website

British Film Institute
10 essential Romanian directors

Romanian cinema has exploded so spectacularly onto the international scene since the turn of the millennium that it's easy to forget that it had a 20th-century tradition as well.

British Film Institute
Where to begin with Jerzy Skolimowski

The Kinoteka Polish Film Festival, including retrospectives of Agnieszka Holland and Jerzy Skolimowski, runs from 7-28 April 2016. Has any filmmaker had a career as flat-out peculiar as Jerzy Skolimowski?

British Film Institute
Where to begin with Agnieszka Holland

An Agnieska Holland season plays at BFI Southbank throughout April 2016. The Faces of Agnieska Holland, an exhibition of posters for her films, is currently on display in the Atrium at BFI Southbank. Agnieszka Holland's filmography is vast and sprawling, both geographically and temporally, including spells in her native Poland, western Europe, the UK, Hollywood and American TV.

British Film Institute
10 great films from the Balkans

The cinema of that region currently known as "the former Yugoslavia" and, less helpfully, "the Balkans" (since that term technically encompasses a fair bit more of south-east Europe) isn't anything like as accessible here as that created by Czechs, Hungarians and Poles, although this is (as ever) more to do with the vagaries of international distribution than any creative failings on the part of the filmmakers.

British Film Institute
Philip Glass: 10 essential soundtracks

In the 1970s, Glass scored a number of documentary films, of which this portrait of sculptor Mark di Suvero had the longest afterlife, perhaps because it offers a more immediately graspable way of exploring the musical landscapes of his longer and more challenging mid-1970s works.

British Film Institute
10 great films from 1996

Was 1996 a good vintage for cinema? With two decades since passed, now seems as good a time as any to ask the question. There are reasons it could be claimed as a vintage year for British cinema.

British Film Institute
10 great films from 1966

Much as we like to look to the future with the coming of a new year, for the retrogressively minded, the turning of 2016 also brings us to the 50th anniversary of a very special time for pop culture: 1966.

British Film Institute
10 great films set in 1950s Britain

Queen and Country, backed by the BFI Film Fund, is in cinemas from 12 June. One of the most famous opening lines in 20th-century English literature is L.P. Hartley's "The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there."

British Film Institute
10 great west London films

BFI Southbank's London on Film season runs between July and October 2015. Despite housing a great many film studios (Ealing, Shepherd's Bush, Shepperton, Twickenham), west London as a location has generally proved less attractive to British filmmakers than the central and eastern equivalents.

British Film Institute
10 great British politics films

It didn't help that the British Board of Film Censors explicitly banned many political topics for much of the first half of the 20th century.

British Film Institute
10 essential Polish film directors

Essential films Les Jeux des anges (1964), Blanche (1971), The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Miss Osbourne (1981) What's special about him? Walerian Borowczyk has had the most bizarre career of any Polish filmmaker, beginning as an award-winning visual artist, moving into experimental animation, and continuing his career in France from 1959.

British Film Institute
10 great Polish films

Although Poland's first film dates back to 1908, the wholesale destruction of its industry and much of its talent (who either died or emigrated) during the Second World War meant that 1945 was practically Year Zero, and Polish cinema's postwar resurrection was considerably hindered by an edict that all films made between 1949 and 1956 cleave to the strictures of Stalinist 'socialist realism'.

British Film Institute
10 great erotic British films

The Duke of Burgundy, backed by the BFI Film Fund, is in cinemas from 20 February. When Peter Strickland was asked about his influences on The Duke of Burgundy, he unsurprisingly trotted out a parade of what used to be called "continental" filmmakers: Walerian Borowczyk, Tinto Brass, Luis Buñuel, Claude Chabrol, Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Jesús Franco.

British Film Institute
A-list meets arthouse: when megastar actors work for auteurs

She's an Oscar winner and fashion icon, but Marion Cotillard's new film finds her in the urgent, unvarnished world of master filmmakers Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne. As Two Days, One Night comes out on the BFI Player, we look at 10 other times when A-list stars went arthouse.

10 great fairytale films

Because the cinema has always sought to offer an escape route from the pressures of the modern world, it comes as little surprise that fairytales offered huge appeal to filmmakers almost from the medium's very dawn.

Poland's coming out

It would be fair and indeed accurate to say that, for all the undoubted creative excellence of Polish cinema in a great many fields, the country is not renowned for its contributions to LGBT filmmaking. Although the recent book-length English-language overview Polish Cinema Now!

Second Run

Second Run
Polish Cinema Classics

A short excerpt from the booklet essay for 'Goodbye, See You Tomorrow' (I also wrote the one for 'Night Train', in the same box).

Second Run

A short excerpt from the booklet essay

Sight & Sound

British Film Institute
Robby Müller obituary: a king of the quizzical image | Sight & Sound

Crucial though the cinematographer's input usually is, few become household names, and fewer have their passing immediately marked by the likes of Rolling Stone. But for anyone who came of age cinematically in the 1970s and 80s, Robby Müller was one of the most exciting and innovative cinematographers on the planet.

British Film Institute
Film of the week: Graduation offers a riveting look at a rotten system | Sight & Sound

Aside from occasional snippets of car-radio opera and a pop song over the end credits, there is no conventional music soundtrack in Cristian Mungiu's fourth solo feature. There is, however, a near-continuous cacophony of rings, chirrups, buzzes and thrums, as almost every scene is interrupted by a phone, sometimes answered, often ignored.

British Film Institute
Jan Němec, 1936-2016 | Obituary | Sight & Sound

"You know, Němec, we can't let you make movies. You are so clever and such a swine. You would learn how to do it better than those who we are allowing to work now, those non-talented cretins. You would build up your position and when the party and society stopped watching you, you would stab us in the back.

British Film Institute
Alan Rickman, 1946-2016 | Obituary | Sight & Sound

"And now Alan Rickman - January can do one" said a distraught friend within seconds of the announcement of the actor's death, itself mere days after the equal shock of David Bowie's [[embed type=link nid=31606 title="departure at a near-identical age"]] (both men were 69, born just six weeks and only a few miles apart in similarly dilapidated London boroughs: in Rickman's case an Acton council estate).

British Film Institute
Screen painting: Randall Wright on his portrait of David Hockney | Sight & Sound

It would be an understatement to say that David Hockney is no stranger to documentary filmmakers' cameras, but Randall Wright's 'visual diary' Hockney (which is receiving a limited theatrical release prior to its BBC debut in 2015) offers a number of refreshing novelties even for the artist's long-term fans.

Sight & Sound

Margaret came and went in cinemas without fanfare. Now it’s back thanks to Twitter.

Sight & Sound
In Darkness

Agnieszka Holland’s third engagement with the terrors of WWII is a hard-hitting portrait of national and class divisions amongst fugitive Jews in the sewers of the Lwów ghetto.

Sight & Sound
The Conversation

When The Conversation premiered in April 1974, Francis Ford Coppola’s psychological thriller about a surveillance expert was assumed to have been directly inspired by the then unfolding Watergate scandal, though the original script had been written in the late 1960s.

Sight & Sound

A fierce and thrilling critique of notions of honour, Harakiri is one of the greatest of all Japanese films

Sight & Sound
The Interrupters

The new film from Hoop Dreams director Steve James chronicles a daring initiative to tackle violence on the streets of Chicago.

British Film Institute
Portraits of the artists | Sight & Sound

The first thing that distinguishes Mike Leigh's new biopic from its many predecessors is the cap-doffing honorific: Mr. Turner. Artist biopics often tend towards the surname-only approach, as if the subject was part of a brusque military roll-call: Basquiat (1996), Caravaggio (1986), Crumb (1994), Dalí (1991), Klimt (2005), Ligabue (1978), Modigliani (2004), Pirosmani (1969), Pollock (2000), Rembrandt (1936), Renoir (2012), Tatsumi (2011), Van Gogh (1991), Yumeji (1991).

Sight & Sound
Lost and Found: Allonsanfàn

Once arthouse darlings, the Taviani brothers are now shunned by UK distributors. Michael Brooke resurrects their 1974 film Allonsanfàn, a picaresque yarn about ineffectual insurrectionists in post-Napoleonic Italy

Sight & Sound
The weight of the world: The Man from London

Béla Tarr's latest film may initially appear to be his most conventional work to date, but the Hungarian director hasn't softened his uncompromising worldview

Sight & Sound
The Stoker

This black, brooding portrait of an ethnic Yakut furnace-feeder in lawless 90s Russia richly reconciles Aleksey Balabanov’s grimmer films and his weirder ones.

Sight & Sound
A Cinema of Moral Disgust

'The Dark House' is an eloquently jaundiced anti-thriller set in the fag end of Poland’s Communist era, a highlight of this year’s Kinoteka showcase of Polish cinema

Sight & Sound
Out of the Past: František Vláčil

Less celebrated internationally than his near contemporaries Forman and Menzel, the late Czech director Frantisek Vlácil’s visionary medieval epics have recently been rediscovered in the West.

Free radical

The visionary cinema of Czech Surrealist Jan Švankmajer offers a startling critique of contemporary society and values

Sight & Sound
Lest we forget

After years of neglect in the West, Andrzej Wajda, father figure of Polish cinema, is back with 'Katyn', the latest of his unflinching examinations of his country's tragic past.

Sight & Sound
Taking over the asylum: Lunacy

Michael Brooke finds Jan Svankmajer on surreal good form in a horror tale of blasphemous orgies, premature burials, madhouse revolution and raw meat that draws inspiration from de Sade and Edgar Allan Poe

Sight & Sound
El baño del Papa

The Pope's visit to a small town in Uruguay inspires unlikely get-rich-quick schemes among the locals in Fernández and Charlone's understated comedy about crime and catering.


Word Play

The art of subtitling

Sight & Sound
Ai Weiwei Never Sorry

Art and activism merge in Alison Klayman’s access-most-areas portrait of the formidable Chinese dissident.

Show and tell

A Report on 'The Party and the Guests'

Stories of the eye

This is a heavily abridged version of the Quay Brothers Dictionary, which occupies most of the 24-page booklet accompanying Quay Brothers: The Short Films 1979-2003, the BFI's recently-released two-DVD survey of their work.

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