Author Spotlight

David Cairns

David Cairns is a critic and filmmaker. He blogs at Shadowplay and teaches in Edinburgh.

14 Results

Charlie & Jackie

Anatomy of a Gag

Charlie & Jackie

In 1921’s The Kid, Charlie Chaplin gave his lonely Tramp a five-year-old sidekick in Jackie Coogan, turning the boy into Hollywood’s first major child star.

Choking Chaplin

Anatomy of a Gag

Choking Chaplin

In the image of the Little Tramp choking, Chaplin found the perfect motif for evoking the horrors of hunger and modern consumption.

Dancing Chaplin

Anatomy of a Gag

Dancing Chaplin

In some of his most elaborately choreographed set pieces, the silent-comedy master confronted the chaos of the world with balletic grace and rhythmic precision.

Being There

Anatomy of a Gag

Being There

David Cairns takes a close look at the carefully calibrated minimalism of Hal Ashby’s masterful satire.

Le grand amour

Anatomy of a Gag

Le grand amour

Beloved for his inventive blend of physical humor and emotional warmth, French director-actor Pierre Etaix passed away last October at the age of eighty-seven. In the second installment of our video series Anatomy of a Gag, filmmaker and critic David…

The Executioner: By the Neck
The Executioner: By the Neck

The tropes of light comedy give way to a Kafkaesque nightmare in this incendiary critique of moral rot in Franco-era Spain.

By David Cairns

On Film / Essays
Oct 26, 2016
Day for Night: Are Movies Magic?
Day for Night: Are Movies Magic?

François Truffaut’s love letter to the movies is a lightheartedly self-reflexive symphony of camera movement and musical flourish.

By David Cairns

On Film / Essays
Aug 17, 2015
Jacques Tati: Things Fall Together
Jacques Tati: Things Fall Together

In cinema history, there truly is no gag like a Tati gag.

By David Cairns

On Film / Essays
Nov 4, 2014
PlayTime
The Later Career of Richard Lester
The Later Career of Richard Lester

Director Richard Lester is best remembered for his delightfully mod films of the sixties, including the Beatles classics A Hard Day’s Night (1964) and Help! (1965) as well as The Knack . . . and How to Get It (1965) and Petulia (1967). In the follo…

The Return of Etaix
The Return of Etaix

Who is Pierre Etaix and where has he been all your life? This is the story of a filmmaker who was vanished, banished, skipped over. It’s as if one of those invisible cubicles mimes are always getting themselves shut in dropped from a blue sky and e…

By David Cairns

On Film / Essays
Apr 23, 2013
Thirty-Nine Steps to Happiness
Thirty-Nine Steps to Happiness

For this Edinburgh-based writer and filmmaker, Hitchcock’s Scottish caper is both fantasy and reality.

By David Cairns

On Film / Essays
Jun 25, 2012
Playtime: Things Fall
Apart, Beautifully

Jacques Tati’s Playtime (1968) opens in a shiny space: nuns breeze past; a woman in a white uniform clacks through, bearing towels; a baby cries. People wait. The feeling is “hospital.” A second woman in white delivers towels, and we see that h…

By David Cairns


Dec 2, 2010
Stagecoach: Taking the Stage

Dismiss from your mind, momentarily at least, the John Ford we know, who could define himself with the three words “I make westerns.” Before Stagecoach (1939), Ford’s talking pictures played out in submarines, penitentiaries, and Scottish cas…

By David Cairns


May 27, 2010