It's not often that the Western media bothers to cover good news stories from Iran, but a cautious welcome was given this week to the decision to end the ban on female attendance at men's football matches by allowing 3500 women to watch a World Cup qualifier against Cambodia. Iranian cinema has always had a keen eye for such small steps, as Ali Jaberansari demonstrates in Tehran: City of Love. Now based in Canada. Jaberansari studied under the legendary Abbas Kiarostami before graduating from the London Film School en route to making his feature bow with Falling Leaves (2013). The influence of his mentor is readily evident in this bittersweet treatise on the shifting tensions between tradition and progress.  

Former bodybuilding champion Hessam Fazli (Amir Hessam Bakhtiari) works in a Tehran gym, but has auditioned to land a role n a French film opposite Louis Garrel. He is so proud of the fact that he tries to find a jigsaw of the actor's face for his father (Ali Maghsoudi), who is ailing and rarely goes out. One of Hessam's elderly clients (Mohammad Sarlak) asks him to train his nephew, Arshia (Amir Reza Alizadeh), who has ambitions to become a bodybuilder. 

Struggling with her weight, but unable to resist ice cream, Mina Shams (Forough Ghajabegli) is a receptionist at a unisex beauty parlour. Her mother (Farkhondeh Farmanizadeh) is bent on matchmaking her with the owner of a backstreet pizzeria, but Mina prefers to adopt the guise of Sara to flirt on the phone with the salon's better looking male customers. She arranges dates and sits in a corner to watch them, as they seethe for being stood up. However, Mina also takes more positive steps, as she enrols on a dating agency course entitled `The Geometry of Love and Relationships'.

When not attending keep fit classes, Vahid (Mehdi Saki) is a funeral singer. Forever dressed in black, he has become despondent and his demeanour persuades Arezou (Samira Khalii) to dump him just before his parents come for a visit. He has told them he is already married and fibs about Arezou going to attend a sickly grandfather so that they will delay their trip. Keen to help Vahid out of this rut, his pals Sadegh (Mohsen Soleimani) convinces his uncle to let him sing at a wedding and he forces Vahid to wear a white shirt and the grey jacket that his father had worn to his brother's wedding. He also calls the mosque to say Vahid is too sick to sing and he worries that he is going to get into trouble.

Mina has fewer qualms and calls Hessam after he comes to the parlour for Botox injections to make him look younger on camera. He isn't enticed by Sara's kittenish voice, however, and orders her to stop pestering him. Arshia is delighted with the training regime and grateful that Hessam has hooked him up with a health food shop that discounts its vitamin supplements. But he has failed either to notice the intense stares that Hessam gives him when they are together or to realise that he never reacts when women try to flirt with him. 

Vahid is so used to singing sad songs that he messes up during the dinner slot at the wedding and Sadegh's uncle is far from impressed. But he agrees to let him perform for free at the next function, which Vahid accepts because he hopes to bump into photographer Niloufar (Behnaz Jafari) again, after she complimented him on his singing. A chance encounter also boosts Mina's hopes when client Sohrab (Mahmoud Kian) has a friendly chat at a café. When she calls him later in the day after a celebratory ice cream, however, she discovers he's married and is crushed. 

Things look up, however, when she meets Reza (Aram Mahzari) at her singles class and he thinks they have a lot in common. She smiles when he gives her his phone number, whereas she scowls at Hessam when he mixes up his appointment times at the parlour. He is spending a lot of time with Arshia, who tries to teach him to play snooker. So, when he asks to up his programme, Hassem withdraws from the movie because he doesn't want to risk being unavailable for any of Arshia's sessions. 

Vahid also starts turning down funerals to sing at private weddings (at which men and women mingle) after Niloufar offers to find him work after he serenades her with a song containing her name. Mohsen the keyboard player (Reza Ahmadi) urges him to put more zip into his performance and reminds him that he has been hired to entertain rather than provide background music during meals. Mina accepts Reza's invitation to dinner and she is happy to discover that he likes ice cream. She is even more delighted when she calls him as Sara and he tells her where to go in no uncertain terms. 

Certain she has found Mr Right, she tells her best friend, who just happens to be Niloufar. She also mentions Vahid and how sweet he is in a provincial kind of way. But she has no intention of starting a relationship, as she has applied to emigrate to Australia and has just learned that her visa application has been successful. She encourages him on stage, as he performs with a red bow tie and puts some real energy into his singing. But he ends the night in the back of a police vehicle, as the party is raided and Niloufar gestures an apology, when he peers through the side window.

Hessam has also had a setback, as Arshia had noticed his sideways glances while watching a DVD of the European championships and has started finding excuses for cancelling sessions. When they meet for coffee, Arshia claims to have unbreakable work commitments and Hessam is devastated, as he had given up his shot at film fame to help him shape up. However, he hides his emotions when Arshia's uncle declares his disappointment that he was too busy to fit his nephew into his schedule and is glad that he managed to find another trainer so quickly.

Vahid and Mina also get bad news when Niloufar reveals her departure date and Reza confesses that he is stuck in protracted divorce proceedings and has a five year-old son. But Vahid tells mosque manager Haj Agha (Heshmat Aramideh) that he is qutting to try his hand at something else, while Hessam prints out posters advertising his services as a personal fitness trainer. Even Mina gets a modicum of solace when Reza sends her a giant teddy bear and she struggles to carry it home. A closing shot shows all three sat on the same bus heading into their uncertain futures.

By all accounts, Tehran has become the nose job capital of the world and Jaberansari and co-scenarist Maryam Najafi set out to explore the connection between external and inner beauty in this droll dramedy. The deadpan vignettish style seems indebted to the likes of Aki Kaurismäki, Roy Anderson and Elia Sulieman. But Jaberansari establishes his own tone by largely keeping Mohammad Reza Jahanpanah's camera still, while leaving plenty of time and room for the performers to develop their characters and for the audience to notice the telltale details within the mise-en-scène. There may not be anything particularly subtle about the giant teddy bear, but it's impossible not to smile at the massager that Mina buys Reza to ease the stiffness in his neck after long hours poring over a computer and the protein shake containers that Hessam and Arshia rattle while sharing a sofa with the former's father as he tries to concentrate on his jigsaw. 

The running gag about Louis Garrel being the most famous actor in France is also well judged, as it puzzles Hessam that such a foppish character could be considered more alluring than a muscled-up beefcake. There's also barbed amusement to be had from Mina's prank calls and the tetchy pleasure she derives from seeing her victims feel the same sense of rejection that she has to deal with. Yet she dismisses the lowly born café owner as if he was invisible and lets slip a hint of homophobia in her treatment of Hassem after he spurns Sara. She also enjoys the fact that the prim Niloufar pinches some of her ice cream after ordering a fruit salad. But there's something a little too contrived about the way the worldly photographer provides the impetus for Vahid's emergence from his funereal cocoon. 

Nevertheless, Mehdi Saki is affectingly melancholic as the singer who can't help but channel his sorrow into his vocals, while Amir Hessam Bakhtiari brings an imposing stillness to the role of a gentle giant who suffers from the very machismatic culture he embodies. Mina is more enigmatic, however, and Forough Ghajabegli proves compelling whether she is snapping at her mother, ogling potential male dupes or tucking into softee cones. All three benefit from Payam Foroutan's cannily chosen costumes, while Hamed Sabet's score deftly reinforces the tonal shifts between the precisely paced scenes that are edited with wry finesse by Askhan Mehri. Ultimately, Jaberansari says more about modern Iranian mores than he does about the general human condition. But this is as acute as it's clichéd and as affectionate as it's cruel.

Although Jake Scott has been directing pop promos since 1992, American Woman is only his third feature, after Plunkett & Macleane (1999) and Welcome to the Rileys (2010). Written by Matt Inglesby and showcasing its protagonist's capacity for suffering and survival, it's what would have once been called `a woman's picture'. In postwar Hollywood, such melodramas would have been tailored to the talents of Bette Davis, Joan Crawford and Barbara Stanwyck. Evidently, Sienna Miller isn't in their class. But she acquits herself admirably in a Rust Belt soap opera that is more interested in presenting a facsimilic slice of life than offering any socio-political insights. 

Debra Callahan (Sienna Miller) lives in an unnamed Pennsylvania town with her 17 year-old daughter, Bridget (Sky Ferreira), who is fretting about not being able to shift weight after giving birth to her son, Jesse. Deb is having an affair with Brett (Kentucker Audley), a married man who takes her to motels for sleazy sex and has no intention of leaving his wife. Bridget's boyfriend, Tyler (Alex Neustaedter), is a wastrel and she wishes things could be like they were before. But Deb tells her that the secret of life is making the most of what's left from the good times. 

The Callahans reside across the road from Deb's mother, Peggy (Amy Madigan), who lives with daughter Katherine (Christina Hendricks), her blue-collar husband, Terry (Will Sasso), and their two son, Patrick and Murph. Neither Peggy nor Kath approve of Deb's lifestyle, but they muddle along and seem to take solace from bickering. However, they rally round when Bridget goes missing and Detective Sergeant Morris (E. Roger Mitchell) refuses to accept Deb's assertion that Tyler is responsible. The community pulls together to search for clues, but Deb goes off the rails when Brett fails to keep a Saturday date and deliberately crashes her car after breaking into his house to humiliate him in front of his wife. 

Five years later, Deb is living with Ray (Pat Healy), a control freak with a sensitive stomach who forever finds fault with Jesse (Aidan McGraw). Deb knows he's not perfect, but he pays the bills and she gets into a furious row with Peggy, Kath and Terry when they suggest she should dump him because their arguments are getting longer and louder. Being family, however, they forgive and forget and everyone comes to the birthday party that Deb throws on what would have been Bridget's 22nd birthday.

Deb takes Jesse to see Tyler, who is no longer a stoner and is planning to go to Florida with his new girlfriend. As they sit on the swings at the playground, he laments that it took a while to shake the accusations of battery she had made against him and she apologises and explains that she needed someone to blame for Bridget's plight. He promises to stay in touch. But Ray becomes history after his jealousy prompts him to lash out over supper and Jesse rushes across the street to fetch Terry and Kath, who arrive to see Deb defending herself with a frying pan and ordering Ray out of the house. Terry gives her a helping hand by pitching him into a bush outside the front door.

Some time later, Kath and Terry take Deb on a double date with Chris McGuire (Aaron Paul). She complains that he's too young for her and makes little effort to respond. But he proves persistent and she falls for his low-key decency and, shortly after Bridget's rabbit dies, they marry. Peggy thinks Deb has rushed into the union, as they have only known each other for eight weeks. But Kath is supportive and Terry gives a touching speech at the garden reception. Everyone seems happy, as they dance and laugh at the groom finding the bride's garter. Jesse seems to like Chris and Deb watches her guests with quiet satisfaction, while still clearly missing Bridget. 

As the happy couple drive off, a car passes them and we are swept forward five more years as Deb gets home with supper to find Chris and Jesse (Aidan Fiske) playing guitars and discussing the upcoming high school mixer. They seem content with their lot and Deb (who has retrained as an accountant) helps the nurses at the care home where Peggy now lives secure a pay rise. However, while she and Jesse are on a road trip to the woods with Kath and Terry, Chris cheats on her with a younger woman. Having found a lipstick-stained cigarette in the trash, Deb follows him from work and sees him kissing his mistress. Wasting no time, she packs his bag and, having asked some awkward questions about why he needed someone else, she calmly asks him to leave. 

She tells Kath, but doesn't have time to grieve, as she has to chapeone Jesse at the dance. Smiling as she watches him ask a girl to dance, Deb drops in to see Peggy at the home. However, DS Morris tracks her down with news that Bridget's body has been found and that killer Frank Derrick has confessed to three other crimes. Deb insists on visiting him in prison to hear why he murdered her daughter and she also pays her respects with Jesse at Bridget's shallow grave. She holds it together throughout and decides the time has come to move away and make a fresh start. Chris turns up during a yard sale to let her know that he has not stopped loving her. But Deb refuses to allow herself to be vulnerable and she tactfully makes it plain that she wants nothing more to do with him. Following tearful farewells, Deb and Jess drive away.

Produced by the director's father, Ridley Scott, this is a solid piece of storytelling. Events rather tumble in on themselves during the final third, yet this segment contains the three best scenes in the entire film and not a word is spoken in any of them, as Deb confronts Bridget's killer through the glass of the prison visiting booth, as she kneels in the mud beside her daughter's last resting place and as John Mathieson's camera slowly surveys the empty house prior to the hopeful ever after finale. Adam Wiltzie's string score might have been toned down a little, but these episodes show what a nuanced, if detached film-maker Jake Scott can be. 

For all his sense of place (which owes much to Happy Massee's production design) his grasp of the time frame is markedly less assured. There is absolutely no social context to the narrative. We see Deb working in a supermarket and a bar, while mention is made of Ray being employed at a refinery and Terry being tired after a long day. But there's no concept of a country undergoing changes between the Bush, Obama and Trump eras. Nor is there any mention of wars against terror, racial tension or credit crunches. It's as though the action is taking place inside a soap bubble and, while it's engaging enough, it is utterly detached from the everyday reality that most Americans would recognise.  

The acting is committed without ever being entirely convincing, despite some deft dialogue passages enabling Sienna Miller, Christina Hendricks and Amy Madigan to squabble as only close-knit families know how. None of the male characters is so well drawn, although Will Sasso provides some bearish dependability to set against the more clichéd antics of the men who let Deb down. And therein lies the major problem with Brad Ingelsby's script, which lurches between novelettish set-pieces without leaving the characters room to evolve emotionally or economically. Ingelsby and Scott toss in a few family gatherings and workplace incidents, but there's no sense of lives being lived between the traumas. Indeed, none of the adults ages a day over the diegetic decade. Moreover, there's no in-depth or intuitive awareness of what it means to be either an American or a woman.

Actor Jason Cook is best known to American audiences for playing Shawn-Douglas Brady in 973 episodes of the long-running daytime soap, Days of Our Lives (1999-2015), and Dr Matt Hunter in 308 episodes of General Hospital (2008-12). He turned director with the short, Social Security Guard, in 2006 and now follows the documentary, Numb to Life (2011), and the barely seen feature, State of Bacon (2014), with The Creatress, which contains faint echoes of the JT LeRoy saga in a genial, but workaday study of the bestseller business. 

No relation to the more famous Saul, Eryn Bellow (Lindy Booth) is on a nationwide tour with her agent, Carrie O'Connor (Fran Drescher), to promote her latest book, The Chartreuse Misnomer. She has been in `sentence construction' for a decade and this is her second novel. But she would much rather be writing than giving bookstore readings or taking meetings with Hollywood executives who want to cast Tom Cruise as her 25 year-old protagonist. The trouble is, Eryn has writer's block and Carrie hates her ideas for left-field ventures into gangster punk and Nordic fairytales. 

In desperation, Eryn embarks upon a fake memoir and an amusing montage shows her agonising over the nine pages she eventually produces after distracting herself with housework and yoga between bouts of notebook scribbling and laptop tapping. Unfortunately, Carrie is far from impressed and Eryn's mood is only vaguely improved when she dumps computer programmer boyfriend, Rand (David Scott Lago), for sleeping with her messed-up friend, Lacey (Kayla Ewell). 

A year passes and Eryn is on her way home from a visit to her nana (Leslie Simms) when she hears critic Theo Mencken (Peter Bogdanovich) denouncing her as a lightweight on the Bookworm podcast. Three months later, she finds herself with English literary chum Jessica Morrison (Tiana Benjamin) on The Writer Perspective with host Gwen Ginsberg (Pamela Roylance) and a snidely dismissive Mencken. Carrie and Nana are aghast as they watch him rip into Eryn and her style and make damning comparisons with the populist page-turners churned out by Ann Welty. 

Having defended herself on air, Eryn decides to put Mencken's contention about the importance of words to the test. Renaming herself Nina, she uses dialogue from one of Welty's novels to pick up Brad (Francis Lloyd Corby) in a coffee shop. She also informs Carrie that she is working on a new idea to explore `the truth in tropes'. This requires her to tell Brad that she's an architect, pick a fight with Brad in a restaurant and have make-up sex in the washroom. He is puzzled by her erratic behaviour, but goes along with it, even when she follows him to the school where he teaches and the boxing gym where he works out.

Enjoying living the clichés and getting good material, Eryn keeps Carrie up to speed with her progress. However, she dumps Brad when he expresses interest in an incest fantasy and online dating hook-ups with kinky caravan-dwelling accountant Franklin (Dante Basco) and dog-loving gym bunny, Seth (Luke Guldan), leave her despairing of millennial men. Yet, she still engineers a bar-room brawl between Brad and Seth to see how it plays out. When she tries to apologise to the former in front of some of his students, he asks her to leave him alone. 

Back at her cottage, Eryn is attacked by Franklin, who tosses her newly printed pages into the fire. But there's a twist. This is all part of a faux memoir that Mencken has written entitled The Creatress and Carrie accompanies him to a bookshop reading, where he smarmily takes credit for creating a new genre and confides that he will keep dabbling in it as long as it makes money. 

Furious at being left with no hands and no will to write, Eryn goes to New York to fire Carrie for exploiting and betraying her. However, she also demands Mencken's uncorrected proofs to see what he has originally written about her before Carrie toned down the text and a series of cutaways reveals less salubrious versions of her trysts with Brad, Franklin and Seth. 

So, she seeks to take back control by writing a counter-variation on Mencken's scenario and we see her visiting Seth and Brad to come clean about her true self and undoing the harm caused in The Creatress. Eryn also concocts a costume wedding with Brad and a glimpse of her much-lamented parents (who were old friends of Carrie) so that she rights wrongs, while also trying up any loose ends.. As she types the last line, she looks up tearfully from the laptop screen and gazes wistfully into the camera. 

Echoes of Marc Forster's Stranger Than Fiction (2006) and Tony Britten's ChickLit (2016) reverberate around this slick, but superficial saga. As an exercise in examining the male take on the female perspective, it's not without interest. But it's short on insight and Cook is not helped by the fact that his own writing is flawed. It takes a good half hour for the plot pieces to slot into place. But, even then, characters like Rand and Lacey remain as much a cipher as Nana. Cook also persists in giving characters literary surnames in a clumsy bid to seem hip. 

Yet Lindy Booth makes a genial heroine, while Fran Drescher revels in the opportunity to play another Bobbi Flekman type from Rob Reiner's This Is Spinal Tap (1984). A weaker link is Peter Bogdanovich, who looks the part of the spiteful old snob, but struggles to channel his inner Gore Vidal in ponderously delivering his zinging pensées. The production values are fine and Cook does a decent job of concealing his conceit, while he and editors Dave Bergan and Sherwood Jones deserve credit for some neat montages. But no film-maker yet has found a way to make compelling cinema from shots of (inspired or blocked) writers writing.

Shane Carruth established himself as a director worth noting with Primer (2004) and Upstream Color (2013). However, he takes his first feature role as an actor in Billy Senese's The Dead Center, which started out a decade ago as a short entitled The Suicide Tapes that the American writer-director made in an effort to fathom the sudden loss of a 35 year-old friend. Following on from his clone baby debut, Closer to God (aka A Frankenstein Story, 2014), this unsettling chiller suggests Senese is someone for genre fans to keep tabs on.

Daniel Forrester (Shane Carruth) is a psychiatrist at a busy urban hospital, while Edward Graham (Bill Feehely) is a senior medical investigator. When a John Doe (Jeremy Childs) fails to survive a suicide attempt, Graham is called in to examine the corpse. But it disappears and we know that the stranger came to in his body bag during the night and sought an empty bed to warm himself up. When he's discovered the next morning, he's in a catatonic state on Forrester's ward, just after he has had an argument with administrator Sarah Grey (Poorna Jagannathan) about admitting patients without her express permission. 

Forrester entrusts John Doe to nurse Travis (J. Thomas Bailey), who jolts him out of his trance while taking his photograph. He allows Forrester to give him a sedative, but attacks Travis after he has billeted him in an exclusion room. Seemingly sharing the psychological trauma that John Doe is experiencing, Travis staggers out to his car in some distress. When Forrester comes to talk to him, John Doe claims to have no memory of anything, but knows he has to leave right away. In a bid to help him reconnect, Forrester asks his patient to picture his mother and he collapses as sharp pains shoot through his skull.

Meanwhile, Graham has gone to the motel room where John Doe was found and notices a spiral in the blood stains in the bath that matches a mark on his body that he had noticed in one of the morgue photos. A police check reveals that John Doe is one Michael Clark, while he also gets to see the suicide note that reads: `I am the mouth of death. None are beyond my reach. Forgive me.' But, even though Graham is convinced there is evidence of a struggle, the cops are unwilling to investigate. 

Back at the hospital, Forrester hypnotises John Doe to speak to his unconscious self and he reveals that he is possessed in some way and that he has tried to kill himself before in order to break free. But he keeps surviving and is tormented by the terrible things the entity makes him see. He fears he has made it stronger and confesses to having killed someone before blacking out. Scouring his textbooks, Forrester looks up disassociative amnesia and violence behaviour, but he's interrupted by the news of Travis's demise and is so shaken that he calls Sarah in the middle of the night and she explains to her frustrated partner that she is the only person Forrester can turn to, as he is still traumatised himself by having found his suicide mother when he was a kid. 

As nurse Floyd (Darius Willis) settles down for the night shift, he hears strange noises coming from John Doe's room. As he investigates, the man next door starts screaming and Floyd leaves the door open while he tries to calm him down. The commotion wakens the elderly Miss Lewis (Maureen Wildman), who sees that her door is open and begins doing ballet steps in the corridor. However, she turns to see a figure looming over her and she is lying on the floor when Floyd finds her. He bundles her back into her room, while John Doe writhes in agony, as he appears to be tormented by his possessor. 

While Forrester deals with the fallout from Miss Lewis being found dead with her face fixed in gaping-mouthed horror, Graham seeks out John Doe's kinfolk. Leaving the burnt-out family home, he visits parents Ben (Andy McPhee) and Donna (Jackie Welch), who explain that their son has been struggling since surviving the fire that killed his wife. Donna shows Graham news cuttings about incidences of gape-mawed mass death that have been pinned to a bedroom wall. One includes the words from the suicide note and Graham is taken aback to see a black swirl on the floor. 

Meanwhile, Forrester has poached some pills to put John Doe in a trance so he can speak to him. He warns that the thing inside him will destroy them all unless Forrester kills him and the medic is only saved from a frenzied assault when duty nurse Anne (Rachel Agee) spots the struggle on a CCTV monitor. Struggling to calm himself, Forrester hears a roaring sound in his head, but it's nothing compared to Sarah's fury because he has performed an illegal procedure without patient consent. She orders him to stay away from John Doe and declares that she will release him once his statutory three-day detention elapses. 

Discovering that Travis also died with his mouth wide open, Forrester barricades himself in John Doe's room and orders him to tell the truth. The man is suddenly lucid and recalls his own name and begins to panic when Forrester attempts to throttle him. Anne and Sarah bring security to break down the door and Forrester is led away. He wakes to find himself handcuffed to a bed. But he breaks the frame in order to check on John Doe. He has just been released into the care of his father, but not before he has bellowed at Sarah, who dies with her mouth open. 

Graham has been informed that John Doe is alive and he is unable to prevent Ben from wheeling his son into a lift. He charges down the stairs, as Forrester rushes along a corridor on the same mission to prevent John Doe from leaving. They both wind up at the Clark house on a quiet suburban estate, only Graham goes the way of Ben, Donna and their young grandchildren, as John Doe embarks upon a killing spree. Forrester attacks him with a tyre iron and resumes the bludgeoning after receiving the full blast of a final death howl. The cops arrive, but it's clear from Forrester's catatonic stupor in the ambulance that he is the diabolical entity's new host. 

We've seen this kind of thing dozens of times before, but Senese invests proceedings with a simmering sense of unsettling unease by refusing to offer any explanations for the murderous mayhem. In addition to borrowing the top shot on to travelling vehicles from Ivan Sen's Mystery Road (2013), he also keeps Andy Duensing's camera moving around the stark hospital setting, as the arrogant Forrester loses control of a crisis of his own making. Yet, while the jolt sequences on the ward are capably staged, they become a bit repetitive, especially as Senese overuses the flickering light motif before each brush with death, as well as editor Jonathan Rogers's obsfucatory flash-cutting gambit to keep the viewer thoroughly disconcerted. The cacophonous sound design mixed by Jeremy Mazza is markedly more effective, as it ties in with the babbling of the other patients under Forrester's care. But, while this generate suspense capably enough, it never exactly scarifies. 

The dapperly bearded Shane Carruth creditably holds the fort as the reckless shrink. But the real fascination lies in Bill Feehely's slow-burning investigation, as it offers some tantalising, if unsubstantiated hints about what the heck might be going on. In this regard, his off-screen death is both shrewd and a bit of a cop out, as he has shown every sign of being sufficiently resourceful to cope with the unnervingly enigmatic Jeremy Childs's outbursts. Notwithstanding these misgivings, however, Senese concocts a palpable sense of rampant evil that could be open to allegorical interpretation for those willing to speculate.

Almost two decades have passed since Michael Dibb made The Miles Davis Story (2001) for Channel Four. Glimpses of one of jazz's giant have also been seen in Philip Cox's Betty: They Say I'm Different (2017) and Sophie Huber's Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes (2018). So, the timing couldn't be better for Stanley Nelson's Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool, which has BBC backing and is showing this week in London under the auspices of Dochouse.

Born in Alton, Illinois in 1926, Miles Davis was the son of a farm-owning dentist who moved the family to East St Louis when he was one year old. Their neighbours were predominantly racist country folk and resident Reginald Petty and writer Quincy Troupe (who helped Davis with his autobiography) claim that Miles Senior was the second richest black man in the state. Writer Farah Griffin avers that such status wouldn't have protected the family from bigotry, although childhood friend Lee Annie Bonner recalls that Miles's parents were forever squabbling, even over the trumpet he received as a 13th birthday present. According to Troupe, his attitude to women derived from these feuds, but he was regarded as an eccentric kid, as he often disappeared into the wilds to imitate animal sounds with his horn.

He joined Eddie Randle's Blue Devils (aka The Rhumboogie Orchestra) and author Ashley Kahn jokes that he was so scrawny that he barely filled his band uniform. But historian Benjamin Cawthra points out that the teenage Davis became musical director and took his cues from the likes of Billy Eckstine, who invited him to spend the summer with a band that included Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie in its ranks. In 1944, the 18 year-old left for New York and musicians Jimmy Heath and Jimmy Cobb recall the sense that big things were happening in the clubs on 52nd Street. Writer Dan Morgenstern reveals that it was possible to hear bands from the street, but Davis was also studying at Juilliard during the day. 

According to writer Greg Tate, Bebop musicians like Bird Parker were the rocket scientists of the form and historian Gerald Early confirms that it was an experimental black style that sought to get as far away from minstrelsy as possible. Indeed, Quincy Jones claims Davis and his peers wanted to be taken as seriously as Igor Stravinsky. Musician Wayne Shorter recalls Davis calling a Juilliard teacher a liar during a lesson on the blues and musicologist Tammy L. Kernodle suggests that he channelled his anger during this period into his own personal style, which he developed with Gil Evans to meld modern classical music and jazz. He played what was termed `the cool' with the Miles Davis Nonet and took it to Paris, where it would be appreciated as art and not music to dance to. 

Juliette Gréco reminisces about life after the Liberation and writer Vincent Bessières reckons the City of Light was receptive to new things. Despite having two children with childhood sweetheart, Irene Birth, he fell heavily for Gréco, who introduced him to Pablo Picasso and Jean-Paul Sartre and Davis felt accepted in intellectual circles because jazz provided the soundtrack of postwar culture. On returning Stateside, however, the bitter reality of his third-class existence drove Davis into heroin addiction and promoter George Wein remembers being told not to give him money because he would just blow it on drugs. 

Dragged back to East St Louis by his father, Davis struggled to kick his habit and neighbour Eugene Redmond recalls how dishevelled he looked. But a week of cold turkey on the farm did the trick and he returned to New York to record for the Prestige label. The date 1955 flashes up along with footage of Thelonius Monk, but the timeline is a bit misleading here, as Bob Weinstock had signed Davis to Prestige in 1951, while his rest cure came in 1953. Moreover, he spent half a year laying low in Detroit before talking his way on to the bill at the 1955 Newport Jazz Festival, where his laid-back rendition of "`Round Midnight" caught the ear of George Avakian of Columbia Records. 

Guitarist Carlos Santana and keyboard maestro Herbie Hancock reflect on his kicking against the virtuoso style that was prevalent in US jazz at the time and devised a sound that Hancock compares to a stone skipping across the surface of a pond. Musician Marcus Miller says it had people on tenterhooks, while Griffin wishes she could feel like Davis sounds. Yet, around this time, Davis had an operation to remove a non-cancerous growth on his larynx and friends Cortez and Sandra McCoy recall how his refusal to keep quiet during convalescence resulted in him acquiring a raspy voice (which is ably impersonated by Carl Lumbly in the readings from Davis's writings). 

Historian Jack Chambers reflects on the final Prestige sessions with John Coltrane before he signed to Columbia and how they recorded enough in a couple of marathon stints to fill Cookin' With the Miles Davis Quintet (1957), Relaxin' With the Miles Davis Quintet (1958), Workin' With the Miles Davis Quintet (1959), and Steamin' With the Miles Davis Quintet (1961). During this period, he also fell for dancer Frances Taylor (who, wonderfully, is no shrinking violet when discussing her sex appeal) and they moved in together, with Cawthra claiming she was his most important muse.

While in Paris, he was hired by Louis Malle to score Lift to the Scaffold (1958) and pianist René Urtreger explains how Davis improvised to the images of Jeanne Moreau and Maurice Ronet wandering the nouvelle vague streets of Paris. The experience fed into the improv route taken with the 1959 album, Kind of Blue, which drummer Webb played on. Musician Joshua Redman claims the title track reinvented jazz and Kahn claims its defines the term `masterpiece' because it yields up something new with each hearing. But, while it's fine for these aficionados to keep purring at each step Davis took, those seeking to understand why this music represents such a landmark are offered no insights, as nobody takes the time to explain what Davis was seeking to do and what he was rebelling against. 

Davis went mainstream as the Civil Rights spirit spread and Kernodle claims he become a black superman. Musician James Mtume recalls his albums flying off the shelves and he reckons being into Davis in the 1960s was the definition of being hip. Lennie White concurs and nephew Vince Wilburn remembers Davis and Taylor being an iconic couple. But, while he was a role model of chic black masculinity, he could be difficult and not only didn't suffer fools, but he also rarely forgave them. Musician Archie Shepp recalls a brusque exchange before Kernodle protests that American life made Davis who he had to be in public, while his music allowed him to exhibit a more vulnerable side. 

No matter how famous he got, however, Davis remained a black man and, on 25 August 1959, he was attacked by two NYPD officers outside the Birdland venue with his own name on the marquee while smoking after escorting a blonde into a taxi. Griffin, Muller and critic Stanley Crouch determine this as a defining moment in Davis's life, as he remained bitter at his treatment and the monochrome photographs of blood staining his white jacket after having 10 stitches in the head wounds caused by Patrolman Gerald Kilduff have lost none of their power to shock. 

On a more positive note, he could continue the collaboration with Gil Evans at Columbia that had commenced with on Miles Ahead (1957) - although that had also sparked controversy, as Davis had objected to the original cover with a white woman on a sailing boat and subsequent pressings featured him on the sleeve. He followed Porgy and Bess (1959) with Sketches of Spain (1960) after Taylor had dragged him to see a flamenco performance after working in Barcelona. 

Taylor became Mrs Davis on 20 December 1960 and he recorded `Some Day My Prince Will Come' from Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) for her. Moreover, he insisted on putting her on the album cover. But, the combination of drink, cocaine and macho jealousy led to him ordering Taylor to quit her role in West Side Story and stay home to raise his three children by other women. Stepdaughter Cheryl recalls it being a struggle for Taylor, as she had to learn to cook. Moreover, she had to put up with Davis taking out the pain of 1965 hip replacement surgery on her when he hit her for chatting to Quincy Jones in Birdland some time. He always regretted driving her away and Taylor claims he was right to do so, as she was quite a catch.

Around the same time, Coltrane left the band, as Davis felt he had started playing for himself. Among the new members of the combo were bassist Ron Carter, saxophonist Wayne Shorter, pianist Herbie Hancock and drummer Tommy Williams, who was just 17 when he joined the new quintet. Kahn claims this was Davis's most democratic band, as everyone had a duty to do their own thing. Hancock suggests they were almost rehearsing on stage each night, while Carter claims they were experimenting with Davis as the chief chemist.

A flash montage takes us to 1969, when Davis reacted to the music of James Brown, Jimi Hendrix and Sly Stone to fuse jazz and funk. He also decided to reach out to the younger audience and play stadiums instead of clubs, while making more money in the process. Columbia president Clive Davis muses on the genius of his transition and the role he played in hooking up his namesake with rock acts. A key influence on this switch was Betty Mabry, who became Davis's second wife in September 1968 and did much to trendify him, as the suits got the boot. 

John Lennon and Yoko Ono appear in the clips of Davis schmoozing with a new crowd, as he prepares to record Bitches Brew (1970), a double album whose music, title and artwork seemed designed to stop the jazz world in its tracks. He followed this by playing the Fillmore East in New York and teaming up with Indian musicians. Greg Tate described the new sound as `cosmic jungle music' and claimed Davis was the voodoo priest of jazz, while Santana claims it's `acid music' and denounces the likes of Stanley Crouch who felt it was just noise. Tate suggests the albums Davis made in the 1970s laid the foundations for hip-hop, house, drum and bass and electronica. 

Friend Marguerite Cantú reveals that the boxing and the healthy diet belied the fact he was also doing drugs again and manager Mark Rothbaum recalls the pain Davis felt after a car crash in 1972. Son Erin Davis recalls how he withdrew from the world and entered a dark phase. However, actress and ex-lover Cicely Tyson convinced him that he still had plenty to offer and he pulled himself together to play a comeback concert for George Wein and guitarist Mike Stern lauds him for having the courage to return with another new sound. 

He also started painting with artist Jo Gelbard and jammed with Prince. Miller recalls how adaptable he was recording Tutu (1986), while trumpeter Wallace Roney remembers helping him through his appearance with Quincy Jones at the Montreux Jazz Festival in July 1991, when he broke a rule and returned to his Gil Evans material. He would die a few weeks later, with Gelbard describing how he had a stroke while she was chatting to him in hospital. The sketchiness of this account rather typifies a film that has so many pivotal touch points to cram in that it skimps on detail at almost every juncture. Consequently, it provides a solid introduction to a complex and contradictory man and his epochal output that would make a fine companion piece to Don Cheadle's Miles Ahead (2015). 

In truth, it would take a three-part Arena special to do him and his music justice. Nelson would clearly be the man for the job, as he has already demonstrated his ability to blend narrative with analysis with Freedom Riders (2010) and The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution (2016). He seems reluctant to dwell on the less attractive aspects of Davis's personality or to assess whether his flaws diminish his legacy. Nor does he succeed in coaxing later wives Mabry and Tyson before his camera, although Taylor (who died last November) more than compensates. But he doesn't shy away from the bleaker side of Davis's mystique, even though he doesn't delve particularly deeply into his psyche or why so many black jazz musicians (and, later, pop stars of differing skin colours) fell into the same traps. 

Where Nelson triumphs, however, is in his use of the music and the wealth of archive material that is thrillingly edited by Lewis Erskine, Natasha Livia Mottola and Yusuf Kapadia. He might have allowed a few more dissenting voices to join Stanley Crouch in challenging some of the more hagiographical utterances of fans and former bandmates. Given the centrality of the Kilduff incident to shaping his attitude towards race relations, it would also have been useful to learn more about Davis's political stance during the Civil Rights era. Furthermore, Nelson might have done more to explain `the cool' and how it slots into the wider frame of 20th-century American music, especially as he allows Tate's sweeping assertion that Davis anticipated virtually every MOBO form to stand uncontested. However, this slickly assembled paean is guaranteed to send all who see it in search of Davis's greatest hits, despite the nagging feeling that it's a touch too conventional for such a shape-shifting iconoclast.

You suspect you're in for a sanitised survey when the name of one of the principal players crops up among the list of producers. In truth, it was unlikely that Berry Gordy was ever going to allow a 60th anniversary celebration of his record label to be warts-and-all exposé. But Gabe and Benjamin Turner's Hitsville: The Making of Motown is very much an `official version' and, while it's replete with factual snippets and musical pleasures, it covers a lot of the ground already traversed in Yvonne Smith's Motown 40: The Music Is Forever (1998) and Paul Justman's Standing in the Shadows of Motown (2002), which centred on Tamla Motown's house band, The Funk Brothers. 

Since he started selling the black-targeted Michigan Chronicle in a white neighbourhood in Detroit, Berry Gordy has been striving to bring people together. On leaving school, he opened a record shop specialising in jazz and had to be tutored by his clients in the value of the blues. When the business folded, Gordy got a job on the Ford assembly line, which gave him the idea of setting up a record label with different departments to ensure that his acts picked up good habits from those in the know. Operating according to the mantra, `Find, Sign, Develop', Gordy began looking for clients soon after he started selling songs. 

Among his earliest hits was Jackie Wilson's `Reet Petite', which helped convince Smokey Robinson and the Miracles to sign up in 1955. Gordy offered to help Robinson refine his songwriting skills, which led to the release of `Got a Job' on End Records. When they made a pittance on the royalties, Gordy decided to set up Motown at 2648 West Grand Boulevard, which was found by his sister, Esther. As their parents had taught them about self-sufficiency in the grocery store named after Booker T. Washington, they knew all about doing things the hard way. But Gordy was also a perfectionist and, on revisiting the original Hitsville, Robinson jokes about his habit of tinkering during the mixing process. 

They wander into Studio A, which became known as The Snake Pit, and recall how Gordy released `Shop Around' without being happy with the sound and called Robinson at 3am to bring him back to the studio to do a new version. This became Motown's first million seller in February 1961 and Dr Dre claims that having this sort of independence enabled Motown to find its distinctive sound. Another secret was Gordy's willingness to teach others how to write and produce and give them space to do their own thing. He recalls Robinson writing `I'll Try Something New' and realising he had a genius on his hands. John Legend recalls that Bob Dylan considered Robinson to be America's greatest poet.

The key team, however, consisted of brothers Eddie and Brian Holland and Lamont Dozier. But Barrett Strong and Norman Whitfield and Nicholas Asford and Valerie Simpson were just as prolific, as were Sylvia May, Clarence Paul and Hank Cosby. But the label's strength lay in the quality of its performers and Stevie Wonder agrees that Gordy coaxed people towards their style. Vandellas Rosalind Ashford and Annette Beard remember Gordy signing Marvin Gaye and persuading him that there was little merit in becoming the black Frank Sinatra. We hear Gaye's voice remembering Gordy convincing him to turn `Stubborn Kind of Fellow' from a jazz number into a Motown tune and Wonder says Gordy had the knack of knowing how to make songs pop.

Another important factor in Motown's success was its A&R department and Mickey Stevenson was a key figure. He put together the Funk Brothers, with bassist James Jamerson, pianist Joe Hunter, saxophonist Hank Cosby, baritone sax Mike Terry, trombonist Paul Riser, guitarists Larry Veeder and Robert White, and drummer Benny Benjamin. Many had played music at school and had a decent classical knowledge that helped when it came to arranging songs. But they also needed a house singer to get round union rules and Stevenson's secretary landed the gig during a surprise inspection. She was Martha Reeves and we see archive footage of her performing `Dancing in the Street'.

Mary Wilson of The Supremes remembers 11 year-old Stevie Wonder turning up and playing every instrument in the studio like a pro. Gordy was amazed and even more so when he proved he could write songs like `Fingertips', which topped the charts in 1963. But hits could happen by happy chance, as was the case with `Mickey's Monkey', which began with a Dozier riff that Robinson heard on a corridor. Actor Jamie Foxx tells the story of a young Michael Jackson blowing everybody away with his 1968 audition (footage of which reveals the influence of James Brown's dance steps). 

Future manager Shelly Berger reflects on a remarkable Jackson Five rendition of Robinson's `Who's Lovin' You?' and Jermaine, Marlon, Jackie and Tito all think back with pride and fondness on their brother, as they describe singing in front of their heroes at Motown. Melvin Franklin of The Temptations remembers the spirit of competition that Gordy encouraged to make people up their game. But he also insisted on collaboration and encouragement to keep ego at bay and the tactic worked, as everyone recognised that hits made life better for everyone. 

Consequently, it was only after Mary Wells left that Robinson could turn his attetion to The Temptations and they had a hit with `The Way You Do the Things You Do', with Otis Williams on lead vocals. But this sparked Norman Whitfield to come up with `Girl (Why You Wanna Make Me Blue)', with Eddie Kendricks on lead, and Robinson hit back with `My Girl'. the answer song to Wells's `My Guy' that had David Ruffin on lead vocals. Robert White came up with the guitar riff in response to some piano chords that Robinson was playing and arranger Paul Riser added the strings and horns and a surefire hit was born. The single sold a million copies and Williams still has the congratulations telegram sent by The Beatles. 

Yet. the track had to convince a rigorous quality control panel before it got the green light and Little Richard declares such dedication to detail to be key to Motown's sustained success. Robinson recalls `Tracks of My Tears' having a tough time getting through a meeting because nobody liked the original ending. But Gordy was a real stickler for opening hooks, as the first four bars snag the listener's attention, and we hear the fabled intros for `I Can't Help Myself' (The Four Tops), `Going to a Go Go' (Smokey Robinson and the Miracles) and `Ain't Too Proud to Beg' (The Temptations).

Another Gordy mantra was `Create, Sell, Collect' and he commends the contribute of sales and marketing guru Barney Ales, who did much to get Motown played on white radio stations. As a Sicilian, he also let people believe he had Mafia connections (which both amused and unnerved others on the label). Gordy was attacked for being colour blind in his hiring policies, but he also had Billie Jean Brown as head of quality control and Raynoma Singleton as creative executive. Sisters Gwen, Anna and Loucye Gordy all had important jobs within the company, as Motown sought to peddle `The Sound of Young America'. 

Anna and Gwen were pivotal on the artist development side of the production line, as they ran the `charm school' that included vocal coach Maurice King and choreographer Cholly Atkins, who even taught Neil Young to dance when Motown signed with The Mynah Birds. Maxine Powell was in charge of etiquette and Wilson, Reeves and Wonder all recognise her skill in showing them how to represent black culture in a white world. Foxx accepts that some people would call this selling out, but Gordy felt it was crucial to getting Motown heard.

No combo spent more time in the charm school than Diana Ross and the Supremes. Robinson admits it was a struggle finding them a hit, as songs like `A Breath Taking Guy' and `I Want a Guy' failed to find an audience. Lamont Dozier came up with `Where Did Our Love Go' for The Marvelletes, as a follow-up to `Please Mr Postman'. But they turned it down and Ross had to be cajoled by Gordy into recording what became their breakthrough. They then had five consecutive No.1s, with Holland-Dozier-Holland tracks, including `Baby Love'. 

In order to plug the songs, Gordy sent out a package tour and Duke Fakir of The Temptations recalls everyone trying to set the stage alight to be moved back in the programme. This led to competition between the acts, with Levi Stubbs determined that The Four Tops would go on after The Temptations. We see them belting out `Reach Out I'll Be There' on stage, as Claudette Robinson of The Miracles recalls the tour being a tightly run ship with few hotel stops and a lot of sleeping on a bus with no bathroom. Tales are told of segregated theatres, racist cops and gunshots being fired at the bus. But they plugged on and Martin Luther King visited Hitsville to thank Gordy for his role in the emotional integration of the country.

Times were changing and Oprah Winfrey recalls seeing The Supremes doing`Come See About Me' on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964 and film director Lee Daniels concurs that seeing black acts on white shows had a seismic impact. A photo spread details some of the other talents on the label, including Junior Walker and the All Stars, Kim Weston, Edwin Starr, The Isley Brothers, The Spinners, Rare Earth, Jimmy Ruffin, The Contours and Tammi Terrell. Their success led to a move to new headquarters at 2457 Woodland Avenue. We hear George Harrison announcing that the Fab Four adored Motown, while learning that `Where Did Our Love Go' was beamed to astronauts in Gemini 5.

In 1968, Motown had half of the Billboard Top 10, with Marvin Gaye's `I Heard It Through the Grapevine' at No.1. But even this undisputed classic had a chequered history and Robinson and Gordy have a $100 bet on camera over who sang it when. Norman Whitfield wrote it and tried it on Gaye, but it wasn't working and Gladys Knight and the Pips recorded it. Robinson remembers his own version and is convinced Gaye was the last to get it. But he did top the charts after Knight's very different version after it was culled from the In the Groove album

Gaye married Anna Gordy in 1963, while Gordy and Diana Ross became lovers after a stand-off in Manchester about singing `You're Nobody Til Somebody Loves You'. But, while this reinforced the Motown family feel, it also made it tough when home truths had to be told. Gordy remains hurt that Holland-Dozier-Holland wanted to form their own company and that Stevie Wonder demanded a new deal the day after he had thrown him a 21st birthday party. Yet, while he wanted more control over his music, he remained loyal and hits like `Superstition' only enhanced the Motown name. 

Gordy recognised the need to innovate and, once the Jackson 5 had stormed the charts with `I Want You Back', he did a deal for them to appear in a cartoon show on children's TV. He cashed in on the teeny-bopper craze in the early 1970s and took Ross to Hollywood for the Billie Holiday biopic, Lady Sings the Blues (1972). But Robinson was unhappy about leaving Detroit for Los Angeles and product manager Brenda Boyce (who had settled the Grapevine bet over the phone) reveals that Gordy won him over by claiming that the sky was the first stop rather than the limit. That said, Gordy didn't like the Temptations song `Cloud Nine' because `psychedelic soul' promoted drug use and the democratic nature of Motown meant that the song was released and the public responded.

The Temptations also pushed the political envelope with `Ball of Confusion' and Gordy admits that the Black Power groups disliked his songs about love and optimism. He also had problems with Gaye tackling Vietnam and domestic protest in `What's Going On' and they argued about its impact on the brand before it was released in 1971. Robinson claims this is his all-time favourite album and others suggests that Gordy made a mistake in failing to recognise the politico-cultural significance of the songs. He accepts now that he was slow to reflect the times. Yet, as Barack Obama opines when hosting a reception for Motown at the White House, the label highlighted what united not divided Americans and Neil Young claims it's an integral part of national culture. 

Robinson credits Gordy with making this difference. But he insists that he was simply an organiser who gave people the space to make the most of themselves. He is proud of what Motown has achieved and jokes it didn't do badly considering he only set it up to make music, earn a little money and get some girls. In an amusing bit of credit crawl shtick, the various contributors try to remember the words of the company song. Unsurprisingly, Gordy and Robinson still know it and harmonise on lyrics that begin, `We are a very swinging company.'

As corporate promos go, this is a highly entertaining one. But there's little here about the problems that beset the label and the way it was perceived by the more militant members of the African-American community. There are critical digs, but they're mostly used to show how Gordy learned from them and it's telling that Diana Ross is not among the talking heads, even though she's the mother of Gordy's daughter. There's also no mention of fellow Supreme Florence Ballard's 1976 suicide. Marvin Gaye is also somewhat sidelined, although Jeremy Marne covered much of this territory in What's Going On: The Life and Death of Marvin Gaye (2008). 

One of the problems about focusing on the company structure is that it pushes the creativity out of the limelight and Motown fans would surely want more anecdotes like the ones about `My Girl' and `I Heard It Through the Grapevine' than yarns about business meetings. However, in following on from The Hands of the Gods (2007), The Class of `92 (2013) and I Am Bolt (2016), the Turners are right to laud the work of those behind the scenes and the sense of the family atmosphere undoubtedly comes across. Naturally, there's plenty of music, although an objective critical analysis of the Motown sound and its legacy would have been valuable, as would a lengthier discussion of the post-60s heyday, as Motown came into competition with disco, funk and hip-hop. But the footage, including rare items from the Gordy archive, is wonderful and it's nice to see that the years have done nothing to diminish the bond between Gordy and Robinson.

Somewhat improbably, Suzi Quatro is in her 70th year. Yet the dates don't lie and 45 years have passed since she last topped the charts. She's still going strong, however, and Australian director Liam Firmager clearly had a task keeping up with her during the four years he spent making Suzi Q, the first feature-length profile of the diminutive Detroit-born bassist who almost single-handledly inspired a generation of women to rock and roll. 

Suzi Quatro has sold over 55 million records worldwide since 1973. She wasn't the first female to strap on a guitar, as Sister Rosetta Tharpe had started rocking in the 1950s, while the Swinging Sixties saw the rise and fall of such girl groups as Goldie and the Gingerbreads, The Liverbirds, Ace of Cups, Fanny, Bertha and Christine Perfect (who would go on to reinvent herself as Christine McVie in Fleetwood Mac). But, as Cherie Currie of The Runaways, KT Tunstall, Joan Jett and journalist Jen Jewel Brown testify, it was the leather-clad Suzi Q who broke the mould with a string of hits in the early 1970.

Raised by the musical Arthur and the moral Helen, Susan Kay Quatro and siblings Nancy, Patti, Arlene and Michael knew their boundaries and how to entertain. At the age of five, she saw Elvis Presley on The Ed Sullivan Show and knew she wanted to be a rock star. The arrival of The Beatles prompted the formation of The Pleasure Seekers in 1965, with Patti, Arlene and two neighbourhood friends, Nancy and Mary Lou Ball. Her father bought her a Fender Precision bass (which she still has) and Alice Cooper, Debbie Harry and bassist Abby Travis all commend her for making a gimmick out of wielding such a large instrument when she was so small.

They released a single, `What a Way to Die', and brother Michael helped get them gigs and TV spots. The emphasis was very much on Suzi and this cost her a lot of childhood friendships, as people were jealous that she had escaped the Motor City. By 1969, however, their blend of mild rock and kitschy costumes fell out of vogue and, when Arlene left to raise a family, Nancy took over on vocals of the newly named Cradle. Feeling slighted and unconvinced by the need to write songs with a political relevance that reflected the Detroit of the day, Suzi cheerfully accepted a 1971 offer from producer Mickie Most to relocate to London and record solo for his RAK label after she had jammed at Motown with Jeff Beck and Cozy Powell. 

Even though Patti would join Fanny, there was a certain resentment among the sisters that Suzi opted to ditch them to seize her chance. But she hadn't landed in the lap of luxury. She lived in a tiny bedsit in Charles Street in Mayfair and recalls being sent a cassette of her family bad-mouthing her for having left. But Mickie and wife Chris kept an eye on her, while being aware of her overpowering desire to succeed. Wendy James of Transvision Vamp concurs that it takes a unique toughness to reach the top and Mickie asked former Mersey Beat editor Bill Harry to be Suzi's publicist.  

We see an old clip of Mickie guiding Suzi through the writing of a song with a kind of clipped paternalism that she clearly resented. But she also recognised that he was her best bet, especially when her debut single, `Rolling Stone', topped the charts in Portugal, despite making no impression anywhere else. She asked if Mickie could find her a band and Len Tuckey was recruited from The Nashville Teens, along with Alastair McKenzie and Keith Hodge. Suzi fell in love with Tuckey and he became her minder on tour with Slade, which drummer Don Powell admits could get a bit wild. 

Shortly afterwards. songwriters Nikki Chinn and Mike Chapman came up with `Can the Can' and a slot on Top of the Pops in her leather jumpsuit helped propel the song to No. 1. Andy Scott of Sweet, Tina Weymouth and Chris Franz from Talking Heads, Kathy Valentine of The Go Go's, Donita Sparks of L7 and Lita Ford of The Runaways all recall the impact she made, as this tiny figure made an empowering statement about women in rock. John `Norwood' Fisher of Fishbone and Clem Burke of Blondie affirm that she smashed down a door and her self-penned debut album showed the likes of Tequila Mockingbird that there was nothing women couldn't do if they set their minds to it. 

She was a particular fan of `48 Crash', which peaked at No.3 in the UK. `Daytona Demon' only reached No.14 and was the only one of the quartet completed by No.1 smash `Devil Gate Drive' not to sell a million records and earn a gold disc. Drummer Dave Neal remembers the press latching on to Suzi, as she was such a one-off. But the music press gave her a hard ride as a manufactured pop princess off the Mickie Most production line and she calmly puts them in their place by saying she never did gender, she simply is who she is.

Competing with the biggest names in Glam Rock, Suzi more than held her own, particularly in Britain and Australia, where songs like `The Wild One' continued to chart. But she had barely caused a rippled in the United States and returned home in 1974 to find her bedroom had been cleared out and that her sisters had not forgiven her for following her star. As tour manager Toby Mamis recalls, her stock rose Stateside and she provided support to Alice Cooper on the `Welcome to My Nightmare' tour. While she liked a beer and a cigarette, however, Suzi wasn't into the sex and drugs part of the rock`n'roll scene and was quite happy to live quietly with Tuckey. 

Having made the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, Suzi became the toast of New York clubs like Rodney Bingenheimer's English Disco, where she was discovered by Joan Jett, Cherie Currie, Lita Ford and Debbie Harry. But, try as they might, Chapman and Most couldn't get American radio stations to play her stuff and the big breakthrough never came. Moreover, Suzi suffered when Chinn and Chapman parted company and Mickie Most struggled to exploit her edginess. Consequently, `Tear Me Apart' only charted at No.27 in the UK, while the Aggro-Phobia album was dubbed a disappointment after failing to chart at all. What isn't mentioned, however, is that Chnnichap singles like `Your Mamma Won't Like Me', `I Bit Off More Than I Could Chew' and `I May Be Too Young' had also bombed in Britain and that Suzi's moment in the spotlight was coming to an end just as Punk erupted.  

As her record company let her contract lapse, producers Ronny Halin and Garry Marshall cast Suzi as Leather Tuscadero opposite Henry Winkler's The Fonz in Happy Days (1977-79), This gig prompted Chapman to write `If You Can't Give Me Love' in 1978 and the chart success of this and the duet on `Stumblin' In' with Chris Norman of Smokie put the band back on the road. Tim Rice is puzzled why the latter hit big in the US and malingered in the lower reaches in the UK, but there's no time to analyse the Quatro sound or its evolution, as Firmager whisks us on to the deal with Chapman's Dreamland Records. While the Rock Hard album did well Down Under, it struggled to make much impact elsewhere, despite the title track featuring in Allan Moyle's hit film, Times Square (1980).

Back in Blighty, Suzi became a mom to Laura and Richard and felt Tuckey drifting away because he wanted her to remain Suzi the rocker. When she played Annie Oakley in the 1986 musical revival of Annie Get Your Gun and Prince Charming in Cinderella, the record and radio execs also began backing away, as they felt pantomime was the kiss of death for any self-respecting rocker. Undeterred, Suzi teamed with Shirlie Roden and Willie Rushton to write Tallulah Who? (1991), a musical about maverick American actress, Tallulah Bankhead. 

With her marriage over, Suzi branched out further into writing poetry and novels, presenting radio shows and acting in TV shows like Minder (1982), Absolutely Fabulous (1994) and Midsomer Murders (2007). She was also the subject of This Is Your Life in 1999, while Ruskin College, Cambridge gave her an honorary doctorate in 2016. Through it all, she continued to play live. Yet she regrets growing up too fast and returns to the family home in Torre Road in Grosse Point to see Patti and Nancy and accepts that they will never give her the acclamation she wants from them because she took away their dreams. But they have found a way of rubbing along and Suzi is content with this, as she is a firm believer in everyone going their own way. 

She has also come to accept the responsibilities of fame and would never refuse a fan. But she knows she has made sacrifices along the way and Jett and Tunstall agree that her contribution to rock should be more widely recognised. In March 2019, Suzi released her 24th album (other sources dispute this figure), No Control, which contains songs she wrote with her son that tapped into the old Suzi Q. But, as she reminds second husband, Rainer Haas, she has always known that the girl in the black leather was a creation who is very different from her real self. 

As a portrait of a woman who pushed barriers without selling her soul, this is pretty hard to fault. Firmager respects the achievement and places it in context without gushing, while also recognising the value of the post-heyday diversity and the courage it took to take so many personal and professional risks. He also refuses to shy away from the emotional issues that have impacted upon her relationship with her family and there is a touching moment towards the end when he asks Suzi what she would say to her younger self and she gets a little teary in revealing that she would tell her not to be in so much of a hurry. 

On the demerit side, not all of the talking heads have worthwhile things to say, while there's a frustrating reluctance either to assess the quality of Quatro's music or to address the reasons why the sniffier elements of the British rock media haven't always been appreciative. There's no question that the image was inspirational, but it would be interesting to hear from today's audience members and discover something of the age range of those who go to hear her play. More might also have been said about the kind of sound she has produced since 1976 and where songs like the Chapman-penned `The Girl From Detroit City' (2014) get airplay. However, closing with a credit crawl duet with Cherie Currie on `Rock'n'Roll Rosie', this is an enjoyable and enlightening watch that begs the question, who is going to do a documentary about Mickie Most, who had created the persona of the superstar impresario/producer when Simon Cowell was still in short pants?

There have been dozens of Italian films about the ongoing migrant crisis, with two of the most familiar, Gianfranco Rosi's Oscar-nominated Fire At Sea (2016) and Filippo Piscopo and Lorena Luciano's It Will Be Chaos (2018), focusing on the island of Lampedusa. The majority of the documentaries on the subject have prioritised the perspective of those seeking to make a fresh start. But, having teamed with actor Valerio Mastandrea to explore the notion of acclimatisation in My Class (2014), Daniele Gaglianone profiles four women committed to helping the newcomers settle into their new home in  Dove Bisogna Stare/Where They Need to Stand. Produced in conjunction with Médécins sans Frontières, this thoughtful study is the latest presentation from CinemaItaliaUK and will show at the Regent Street Cinema in London on 15 October.

An opening caption reveals that there are over 10,000 migrants in Italy. They are fleeing from war, persecution and natural disaster, yet are not entitled to stay at state-funded reception centres. Their only hope lies in the charity of ordinary citizens and their plight has worsened since this film was made between the winter of 2017 and the spring of 2018. Among the army of volunteers are Lorena Fornasir from Pordenone, Elena Pozzallo from Val de Susa, Georgia Borderi from Como and Jessica Cosenza from Cosenza. 

Now 64, Lorena is a retired psychotherapist who began working with homeless refugees after finding a man on the verge of death on the street. She visits a car park where a Pakistani professor who could speak five languages had squatted in squalor while searching for a job. Not all of her friends appreciate her actions, however, and she reveals that many have actively disapproved of her billeting the destitute in an empty house in the north-eastern town. Elena lives in Oulx, where she works in higher education. She had been a member of the No Tav movement opposing a high-speed rail route through the Val de Susa, but she had decided to get involved with the refugee situation after hearing about Mathieu, a youth from Cameroon who had contracted severe frostbite while attempting to trek through the snowy Alps between Bardonecchia and Briançon. 

Twenty-one year-old Jessica is driven less by humanitarian than political concerns after learning about the Centro Sociale Rialzo from her left-leaning father. She now helps run a squat on Via Savoia for Prendo Casa, a group fighting homelessness that also offers assistance to migrants making claims for asylum and residency. Georgia is five years older and was working as a medical secretary when she saw the migrants sheltering in Como's San Giovanni railway station. She had gone out to buy shoes, but spent her money on 80 toothbrushes and she vowed to spend her holiday helping out where she could. This became her full-time occupation and she throws herself into every aspect of migrant care.

With her nose ring and no-nonsense attitude, Jessica is a pocket dynamo and lays down the law in Via Savoia without compunction. When one Gambian refugee invites some friends to share his room without permission, she lets him know in no uncertain terms that he is going to be evicted for breaking the rules. She is also strict on the subject of recycling and keeping the bin area clean in order to keep rats away. But Jessica is also aware of the prejudice that many southerners feel towards the migrants and she strives to bring about a better understanding of their situation, while also campaigning for fair social housing that benefits anyone who needs it. 

Lorena lives with Andrea Franchi, an 82 year-old philosophy professor who supports her bid to make a difference. They watch video footage of a pair they had tried to help, only for them to be jailed for selling marijuana and become convinced that their benefactors had betrayed them. Franchi points out that Western civilisation has been built on overseas conquest and the oppression of the vanquished and we should remember that the migrants have a right to view do-gooders with suspicion, as history teaches them not to trust Europeans bearing gifts. 

Georgia shares Jessica's down-to-earth pragmatism and a sequence shows her trying to explain to some Gambian migrants what they are expected to do in order to secure permits, accommodation, education and medical checks. She doesn't suffer fools or malingerers and has no time for friends who advise her to get a  proper job and lead a normal life. It's hard work and the strain sometimes shows, but Georgia has no intention of giving up on people who need her. The same is true of Lorena, who comes back to Pordenone after relocating to Trieste to visit the woodland bivouacs and warn their occupants about the dangers of living rough during the winter and remind them of their rights to seek medical attention. 

Elena reassures Mathieu as he is treated by the doctor and his feet are still in a bad way. But he was one of the lucky ones and he sits at the table with some of her neighbours and they discuss the dilemma of what help to provide and how to dispel the myth that Italians are hostile to migrants and want them passed forward or sent home as swiftly as possible. They swap stories and wish they could find a solution that suits everybody. 

Back in the squat, Jessica has coffee with a Moroccan family and jokes about the problems she has with the different African races, creeds and nationalities feuding with each other. She gives one man a lecture down the phone on disrespectful terms to use to women and echoes Georgia in her frustration at the amount of innuendo she has to put up with because she shares a house with black men. But, like Lorena, they couldn't walk away after witnessing injustice and inhumanity and their dedication and determination is truly humbling. 

For all the help they provide, however, they are aware that they live in different worlds. Georgia recalls a man she had got to know after he had been falsely accused of trafficking suddenly deciding to leave for Germany because he had grown tired of sleeping rough in Italy. She wanted to tell him that the move offered no guarantees, but he regarded the right to try as a key part of his new-found freedom and she had to let him go. Jessica also tells a story about a comrade who missed out on a summer's work because he had heard that they were going to be evicted and his sense of duty inspires her whenever she feels like jacking it all in. 

News clips of Neo-Nazi protests on the French border and the local community trudging off in the snow to mount a counter-demonstration end this unflinching and inspiring account of the response of ordinary people to an extraordinary crisis. In truth, it should make viewers in Brexit-obsessed Britain a little bit ashamed that we can agonise over trade deals and border backstops when there is a humanitarian calamity unfolding on our doorstep. 

Gaglianone isn't so strident in his approach, but his admiration for Lorena, Elena, Georgia and Jessica is evident and the world would be a very different place if more people across the planet followed their example. Those unfamiliar with the situation in Italy will need to do some background reading before seeing the film, as it makes few contextual concessions. Indeed, Gaglianone made it clear that this was primarily for domestic consumption when he said, `It's first of all a story about us, about our ability to face the world and share its destiny.' But `us' is a big and inclusive word and we all need to do our bit.