Thursday, 12 December 2019

Capital Celluloid 2019 - Day 363: Sat Dec 28

A Star is Born (Cukor, 1954): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 4.40pm

This personal top ten film of mine is part of the Musicals season (full details here) and is also being shown on December 16th and 22nd (full information here).

Welcome to the reason this blog exists. In December 2010 I watched this film, a movie I went to see when restored and re-released in cinemas in 1983, on television. I thought afterwards how much I would love to see this movie on the big screen again and that prompted an idea to write a daily blog picking a film to see in London. The purpose of starting the blog was to highlight to film lovers the best movies on the capital's repertory cinema circuit.

What writing the blog has also done is reinvigorate my moviegoing. The act of putting this small contribution to the London film scene together has resulted in encouraging me to go and see more movies. I hope the blog has had that impact on others too. This brilliant restoration of one of the greatest Hollywood films of all time comes highly recommended. Many believe Judy Garland gave her greatest performance in this film and one critic has called Mason's the best supporting performance by a male actor in modern Hollywood. Try and get to see A Star is Born where it should be seen - in a cinema.

Chicago Reader review:
Even in this incomplete restoration George Cukor's 1954 musical remake of the 1937 Hollywood drama is devastating. Judy Garland plays a young singer discovered by aging, alcoholic star Norman Maine (James Mason), who helps her to fame as "Vicki Lester" even as his career slips. Garland gives a deeply affecting performance--halting, volatile, unsure of herself early on and unsure of Norman later--and her musical numbers are superb. Yet the film's core is its two-character scenes, in which small shifts in posture subtly articulate the drama's essence. Cukor gives his preoccupation with self-image a surprisingly anti-Hollywood spin: despite the many industry-oriented group scenes, the characters seem fully authentic only when they're alone with each other. The scenes of Lester acting seem tainted with artifice, and her a cappella performance of her current hit for Norman on their wedding night further separates the public from the private. Later, reenacting the production number shot that day, she uses a food cart for a dolly and a chair for a harp; Cukor's initial long take heightens the intimacy between her and Norman, just as the household props implicitly critique studio artificiality. All that matters, Cukor implies, is what people can try to become for each other. The film was badly mangled when Warner Brothers cut a half hour shortly after its release; this 1983 35-millimeter restoration replaces some footage, offering stills when only the sound track could be found. Fortunately these slide shows are confined to early scenes, giving some sense of what was lost. 
Fred Camper 

Here (and above) is the trailer.

If you want to read an excellent account of the film, its making and the background to the 1983 restoration I can recommend Ronald Haver's book A Star is Born. Full details here.

Capital Celluloid 2019 - Day 362: Fri Dec 27

Broadway Rhythm (Del Ruth, 1944): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 2.30pm

This 35mm presentation is part of the BFI musicals season (details here). The screening on a 35mm Technicolor dye transfer print from the BFI National Archive.

BFI introduction:
This backstage musical puts emphasis on the numbers rather than narrative logic, but it’s packed with extraordinary delights. Enjoy Lena Horne’s sensational renditions of ‘Somebody Loves Me’ and ‘Brazilian Boogie’, as well as pianist Hazel Scott’s dazzling performance. The contortionist number featuring the Ross Sisters will leave you slack-jawed and breathless. And, oh, the Technicolor!
Robin Baker

Here (and above) is an extract.

Capital Celluloid 2019 - Day 361: Thu Dec 26

Trainspotting (Boyle, 1996): Prince Charles Cinema, 6.05pm

The Prince Charles Cinema are having £1 members’ screenings on Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. You can find all the films, including this one, on offer here.

Chicago Reader review:
Danny Boyle's second feature (1996), a lot more stylish and entertaining than Shallow Grave. Far from nihilistic, though certainly calculated to butt up against various puritanical norms, this feel-good jaunt about young Scottish heroin addicts and their degradation and betrayals of one another draws a lot of its energy from Richard Lester movies of the 60s and 70s and from A Clockwork Orange (the novel as well as the movie). Adapted by John Hodge from Irvine Welsh's popular pidgin-English novel (which had already been successfully adapted for the stage) and partially redubbed for American ears, it floats by almost as episodically as 94 minutes of MTV.
Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2019 - Day 360: Wed Dec 25


The repertory cinemas are closed today but you can catch my twitter recommendations for great movies on the television over the holiday period via my twitter handle @tpaleyfilm and the hashtag #bestxmasholidayfilmonTVtoday.

Capital Celluloid 2019 - Day 359: Tue Dec 24

It's A Wonderful Life (Capra, 1946): Prince Charles Cinema, 12.30pm & 6pm

Christmas Eve and It’s A Wonderful Life at the Prince Charles is always one of the best screenings of the year. The 6pm showing is already sold out — but don’t worry if you can’t get along on December 24th their are plenty of other screenings of this bona fide great film (regardless of Christmas or not). You can find the full details here (and most are from 35mm).

Chicago Reader review: 
The film Frank Capra was born to make. This 1946 release marked his return to features after four years of turning out propaganda films for the government, and Capra poured his heart and soul into it. James Stewart stars as a small-town nobody, on the brink of suicide, who believes his life is worthless. Guardian angel Henry Travers shows him how wrong he is by letting Stewart see what would have happened had he never been born. Wonderfully drawn and acted by a superb cast (Donna Reed, Beulah Bondi, Thomas Mitchell, Lionel Barrymore, Gloria Grahame) and told with a sense of image and metaphor (the use of water is especially elegant) that appears in no other Capra film. The epiphany of movie sentiment and a transcendent experience.
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Capital Celluloid 2019 - Day 358: Mon Dec 23

Gremlins (Dante, 1984): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 8pm

The screening of the new 4K release of this modern Christmas classic at BFI Southbank is on an extended run. You can find the full details here

Chicago Reader review:
E.T. with the lid off (1984). At the center of this horror comedy is a tidy family parable of the kind so dear to the heart of producer Steven Spielberg: the cute little whatzits who turn into marauding monsters when they pass through puberty (here gooily envisioned as “the larval stage”) are clearly metaphors for children, and the teenager (Zach Galligan) whose lapse of responsibility unleashes the onslaught is a stand-in for the immature parents of the 80s (Poltergeist). But Spielberg's finger wagging is overwhelmed by Joe Dante's roaring, undisciplined direction, which (sometimes through sheer sloppiness) pushes the imagery to unforeseen, untidy, and ultimately disturbing extremes. Dante is perhaps the first filmmaker since Frank Tashlin to base his style on the formal free-for-all of animated cartoons; he is also utterly heartless. With Phoebe Cates, Hoyt Axton, and more movie-buff in-jokes than Carter has pills.
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2019 - Day 357: Sun Dec 22

Scrooge (Hurst, 1951): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 6pm

This movie, the best film version of Dickens' A Christmas Carol, also screens at BFI Southbank on December 20th and 21st - full details here. Tom Charity's review below is an honest and excellent one but I defy you not to be moved by Sim's central performance and it is this Ghost of Christmas Future that has haunted me since I saw this film as a ten-year-old. 

Time Out review:
Surprisingly, there isn't a film version of the Dickens novella which merits the imprimatur 'classic'. The Muppets had a good stab at it, and Bill Murray was well cast in the otherwise scattershot Scrooged. On the plus side, this version is cast like an engraved illustration: Miles Thesiger, Mervyn Johns, Michael Hordern, Kathleen Harrison, Ernest Malleson, Hermione Baddeley and, above all, the splendidly aloof Alastair Sim, who feasts on Dickens' best lines ('I expect you want the whole day off tomorrow?'), greets each new ghost with a weary shiver, and handles his giddy rebirth with aplomb. A jobbing director who knew how to point a camera, Brian Hurst never betrayed much facility for cutting or movement. He stages the action competently, but the transitions between scenes are so choppy you wonder where the ads are. Add to this a prosaic adaptation by Noel Langley which gets bogged down in the backstory (the relatively dull visitation from the ghost of Christmas Past which explains how nice Ebenezer - a bashful George Cole - fell from the path of righteousness), some rather depressed-looking spirits, and the cringeworthy sentimentality of the Tiny Tim scenes, and you have what Scrooge himself might call 'Ho-hum-bug'. 
Tom Charity

Here (and above) is the trailer.