Sunday, 21 December 2014

Capital Celluloid 2015 - Day 8: Wed Jan 8

Viva Las Vegas (Sidney, 1964): Barbican Cinema, 7pm

Here is the Barbican introduction to a night of celebration of the King in the movies:
Today marks 80 years since the birth of Elvis Presley. The evening begins with an hour long talk by Adrian Wootton, chief executive of Film London and the British Film Commission. Following a short break, we screen the glorious Viva Las Vegas.

In his stellar 22 year career, Elvis Presley was regarded as the most popular singer the world had ever seen, but 37 years after his death, it is easy to forget the importance of his many movies on his incredible career. As Elvis stopped touring between 1958 and 1970, his films were the only way for his immense worldwide fan base to see and hear their hero in action. Although they were subject to much critical mauling, his films were incredibly popular and included the very songs that went on to become classics of his repertoire.

Illustrated with clips from the King’s best flicks, Adrian Wootton, will recount the history of Elvis’s extensive career on the silver screen from 1956 to 1973.

Chicago Reader review:
Vulgar, spirited, and neglected director George Sidney (Bye Bye Birdie, The Eddy Duchin Story, Kiss Me Kate) meets his match with this 1964 Elvis Presley vehicle: Presley, Ann-Margret, and Las Vegas itself are all ready-made for his talents, which mainly have to do with verve and trashy kicks. Unfortunately not as many sparks fly as one might hope. Still there's Presley as a race car driver who doubles as a singing waiter, and, as critic Tom Milne describes it, “Ann-Margret revs her chassis at him.” There's also William Demarest and, among the songs, "The Yellow Rose of Texas."
Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here (and above) are the opening credits.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Capital Celluloid 2015 - Day 7: Wed Jan 7

The Collector (Rohmer, 1966): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 8.50pm

This film is part of the Eric Rohmer season at BFI Southbank and also screens on 10 January. Full details here.

Chicago Reader review:
The fourth episode of Eric Rohmer's “Six Moral Tales” series (actually the third in order of shooting, and the first of feature length). Haydee, the “collector” of the title, is a young woman who hoards sexual experiences, though she refuses to sleep with either of the two stuffy males with whom she shares a villa. Rohmer's impossibly light, graceful way of posing profound moral questions hasn't yet wholly coalesced, though this 1966 film does have his soft, slow rhythm. With Patrick Bauchau and Daniel Pommerulle.
Dave Kehr

Here is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2015 - Day 6: Tue Jan 6

Manakamana (Spray/Velez, 2014): BFI Southbank, Studio 8.40pm

One of the best releases of 2014 is on an extended run  at BFI Southbank. Details here.

BFI introduction:
A huge audience-pleaser at festivals around the world, Manakamana is a gentle pleasure, with humorous moments and serious themes. The documentary was filmed entirely in a cable car transporting visitors and locals to an ancient Nepalese mountaintop shrine. In journeys of 10 minutes – the length of a single reel of 16mm film – we witness 11 unedited encounters, from a trio of gossiping old ladies in traditional costume to a group of teen rockers.

Little White Lies review:
It may sound trite to say so, but the film is about nothing and it's about everything. It allows you to see as much or as little as you want. Maybe some will see it as a quaint people-watching comedy which explores facial expressions, age, beauty and stillness? Others might see it as a being more of a cinematic work, posing questions about the relationship between subject and camera, the relationship between subject and director, and even whether this is a film in which the industry term “director” is even valid? You could even ingest it as a purely ambient work, and in the spirit of the passengers themselves, take the practical option of using the time to allow life to gloss past your eyes and meditate on other Earthly matters. Maybe even consider what other Earthly matters are going through the heads of the people on screen?

Perhaps this is a pessimistic view of things, but Manakamana feels most enriching as a work about life and death. The people who sit in these cars are whisked across what looks to be highly treacherous (albeit breathtaking) terrain without the merest consideration for potential mortality. Stunning beauty and fiery death buffet against one another as we humans casually slip between the tiny slither of space that parts them. Manakamana itself is a temple which sits at the top of this line, and so the metaphor feels extended to one of life, death and transcendence.
David Jenkins

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Capital Celluloid 2015 - Day 5: Mon Jan 5

The Leopard (Visconti 1963): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 6.10pm

This film is part of the Passport to Cinema season at BFI Southbank and also screens on 3 January. Tonight's presentation is introduced by Richard Combs. Full details here

This movie is a bona fide masterpiece which grows in stature with the passing years and seen in a remastered print on the best sccreen in London simply adds to the beauty of a magisterial work of cinema.

Here is critic Dave Kehr on the film's history, it was butchered on release and only seen in a truncated form for many years, and here is Martin Scorsese talking about his involvement in the restoration. The Leopard is one of the American director's favourite films as evidenced in this list.

Chicago Reader review:
'Cut, dubbed, and printed in an inferior color process, the U.S. release of Luchino Visconti's epic didn't leave much of an impression in 1963; 20 years later, a restoration of the much longer Italian version revealed this as not only Visconti's greatest film but a work that transcends its creator, achieving a sensitivity and intelligence without parallel in his other films. Burt Lancaster initiated his formidable mature period as the aging aristocrat Don Fabrizio, who works to find a place for himself and his family values in the new Italy being organized in the 1860s. The film's superb first two hours, which weave social and historical themes into rich personal drama, turn out to be only a prelude to the magnificent final hour—an extended ballroom sequence that leaves history behind to become one of the most moving meditations on individual mortality in the history of the cinema. With Alain Delon and Claudia Cardinale. In Italian with subtitles.'

Here (and above) is the BFI trailer.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Capital Celluloid 2015 - Day 4: Sun Jan 4

Dr No (Young, 1962): Prince Charles Cinema, 8.45pm

Starting tonight the Prince Charles Cinema are running a full 007 Retrospective showing every James Bond movie over the coming months. You can see all the details of the screenings here.

The press reviews of the films don't capture the excitement of this retrospective for Bond fans and I am recommending the Blogalongabond series by Neil Alcock (aka @theincrediblesuit on Twitter). Here is his take on the first movie in the Bond franchise.

Time Out review:
The first Bond film, made comparatively cheaply but effectively establishing a formula for the series - basically a high-tech gloss repackaging of the old serials - and setting up a box-office bonanza with its gleeful blend of sex, violence and wit. As memorable as anything in the series (the arteries hadn't hardened yet) are modest highlights like Bond's encounter with a tarantula, Honeychile's first appearance as a nymph from the sea, the perils of Dr No's assault course of pain.

Here is Bond's first introduction to the film-going public.

Capital Celluloid 2015 - Day 3: Sat Jan 3

A Private Function (Mowbray, 1984): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 6.20pm

This film, part of the Maggie Smith season at the BFI Southbank, also screens on 9 January. Full details here.

BFI Southbank preview:
Alan Bennett’s brilliant Yorkshire comedy deals with a civic ‘do’ to celebrate the Queen’s wedding in 1947, and the habits of an incontinent pig smuggled away for the banquet. Michael Palin’s chiropodist uncovers a conspiracy while Maggie Smith, the Lady Macbeth of Ilkley, aspires to her rightful milieu: ‘Put me in a long dress and surround me with sophisticated people, and I’d bloom.’

Here (and above) is the trailer.

There is some choice dialogue in Bennett's script. Here are a couple of favourites:

Joyce Chilvers (Maggie Smith): 'I think sexual intercourse is in order, Gilbert.'

[the pig has been abducted]...
Grand Hotel Manager: 'I can put my hands on two turkeys in Bradford.'
Frank Lockwood the Solicitor: 'Two? TWO? We've got a hundred and fifty people coming! And Jesus isn't one of them!'

Capital Celluloid 2015 - Day 2: Fri Jan 2

The Green Ray (Rohmer, 1986): BFI Southbank, 2.30, 6.10 & 8.30pm

The Green Ray, the centrepiece of the BFI Southbank Eric Rohmer season, starts an extended run today and runs till 18 January. You can find all the details here.

Chicago Reader review:
Eric Rohmer's fifth installment in his "Comedies and Proverbs" cycle is as conversationally obsessed as ever (which is quite all right with me), though as always in Rohmer's ironic universe, talk is less the moral equivalent of action than the rationalizing substitute for it. A jilted secretary pining away the summer in Paris decides to take a vacation on her own; unfortunately, the more she travels the lonelier she becomes as her rationalizing search for the ideal food, the ideal romance, the ideal traveling companion drives her more and more toward narcissistic nullity. I suspect Rohmer sees in his heroine an ironic reflection of his own aesthetic temper—the lighter and airier she gets, the more she threatens to evanesce completely—and at times this 1986 film comes perilously close to duplicating the girl's predicament. Fortunately, there's more to Rohmer's subtle strategy than idle distillations, and the marvelous epiphany at the end provides whatever justification is needed for the precarious formal balancing: it's a moment of emotional complexity and revelation based, appropriately enough, on a trivial optical illusion. With Marie Riviere, Lisa Heredia, Eric Hamm, and an appealingly contentious Beatrice Romand.
Pat Graham

Here (and above) is the trailer.