Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Capital Celluloid 2012 - Day 340: Wed Dec 5

The Snow Spider (Roberts, 1988): BFI Southbank, NFT3, 6.10pm

This is a screening from The Flipside team at the BFI.

I asked Will Fowler from The Flipside for the history and the ideas behind their screenings. He told me: "Our first Flipside was back in late 2006 when we screened the mondo-style documentary Primitive London. The drive for the slot is really to show films and TV programmes that are held in the BFI National Archive but rarely or indeed never shown in the cinemas at BFI Southbank.

"And these could be things that might not automatically be considered similar or comparable but that at some level do all sit in the margins of cinema and TV history- old Rupert Bear television episodes, the shocking horror film Corruption starring a rather blood thirsty Peter Cushing as well as genre pictures, 'curates eggs', the weird and wonderful.  

"I think our favourites tend to be things that sit on genre borders.  Art pictures that feature horror or exploitation elements like the film The Lifetaker, starring the old Blue Peter presenter Peter Duncan, that we are showing on 23 February when Peter Duncan will be a guest. We like to make our screenings enjoyable and accessible and invite the directors or actors but we don't mess around with the conventional cinematic viewing experience - there are no new soundtracks - we're also traditionalists!"

There's an excellent interview with Sam Dunn 
here which gives more background and you can get details of the titles on special offer via the BFI website here.

Here's their introduction to this night: Lonely Gwynn Griffiths lives in a remote farmhouse in the Welsh countryside; his family are distraught because of the disappearance of his beloved sister Bethan on the mountains nearby. But when his eccentric gran (Siân Phillips) gives him five strange objects for his ninth birthday, everything changes. ‘Its time to find out if you’re a magician!’ she proclaims. Suddenly channelling elemental forces, he draws upon the incredible power of a small silver spider, all in the name of an ancient Welsh mythology to which he is heir. Life will never be the same again. Eerie, odd and quietly powerful, this wintry, atmospheric drama for children and adults alike (adapted by Julia Jones from the novels by Jenny Nimmo) was originally shot in Wales before it was broadcast nationwide in the late 1980s.

Here is the opening.

Capital Celluloid 2012 - Day 339: Tue Dec 4

Down Terrace (Wheatley, 2009): Ritzy Cinema, 6.30pm
Ben Wheatley's brilliant debut film gets a welcome re-release and the Ritzy will screen the film and have the director in attendance for a Q&A afterwards. This is a superb first film by one of the most exciting new talents in British film and is the highlight of the week.

Time Out review:
'The British gangster movie has taken a self-inflicted beating of late, but it’s not out for the count. Staying well clear of the usual parade of putdowns and punch-ups, ‘Down Terrace’ takes an unexpected approach to the genre, fusing the wry realism of Ken Loach with the blackly comic bloodlust of Ken Russell to produce perhaps the best homegrown movie of the year so far. The action is confined almost exclusively to one claustrophobic suburban house, where shiftless, insular dope dealers Karl (co-writer Robin Hill) and his petulant, paranoid dad, Bill (a stunning first-time performance from Hill’s father, Robert), are facing trouble with the law and a snitch in their midst. Everyone is in the frame: brooding matriarch Maggie (Julia Deakin), chubby, avuncular neighbour Garvey (Tony Way) and sadistic Irish thug Pringle (Michael Smiley) are all called upon to explain their actions, leading to rows, recriminations and, inevitably, bloodshed. Lots of it. What director Ben Wheatley and his writing partner, Hill – veterans of TV comedy shows like ‘Time Trumpet’ – manage to achieve in ‘Down Terrace’ is a mounting, sickening sense of a world in freefall, where morality has been compromised to the point of meaninglessness and where distrust leads to murder, even within the family unit. And while this does result in a few berserk plot diversions, particularly in the final act, Wheatley and Hill establish such an oppressive mood and construct their characters so meticulously that even in its most extreme moments, the film remains engrossing, not to mention consistently funny and even, at times, rather sweet.'
Tom Huddleston 

Here is the trailer.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Capital Celluloid 2012 - Day 338: Mon Dec 3

The Parallax View (Pakula, 1974): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 6.10pm
This is part of the Passport to Cinema in the Shadow of Alfred Hitchcock season and is introduced by Richard Combs.

Time Out review:
'A thriller about a journalist, alerted to the mysterious deaths of witnesses to the assassination of a presidential candidate, who embarks on an investigation that reveals a nebulous conspiracy of gigantic and all-embracing scope. It sounds familiar, and refers to or overlaps a good handful of similar films, but is most relevantly tied to Klute. Where Klute was an exploration of claustrophobic anxiety, The Parallax View is inexorably agoraphobic. Its visual organisation is stunning as the journalist (Beatty) is drawn into an increasingly nightmarish world characterised by impenetrably opaque structures, a screen whited out from time to time, or meshed over with visually deceptive patterns. It is some indication of the area the film explores that in place of the self-revealing session with the analyst in Klute, The Parallax View presents us with the more insecurity-inducing questionnaire used by the mysterious Parallax Corporation for personality-testing prospective employees. Excellent performances; fascinating film.' 
Verina Glaessner

Here's an introduction to the film by director Alex Cox on the BBC series Moviedrome.

Capital Celluloid 2012 - Day 337: Sun Dec 2

1900 (Bertolucci, 1976): Rio Cinema, 12 noon

Bernardo Bertolucci's magnificently ambitious, fascinating, but little seen, epic is nothing less than a history of Italy from 1900 to 1945 as seen through the friendship of two men from opposite sides of the social divide, both born on January 1, 1900. It's brought to you here by the Rio Cinema in a special presentation, screening the full-length Italian version.

Chicago Reader review:
'Great moments stud Bernardo Bertolucci's 1976 Marxist epic, but the end result is ambiguous. Robert De Niro is a landowner, Gerard Depardieu is a peasant; they share a birthday and most of the history of the 20th century—the fall of feudalism, the rise of fascism, and two world wars. In the film's four-hour version, at least, the characterizations are hazy and the narrative seems jerky. Some scenes are banal and offensively simpleminded. But patience, ultimately, is rewarded with a welter of detail and some mighty fine camerawork. With Donald Sutherland, Burt Lancaster, Dominique Sanda, Stefania Sandrelli, and Sterling Hayden.'
Dave Kehr

Here is the opening.

Capital Celluloid 2012 - Day 336: Sat Dec 1

Sightseers (Wheatley, 2012): Various cinemas all week

In a quiet week on the repertory film front as cinemas gear up for the Christmas season, here's a rare foray into new film territory with the much-anticipated release of Ben Wheatley's new movie.

Time Out review: 
There are undoubted high points here – Wheatley’s tried-and-tested knack for coaxing naturalistic, improvisational performances from his actors results in some off-the-cuff hilarity, though Lowe and Oram’s original script presumably contained its fair share of zingers. The bleak mood – familiar to anyone who’s suffered a low-rent English holiday-from-hell – is beautifully sustained, thanks to Wheatley’s unerring eye for a crumbling ruin or a spot of flaky paintwork. Sightseers’ is a film to file alongside the likes of ‘Somers Town’ by Shane Meadows and Michael Winterbottom’s ‘A Cock and Bull Story’: a diverting, enjoyable but not entirely successful experiment, and a minor film from a major director. Someone, get this man a proper budget.
Tom Huddleston

Here is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2012 - Day 335: Fri Nov 30

Pusher Trilogy (Nicholas Winding Refn, 1996-2005): Prince Charles Cinema, 11.30pm

Chicago Reader review:
'American crime thrillers have grown so bloated with pop culture and testosterone that these three Danish noirs are arresting for their spareness and close attention to character. Nicolas Winding Refn made his feature debut with Pusher (1996, 105 min.), the tale of a wild-living Copenhagen dealer (Kim Bodnia) whose business debts spiral out of control after he dumps a bag of heroin into a fountain to avoid a bust. When Refn returned to the same terrain several years later he resisted the temptation to rehash the original, instead zeroing in on its secondary characters; each of his three movies stands alone, though watching them in sequence gives one the disquieting sense that every hood at the edge of the frame may have a vivid inner life. Most impressive is Pusher II: With Blood on My Hands (2004, 96 min.), in which the dealer's lunkheaded partner (Mads Mikkelsen) returns home after a prison term to learn his mother has died and his harsh father has turned his attention to a young son by a second marriage. In Pusher III: I'm the Angel of Death (2005, 102 min.) a weary drug lord (Zlatko Buric) tries to juggle Narcotics Anonymous meetings with a business deal gone bad and a pledge to cook for 45 people at his grown daughter's birthday party. The movie goes off the rails at the end, with a clinical sequence of some unlucky goons being bled, gutted, and fed down a garbage disposal, but as a capper to the trilogy, it's a shocking reminder of what these people are capable of doing. '
JR Jones  

Here is the trailer.


Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Capital Celluloid 2012 - Day 334: Thu Nov 29

Festen (Vinterberg, 1998): Ritzy Cinema, 6.15pm

The Ritzy are putting on a terrific Dogme 95 season this week. Here is their introduction to this excellent season: Dogme 95 was an avant-garde filmmaking movement conceived in 1995 by Danish directors Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg. Together they created the Dogme 95 Manifesto, which comprised of a set of rules designed to produce a pure filmmaking style based on the traditional values of narrative, performance and core themes, and to reject the use of elaborate post-production modifications. For the first time ever, we bring you a selection of films made according to this manifesto. Join us as we undress filmmaking on the big screen. All screenings will be introduced by a film industry professional who has been associated with or inspired by Dogme 95. More details here.

Chicago Reader review:
'On balance, Dogma 95 probably has more significance as a publicity stunt than as an ideological breakthrough, judging from the first two features to emerge under its ground rules, Lars von Trier's The Idiots and Thomas Vinterberg's The Celebration. Both films are apparent acts of rebellion and daring that are virtually defined by their middle-class assumptions and apoliticism. Von Trier's movie boasts one good scene surrounded by a lot of ersatz Cassavetes; Vinterberg's work, even more conventional in inspiration—think Ibsen, Strindberg, Bergman—is genuinely explosive because it's so powerfully executed. Shot with the smallest and lightest digital video camera available, The Celebration (1998) chronicles the acrimonious and violent family battles that ensue at a country manor where the 60th birthday of the family patriarch is being observed, not long after the eldest son's twin sister has committed suicide.'
Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2012 - Day 333: Wed Nov 28

Open Hearts (Bier, 2002): Ritzy Cinema, 6.15pm

The Ritzy are putting on a terrific Dogme 95 season this week. Here is their introduction to this excellent season: Dogme 95 was an avant-garde filmmaking movement conceived in 1995 by Danish directors Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg. Together they created the Dogme 95 Manifesto, which comprised of a set of rules designed to produce a pure filmmaking style based on the traditional values of narrative, performance and core themes, and to reject the use of elaborate post-production modifications. For the first time ever, we bring you a selection of films made according to this manifesto. Join us as we undress filmmaking on the big screen. All screenings will be introduced by a film industry professional who has been associated with or inspired by Dogme 95. More details here.

Chicago Reader review:
“Tragedy is not an integral part of modern life the way it was in other eras,” says Danish director Susanne Bier, and in her wrenching 2002 drama the characters' inability to accept suffering—their own or other people's—leads to even greater heartache. A mother of three (Paprika Steen) hits a young man (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) with her car, leaving him a quadriplegic consumed by rage and self-pity. After he rejects his fiancee (Sonja Richter), the young woman rebounds into the arms of a compassionate doctor (Mads Mikkelsen) who turns out to be the driver's husband. Bier and screenwriter Anders Thomas Jensen (Mifune) have a precise sense of character, and they're aided by a fine cast—especially Steen as the guilt-stricken driver, who urges her husband to counsel the young woman and then sees her family torn apart by his infidelity.
J.R. Jones

Here is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2012 - Day 332: Tue Nov 27

The King is Alive (Levring, 2000): Ritzy Cinema, 6pm

The Ritzy are putting on a terrific Dogme 95 season this week. Here is their introduction to this excellent season: Dogme 95 was an avant-garde filmmaking movement conceived in 1995 by Danish directors Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg. Together they created the Dogme 95 Manifesto, which comprised of a set of rules designed to produce a pure filmmaking style based on the traditional values of narrative, performance and core themes, and to reject the use of elaborate post-production modifications. For the first time ever, we bring you a selection of films made according to this manifesto. Join us as we undress filmmaking on the big screen. All screenings will be introduced by a film industry professional who has been associated with or inspired by Dogme 95. More details here.

Chicago Reader review:
'Dogme 95, a Danish manifesto that calls for natural lighting, digital cinematography, and improvisational acting, seems to work best in films that strip down the psychology of a dysfunctional group in a single location and a limited time span (The Celebration). True to form, this 2000 Danish feature by Kristin Levring examines 11 passengers of a tour bus (including Jennifer Jason Leigh, Janet McTeer, Bruce Davison, Brion James, and Romane Bohringer) that breaks down at an abandoned mining town in the Namibian desert. Awaiting their rescue, the passengers endure primitive conditions and decide to stage King Lear; the project unleashes fear and loathing, and Levring wastes no opportunity to reference Shakespeare (as well as Lifeboat, Apocalypse Now, and Lord of the Flies). The venomous confrontations are shot mostly in close-up, which drags us into the melee, yet the script flits from one encounter to the next, leaving behind only gut-wrenching performances and a vivid feel for the locale—humid interiors and forlorn stretches of desert and dark, both symbolizing recesses of emotion that may otherwise have eluded us.'
Ted Shen

Here is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2012 - Day 331: Mon Nov 26

Cape Fear (Thompson, 1962): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 6.20pm
This screens as part of the BFI's Uncut season and is also screening on Nov 21 at 8.45pm. Details here.

Time Out review:
'An irredeemable criminal exacts his revenge on the family of a lawyer who put him away. This supremely nasty thriller - originally severely cut by the British censor - boasts great credentials: a source in John D MacDonald's novel The Executioners, Mitchum as the sadistic villain (a bare-chested variant on his Night of the Hunter role), Peck as the epitome of threatened righteousness, seedy locations in the Southern bayous, and whooping music by Bernard Herrmann. If director Thompson isn't quite skilful enough to give the film its final touch of class (many of the shocks are just too planned), the relentlessness of the story and Mitchum's tangibly sordid presence guarantee the viewer's quivering attention.'

Here is the original trailer.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Capital Celluloid 2012 - Day 330: Sun Nov 25

The Offence (Lumet, 1972): Barbican Centre, 6.30pm
This film shows as part of the excellent Step Into The Dark season to celebrate the opening of brand new screens at the Barbican Cinema. More details here. Controversial visual artists Jake and Dinos Chapman join Gareth Evans for a discussion after the screening of their sinful selection, a film by Sidney Lumet, the celebrated director of 12 Angry Men, Serpico and Network.

Sean Connery stars as a police detective pushed to breaking point by his latest investigation, in this subtle study on police brutality and the line between legitimate questioning and torture.

Time Out review:
'Adaptation of a stage play (This Story of Yours) by John Hopkins (of Z Cars). Discreet as it is, the opening-out process (effected by Hopkins himself) has sabotaged the strange, claustrophobic duel in which a suspected child-molester (Bannen) and the cop obsessively convinced of his guilt (Connery) find themselves subtly changing places during the course of interrogation. Embedded in a 'realistic' police scene, dialogue and situations now have a ring of arty melodrama. Fascinating, nevertheless, with outstanding performances from Connery and (especially) Ian Bannen.'
Tom Milne

Here is an extract.

Capital Celluloid 2012 - Day 329: Sat Nov 24

The Singing Detective (Amiel, 1986): ICA London, 10.45am

A rare one-day screening of all six episodes of Dennis Potter’s widely acclaimed 1986 TV series The Singing Detective. This is the first time the whole series will be shown in its entirety in the UK on the big screen. 

Psychoanalyst Don Campbell leads the following day's discussion panel on the nature of art and psyche, creativity and fantasy. The panel includes Kenith Trodd - the series' producer and champion of ambitious literary drama, Dr. David Bell - psychoanalyst and author of a seminal critique of the series, and actor Patrick Malahide (Hunted, The Paradise) and Dame Janet Suzman.

This artistically and psychologically radical TV drama sees Potter engaging directly with our inner lives, the fantasies, terrors and longings that drive and obstruct us, and the difficulty of distinguishing past from present, fantasy from reality, and other from self. We meet Potter’s protagonist Philip Marlow, a detective fiction writer, at the moment of a profound crisis of his life. His suspicious detective instinct has been finally turned in upon his own fractured world of haunting memories and destructive delusions. Michael Gambon gives one of the great performances of his career as the tormented, conflicted Marlow, bringing Potter’s screenplay to painfully turbulent life.

South African born Janet Suzman has enjoyed a rich career in film, television and theatre as both a performer and director. She has twice won the Evening Standard Best Actress Award and also had Academy Award and Golden Globe Nominations. Janet was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire for services to drama in 2011.

Further details at www.beyondthecouch.org.uk

Here is an extract.

Capital Celluloid 2012 - Day 328: Fri Nov 23

Lawrence of Arabia (Lean, 1962): BFI Southbank NFT1, 2pm & 6.30pm
This new 4K restoration of David Lean's classic to mark the 50th anniversary of the movie, which opens tonight, is on an extended run at the BFI until 13 December.

Chicago Reader review:
'David Lean's 1962 spectacle about T.E. Lawrence's military career between 1916 and '18, written by Robert Bolt and produced by Sam Spiegel, remains one of the most intelligent, handsome, and influential of all war epics. Combining the scenic splendor of De Mille with virtues of the English theater, Lean endeared himself to English professors and action buffs alike. The film won seven Oscars, including best picture and direction, yet the ideological crassness of De Mille and most war movies isn't so much transcended as given a high gloss: the film's subject is basically the White Man's Burden—despite ironic notations—with Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn, and Omar Sharif called upon to represent the Arab soul, and Jose Ferrer embodying the savage Turks. The all-male cast helps make this one of the most homoerotic of all screen epics, though the characters' sexual experiences are at best only hinted at.'
Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here is the trailer for the restored version.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Capital Celluloid 2012 - Day 327: Thu Nov 22

A Grin Without A Cat (Marker, 1977): Barbican Centre, 7pm
A rare screening for the late Chris Marker's film essay as part of the Barbican's Step Into The Dark season. More details here.

Chicago Reader review:
Chris Marker's 179-minute video essay about revolutionary events between 1966 and 1977 is his own 1993 English adaptation for England's Channel Four of an even longer work—a film made in 1979 and known in French as Le Fond de l'Air Est Rouge. (The film's original subtitle translates as Scenes From World War III—1966-1977.) Among the subjects addressed are Vietnam, political battles throughout Europe, Asia, and South America, Che Guevara, Nixon, and Eisenstein's Potemkin; the images are drawn mainly from rarely shown footage shot by others, chiefly outtakes from other documentaries. This is often thoughtful and informative, but it assumes a grasp of political struggles of the period that some American viewers won't share. Marker's poetic notations are generally quite effective and welcome when they appear (e.g., of May 1968: “For France, it was the rude awakening of a sleepwalker crash-landing into history”), but there are often long stretches between them.
Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here is the extraordinary opening.

Capital Celluloid 2012 - Day 326: Wed Nov 21

Carrie (De Palma, 1976): Barbican Centre, 7pm
A rare chance to see a Brian De Palma movie on the big screen, this is part of the Barbican Centre Step Into the Dark season. Director Andrea Arnold will be on hand for a Q&A to discuss her choice of this underrated 1970s horror movie. More details here. 

Time Out review:
She wasn’t the favourite to play ‘creepy Carrie’, but it’s impossible to imagine anyone other than Sissy Spacek (looking like she’s stepped into the ‘70s from another time altogether) in the role. Stephen King got the idea for the novel, his first, in the girls’ locker room of a college where he was working as a caretaker. Teenage girls can be pure evil and it’s in a locker room that we meet Carrie, who’s just had her first period and is being told to ‘plug it up!’ by the mean girls. Carrie’s secret is that she has telekinetic powers, which are about to wreak an apocalypse at the school prom. As for the pig’s blood scene, it doesn’t matter how many times you watch it, you’re willing that bucket not to drop. Spacek gamely offered to be covered in real pig’s blood, but in the end was drenched with a mix of syrup and food colouring.' Cath Clarke

Here is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2012 - Day 325: Tue Nov 20

Killer of Sheep (Burnett, 1977): Barbican Centre, 6.30pm
This film is screening as part of the Barbican's excellent Step Into the Dark season. Details here.

Chicago Reader review:
'The first feature (1977) of the highly talented black filmmaker Charles Burnett, who set most of his early films in Watts (including My Brother's Wedding and To Sleep With Anger); this one deals episodically with the life of a slaughterhouse worker. Shot on a year's worth of weekends for under $10,000, this remarkable work is conceivably the single best feature about ghetto life. It was selected for preservation by the National Film Registry as one of the key works in American cinema—ironic and belated recognition of a film that, until this recent restoration, had virtually no distribution. It shouldn't be missed.'
Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2012 - Day 324: Mon Nov 19

Almayer's Folly (Akerman, 2011): Cine Lumiere, 8.30pm.
This is screening as part of the French film festival at Cine Lumiere. More details here.

Time Out review:
'Returning to feature filmmaking after a lengthy sojourn as a video artist, Belgium’s Chantal Akerman delivers a work as substantive, challenging and unique as her brilliant Proust adaptation from 2000, ‘The Captive’. Billed as a ‘liberal’ take on Joseph Conrad’s little-known first novel, this languid essay in despair sees Stanislas Merhar playing the stuttering, frenzied but ultimately tragic and possibly deranged figure of Almayer, a European ex-pat in Cambodia who idly tends to his failing trading post while ensuring his daughter, Nina (born to a local mother), is instilled with the same enlightened European values as himself. Scenes usually run in single, medium close-up takes (all immaculately framed and executed) and the elliptical narrative can usually be navigated by gauging the griminess of the cast. Tough as the film may be, it still speaks volumes about colonial exploitation and catastrophic clashes of culture, gender and age. The (eight-minute) climactic shot is also sensational.'
David Jenkins

Here is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2012 - Day 323: Sun Nov 18

Shock Corridor (Fuller, 1963): BFI Southbank, 6pm
This film, which screens as part of the BFI's Uncut season, is also on at the cinema on Nov 22. More details here.

Chicago Reader review:
'Sam Fuller's comic-strip Amerika, embodied in a lurid tale about a journalist who has himself committed to an insane asylum (this is no mere sanatorium) in order to investigate a murder committed there. Sanity slips from his tenuous grasp when he is confronted with a black man who believes he's the Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan, a nuclear physicist who has regressed to the mental age of six, and a number of other strange inmates, all of whom have been transformed into the people they hate the most. This 1963 film is harsh, grotesque, and violent—and, incidentally, brilliant in a very original way.'
Dave Kehr

Here is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2012 - Day 322: Sat Nov 17

This film shows as part of the excellent Step Into The Dark season to celebrate the opening of brand new screens at the Barbican Cinema. More details here. Prior to the screening Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod will join Gareth Evans to discuss their sinful treat. The co-directors of Cheek by Jowl present this film adaptation of three short stories from French author Guy de Maupassant to represent the sin of Lust.

This is not one of the great director Max Ophuls' best-known works but for those both familiar and unfamiliar with his ouevre it is more than worth a trip across town for. BFI head of film programming, Geoff Andrew, put this in his top ten moviesin the 2002 Sight & Sound poll and repeated viewings in the last couple of years have led me to believe this is a much-underrated movie.

Time Out review:
'Ophüls' second French film following his return from the USA was adapted from three stories by Maupassant. Le Masque describes how an old man wears a mask of youth at a dance hall to extend his youthful memories. La Maison Tellier, the longest episode, deals with a day's outing for the ladies from a brothel, and a brief romance. In Le Modéle, the model in question jumps from a window for love of an artist, who then marries her. Although Ophüls had to drop a fourth story intended to contrast pleasure and death, these three on old age, purity and marriage are shot with a supreme elegance and sympathy, and the central tale in particular luxuriates in the Normandy countryside. The whole is summed up by the concluding line, that 'happiness is no lark'.' David Thompson
If you need convincing here is a masterful essay by critic VF Perkins in Film Quarterly on this somewhat neglected masterpiece of anthology film-making.

Here is an extract.

Capital Celluloid 2012 - Day 321: Fri Nov 16

Maitresse (Schroeder, 1976): BFI Southbank, 6.20pm
This film screens as part of the BFI's Uncut season and also screens on Nov 18 at 3.40pm. Details here.

Time Out review:
'Barbet Schroeder's classic of underground love sits well alongside the masochistic undertones of Last Tango in Paris. Ogier is the professional maîtresse (or dominatrix) who conducts a straight romance with Depardieu at ground level, but has a dungeon below stairs where she entertains her compliant clients. The trick, of course, is that overground comes to mirror underground, but the whole thing is lent more than a little frisson from the knowledge that some of those clients were real. A wickedly funny fable on the more demanding side of love.'
Chris Peachment

Here is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2012 - Day 320: Thu Nov 15

Carnival of Souls (Harvey, 1962): ICA Cinema, 8.30pm
APOLOGIES: this film screens on Thursday and NOT Tuesday as originally published.

Here is the ICA introduction: A Nos Amours film club present a 35mm low budget zombie horror delight, with a delirious organ score by Gene Moore and unforgettable monochrome images from cinematographer Maurice Prather. Lynchian before Lynch, Romeroesque before Romero.
Herk Harvey was a director and producer of industrial and educational films working for for the Centron Corporation in Kansas, who specialised in films about venereal disease. He took a career break to make this his first and only feature film. He cast Strasberg-trained Candace Hilligoss in the lead, and shot Carnival of Souls in three weeks on location in Lawrence and Salt Lake City. Carnival of Souls is a horror film, but a horror film unlike any other; it is an auteur film by another name.

The film is introduced by Roger Clarke to celebrate the publication by Penguin Books of his 
A Natural History of Ghosts: 500 Years of Hunting for Proof.
Time Out preview: 
'The only survivor when a car plunges into a river, Mary Henry (Hilligoss) emerges on to a sandbank like a sodden sleepwalker. Shortly afterwards, en route to Utah to take up a job as a church organist, Mary is frightened by a ghostly apparition, a white-faced man whose repeated appearances seem mysteriously connected with an abandoned carnival pavilion. Other strange episodes, during which Mary seems to become invisible and inaudible to those around her, exacerbate her feeling that she has no place in this world. With its striking black-and-white compositions, disorienting dream sequences and eerie atmosphere, this has the feel of a silent German expressionist movie. Unfortunately, so does some of the acting, which suffers from exaggerated facial expressions and bizarre gesturing. But the mesmerising power of the carnival and dance-hall sequences far outweighs the corniness of the awkward intimate scenes; and as Mary, caught in limbo between this world and the next, dances to the discordant carnival music of time, the subsequent work of George Romero and David Lynch comes constantly to mind.' Nigel Floyd
Here is the trailer.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Capital Celluloid 2012 - Day 320: Thu Nov 15

The Battle of Algiers (Pontecorvo, 1966): Barbican Cinema, 8.30pm
This film shows as part of the excellent Step Into The Dark season to celebrate the opening of brand new screens at the Barbican Cinema. More details here.

Chicago Reader review:
'Gillo Pontecorvo's powerful and lucid 1965 docudrama about the Algerian struggle for independence in the 1950s was screened for Pentagon employees in August 2003, though one wonders how helpful it might have been: the terrorists here aren't suicidal or religiously motivated, and their orientation seems quite different from that of contemporary Middle Eastern types. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't see this—it's one of the best movies about revolutionary and anticolonial activism ever made, convincing, balanced, passionate, and compulsively watchable as storytelling. The French aren't depicted as heavies, despite their use of torture, nor are the Algerian rebels, who set off bombs in cafes. In fact the French colonel here (Jean Martin, the only professional actor in the cast) expresses admiration for the rebels, who ultimately achieved their goals when Algeria won its independence. In French and Arabic with subtitles.'Jonathan Rosenabum

Here is the trailer

Capital Celluloid 2012 - Day 319: Wed Nov 14

Shadows (Cassavetes, 1959): Barbican Cinema, 6.30pm
This film shows as part of the excellent Step Into The Dark season to celebrate the opening of brand new screens at the Barbican Cinema. More details here.

Chicago Reader review:
'John Cassavetes's first feature (1959), shot in 16-millimeter, centers on three siblings living together in Manhattan; the oldest, a third-rate nightclub singer (Hugh Hurd), is visibly black, while the other two (Ben Carruthers and Lelia Goldoni) are sufficiently light skinned to pass for white. This is the only Cassavetes film made without a full script (it grew out of acting improvs), and rarely has so much warmth, delicacy, and raw feeling emerged so naturally and beautifully from performances in an American film. It's contemporaneous with early masterpieces of the French New Wave and deserves to be ranked alongside them for the freshness and freedom of its vision; in its portrait of a now-vanished Manhattan during the beat period, it also serves as a poignant time capsule. With Tony Ray (son of director Nicholas Ray), Rupert Crosse, Dennis Sallas, Tom Allen, and Davey Jones—all very fine—and a wonderful jazz score by Charles Mingus. It's conceivable that Cassavetes made greater films, but this is the one I cherish the most.' Jonathan Rosenabum

Here is an extract.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Capital Celluloid 2012 - Day 317: Mon Nov 12

Nanook of the North (Flaherty, 1922): Roxy Bar and Screen, London Bridge, 7.30pm
Here is the introduction to what promises to be another thought-provoking evening from Passenger Films:

Passenger Films is back with a night devoted to the history and future of Indigenous and ethnographic film, from an early instance of documentary filmmaking to contemporary examples of communities harnessing new media to speak back to colonialist appropriations of their image, guest-curated by Charlotte Gleghorn from Royal Holloway, University of London.
Our feature for the evening is Nanook of the North (1922, 79 mins), Robert Flaherty’s famous silent film, considered by many to be the first feature-length documentary. Nanook of the North documents a year in the life of Nanook and his family, Inuit living in the Canadian Arctic. Following the viewing, Michelle Raheja (University of California, Riverside) will discuss revisionist approaches to the film which rethink Indigenous participation in such productions, making reference to recent Indigenous-led media initiatives coming from the Arctic region.
To accompany the feature, we’ll be showing two Latin American Indigenous-authored shorts. Mu Drua [Mi Tierra/My Land] (2011, 22 mins), tells the story of how the director Mileidy Orozco Domicó, displaced as a young child from the Indigenous community of Cañaduzales de Mutatá in Antioquia, reencounters her family, land and environment. This short film has won several awards at international film festivals, including the Cartagena International Film festival, and offers an accomplished example of Indigenous self-representation, poetically revealing the relationship Mileidy has with the experiences and cultural practices that take place in this community.
 Já me transformei em imagem [I've already become an image] (2008, 10 mins), directed by Zezinho Yube, reappropriates the ethnographic archive for its own means, recounting the Hunikuis’ story of loss and renewal as it unfolds through the experiences shared by community members – from the first encounters with the white man and the ensuing years of enslavement on the rubber tree plantations to the recovery of their lands and cultural traditions.

Capital Celluloid 2012 - Day 316: Sun Nov 11

A Short Film About Killing (Kieślowski, 1989): Barbican Cinema, 6.30pm
This film shows as part of the excellent Step Into The Dark season to celebrate the opening of brand new screens at the Barbican Cinema. More details hereFollowing the screening, master composer Zbigniew Preisner will join Gareth Evans for a discussion about his pick. A regular collaborator with the film’s director, Preisner screens an expanded version of an episode of BAFTA winning cycle of short films based on the Ten Commandments, Dekalog. Disturbing, thought-provoking and filmed in harrowing detail, this film won numerous awards including the Jury Prize at the 1988 Cannes Film Festival. 
Here is a fascinating article by critic Philip Concannon on Kieslowski's Dekalog at the Mostly Film website.

Time Out review:
'Kieslowski's title is accurate: a hideous murder is directly followed by a hideous execution; both illegal and legal acts are detailed and protracted. The film does not set out to explain the punkish young killer's motivation, but restricts the viewer to his tunnel vision from the start, with the edges of the picture sludged over and a lowering yellow light at the centre. The depiction of violence is far removed from the usual camera choreography, and is, in consequence, truly appalling. The killing of the taxi driver is achieved in amateurish instalments, and takes even longer than the famous killing in Hitchcock's Torn Curtain. Not for the squeamish.'
Brian Case
Here is the trailer for A Short Film About Killing (also known as Dekalog 5)

Capital Celluloid 2012 - Day 315: Sat Nov 10

Magnolia (Anderson, 1999): Rio Cinema, 11.30pm
Perfect midnight movie fare from the Rio, especially so with Anderson's latest The Master on release in the capital right now.

Chicago Reader review:
'A wonderful mess. Writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson's third feature (1999), over three hours long, represents a quantum leap in ambition from Hard Eightand Boogie Nights and is much more interesting, though he's no longer in full command of everything he's trying to do. He's handicapped himself with the worst kind of TV-derived crosscutting among his (ultimately interconnected) miniplots. But the movie has a splendidly deranged essayistic prologue (which tries to justify an outrageous climax), the best Tom Cruise performance I've ever seen (incidentally, it's a scorching critique of his other performances), some delicate work by John C. Reilly as a sensitive cop, and provocative material about the unhealthy aspects of hyping whiz kids on TV. The heavy-duty cast, full of Anderson regulars, also includes Jason Robards, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Melora Walters, Jeremy Blackman, Michael Bowen, Melinda Dillon, and Emmanuel Johnson.'
Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2012 - Day 314: Fri Nov 9

Kiss Me Deadly (Aldrich, 1955): Old Vic Tunnels, Waterloo, 7pm
This sounds a great night out: Join MGM HD, The Old Vic Tunnels and Time Out Live for three nights of noir and neo-noir classics (Nov 9-11), set in the dark and sultry underworld of Prohibition-period America. As well as full film screenings and expert Q&As lead by Time Out Film editor Dave Calhoun, moviegoers are invited to wander through a bespoke theatrical performance and installation piece, with femme fatales and corrupt cops at every turn. Dressing up is highly encouraged.
See details of the full live season at www.timeout.com/nightsofnoir. 
Kiss Me Deadly screens in a double-bill with Blue Velvet and is one of the very best examples of Hollywood film noir. Highly recommended.

Chicago Reader review:
'The end of the world, starring Ralph Meeker (at his sleaziest) as Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer (at his most neolithic). Robert Aldrich's 1955 film is in some ways the apotheosis of film noir—it's certainly one of the most extreme examples of the genre, brimming with barely suppressed hysteria and set in a world totally without moral order. Even the credits run upside down. This independently produced low-budget film was a shining example for the New Wave directors—Truffaut, Godard, et al—who found it proof positive that commercial films could accommodate the quirkiest and most personal of visions.' 
Dave Kehr

Here is the trailer.