Sunday, 30 December 2012

Capital Celluloid 2013 - Day 9: Wed Jan 9

Drive (Winding Refn, 2011): Kensington Roof Gardens, 7pm

The Rooftop Film Club is back to showcase classic, cult and recent films in their exclusive marquee situated 100ft above Kensington High Street tucked away in the tranquil setting of 1.5 acres of themed gardens. Tickets include a glass of champagne or Peroni (soft drinks available) and a freshly prepared hot snack of cheeseburger or Cumberland hotdog (a vegetarian option will be available) grilled on the outdoor coal fire barbecue. All the screenings are indoors in a heated marquee in The Tudor Garden area of the Kensington Roof Gardens. More details of how to get there are here. And all the details of their movies screening from Mon 7th to Thursday 10th January are here.

Time Out review:
'The truly great ‘LA noir’ movies – ‘Point Blank’, ‘The Driver’, ‘Straight Time’, ‘To Live and Die in LA’, ‘Heat’ – share common characteristics beyond the basic clichés of the crime genre. These are movies informed by the city in which they were made, a city constructed of gleaming surfaces – six-lane highways, vast industrial wastelands and endless suburban sprawl – and a place where crime is grubby and small-time, carried out by empty, hopeless loners in hock to dapper despots with unpredictable personalities. It’s in this world that we find the near-silent hero of ‘Drive’, Nicolas Winding Refn’s self-consciously slick, synth-scored throwback. Ryan Gosling plays the unnamed Driver, a mechanic and occasional getaway guy whose life is overturned when he meets Irene (Carey Mulligan), a struggling mum with a husband in the joint. As all the above implies, this is a film built on familiarity, in terms of narrative and style: neon lights flash, rubber tyres screech, Gosling broods, Mulligan swoons and a trio of wisecracking, overdressed character actors – Albert Brooks, Ron Perlman and Bryan Cranston – provide both levity and dramatic weight. But ‘Drive’ never drags: this is an entirely welcome riff on old material, a pulse-pounding, electronically enhanced cover version of a beloved standard. Sure, it’s shallow, but it’s also slickly compelling, beautifully crafted and so damn shiny.'
Tom Huddleston


Here is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2013 - Day 8: Tue Jan 8

The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (Schepisi, 1978):
Hampstead Film Society, Interchange Trust, 213 Haverstock Hill, London, 7pm

Chicago Reader review:
'Fred Schepisi's 1978 Australian film adheres to the classical form of the national epic, with its rhyming, foreshadowing passages, its inclusive journey motif, and its charismatic hero, whose actions bring forth the new country. But all of the values have been inverted: Schepisi's hero is half white, half aborigine; all of his honor, sacrifice, and earnestness bring him only scorn and disaster, and finally he revolts. It's the death of Jimmie, the last quixotic revolutionary, that gives birth to modern, white Australia. The film is formally precise and visually stunning, with strange, hollow interiors and eccentric, original wide-screen compositions against brooding landscapes. A complex experience, brewed equally from myth and irony.'
Dave Kehr

Here is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2013 - Day 7: Mon Jan 7

Theodora Goes Wild (Boleslawski, 1936): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 6.20pm
This film screens as part of the Screwball! season (details here) at BFI Southbank and comes highly recommended by season curator Peter Swaab who will be introducing the movie. The movie was sold out in NFT2 but has been moved to NFT1. You can also catch this film on Tue Jan 1 at 8.40pm.

Here's Swaab's introduction: Mary McCarthy wrote the story for this fascinating, underrated and very funny film. Theodora (Irene Dunne) is a pillar of the community in rural Lynnfield, a matriarchal hotbed of wild and hysterical puritanical disapproval. But she has a secret double life and is threatened with exposure by Melvyn Douglas, a scion of New York wealth. But he has his secrets too, and the tables soon turn in an equal-opportunities ripping-down of inherited repressions.

Here is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2013 - Day 6: Sun Jan 6

Sunset Boulevard (Wilder, 1950) & To Catch A Thief (Hitchcock, 1955):
Rio Cinema, 1.30 & 3.40pm

This promises to be a great season at the Rio Cinema as Cripple Creek Playhouse present a Film Moire season dedicated to the golden age of the Hollywood costumiers. Here's a rundown of all the films they are showing, which include Gilda and a rare screening of The Women, on their Facebook page. The season is curated by Hayley Willis.

Here's an introduction to the season: During Hollywood's 'Golden Age', no film studio was complete without a fully-fledged, innovative, often bold yet discerning wardrobe department usually featuring a celebrated costumier at the helm.

From the 1930s to the mid-sixties, from the end of the silent era to the birth of the sexual revolution, what an actor wore on screen was as important as the pictures themselves and with this new found emphasis on costume, so too came the ascension of the actor/actress from humble black and white player to Technicolor movie star.

This season of one Sunday double bill and four Saturday matinees focuses specifically on Edith Head, Adrian and Jean Louis – all three were at the peak of their careers during this so-called 'Golden Age' and whose work offers numerous examples of persistent innovation in design, expertly reflecting the changing roles, possibilities and achievements of costumiers during this period.

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Chicago Reader review of Sunset Boulevard:
'Billy Wilder's searing, funny, morbid look at the real tinsel beneath the phony tinsel (1950). Aging silent-movie vamp Gloria Swanson takes up with William Holden, a two-bit screenwriter on the make, and virtually holds him captive in her Hollywood gothic mansion. Erich von Stroheim, once her director, now her butler, is the other figure in this menage-a-weird. A tour de force for Swanson and one of Wilder's better efforts.'
Dan Druker

Here is the trailer: 'The most unusual picture in many years'

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Chicago Reader review of To Catch A Thief:
'Cary Grant is a retired cat burglar on the Riviera and Grace Kelly is the spoiled American rich girl who seems to have the perpetual hots for him, in Alfred Hitchcock's fluffy 1955 exercise in light comedy, minimal mystery, and good-natured eroticism (the fireworks scene is a classic). Jessie Royce Landis (North by Northwest) is delightful as Kelly's clearheaded mother (she and Grant were born the same year, by the way), and John Williams gives expert support as usual.'
Dan Druker

Here is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2013 - Day 5: Sat Jan 5

Cul-de-Sac (Polanski, 1966): BFI Southbank, NFT3, 6.30pm This film is screening as part of the Roman Polanski season at BFI Southbank. Details here.

Chicago Reader review:
'Roman Polanski's second British film (Repulsion was the first) is a mean little absurdist comedy (1966) set on a remote Northumberland island; it's also one of the best and purest of all his works. An odd couple (Donald Pleasence and Francoise Dorleac) living in an isolated castle find their world invaded by two doomed gangsters on the run (Lionel Stander and Jack MacGowran), and the ensuing standoffs are funny, cruel, disquieting, and unpredictable, especially after various other unwelcome guests turn up. Stander is especially good—this may be the definitive performance of the blacklisted gravel-voiced character actor, best known for his 30s and 40s work. With Robert Dorning and Iain Quarrier; watch for Jacqueline Bisset as one of the guests.'
Jonathan Rosenabum

Here is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2013 - Day 4: Fri Jan 4

Repulsion (Polanski, 1965): BFI Southbank, NFT2: 2.30pm & NFT1: 6.10pm
This film is part of the Roman Polanski season (details here) and is on an extended run until Jan 31.

If you want to read an excellent long review and reappraisal of the film look no further than David Jenkins' piece in Little White Lies magazine here.

Chicago Reader review:
'Roman Polanski's first film in English (1965) is still his scariest and most disturbing—not only for its evocations of sexual panic, but also because his masterful employment of sound puts the audience's imagination to work in numerous ways. Catherine Deneuve gives an impressive performance as a quiet and quietly mad beautician living with her older sister in London and terrified of men. When the sister and her boyfriend take off on a holiday, her fears and her isolation in the apartment are allowed to fester along with the uncooked food, with increasingly violent and macabre results. As narrative this works only part of the time, and as case study it may occasionally seem too pat, but as subjective nightmare it's a stunning piece of filmmaking.'
Jonathan Rosenabum

Here is the trailer.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Capital Celluloid 2013 - Day 3: Thu Jan 3

My Man Godfrey (La Cava, 1936): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 8.40pm
This film screens as part of the Screwball! season at BFI Southbank. Here are the details.

Chicago Reader review:
'Gregory La Cava's improvisational style received its highest critical acclaim for this 1936 film, a marginally Marxist exercise in class confusion during the Depression. Carole Lombard is the bubbleheaded heiress who needs an oppressed proletarian to round out a scavenger hunt; she picks up tramp William Powell and lets him stay on to be her butler. Meanwhile, mad poet Mischa Auer assumes the role of the intelligentsia under late capitalism by imitating a gorilla.'Dave Kehr

Here is an extract.

Capital Celluloid 2013 - Day 2: Wed Jan 2

Knife in the Water (Polanski, 1962): NFT1, BFI Southbank 8.45pm
This film screens as part of the Roman Polanski season in January and February at BFI Southbank. The details are here.

Chicago Reader review:
'Written with Jerzy Skolimowski (Moonlighting), this 1962 production was Roman Polanski's first feature film, and there are those who would still call it his best. A middle-aged married couple, intrigued by a young blond hitchhiker, invite him to spend a weekend on their yacht. The sexual tensions build slowly and subtly, and when they explode into violence, it seems to be the desired result.' JR Jones

Here is an extract.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Capital Celluloid 2013 - Day 1: Tue Jan 1

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (Leone, 1966): Prince Charles Cinema, 8pm
This is screening as part of the Classic Film season at the Prince Charles. Details here.

Chicago Reader review:
'Sergio Leone's comic, cynical, inexplicably moving epic spaghetti western (1966), in which all human motivation has been reduced to greed—it's just a matter of degree between the Good (Clint Eastwood), the Bad (Lee Van Cleef), and the Ugly (Eli Wallach). Leone's famous close-ups—the “two beeg eyes”—are matched by his masterfully composed long shots, which keep his crafty protagonists in the subversive foreground of a massively absurd American Civil War. Though ordained from the beginning, the three-way showdown that climaxes the film is tense and thoroughly astonishing.'
Dave Kehr  

Here is the justly famous Ecstasy of Gold sequence.                                        

Capital Celluloid 2012 - Day 366: Mon Dec 31

The Master (Anderson, 2012): Screen on the Green, Islington Green, 2.30pm
It's a quiet day on the repertory film front so, on the last day of the year, why not catch the best film of 2012. If you read one lengthy article on this movie make it J Hoberman's in the Guardian which you can find here.

Chicago Reader review:
'A self-destructive loner (Joaquin Phoenix), discharged from the navy after serving in the Pacific in World War II, flounders back in the States before coming under the wing of a charismatic religious leader (Philip Seymour Hoffman) transparently based on L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology. This challenging, psychologically fraught drama is Paul Thomas Anderson's first feature since the commanding There Will Be Blood (2007), and like that movie it chronicles a contest of wills between an older man and a younger one, as the troubled, sexually obsessed, and often violent young disciple tries to fit in with the flock that's already gathered around the master. This time, however, the clashing social forces aren't religion and capitalism but, in keeping with the era, community and personal freedom—including the freedom to fail miserably at life. The stellar cast includes Amy Adams, Laura Dern, and Jesse Plemons.'  
JR Jones                                              
Here is the trailer. 

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Capital Celluloid 2012 - Day 365: Sun Dec 30

The Wizard of Oz (Fleming, 1939) & Meet Me in St Louis (Minnelli, 1944)
Phoenix Cinema, 12.30pm
A superb Judy Garland double-bill of Christmas favourites.

Chicago Reader reviews by Dave Kehr:

The Wizard of Oz 'Thanks to innumerable childhood viewings, this 1939 film is too firmly planted in my (pre)consciousness for me to find the proper critical distance. In many ways, it's stiff, ersatz, and anonymous in the usual MGM house style of the 30s (though King Vidor, one of several directors who worked on the project, does manage some graceful camera movement in the Munchkin scenes), but frankly I don't care. Those talking trees were a staple of my nightmares for years, and Margaret Hamilton is still my prime mental image of absolute evil. I don't find the film light or joyful in the least—an air of primal menace hangs about it, which may be why I love it.'
Here's a great extract

Meet Me in St Louis 'Vincente Minnelli created one of his masterpieces with this loosely plotted but tightly structured 1944 story of a middle-class family waiting through spring, summer, and fall for the opening of the Saint Louis World's Fair of 1904. One of the first films to integrate musical numbers into the plot, it explores, without condescension or simplemindedness, the feelings that drive the family members apart and then bring them back together again. And there's the sublime Minnellian spectacle of Judy Garland singing "The Trolley Song," "The Boy Next Door," and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." A great film.'
And here's another brilliant scene.

Capital Celluloid 2012 - Day 364: Sat Dec 29

The Railway Children (Jeffries, 1970): Rio Cinema, 11am
I'm owning up here - I've never seen this but it's a family classic and no doubt well worth going to with what could by now be bored youngsters.

Time Out review:
'Spruced up in preparation for a fortieth- anniversary DVD release, Lionel Jeffries’s 1970 adaptation of Edith Nesbit’s homely children’s novel still basks in a warm, rosy glow of universal nicety. Set in the early 1900s, the story – about three well-bred kids (Jenny Agutter, Gary F Warren and the excellent Sally Thomsett) having to leave their plush London home when Father is jailed for selling state secrets – is a celebration of old-fashioned British fortitude set in an environment of steam engines, buttercups, top hats and smocks. They then spend their days by the railway, waving at passengers, preventing disasters and hanging out with Bernard Cribbins’s waggish station master. Putting aside its fusty look and feel, Jeffries’s film remains an enjoyable evocation of the time. Of course, whether today’s kids get it is open to debate.'Derek Adams


Here is an extract.

Capital Celluloid 2012 - Day 363: Fri Dec 28

They Came to a City (Dearden, 1945): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 6.20pm
This intriguing film is part of the Light Ealing season at BFI Southbank.

Here is an introduction by Josephine Botting: 'They Came to a City brings together people from diverse backgrounds and different walks of life and examines their hopes for Britain after the conflict. Based on a play by J.B. Priestley, the film is a more abstract fantasy, offering the characters the choice of living in a socialist utopia or returning to their old lives, a choice which reveals a great deal about the nature of class and privilege in Britain. The film’s fantasy elements – Michael Relph’s stark cubist set, which creates eerie echoes; the fog and tangled trees surrounding the mysterious city – create an atmosphere unique in British cinema at the time. They Came to a City hasn’t been seen on the big screen for many years and BFI Southbank’s Ealing season will feature a brand new print made by the BFI National Archive especially for the occasion.'

Here is an extract.

Capital Celluloid 2012 - Day 362: Thu Dec 27

It's A Wonderful Life (Capra, 1946): Prince Charles Cinema, 6pm and 8.50pm

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's the phone scene. Gets me every single time.                 

Capital Celluloid 2012 - Day 361: Wed Dec 26

Sightseers (Wheatley, 2012): Prince Charles Cinema, 4.15pm
There are very few places open today so why not catch one of the best films released in 2012 at the Prince Charles which is open for business.

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 360: Tue Dec 25

HAPPY CHRISTMAS - the cinemas are closed but you can catch my twitter recommendations for movies on telly over the holiday period via my twitter handle @tpaleyfilm

Capital Celluloid 2012 - Day 359: Mon Dec 24

Scrooge (Hurst, 1951): Greenwich Picturehouse, 3pm
This is one of my favourite Christmas films and well worth catching at the cinema instead of on Channel 5 each year where they show it in the dreadful colourised version.

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: Thesiger, Johns, Hordern, Harrison, Malleson, Baddeley and, above all, the splendidly aloof Alistair 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.' 
Tom Charity

Here is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2012 - Day 358: Sun Dec 23

Eyes Wide Shut (Kubrick, 1999): The Cinema Museum, 8pm
Here's one of the great films set during Christmas, and an opportunity to see Stanley Kubrick's much-underrated final movie in an original 35mm print.

This screening is billed as the last Stanley Schtinter Picture Show and you can find more details of what looks to have been a great series of programmes by Mr Schtinter here. I spoke to him this week and he told me about how difficult it was for him to track down a print but that he finally did saw via the higher echelons of Warner Brothers. "I want people to see the film properly," he said. "Even for those familiar with Eyes Wide Shut this is about the experience celluloid offers. We are going to see the film the way it was intended to be seen."

If you're interested in reading more about this film I can recommend two BFI publications - Michel Chion's Modern Classics monograph on Eyes Wide Shut and the chapter on the film in James Naremore's book titled On Kubrick.

Chicago Reader review:
'Initial viewings of Stanley Kubrick's movies can be deceptive because his films all tend to be emotionally convoluted in some way; one has to follow them as if through a maze. A character that Kubrick might seem to treat cruelly the first time around (e.g., Elisha Cook Jr.'s fall guy in The Killing) can appear the object of tender compassion on a subsequent viewing. The director's desire to avoid sentimentality at all costs doesn't preclude feeling, as some critics have claimed, but it does create ambiguity and a distanced relationship to the central characters. Kubrick's final feature very skillfully portrays the dark side of desire in a successful marriage; since the 60s he'd been thinking about filming Arthur Schnitzler's brilliant novella "Traumnovelle," and working with Frederic Raphael, he's adapted it faithfully--at least if one allows for all the differences between Viennese Jews in the 20s and New York WASPs in the 90s. Schnitzler's tale, about a young doctor contemplating various forms of adultery and debauchery after discovering that his wife has entertained comparable fantasies, has a somewhat Kafkaesque ambiguity, wavering between dream and waking fantasy (hence Kubrick's title), and all the actors do a fine job of traversing this delicate territory. Yet the story has been altered to make the successful doctor (Tom Cruise) more of a hypocrite and his wife (powerfully played by Nicole Kidman) a little feistier; Kubrick's also added a Zeus-like tycoon (played to perfection by Sydney Pollack) who pretends to explain the plot shortly before the end but in fact only summarizes the various mysteries, his cynicism and chilly access to power revealing that Kubrick is more of a moralist than Schnitzler. To accept the premises and experiences of this movie, you have to be open to an expressionist version of New York with scant relation to the 90s (apart from cellular phones and AIDS) and a complex reading of a marriage that assumes the relations between men and women haven't essentially changed in the past 70-odd years. This is a remarkably gripping, suggestive, and inventive piece of storytelling that, like Kubrick's other work, is likely to grow in mystery and intensity over time.'
Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here is the opening.

Capital Celluloid 2012 - Day 357: Sat Dec 22

Miracle On 34th Street (Seaton, 1947): Prince Charles Cinema, 7pm
The Prince Charles Cinema is showing a great season of Christmas movies, including some excellent double-bills over the holiday period. More details here.

Here's the Prince Charles Cinema introduction: At the Macy's Department Store Thanksgiving Day parade, the actor playing Santa is discovered to be drunk by a whiskered old man. Doris Walker, the no nonsense special events director, persuades the old man to take his place. The old man proves to be a sensation and is quickly recruited to be the store Santa at the main Macy's outlet. While he is successful, Ms. Walker learns that he calls himself Kris Kringle and he claims to be the actual Santa Claus. Despite reassurances by Kringle's doctor that he is harmless, Doris still has misgivings, especially when she has cynically trained herself, and especially her daughter, Susan, to reject all notions of belief and fantasy. And yet, people, especially Susan, begin to notice there is something special about Kris and his determination to advance the true spirit of Christmas amidst the rampant commercialism around him and succeeding in improbable ways...

Here is the trailer. It's different.

Capital Celluloid 2012 - Day 356: Fri Dec 21

Gremlins (Dante, 1984): Prince Charles Cinema, 6.55pm 
The Prince Charles Cinema is showing a great season of Christmas movies, including some excellent double-bills over the holiday period. More 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.' Dave Kehr

Here is the trailer.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Capital Celluloid 2012 - Day 354: Wed Dec 19 & Capital Celluloid 2012 - Day 355: Thu Dec 20

You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet (Resnais, 2012):: Cine Lumiere, 3pm and on extended run from 14-22 December. Details here.

Denying that the film should be seen as a testament, director Alain Resnais said at a press conference in Cannes, "This film is unlike any other. If I'd thought of this film as a final statement, I'd never have had the courage or energy to do it."

I saw the film at a press screening at the London Film Festival and truly, you ain't seen nothing like this. Resnais continues, at the age of 90, to produce extraordinary work. 

Time Out review:
'Alain Resnais seems untouched by age, at least as far as his films are concerned. ‘Wild Grass’, his last film, was arguably more audacious, lighter and more evocative of the carefree spirit of youth than the work of many younger directors, and this latest is no less adventurous, notwithstanding its subject matter.

Because, to borrow a pun from an earlier Resnais title, the twin concerns of his formally inventive adaptation of Jean Anouilh’s ‘Eurydice’ are ‘amouret la mort’: love and death. But if the director has any anxieties about what lies beyond the grave, he certainly isn’t revealing them. Playful,witty, as unashamedly theatrical as it is cinematic, the movie begins with a fabulous array of French actors –  Sabine Azéma, Pierre Arditi, 
Michel PiccoliLambert Wilson, Anne Consigny, Mathieu Amalric and Hippolyte Girardot are probably the best known internationally –  playingthemselves and being summoned by phone to the home of a recently deceased old playwright friend. 


There they are shown a video of drama students rehearsing the dead writer’ retelling of the story of Orpheus and Eurydice  and as the actors, who have all themselves acted in the play at some point in their lives, watch the video, they start first to repeat the remembered lines, then to act out the parts with the other spectators, then to interact with the performers on screen. Then the house they are in becomes an ever-changing set.

There’s far more to it, of course; the movie isn’t just some shallow piece of clever formal flapdoodle. Like most of Resnais’s work, it concerns the constant, complex interplay between ‘reality’, memory, imagination and desire. Thanks to the choice of material, death also looms large, though not at all threateningly; the ghosts here are simply the feelings we have experienced. The film is touching, but more than that it’s wise, witty and thought-provoking.'

Geoff Andrew


Here is the trailer.

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Capital Celluloid 2012 - Day 355: Thu Dec 20



Chicago Reader review:
'Carl Dreyer made this extraordinary 1943 drama, about the church's persecution of women for witchcraft in the 17th century, during the German occupation of Denmark. He later claimed that he hadn't sought to pursue any contemporary parallels while adapting the play Anne Petersdotter (which concerns adultery as well as witchcraft), but that seems disingenuous - Day of Wrath may be the greatest film ever made about living under totalitarian rule. Astonishing in its artistically informed period re-creation as well as its hypnotic mise en scene (with some exceptionally eerie camera movements), it challenges the viewer by suggesting at times that witchcraft isn't so much an illusion as an activity produced by intolerance. And like Dreyer's other major films, it's sensual to the point of carnality. I can't think of another 40s film that's less dated.'
Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here is the opening.

Capital Celluloid 2012 - Day 353: Tue Dec 18

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane (Aldrich, 1962): Curzon Soho, 1pm and 2.55pm and all week from 14th to 20th December

John Patterson pens an excellent column in the Guide magazine every Saturday for the Guardian. This week his subject was the above film and, in particular, the work of director Robert Aldrich. This is the article in full and here is an extract:

'It should really have inspired its own sordid sub-sub-genre. Hagsploitation, perhaps, or maybe Grande Dame Guignol. Robert Aldrich's What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? is a movie that reeks of contempt and despair, and so it brings me great pleasure to celebrate its 50th anniversary as it is re-released this week.

Baby Jane ... is very, very Robert Aldrich, a wonderful director nearly 30 years dead now, whose body of work is in danger of slipping over the horizon. Today we remember him for The Dirty Dozen, The Longest Yard, Kiss Me Deadly and Baby Jane. But he was more than that. American aristocrat, grandson of a senator, Nelson Rockerfeller's cousin, he disavowed it all and headed west in 1941, working as assistant director to Losey, Chaplin and Renoir. He became a Cahiers Du Cinéma cause-célèbre and instant auteur in 1956, when an accident of releasing saw the simultaneous exhibition in Paris of Attack, The Big Knife, Autumn Leaves and Kiss Me Deadly, a head-spinning quadruple whammy that earned the corpulent Aldrich his Gallic nickname: "Le Gros Bob". Try watching those four this weekend; you can thank me later, after your head has exploded.

He was an patrician leftie with a marked sense of injustice, a militant and effective president of the Directors' Guild and, after The Dirty Dozen, the furiously independent owner of his own studio. He was a punchy, caustic, macho and pessimistic director (the end of Kiss Me Deadly is the end of the world), who depicted corruption and evil unflinchingly, and pushed limits on violence throughout his career. His aggressive and pugnacious film-making style, often crass and crude, but never less than utterly vital and alive, warrants – and will richly reward – your immediate attention.'
Here is the new trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2012 - Day 352: Mon Dec 17

Dead Europe (Krawitz, 2012): Curzon Renoir, 1pm & 8.45pm and all week 14th-20th December
A rare foray into current release territory for this well received Australian movie on a short release here.

Time Out review:
'At the launch of Time Out’s ‘100 Best Horror Movies’ project early in 2012, we asked what the new wave of horror movies would look like, the films that would shake this tired and tiresome genre out of its torture porn and remake-induced torpor. Along with a handful of recent releases – which include Ben Wheatley’s ‘Kill List’ – ‘Dead Europe’ provides the beginnings of an answer. These are horror movies which aren’t quite horror movies, utilising the techniques and imagery of the genre to present a subversive, sidelong view of real-world events and situations.


In ‘Dead Europe’ the issue is exploitation, and how the echoes of Europe’s brutal past continue to shape our troubled present. Ewen Leslie plays Isaac, an Australian photographer who heads to Greece – his family’s birthplace – following the untimely death of his father, Vasilly. There he becomes embroiled in family drama – his Greek relatives all feel that Vasilly ran away from his responsibilities – but also in something more sinister: an immigrant child (Kodi Smit McPhee) appears and disappears, and the citizens of Vasilly’s home town seem to be harbouring some dark secret. The hunt for the truth will take Isaac to Paris and Budapest, encountering the victims and perpetrators of different kinds of hate crimes, past and present.

‘Dead Europe’ packs a lot of story into 84 minutes, and the result can feel a little busy, storming onward without sufficient attention to character or tension. But it gets so much right, asking timely questions about the way we treat one another and creating a vivid, intensely felt mood of crumbling grandeur and lost chances. It’s beautifully photographed and confidently performed, with a script steeped in mystery and misdirection. And although it may lack a raw, confident force to make it truly special, ‘Dead Europe’ completely nails its devastating, unexpected ending.'
Tom Huddleston

Here is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2012 - Day 351: Sun Dec 16

Walden (Mekas, 1969): BFI Southbank, NFT2 2.50pm
Mark Webber, writing in the BFI Southbank introduction to the Jonas Mekas season at the cinema this month and next, says: "As an activist and filmmaker, his influence on independent cinema is huge."
Here's your chance to see what many consider to be his finest piece of work.

This is the BFI introduction: Jonas Mekas’ first long diary film, whose subtitle Diaries, Notes and Sketches perfectly encapsulates his impulsive style of filming, records the events of his life from 1964-69. Mekas was at the centre of New York’s avant-garde during a crucial period when the independent film scene intersected with the worlds of art, poetry and music. Walden vibrates with restless energy, and to watch it is to see history unfold.

Here is an extract.

Capital Celluloid 2012 - Day 350: Sat Dec 15

Elf (Favreau, 2003): The Round Chapel, Powerscroft Rd,  London E5 OPU 5pm
The team behind the excellent Rooftop Film Club are putting on Christmas movies at Hackney Downs Studios and at the Round Chapel in Lower Clapton. The full programme can be found here.

This is one of those slow-burner movies that has become a modern Christmas classic and I am happy to say I am going along as the holidays ain't the same without this movie.

Time Out review:
'Comedy legend Bob Newhart immediately raises a smile as the elderly elf framing the story of Santa's biggest little helper. Buddy (Will Ferrell) is different because he's a human, brought back to the North Pole as a baby when he strayed into the old boy's sack during the Christmas run. He's been raised in the traditional elfin ways of industrious good humour, but now it's time for him to venture to distant New York and discover his real father is a grumpy publisher (James Caan), who naturally thinks his 'son' is a dangerous loony. Must be the tights and the pointy hat. What follows is a fairly predictable 'fish out of water' romp with seasonal bells on. Nevertheless, Favreau delivers the cornball sentiments with an adept balance of irony and sincerity, sprinkling felicities in the margins - cult crooner Leon Redbone voicing a stop-motion snowman, indie fave Zooey Deschanel as the department store helper giving Ferrell understandable tingles, and a particularly successful running gag enshrining the significance of etch-a-sketch in elf culture. Some humour might sail over the heads of the very young, but there's a higher chuckle rate for the grown-ups than much dread 'family' fare.'
Trevor Johnston

Love this scene.

Capital Celluloid 2012 - Day 349: Fri Dec 14

Broadway by Light (Klein, 1958) & Who Are You, Polly Maggoo (Klein, 1966): Tate Modern 7pm
This great double-bill is screening as part of the William Klein films series at the gallery. Details here. I saw Broadway by Light as part of the Klein exhibition recently and can wholeheartedly recommend.

Here is the Tate Modern introduction to tonight's screenings: 
Broadway by Light Klein’s first film is a dizzying and dazzling study of a night in the life of New York’s Great White Way. Focusing on the play of lights and shadows, colours and forms in motion, the camera jumps between the flashing bulbs and neons of Times Square’s iconic advertising and the silhouettes of men at work on theatre marquees, as they re-arrange letters on the lightboxes, poised like acrobats on their stepladders. These concrete details are counterbalanced by more impressionistic moments of pure colour, distorted light reflections and severed fragments of words or texts, exemplary of Klein’s life-long interest in typography. Illustrative of Klein’s transition from photographer to filmmaker, Broadway by Light was declared by Orson Welles to be ‘the first film I’ve seen in which colour was absolutely necessary.’ Klein was encouraged by his friends Alain Resnais and Chris Marker to make the film, and Marker wrote the brief text that appears onscreen at the beginning of the film.

Here is the film.

Who Are You, Polly Maggoo Acclaimed for being ‘ten years ahead of its time’ by Stanley Kubrick, Who Are You, Polly Maggoo? is Klein’s iconic first fiction film and marks the end of a decade in which he made his name as the most subversive photographer at American Vogue. His scathing satire of Parisian haute couture hinges on Polly Maggoo, a neophyte supermodel from Brooklyn who proclaims, ‘Everything is fashion. Love, ideas, even war. Even politics!’. The audacious production design adds to the film’s delirious glamour as much as it serves to savage a world for which such conceits of style are a primary target. Not unlike Peter Watkins’s Privilege from the following year, Who Are You, Polly Maggoo? targets the co-option and commercialisation of  a newly booming youth culture, skewering its freedoms and pretensions as much as the media frenzy which encouraged them. Klein’s pseudovérité twist on the emerging genre of confessional television reveals his uncanny clarity at understanding the fusion of pop and politics that defined the late 1960s. 

Here is the opening scene.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Capital Celluloid 2012 - Day 348: Thu Dec 13

Twilight Zone episode Time Enough at Last (1959) and Deep Impact (1998):
Horse Hospital, Bloomsbury, 7.30pm

Here is the PassengerFilms introduction to tonight's entertainment: With Christmas and the end of the world on the horizon, Passengerfilms presents a night of film and discussion on geographies of disaster. Join us for an evening complete with raucous blockbuster, cult classics, a range of sage experts and, of course, festive mince pies. You’ll laugh! You’ll cry! You’ll forget the impending yuletide doom…

Featuring Deep Impact (1998), plus a screening of the classic Twilight Zone episode Time Enough At Last (1959). With talks from co-curator Stephanie Morris (RHUL), Emily Candela (Royal College of Art and the Science Museum) and curator Francesca Cavalllo on pre-enactment, disaster and aesthetics, and Dr Camilla Boano (UCL) on post-disaster practice and architecture. And did we mention the free mince pies? More information at passengerfilms.wordpress.com

Here is a clip from Time Enough at Last.

Capital Celluloid 2012 - Day 347: Wed Dec 12

The Muppets Christmas Carol (Henson, 1992): Hackney Downs Studios, 8pm
The team behind the excellent Rooftop Film Club are putting on Christmas movies at Hackney Downs Studios and at the Round Chapel in Lower Clapton. The full programme can be found here.

Time Out review:
'Acted to the parsimonious hilt by the human Scrooge (Caine), and framed by author-narrator Charles Dickens (the Great Gonzo) addressing his rodent audience (Rizzo the Rat), the story survives. Well, it would: it's the same story of redemption that powers Stallone movies. All the pen-pushing glovesters in Scrooge's office run on fear of dismissal, a topical note, with Bob Cratchit (Kermit the Frog) negotiating but nervous. Not so his wife Miss Piggy, ready to have a go at Scrooge, but mindful of the needs of their family, a brood as mixed as you would expect from pigs and frogs, which explains the medical condition of Tiny Tim, a froglet with a cough on crutches. The three ghosts of Christmas are wonderful. Elsewhere, Fozzie Bear bears a resemblance to Francis L Sullivan in the David Lean Dickens adaptations, and there's a shop called Micklewhite. As an actor, Kermit can corrugate his forehead vertically. Good fun.'
Brian Case

Here is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2012 - Day 346: Tue Dec 11

Fahrenheit 451 (Truffaut, 1966), BFI Southbank, 6.10pm
This is screening as part of the Passport to Cinema season and will be introduced by Richard Combs.
This film is an oddity that has grown in stature over the years. When the movie was released no one really expected a sci-fi movie from Francois Truffaut and most were both puzzled and disappointed but its depiction of an authoritarian state that has outlawed books looks amazing (partly thanks to Nic Roeg's superb cinematography).

There are other numerous pleasures along the way, including Julie Christie (think Deborah Kerr in The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp or the central character in Luis Bunuel's That Obscure Object of Desire) playing both the hero's wife and his lover and the innovative opening credits. There is also the music which, and I don't say this lightly, contains some of Bernard Herrmann's finest work. The film may lose its way towards the end but the denoument aside this is a work very much worthy of investigation.

Here is an extract and here is an interview with Truffaut on Hithchcock (just for the hell of it).

Chicago Reader review:
'Ray Bradbury's novel about thought control in a future society (451 degrees is the temperature at which books burn) was the basis for Francois Truffaut's first, ill-fated venture outside the bounds (and native language) of Gallic humanism. This 1966 film often looks good (it was Truffaut's first in color, photographed by Nicolas Roeg), but the ideas, such as they are, get lost in the meandering narrative. Bernard Herrmann's score, however, is one of his finest.'
Dave Kehr

Capital Celluloid 2012 - Day 345: Mon Dec 10

Pickpocket (Bresson, 1959): BFI Southbank, NFT3, 6.10pm
This is screening as part of the BFI's excellent Passport to Cinema season and is introduced by Philip Kemp. Details here.

Chicago Reader review:
'Robert Bresson made this short electrifying study in 1959; it's one of his greatest and purest films, full of hushed transgression and sudden grace. A petty thief (Martin Lasalle) becomes addicted to the art and thrill of picking pockets. He loses his friends and fiancee, and begins to live like a monk, concentrating his entire being on his obsessional, increasingly devotional acts of theft. If the film seems familiar, that's because Paul Schrader recycled great chunks of it in his scripts forTaxi Driver, American Gigolo, and Raging Bull. But the original retains its awesome, austere power. With Pierre Leymarie and Marika Green. In French with subtitles.'
Dave Kehr

Here is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2012 - Day 344: Sun Dec 9

Lawrence of Arabia (Lean, 1962): Empire Leicester Square, 2pm
No apologies for putting the new 4K restoration of David Lean's classic up again so soon after its last appearance here as it's on at the Empire where it should be. 

Here is the introduction to two special screeningsThis Sunday 9th December and Tuesday 11th December UK film audiences have the chance to enjoy Lawrence of Arabia in the incredible Screen One at the Empire Leicester Square. A real cinematic event, these screenings represent a potentially once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience David Lean’s classic desert epic back on one of the biggest and best screens in Britain. 
 
With a 1,330 strong cinema capacity and high quality 56K Watt THX certified sound system, Lawrence of Arabia will be showcased in the best possible setting, bringing excitement and anticipation in its original roadshow presentation that features an overture and intermission.
 
Craig Jones, Director of Film at Empire Cinemas said; “We’re really excited to be able to screen Lawrence of Arabia to celebrate its 50th anniversary. To be able to offer our audiences the opportunity to see this classic film up on the big screen again following its digital restoration is an honour. Here at Empire Cinemas we’re committed to offering our audiences a wide range of entertainment – Lawrence of Arabia is certainly one not to be missed.” 
 
In the year this acclaimed title celebrates its 50th anniversary with a new digital restoration, Lawrence of Arabia was presented to the world at Cannes before going on to screen at esteemed festivals in Edinburgh, Bologna and London, where Omar Sharif attended for a special Q&A session. Released on 23 November in the UK, Lawrence of Arabia has achieved rave reviews across the board with critics unanimous in their praise of the 7-time Academy Award winning classic, winning Best Picture and Best Director in 1963.
 
Sony Pictures’ Lawrence of Arabia screens at the Empire Leicester Square, Screen One on 9th and 11th December, at 2.30pm and 6pm respectively. There may never be a greater occasion in which to view this film.
 
For information and to book tickets to Lawrence of Arabia at your nearest Empire Cinemas, visit www.EmpireCinemas.co.uk or call 08 714 714 714.

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.

Capital Celluloid 2012 - Day 343: Sat Dec 8

Elephant Man (Lynch, 1980): Limehouse Town Hall, 7.30pm 
This is a special ScreenDeep presentation which will feature history on headphones, some live music by Waverley Keys and Lynch's wonderfully moving movie on screen. More details plus intriguing trailer about this evening's presentation can be found here.

Time Out review:
'More accessible than Lynch's enigmatically disturbingEraserheadThe Elephant Man has much the same limpidly moving humanism as Truffaut's L'Enfant Sauvage in describing how the unfortunate John Merrick, brutalised by a childhood in which he was hideously abused as an inhuman freak, was gradually coaxed into revealing a soul of such delicacy and refinement that he became a lion of Victorian society. But that is only half the story the film tells. The darker side, underpinned by an evocation of the steamy, smoky hell that still underlies a London facelifted by the Industrial Revolution, is crystallised by the wonderful sequence in which Merrick is persuaded by a celebrated actress to read Romeo to her Juliet. A tender, touching scene ('Oh, Mr Merrick, you're not an elephant man at all. No, you're Romeo'), it nevertheless begs the question of what passions, inevitably doomed to frustration, have been roused in this presumably normally-sexed Elephant Man. Appearances are all, and like the proverbial Victorian piano, he can make the social grade only if his ruder appendages are hidden from sensitive eyes; hence what is effectively, at his time of greatest happiness, his suicide. A marvellous movie, shot in stunning black-and-white by Freddie Francis.'
Tom Milne

SPOILER ALERT: This is the ending of the movie, which is one of the most moving pieces of cinema I have ever seen.