Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Capital Celluloid 2013 - Day 193: Fri Jul 12

1 Lady Killer (Gremillon, 1937): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 8.40pm

This film, part of the Jean Gremillon season at BFI Southbank, also screens on July 2nd. Full details of the season here.

Chicago Reader review:
It's amazing that a film of this quality should be so completely unknown. Made in 1937, it's the masterpiece of Jean Gremillon, Jean Renoir's only serious rival in the prewar French cinema. Difficult to define stylistically (which is perhaps the secret of its greatness), the film consists of a series of tonal variations on the theme of the femme fatale, ranging from romanticism to naturalism to sophisticated comedy. Jean Gabin is “Gueule d'amour” (“Lover Lips”), a soldier famous in his garrison town for his way with women; when he meets the mysterious Mireille Balin (Gabin's costar in Pepe le Moko), he gives up everything to follow her to Paris. Gremillon seems the master of every style he attempts, but his genius lies in the smooth linking of those various styles; the film seems to evolve as it unfolds, changing its form in imperceptible stages. 
Dave Kehr

Here is an extract.


2 The Serpent and the Rainbow (Craven, 1988): Phoenix Cinema, 10.15pm

This rare screening of Wes Craven's '80s horror movie is hosted by the excellent Cigarette Burns film club. More details on the Facebook page here.

Chicago Reader review:
An unusually ambitious effort from horror movie specialist Wes Craven (A Nightmare on Elm Street), filmed on location in Haiti (as well as the Dominican Republic). This genuinely frightening 1988 thriller follows the efforts of an anthropologist (Bill Pullman) sent by a U.S. pharmaceutical company to find the chemical mixture used in “zombification”—the voodoo practice that simulates death while leaving the victim alive and conscious. Depending largely on hallucinations and psychological terror (a la Altered States), and working from a Richard Maxwell and A.R. Simoun screenplay inspired by Wade Davis's nonfiction book of the same title, Craven provides more atmosphere and creepy ideas than fluid storytelling. But it's nice for a change to see some of the virtues of old-fashioned horror films—moody dream sequences, unsettling poetic images, and passages that suggest more than they show—rather than the usual splatter shocks and special effects (far from absent, but employed with relative economy). Cathy Tyson plays the hero's Haitian guide—a psychiatrist alert to some of the cultural ramifications of voodoo—and Zakes Mokae, Paul Winfield, and Brent Jennings, as other agents of the hero's dark education in prerevolutionary Haiti, are effective as well. 
Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here is the trailer.

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