Friday, 31 October 2014

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 325: Sun Nov 23

Donkey Skin (Demy, 1970): Cine Lumiere, 2pm


This film is part of the Cine Lumiere French Classics season. Full details here.

Time Out review:
Even on paper this couldn't have seemed such a terrific idea, and Demy's attempt to fuse Cocteau with Disney via one of Perrault's less endearing conceits (a gold-shitting donkey) contrives to be both garish and coyly tasteful. Deneuve sings four Michel Legrand ballads whose resemblance to each other is matched by their resemblance to the composer's earlier work, while a soppy Perrin emerges as more Prince Charles than Prince Charming. To its credit are Delphine Seyrig as a chic, malicious Fairy Godmother, and Marais as the genuinely Cocteau-esque King.
Geoff Andrew

Here (and above) is an extract.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 324: Sat Nov 22

House of Whipcord (Walker, 1974): Barbican Cinema, 4pm


This film, introduced by Jonathan Rigby and the director, is part of a season at the Barbican Cinema dedicated to the cult director Pete Walker. Full details here.

Here is the Barbican introduction:
Coaxed to an ominous country house, model Anne-Marie (Penny Irving) finds herself trapped in a makeshift girls’ prison ruled by a retired judge, the blind Justice Bailey. As his sadistic wife (Sheila Keith) subjects the inmates to cruel and unusual punishments, Walker's sleazy masterpiece becomes a powerful condemnation of the justice system.

Time Out review:
An above average sexploitation/horror that has been put together with some polish and care from a fairly original script. The film is dedicated ironically to all those who wish to see the return of capital punishment in Britain, and it's about a senile old judge and his wife who are so appalled by current permissiveness that they set up a gruesome house of correction for young girls.
Dave Pirie

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 323: Fri Nov 21

Begotten (Merhige, 1990): Horse Hospital, 8pm


Here's a chance to catch a rare screening of a landmark American experimental horror film written, produced and directed by E. Elias Merhige.


Here is the Horse Hospital introduction: God disembowels himself with a straight razor. The spirit-like Mother Earth emerges, venturing into a bleak, barren landscape. Twitching and cowering, the Son Of Earth is set upon by faceless cannibals as a new Aeon is born.

A film cultist’s delight, the breathtakingly stark Begotten presents birth, life and death as an endless procession of the damned, crawling through filth to a new aeon, accompanied by a soundtrack of cricket stridulations. Painstakingly shot and processed on black and white reversal film, director Merhige claims that each minute of film took ten hours to process and distress. Banned in Singapore and long unavailable on DVD, Begotten has been described by Susan Sontag as “one of the 10 most important films of modern times”.

Tonight’s screening will be accompanied by The Begotten’s live, improvised soundtrack for guitar and electronics.
"Few motion pictures have the power to jolt an audience with the fury, imagination, and artistic violence of Begotten, a 1991 tour de force from Elias Merhige currently debuting on home video. This cryptic independent production is a film of eccentric brilliance, skillfully balancing the glorious and the grotesque in an unforgettable work of art."
—Phil Hall, Wired

Here (and above) is an extract.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 322: Thu Nov 20

Whiplash (Chazelle, 2014): Barbican Cinema, 8.40pm


Here's a chance to see a film that created a buzz at both the Sundance and London Film Festivals. It is screening here as part of the London Jazz festival season of films. You can find the full details here.

Time Out review:
You already know J.K. Simmons’s ferocious jazz teacher in the electrifying Whiplash if you’ve seen Full Metal Jacket, Battle Royale or Grizzly Man (he’d be the grizzly). Clad fully in black, biceps bulging, Simmons’s Fletcher exudes downtown attitude. He rules the top department of an elite NYC music program with a clenched fist, instantly squeezing off the wayward bleat of a saxophone. Part of the joy of watching dramas like this must be a masochistic thrill in seeing young punks suffer: Drumming hopeful Andrew (The Spectacular Now’s Miles Teller, fully convincing behind the kit) is nearly destroyed by this monster, a barking man who’s impossible to please. Yet even though our wunderkind’s knuckles bleed and his snare gets spattered, you think: That’s some truly glorious noise he’s making. The discipline and beauty of bebop has never been better served by a film.

Whiplash might have followed this trajectory to a feel-good destination, one involving a recital, some proud parents and a teary hug. But that’s not where writer-director Damien Chazelle wants to go—bless him for it. Fletcher’s put-downs become more vicious (and riotously un-PC); the drive to perfection turns Andrew into a bitter, uncaring boyfriend; and the plot’s tone nears that of a thriller, sometimes awkwardly. Credibility is burned upping the stakes: Will a violent car crash prevent Andrew from staggering to the gig in a concussed delirium? Don’t wonder. Disappointing Fletcher is too terrifying a prospect. But there’s also unusual, spiky attention paid to the pursuit of excellence, as Andrew begins to resent the mediocre aspirations of his family. By film’s end, he’s an arrogant, cymbal-smashing machine.

How breathtaking it is to see a story go there. The identity this teen chases is a lonely one, but it’s impeccably on beat. Real art, the movie suggests, isn’t for those who merely hope to do a “good job” and please themselves. Whiplash scrapes the far edge of crazy passion. It never apologizes. And the flurry of drumming it concludes with—Teller’s solo is staggering—is both a magical cacophony and, obliquely, a door slamming shut. I don’t know if I’d show this film to a curious young person, not if I ever wanted to see them again. They’d be in their room practicing, forever.
Joshua Rothkopf

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 321: Wed Nov 19

Once Upon A Time In Anatolia (Ceylan, 2011): BFI Southbank, 8pm


This film, part of the Nuri Bilge Ceylan season at BFI Southbank, also screens on 19 and 20 November. Details here.

The movie was given a five-star review by Time Out magazine:
'Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceyan is unlikely to attract heaving crowds to his sixth film, ‘Once Upon A Time in Anatolia’, but since when was the 51-year-old director of ‘Uzak’, ‘Climates’ and ‘Three Monkeys’ in it for the multiplex? Ceylan is a sly and daring screen artist of the highest order and should draw wild praise with this new film for challenging both himself and us, the audience, with this lengthy, rigorous and masterly portrait of a night and day in the life of a murder investigation on his country’s Anatolian steppes. It’s a mysterious and demanding work, and it marks a distinct progression in Ceylan’s career as he continues to gnaw at the boundaries of film storytelling with humour, grace, empathy and a dry, wry view of everyday life.'
Dave Calhoun


Here is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 320: Tue Nov 18

 Oldboy (Park, 2003): Prince Charles Cinema, 8.45pm


Cigarette Burns Cinema, in association with Invada Records, are hosting an album launch party for Invada's OLDBOY soundtrack by Cho Young-Wuk.

Time Out review:
It’s easy to feel blasé about the steady stream of action-oriented movies from the Far East, but this head-spinner from the director of the crunching ‘Sympathy for Mr Vengeance’ is far, far too good to leave to the ‘Asia Extreme’ crowd.

When we first meet businessman Oh Dae-Su (Choi Min-Sik), he’s a drunken boor, though he’d doubtless sober up if he knew what was coming. Abducted by persons unknown, he’s held prisoner for 15 years, until he’s just as unexpectedly released. Still none the wiser, he falls into a relationship with a sushi-bar hostess, whereupon his captor contacts him by mobile and offers a deal: if he can work out why he was kidnapped in the first place, the villain will offer up his life – if not, the girl cops it.

For Oh Dae-Su, getting mad and getting even amount to virtually the same thing. The sequence where he rearranges some low-life’s dental work will doubtless attract over-excited attention, much like the jaw-dropping one-take hammer-wielding skirmish in a corridor. But the upfront mayhem shouldn’t be allowed to distract from the film’s emotional depth or indeed its brilliant lead performance. For the protagonist, vengeance is a voyage of discovery, yet his newfound propensity towards violence troubles him, and his burning desire to confront his secretive nemesis may be fuelled by lingering self-doubt that he deserved his fate. Whatever happens, he’ll never be the same man again.

Choi Min-Sik is in the Pacino or De Niro class, running the gamut from terrifying rage to abject degradation. The implausibilities in the plot melt away because we’re living the experience with him, thanks also in part to the bravura expressiveness of Park’s direction. Hitchcock and Fincher are reference points, but this combines visceral punch, a tortured humanity and even an underlying Korean political resonance given the weight of the past. Quite an achievement then, and well worthy of its Cannes prize.
Trever Johnston

Here (and above) is the trailer.

*******************

THE FOLLOWING SCREENING, SCHEDULED FOR TODAY, HAS HAD TO BE CANCELLED BUT A NOS AMOURS ARE HOPING TO SHOW THE FILM AT THE SAME VENUE SOON

Stray Dogs (Ming-liang, 2013): Westfield Vue Cinema, 7.30pm


Here is the A Nos Amours Film Club preview of tonight's special screening which will feature an introduction by Jonathan Romney:
Read Romney's Film Comment review
here - he has some reservations, but says the film is mesmerising. It is after all the mature work of a great film maker.

A father and his two children wander the margins of modern day Taipei, from the woods and rivers of the outskirts to the rain streaked streets of the city. By day the father scrapes out a meager income as a human billboard for luxury apartments, while his young son and daughter roam the supermarkets and malls surviving off free food samples. Each night the family takes shelter in an abandoned building. The father is strangely affected by a hypnotic mural adorning the wall of this makeshift home. On the day of the father's birthday the family is joined by a woman - might she be the key to unlocking the buried emotions that linger from the past?

Time Out review:
Taiwan’s Tsai Ming-liang, whose last feature was 2009’s underrated French fantasia Face, returns to familiar territory, or so it initially seems. For a good hour or more, the rigorous and demanding Stray Dogs plays like a greatest-hits package. (Newbies shouldn’t start here.) The writer-director’s usual star, Lee Kang-sheng, is a homeless Taipei man who by day holds up advertising placards along a busy city roadway and by night squats in an abandoned building with his two children. It’s a tough and tedious life punctuated by doses of the surreal comedy that fans have come to expect from the filmmaker. In one lengthy scene, Lee devours a head of cabbage that his daughter uses as a doll—an encounter that plays both like a sex-film parody and a tragedy-tinged howl from the void.
Such sequences are mesmerizing in their way, but Tsai’s done this sort of thing with greater potency in movies like 2005’s porn-world musical The Wayward Cloud (there, a watermelon was the object of affection). Stray Dogs really starts to come alive in its second half, when the action switches to a decrepit apartment out of a J-horror film and the family-of-outcasts narrative tips completely into the slippery realm of the avant-garde. It’s at this point that you understand Tsai’s disorienting choice to have the lead female character (a grocery-store manager who takes a motherly interest in Lee’s kids) played by three different performers. Everything that came before is reoriented through a newly nightmarish prism, and the lengthy final two shots (each running more than ten minutes) rank among the best work this inimitable artist has ever done.
Keith Uhlich

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 319: Mon Nov 17

Summer with Monika (Bergman, 1953): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 6.10pm


This movie, part of the Passport to Cinema season at BFI Southbank, also screens on 22 November. Full details here.

You can read Dave Kehr's full New York Times review of the film here. This is an extract:
The film “Summer With Monika,” released in 1953, isn’t among the best known or most representative works of Ingmar Bergman, but it may be his most influential.No doubt, its international success was due in large part to the film’s bold eroticism. The young lovers escape the city, and the looming prospect of adult responsibilities, by borrowing a motorboat and heading off to the archipelago that lies east, off the Baltic coast, where they spend an idyllic summer drifting among the islands, living off the land and making love in the open air. In France, where casual nudity in films was no particular novelty, “Monika” passed almost unnoticed on its first release, but when Henri Langlois included it in a 1958 Bergman retrospective at the Cinémathèque Française, several of the young filmmakers who would soon make up the New Wave found in it a model for the kind of intimate, personal, present-tense cinema they were aspiring to create. “The most original film by the most original of filmmakers,” wrote Jean-Luc Godard, “it is to the cinema of today what ‘Birth of a Nation’ was to the classical cinema.” 

Here (and above) is an extract from the film.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 318: Sun Nov 16

The Last Metro (Truffaut, 1980): Cine Lumiere, 2pm


This film is part of a Francois Truffaut tribute season at Cine Lumiere. Full details here.

Chicago Reader review:
On the surface, a tepid, shallow, but slickly mounted 1981 entertainment by Francois Truffaut, set during the German occupation of Paris, where a theatrical troupe is struggling to mount a new production while the director, a fugitive (Heinz Bennent), hides in the theater basement. Meanwhile, his wife and leading lady (Catherine Deneuve) enters timorously into an affair with the new leading man (Gerard Depardieu). Truffaut coaxes only familiar meanings from the material, and even seems to back away from the emotional possibilities, yet the accumulation of metaphors of containment and concealment gradually comes to suggest another subject—the withdrawal, the silence, the impotency of the artist. At times, the film seems to be about the reasons for its own emptiness.
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is an extract.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 317: Sat Nov 15

Cool It Carol (Walker, 1970): Barbican Cinema, 4pm


This film, introduced by Matthew Sweet, is part of a Cigarette Burns Film Club season at the Barbican Cinema dedicated to the cult director Pete Walker. Full details here.

Barbican introduction: Young Joe Sickles (Robin Askwith) wants more from life, but was never prepared for where Carol (Janet Lynn) was going to take him. Walker's dark comedy showcases the seedier side of Swinging London, as fresh-faced youngsters are chewed up and spat out by the exploitation machine.

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 316: Fri Nov 14

Climates (Ceylan, 2006): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 6.20pm


This film, part of the Nuri Bilge Ceylan season at BFI Southbank, also screens on 12 and 14 November. Details here.

Time Out review:
‘Climates’ presents the break-up of a metropolitan couple, university lecturer Isa and television art director Bahar (played by Ceylan and his wife Ebru), whom we first meet on a Turkish beach not long before Isa suggests that they should separate. From here, Ceylan explores with acute observation and stunning photography Isa’s mixed, complex and utterly recognisable reaction to the split. Fans of ‘Uzak’ (‘Distant’), which played at the Festival in 2003, will welcome the director’s latest, which was sadly omitted from the prizes at this year’s Cannes, where it emerged as a firm favourite among critics. Those same fans will recognise Ceylan’s pared-down, quiet style of storytelling, which finds magnificence in the everyday and doesn’t allow one single word or action to stray from a complete vision of what it means to be living and loving today in Ceylan’s home city of Istanbul.
Dave Calhoun

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 316: Thu Nov 13

Three films by Chantal Akerman: ICA Cinema, 7pm



HERE IS THE ICA INTRODUCTION:

Les trois dernières sonates de Franz Schubert
1989, 49 mins
Alfred Brendel, one of the greatest of all pianists, plays and reflects on Franz Schubert’s last three piano sonatas. As he points out, Schubert can’t have known that he was soon to die, so they probably do not embody the air of resignation and finality future generations have sentimentally insisted they bear. They were however long neglected, all but forgotten, and only in more recent times have they come to be treasured and performed. The repose and wisdom of the maestro, together with the patient observation of one who is no stranger to the idea of the irrevocably lost, of the erasures of history, and of the value of fragile objects passed carefully from generation to generation, is a joy.

Trois strophes sur le nom de Sacher (above)
1989, 12 mins
The first of Chantal Akerman's screen collaborations with cellist Sonia Wieder-Atherton. Here Wieder-Atherton performs Henri Dutilleux's Strophes, composed between 1972 and 1986. These are ethereal, at times hesitant, but lyrical pieces.

Le déménagement
1992, 42 mins
It is worthy of Beckett: 'I should never, never have moved. What got into me? I was happy before. Well, almost. No, mostly I was not. Not good at all. I had to move.' The man in his new home, unable to unpack the many boxes and crates that surround him. His soliloquy is one of indecision, of regret, of a sense of predicament that is inescapable. Through this protagonist, Akerman reflects on the impossibility of making decisions, of the forlorn hope of certainty.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 315: Wed Nov 12

Seconds (Frankenheimer, 1966): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 8.50pm

 
This film, part of the BFI's sci-fi season, also screens on 9 November. Details here.

Time Out review:
Hemmed in by an arid marriage, paunchy middle-aged banker John Randolph grasps another chance at life when a secret organisation transforms him into hunky Rock Hudson and gives him a new start as an artist in Californian beach-front bohemia. Freedom, however, turns out to be a rather daunting prospect, and the struggle to fill the blank canvas comes to typify Hudson's unease with his new existence. Saul Bass' unsettling title sequence sets the scene for the concise articulation of fifty-something bourgeois despair, as visualised by James Wong Howe's distorting camerawork and the edgy discord of Jerry Goldsmith's excoriating score. After that, the film's uptight view of the hang-loose West Coast feels like a slightly forced argument, until Frankenheimer regroups and the jaws of the narrative shut tight on one of the most chilling endings in all American cinema. Little wonder it flopped at the time, only to be cherished by a later generation, notably film-makers Siegel and McGehee who drew extensively on its themes and visuals in their debut Suture. (This downbeat sci-fi thriller completed Frankenheimer's loose 'paranoid' trilogy - earlier instalments being The Manchurian Candidate and Seven Days in May).
Trever Johnston

Here (and above) is Saul Bass's great title sequence.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 314: Tue Nov 11

Citizen Kane (Welles, 1941): Prince Charles Cinema, 8.45pm


This movie screens as part of the Classic Film season at the Prince Charles. Details here.

Chicago Reader review:
'What can you say about the movie that taught you what movies were? The first time I saw Kane I discovered the existence of the director; the next dozen or so times taught me what he did—with lights and camera angles, cutting and composition, texture and rhythm. Kane (1941) is no longer my favorite Orson Welles film (I'd take Ambersons, Falstaff, or Touch of Evil), but it is still the best place I know of to start thinking about Welles—or for that matter about movies in general.'
Dave Kehr

Here is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 313: Mon Nov 10

Bigger Than Life (Ray, 1956): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 6.10pm


Here's another chance to see Bigger Than Life, generally regarded to be Nicholas Ray's finest work, at the NFT. I saw the film on TV recently again and was mightily impressed.

Ray was one of the most interesting directors of Hollywood's Golden Age. Famously lauded for Rebel Without A Cause, he was also responsible for some of the most remarkable movies to emerge from America in the 1950s.

Ray directed the weird western Johnny Guitar and a fascinating anti-war drama in Bitter Victory, a Richard Burton vehicle now almost entirely forgotten but which deserves its growing reputation. However, Bigger Than Life is Ray's masterpiece. A searing indictment of American middle-class values, the film was trashed on release but came to the attention of film buffs in the 1960s after being championed by Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard.

In the movie James Mason plays a quiet sububan teacher who is transformed into a murderous megalomaniac following his addiction to cortisone. If the radical story wasn't recommendation enough, Ray's use of colour and his unequalled use of Cinemascope are masterful.

The film is also on at the NFT on 15 November but tonight's screening is introduced by Philip Kemp.

Chicago Reader review:
Nicholas Ray's potent 1956 CinemaScope melodrama dealt with the ill effects of cortisone on a frustrated middle-class grammar-school teacher (James Mason) at about the same time that the first wave of “wonder” drugs hit the market. But the true subject of this deeply disturbing picture is middle-class values—about money, education, culture, religion, patriarchy, and “getting ahead.” These values are thrown into bold relief by the hero's drug dependency and resulting megalomania, which leads to shocking and tragic results for his family (Barbara Rush and Robert Simon) as well as himself. Ray's use of 'Scope framing and color to delineate the hero's dreams and dissatisfactions has rarely been as purposeful. (It's hard to think of another Hollywood picture with more to say about the sheer awfulness of “normal” American family life during the 50s.) With Walter Matthau in an early noncomic role as the hero's best friend; scripted by Cyril Hume, Richard Maibum, and an uncredited Clifford Odets.
Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 312: Sun Nov 9

Day for Night (Truffaut, 1973): Ritzy Cinema, 4pm


This is a  Guardian Film Club presentation with director Richard Ayoade and the newspaper's film critic Peter Bradshaw. Here is the Ritzy Cinema introduction to the afternoon's events:

Guardian Film Club is a chance to hear some of today’s filmmakers talk about their work and the films that have influenced them, and to revisit a classic of modern cinema. Each guest will curate a film of their choice and take part in a Q&A hosted by a member of the Guardian Film team, followed by a screening of the film.

First up: Richard Ayoade will introduce François Truffaut’s DAY FOR NIGHT. The comedian and actor, best known for his role in The IT Crowd, has directed music videos for bands including the Arctic Monkeys and Vampire Weekend. His first film, SUBMARINE, was a stylish adaptation of Joe Dunthorne’s coming-of-age novel. THE DOUBLE, released this year, is an unsettling, absurdist comedy about a meek office worker who meets his doppelgänger, and is inspired by a Dostoyevsky story.

Richard will talk to Guardian film critic Peter Bradshaw about François Truffaut’s DAY FOR NIGHT, a film about filmmaking. Truffaut himself plays the harassed director making a melodrama called Meet Pamela on location in Nice. As the production descends into chaos, it is his job to keep the drama of real life (including affairs, accidents, imbroglios, death) off the screen. A gentle, funny tribute to the movie business and the magic of cinema, the film won the 1973 Oscar for Best Foreign Film. Watch out for a cameo appearance by Graham Greene.

This October, Faber will publish Ayoade on Ayoade: A Cinematic Odyssey, in which the director reflects on his great cinematic legacy as only he can: in conversation with himself. You can buy a copy of the book at a special discount price of £12 when you purchase your ticket for this event.

Time Out review:
If we’re to learn anything from François Truffaut’s delicately cynical, New Hollywood-style satire from 1973 on the joys and pains of movie making (re-released in conjunction with the BFI’s current Truffaut season), it’s that we must view directors as social and professional chameleons. They must tap in to the emotions of their cast and exploit real suffering for the good of their camera. They must stand their ground with money men, sometimes employing visual trickery and snap decisions to preserve their integrity. Most of all, they must suppress the cosmic fury that comes when a leading lady arrives on set drunk or a trained kitten refuses to hit a mark.

It’s a hilarious and informative movie, and in the pantheon of films about filmmaking, it strikes a neat balance between the operatic neuroses of ‘8 1/2’ and the warm, pastel-hued nostalgia of ‘Singin’ in the Rain’. Also of interest – and a devious nod back to his ’60s heyday – is the manner in which Truffaut captures these behind-the-scenes shenanigans, employing gliding crane shots and flashes of abrupt editing to make us fully aware of the majestically artificial way the world is depicted by filmmakers.

Truffaut stars as indefatigable director Ferrand, shooting a fusty melodrama called ‘Meet Pamela’ and wearing the same sports jacket, shirt and tie combo as he would in ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’. He delivers the same coolly detached performance too, though it works a lot better in this context. The fact that his childish lead (Jean-Pierre Léaud, of course) is too often in a strop to concentrate on the part, or that his star (Jacqueline Bisset) is a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown are accepted as part and parcel of the business. But as Ferrand makes sure he’s seen in possession of a stack of serious film tomes and has nightmares about being trapped outside a cinema showing ‘Citizen Kane’, the point is that even if the end result is a piece of trash, a director always strives to be an artist.

David Jenkins

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 311: Sat Nov 8

House of Mortal Sin (Walker, 1975): Barbican Cinema, 4pm


This film, introduced by Kim Newman, is part of a Cigarette Burns Film Club season at the Barbican Cinema dedicated to the cult director Pete Walker. Full details here.

Here is an introduction to the season by Nia Edwards-Behi at the Brutal As Hell website: Londoners, and those of you inclined to travel: Cigarette Burns, brainchild of Josh Saco, unraveller of reels of oft-forgotten but much-adored cult oddities on silver screens across London, has got one hell of a treat lined up for you this coming November. The Barbican Centre has invited Cigarette Burns to programme a season of films, and the result is The House of Walker, dedicated to the cinema of British cult stalwart, Pete Walker.

With an active career of roughly 10 years, Pete Walker churned out a staggering 16 films, capturing a 1970s England ripped from the most hysterical of Daily Mail headlines. Exclusively genre based, and one of the very few independent UK exploitation directors, his efforts have long been somewhat overlooked, but every Saturday throughout the month, a choice cut from Walker’s body of work will be presented complete with an introductory talk – including one from Walker himself.

Here is the Barbican introduction to House of Mortal Sin:
Scriptwriter David McGillivray's third collaboration with Walker, and this time they take on the might of the Church. Father Meldrum (Anthony Sharp) is suffering from a serious case of moral decay. Fortunately, his position in society provides just the right cover, and when young Jenny Welch (Susan Penhaligon) catches his eye, he'll go to any length to get what he wants.

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 310: Fri Nov 7

Playtime (Tati, 1967): Cine Lumiere, 3pm



This re-release of the Jacques Tati classic is on a short run at the Cine Lumiere. Details here.

Chicago Reader review:
My favorite movie, this 1967 French comedy by actor-director Jacques Tati has the most intricately designed mise en scene in all of cinema. The restored 65-millimeter version, with four-track DTS sound, expands the possibilities of becoming lost in Tati's vast frames and creatively finding one's way again. His studio-constructed vision of Paris begins in daytime with nightmarishly regimented straight lines and right angles and proceeds to night with accidental yet celebratory curves of people instinctively coming together. It peaks in an extraordinary sequence, set in a gradually disintegrating restaurant, that comprises almost half the film: once various musicians start to perform, the viewer's gaze inevitably follows the customers in a kind of improvised dance, collecting and juxtaposing simultaneous comic events and details. In this landscape everyone is a tourist, but Tati suggests that once we can find one another, we all belong.
Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 309: Thu Nov 6

The Overnighters (Moss, 2014): ICA Cinema, 6.45pm



Here is the ICA introduction:

Winner of the Special Jury Award at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, this raw documentary follows the progress of a community in North Dakota, to which the sudden discovery of a vast oilfield inspired thousands of impoverished Americans to migrate in search of work and fortune.
Focusing on a charismatic Lutheran pastor as he struggles alongside his flock to adjust to the change, the film is at once an in-depth study of a society undergoing transformation, and a powerful testament to small-town America’s fight for survival in the face of economic crisis. 

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 308: Wed Nov 5

V for Vendetta (McTegiue, 2006): Prince Charles Cinema, 8.45pm


A special November 5th screening of this dystopian sci-fi film at the Prince Charles.

Chicago Reader review:
A popcorn movie that preaches mass rebellion against the government—what's not to like? After milking The Matrix for two superfluous sequels, writer-producers Andy and Larry Wachowski adapt a 1989 graphic novel by David Lloyd and Alan Moore; set in a futuristic Great Britain, the movie follows a masked figure (Hugo Weaving) as he carries out a series of assassinations and tries to unite the cowed populace against a totalitarian national-security state. The swashbuckling first hour is superior to the second, which bursts at the seams with backstory, but a rousing climax makes this the most potent piece of agitpop in years.
JR Jones

Here (and above) is an extract.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 307: Tue Nov 4

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Siegel, 1956):
BFI Southbank, NFT1 6.30pm & NFT3, 8.45pm



This film, which is part of the BFI sci-fi season,is on an extended run at the cinema. Details here.

Chicago Reader review:
This genuine SF classic (1956) says a good deal more about the McCarthyist hysteria of the early 50s than about the danger of invasion from outer space by soul-stealing “pods.” Don Siegel's superb little effort, with its matter-of-fact isolation of hero Kevin McCarthy (ironic, no?) from the smarmy complacency of a small town gone to hell—and way beyond—points the way to his gripping action films of the 60s and 70s (Madigan, Coogan's Bluff, Dirty Harry).
Don Druker

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 306: Mon Nov 3

Bande a Part (Godard, 1963): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 6.30pm


This film, part of the Passport to Cinema season at BFI Southbank, also screens on 2 November. Details here. Tonight's presentation will be introduced by Richard Combs.

Chicago Reader review:
A gangster story, sort of, by Jean-Luc Godard, who supposedly told his backers that he was going to make a sequel to Breathless and then delivered this mix of musical comedy, slapstick, violence, and incidental observations on politics and philosophy. Claude Brasseur, Sami Frey, and Anna Karina make fairly inept burglars, but they do a wonderful version of the "Steam Heat" number from Stanley Donen's The Pajama Game. This 1964 feature remains one of Godard's most appealing and underrated films, relatively relaxed and strangely optimistic.
Dave Kehr


Here (and above) is the famous dance scene.



Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 305: Sun Nov 2

Zabriskie Point (Antonioni, 1970):
Hackney, Clapham, Greenwich & Ritzy Picturehouse Cinemas, 12.30pm 



Chicago Reader review:
'Though Michelangelo Antonioni's only American film was very poorly received when it was released in 1969, time has been much kinder to it than to, say, La Notte, which was made a decade earlier. Antonioni's nonrealistic approach to American counterculture myths and his loose and slow approach to narrative may still put some people off—along with the uneven dialogue (credited to Fred Gardner, Sam Shepard, Tonino Guerra, Clare Peploe, and the director)—but his beautiful handling of 'Scope compositions and moods has many lingering aftereffects, and the grand and beautiful apocalyptic finale is downright spectacular. With Mark Frechette, Daria Halprin, and Rod Taylor.'
Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here is the famous explosive finale.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 304: Sat Nov 1

The Comeback (Walker, 1978): Barbican Cinema, 4pm


This movie, introduced by Josh Saco of the Cigarette Burns film club, is part of a season at the Barbican Cinema dedicated to the cult director Pete Walker. Full details here.

Here is an introduction to the season by Nia Edwards-Behi at the Brutal As Hell website:Londoners, and those of you inclined to travel: Cigarette Burns, brainchild of Josh Saco, unraveller of reels of oft-forgotten but much-adored cult oddities on silver screens across London, has got one hell of a treat lined up for you this coming November. The Barbican Centre has invited Cigarette Burns to programme a season of films, and the result is The House of Walker, dedicated to the cinema of British cult stalwart, Pete Walker.

With an active career of roughly 10 years, Pete Walker churned out a staggering 16 films, capturing a 1970s England ripped from the most hysterical of Daily Mail headlines. Exclusively genre based, and one of the very few independent UK exploitation directors, his efforts have long been somewhat overlooked, but every Saturday throughout the month, a choice cut from Walker’s body of work will be presented complete with an introductory talk – including one from Walker himself.

Here is the Barbican introduction to The Comeback:
Pete Walker draws heavily on the Italian Giallo movement for this classic thriller. Singer Nick Cooper (Jack Jones) returns to London to get his career back on track, unaware that his estranged wife has been brutally murdered. As bizarre events begin to pile up, it’s questionable whether Jack is losing his mind or is genuinely in mortal danger.

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 303: Fri Oct 31

Zombieland (Fleischer, 2009): Rio Cinema, 11.30pm



Great programming from the Rio Cinema for Halloween with a Laurel and Hardy classic short and a Betty Boop cartoon (originally banned in 1933) accompanying the main feature Zombieland, a post-apocalyptic road comedy.

Chicago Reader review of Zombieland:
Scattershot but sharp, this postapocalyptic road comedy gives Shaun of the Dead a run for its money. Jesse Eisenberg (Adventureland, The Squid and the Whale) is a neurotic loner whose life hasn’t changed much since a zombie plague ended civilization as we know it; eventually he teams up with an ass-kicking Woody Harrelson and tough-as-nails sisters Emma Stone (Superbad) and Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine) to find a more hospitable terrain. Writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick wring a surprising amount of juice from the familiar premise, and director Ruben Fleischer heaps on the gore without burying their character-based comedy and surprisingly heartfelt moments. This is worth seeing just for the title sequence.
Cliff Doerksen

LAUREL AND HARDY: Another unlikely but loveable pair of idiots get into another fine mess when Stan and Ollie become body snatchers for a mad scientist in the 1928 classic HABEAS CORPUS.

+ BETTY BOOP: It's the scariest time of year, and sexy, surreal cartoon legend Betty Boop hosts a party with the help a scarecrow, but an uninvited gorilla causes chaos. BETTY BOOP'S HALLOWEEN PARTY was banned in 1933, but now everyone can singalong to "Let's All Sing Like the Birdies Sing."

£10 entrance includes complimentary blood red cocktail.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 302: Thu Oct 30

Warsaw Bridge (Portabella, 1989): ICA Cinema, 8.50pm


Here is the ICA introduction:
Catalan director Pere Portabella’s ground-breaking masterpiece Warsaw Bridge (Pont de Varsòvia) is an artistic and political essay on the Europe of the late 80s, with its vacuities and an amnesiac political class. It is a beautiful avant-garde film and it was praised by the director of Silence of the Lambs, Jonathan Demme, when he said:

'I was lucky enough to first see Warsaw Bridge at the Contemporary Arts Museum in Barcelona in the summer of 2000 as part of a “hometown boy makes good” retrospective the museum was presenting of Portabella’s work. I was literally freaked and said, “Who? Pere Portabella? Used to produce Bunuel films? Why haven’t I ever even heard of this guy? How could a rich and dazzling and sumptuous film such as this remain so utterly unknown in my country? The exquisite images, the superbly rendered music, the bravura style, this bold narrative, the great performances, the perfection of the totality of this unique and vibrant wonderland of a film — How to get it seen in America?'


New York Times review:
“You’re stifled by rather precarious aesthetics,” one character says to another in Pere Portabella’s “Warsaw Bridge,” a film from 1990. Aren’t we all? For his part Mr. Portabella seems pretty comfortable with his aesthetic of narrative enigma, elegant camerawork and attractive people who speak in literary and intellectual riddles. A Catalan filmmaker whose recent work includes “The Silence Before Bach,” Mr. Portabella was for many years associated with Luis Buñuel. “Warsaw Bridge,” which takes place mostly in Barcelona (with a few scenes in Berlin), is not shy about declaring a debt to Buñuelian surrealism. This is especially true in several exquisite musical interludes, including one in which the members of an orchestra, housed in separate apartments, follow their conductor’s gestures on video monitors, and another set in a seragliolike bathhouse. Connecting these images is an elusive story, or rather a series of events and conversations organized around a central anecdote.
A. O. Scott

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 301: Wed Oct 29

Brazil (Gilliam, 1984): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 8.15pm


This film, part of the BFI sci-fi season, also screens on 1 and 3 November. Details here.

Brazil has a fascinating history. Universal Studios were horrified on seeing the original cut Terry Gilliam wanted to put out and after a lengthy delay while studio executives dithered the director was forced to take a full-page ad out in trade magazine Variety demanding to know why his film had not been released.

The version of Brazil released outside the United States was very different from the one seen by Americans, which was drastically re-edited and given a happy ending. The Brazil Gilliam wanted the public to see and the one which will be screened here is a bold and superbly imaginative movie with an ending which haunted me for some time when I saw it on its initial release.

Gilliam himself said he wanted Brazil to be "the Nineteen Eighty-Four for 1984". In many ways he  succeeded, creating a nightmarish Orwellian world in which freedom is limited while fashioning a film which leaves its audience dumbfounded and despairing. No wonder Universal could not face unleashing it on an unsuspecting American public.

Chicago Reader review:
Terry Gilliam's ferociously creative black comedy (1985) is filled with wild tonal contrasts, swarming details, and unfettered visual invention—every shot carries a charge of surprise and delight. Jonathan Pryce is Sam Lowry (the name suggests Stan Laurel, and Pryce wears Laurel's expression of perpetually astonished innocence), a minor functionary in a totalitarian government of the near future; his only escape from the parodistically bleak urban environment (resourcefully rendered by Gilliam through a combination of sets, models, and locations) is in his dreams, where he becomes a winged, heroic figure rescuing a ravishing blond. Of course, it isn't long before the blond (Kim Greist) walks into his waking life. Robert De Niro contributes a gruffly funny cameo as the one knight of honor in the ashen land: a guerrilla heating-duct repairman. With Michael Palin, Katherine Helmond, Ian Holm, Peter Vaughan, and Bob Hoskins.
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 300: Tue Oct 28

Violette (Provost, 2013): Cine Lumiere, 8.40pm


This critically acclaimed French film has a short run at Cine Lumiere. Details here.

Time Out review:
Transforming from a black-market trafficker into France’s boldest post-WWII author, Violette Leduc created protofeminist scandals with her novels, particularly Ravages (1955) and The Bastard (1964). The path was hard for her; Violette spends much of its time in its subject’s sad “rat hole” of a Paris apartment, where inspiration strikes as often as the furnace breaks down. It’s lonely work. Director Martin Provost does well by the real labor of writing, eliciting superb internal pain from Emmanuelle Devos. Also given sensitive expression is frustrated lust (Sandrine Kiberlain plays frosty Simone de Beauvoir, mentor and love object), along with a hefty dose of self-hatred and mommy issues. It’s a movie about coming to peace with solitude, leagues beyond most biopics.
Joshua Rothkopf

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 299: Mon Oct 27

Stalker (Tarkovsky, 1979): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 8pm



This film, which also screens on 1 November at 4.50pm, is part of the BFI sci-fi season. Details here.

Chicago Reader review:
Andrei Tarkovsky's 1979 masterpiece, like his earlier Solaris, is a free and allegorical adaptation of an SF novel, Arkady and Boris Strugatsky's Roadside Picnic. After a meteorite hits the earth, the region where it's fallen is believed to grant the wishes of those who enter and, sealed off by the authorities, can be penetrated only illegally and with special guides. One of them (Aleksandr Kaidanovsky), the stalker of the title, leads a writer and a professor through the grimiest industrial wasteland you've ever seen. What they find is pretty harsh and has none of the usual satisfactions of SF quests, but Tarkovsky regards their journey as a contemporary spiritual quest. His mise en scene is mesmerizing, and the final scene is breathtaking. Not an easy film, but almost certainly a great one.
Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here (and above) is an extract.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 298: Sun Oct 26

Man with a Movie Camera (Vertov, 1929): Barbican Cinema, 4pm


This film, voted No1 in the recent Sight & Sound poll of best documentaries of all time, screens as part of the cinema's City Vision season. Full details here. The film will feature live musical accompaniment by Paul Robinson's HarmonieBand.

Chicago Reader review:
Dziga Vertov's 1929 Russian film amounts to a catalog of all the tricks the movies can perform. As a newsreel cameraman travels through a city (actually an amalgam of Moscow and Odessa), Vertov transforms the images captured by his camera through a kaleidoscope of slow motion, superimposition, animation, and wild montage effects. Vertov's motives were impeccably Marxist-Leninist—he wanted to expose the materialism behind an illusionist medium—but his film set off a storm of debate among his colleagues, who accused him of the bourgeois crime of “impressionism.” The film's real influence did not emerge for another 40 years, when it was taken up by American structuralist filmmakers on one side of the Atlantic and by French neoleftists on the other. The film remains a fascinating souvenir, though its flourishes are now fairly familiar.
Dave Kehr


Here is an extract.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 297: Sat Oct 25

The Damned (Losey, 1963): BFI Southbank, NFT3, 8.30pm


This film, part of the BFI Sci-Fi season, also screens on 25 October (with an introduction by John Oliver). Full details here.

Chicago Reader review:
Joseph Losey's black-and-white SF thriller, made in 1962 during his pre-Pinter British period, begins as a sort of love story—MacDonald Carey is an American businessman who shows interest in Shirley Anne Field and as a consequence gets beaten up by teddy boys led by Oliver Reed—then gradually turns into an antinuclear parable about radioactive children sequestered from humanity in an underground cave.  The film was mangled by distributors but later restored for TV; more than an interesting curiosity, it's one of Losey's best English efforts, and Viveca Lindfors contributes a striking part as an eccentric sculptress.
Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 296: Fri Oct 24

She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (Ford, 1949): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 8.40pm


This classic Ford western also screens on October 20 (with introduction by Dominic Power) and October 21 as part of the Passport to Cinema season. Full details here.

Chicago Reader review:
Of all John Ford's lyrical films, this 1949 feature is the one that most nearly leaves narrative behind; it is pure theme and variation, centered on the figure of a retiring cavalry officer (John Wayne, playing with strength and conviction a man well beyond his actual age). The screenplay (by Frank Nugent and Laurence Stallings) is entirely episodic, and it ends in a magnificently sustained series of anticlimaxes, suggesting it could spin out forever. In Ford's superbly creative hands, it becomes perhaps the only avant-garde film ever made about the importance of tradition. With Joanne Dru, John Agar, Ben Johnson, Harry Carey Jr., Victor McLaglen, Mildred Natwick, and George O'Brien.
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is an extract.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 295: Thu Oct 23

Histoires d'Amerique (Akerman, 1989): ICA Cinema, 7pm


This screening is part of what is believed to be the most complete retrospective ever attempted of Chantal Akerman's work, and is presented by film collective A Nos Amours.

Here is the ICA introduction:

Histoires d’Amerique was shot in New York, conjouring up a specific diasporic context – not dissimilar to that of Woody Allen’s masterpiece Broadway Danny Rose. This may be the new world, but the horror of the old is never far from the surface. Mordant observation and biting cynism rule.
Akerman asked her cast to recreate jokes, fables and anecdotes, culled from real-life testimony, sashaying from the comical to the tragic, interleaving all with slapstick humour as only Jewish New York knows how. As Akerman has said: when history become impossible to bear, there is only one thing to do: send yourself up and laugh.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 294: Wed Oct 22

Street Trash (Muro, 1987): Prince Charles Cinema, 6.45pm


The Cigarette Burns film club run by Josh Saco has certainly made its mark on the London scene in the past few years with a number of original and exciting screenings. Tonight's presentation should not disappoint those in search of archetypal late-night film fare, a classic piece of 80s US exploitation cinema.

Chicago Reader review:
The movie is a unique snapshot of its times, when bad-taste humor intersected with Reagan-era loathing of the poor. The owner of a skid-row liquor store uncovers an ancient case of hooch called Viper and sells it for a buck a bottle to the bums who congregate around a nearby junkyard; when they drink it, their flesh melts into puddles of multicolored (but mostly blue) goo. Muro serves up a smorgasbord of smut, gross-out gags, and grisly special effects, with politically incorrect digs at blacks, women. the disabled, Vietnam vets, and of course the destitute. There's something to offend everyone, though the perversity can be inspired: puckish oboe music accompanies a scene of a woman being crushed by her horny, 300-pound boss, and the score turns to jolly barrelhouse rock 'n' roll as a bum chases around a junkyard after his severed penis, which is being tossed back and forth by his guffawing buddies.
JR Jones

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 293: Tue Oct 21

Le Jour Se Leve (Carne, 1939): Cine Lumiere, 6.30pm


This re-release is on a short run at the Cine Lumiere until 30 October. Here are the details.

Time Out review:
Possibly the best of the Carné-Prévert films, certainly their collaboration at its most classically pure, with Gabin a dead man from the outset as his honest foundry worker, hounded into jealousy and murder by a cynical seducer, holes up with a gun in an attic surrounded by police, remembering in flashback how it all started while he waits for the end. Fritz Lang might have given ineluctable fate a sharper edge (less poetry, more doom), but he couldn't have bettered the performances from Gabin, Berry, Arletty, and (as the subject of Gabin's romantic agony) Laurent. Remade in Hollywood as The Long Night in 1947.
Tom Milne

Here (and above) is an extract.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 292: Mon Oct 20

The Tree of Life (Malick, 2011): Prince Charles Cinema, 8.45pm


This screening is part of the Prince Charles Cinema's Terrence Malick retrospective. Full details here.

Chicago Reader review:
A masterpiece, this fifth feature by Terrence Malick manages to reconcile the emotional force of his 70s classics, Badlands and Days of Heaven, with the epic naturalism of his more recent comeback films, The Thin Red Line (1998) and The New World (2005). Brad Pitt gives an impressively sober, tight-lipped performance as the rigid 1950s patriarch of a little family in Waco, Texas, a decent but angry man whose strict treatment of his three young sons is countered by the love and Christian grace of his ethereal wife (Jessica Chastain). Interspersed with this humble family conflict are scenes of the world's creation that Malick concocted with the legendary special effects artist Douglas Trumbull (2001: A Space Odyssey). These audacious sequences can't help but evoke the metaphysical questing of 2001, and in fact The Tree of Life often feels like a religious response to Stanley Kubrick's cold, cerebral view of our place in the universe. Not to be missed.
JR Jones

Here (and above) are the famous formation of life sequences.