Thursday, 27 November 2014

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 355: Tue Dec 23

Friendship's Death (Wollen, 1987): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 6.30pm


This film, part of the BFI sci-fi season, also screens on 29 December. Details here.

Time Out review:
In September 1970, a British war correspondent (Paterson) is distracted from his coverage of the bloody conflict between Palestinians and Jordanians when he rescues a young lady (Swinton) from a PLO patrol. Simply named Friendship, she claims to be an extraterrestrial robot sent to Earth on a peace mission and accidentally diverted from her original destination, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Is she insane, a spy, or telling the truth? Wollen's film comes across as a two-set Dr Who for adults, complete with political, philosophical and more pettily personal problems; the use of the alien outsider's way of seeing the world is perceptive and provocative, the plentiful ideas counterbalance the lack of extravagant spectacle. Best of all, the film displays a droll wit (Friendship viewing a typewriter as a distant cousin, or concocting a surreal thesis on the big toe's importance in the oppression of women) and a surprising ability to touch the heart. With two impressive central performances, Wollen at last proves himself able to direct actors, and has made by far his most rewarding movie to date.
Geoff Andrew

Here (and above) is an extract.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 354: Mon Dec 22

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Kaufman, 1978):: BFI Southbank, NFT3, 5.40pm


This film, part of the BFI sci-fi season, also screens on December 27. Details here.

Time Out review:
'Though it lacks the awesome allegorical ambiguousness of the 1956 classic of sci-fi/political paranoia (here paid homage in cameo appearances byKevin McCarthy and Don Siegel), Kaufman and screenwriter WD Richter's update and San Francisco transposition of Jack Finney's novel is a far from redundant remake. The extraterrestrial pod people now erupt into a world where seemingly everyone is already 'into' changing their lives or lifestyles, and into a cinematic landscape already criss-crossed by an endless series of conspiracies, while the movie has as much fun toying with modern thought systems (psychology, ecology) as with elaborate variations on its predecessor. Kaufman here turns in his most Movie Brattish film, but soft-pedals on both his special effects and knowing in-jokiness in a way that puts De Palma to shame; even extra bit appearances by Robert Duvall(Kaufman's Jesse James in The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid) and Hollywood archivist Tom Luddyare given a nicely take-it-or-leave-it dimension.'
Paul Taylor



Here is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 353: Sun Dec 21

Solaris (Tarkovsky, 1972): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 7.45pm



This film is part of the BFI sci-fi season and also screens on 30 December. Details here.

Chicago Reader review:
Although Andrei Tarkovsky regarded this 1972 SF spectacle in 'Scope as the weakest of his films, it holds up remarkably well as a soulful Soviet “response” to 2001: A Space Odyssey, concentrating on the limits of man's imagination in relation to memory and conscience. Sent to a remote space station poised over the mysterious planet Solaris in order to investigate the puzzling data sent back by an earlier mission, a psychologist (Donatas Banionis) discovers that the planet materializes human forms based on the troubled memories of the space explorers—including the psychologist's own wife (Natalya Bondarchuk), who'd killed herself many years before but is repeatedly resurrected before his eyes. More an exploration of inner than of outer space, Tarkovsky's eerie mystic parable is given substance by the filmmaker's boldly original grasp of film language and the remarkable performances by all the principals. In Russian with subtitles. 165 min.

Jonathan Rosenabum


Here (and above) is an extract.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 352: Sat Dec 20

 Bad Santa (Zwigoff, 2003): Everyman Cinema, 11.30pm


Chicago Reader review:
After the remarkable one-two punch of Crumb and Ghost World, Terry Zwigoff eases into the mainstream with this R-rated holiday comedy (2003) about an alcoholic thief (Billy Bob Thornton) working as a department store Santa. He and his partner, a caustic dwarf (Tony Cox), show up in a different city every year and rip off the store safe on Christmas Eve, but their scam is complicated this time when a miserable fat kid (Bret Kelly) attaches himself to the bitter, foulmouthed Thornton. Joel and Ethan Coen wrote the story, using the ancient gag of the toxic Santa as a vehicle for their patented brand of misanthropy. With Bernie Mac, Lauren Graham, and John Ritter in his last film.
JR Jones

Here (and above) is the trailer.

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

No 2: 'Quote-along' Elf (Favreau, 2003): Prince Charles Cinema, 6.45pm


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

Here is the Santa announcement scene.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 351: Fri Dec 19

Dark Star (Carpenter, 1974): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 6.30pm


This film is part of the BFI sci-fi season and also screens on 22 & 28 December. Details here.

Chicago Reader review:
In John Carpenter's witty and stylish 1974 sci-fi satire, the Dark Star is an intergalactic bomber wandering through the universe on a vaguely Nixonian mission to destroy unpopulated planets that might stand in the way of space travel. The ship's crew is variously bored, blissed out, and restlessly rambunctious. By introducing human eccentricities (mostly southern Californian in nature) into the cold structure of science fiction, Carpenter creates a vision of the technological future that is both disillusioned and oddly affirmative in its insistence on the unscientific survival of emotional frailty. Amazingly, the film (Carpenter's first) was made on a reported budget of $60,000. With Dan O'Bannon (also the coscenarist) and Brian Narelle.
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 350: Thu Dec 18

Gremlins (Dante, 1984): Prince Charles Cinema, 6.30pm


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 and (above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 349: Wed Dec 17

Quatermass and the Pit (Ward Baker, 1967): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 8.40pm


This film also screens on 8 & 12 December and is part of the BFI sci-fi season. Details here.

Time Out review:
'The third and most interesting of Nigel Kneale's Quatermass parables, scripted without interference by Kneale himself from his original TV series, so that his richly allusive web of occult, anthropological, religious and extraterrestrial speculation emerges intact as excavations at a London underground station turn up what appears to be an unexploded Nazi bomb, but proves to be a mysterious space craft.'
David Pirie

Here is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 348: Tue Dec 16

Scrooge (Hurst, 1951): Ritzy Cinema, 12pm



This is one of my favourite Christmas films and well worth catching at the cinema instead of on Channel 5 each year on Christmas Eve when they show it in the dreadful colourised version.

This film also screens at the Greenwich Picturehouse on 8 Decemberthe Hackney Picturehouse on 11 December and at BFI Southbank on 8 December.

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 (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 347: Mon Dec 15

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Spielberg, 1977): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 8.20pm


This film also screens on 18 December and is part of the BFI sci-fi season. Details here.

Chicago Reader review:
For better or worse, one of Steven Spielberg's best films (1977), and perhaps still the best expression of his benign, dreamy-eyed vision. Humanity's first contact with alien beings proves to be a cause for celebration and a form of showbiz razzle-dazzle that resembles a slowly descending chandelier in a movie palace. The events leading up to this epiphany are a mainly well-orchestrated buildup through which several diverse individuals—Richard Dreyfuss, Francois Truffaut, Melinda Dillon—are drawn to the site where this spectacle takes place. Very close in overall spirit and nostalgic winsomeness to the fiction of Ray Bradbury, with beautiful cinematography by Vilmos Zsigmond that deservedly won an Oscar. This is dopey Hollywood mysticism all right, but thanks to considerable craft and showmanship, it packs an undeniable punch. With Teri Garr, Cary Guffey, and Bob Balaban.

Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 346: Sun Dec 14

2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick, 1968): BFI Southbank, NFT3, 2.30pm


This landmark film, on an extended run in the sci-fi seasomn at BFI Southbank, is also being screened in 70mm on the 2nd and 7th December. Full details here.

Chicago Reader review:
'Seeing this 1968 masterpiece in 70-millimeter, digitally restored and with remastered sound, provides an ideal opportunity to rediscover this mind-blowing myth of origin as it was meant to be seen and heard, an experience no video setup, no matter how elaborate, could ever begin to approach. The film remains threatening to contemporary studiothink in many important ways: Its special effects are used so seamlessly as part of an overall artistic strategy that, as critic Annette Michelson has pointed out, they don't even register as such. Dialogue plays a minimal role, yet the plot encompasses the history of mankind (a province of SF visionary Olaf Stapledon, who inspired Kubrick's co-writer, Arthur C. Clarke). And, like its flagrantly underrated companion piece, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, it meditates at length on the complex relationship between humanity and technology—not only the human qualities that we ascribe to machines but also the programming we knowingly or unknowingly submit to. The film's projections of the cold war and antiquated product placements may look quaint now, but the poetry is as hard-edged and full of wonder as ever.' 139 min.


Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 345: Sat Dec 13

Black Christmas (Clark, 1974): Hackney Picturehouse, 11pm


Hackney Picturehouse introduction:
The few remaining residents of a Canadian sorority house are celebrating the onset of Christmas vacation when a thirteen year-old girl is found dead in the park. Soon, it is discovered that one of the sorority sisters is missing, which triggers a terrifying chain of murders within the house ...  Director Bob Clark's tense, effective film is a precursor to the 'slasher' films Friday 13th and Halloween that would come a half decade later.

Popcorn Horror website review:
What’s so terrifying about Black Christmas is its own history. If you’re a film buff you’re probably aware of this film’s existence: “that Christmas themed horror”/”the first slasher”. Its this status as one of the earliest slashers that sets up a false sense of security. Unlike the standard template however, the antagonist is not a lumbering threat. The fact he stays hidden in the shadows of the house means his omnipresence (an idiom Black Christmas does conform to) is verisimilitudinous without resorting to fantastical devices.
Something is a little unsettling about Black Christmas. It’s a little too confined, the players somewhat more trapped, the playing field is that bit smaller. There’s the traditional set-up but then, early on are the phone-calls. Not calls that Scream hoped to parody; Scream would be lucky if it could capture something as revolting as these. The calls in the movie are genuinely some of the most horrifying, deranged audio ever committed to film. It’s something that will stand out and stay with you. This helps build the palpable tension and star Olivia Hussey is a grand scream queen.
But the best thing about Black Christmas? The plot goes in a direction that will leave you thinking for days , if  not weeks. Yes, there are huge leaps in logic (why do the girls stay in the sorority house after several murders? Why do the police not have someone next to the phone 24/7?) It doesn’t  matter, this remains utterly original and raw. Thanks to the performances and brutality of the story, this continues to be a terrifying movie to all but the most cynical; and frankly if this picture doesn’t make your skin crawl, it’s on too tight.
RJ Bayley


Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 344: Fri Dec 12

Alien (Scott, 1979): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 8.40pm


This film, part of the BFI sci-fi season, also screens on 10 and 14 December. Details here.

Time Out review:
In the wake of the huge commercial success of Alien, almost all attention has perversely focused on the provenance of the script (was it a rip-off of It, the Terror from Beyond Space? Of Van Vogt's fiction? Was former John Carpenter collaborator Dan O'Bannon sold out by producers Walter Hill and David Giler's rewrites?). But the limited strengths of its staple sci-fi horrors - crew of commercial spacecraft menaced by stowaway monster - always derived from either the offhand organic/ Freudian resonances of its design or the purely (brilliantly) manipulative editing and pacing of its above-average shock quota. Intimations of a big-budget Dark Star fade early, and notions of Weaver as a Hawksian woman rarely develop beyond her resourceful reaction to jeopardy. At least Scott has no time to dawdle over redundant futuristic effects in the fashion that scuttles his later Blade Runner.
Paul Taylor

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 343: Thu Dec 11

 Nuit et Jour (Akerman, 1991): ICA Cinema, 7pm


This is part of the A Nos Amours film club Chantal Akerman retrospective. Details here.

Here is the ICA introduction:
Julie (Londez) and Jack (Langmann) are a provincial couple in love who have only just moved to Paris. Home is a small flat, but just the nest for young lovers. By day they make love, while by night Jack drives a taxi, and Julie walks the summer streets, singing happily to herself. They meet Joseph (Negret), another newcomer to the city, driver of Jack's cab by the day. Julie falls for Joseph. Julie now has lovers round the clock. Julie resists making a choice. Why should she? She can even happily, dreamily make do without sleep. Is night better than day, or vice versa?

Picking up on the insomnia and nocturnals of Toute une nuit and Les rendez-vous d'Anna, but finding a new ease, and musical cadence to the marking of time and gesture that seems quite composed and song-like. Perhaps the Akerman is channeling the mysterious and other-worldly patterns of Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse dancing in the dark in Central Park (thinking of course of the Band Wagon of 1953). In any case, this is a remarkable, ravishing film, full of brilliance.

This screening is introduced by the critic Olaf Möller.

Chicago Reader review:
One of the constants of Chantal Akerman's remarkable work is a powerful if “heavy” painterly style that practically precludes narrative flow even when she's telling stories. Even at her best, as in Jeanne Dielman and The Man With a Suitcase, the only kind of character development she seems able to articulate with conviction is a gradual descent into madness. But the relatively unneurotic Night and Day (1991) strikes me as her most successful work in years. Julie (Guilaine Londez), the heroine, makes love to Jack (Thomas Langmann) in their small flat by day and wanders through Paris at night while he drives a cab—until she meets Joseph (Francois Negret) and guiltlessly launches a secret nighttime affair with him. Akerman brings a lyricism to the material that makes it “sing” like a musical. Whether the camera is gracefully traversing Jack and Julie's flat or slowly retreating from Julie and Joseph across bustling traffic while he recounts the things he loves about Paris, Akerman seems to have discovered both a musical rhythm for her mise en scene and a deftness in integrating her score that eluded her in her literal musical Window Shopping. This movie isn't for everyone—no Akerman feature is—but if you care about her work you shouldn't miss it.
Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 342: Wed Dec 10

One-Way Boogie Woogie/27 Years Later (Benning, 1977/2005): Barbican Cinema, 7pm


This is part of the Architecture on Film season at the Barbican. Details here.

Chicago Reader review:
Titled after Piet Mondrian's painting Broadway Boogie Woogie, James Benning's experimental masterpiece One Way Boogie Woogie (1977) consists of 60 one-minute takes shot with a stationary camera in an industrial valley near his native Milwaukee. The film strikes a graceful balance between abstraction (either found or created) and personal history, with ingenious uses of on- and offscreen sound, and it plays like a portfolio of 60 miniature films, each a suspenseful puzzle and a beautifully composed mechanism. A few years ago Benning returned to his hometown to fashion this shot-for-shot remake (2005), planting his camera in the same places and, whenever possible, using the same people. Though it's not on the same level, it's a poignant and fascinating companion piece.
Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here (and above) is an extract.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 341: Tue Dec 9

The Decalogue 9 & 10 (Kieslowski, 1989): ICA Cinema, 8.15pm


 
Here is the ICA introduction:
The ICA is celebrating the 25th anniversary of Krzysztof Kieślowski's 1989 masterpiece The Decalogue (Dekalog) with a complete retrospective. The Decalogue is a renowned Polish television drama series directed by Kieślowski and co-written with Krzysztof Piesiewicz, with music by Zbigniew Preisner. It consists of ten one-hour films, inspired by the Ten Commandments.

Kieślowski's works are meditative, often melancholic in tone, expressionist in technique, and tackle themes of identity and what it means to be at once connected and isolated. The Decalogue is a work that reflects the instability and ongoing transformation of an individual’s life. It's an examination of the emotions upon which life itself is built: emotions which are the driving force behind all our decisions, choices, mistakes and sins.

This retrospective is not only a journey through The Decalogue series but also presents some of Kieślowski’s first documentaries and other pivotal yet lesser known films.


The Decalogue 9 is a Hitchcockian tale of a man who gives his wife the freedom to sleep with whomever she wishes after finding out that he is impotent, all to her angry dismissal. Later, he discovers that she actually has been cheating on him with another man. This episode reflects the formal, impartial style of all Kieslowski’s subsequent films.

The Decalogue 10 is the lightest and most ironic chapter in the series; but while funny on the surface, it is stained by dark tones. Two brothers inherit a priceless stamp collection from their father, but lose one of the finest stamps to a cunning collector who is ready to give back the rare prize if he gets one kidney from either of the brothers in return.

Here (and above) is an extract.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 340: Mon Dec 8

The Great Silence (Corbucci, 1968): Barbican Cinema, 8.30pm


This is being screened as part of the Freezing Cold Movies season at the Barbican. Details here.

Time Out review:
Growing in stature as the years pass, the bleak majesty of Sergio Corbucci’s dark, complex meditation on the human cost of progress threatens to outstrip the bleached, hallucinatory, hyper-violent ‘Django’ as his crowning achievement. Set in Utah during the Great Blizzard of 1899, it follows the mute Silence (Jean-Louis Trintignant), a hired gun with a particular interest in the state-sanctioned bounty hunters – exemplified by Klaus Kinski’s mannered, controlled, entirely deadly Loco – who are clearing the land of anyone who doesn’t have their finger in the pie. Though overflowing with theological subtext and social indignance, it’s an uncommonly reserved film by spaghetti western (and Kinski) standards, but when that silence is broken, the noise and fury are truly something to behold. 
Adam Lee Davies

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 339: Sun Dec 7

The Decalogue 7 & 8 (Kieslowski, 1989): ICA Cinema, 6.30pm


Here is the ICA introduction:
The ICA is celebrating the 25th anniversary of Krzysztof Kieślowski's 1989 masterpiece The Decalogue (Dekalog) with a complete retrospective. The Decalogue is a renowned Polish television drama series directed by Kieślowski and co-written with Krzysztof Piesiewicz, with music by Zbigniew Preisner. It consists of ten one-hour films, inspired by the Ten Commandments.

Kieślowski's works are meditative, often melancholic in tone, expressionist in technique, and tackle themes of identity and what it means to be at once connected and isolated. The Decalogue is a work that reflects the instability and ongoing transformation of an individual’s life. It's an examination of the emotions upon which life itself is built: emotions which are the driving force behind all our decisions, choices, mistakes and sins.

This retrospective is not only a journey through The Decalogue series but also presents some of Kieślowski’s first documentaries and other pivotal yet lesser known films.


The Decalogue 7 (which plays brilliantly on 'Thou shalt not steal') tells the story of Majka, who kidnaps her daughter Ania from her own mother, who is herself extremely attached to her granddaughter. A surreal episode, especially in terms of the visual frames that often interplay with the glances of the child, the plot relies on the tension between the two mothers Ewa and Majka, while little Ania is the victim of them both.

The Decalogue 8 is about a Jewish woman, Elzbieta, who comes back to Warsaw after many years to question the philosophy professor who refused to give her shelter during World War II. This episode touches in such a poetic yet dramatic way on one of the main themes of The Decaelogue: the existence of moral and ethical contradictions that are out of the control of even well-intentioned individuals.

Here (and above) is an extract.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 338: Sat Dec 6

Lady Snowblood (Fujita, 1973): Barbican Cinema, 4pm


This is being screened as part of the Freezing Cold Movies season at the Barbican. Details here.

Time Out review:
This female-fronted 1974 samurai epic was re-released in London cinemas around the time of Tarantino’s ‘Kill Bill’, and it’s easy to see why: with its graceful, emotionless heroine, revenge narrative and crisp, thrilling action scenes, it’s an acknowledged precursor to that populist genre mash-up. But, inevitably, this is a far more interesting film: based on ’70s manga strip ‘Shurayuki-hime’, it’s the story of Yuki (named for the Japanese word for snow), born of rape and raised to wreak vengeance on those who murdered her father and destroyed her mother. The story is simple but the imagery more than compensates: from the tragic-beautiful opening – Yuki’s mother dies in childbirth (and in prison) as white flakes drift peacefully by the barred windows – through a series of shocking, angry flashbacks, to the striking, unexpectedly emotive final shot, this is beautifully controlled, almost sedate action cinema.

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 337: Fri Dec 5

The Decalogue 5 & 6 (Kieslowski, 1989): ICA Cinema, 6.15pm


Here is the ICA introduction:
The ICA is celebrating the 25th anniversary of Krzysztof Kieślowski's 1989 masterpiece The Decalogue (Dekalog) with a complete retrospective. The Decalogue is a renowned Polish television drama series directed by Kieślowski and co-written with Krzysztof Piesiewicz, with music by Zbigniew Preisner. It consists of ten one-hour films, inspired by the Ten Commandments.

Kieślowski's works are meditative, often melancholic in tone, expressionist in technique, and tackle themes of identity and what it means to be at once connected and isolated. The Decalogue is a work that reflects the instability and ongoing transformation of an individual’s life. It's an examination of the emotions upon which life itself is built: emotions which are the driving force behind all our decisions, choices, mistakes and sins.

This retrospective is not only a journey through The Decalogue series but also presents some of Kieślowski’s first documentaries and other pivotal yet lesser known films.

The Decalogue 5 follows what unfolds when a young man murders a taxi driver. An expanded cinema version of this episode was also released under the title A Short Film About Killing (screening on 7 December). This episode is designed to challenge our sense of being estranged from evil.

The Decalogue 6 is an engaging psychological love story about Tomek, a shy young man who is in love with Magda, an older woman who lives in the building opposite his. This has been hailed as the episode which perfectly synthesizes Kieslowski’s paradoxical view that everything can be simultaneously beautiful and ugly, or reassuring and awkward, in regards to human interactions and emotions.

Here (and above) is an extract from Decalogue 6.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 336: Thu Dec 4

No End (Kieślowski, 1984): ICA Cinema, 8.15pm


This film is screening as part of the ICA's Krzysztof Kieślowski: The Decalogue 25th Anniversary Retrospective.

Chicago Reader review:
There's no question that Krzysztof Kieslowski's cowriter Krzysztof Piesiewicz had a decisive impact on The Decalogue and Three Colors, and this 1984 feature, their first collaboration, often seems like a trial run for Blue. A young lawyer (Jerzy Radziwilowicz, known for his work with Wajda, Godard, and Rivette) dies in 1982, when Poland is under martial law, and his death affects not only his widow (Grazyna Szapolowska) but the case against a young strike leader whose defense has been taken up by the lawyer's mentor (Aleksander Bardini). Despite an awkward and unnecessary narrative frame involving the lawyer's ghost, this is terse, suggestive, and pungent, with juicy performances by Bardini and Szapolowska. In Polish with subtitles. 107 min.Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here (and above is an extract).

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 335: Wed Dec 3

The Calm (Kieślowski, 1976): ICA Cinema, 6.30pm


This film is screening as part of the ICA's Krzysztof Kieślowski: The Decalogue 25th Anniversary Retrospective.

Here is the ICA introduction:
Based on a story by Lech Borski and a screenplay by Kieślowski and Jerzy Stuhr, The Calm is about a young man who leaves prison after a three-year sentence, seeking to start a new life. His dreams of a better path are shattered, however, when he is forced into a conflict between a corrupt construction company boss and his fellow workers who decide to strike.


Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 334: Tue Dec 2

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.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 333: Mon Dec 1

White Material (Denis, 2009): Prince Charles Cinema, 8.45pm


This is part of the Prince Charles Cinema's 'While We Sweat Water and Blood' season devoted to films by female directors. Full details here.

Chicago Reader review:
In a fictional African country, a helicopter hovers over a French coffee plantation, bringing news to the stubborn white owner (Isabelle Huppert) that France is pulling out and leaving the country to civil war; refusing to evacuate until her crop has been harvested, she takes her chances with the rebel army and its child soldiers. This haunting drama by Claire Denis (Beau Travail, 35 Shots of Rum) burns with a mute fear and rage at the ongoing atrocities in central Africa. In keeping with the title—an African character's reference to French material goods—Denis seems at first to be mapping the usual postcolonial tensions between native Africans and European entrepreneurs. But as the characters are all swallowed up by war, their little world gradually polarizes into humanity and savagery, with the young (including the woman's unstable grown son) notably inclined toward the latter. With Isaach De Bankole, Christopher Lambert, and Nicolas Duvauchelle. In French with subtitles.
JR Jones

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 332: Sun Nov 30

The Bride Wore Black (Truffaut, 1968): Cine Lumiere, 2pm


This film is part of the Tribute to Francois Truffaut season at the Cine Lumiere. Full details here.

Chicago Reader review:
Despite the dedication of this 1967 film to Hitchcock and the use of his most distinguished collaborator, composer Bernard Herrmann, Francois Truffaut's first Cornell Woolrich adaptation—the second was Mississippi Mermaid—is most memorable for lyrical moods and poetic flights of fancy that don't seem especially Hitchcockian. Jeanne Moreau stalks gracefully through the film, wooing and dispatching a series of men like an avenging angel whose motivating obsession is spelled out only gradually; among her prey are Claude Rich, Jean-Claude Brialy, Michel Bouquet, Michel Lonsdale, and Charles Denner. Basically an exercice de style, and a good one at that.
Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 331: Sat Nov 29

Frightmare (Walker, 1974): Barbican Cinema, 4pm



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

Time Out review:
With Frightmare following on House of Whipcord, David McGillivray's scriptwriting is undoubtedly having a marked effect on Walker's exploitation pictures. Where he used to settle for routine plots, his films now teem with demonic life, plus vicious and genuinely disturbing shock effects. Frightmare is about a psychopathic mum (Keith) who has the nasty habit of going at her victims with an electric drill before devouring them raw. It is far better written and acted than you might expect, and Walker's direction is on another level altogether from Cool It Carol! or The Flesh and Blood Show. The problem is that there is absolutely no exposition or analysis, no flexibility about the theme; still contained within a basic formula, it tends to leave a highly unpleasant aftertaste.
David Pirie

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 330: Fri Nov 28

The Decalogue 3 & 4 (Kieslowski, 1989): ICA Cinema, 6.30pm

Here is the ICA introduction:
The ICA is celebrating the 25th anniversary of Krzysztof Kieślowski's 1989 masterpiece The Decalogue (Dekalog) with a complete retrospective. The Decalogue is a renowned Polish television drama series directed by Kieślowski and co-written with Krzysztof Piesiewicz, with music by Zbigniew Preisner. It consists of ten one-hour films, inspired by the Ten Commandments.

Kieślowski's works are meditative, often melancholic in tone, expressionist in technique, and tackle themes of identity and what it means to be at once connected and isolated. The Decalogue is a work that reflects the instability and ongoing transformation of an individual’s life. It's an examination of the emotions upon which life itself is built: emotions which are the driving force behind all our decisions, choices, mistakes and sins.

This retrospective is not only a journey through The Decalogue series but also presents some of Kieślowski’s first documentaries and other pivotal yet lesser known films.


The Decalogue 3 sees a taxi driver help an ex-girlfriend on Christmas Eve. This episode tells the desperate story of a woman, Ewa, who wants to ruin the sacred holiday of her former lover and his family.

The Decalogue 4 has a young woman discovering that the man she always believed to be her father is not in fact biologically related to her. This episode is a journey through the unstable and ambiguous nature of love.

Here (and above) is an extract.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 329: Thu Nov 27

The Decalogue 1 & 2 (Kieslowski, 1989): ICA Cinema, 7.30pm




Here is the ICA introduction:
The ICA is celebrating the 25th anniversary of Krzysztof Kieślowski's 1989 masterpiece The Decalogue (Dekalog) with a complete retrospective. The Decalogue is a renowned Polish television drama series directed by Kieślowski and co-written with Krzysztof Piesiewicz, with music by Zbigniew Preisner. It consists of ten one-hour films, inspired by the Ten Commandments.

Kieślowski's works are meditative, often melancholic in tone, expressionist in technique, and tackle themes of identity and what it means to be at once connected and isolated. The Decalogue is a work that reflects the instability and ongoing transformation of an individual’s life. It's an examination of the emotions upon which life itself is built: emotions which are the driving force behind all our decisions, choices, mistakes and sins.

This retrospective is not only a journey through The Decalogue series but also presents some of Kieślowski’s first documentaries and other pivotal yet lesser known films.

In The Decalogue 1 a tragedy occurs when a man places too much faith in a computer model that forecasts the weather. Faith and reason, although apparently in conflict, are nothing more than different aspects of the human need to dominate life and to find answers to the unknown.

The Decalogue 2 takes on a dying man and his wife's extra-marital pregnancy, an episode in which life and death play an infinite game and where silence plays a pivotal role.

Followed by a panel discussion TBC.

Here (and above) is an extract.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 328: Wed Nov 26

Dune (Lynch, 1984): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 8.20pm


This film, part of the BFI sci-fi season, will screen from 70mm and is also at the cinema on 13 November. Full details here.

Chicago Reader review:
If this 1984 film really cost $60 million, producer Dino De Laurentiis must be the greatest patron of avant-garde cinema since the Vicomte de Noailles financed Buñuel's L'Age d'Or. Director David Lynch thoroughly (and perhaps inadvertently) subverts the adolescent inanities of Frank Herbert's plot by letting the narrative strangle itself in unnecessary complications, leaving the field clear to imagery as disturbing as anything in Eraserhead. The problem is that the imagery—as Sadean as Pasolini's Salo—isn't rooted in any story impulse, and so its power dissipates quickly. The real venue for this film is either a grind house or the Whitney Museum; its passage through the shopping malls of America was a once-in-a-lifetime anomaly. Kyle MacLachlan is the pallid hero who becomes a messiah to an oppressed desert tribe.
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 327: Tue Nov 25

Life Itself (James, 2014): BFI Southbank, Studio, 6pm & 8.40pm



This film is on an extended run in the Studio at BFI Southbank from 14 November. Full details here.

Here is the BFI introduction:
This thoughtful documentary charts world-renowned film critic Roger Ebert’s final months battling cancer. It uses excellent archive footage alongside interviews with friends, filmmakers and former colleagues to reflect on his life – from student newspaper editor to his role as the Chicago Sun’s film critic, and his (often fractious) work for TV with fellow critic Gene Siskel. What emerges is a portrait of a man whose intelligence, competitiveness and tireless passion for cinema inspired his bravery to the last.

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 326: Mon Nov 24

American Gigolo (Schrader, 1980): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 6.10pm



This film, part of the BFI's Passport to Cinema season, is also being shown on 23 and 30 November. Tonight's screening will be introduced by Richard Combs.

Chicago Reader review:
Paul Schrader makes a habit of struggling with the most recondite of theological themes in the most lurid of commercial contexts. The subject of this 1980 prostitution saga is grace, and it's certainly amazing. Richard Gere, as the top hired stud of Beverly Hills, achieves salvation through the right balance of innocence and victimization—though ultimately it's the unselfish and unmotivated love of a good woman (Lauren Hutton) that clinches his election. And you thought it was about sex? Most critics have cited Robert Bresson's Pickpocket as Schrader's inspiration (as it was for Taxi Driver), but the Gere character's oblivious journey toward sainthood reminded me mainly of Bresson's put-upon mule in Au hasard Balthazar. The drawback here is an alienating, overelaborate visual style that forestalls any involvement with the characters.
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is the trailer.