Capital Celluloid - Day 32: Tuesday Feb 1, 2011

Passport to Pimlico: Birkbeck Cinema, 2.30pm

An Ealing comedy classic and a free screening for anyone who has the afternoon spare. The late Tom Milne, who was always one of my favourite critics, had this to say about the film in his Time Out review. Well worth catching I think. Here is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid - Day 31: Monday Jan 31, 2011

Zodiac: BFI Southbank, 6.10pm NFT3

The Social Network is a modern classic (see the last two issues of Sight & Sound for the controversy surrounding that assertion in the review of David Fincher's latest). Here is a chance to see the director's 2007 movie detailing the hunt for a serial killer who terrorised the San Francisco area in the late 1960s and early 70s. This is screened as part of the BFI's Passport to Cinema series and introduced by Dominic Power. It is fully booked but I usually find there are returns available on the night.

One of the many strengths of this film is the tangible sense of lives wasted from the policeman on the case to the relatives of those murdered. A scene at the end featuring the man shot as a teenager at the beginning of the movie that is heartbreaking. I wish I could put the opening credits on here but here is the music used and here is the trailer for the film. Quality.

Capital Celluloid - Day 30: Sunday Jan 30, 2011

Robin and Marian: BFI Southbank, 6.20pm NFT2

Director Richard Lester (think Help; A Hard Day's Night) is generally regarded to have lost his way in later years but there are genuine nuggets to be found in a fitful career. The undoubted highlight is Petulia, which is on at the BFI in March as part of a Nic Roeg (cinematographer on that movie) season. Juggernaut (1974) is another ripe for rediscovery as is tonight's offering.

Lester had made his Musketeers romps immediately prior to this but Robin and Marian (Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn in superb form) is much more thoughtful and elegiac than the gag-filled Dumas adaptations. Critic Tony Rayns is positively rapturous in his review for the Time Out film guide. I haven't seen this for a couple of decades but remember the closing shot and a truly gripping fight to the death involving Connery and the much lamented Robert Shaw as the Sheriff of Nottingham. Here is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid - Day 29: Saturday Jan 29, 2011

Countess Dracula and The Vampire Lovers: Rio cinema double bill, 11.15pm

Ingrid Pitt died in November and here is a terrific tribute from the Rio, who are regularly putting on the best midnight movies in the capital right now. Here are the trailers for Countess Dracula and The Vampire Lovers.

Capital Celluloid - Day 28: Friday Jan 28, 2011

Bringing Up Baby: BFI Southbank, 8.50pm NFT 1

This brilliant Howard Hawks screwball comedy was my birthday screening choice at the Rio in August. Peter Swaab, who has written an excellent BFI Films Classic on the movie, gave the introductory talk and a splendid time was had by all. You can get a glimpse of why here.

Capital Celluloid - Day 27: Thursday Jan 27, 2011

The Hunchback of Notre Dame: Prince Charles Cinema, 8.45pm

A rare chance to see Lon Chaney's most famous performance, this silent film is screened with a live score by John Sweeney. Here is a flavour of the movie.

Capital Celluloid - Day 26: Wednesday Jan 26, 2011

Performance 7pm & Blow-Up 9pm double bill: Riverside Studios

Another excellent double bill from those clever people at the Riverside Studios. Both dazzling pieces of movie-making while admittedly infuriating for some. After three or four viewings I am still no closer to working out who did what to whom in the south London park featured in Blow-Up but this is a film that grows in stature the more I see it. American film critic Roger Ebert had a go at a solution recently and you can read his thoughts here. This is the trailer.

Perfomance is another film which is not easy to pin down but I can strongly recommend Colin McCabe's volume in the BFI Film Classics series. Here is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid - Day 25: Tuesday Jan 25, 2011

Terence Davies Trilogy: Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club, 44-46 Pollard Row, E2 6NB 8pm

The highlight of the week without a doubt. The three films, Children (1976),  Madonna And Child (1980) and Death And Transfiguration (1983) are a fictional account of Davies’s life follows his alter ego from birth to death and examine the clash between his strict Catholic upbringing and his masochistic sexual fantasies. A remarkable achievement by arguably Britain's greatest living director and a landmark film in post-War British cinema. Highly recommended. Entry is £5 for non-members and free for Close-Up members.

Capital Celluloid - Day 24: Monday Jan 24, 2011

Swingers & Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas double bill: 6.40pm Prince Charles Cinema

I have to fess up to not having seen the Terry Gilliam half of this double bill but Swingers, a film which includes a trip to Vegas, is a lot of fun and these two scenes will give you some of the flavour of this great movie. Start with this and conclude here.

Capital Celluloid - Day 23: Sunday Jan 23, 2011

Only Angels Have Wings: BFI Southbank, 8.30pm NFT 2

A major highlight of the Howard Hawks season and a pivotal film in the great director's career. Indeed, Robin Wood, in his BFI book on Hawks, describes the movie as a "completely achieved masterpiece". Cary Grant leads a group of pilots who regularly take their life in their hands flying mail planes across the Andes. They are joined by a sparky Jean Arthur, who drops in for a steak but fascinated by the life and times of Grant's team stays on and witnesses the adventures of one of Hawks's archetypal male groups.
Only Angels Have Wings mixes tragedy and comedy in typical Hawks style and has an atmosphere all its own. Here is the justly celebrated piano-playing sequence with Grant and Arthur. 

Capital Celluloid - Day 22: Saturday Jan 22, 2011

The Harder They Come: Rio Cinema, 11.30pm

The Rio Saturday late-nighters are packing them in and this week's promises to be no exception. There are very few soundtracks better than the one for The Harder They Come, the 1972 Jamaican gangster musical. Indeed the album resides at No119 in Rolling Stone magazine's greatest of all-time list. This is a rare chance to see Jimmy Cliff as Ivanhoe 'Ivan' Martin take on the might of the drugs lords in Kingston. As the tagline for the film put it: 'With a Piece in His Hand He Takes on the Man!'

Of course the highlight is the music with Cliff joined by The Melodians, The Slickers DJ Scotty and, of course, reggae giants Desmond Dekker and Toots and the Maytals. Here is a sample.

And if you think the Rio is hitting the spot on a Saturday - just wait till next week. Here's a teaser.

Capital Celluloid - Day 21: Friday Jan 21, 2011

Bigger Than Life: BFI Southbank, 6.10pm NFT 3

It's a quiet Friday on the London repertory cinema front. I haven't seen Ceiling Zero which is on at BFI Southbank (6.10pm) in NFT2 as part of the Howard Hawks season but will be interested to hear reports. However, there is another chance to see Bigger Than Life, generally regarded to be Ray's finest work, at the same venue. I saw the film on TV some time ago but was mightily impresses.

Ray, who directed In A Lonely Place which was the featured film last Sunday, 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. Here is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid - Day 20: Thursday Jan 20, 2011

Rear Window 6pm & Peeping Tom 8.50pm double bill: Riverside Studios

Sight & Sound ran a feature last year on the lost art of the double bill. Well, all is not lost in the capital with the Rio cinema's Sunday presentations always worth a look.

However, the programmers at the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith are the most innovative and the pairing of Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window and Michael Powell's Peeping Tom today is an exemplary one.

Both movies are justly famous treatises on voyeurism and radical experiments in cinema by two outstanding directors. Both raise awkward questions about the viewer's relationship to the action on the screen and both bear the hallmarks of hugely talented film makers working at the height of their powers.

Peeping Tom is the more directly uncomfortable of the pair for the audience which partly explains its disastrous reception and 'failure' on its release in 1960.

There are numerous articles on the films but I strongly recommend Robin Wood's take on Rear Window in Hitchcock's Films Revisited which contains his original 1960s essay and his thoughts on revisiting the film some 20 years later. 

Peeping Tom continues to fascinate too and its recent revival was the occasion for a fresh look from Josh Saco in The Quietus. Watch the disquieting trailer.

Capital Celluloid - Day 19: Wednesday Jan 19, 2011

The Hired Hand: BFI Southbank, 6pm NFT2

The 1971 film Peter Fonda made immediately after Easy Rider, this revisionist western garnered plenty of plaudits when re-released and screened at the London Film Festival. Its reputation has grown over the years and was included in The Observer's 50 Lost Movie Classics feature back in 2006.

Here is a lengthy interview with The Hired Hand's screenwriter Alan Sharp.

Capital Celluloid - Day 18: Tuesday Jan 18, 2011

Bigger Than Life: BFI Southbank, 8.30pm NFT 3

Nicholas Ray, who directed In A Lonely Place which was the featured film on Sunday, 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. Here is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid - Day 17: Monday Jan 17, 2011

James Naremore talk on The Big Sleep: BFI Southbank, NFT 1, 6.30pm

The Big Sleep is the centrepiece of the BFI Southbank's Howard Hawks season and this talk by James Naremore, author of numerous excellent works on film, should be fascinating. Naremore has written extensively on film noir and one of his best known volumes is Acting in the Cinema. His BFI Southbank lecture will centre on the contrast between Hawks and The Big Sleep's author, Raymond Chandler.

The introduction to the lecture in the BFI Southbank programme states: "In this talk Naremore charts this meeting of minds with particular reference to morality and politics; gender, sexuality and orientalism; and style and characterisation."

My comments on The Big Sleep are under the Friday Jan 13 entry below.

Capital Celluloid - Day 16: Sunday Jan 16, 2011

In A Lonely Place + Out Of The Past: Riverside Studios, 6.30pm

If I was to recommed one screening to go and see of all the films I have posted about this month this would be the one. Film noirs are eminently watchable for modern audiences and this is a brilliant pairing of two of the best from the classic post-war period.

In A Lonely Place features a Humphrey Bogart performance which is far superior to many of his better-known films and is arguably the greatest of his career. Gloria Grahame is also outstanding as the woman who falls in love with a scriptwriter and suspected killer (Bogart). Here is the trailer.

Out Of The Past is even more archetypal noir, featuring Jane Greer as the femme fatale and Robert Mitchum as a man who can't escape his past. There is outstanding work too from director Jacques Tourneur, better known for the classic thrillers of the '40s such as Cat People and I Walked With A Zombie. Here is an extract. Just look at Greer's face.

Mitchum also features at the Prince Charles Cinema in Martin Scorsese's remake of Cape Fear (8.45pm), an underrated movie in my opinion, while I will be heading for BFI Southbank to watch Make Way For Tomorrow (4pm) which I reviewed on this blog on Tuesday 11 January.

Capital Celluloid - Day 15: Saturday Jan 15, 2011

Street Trash: Rio Cinema, 11.30pm

The midnight movie is one of the great traditions of the repertory cinema repertoire and Cigarette Burns, run by Josh Saco, has certainly made its mark on the London scene in the past year with a number of original and exciting late-night screenings at its adopted Rio cinema home in Dalston.

Seventies proto-slasher Black Christmas was shown in the run up to the holidays last month while Mario Bava's Danger: Diabolik and Dario Argento's Suspiria have also featured in recent months.  

Tonight's presentation should not disappoint those in search of archetypal late-night film fare. Street Trash is a classic piece of 80s US exploitation cinema - described by Chicago Reader's chief critic J R Jones as "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".

Here is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid - Day 14: Friday Jan 14, 2011

The Big Sleep: BFI Southbank, 2.30, 6.10 and 8.30pm NFT3

The Howard Hawks retrospective at BFI Southbank is a treat for film fans and the fact that the screening of Scarface I attended last Sunday afternoon was almost sold out suggests the season is packing the crowds in.

The film the BFI have chosen to showcase is The Big Sleep which is in the middle of an extended run. It is being showered with praise and was given the rare accolade for a re-release of being the film of the week with detailed reviews in both the Independent on Sunday and Time Out at the start of this month. The weekly listings magazine gave Hawks' film noir a five-star rating.

When the BBC's Film 2011 played tribute to Hawks this week The Big Sleep was given due prominence.

But is The Big Sleep now in danger of being overrated? This adaptation of a Raymond Chandler novel contains a myriad of pleasures but is inferior to a number of Hawks' greatest works - Rio Bravo, Only Angels Have Wings, the aforementioned Sacrface - and not as rich as another Humphrey Bogart-Lauren Bacall collaboration of two years earlier, To Have And Have Not.

Catch The Big Sleep by all means - here is one of the most famous scenes - but don't miss out on other gems in the two-month Hawks back catalogue being rolled out on the South Bank.

Capital Celluloid - Day 13: Thursday Jan 13, 2011

The Battle For Barking: Frontline Club, 7pm

A thought-provoking, honest and unbiased documentary detailing the battle between Labour and the British National Party in Barking in the year leading up to last year's general election.

Here is my Guardian colleague John Crace's review after the film was screened on Channel 4 and here is the full programme on Youtube if you want to get a flavour.

Capital Celluloid - Day 12: Wednesday Jan 12, 2011

Serpico: Prince Charles Cinema, 8.50pm

The cult film season at the Prince Charles screened Get Carter last Wednesday and seven days later today's choice is also part of that selection. Prince Of The City may be Sidney Lumet's masterpiece but this 1973 film, which also concerns corruption in the New York Police Department, is another excellent piece of work with a superb central performance from Al Pacino, who would also feature in Dog Day Afternoon for the director.

Lumet has elicited some incredible work from his leading actors – Paul Newman in The Verdict, Sean Connery in The Hill and The Offence and Peter Finch in Network are a few that spring to mind – and Serpico is no different. Take a look at Lumet talking about Pacino's work in the film here.

Of course Lumet did direct Michael Jackson in The Wiz. Compare and contrast.

Capital Celluloid - Day 11: Tuesday Jan 11, 2011

Make Way For Tomorrow: BFI Southbank, NFT1 8.45pm

If there is one film I am looking forward to seeing this month more than any other this is it. Part of the excellent Long Goodbye season, this Leo McCarey-directed 1937 melodrama is apparently a Hollywood one-off and not to be missed.  Make Way For Tomorrow concerns the travails of an elderly couple whose five children won’t take them in when they hit hard times during America’s depression.

Orson Welles said the film “would make a stone cry” and the influential critic Robin Wood, who wrote so movingly of the movie in his book Sexual Politics and Narrative Film, put in his all-time top ten.

The film is also screening on January 16th and 18th at BFI Southbank and here’s an extract.

Capital Celluloid - Day 10: Monday Jan 10, 2011

The Death of Mr Lazarescu BFI Southbank, NFT3 8pm

On a quiet day in town for movies outside those on general release another in the The Long Goodbye season at BFI Southbank dealing with death in the cinema is the one that catches the eye.

This highly regarded Romanian tragi-comedy about the last hours of a lonely 62-year-old garnered ecstatic reviews on release here and plaudits at numerous film festivals.

You can watch the trailer here.

Capital Celluloid - Day Nine: Sunday Jan 9, 2011

Scarface: BFI Southbank, 6.30pm NFT2

In true London bus style you can wait days for a great movie to come along and then three come at once. If I was free to spend a whole day on the capital's repertory cinema circuit today I would start at the Rio in Dalston, a movie house which admirably maintains the wonderful tradition of the double bill.

This afternoon (1.45pm) the inspired choice is the hilarious Rita Sue and Bob Too and The Arbor, a fascinating 'documentary' about the author of the former film, Andrea Dunbar. The Arbor is anything but hilarious - it's a grim portrayal of Dunbar's life and the mess she left behind her. I saw The Arbor at last year's London Film Festival and the innovative feature is an honest and moving portrayal of a complex woman. Dunbar's plays and films were anything but comfortable and Clio Barnard's piece is as disturbing and rewarding as her subject's work. 

The ICA is showing the Giallo homage Amer and have doubled it with Dario Argento's Tenebrae (1982) at 4pm. Amer's directors Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani will be interviewed on-stage by Italian horror expert Alan Jones.

The Howard Hawks season continues at BFI Southbank and one of the highlights is the brilliant director's 1932 gangster film Scarface (6.30pm). I haven't seen this for 20 years but I remember an exhilarating blend of black comedy and fast-paced action and I cannot wait to see it again.

Capital Celluloid - Day Eight: Saturday Jan 8, 2011

Deep Red: ICA Cinema, 6.15pm

The Franco-Belgian film Amer, which is out this week, pays homage to Italian master horror director Dario Argento and two of his rarely screened classics are being shown at the ICA this weekend to coincide with that release. Described in Time Out this week as "the crowning achievement of the giallo movement," Deep Red is one of Argento's finest. Details about the screening at the ICA are here and this is a link to the trailer to give you a flavour of Argento's 1975 film.

Capital Celluloid - Day Seven: Friday Jan 7, 2011

Boudu Saved From Drowning: Watermans Arts Centre, Brentford 2pm

Can Brentford count when considering the best film in London? I must admit to not having been to the Watermans Arts Centre but cinema fans in the area are certainly well catered for.

On Friday they screen Jean Renoir's 1932 masterpiece and it's well worth the trip to the venue, just a short hop from Gunnersbury tube (which is half an hour from central London).

The digitally restored version of Boudu Saved From Drowning horrified some cinema purists when it had its premiere in Bologna last year. They said it looked too clean and too crisp and not like a film of that period, something I discussed in a feature in the Guardian during the 2010 London Film Festival and which you can read here.

Here is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid - Day Six: Thursday Jan 6, 2011

Cries and Whispers: BFI Southbank, 6.10pm NFT3

Ingmar Bergman's 1972 film is screening as part of the BFI Southbank season The Long Goodbye which focuses on the subject of death in the cinema. Critic Geoffrey Macnab wrote a feature in the Independent last month which highlighted the series the BFI is running this month and looked in particular at Clint Eastwood's forthcoming film Hereafter. Macnab pointed out that Cries and Whispers is "often cited as one of the few films that deals truthfully with death."

The film charts a woman's slow, painful demise and the effect this has on her sisters and her maid. Geoff Andrew, the curator of The Long Goodbye season, wrote in his superb A to Z of directors book entitled The Film Handbook: "Past and present, fantasy and reality are seamlessly interwoven to chart, with unsentimental clarity, the way humans inevitably protect themselves against the certainty of their own mortality."

You can see the trailer here.

Capital Celluloid - Day Five: Jan 5, 2011

Get Carter: Prince Charles Cinema, 8.50pm

A great opening and a superb theme tune set the scene for this 1971 Brit gangster film which many have tried to ape but few have matched since. Get Carter is replete with pleasures, especially Michael Caine's brutish performance as the central character on the trail of his brother's killer in a desolate north-east landscape. There is a host of stock British character actors on show, with the added bonus of an appearance by gruff playwright John Osborne.

The Prince Charles Cinema undoubtedly offers the best value tickets and food of any cinema in town and also some of the most innovative programming. This particular venue will be appearing here many times. Watch this space.

After it's all over see how many you can answer in this Get Carter quiz.

Capital Celluloid - Day Four: Jan 4, 2011

Winter's Bone: BFI Southbank, Studio, 6.40pm and 8.50pm

The BFI Southbank is going to feature a lot in this daily recommendation of the best film being screened in London. The cinema is "the jewel in London’s repertory [cinema] crown" and serves the best booze for a start.

Winter's Bone was one of the best movies to come out of the States last year, a thriller set in the backwoods of the Ozark mountains and an uncomfortable look for its target art house audience into the lives of America's rural poor.

I went to see the movie last week in the Studio at BFI Southbank where the film completes its current run on Thursday. It's well worth catching if you haven't managed to so far but a word of advice - the Studio is by far the smallest screen at the Southbank and I recommend booking early as I got a late ticket and had to sit at the front. Definitely not the best seat in the house.

Here's the trailer for Winter's Bone.

Capital Celluloid - Day Three: Jan 3, 2011

It is high time for a reappraisal of the work of Charlie Chaplin, whose late masterpieces Monsieur Verdoux and Limelight have been cruelly underrated. His earlier works such as City Lights and The Gold Rush have long since vanished from Sight & Sound's all-time greatest films list but were at No2 and No3 respectively in the magazine's 1952 poll and are still highly regarded by some of the world's leading film makers. Indeed, as unlikely as it may seem Michael Haneke included The Gold Rush in his top ten list when the voting was last compiled in 2002.
Monday's choice of the pick of films in London is The Gold Rush in a special performance at the Royal Festival Hall at 7pm. Carl Davis, the celebrated composer and conductor, will lead the Philharmonia Orchestra in a live accompaniment to Chaplin's famous silent movie. Read what Davis had to say in the Guardian about the experience of reconstructing the original scores here.

Capital Celluloid - Day Two: Jan 2, 2011

Films set in London will always be looked on approvingly at a blog entitled Capital Celluloid and a sci-fi Hammer horror movie from the 60s is the one that catches the eye today.
Quatermass and the Pit (1967) is being shown at the Museum of London at 2pm and the bonus is that it's a free screening. Highly respected screenwriter Nigel Kneale reworks his Quatermass TV series involving aliens in the London Underground to superb effect. You can see the trailer here.