Capital Celluloid - Day 121: Monday May 2

?????????????????????: The Old Blue Last. 38 Great Eastern St EC2A 3ES 6pm

We don't know the title of the film but we know in our hearts it will be a fabulous one. As part of the East London Film Festival those groovy people at Cigarette Burns are showing a surprise movie. Like the London Film Festival's surprise screening no one knows what it will be until the credits start to roll. So will the audience feel like it did when the LFF put on No Country For Old Men or will it feel like it did when Brighton Rock started. My guess is the former.

To date Cigarette Burns Cinema has screened Mario Bava's Danger: Diabolik, Dario Argentos' Suspiria, Brit zombie biker classic Psychomania, X-mas slasher Black Christmas '74, melt movie monster Street Trash, super sexy vampire lesbian chiller Daughters of Darkness, Abel Ferrara's revenge classic Ms. 45, video nasty Shogun Assassin and shortly Spanish thriller Who Can Kill A Child? all at the Rio Cinema in Dalston. As this is from the same stable expect a film of distinguished vintage. And it's going to be introduced by feted horror critic Kim Newman.

Earlier in the day at the same venue, Electric Sheep host an amazing double bill of Jodorowsky’s Holy Mountain followed by Dario Argento's Suspiria, with introductions from Xavier Mendik of Cine Excess and then Newman. 

As Josh Saco of Cigarette Burns points out: "Then, Kim introduces our choice. But what can it be?
Well, it has to stand strong beside those two beasts of twisted cinema, and it has to be worth something for you to take a chance with. I promise it is"

There are some details here on the Cigarette Burns website and via this Facebook page.

Here is a map of how to get to The Old Blue Last public house. Take a chance - I don't think you will be disappointed.

Capital Celluloid - Day 120: Sunday May 1

The Devils: The Director's Cut (Russell, 1971): Barbican Cinema, 8.30pm

The East End Film Festival is in full swing now and the recommendations for the next two days are from there, starting with this genuinely shocking movie which is introduced by director Ken Russell.

Tom Huddleston's review in this week's Time Out sums it up well. Go out and beg, borrow or steal a ticket for this event:

The unexpurgated cut of Russell's ornate, near-unwatchable taboo-busting masterpiece receives only its second British screening. The only major addition is the infamous 'rape' of Christ, in which the 'possessed' nuns use a life-size statue of the Saviour as a rutting post, but although that sequence may seem relatively tame by modern standards, there's plenty here that's still incredibly shocking. The scenes of plague are truly vile, as are the climatic torture scenes. But what horrifies most is Russell's nihilistic view of the world in general, and humanity in particular: almost without exception, we are shown to be vain, lustful, perverse, self-serving, murderous, disease-ridden, exploitative, decadent, deluded creatures unworthy or incapable of salvation. Approach with extreme caution.

Here is an extract to give you a flavour.

Capital Celluloid - Day 119: Saturday April 30

Sci-Fi London @BFI IMAX all-nighter: 2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick, 1968); Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Spielberg, 1977); Outland (Hyams, 1981) and Brainstorm (Trumbull, 1983)
BFI IMAX 11.30pm
Okay this all-nighter starts Friday but it mostly take place on Saturday and is a superb addition to the Sci-Fi London season. The bonus is that singer, songwriter and model VV Brown will be introducing the night with her long-time creative collaborator filmmaker and comic book creator David Allain.

The first two films in particular will be some sort of experience in the IMAX theatre and a terrific evening is guaranteed. Free tea and coffee will be served between each film and there will be an array of competitions and spot prizes throughout the night.

For those interested in Brown and Allain's work this free event is taking place on Saturday:

City Of Abacus (The Blue Room, BFI Southbank) – Sat 30 April, 12.30pm.

A panel discussion with four of the creators of the serialised graphic novel City Of
Abacus including writers V.V. Brown and David Allain and artists Lee O’Connor
and John Spelling, looking at the intriguing mix of dystopian SF and fantasy that
the comic presents, and presenting never before seen artwork. Followed by City
of Abacus signing. For more information about this free event see the link here.


Here are the Chicago Reader reviews for each film

2001: A Space Odyssey:

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 cowriter, 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.

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.

High Noon in outer space with some derivative SF gimcrackery pasted to it. Sean Connery is the federal marshal who must defend his town (here, a mining camp on a moon of Jupiter) by himself when the cowardly citizens desert him. Frances Sternhagen, spitting Eve Arden wisecracks, takes the Thomas Mitchell role as the alcoholic doctor. I didn't much like it the first time around, and the failure of director-writer Peter Hyams to put any weight whatever behind the moral issues (crude as they are) makes this merely violent nonsense. The production design, resourceful if not original, is by Philip Harrison; the flashy cinematography is the work of Stephen Goldblatt, who likes to put his lights on the floor. With Peter Boyle and Kika Markham.

Douglas Trumbull's stab at science fiction for adults (1983, 106 min.) turns out to be an unconscious remake of Roger Corman's classic cheapie X—The Man With the X-Ray Eyes, though refitted with a sappy, spiritual ending. A group of research scientists construct a machine capable of recording and playing back every human sensory stimulus; as in the Corman film, the device becomes a metaphor for the privileged vision of the movies. Though the film finally succumbs to a trite and uncertainly constructed thriller plot (military nasties are trying to turn the project to their own evil ends), Trumbull deserves credit for trying to tie his special-effects extravaganza to some moderately complex character relationships. With Christopher Walken, Natalie Wood, Louise Fletcher, and Cliff Robertson.

Capital Celluloid - Day 118: Friday April 29

Let's Scare Jessica To Death (Hancock, 1971): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 8.15pm

Horror critic Kim Newman will launch an updated edition of his seminal work Nightmare Movies at BFI Southbank this evening and has chosen this film to celebrate the fact. Newman and fellow horror fan Mark Kermode will be talking about what makes a movie scary before a screening of the rarely seen cult favourite.

Here is an extract from Tom Fellows' review at the website:

That Let's Scare Jessica to Death should be overlooked as one of the finest horror pictures of the 1970s is apt. Lacking the guttural, attention grabbing scares of contemporaries Night of the Living Dead and Last House on the Left, the film is a more somber, subdued affair. Its autumnal light casts dark shadows and the rural farmhouse location becomes secondary to the inner landscape of a mentally unstable mind. Also Let's Scare Jessica to Death refuses the sensationalism usually associated with movie madness (no cannibal doctors or men dressed as their mothers here) and instead retreats inward, sharing whispered thoughts and ghostly warnings. Like its central protagonist, it is a movie that shyly refuses to draw attention to itself, but underneath lays insanity, sadness and startling beauty. A masterpiece.

Here is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid - Day 117: Thursday April 28

The Passion of Joan of Arc (Dreyer, 1928): Royal Festival Hall, 7.30pm

This is something pretty special: Carl Theodor Dreyer's masterpiece; Portishead's Adrian Utley; Goldfrapp's Will Gregory and music maestro Charles Hazlewood. All in one room. At the same time.

The Passion of Joan of Arc is not just one of the great works of silent cinema, it is one of the great works of cinema. In 2002 Dreyer's film was voted No14 in Sight & Sound magazine's famous poll of the best films of all time.

Here is Jonathan Rosenbaum's review from Chicago Reader:

Carl Dreyer's last silent, the greatest of all Joan of Arc films. (Lost for half a century, the 1928 original was rediscovered in a Norwegian mental asylum in the 80s; other prints had perished in a warehouse fire, and the two versions subsequently circulated consisted of outtakes.) Joan is played by stage actress Renee Falconetti, and though hers is one of the key performances in the history of movies, she never made another film. (Antonin Artaud also appears in a memorable cameo.) Dreyer's radical approach to constructing space and the slow intensity of his mobile style make this “difficult” in the sense that, like all the greatest films, it reinvents the world from the ground up. It's also painful in a way that all Dreyer's tragedies are, but it will continue to live long after most commercial movies have vanished from memory. In French with subtitles. 114 min. 

For tonight's screening Utley and Gregory have created a new score and will perform it live alongside a screening of the film, joined by conductor Hazlewood and members of the Monteverdi Choir.

Here is the Silent London blog preview of the evening.

Here are Gregory and Utley talking about their collaboration. 

Here is a trailer.

Capital Celluloid - Day 116: Wednesday April 27

Corridor of Mirrors (Young, 1948): BFI Southbank, NFT 2, 6.20pm

This is an intriguing British film noir which the BFI Southbank programme describes thus:

Wealthy eccentric Paul Mangin is obsessed with a woman in a Renaissance painting and believes he is the reincarnation of her lover. He is delighted to discover Myfanwy Conway who, he thinks, is the reincarnation of the 400-year-old woman in the portrait. One of British Cinema's weirdest noirs, Corridor of Mirrors captures Eric Portman at his twisted best. It's co-written by unknown star Edana Romney, and marked the debut of director Young, who brings an unexpected baroque flair to the sinister shenanigans. 

Kim Newman has penned a fascinating article for Sight & Sound in which he describes the movie as "astonishing discovery." You can access that here.

There is a much longer piece on the film by David Cairns on the website which you can find here. Cairns teases out a number of the striking elements in this production and writes: "The movie is a real oddity, proof if nothing else of the confidence and imaginative freedom being unleashed by British filmmakers at the time. If it’s a misfire, it’s at least an honourable one, since its faults are vaulting ambition and fearless bravado. Who else was imitating Cocteau at that time? Even in France, hardly anyone dared. Perhaps it helped the filmmakers to be actually shooting at a French studio, who knows?"

You can see an extract here. Love the opening.

Capital Celluloid - Day 115: Tuesday April 26

Distant Voices, Still Lives (Davies, 1988) & The Long Day Closes (Davies, 1992)
Cineworld Haymarket, 6.30pm

There's only one place you can be tonight. A fabulous double-bill as part of Time Out's celebration of British film, occasioned by the publication of their poll of the 100 best movies this country has produced. This promises to be a highlight of the magazine's season with Terence Davies making a guest appearance to introduce the films.

Here is an extract from The Long Day Closes.

Here are Dave Calhoun and Geoff Andrews' reviews in Time Out of these landmark British films. 

Distant Voices, Still Lives:

Superlatives are in short supply to describe the emotional power of Terence Davies’ fractured chronicle of the life of a working-class family in 1940s and ’50s Liverpool. Drawing on his own childhood, Davies turns his film on the pivot of a brutal patriarch’s death and his daughter’s subsequent marriage, so splitting his film into two episodes (which he filmed a year apart). The first, ‘Distant Voices’, is a set of difficult memories of childhood fear and wartime suffering that drift in and out of the wedding day, while its companion, ‘Still Lives’, portrays the life of a happier widow, her two daughters, a son and their friends who gather in pubs, sing and are beginning to suffer their own marriages. Pete Postlethwaite is Tommy Davies, the violent, damaged and taciturn father; Freda Dowie is Mrs Davies, his stoic wife and the suffering lynchpin of the family; and Angela Walsh is Eileen, the daughter whose marriage blows a gust of fresh air into the stale misery of her family but also threatens to follow the same tragic pattern as her parents.

Davies’ storytelling is a unique joy. Images evoke family photos and the struggle of recollection. Voices drift in and out, suggestive of family ghosts and inner demons. Chronology is poetic, and memories are filtered after the event like the film’s washed-out colour palette. The writer-director offers a terrifying tension between the public solidarity of pub sing-a-longs, marriage celebrations and mourning and the private horror of domestic abuse, depression and personal dreams sought and destroyed. The men are the most flawed, but the women, though the heroines of the piece, are compromised too: ‘Why did you marry him, mam?’ asks a daughter. ‘He was nice. He was a good dancer…’ It’s a heartbreaking work. Its cast are phenomenal; its songs flow through the film like blood; and Davies is unflinching in his hunt for truth and full of nothing but love and understanding for his characters. A masterpiece.


The Long Day Closes:

Like Distant Voices, Still Lives, Davies' final autobiographical film rings wholly true, due to the richness and the rightness of the allusions he makes through sets, costumes, dialogue, music, radio and cinema itself. Such is Davies' artistry that he shapes his material (an impressionistic series of brief, plotless scenes recalled from 1955-6, when he was about to leave junior school) into a poignant vision of a paradise lost. While economic constraints, school bullies, religious terror and barely-felt sexual longing are present, the accent is on the warmth 11-year-old 'Bud' receives from his family and neighbours. Indeed, it's primarily about the small, innocent but very real joys of being alive, recreated with great skill and never smothered by sentimentality. The stately camera movements; the tableaux-like compositions; the evocative use of music and movie dialogue; the dreamy dissolves and lighting - all make this a movie which takes place in its young protagonist's mind. Beautifully poetic, never contrived or precious, the film dazzles with its stylistic confidence, emotional honesty, terrific wit and all-round audacity.

Capital Celluloid - Day 114: Monday April 25

Back To The Future (Zemeckis, 1985) & Back To The Future Part II (Zemeckis, 1989)
Prince Charles Cinema, 6pm & 8.30pm

2015 isn't that far away. In the meantime here's Easter Monday fun for all the family. Critic Dave Kehr on the 1985 original:

Director Robert Zemeckis confronts the oedipal heart of the time-travel genre with this zestfully tasteless 1985 tale about a teenager (Michael J. Fox) who's projected back to 1955 and then must arrange the romance of his parents—even though mom (Lea Thompson) seems more interested in her handsome son-of-the-future than in his potential pop, a groveling nerd. Zemeckis and his writing partner, Bob Gale, were among the few TV-influenced filmmakers of the mid-80s who weren't ashamed of their sources. They love the crassness, obviousness, and manic energy of old TV, and it gives their work (Used Cars, the screenplay of Spielberg's 1941) a uniquely American zip and vulgarity, like the best early-60s rock. With Christopher Lloyd, whose mad scientist act pays tribute to every great TV crazy from Sid Caesar to John Belushi. 

And here is the trailer to get you in the mood.

Capital Celluloid - Day 113: Sunday April 24

Treacle Jr (Thraves, 2010): Shortwave Cinema, 10 Bermondsey Square, London SE1 3UN 7pm

Jamie Thraves has made three critically acclaimed movies but has yet to have a breakthrough hit. He started with The Low Down (2000), a tale of Bohemian Londoners at the crossroads both in their personal and work lives which the Observer named among the "neglected masterpieces" of film history  in its rundown of 50 Lost Movie Classics.

He then made The Cry Of The Owl (2009), an adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's psychological thriller made in conjunction with BBC Films which had a limited release in this country but which again garnered excellent reviews. Here is John Gibbs' detailed take in the new web version of the influential Movie film journal.

Treacle Jr, which Thraves funded by mortgaging his house, got an airing at the London Film Festival in October and is now being screened as part of the city's Independent Film Festival. The reports back from the LFF were very positive for Treacle Jr, and here is Adam Lee-Davies on the movie in Time Out:

"An electric performance by Aidan Gillen (reteaming with director Jamie Thraves for the first time since 2000’s ‘The Low Down’) is the cornerstone of this blackly funny but ultimately heartrending essay on loneliness and dependence that mixes the tender treatment of dysfunction of 'Rain Man' with the bleak urban redemption of ‘The Fisher King’. For reasons known only to himself, architect Tom (Tom Fisher) has abandoned his young family and taken to the streets of an anonymous south London where he forms a halting friendship with Gillen’s rambling half-witted naïf. As their bond deepens – thanks in part to a kitten named Treacle Jr – the story gravitates toward a conclusion that’s as hard won as it is inescapable. Funny, touching and gritty, this coolly rendered observation on need and rejection really is a Brit drama to shout about."

Thraves talks here about his film at the LFF.

Capital Celluloid - Day 112: Saturday April 23

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Siegel, 1956) & The Blob (Yeaworth Jr, 1958)
SPILL Festival at Barbican Cinema 9pm

This pair of 50s sci-fi classics, being screened as part of this year’s SPILL Festival, an international programme of experimental theatre, live art and performance, are introduced by Festival curator Robert Pacitti.

Chicago Reader movie critic Don Druker says of the Siegel movie:

"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)."

This is the better movie of the pair by far though The Blob has its place in movie history as the film that gave Steve McQueen his first major role.

Here is the trailer for Siegel's great film.

Capital Celluloid - Day 111 Friday April 22

Night Of The Demon & Vampire Circus
3pm Roxy Bar & Screen, Borough Rd.

I was brought up a Catholic and at 3pm on Good Friday afternoon I would be doing the Stations of the Cross at church.

How times have changed. Now you can see an excellent demonic double-bill

More details via this link:

Capital Celluloid - Day 110: Thursday Apr 21, 2011

Brighton Rock (Boulting, 1947): BFI Southbank NFT2, 6.20pm

If you weren't convinced by the recent remake, and many weren't, you have a chance to see the original which caused quite a stir on its release in immediate post-War austerity Britain.

Here's the Chicago Reader review:

Graham Greene's novel about two-bit hoods in the shabby seaside town of Brighton gets a sharp, noirish production (1947) from the Boulting brothers (producer Roy and director John, best known for comedies like I'm All Right Jack). Young Richard Attenborough steals the movie as Pinkie, a 17-year-old gangster with ice water in his veins, who stalks and kills a trembling squealer, then conspires to cover his tracks by romancing a gullible, love-starved waitress. The Catholic themes that Greene developed so artfully in later novels tend to stick out like a sore thumb in both the book Brighton Rock and this adaptation, which he scripted with playwright Terence Rattigan. But by this point Greene was already a master of intrigue, and the cat's cradle Pinkie plays with in idle moments becomes an apt metaphor for the fate closing in on him.

Here is a clip from the film.

Capital Celluloid - Day 109: Wednesday Apr 20, 2011

The Cinema According to Bertolucci (Amelio, 1976) & Italian Traveller (Moszkowicz, 1987)

BFI Southbank NFT3 8.20pm

Two documentaries about the work of Bernardo Bertolucci scheduled to run alongside the season of films from the Italian director at BFI Southbank.

The first film was made following the year-long filming of the epic 1900, and including interviews with the director, his amazing cast and loyal crew and is reputedly the most probing and intimate record of Bertolucci at work, from a fine filmmaker himself.

The second was made by a long-term assistant to the director, and follows Bertolucci retracing his steps from the cow-sheds of Parma to the apartment used in Last Tango, encountering various actors en route (Jean-Pierre Léaud, Gérard Depardieu), before embarking on the filming of The Last Emperor in China.

Capital Celluloid - Day 108: Tuesday Apr 19, 2011

Performance (Cammell/Roeg, 1970) & The Servant (Losey 1963): Haymarket Cineworld, 6.30pm

This is the fifth in Time Out's excellent series at the Haymarket of the best of British films, a spin-off from the recent poll conducted by the magazine of the top 100 movies made in this country, and certainly one of the best.

Here's an extract from the magazine's introuduction to the movies:

The actor James Fox will join us for the fifth event in our season of great British films - a rare double-bill of two well-loved, daring 1960s dramas, 'The Servant' (starring Fox and Dirk Bogarde) and 'Performance' (starring Fox and Mick Jagger). In 'The Servant', Fox plays a wealthy bachelor who gradually and creepily switches roles with his live-in housekeeper. In 'Performance', Fox is an East End gangster who moves in with a tripped-out rocker (Jagger) in Notting Hill. This will be a very special evening and Fox  about playing two of the most iconic roles in British cinema.

Here is the trailer for Performance and an extract from The Servant.

You can find out more details about the evening on the Time Out film website here.

Capital Celluloid - Day 107: Monday Apr 18, 2011

The Lost Weekend (Wilder, 1945): Black Spring Press and Society Film Club, Sanctum Hotel,
20 Warwick Street, London W1B 5NF. 7pm

There is surely no better venue for Ray Milland's descent into hell via umpteen bottles of rye than Soho, the site of many similar lost weekends. This movie, based on Charles Jackson’s bleakly realistic semi-autobiographical novel, was the major Oscar winner of 1945 and tells the story of failed writer Milland's alcoholic troubles over a weekend in New York. The central character's addiction to the bottle is such that he betrays his brother and his girlfriend (Jane Wyman), who both attempt to help him and stick by him even when he behaves in the most despicable ways imaginable.

Milland is excellent and Wilder, shooting in the noir style he had previously used for Double Indemnity, does not make life comfortable for his audience, especially in the famous DTs scene involving a mouse and a bat and a visit to a hospital ward for drunks which ends up like a scene from Sam Fuller's Shock Corridor.

[Spoiler alert]
Some criticise Wilder for his "happy ending" but I challenge anyone to believe that Milland's character will mend his ways simply because he is given the idea of writing about the experiences of the weekend he has just lived through. He has already admitted he has done no writing for the best part of a decade since his brother started subsidising his attempt to live as a writer in New York.

The screening is organised by Black Spring Press and you can find more details here on their Facebook page.

Here is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid - Day 106: Sunday Apr 17, 2011

The Spider's Stratagem (Bertolucci, 1970): BFI Southbank, 6.15pm NFT1

This is film-making of the highest order. Even though other movies in Bernardo Bertolucci's oeuvre have a higher reputation, specifically The Conformist which covers similar themes and issues, it is arguable whether the Italian director has made a better film.

The Spider's Stratagem is based on a Jorge Luis Borges short story and tells the tale of a man who returns to the town of Tara, specifically named by Bertolucci with reference to Gone With The Wind, to honour his Resistance hero father but discovers secrets which leaves him questioning everything he has previously been told.

The visual composition, which has echoes of Magritte paintings in part, is extraordinary and crucially this is one time when the substance matches the breathtaking style, lending a depth and resonance to the story that leaves the viewer gasping. I am not sure I will see a better film this year, and this highlight of the BFI Southbank Bertolucci season comes highly recommended.

This is one cinematic highlight you will probably need to go and see on the big screen as as I cannot find anything on YouTube and this film was only available on video at the legendary Film Shop in Stoke Newington.

Capital Celluloid - Day 105: Saturday Apr 16, 2011

Shogun Assassin: Rio Cinema, 11.30pm

This is sure to be another memorable night courtesy of the Cigarette Burns crew. The dj will spin some great tunes before and after the screening (at the last one he played this great disco riff on the theme John Carpenter's Assualt On Precinct 13); the shorts and the pre-film adverts will be wonderfully diverting and the main feature will be a rarely shown cult classic.

Tonight it's Shogun Assassin, which was long banned here because of its extreme violence.

Here's Dave Kehr's review of the movie in Chicago Reader:

"Producer David Weisman has taken the first two episodes of a popular Japanese samurai series—the so-called “Babycart” films—and spliced them into this incredibly violent, thoroughly delirious 1980 feature. The result almost qualifies as a work of art—a collage, perhaps—in itself. With all the exposition and nuance eliminated, the film becomes pure elemental conflict; it suggests a Road Runner cartoon populated by hordes of anonymous extras, all spouting great fountains of orange Day-Glo blood as severed limbs fly everywhere. The original direction, by Kenji Misumi, shows the heavy influence of Sergio Leone; it's full of booming close-ups and lyrical decapitations filmed against the setting sun. Overall, an amazing cross-cultural artifact. 86 min."

Here is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid - Day 104: Friday Apr 15, 2011

The Last Picture Show (Bogdanovich, 1971): BFI Southbank, NFT1 6pm & 8.30pm

It was the music that got me the first time I saw this film, back in the days when BBC2 were showing films worth watching on a Sunday evening. The soundtrack to this achingly sad drama set in 1950s American small-town wasteland, coming out of cars and home radios, is the country music that was prevalent pre-rock and roll in the States.

The music elicits the mood of stultifying lives the characters lead; the only escape is the army, an affair or the picturehouse. The last film screened at the cinema, symbol of a dying town and of an era, is Howard Hawks' Red River. Impossible, naturally, but a romantic gesture from cinephile director Peter Bogdanovich and one of the many memorable scenes in this key 1970s movie.

The acting from Timothy Bottoms, Ben Johnson as Sam the Lion, Cybill Shepherd and Jeff Bridges, here in his first Hollywood role, is uniformly excellent in a film made with real passion and commitment.

Geoffrey Macnab writes here in the Independent about the film's lasting impact. And here is Sam the Lion's famous monologue.

A brilliant re-release which is on an extended run at BFI Southbank. Now can we have Bogdanovich's What's Up Doc please.

Capital Celluloid - Day 103: Thursday Apr 14, 2011

The Conformist (Bertolucci, 1970) BFI Southbank NFT 1, 8.45pm

The Bernardo Bertolucci season at the NFT is in full swing and the strong recommendation is to favour the Italian director's earlier movies. This is a particularly fine example, though, there is an even better movie upcoming on Sunday with The Spider's Stratagem which I managed to see earlier this week.

Still The Conformist is a fascinating film and here is Wally Hammond's review of The Conformist for Time Out:

Bertolucci’s beautiful, idea-laden and thrilling film noir, released in post-événements 1970, opens with a Paris hotel sign flashing on a man with a fedora, a gun and a naked woman. But Bertolucci’s late-’30s-set adaptation of Albert Moravia’s novel examining Italy’s fascist past was no exercise in black-and-white nostalgia.

The noir elements – the complex flash-back structure and the out-of-kilter ‘Third Man’-syle camera angles framing its anti-hero, volunteer assassin Jean-Louis Trintignant – are a mere frame, pencil drawings on which cinematographer Vittorio Storaro paints his Freudian washes of blue and red.

Even at the time of the ‘The Conformist’, with its poison-penned quotations of Godard, Bertolucci was already showing himself the greatest pleasure seeker of the ‘children of Marx and Coca-Cola’ agit-prop school. Trintignant’s classically-educated Marcello Clerici – he quotes Emperor Hadrian and Plato’s Allegory of the Cave – is the epitome of the repressed bourgeois, so ashamed of his ‘mad’ father and opium-addicted mother to be delighted, in shades of Sartre’s Daniel, to be married to a ‘mediocre’ wife ‘full of paltry ideas’ and prepared to commit murder to follow the flow of fascist political fashion. Until that is, he claps eyes on the beautiful, decadent wife (Dominique Sanda) of his old tutor and present target, Professor Quadri (Enzo Tarascio).

It’s a dazzling film, dated only in its sense of passionate intellectual engagement, which seductively balances its seditious syllabus of politics, philosophy and sex with a serio-comic tone, exemplified by Gastone Moschin’s near pantomimic Blackshirt and Georges Delerue’s delightful score.

Here is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid - Day 102: Wednesday Apr 13, 2011

Piccadilly (Dupont, 1929): Prince Charles Cinema 8.45pm

This renowned silent film will feature piano accompaniment by Costas Fotopoulos and features a stunning performance by lead star Anna May Wong. Don't take my word for it - read the excellent Silent London blog:

"Anna May Wong fans rejoice. After a whole evening devoted to the actress at the Cinema Museum, including a screening of Song (1928), and the chance to see Pavement Butterfly (Grossstadtschmetterling, 1929) at the British Silent Film Festival, comes an outing for one of her most famous films – and one of the best London-set silents.

Piccadilly (1929) is a fantastic film, directed by German director E A Dupont and set in a glamorous, jazzy West End nightclub. Anna May Wong plays Shosho, a dishwasher who is “discovered” while dancing on the kitchen sink, and whose sensual routines propel her to fame as the club’s lead dancer. She wins the heart of the nightclub’s owner too, which provokes his ex (Gilda Gray) to become dangerously jealous. Anna May Wong is absolutely stunning in the film, which has been recently restored by the BFI, preserving the original’s striking blue and amber tinting and making the most of its proto-noir photography. This is a film you’ll really love, I’m sure."

You can read more details at Silent London here.

Capital Celluloid - Day 101: Tuesday Apr 12, 2011

It Always Rains on Sunday (Hamer, 1947): Haymarket Cineworld, 6.30pm

Director Robert Hamer is one of the unsung heroes of British cinema. His best-known film is Kind Hearts and Coronets, the blackest of jet-black comedies, but this noirish East end thriller is thoroughly deserving of attention too. Echoes of the work of Carne, Renoir and Lang have been detected in this fatalistic tale of Googie Withers and the ex-boyfriend convict who comes back into her life.

The bonus tonight is that this Time Out screening as part of a celebration of their 100 Best British Films poll is introduced by novelist and hidden London expert Iain Sinclair. I saw Sinclair talk at the East End Film Festival, extolling the virtues of Joseph Losey's The Criminal and Orson Welles' Mr Arkadin and no doubt he will bring his knowledge of the period and the locale to bear on this affecting and doom-laden drama. It Always Rains on Sunday reached No 37.

Here is Chicago Reader critic JR Jones' review:

Rooted in the film noir of the 40s but anticipating the kitchen sink realism of the 50s, this superlative British drama (1947) transpires in the dingy Bethnal Green neighborhood of east London, where it probably rains Monday through Saturday as well. A former barmaid (Googie Withers) grimly keeps up her end of a loveless working-class marriage, barely concealing her jealousy toward her attractive young stepdaughters. When her former lover (John McCallum) breaks out of Dartmoor Prison and shows up at her doorstep, she can't help but take him in. Robert Hamer, best known for directing Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949), shows a fluency with noir's shadowy visual vocabulary, but what really links this to the genre is its sense of haunting regret and lost opportunity. 

Here is an extract.

Capital Celluloid - Day 100: Monday Apr 11, 2011

The Big Lebowski (Joel & Ethan Coen, 1998): Alibi Film Club
91 Kingsland High Street, E8 2PB 8pm FREE

A hugely enjoyable trip around LA with the Coens. Here's Jonathan Rosenbaum's take:

Probably the Coen brothers' most enjoyable movie—glittering with imagination, cleverness, and filmmaking skill—though, as in their other films, the warm feelings they generate around a couple of salt-of-the-earth types don't apply to anyone else in the cast: you might as well be scraping them off your shoe. The Chandler-esque plot has something to do with Jeff Bridges being mistaken for a Pasadena millionaire, which ultimately involves him as an amateur sleuth in a kidnapping plot. A nice portrait of low-rent LA emerges from this unstable brew, as do two riotous dream sequences. Set during the gulf war and focusing on a trio of dinosaurs—an unemployed pothead and former campus radical (Bridges), a cranky Vietnam vet (John Goodman), and a gratuitous cowboy narrator (Sam Elliott)—this 1998 feature may be the most political Coen movie to date, though I'm sure they'd be the last to admit it. With Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi, David Huddleston, John Turturro, and Ben Gazzara.

Here is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid - Day 99: Sunday Apr 10, 2011

I Was Born But . . . (Ozu, 1932): Barbican Cinema, 11am

This is one of the highlights of the British Silent Cinema Festival taking place this week. It's a very rare screening of an early silent film from Japanese maestro Yasujiro Ozu. Here's a review from critic Jonathan Rosenbaum:

One of Yasujiro Ozu's most sublime films, this late Japanese silent (1932) describes the tragicomic disillusionment of two middle-class boys who see their father demean himself by groveling in front of his employer; it starts off as a hilarious comedy and gradually becomes darker. Ozu's understanding of his characters and their social milieu is so profound and his visual style—which was much less austere and more obviously expressive during his silent period—so compelling that the film carries one along more dynamically than many of the director's sound classics (including his semiremake 27 years later, the more purely comic Ohayo, which has plenty of beauties of its own). Though regarded in Japan mainly as a conservative director, Ozu was a trenchant social critic throughout his career, and the devastating understanding of social context that he shows here is full of radical implications. With Hideo Sugawara, Tatsu Saito, and Chishu Ryu. 91 min. 

You can read all about the highlights of the season here on the excellent Silent London blog.

Here is an extract from the movie.

Capital Celluloid - Day 98: Saturday Apr 9, 2011

Le Quattro Volte (Frammartino, 2010): Riverside Cinema, 6.20pm

Another entry in the Italian Cinema London season, this one earned very good reviews from some critics at Cannes and at the London Film Festival last year.

Independent on Sunday film critic Jonathan Romney had this to say in his Cannes review:

"And the festival's one feelgood cult-in-the-making? Watch for an Italian film called Le Quattro Volte, a four-seasons rural tableau about natural goings-on in a Calabrian valley. At one point, director Michelangelo Frammartino stages a single-shot extended one-shot sight gag that defies description: meticulously set up and executed with stunning precision, it involves a dog, a choirboy, a herd of goats, an Easter parade, some Roman centurions and a runaway lorry. Shown earlier this week, it was not only the best fun in the fest, but the best film I've ever seen about goats. In short, a maaaa-sterpiece."

Here is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid - Day 97: Friday Apr 8, 2011

Stanley Kubrick's Boxes (Ronson, 2008) plus Full Metal Jacket (Kubrick, 1987):
Gate Cinema, Notting Hill, 8.30pm

Journalist Jon Ronson, who was given access to Stanley Kubrick's amazing archive, introduces this double-bill which begins with Ronson's own documentary on the director's collection and ends with Kubrick's brilliant Vietnam war movie.

Here is Ronson's original Guardian article about his trawl through Kubrick's boxes:

"There are boxes everywhere - shelves of boxes in the stable block, rooms full of boxes in the main house. In the fields, where racehorses once stood and grazed, are half a dozen portable cabins, each packed with boxes. These are the boxes that contain the legendary Kubrick archive."

Here is the beginning of part two of the movie.

If you haven't seen the film it begins with a full-on assault on the audience. It doesn't let up. Go see.

Capital Celluloid - Day 96: Thursday Apr 7, 2011

Riff-Raff (Loach, 1991): ICA Cinema, 6.15pm

Lesser-known Ken Loach perhaps but a very underrated movie which is typical of the director in that it is both funny and tragic in equal amounts. The story of a group of men on a London building site, this has the mark of authenticity that comes from being written by an ex-labourer.

Rarely screened and well worth checking out if you are a fan of Loach's work. Starring Robert Carlyle and Ricky Tomlinson (with a superb joke concerning a Turkish bazaar).

Capital Celluloid - Day 95: Wednesday Apr 6, 2011

The Mouth Of The Wolf (Marcello, 2009): Riverside Studios, 9pm

The Italian Cinema London festival is well under way and this experimental documentary is reportedly one of the outstanding highlights of the ten-day programme. It's apparently a poetic portrait of Genoa past and present in similar style to Terence Davies's much-loved Time And The City.

Here is film critic Neil Young's review.

Here is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid - Day 94: Tuesday Apr 5, 2011

Brief Encounter (Lean, 1945): Haymarket Cineworld, 6.30pm

There are certain films that can survive critical brickbats. This is assuredly one of them. Some would have you believe this is a sterile, emotionless movie; others that the premise is ridiculous, that Laura (Celia Johnson) should have left Fred (Cyril Raymond) for Alec (Trevor Howard) and had done with it.

The movie, which was not that successful in its day, survives and indeed thrives because so many have surrendered to it and find the despair at the heart of the tale overwhelming. Richard Dyer, in his BFI Film Classics monograph on Brief Encounter, sums the feelings of those who love this film thus: "If you don't feel the melodramatic pull of the film, then everything fits just a little too neatly and rigidly, the life has been squeezed out of the film by the meticulousness with which it has been put together. But I do feel it."

Brief Encounter is number 12 in Time Out's recent poll of Best British Films and Happy-Go-Lucky star Sally Hawkins will be on hand to introduce the movie.

Here is an extract.