Capital Celluloid 2013 - Day 353: Wed Dec 18

Children of Men (Cuaron, 2006): Riverside Studios, 6.30pm

A chance to see Alfonso Cuaron's excellent Children of Men, which he made prior to the sci-fi film Gravity, which is on at 8.50pm tonight. The films also screen on December 17th. Details here.

Chicago Reader review:
Adapted from P.D. James's dystopian novel, this SF feature by Alfonso Cuaron (Y Tu Mama Tambien) takes place in England in 2027, when the human race has mysteriously become infertile and faces extinction. A onetime revolutionary (Clive Owen) is asked by an old flame (Julianne Moore) to take part in her underground movement defending illegal aliens, who are trucked off to concentration camps; assisted by an older hippie pal (Michael Caine in an Oscar-worthy performance), he agrees to smuggle a young woman (Claire-Hope Ashitey) out of the country. The film gradually devolves into action-adventure, then the equivalent of a war movie. But the filmmaking is pungent throughout, and the first half hour is so jaw-dropping in its fleshed-out extrapolation that Cuaron earns the right to coast a bit.
Jonathan Rosenabaum

Here and above, Slavoj Zizek discusses the movie.

Capital Celluloid 2013 - Day 352: Tue Dec 17

The Seventh Victim (Robson, 1943): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 5.30pm
(in double-bill with The Black Cat [Ulmer, 1934])

This double-bill, part of the Gothic season at the BFI, also screens on December 8th. Details here.

Chicago Reader review:
Though not directed by an auteurist-approved figure (Mark Robson has never attracted any cult to my knowledge), this is the greatest of producer Val Lewton's justly celebrated low-budget chillers—a beautifully wrought story about the discovery of devil worshippers in Greenwich Village that fully lives up to the morbid John Donne quote framing the action. Intricately plotted over its 71 minutes by screenwriters Charles O'Neal, De Witt Bodeen, and an uncredited Lewton so that what begins rationally winds up as something far weirder than a thriller plot, this 1943 tale of a young woman (Kim Hunter in her first screen role) searching for her troubled sister (Jean Brooks) exudes a distilled poetry of doom that extends to all the characters as well as to the noirish bohemian atmosphere. (As a fascinating intertextual detail, the horny psychiatrist clawed to death by an offscreen feline in Lewton's previous Cat People—played by Tom Conway, George Sanders's brother—is resurrected here.)
Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2013 - Day 351: Mon Dec 16

The Ghost of Yotsuya (Nakagawa, 1959): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 8.40pm

This film, part of the BFI Gothic season, also screens on December 22nd. Full details here.

Time Out review:
Now considered a classic, Nakagawa's adaptation of Nanboku Tsuruya's kabuki play went unhailed by critics at the time but was popular enough to prompt at least three remakes in short order (by Tai Kato in 1961, Shiro Toyoda in 1965 and Issei Mori in 1969). With the connivance of the servant Naosuke (Emi), destitute ronin Iemon (Amachi) marries O-Iwa (Wakasugi) after secretly murdering her disapproving father. Two years later they are living in poverty in Edo with a baby. Desperate for money, Iemon courts O-Ume (Ikeuchi) for her father's wealth and plots to kill O-Iwa after framing her as an adulterer. But O-Iwa is hideously disfigured by poison and kills herself and the baby - and then returns as a ghost to exact vengeance. Concisely plotted and fast-paced, the film somehow reconciles classical elegance with Nakagawa's patented shock effects. Both the remarkable use of sound and the colour expressionism influenced many other directors. Nakagawa's finest hour.
Tony Rayns

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2013 - Day 350: Sun Dec 15

No1: Out of the Past (Tourneur, 1947): Riverside Studios Cinema, 6.30pm

This archetypal film noir is screening in a double-bill with Double Indemnity. Details here.

Chicago Reader review:
The most delicate and nuanced of film noirs (1947), graced with a reflective lyricism that almost lifts it out of the genre. Robert Mitchum, a former private eye, has taken refuge from life as the owner of a small-town gas station. A gangster (Kirk Douglas) presses him back into service to search for his wandering mistress (Jane Greer). This is no expressionist thunderstorm of guilt and fate, but a film of small, finely textured effects, centered on subtle grades of morality. The cool, feathery photography is by Nicholas Musuraca; the director is Jacques Tourneur. With Rhonda Fleming, Steve Brodie, and Richard Webb.
Dave Kehr

Here's a (home-made) trailer.


No2:  Le Maman et la Putian (Eustache, 1973): Cine Lumiere, 2pm

This screens as part of Cine Lumiere's Sunday Classics season.

Chicago Reader review:
A major work, not because of its exhausting length (217 minutes) or the audacity, brilliance, and total originality of its language, but because of writer-editor-director Jean Eustache's breathtaking honesty and accuracy in portraying the sexual and intellectual mores of its era. This 1973 film "explains" Bertolucci's Last Tango in Paris, vividly and compellingly dramatizing the confusions, uncertainties, and complexities of thoroughly modern human relationships.
Don Druker

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

Capital Celluloid 2013 - Day 349: Sat Dec 14

[Sing-a-long] The Muppet Christmas Carol (Henson, 1992): Prince Charles Cinema, 4.15 & 9pm

This sing-a-long event has had a number of dates added such has been the popularity. All details here - and grab your tickets now.

Time Out review:
'Acted to the parsimonious hilt by the human Scrooge (Caine), and framed by author-narrator Charles Dickens (the Great Gonzo) addressing his rodent audience (Rizzo the Rat), the story survives. Well, it would: it's the same story of redemption that powers Stallone movies. All the pen-pushing glovesters in Scrooge's office run on fear of dismissal, a topical note, with Bob Cratchit (Kermit the Frog) negotiating but nervous. Not so his wife Miss Piggy, ready to have a go at Scrooge, but mindful of the needs of their family, a brood as mixed as you would expect from pigs and frogs, which explains the medical condition of Tiny Tim, a froglet with a cough on crutches. The three ghosts of Christmas are wonderful. Elsewhere, Fozzie Bear bears a resemblance to Francis L Sullivan in the David Lean Dickens adaptations, and there's a shop called Micklewhite. As an actor, Kermit can corrugate his forehead vertically. Good fun.'
Brian Case

Here is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2013 - Day 348: Fri Dec 13

The Innocents (Clayton, 1961): BFI Southbank, NFT3, 6.10 & 8.40pm

This film, which is part of the BFI Gothic season, is on an extended run. Details here.

Time Out review of The Innocents:
'Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr) isn’t a very experienced governess so she can’t be certain, but surely orphans Miles (Martin Stephens) and Flora (Pamela Franklin) aren’t like other children. They’re polite, of course, to the point of being patronising (‘my dear,’ they call her), and their dark, placid eyes defy suspicion, but there’s something unsettling in his self-possession, macabre in her delights (‘Oh, look, a lovely spider. And it’s eating a butterfly!’). Having already experienced weird apparitions on her arrival at Bly, the beautiful country estate to which the children’s indifferent uncle has consigned them, the governess learns of the violent deaths of her wanton predecessor and her cruel lover, and begins to suspect a supernatural cause for her charges’ unsettling behaviour. And so Miss Giddens’ war on terror begins; but does Bly have nothing to fear but fear itself?

Adapted (by Truman Capote and John Mortimer, among others) from Henry James’s ‘The Turn of the Screw’, Jack Clayton’s 1961 chiller lives up to the story’s title, incrementally tightening the nerves through suggestive technical artistry in a way that few contemporary ghost stories manage. The story’s profound, unsettling ambiguity is perfectly served by Georges Auric’s soundtrack of laughs and whispers and the constricting or fleeting forms at the edges of Freddie Francis’s B&W ’Scope frame (seen here in a new print). Meanwhile, slow fades and a bravura dream sequence hint at the blurring of boundaries – between life and death, rationality and imagination – that so disturbs Miss Giddens, endowed by Kerr with a frisson of hysteria from the start. Whatever is happening, she knows it is ‘something secretive and whispery and indecent’.'

Ben Walters

Here is an extract. 

Capital Celluloid 2013 - Day 347: Thu Dec 12

No1 Jeannne Dielman, 23 Quai de Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (Akerman, 1975):
ICA Cinema, 7pm

Noted film theorist Laura Mulvey will introduce this A Nos Amours screening.

Chicago Reader review:
Chantal Akerman's greatest film--made in 1975 and running 198 minutes--is one of those lucid puzzlers that may drive you up the wall but will keep you thinking for days or weeks. Delphine Seyrig, in one of her greatest performances, plays Jeanne Dielman, a Belgian woman obsessed with performing daily rounds of housework and other routines (including occasional prostitution) in the flat she occupies with her teenage son. The film follows three days in Dielman's regulated life, and Akerman's intense concentration on her daily activities--monumentalized by Babette Mangolte's superb cinematography and mainly frontal camera setups--eventually sensitizes us to the small ways in which her system is breaking down. By placing so much emphasis on aspects of life and work that other films routinely omit, mystify, or skirt around, Akerman forges a major statement, not only in a feminist context but also in a way that tells us something about the lives we all live.
Jonathan Rosenabum

Here (and above are extracts)

No2 The Phantom Carriage (Sjostrom, 1921): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 8.30pm

This silent masterpiece, which is playing as part of The BFI Gothic season, also screens at the cinema on December 14th. Details here.

Chicago Reader review:
Multiple superimpositions and double exposures create ghostly effects in Victor Sjostrom's 1920 masterpiece. The story, told through a complex flashback structure, resembles Dickens's A Christmas Carol: a self-destructive and irresponsible man has a brush with the “carriage of death,” which allows him to review his life. With Sjostrom, Hilda Borgstrom, Tore Svennberg, and Astrid Holm; also known as The Phantom Chariot.
Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here is a comparison between a scene in this film and The Shining. Above is a trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2013 - Day 346: Wed Dec 11


In A Lonely Place (Ray, 1950): ???? (venue to be announced . . .)

This film is part of the excellent Iain Sinclair 70x70 season. Here are the details of all the 70 movies on show to celebrate Sinclair's 70th birthday.

In a Lonely Place is one of the best films about life in Hollywood and one of Nicholas Ray's finest. Highly recommended.

"I lived a few weeks while you loved me . . ."

Chicago Reader review:
'With his weary romanticism, Humphrey Bogart was made for Nicholas Ray, and together they produced two taut thrillers (the other was Knock on Any Door). In this one (1950, 94 min.), Bogart is an artistically depleted Hollywood screenwriter whose charm is inextricable from his deep emotional distress. He falls for a golden girl across the way, Gloria Grahame, who in turn helps him face a murder charge. Grahame and Ray were married, but they separated during the shooting, and the screen breakup of the Bogart-Grahame romance consciously incorporates elements of Ray's personality (he even used the site of his first Hollywood apartment as Bogart's home in the film). The film's subject is the attractiveness of instability, and Ray's self-examination is both narcissistic and sharply critical, in fascinating combination. It's a breathtaking work, and a key citation in the case for confession as suitable material for art'
Dave Kehr

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

Capital Celluloid 2013 - Day 345: Tue Dec 10

Meet Me in St Louis (Minnelli, 1944): Prince Charles Cinema, 8.45pm

This superb movie is screening as part of the cinema's Classic Film season.

Chicago Reader review:
Vincente Minnelli created one of his masterpieces with this loosely plotted but tightly structured 1944 story of a middle-class family waiting through spring, summer, and fall for the opening of the Saint Louis World's Fair of 1904. One of the first films to integrate musical numbers into the plot, it explores, without condescension or simplemindedness, the feelings that drive the family members apart and then bring them back together again. And there's the sublime Minnellian spectacle of Judy Garland singing "The Trolley Song," "The Boy Next Door," and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." A great film.

Dave Kehr

Here and above is the celebrated Halloween scene.
And here is a discussion of that scene and critic Robin Wood's influential analysis of the movie.

Capital Celluloid 2013 - Day 344: Mon Dec 9

The Sacrifice (Tarkovsky, 1986): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 6pm

This masterpiece screens as part of the Passport to Cinema season at BFIO Southbank and will be introduced by Mark Le Fanu.

Chicago Reader review:
Andrei Tarkovsky's last film (1986) isn't on the same level as his extraordinary Stalker, but it's a fitting apocalyptic statement, made when he knew he was dying of cancer. The first and penultimate shots—ten-minute takes that are, in very different ways, remarkable and complex achievements—manage to say more than most films do over their entire length. In between these shots one finds Tarkovsky working in a mode that bears a distinct relationship to Bergman—made all the more apparent by the Swedish setting, the cinematography (by Bergman's incomparable Sven Nykvist), and the casting of Erland Josephson in the lead—but the hallucinatory camera movements and the mysticism of the plot could belong to no one but Tarkovsky. As Alexander (Josephson), a university lecturer, celebrates his birthday with family and friends, a major nuclear crisis is reported on TV, followed by a power failure. Praying for the world to return to normal, Alexander promises to give up everything he has and winds up sleeping with his maid, reportedly a witch, to seal the bargain. As with Nostalghia, Tarkovsky's previous work of exile, it's possible to balk at the filmmaker's pretensions and antiquated sexual politics and yet be overwhelmed by his mastery and originality, as well as the conviction of his sincerity. Critics have been of little help in getting to the core of this powerful visionary; a better start might be to read Tarkovsky's book, Sculpting in Time.
Jonathan Rosenbaum

Capital Celluloid 2013 - Day 343: Sun Dec 8

Wanda (Loden, 1970): ICA Cinema, 3pm

I wrote about this extraordinary movie for the Guardian here when it was screened at the London Film Festival two years ago. This is a rare showing, under the baner of the Little White Lies weekend at the ICA Cinema, celebrating 50 years of movie-making.

Here is the ICA introduction:
Barbara Loden will be known by many as the spouse and one-time muse of director Elia Kazan, appearing in a string of small but vital roles for his early ‘60s movies Wild River and Splendour In The Grass. As her acting work slowly petered out, she took it upon herself to rebel against the studio system by writing, directing and starring in a 16mm, independently shot drama that would exist entirely outside the mainstream.
Wanda explores the tragic life and times of an itinerant Pennsylvanian wife and mother who decides to ditch everything and hook up with an abusive petty criminal. This new restoration by the UCLA Film and TV archive offers the chance to discover Loden’s remarkable film anew, a harrowing masterpiece which deserves a place among the classics of cinema.

Time Out review:
A remarkable one-off from Elia Kazan's wife. Shot in 16mm and blown up to 35, it's a subtly picaresque movie about the wanderings of a semi-destitute American woman. Directing herself, Barbara Loden manages to make the character at once completely convincing in her soggy and directionless amorality, yet gradually sympathetic and even heroic. After a desultory involvement with a bank robber, to whom she becomes attached despite his unpredictable temper, Wanda botches everything - having agreed to drive a getaway car for him - by getting lost in a traffic jam; and our last glimpse of her is back on the road, being picked up in a bar. The film is all the more impressive for its refusal to get embroiled in half-baked political attitudinising; it's good enough to make one regret that the director/star produced nothing else before her untimely death from cancer. 

You can see excerpts from the film here and above.

Capital Celluloid 2013 - Day 342: Sat Dec 7

No1 Taffin (Megahy, 1988): ICA Cinema, 10.30pm

The ICA is being taken over for the weekend by Little White Lies magazine who have celebrated 50 issues with a special celebrating one film each year from the last half-century. This is their midnight movie choice and it is looks positively awful, if you like that sort of thing. Here are the full details of the Little White Lies ICA Weekender.

Here is their introduction to tonight's offering:
Francis Megahy's 1988 film Taffin was recently made famous by the incessant (and highly amusing) radio-based blatherings of Adam Buxton and Joe Cornish. Here, for one night only, we present the film in all its glorious awfulness. See Pierce Brosnan as a face-pummelling loan shark as he takes care of business in the mean (and green) streets of Thatcher-era Wicklow County. Though the film itself was made to ride Brosnan’s ascending star as TV’s Remington Steele, it wasn’t until he was cast as James Bond that the cinema work really started to look good on his CV. Taffin is a textbook midnight movie, a veritable trove of bizarre supporting turns set against an oddly quaint rural backdrop and boasting various action set pieces which appear to have been spliced together from other films. Don’t miss.

This is the scene made famous by Buxton and Cornish.


No2 The Godfather (Coppola, 1972): Screen on the Green, 11.30pm [Screening on 35mm]

One of a series of excellent Saturday late night films at the Screen on the Green. Details here.

Chicago Reader review:
The ultimate family film. Francis Ford Coppola gives full due to the themes of clannish insularity that made Mario Puzo's novel a best seller, though his heart seems to be with Al Pacino's lonely, willful isolation. This 1972 feature is sharp, entertaining, and convincing—discursive, but with a sense of structure and control that Coppola hasn't achieved since. With Marlon Brando, James Caan, Robert Duvall, Sterling Hayden, and Diane Keaton.
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) are some excerpts from the opening scenes.

Capital Celluloid 2013 - Day 341: Fri Dec 6

The Criminal (Losey, 1961) + The Lineup (Siegel, 1958):
Horse Hospital, Bloomsbury, 7.30pm

Here's a great double-bill in the Iain Sinclair 70x70 film season.

Time Out review of The Criminal:
Terrific performance from Stanley Baker as the criminal, an existential loner whose violence is essentially self-destructive as, literally trapped within the bars of a prison, he finds himself metaphorically caught between two complementary systems: one represented by the sadistic chief warder (Patrick Magee), who feeds his sense of power by fomenting a dog-eat-dog code in the cells, the other by the underworld kingpin (Wanamaker) waiting outside to kill Baker and hijack his stashed loot. Jospeh Losey's American eye and expertise make it jaggedly explosive and visually brilliant, a million miles beyond other British crime movies.
Tom Milne


Chicago Reader review of The Lineup:
Two passionately dedicated San Francisco cops chase two insanely dedicated professional killers in Don Siegel's gritty 1958 study in pathological relativism. The film moves in a pattern of tension and release, culminating in a brilliantly executed car chase over an unfinished freeway. A major B movie by one of Hollywood's most accomplished craftsmen.
Dave Kehr

Capital Celluloid 2013 - Day 340: Thu Dec 5

The Great Beauty (Sorrentino, 2013): BFI Southbank, Studio, 8.15pm

This film - one of the best of 2013 - is on an extended run from November 27 to December 11.

Time Out review:
Life is a performance and Rome is the stage in ‘The Great Beauty’ from Paolo Sorrentino, the Italian director of ‘The Consequences of Love’ and ‘Il Divo’. In Sorrentino’s last film, the English-language ‘This Must Be the Place’, Sean Penn usurped Toni Servillo as the actor at the heart of Sorrentino’s strongly visual, energetic and heavily musical studies of strange, flawed men. But now Servillo is back, playing a dapper, cultured and dilettantish Roman writer Jep Gambardella, always dressed in a fine suit and finer shoes. For much of ‘The Great Beauty’, it feels like the film may only ever be a thrilling dip into a strange, rarefied world – a world where botox is on sale at high-class clubs and a mysterious man with a briefcase full of keys gives the privileged access to Rome’s galleries in the dead of the night. But when the party slows down and the music begins to fade, ‘The Great Beauty’ creeps up on us, just as life is creeping up on Jep. It’s an exploration of all things surface, yes, but it has soul too, and just as the supremely controlled and refined Jep surprises himself by crying at a funeral, so the final power of ‘The Great Beauty’ surprises us too.
Dave Calhoun

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2013 - Day 339: Wed Dec 4

The Circle (Cunha Telles, 1970): Barbican Cinema, 6.30pm

This is part of the Barbican's Pop Art season. Here is their introduction: A glance at the world of advertising in the late 60s, in which pretty girls strive for independence but fall pray to a society commandeered by men. This is the story of Marta (Maria Cabral), a young girl about to leave her husband in search for her true identity. The Circle was sold out for three months when it was first released in Portugal.

Here and above is a chance to see extracts from the movie.

Capital Celluloid 2013 - Day 338: Tue Dec 3

Two-Lane Blacktop (Hellman, 1971): Barbican Cinema, 8.45pm

This is screening as part of the Barbican's Pop Art season.  Here is their introduction: Cars held a special fascination for Pop artists in LA – where they were essential for traversing long distances in the sprawling city, and where a hot rod and ‘kustom kar kulture’ flourished. The drag racing scene was an acknowledged interest for Ed Ruscha, and this film recalls his work in its fascination with car culture, and in its bold primary colours, gorgeous widescreen compositions and landscape of highways, filling stations and roadside cafes. The story follows singer-songwriter James Taylor and Beach Boy Dennis Wilson who, drag-racing east from LA in a souped-up ’55 Chevy, meet Warren Oates in his decked-out orange Pontiac GTO and challenge him to a cross-country race. 

Chicago Reader review:
This exciting existentialist road movie by Monte Hellman, with a swell script by Rudolph Wurlitzer and Will Corry and my favorite Warren Oates performance, looks even better now than it did in 1971, although it was pretty interesting back then as well. James Taylor and Dennis Wilson are the drivers of a supercharged '55 Chevy, and Oates is the owner of a new GTO (these nameless characters are in fact identified only by the cars they drive); they meet and agree to race from New Mexico to the east coast, though an assortment of side interests periodically distracts them, including various hitchhikers (among them Laurie Bird). (GTO hilariously assumes a new persona every time he picks up a new passenger, rather like the amorphous narrator in Wurlitzer's novel Nog.) The movie starts off as a narrative but gradually grows into something much more abstract—it's unsettling but also beautiful.
Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here and above New York Times critic AO Scott delivers his verdict.

Capital Celluloid 2013 - Day 337: Mon Dec 2

I Walked with a Zombie (Tourneur, 1943) + White Zombie (Halperin, 1932):
BFI Southbank, NFT2, 3.30pm

This double-bill is screening as part of the BFI Southbank Gothic season and is also beiong shown on Sunday December 1st. More details here.

Chicago Reader review of I Walked with a Zombie:
This elegant little 1943 film by Jacques Tourneur, a tale of voodoo and devil worship in the West Indies, is one of the most poetic works to emerge from the Val Lewton unit at RKO in the 40s; it transcends the conventions of the horror genre and remains one of Lewton-Tourneur's most compelling studies in light and darkness. Not to be missed. With Frances Dee, Tom Conway, and Edith Barrett.
Don Druker

Here and above is an extract from the film.

Capital Celluloid 2013 - Day 336: Sun Dec 1

Rebecca (Hitchcock, 1940): Leytonstone School, Colworth Rd, E11 6pm

Here is the Barbican introduction to this special screening: We are proud to be screening Hitchcock’s classic gothic melodrama in the haunting surroundings of Grade II listed Leytonstone School. The feature stars Joan Fontaine as the young bride haunted by the memories 
of her husband’s glamorous first wife. With Laurence Olivier and Judith Anderson.

Built in the early 20th century the location for this screening lies in the heart of Leytonstone’s Conservation Area, a place of rich architectural heritage, too often overlooked. Inspired by the school’s magnificent mock Elizabethan architecture, we invite audiences to draw their own comparisons between the location of our screening and the imposing estate of Manderley, the macabre setting of Rebecca.

This wintry seasonal screening will see the school’s grand timber panelled hall transformed to echo the atmosphere of an ancient English country home.  We will also be welcoming Catherine Bray to speak on the themes and cultural significance of this iconic work.

Chicago Reader review:
There are too many conflicting levels of authorship—between Alfred Hitchcock, Daphne du Maurier, and David O. Selznick—for this 1940 film to be a complete success, but through its first two-thirds it is as perfect a myth of adolescence as any of the Disney films, documenting the childlike, nameless heroine's initiation into the adult mysteries of sex, death, and identity, and the impossibility of reconciling these forces with family strictures. As a Hitchcock film, it is, with the closely related Suspicion, one of his rare studies from a female point of view, and it is surprisingly tender and compassionate; the same issues, treated from a male viewpoint, would return in Vertigo and Marnie (Laurence Olivier's Maxim becoming the Sean Connery character of the latter film). With Joan Fontaine, George Sanders, Judith Anderson, Nigel Bruce, and Gladys Cooper.
Dave Kehr

Here and above is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2013 - Day 335: Sat Nov 30

No1 Napoleon (Gance, 1924): Royal Festival Hall, 1.30pm - 9.30pm

The capital's cinematic event of the year? There will have been few better when 2013 draws to a close that's for sure. Here is the Royal Festival Hall's introduction to this special screening of Abel Gance's silent masterpiece:

The performance of the film, accompanied by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, which ends at approx. 9.30pm includes 2 intervals plus a 100 minute interval at approx. 5pm
Carl Davis' epic score for the 1927 silent film Napoléon, directed by Abel Gance, is not only the longest ever composed, but is also widely celebrated as one of the finest.
This afternoon, music and film lovers are given a rare opportunity to experience one of the greatest achievements in cinema history, a seamless blend of epic film and Davis' own unique creative genius.
Time Out review:
Bambi Ballard's latest restoration of cinema's supreme, grandiloquent epic (63 mins longer than the version premiered by Kevin Brownlow in 1979, tinted and with an extended three-screen climax) is the closest we're ever likely to get to Gance's original. Despite its simplistic view of Napoleon himself - seen from childhood to the fascistic start of his empire-building as a 'man of destiny', guided through hardships and loneliness by his 'inner eagle' - the film is completely vindicated by Gance's raving enthusiasm for his medium. All of the brilliant experiments with film language remain potent, from the montages of flash-frames to the bombastic poetry of the triptych finale; even the gags are still funny. The many highpoints include the hour-long siege of Toulon in torrential rain, won by strategies prefigured in the opening snowball fight, and Gance's own patrician performance as the cold-blooded Saint-Just. To see this with Carl Davis' score (lashings of Beethoven) played live is an almost unimaginably thrilling experience.

Tony Rayns
and if you can't get tickets for the above . . .

No 2 Pop Goes the Easel (Russell, 1962) + British Sounds (Godard, 1969), Barbican Cinema, 8.45pm

A fascinating double-bill which is part of the Images of Desire season to complement the Pop Art season at the Barbica. Details here.

Here is the Barbican introduction: 

Pop Goes the Easel

Directed by the late Ken Russell, this stylish mini-documentary focuses on artists Peter Blake, Peter Phillips, Derek Boshier and Pauline Boty and their obsession with the mass media and pop culture. Originally produced for the BBC TV series Monitor, at a time when the celebrity-aesthetic was still considered cutting-edge, Russell’s vibrant barrage of images and sounds was greeted with widespread controversy.

UK 1962 Dir Ken Russell 44 min

+ British Sounds (15)
Commissioned in 1968 by London Weekend Television, Jean Luc-Godard's exploration into Ford workers at Dagenham and students at Essex University was seen as too radical and never transmitted. A provocative, controversial, revolutionary tract.

UK 1969 Dir Jean-Luc Godard 52 min

You can see extracts from British Sounds here.

Capital Celluloid 2013 - Day 334: Fri Nov 29

Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (Peckinpah, 1974): Hackney Picturehouse.

London psycho-geographical writer Iain Sinclair celebrates his 70th birthday year with the showing of 70 films he handpicked that relate to his work. This is his latest offering and he will be introducing the film. Here are the full listings.

Chicago Reader review:
By far the most underrated of Sam Peckinpah's films, this grim 1974 tale about a minor-league piano player in Mexico (Warren Oates) who sacrifices his love (Isela Vega) when he goes after a fortune as a bounty hunter is certainly one of the director's most personal and obsessive works—even comparable in some respects to Malcolm Lowry's Under the Volcano in its bottomless despair and bombastic self-hatred, as well as its rather ghoulish lyricism. (Critic Tom Milne has suggestively compared the labyrinthine plot to that of a gothic novel.) Oates has perhaps never been better, and a strong secondary cast—Vega, Gig Young, Robert Webber, Kris Kristofferson, Donnie Fritts, and Emilio Fernandez—is equally effective in etching Peckinpah's dark night of the soul. 

Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here and above is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2013 - Day 333: Thu Nov 28

No1 Je Tu il Elle (Akerman, 1972): ICA Cinema, 7pm

Here is the ICA introduction to tonight's programme: A Nos Amours film club continues a retrospective of the complete film works of Chantal Akerman, with two short films and her breakthrough feature length film of 1972 Je Tu il Elle.

Chantal Akerman is a film maker whose time has come. Akerman's work is superficially wide-ranging - spanning documentary and narrative, film and video, 16mm and 35mm, cinema and art gallery - and yet her work is characterised by an uncompromising and singular sense of purpose.

What Akerman shows us, by means structural and otherwise, is nothing less than the human condition, a series of astonishing meditations on loneliness and anxiety, alienation and discomfort. She began inspired by Godard, but quickly established a startling and provocative project that is among the very greatest in European film. 

As J. Hoberman has said: 'Comparable in force and originality to Godard or Fassbinder, Chantal Akerman is arguably the most important European director of her generation'.

La Chambre
1972, 16mm, 11 mins, mute
Shot in New York, influenced perhaps by Snow and Warhol: serene, formal, and yet very beautiful.
Le 15/8
1973, 16mm, 42 mins
Returning to Europe from New York, working with a Finnish friend of Akerman's early collaborator Samy Szlingerbaum, Akerman explores a hinterland between documentary, fiction and unmediated duration.
Je Tu il Elle
16mm, 1975, 86 mins
A set of minimalist constraints create a space for a devastating exploration of utter dissociation.

Chicago Reader review of Je Tu il Elle:
Chantal Akerman directed and plays the lead in this early (1974) black-and-white feature that charts three successive stages of its heroine's love life. In the first part she lives like a hermit, eating only sugar, compulsively rearranging the furniture in her one-room flat, and apparently writing and rewriting a love letter; in part two she hitches a ride with a truck driver and eventually gives him a hand job; in part three she arrives at the home of her female lover, and they proceed to make frantic love. This is every bit as obsessive and as eerie as Akerman's later Jeanne Dielman and Toute une nuit, though not as striking on a visual level; as in all her best work, however, the minimalist structure is both potent and haunting.
Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here and above is an extract.


No2 The Lady Vanishes (Hitchcock, 1938): The Russet, Amhurst Terrace, London, E8, 7.30pm

Chicago Reader review:
Alfred Hitchcock's masterful 1938 spy thriller, with Margaret Lockwood and Michael Redgrave searching for kidnapped agent Dame May Whitty aboard a trans-European express train, pursued all the while by sinister Nazi agents. This is vintage Hitchcock, with the pacing and superb editing that marked not only his 30s style but eventually every film that had any aspirations whatever to achieving suspense and rhythm.
Don Druker

Here and above is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2013 - Day 332: Wed Nov 27

Zodiac (Fincher, 2007): Prince Charles Cinema, 8.20pm

The Social Network is a modern classic. Here is a chance to see director David Fincher's 2007 movie detailing the hunt for a serial killer who terrorised the San Francisco area in the late 1960s and early 70s. 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. There's a scene towards 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 (and above) is the trailer for the film. Quality.

Capital Celluloid 2013 - Day 331: Tue Nov 26

Blue Is the Warmest Colour (Kechiche, 2013): Rio Cinema, 4.15 & 8pm and other cinemas

A rare recommendation for a new film being widely distributed on a quiet night on the rep scene.

Time Out review:
Blue is the Warmest Colour’ is a minutely detailed, searingly erotic three-hour study of first lesbian love. From this simple, not especially unique love story, Kechiche has fashioned an intimate epic in every sense of the term, its every subtle emotional turn rendered widescreen on Exarchopoulos’s exquisitely expressive face. Just 19 years old, the actress effortlessly charts Adèle’s growth from young adult to young woman. Typically for a Kechiche film, meanwhile, her individual journey is set within a bustling, articulate network of friends, family and food. He remains a most sociable filmmaker, which makes his new film’s tingly behind-closed-doors tenderness all the more remarkable.
Guy Lodge

Here and above is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2013 - Day 330: Mon Nov 25

The Incredible Shrinking Man (Arnold, 1957): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 6.10pm

This film is part of the Passport to Cinema season. Tonight's screening is introduced by Dominic Power. The film is also being shown on November 27th. Full details here.

Chicago Reader review:
A scientist (Grant Williams) exposed to radiation grows smaller and smaller in this faithful 1957 adaptation of a bad Richard Matheson novel; it's a lot more interesting than its source, thanks to the special effects and Jack Arnold's taut, no-nonsense direction. The surreal intensity of outsize objects that loom as the hero shrinks is handled effectively, and the mystical happy ending is a better payoff than one would expect of the genre.
Jonathan Rosenbaum

Spoiler alert: here and above is the closing monologue.

Capital Celluloid 2013 - Day 329: Sun Nov 24

Night of the Eagle (Hayers, 1962): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 6.30pm

This film is screening as part of the Gothic season at BFI Southbank. The film is also being shown on November 18th. All the details are here.

Chicago Reader review:
Atmospheric and underplayed in the tradition of Val Lewton (I Walked With a Zombie, Cat People, The Seventh Victim), this British horror feature (1961) operates from the premise that witchcraft survives as an open secret among some women, in both benign and malevolent forms. A small-town academic (Peter Wyngarde) convinces his wife (Janet Taylor) to stop casting spells to advance his career; he doesn't believe in the occult, so he's taken aback by the various disasters that ensue. Charles Beaumont and Richard Matheson are credited with the intelligent and efficient script, which adapts Fritz Leiber's American novel Conjure Wife to an English setting. Director Sidney Hayes can be needlessly rhetorical at times, relying on a campus statue of an eagle to create a sense of menace (the UK title was Night of the Eagle), but this is still eerily effective.
Jonathan Rosenbaum

Capital Celluloid 2013 - Day 328: Sat Nov 23

Dead Man (Jarmusch, 1995): ICA Cinema, 7pm

This film screens as part of the Iggyfest at the ICA. Here is their introduction:

Dubbed a 'Psychedelic Western' by writer and director Jim Jarmusch, Dead Man stars Johnny Depp, Billy Bob Thornton, and Iggy playing the part of Salvatore ‘Sally’ Jenko, a cross-dressing, Bible-reading fur trader. Shot entirely in black and white, the film includes twisted elements of the Western genre, and a soundtrack composed by Neil Young.

The screening on 35mm includes an introduction by Paul Trynka, author of the acclaimed biography Iggy Pop: Open Up and Bleed.

Here are details of the Iggyfest season. 

Chicago Reader review:
A quantum leap by American independent Jim Jarmusch—a hypnotic and beautiful black-and-white western (1995). Johnny Depp plays an accountant from Cleveland named William Blake who travels west with the promise of a job to the infernal town of Machine, only to be told that the job's been taken. After killing a man (Gabriel Byrne) in self-defense and sustaining a mortal bullet wound, Blake is guided toward death by a Native American outcast named Nobody (Gary Farmer) while a trio of bounty hunters and various others try to track him down. This masterpiece is simultaneously a mystical, highly poetic account of dying; a well-researched appreciation of Native American cultures; a frightening portrait of modern American violence and capitalist greed that refuses to traffic in the stylistic alibis of Hollywood; a warm, hilarious depiction of cross-cultural friendship; and a hallucinatory trip across the American wilderness. With Billy Bob Thornton, Mili Avital, John Hurt, and Robert Mitchum (in his last screen performance).

Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2013 - Day 327: Fri Nov 22

Chinatown (Polanski, 1974): Shoreditch Vilage Hall, 33 Hoxton Square N1 6NN, 7pm

This looks fascinating. Passenger Films present the Roman Polanski classic.

Here is their introduction: We'll be screening Roman Polanski's classic Chinatown (1974) - a story of murder, reservoirs, and the birth of Los Angeles - and reframing it with a selection of short films:

The British Public Information Film Dark and Lonely Water (1973), Peter Nestler's innovative early work Am Siel (1962), and Wanuri Kahiu's dazzling Kenyan sci-fi short Pumzi (2009), which imagines society on a desiccated future earth.

With guest speakers including the geographers Alex Loftus andRichard Bater (KCL) and poet and film critic Sophie Mayer - plus drinks and discussion.

Chicago Reader review:
A tribute to the detective thriller and all it represented in terms of notions of heroism and possibilities for action—and an elaboration of Roman Polanski's black thoughts on the absurdity of it all. This stylish 1974 whodunit stars Jack Nicholson (never better) and Faye Dunaway (likewise). A bit abstract, though gorgeously shot (by John Alonzo) and cleverly plotted (by Robert Towne), Polanski's film suggests that the rules of the game are written in some strange, untranslatable language, and that everyone's an alien and, ultimately, a victim.
Don Druker

Here is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2013 - Day 326: Thu Nov 21

The Nightmare Space: Experimental Gothic shorts at BFI Southbank, NFT3, 8.30pm

Seven short movies exploring strange atmospheres, incomplete narratives and haunted other worlds.

Meshes of the Afternoon (Deren, 1943); An Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge (Enrico, 1962); On The Edge (Harrington, 1949); Spill (Gussin, 2006); Rabbit's Moon (Anger, 1952); The Hyrcynium Wood (Rivers, 2005) and Striborg: Homosapiens Devoid (Phaedra and Nanna, 2007).

This is part of the Gothic season at BFI Southbank. Here is their introduction:
‘I have always considered movies evil,’ commented the notoriously occult- influenced filmmaker Kenneth Anger: ‘The day that cinema was invented was a black day for mankind.’ Featuring Anger’s Rabbit’s Moon, this ghoulish assortment channels strange atmospheres, incomplete narratives and haunted other worlds, and includes works by Ben Rivers, Maya Deren and Tasmanian Black Metal musician Striborg, plus an incredible adaption of an old, weird tale by Ambrose Bierce. Here, the shadow sides of consciousness find a place in the bleak and brutal landscapes of cinema. A sinister, experimental adjunct to the BFI’s Gothic season.

Here (and above) is An Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge.

Capital Celluloid 2013 - Day 325: Wed Nov 20

Le Mepris (Godard, 1963): ICA Cinema, 7pm

This screening is part of Iain Sinclair's 70x70, a season of 70 films that have appeared in his novels to mark his 70th birthday.

The ICA introduction:

A screening of Le Mépris for Iain Sinclair's 70x70, a season of 70 films that have appeared in his novels to mark his 70th birthday, followed by a discussion between Sinclair and writer and film producer Colin MacCabe.

'I remember seeing this one at the National Film Theatre on the night before I left London for the Mediterranean island of Gozo. Where I would correspond with William Burroughs and work on the script that was never made, The Face on the Fork. Godard’s film played in every way like a trailer. 

Like an art movie shot over the weekend as a real-estate brochure for a special property, the Villa Malaparte on Capri. (Another island film, from the series of women arriving, returning or disappearing: Bardot here, Lea Massari and Monica Vitti in L’avventura, Magnani in Vulcano, Ingrid Bergman in Stromboli. Capri also features in Rossellini’s Viaggio in Italia, a Godard favourite.) Le Mépris is a promo for Bardot as widescreen topography – while Godard thinks up something for her to do.

If the 70 films are a novel made from broken parts – word falling, photo falling – a number of sustaining motifs arrive among these loud, lush colours. A film of blue and white, sky and stone. The revenant Fritz Lang, out on the terrace, pontificating on Homer, trying to assert classical values. Putting The Return of Frank James way behind him. Fold back the darkest of shadows, Berlin, and exile in Hollywood. Problems with Brecht. Le Mépris is also known as Contempt – which suggests the direct contrary of Chris Petit’s Content 

Le Mépris is about discontent: ugly producers, difficult actors, the tyranny of scripts and stardom. Post-production inserts to fulfil the porn quota. It’s about making pictures and framing pictures. About rivalry with Antonioni (like Godard, a tennis player). Compare and contrast two films taken from Alberto Moravia novels: Contempt and La Notte. In La Notte, Monica Vitti reads Hermann Broch’s The Sleepwalkers. Bardot, under instruction, lies on the bed beside a pile of hardboiled Americans in black-cover translation.'
Iain Sinclair

Chicago Reader review:
A tense, sensitive, and rigorous film by Jean-Luc Godard, based on Alberto Moravia's novel A Ghost at Noon. Michel Piccoli stars as a French screenwriter unable to counter the contempt that his wife (Brigitte Bardot) builds for him as he humbles himself before a producer (Jack Palance) and a legendary director (Fritz Lang). Made in 'Scope and color at the behest of producer Joseph Levine, who expected a big commercial success, this 1963 feature begins as an unlikely project for Godard but develops (some would say degenerates) into one of his most archly stylized films. In English and subtitled (or orally translated) French, German, and Italian.
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2013 - Day 324: Tue Nov 19

Rosemary's Baby (Polanski, 1968): BFI Southbank NFT1, 8.20pm

This film, part of the BFI Gothic season, also screens on November 21st and 24th. Details here.

Chicago Reader review:
'The treacherous-mate theme that has been a staple of “women's pictures” since Gaslight gets its ultimate, most agonizing development in this 1968 story about a young woman (Mia Farrow) who discovers her husband has sold her body for use by a witches' coven. The horror is more clinical than supernatural, as Polanski transforms Ira Levin's story into a metaphor for the loss of identity induced by pregnancy. A very sophisticated, very effective piece of work spun from primal images, with an excellent cast that includes John Cassavetes, Ruth Gordon, Sidney Blackmer, Ralph Bellamy, Maurice Evans, Patsy Kelly, and Elisha Cook Jr.
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is the trailer.