Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 52: Fri Feb 21

The Godfather Part II (Coppola, 1974): BFI Southbank, NFT3, 7pm

This film, part of the Al Pacino season at the BFI, is on an extended run until March 6th. Details here.

Here is an excellent article by John Patterson in the Guardian on the movie. 

Time Out review:
It’s worrying that 1974’s ‘The Godfather Part II’ is now best known for being the film-lover’s kneejerk answer to the question ‘which sequel is superior to the original’? It’s a pointless discussion, because both films are damn close to perfect: two opposing but complementary sides of the same coin. If ‘The Godfather’ was a knife in the dark, its sequel is the long, slow death rattle; if the first film lusted after its bloodthirsty antiheroes, the second drowns itself in guilt and recrimination. Two stories run in parallel in ‘Part II’. In the first, a young Vito Corleone (Robert De Niro) rises to power in New York, fuelled by vengeance and brute, old-world morality. In the second, set 50 years later, his son Michael (Al Pacino) struggles to reconcile his father’s ideals with an uncertain world, and finds himself beset on all sides by treachery and greed. This is quite simply one of the saddest movies ever made, a tale of loss, grief and absolute loneliness, an unflinching stare into the darkest moral abyss.
Tom Huddleston

Here (and above) is an extract.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 51: Thu Feb 20

Playing Dead (Salome, 2013: Cine Lumiere, 8.30pm

The Cine Lumiere introduction: Jean-Paul Salomé’s comedy cum murder mystery is a playful and witty Agatha Christie style whodunnit, with a terrific central performance by François Damiens. Jean, a struggling actor, gets a job standing in for dead victims during police crime scene reconstructions. His obsession for detail allows him to take a leading role in a sensitive investigation…
Followed by a Q&A with director Jean- Paul Salomé

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 50: Wed Feb 19

The Blue Angel (von Sternberg, 1930): Goethe Institute, 7pm

Chicago Reader review:
The first film collaboration between Josef von Sternberg and Marlene Dietrich (1930), this reeks with decay and sexuality. Emil Jannings plays the professor who tries to stop his students from visiting nightclub singer Lola-Lola (Dietrich) and ends up succumbing to her plump charms. In many ways the film is about the constancy of emotion as well as the destructive tricks it plays. Jannings's repressed little prig, whose first sexual encounter results in his total destruction, is redeemed from contempt by Sternberg's respect for his masochistic passion. In German with subtitles.
Don Druker

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

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 49: Tue Feb 18

The Cameraman (Keaton, 1928): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 9pm

This film, being shown as part of the Buster Keaton season, also screens on February 20th. You can find all the details here.

Chicago Reader review:
Buster Keaton's 1928 film on the problems and principles of making movies. Directed by Edward Sedgwick, the film follows the adventures of Keaton as he tries to become a cameraman for the Hearst newsreel company, and it includes some of the best asides on the techniques and psychology of shooting films ever captured in a movie. In many ways it summarizes Keaton's career and makes a marvelous companion piece to his other film-about-film, Sherlock Jr.
Dan Druker

Here (and above) is an extract.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 48: Mon Feb 17

Lift to the Scaffold (Malle, 1958): BFI Southbank, NFT3, 6.30pm & 8.30pm

This classic Louis Malle film is on an extended run at the BFI until March 6th. You can find all the details here.

Time Out review:
Malle's first feature, a straightforward but classy thriller about an ex-paratrooper's attempt to dispose of his mistress' tycoon husband in a perfect murder. It became associated with the early excitements of the nouvelle vague mainly through the performances of Ronet (playing a prototype of the disgruntled Vietnam veteran) and Moreau (who does some moody solo wandering in the streets searching for her missing lover). The ingenious plot, using a malfunctioning lift as its deus-ex-machina, has one carefully plotted murder conjure another as its shadow image. But the cement holding the film together is really the splendid jazz score improvised by Miles Davis.
Tom Milne

Here (and above) is an extract.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 47: Sun Feb 16

Burroughs: The Movie (Brookner, 1983): ICA Cinema, 3.45pm

Here is the ICA introduction for a film which screens at the ICA cinema from February 16th to February 20th:

Burroughs: The Movie explores the life and times of controversial Naked Lunch author William S. Burroughs, with an intimacy never before seen and never repeated. The film charts the development of Burroughs’ unique literary style and his wildly unconventional life, including his travels from the American Midwest to North Africa and several personal tragedies. Burroughs: The Movie is the first and only feature length documentary to be made with and about Burroughs.

The film was directed by the late Howard Brookner, begun in 1978 as Brookner's senior thesis at NYU film school before expanding into a feature completed 5 years later in 1983.  Sound was recorded by Jim Jarmusch and the film was shot by Tom DiCillo, fellow NYU classmates and both very close friends of Brookner's.

Special Q&A - Sunday 16 Feb, 3:45pm
Barry Miles, author of the first major full-length biography on Burroughs in more than 25 years, will introduce the film and participate in a Q&A following the screening.

Chicago Reader review:
Howard Brookner's 1985 documentary profile of the now legendary avant-gardist William S. Burroughs, assembled from some 80 hours of interview footage. Overall an interesting, serious job, and the more controversial aspects of Burroughs's past and personality—such as his misogyny and his slaying of his wife—are squarely confronted.
Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here (and above) is an extract.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 46: Sat Feb 15

Wake in Fright (Kotcheff, 1971): Rio Cinema, 11.30pm

This is a Cigarette Burns film club production and  a special screening of this genuine cult movie on 35mm. You can find more details on their Facebook page here and this is their introduction:

Hands down one of Australia's true cinematic gems, from the man who brought us First Blood and The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz we get an apocalyptic trek through the darkest depths of life in a thrown away mining town. Trapped in Donald Pleasence's whirlwind of booze and live for the moment devastation, a passing schoolteacher is pushed to extremes, desperate to escape... As much as we all love Pleasence in Puma Man, his performance in Wake in Fright is without question a lifetime best. We are beyond excited to be presenting the only 35mm screening of this powerhouse, this side of Hadrian's Wall. Once we are finished with it, off it goes back to the Australian National Film and Sound Archive. This is your ONE chance to see this on celluloid. 

Chicago Reader review:
Ted Kotcheff (First Blood, The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz) directed this forgotten Australian masterpiece (1971) about an arrogant Sydney schoolteacher (Garry Bond) who's slowly driven mad after a prolonged stay in the Yabba, a desolate mining town in the middle of the Australian outback. After gambling away every dollar he has, Bond succumbs to the aggressive hospitality of the locals, and they condition him to their brutish lifestyle, which seems to consist mostly of constant drinking, random fistfights, anarchic destruction of other people's property, and kangaroo hunting. A Conradian parable of a man succumbing to the wild, the film is remarkable for its raw, pointed depiction of human behavior. Push a man too far, Kotcheff suggests, and you'll find the beast concealed behind the mask of propriety.

Drew Hunt

Here is the Masters of Cinema trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 45: Fri Feb 14

Only Lovers Left Alive (Jarmusch, 2013): Rio Cinema 11.30pm
& Genesis Cinema, 8.30pm

The Rio Cinema is invariably the place to visit on Valentine's Day. This year is no different (with the Genesis getting in on the action if you want to go to an earlier screening). Only Lovers Left Alive is the latest film from Jim Jarmusch, and you can see the movie a week before its official release.

Set against the romantic desolation of Detroit and Tangier, an underground musician, deeply depressed by the direction of human activities, reunites with his resilient and enigmatic lover. Their love story has already endured several centuries at least, but their debauched idyll is soon disrupted by her wild and uncontrollable younger sister. Can these wise but fragile outsiders continue to survive as the modern world collapses around them?

Little White Lies review:

Hilarious, bittersweet, nostlagic and philosophical. One of this amazing director's finest achievements. A great piece of art that is in thrall to great pieces of art.
David Jenkins

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 44: Thu Feb 13

No1 Les Rendez-vous d'Anna (Akerman, 1978): ICA Cinema, 7.30pm

Here is the ICA introduction:

A Nos Amours continues the Chantal Ackerman retrospective with Les Rendez-vous d'Anna (1978), a polished, forlorn fable of isolation.

Anna Silver is a filmmaker. Her mother and sick father live in Belgium. Her frequent travels mean that hotel rooms are home as much as anywhere. Visits to the parental home are fleeting affairs - confessional intimacies between mother and daughter must be taken wherever they can. Pick-ups are easy-come-easy-go affairs. Commitment is provisional. 'Anna, where are you?', a voice enquires. Anna may not know or much care.

The reflexive, seemingly autobiographical nature of all these components needs no underlining, and this hall-of-mirrors effect can be superficially disorientating. But a true bearing is sustained by the luminous, painterly miracle of wonderful image-making, and the sure sense of a great mind at work, exploring the alienating topographies of contemporary Europe.

Here is dislocation amid the faux-comforts of hotels; endless peregrinations according to inescapably rigorous train time tables; nomadism as a form of deferred existential crisis. And a growing, nagging suspicion that for Akerman, indeed for any sensitive being, the spectre of the Nazi’s final solution haunts the trains and soulless places of Europe. A profound work of art that finds Akerman exploring a new Bressonian idiom, that plumbs the well’s depth.

Chicago Reader review:
The succes de scandale of Jeanne Dielman brought Chantal Akerman the opportunity to make a film for the French major Gaumont; the result was this moody, terse, haunting feature about a woman filmmaker (Aurore Clement) on a promotional tour of Europe. In each city she takes the chance to look up relatives, friends, and ex-lovers, but none of the meetings is wholly satisfying; some block to communication always remains. Akerman's use of long takes and open spaces delineates the gulf that separates her characters from their environment and from each other. While the atmosphere of anomie may be familiar from countless European art films, it is Akerman's intense emotionality, held desperately in check by her precise camera style, that makes this effort something special.
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is an extract.


No 2 White Material (Denis, 2009): Hackney Picturehouse, 6.30pm

This is part of the Claire Denis retrospective at PictureHouse Cinemas. Details here.

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

Here is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 43: Wed Feb 12

Sebastiane (Jarman, 1976): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 8.45pm

This extraordinary film is on a short run till 20th February at BFI Southbank as part of the cinema's Derek Jarman season. Details here.

Time Out review:
Not exactly typical of the British independent cinema, this not only tackles an avowedly 'difficult' subject (the relationship between sex and power, and the destructive force of unrequited passion), but does so within two equally 'difficult' frameworks: that of exclusively male sexuality, and that of the Catholic legend of the martyred saint, set nearly 1,700 years ago. Writer/director Jarman sees Sebastian as a common Roman soldier, exiled to the back of beyond with a small platoon of bored colleagues, who gets selfishly absorbed in his own mysticism and then picked on by his emotionally crippled captain. It's filmed naturalistically, to the extent that the dialogue is in barracks-room Latin, and carries an extraordinary charge of conviction in the staging and acting; it falters only in the slightly awkward elements of parody and pastiche. One of a kind, it's compulsively interesting on many levels.
Tony Rayns

Here is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 42: Tue Feb 11

There Will be Blood (Thomas Anderson, 2007): Prince Charles Cinema, 8.30pm

This is part of the Prince Charles Cinema's Greatest Hits of 2007 season. Full details here.

Chicago Reader review:
Paul Thomas Anderson's fifth feature (2007), a striking piece of American self-loathing loosely derived from Upton Sinclair's Oil!, is lively as bombastic period storytelling but limited as allegory. The cynical shallowness of both the characters and the overall conception—American success as an unholy alliance between a turn-of-the-century capitalist (Daniel Day-Lewis) and a faith healer (Paul Dano), both hypocrites—can't quite sustain the film's visionary airs, even with good expressionist acting and a percussive score by Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood. Day-Lewis, borrowing heavily from Walter and John Huston, offers a demonic hero halfway between Thomas Sutpen in Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom! and James Dean's hate-driven tycoon in Giant (shot on the same location as this movie), but Kevin J. O'Connor in a slimmer part offers a much more interesting and suggestive character. This has loads of swagger, but for stylistic audacity I prefer Anderson's more scattershot Magnolia.

Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 41: Mon Feb 10

Vendredi Soir (Denis, 2003): Ritzy Cinema, 6.30pm

The latest in the Claire Denis season at Picturehouse Cinemas ahead of the release of Bastards.

Time Out review:
Nightfall in wintry Paris. Laure (Lemercier), aged thirty-plus, has spent Friday packing up her flat, a prelude to moving in with her boyfriend. Her plan is to drive over to her friends' place for dinner, but streets gridlocked by a transport strike halt her progress. Moments after a radio announcer suggests motorists should offer help to stranded pedestrians, Laure is sharing her vehicle with taciturn Jean (Lindon), and the evening develops from there. Desire in Denis' films has often been a disruptive factor, yet this sensual divertissement offers its fairly ordinary female protagonist a guilt-free liberation, possibly temporary, from the confines of a steady relationship. It's not a matter of transgressive, predatory or premeditated sexuality, however. Rather, it's Lemercier realising she can allow herself a moment of sexual self-expression when circumstances unexpectedly permit. A facilitator rather than a seducer, Lindon lends the movie an inclusive erotic charge very different from that found in standard male-oriented fantasy narratives. This is wonderfully alert film-making, vividly alive to the constant by-play between inner longings and everyday surroundings. Trust me, you'll be stirred in all the right places. (Based on the novel by Emmanuèle Bernheim.
Trevor Johnston

Here (and above) is an extract.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 40: Sun Feb 9

Topsy-Turvy (Leigh, 1999): Tricycle Theatre, 5pm

The Tricycle in Kilburn are screening a series of great British movies accompanied by directors, writers and cast members. This highly regarded Mike Leigh film, which many consider the director's finest, is the latest screening. Here are all the details of the season. Lesley Manvill, Jim Broadbent and Ron Cook will be at the Q&A following this movie.

Chicago Reader review:
For all his versatility as a writer-director, I was surprised to learn that Mike Leigh (Secrets & Lies) had made a film about the genesis of Gilbert and Sullivan's mid-1880s comic opera The Mikado. Yet this 160-minute "backstage musical" is about something he knows intimately--the complex of personal, organizational, artistic, and cultural factors that go into putting on a show. Leigh begins with leisurely character sketches of composer Arthur Sullivan (Allan Corduner) and librettist William Gilbert (Jim Broadbent), two very different men whose collaboration appears to be at an end. Only after Gilbert's wife (Lesley Manville) drags him to a Japanese exhibition in London does The Mikado (and this movie) begin to take shape, and after that the film keeps getting better and better. The actors and actresses in the stage production, including Leigh regular Timothy Spall, all sing in their own voices, and Leigh's flair for comedy and sense of social interaction shine as he shows all the ingredients in The Mikado beginning to mesh. Thoroughly researched and unobtrusively upholstered, this beautifully assured entertainment about Victorian England is a string of delights. With Ron Cook, Wendy Nottingham, Eleanor David, Kevin McKidd, Shirley Henderson, Dorothy Atkinson, and many Leigh standbys, including Alison Steadman and Katrin Cartlidge. Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here is Mike Leigh talking about the film.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 39: Sat Feb 8

In The Mood for Love (Kar-wai, 2000): Screen on the Green, 11.30pm

This screens as part of the Screen on the Green's excellent Saturday midnight movie season.

Chicago Reader review:
A brooding chamber piece (2000) about a love affair that never quite happens. Director Wong Kar-wai, Hong Kong's most romantic filmmaker, is known for his excesses, and in that sense the film's spareness represents a bold departure. Claustrophobically set in adjacent flats in 1962 Hong Kong, where two young couples find themselves sharing space with other people, it focuses on a newspaper editor and a secretary at an export firm (Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung, the sexiest duo in Hong Kong cinema) who discover that their respective spouses are having an affair on the road. Wong, who improvises his films with the actors, endlessly repeats his musical motifs and variations on a handful of images, rituals, and short scenes (rainstorms, cab rides, stairways, tender and tentative hand gestures), while dressing Cheung in some of the most confining (though lovely) dresses imaginable, whose mandarin collars suggest neck braces. In Cantonese, French, Mandarin, and Spanish with subtitles.
Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 38: Fri Feb 7

Beau Travail (Denis, 1999): Ritzy Cinema, 6.30pm

Chicago Reader review:
A gorgeous mirage of a movie (1999), Claire Denis' reverie about the French foreign legion in eastern Africa, suggested by Herman Melville's Billy Budd, Foretopman, benefits especially from having been choreographed (by Bernardo Montet, who also plays one of the legionnaires). Combined with Denis' superb eye for settings, Agnes Godard's cinematography, and the director's decision to treat major and minor elements as equally important, this turns some of the military maneuvers and exercises into thrilling pieces of filmmaking that surpass even Full Metal Jacket and converts some sequences in a disco into vibrant punctuations. The story, which drifts by in memory fragments, is told from the perspective of a solitary former sergeant (Denis Lavant, star of The Lovers on the Bridge) now living in Marseilles and recalling his hatred for a popular recruit (Gregoire Colin) that led to the sergeant's discharge; the fact that his superior is named after the hero of Jean-Luc Godard's Le petit soldat and played by the same actor almost 40 years later (Michel Subor) adds a suggestive thread, as do the passages from Benjamin Britten's opera Billy Budd. Most of all, Denis, who spent part of her childhood in Djibouti, captures the poetry and atmosphere—and, more subtly, the women—of Africa like few filmmakers before her. A masterpiece.
Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 37: Thu Feb 6

Savage Messiah (Russell, 1972): BFI Southbank, NFT3, 8.40pm

This film, which is screening as part of the Derek Jarman season, was the second movie for which Jarman provided art direction for Ken Russell after The Devils. Savage Messiah is also being shown on February 9th when Sam Ashby will discuss Jarman's collaborations with Russell. Details here.

Here is an extract from Tribune film critic Neil Young's review:
'Vibrantly unconventional biopic, (melo-)dramatising the unorthodox relationship – more inspirational/mental than romantic/sexual – between penniless French sculptor Henri Gaudier (Scott Anthony) and a much older Polish writer Sophie Brzeska (Dorothy Tutin), in Paris and London during the early years of the 20th century. Though not all of Russell’s flashy directorial and gambits pay off, Savage Messiah has a spiky, bracing charm all its own and rivals The Elephant Man among the most convincing, scruffily evocative cinematic visions of bygone London. The air of persuasively percussive exuberance renders the sudden ending (reflecting Gaudier’s fate in the Great War’s trenches) all the more jarringly poignant: a pair of sepia-tinted stills show Anthony-as-Gaudier among his comrades-in-arms, grinning laddishly in uniform, white of tooth and muddy of face.'
You can read the review in full here.

Here (and above) is the opening.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 36: Wed Feb 5

No1 Bastards (Denis, 2013) plus director Q&A: Hackney Picturehouse, 6.30pm

Here is the Hackney Picturehouse introduction:

We are delighted to welcome director Claire Denis for a Q&A after this preview screening.
Supertanker captain Marco (Lindon, ANYTHING FOR HER) returns to Paris, where his sister (Bataille) is facing bankruptcy following her husband’s death. He then finds himself forced to unravel an increasingly complex web of intrigue and tragedy involving both family and voyeuristically observed strangers.

As with 2009’s award-laden WHITE MATERIAL, writer-director Denis articulates this beguilingly dark tale by concentrating on the characters, often in intense close-up, punctuated with beautiful, sometimes disconnected images that, with an almost dreamlike inevitability, come together to make sense of the whole.

The unconventional narrative and striking cinematography are wrapped around an unflinching meditation on individual indifference to social norms that harks back to CHINATOWN and even classic noir in its examination of amorality and corruption.

Here is the trailer.


No2 Ashes of Time (Redux) (Kar-wai, 1994): Prince Charles Cinema, 6.50pm

This is screening as part of a Wong Kar-wai season at the Prince Charles. Details here.

Chicago Reader review:
Wong Kar Wai's Ashes of Time (1994) was an abstract martial-arts adventure about a mercenary assassin (Leslie Cheung) and his rival (Tony Leung Ka Fai), inspired by the two main characters in Louis Cha's novel The Eagle Shooting Heroes. For this director's cut, Wong has trimmed several minutes and reorganized the narrative according to the passage of seasons, though the plot is still impenetrable. The original synth score has been replaced by an orchestration with cello solos by Yo-Yo Ma, and Christopher Doyle's cinematography has been remastered, losing some of its graininess. As in the original version, the fights are outweighed by existential angst and Buddhist introspection, but the sequence in which a blind swordsman (Tony Leung Chiu Wai) takes on an army of thieves is still gangbusters. In Cantonese and Mandarin with subtitles.
Andrea Gronvall

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 35: Tue Feb 4

In A Lonely Place (Ray, 1950): Riverside Studios, 6.30pm

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. Sinclair will be on hand to introduce the movie.

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 2014 - Day 34: Mon Feb 3

Black Narcissus (Powell & Pressburger, 1947): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 6.10pm

This film, part of the Passport to Cinema season, also screens on Feb 1st. Details here. Tonight's presentation is introduced by Philip Kemp.

Chicago Reader:
A story of damaged faith and rising sexual hysteria (1946) set among a group of nuns in India who are working to convert a sultan's palace into a convent. Films on this subject are generally solemn and naive, but director Michael Powell and writer Emeric Pressburger bring wit and intelligence to it—the title, for example, refers not to some campy romantic theme but to a cheap men's cologne worn by the local princeling. The film's lush, mountainous India, full of sensual challenges and metaphorical chasms, was created entirely in the studio, with the help of matte artist Peter Ellenshaw. Powell's equally extravagant visual style transforms it into a landscape of the mind—grand and terrible in its thorough abstraction. With Deborah Kerr, David Farrar, Jean Simmons, and Sabu.
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 33: Sun Feb 2

Groundhog Day (Ramis, 1993): Prince Charles Cinema,  6pm

Remember this day last year? Then what better way to celebrate Groundhog Day than watching Groundhog Day . . . What better way to celebrate Groundhog Day than watching Groundhog Day . . . What better way to celebrate Groundhog Day than watching Groundhog Day . . .

New Statesman film critic, Ryan Gilbey, has written a BFI Modern Classics monograph on Groundhog Day which I can highly recommend. Here is an extract from a feature he wrote for the Observer on the film:

'[Groundhog Day] has emerged as one of the most influential films in modern cinema - and not only on other movies. Tony Blair did not refer to Jurassic Park in his sombre speech about the Northern Ireland peace process. Dispatches during the search for weapons of mass distraction made no mention of Mrs Doubtfire . And the Archbishop of Canterbury neglected to name-check Indecent Proposal when delivering the 2002 Richard Dimbleby Lecture. But Groundhog Day was invoked on each of these occasions.

The title has become a way of encapsulating those feelings of futility, repetition and boredom that are a routine part of our lives. When Groundhog Day is referred to, it is not the 2 February celebration that comes to mind, but the story of a cynical TV weatherman, Phil Connors, played by Bill Murray, who pitches up in Punxsutawney to cover the festivities. Next morning, he wakes to discover it's not the next morning at all: he is trapped in Groundhog Day. No matter what crimes he commits or how definitively he annihilates himself, he will be returned to his dismal bed-and-breakfast each morning at 5.59am  . . .'

Here all the Ned Ryerson scenes, here are all the Ned Ryerson scenes, here are all the Ned Ryerson scenes, here are all the Ned Ryerson scenes . . .

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 32: Sat Feb 1

Natan (Duane, 2013): Curzon Soho, 2.45pm

This sounds intriguing and here is the Curzon Soho introduction: Reel Art is an Arts Council scheme based in Ireland designed to provide film artists with a unique opportunity to make highly creative, imaginative and experimental documentaries on an artistic theme.

Bernard Natan could be described as one of the fathers of French cinema. How did he come to be completely forgotten, especially so in France? How is it that what little attention is paid to him centers on his alleged career as a pioneer and performer in early gay and BDSM porn? Why was Bernard Natan's name erased from the history of cinema, despite the fact that he dominated the French film industry for much of the '20s and '30s?

This documentary aims to rewrite the history of European cinema. The man who brought sound cinema to France, who brought Cinemascope to the screen before the word existed, the French equivalent of Louis B. Mayer or Samuel Goldwyn, came to an end so tragic that it seems barely believable. Rumours and falsehoods have swarmed around his story for decades but the film finally brings the truth to light.

The film will be shown in a double-bill with Broken Song and include a Q&A with the film-makers after the screening.

Here (and above) is the trailer for Natan.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 31: Fri Jan 31

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (Aldrich, 1962): BFI Southbank, NFT3, 6pm

This film, part of the BFI Gothic season, also screens on January 27th and 30th.
Details here.

John Patterson pens an excellent column in the Guide magazine every Saturday for the Guardian. He wrote about this film and, in particular, the work of director Robert Aldrich, when this film was re-released in December 2012.
This is the article in full
 and here is an extract from that piece:

'It should really have inspired its own sordid sub-sub-genre. Hagsploitation, perhaps, or maybe Grande Dame Guignol. Robert Aldrich's What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? is a movie that reeks of contempt and despair, and so it brings me great pleasure to celebrate its 50th anniversary as it is re-released this week.

Baby Jane ... is very, very Robert Aldrich, a wonderful director nearly 30 years dead now, whose body of work is in danger of slipping over the horizon. Today we remember him for The Dirty Dozen, The Longest Yard, Kiss Me Deadly and Baby Jane. But he was more than that. American aristocrat, grandson of a senator, Nelson Rockerfeller's cousin, he disavowed it all and headed west in 1941, working as assistant director to Losey, Chaplin and Renoir. 

He became a Cahiers Du Cinéma cause-célèbre and instant auteur in 1956, when an accident of releasing saw the simultaneous exhibition in Paris of Attack, The Big Knife, Autumn Leaves and Kiss Me Deadly, a head-spinning quadruple whammy that earned the corpulent Aldrich his Gallic nickname: "Le Gros Bob". Try watching those four this weekend; you can thank me later, after your head has exploded. He was an patrician leftie with a marked sense of injustice, a militant and effective president of the Directors' Guild and, after The Dirty Dozen, the furiously independent owner of his own studio. He was a punchy, caustic, macho and pessimistic director (the end of Kiss Me Deadly is the end of the world), who depicted corruption and evil unflinchingly, and pushed limits on violence throughout his career. His aggressive and pugnacious film-making style, often crass and crude, but never less than utterly vital and alive, warrants – and will richly reward – your immediate attention.'
Here (and above) is the new trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 30: Thu Jan 30

Institute Benjamenta (Brothers Quay, 1996): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 8.45pm

This unclassifiable movie is being shown as part of the Buster Keaton season. The movie also screens on January 27th. Details here. (From the BFI introduction: 'Outlandishly beautiful and bizarre, the film is set in a shadowy, sinister, antiquated Middle Europe of the imagination; the Keaton connection is Rylance’s understated, drily funny performance as the watchful innocent who would be a princely saviour.')

Time Out review:
Sometime this century, somewhere in Europe: Jakob von Gunten (Rylance) enrols at the Institute Benjamenta, a run-down edifice headed by an eccentric tyrant (John) and dedicated to the training of suitably unambitious, humble servants. Though Jakob readily submits to the repetitive regime of incredibly banal lessons in servility, he begins to wonder whether he might be sufficiently princely to rescue his melancholy tutor, Benjamenta's sister Lisa (Krige), from the suffocating half-life she leads inside the school's sinister, shadowy walls. Inspired by the writings of Swiss novelist Robert Walser, the first feature from the Brothers Quay is as outlandishly beautiful, bizarre, mysterious and inventive as one might expect; more surprising, perhaps, given their history as animators specialising in puppetry and rather abstract metaphor, is the firm grasp of narrative and the intense performances elicited from a strong international cast. Overall, the film can be seen as a (finally subversive) variation on traditional fairytale motifs, as an allegory on our progress through - as an alternative title would have it - 'This Dream People Call Human Life', or as a loving tribute to cinema's fantastic capacity for poetry. Genuinely unsettling.
Geoff Andrew

Here is an extract.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 29: Wed Jan 29

Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde (Robertson, 1920):
Barts Pathology Museum, Queen Mary, University of London, 7pm

Here is Pamela Huntchinson's introduction from her Silent London blog:  'First, a recap. If you don’t know Barts Pathology Museum, that is because it is one of the capital’s best-kept secrets – a stunning Grade II listed 19th-century hall where quirky medical specimens are displayed. The hall has a glass roof, because once upon a time medical students would dissect cadavers there. You can read more about the history of the museum and its many fascinating artefacts on the museum blog, here. Entry to the museum is by appointment only, but the doors are open on selected evenings for a series of lectures and events on subjects ranging from film noir to taxidermy to dentistry. Your humble scribe was there last November, giving an illustrated talk on silent cinema. The January screenings are supported by Hendrick’s Gin, and entry to each film includes a G&T and some delicious, freshly popped popcorn as well as the film. I will be there to introduce the screenings.'

Slant website review:
The split persona at the center of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, director John S. Robertson's adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's psychosexual chestnut, hews intriguingly close to the personal foibles of star John Barrymore. Acclaimed for his vast theatrical gifts and criticized for supposedly lolling around on them, Barrymore both reveled in and mocked his image as a dashing lover, smoldering as Don Juan one minute and then perversely disfiguring his famous "great profile" with pointy beards and putty noses. Both sides are on display in Dr. Jekyll and prove to be the most fascinating elements of this atmospheric but stolid picture. As the dedicated scientist of the title, Barrymore livens up the character's earnestness with subtle hints of the lusty creature lurking beneath the civilized skin, especially in his scenes with Nita Naldi as a thinly coded music hall trollop. 

Said creature finally emerges when Dr. Jekyll's curiosity about human dichotomy causes him to experiment on himself, and the bestial Mr. Hyde is born. The film's prosaic visual approach suddenly becomes a virtue during this metamorphosis, as the dearth of stylistic effects leads Barrymore to act out the shift from doctor to monster in a single unbroken take of virtuosic pantomime. As the lubricious Hyde, the actor has a blast with a stooped walk, a scraggly wig, and lewd insinuations of sexual violence. It's a shame that Robertson's direction can't emulate Barrymore's bravura approach; buffs will yearn for some of the inventive abandon Rouben Mamoulian would bring to his 1932 filming of the story, or wonder how the German expressionists would have tackled the visual possibilities of the project. (Ironically, F.W. Murnau's long-lost version of Stevenson's novel, The Janus Head, was also released in 1920.) As an early horror movie, Dr. Jekyll is a mostly muffled affair. As a stage for Barrymore's own impish duality, however, it's a captivating one.
Fernando F Croce

Here (and above) is an extract.


Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 28: Tue Jan 28

The Shuttered Room (Greene, 1967): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 6.20pm

This film screens as part of the Projecting the Archive season at BFI Southbank. The movie will be introduced by film historian Jonathan Rigby. More details here.

Here is the BFI introduction: This atmospheric chiller takes little more than its title from the HP Lovecraft pastiche it’s based on, which is greatly improved by the reworking. Susanna Whately (Lynley) returns to the remote island off the US east coast that she left as a child, intending to reclaim her inheritance. Despite warnings of supernatural goings-on, she and her husband have more to fear from the local rednecks, led by a sleazy Oliver Reed, than the secret that lurks in the shuttered room.

Here (and above) are the opening titles.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 27: Mon Jan 27

Salem's Lot (Hooper, 1979): Alibi Film Club, 91 Kingsland High St, E8, 7pm

The Alibi Film Club continue their excellent run of movies with a rare showing of the theatrical release of this Stephen King adaptation.

Time out review:
A surprisingly successful small screen adaptation of Stephen King's vampire novel. In the Maine town of Jerusalem's Lot, it slowly dawns on writer Soul that antique dealer Mason is a harbinger of blood-sucking evil. Edited down from the 190 minute, two-part TV movie, this cinema release version is slightly gorier and tighter than the original. Paring away the excessive plot exposition of Paul Monash's teleplay, it places the emphasis on Hooper's fluid camerawork, creepy atmospherics, and skilful handling of the gripping climax.
Nigel Floyd

Here (and above) is a genuinely horrific scene featuring James Mason.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 26: Sun Jan 26

No1 Eyes Without a Face (Franju, 1959): Temple Studios, 31 London St, W2 1DJ
Screenings at 11am & 1.15pm

This should be fascinating. Here is the introduction to today's two screening: A 16mm print of cult 1959 French horror film Eyes Without A Face will be screened twice on the 26 January on the set of Punchdrunk and National Theatre co-productionThe Drowned Man: A Hollywood Fable. 

Punchdrunk and the BFI have partnered up for these special screenings as part of the BFI’s nationwide Gothic project. The classic horror film will be shown inside the 36-seat working cinema created by Punchdrunk as part of the extraordinary set of The Drowned Man which spans four floors.  In performances of The Drowned Man, which is set in 1962, the old fashioned Hollywood cinema is already billed as showing the film Eyes Without A Face.

Directed by Georges Franju, Eyes Without A Face is the story of a brilliant, obsessive doctor who goes to horrifying lengths to attempt radical plastic surgery on his daughter after a car accident leaves her disfigured.  Described as ‘the most horrid horror film you could fear to see’ by the Financial Times it is now recognised as a major influence on the gothic genre but caused great controversy when it was released.  Seven people fainted during the film’s first showing at the Edinburgh Film Festival in 1960.

The gothic world of Temple Studios is the perfect setting for the film screening.  Inspired by Georg Büchner's fractured masterpiece Woyzeck, The Drowned Man explores the darkness of the Hollywood dream.

Chicago Reader review:
As Dave Kehr originally described it, “a classic example of the poetry of terror.” Georges Franju's 1959 horror film, based on a novel by Jean Redon, is about a plastic surgeon who's responsible for the car accident that leaves his daughter disfigured; he attempts to rebuild her face with transplants from attractive young women he kidnaps with the aid of his assistant. As absurd and as beautiful as a fairy tale, this chilling, nocturnal black-and-white masterpiece was originally released in this country dubbed and under the title The Horror Chamber of Dr. Faustus, but it's much too elegant to warrant the usual “psychotronic” treatment. It may be Franju's best feature, and Eugen Schufftan's exquisite cinematography deserves to be seen in 35-millimeter.
Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here (and above) is the trailer.


No 2 The Vampire Lovers (Ward-Baker, 1970): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 8.40pm

This film, part of the BFI Gothic season, is also being shown on January 21st when Madeleine Smith will be present for a Q&A after the screening. Details here.

Chicago Reader review:
Based on Sheridan Le Fanu's Carmilla, this eroticized vampire tale (1970) resulted from the last significant surge of creative energy at Britian's Hammer Films, which thereafter descended into abject self-parody. Ingrid Pitt is the bisexual bloodsucker on the loose in a girls' boarding school, and Peter Cushing is her nemesis. With Dawn Addams, Pippa Steele, and Madeleine Smith.
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 25: Sat Jan 25

No1 Dark Days (Singer, 2000): Ritzy Cinema 1.30pm & Hackney Picturehouse, 5pm 
Both films will be followed by Q&A with director Marc Singer.

Here is the Picturehouses introduction: DARK DAYS is a sensitive and soulful portrait of a homeless community living in the subway tunnels of New York in the 1990s. Director Marc Singer creates a sympathetic portrait of this underground population, asking them to share everyday stories of their lives – finding food, caring for pets, socialising. In doing so he reveals that their daily grind is not dissimilar to ours, allowing viewers to confront poverty on an individual level.

Shot in black and white, with a crew comprised of the inhabitants of the tunnels and accompanied by a score from the legendary DJ Shadow, DARK DAYS endures as one of the definitive films of life lived in the margins. DARK DAYS premiered at the 2000 Sundance Film Festival where it went on to win the Audience, Cinematography and Freedom of Expression Awards in the Documentary Category (it remains the only documentary film ever to win three awards at the festival).

Daily Telegraph review:
Twenty years ago, Englishman Marc Singer was living in New York City, and became drawn to a community of homeless people living underground, in the Amtrak tunnel near Penn Station. He lived with them on and off for a period of two years, deciding after a few months that a documentary was something which might help those in the community financially. What he assembled was the remarkable Dark Days, which won a clutch of awards – including the Audience Award at Sundance Film Festival – on its release in 2000. Now reissued to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the British distributor Dogwoof, it holds up as a haunting document of mid-Nineties urban blight.
It’s as vivid a depiction of homelessness as cinema has ever given us. Shot in grainy 16mm monochrome, with a couple of strong lights Singer asked friends to tote around, it’s distinguished by remarkable intimacy, with none of the arty distance or aesthetic pretension a veteran filmmaker might have imposed. Singer’s subjects feel more like collaborators, an ensemble cast. They open up about terrible things they’ve suffered – in more than one case, the death of a child – which have sunk them into this abyss. Some have weaned themselves off smoking crack. Others intend to, one day.
The soundtrack, provided pro bono by pioneering hip-hop producer DJ Shadow, helps knit the whole into something forbidding, emotive and captivating. 
Tim Robey

Here (and above is an extract)


No 2 The Secret Beyond the Door (Lang, 1947): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 8.40pm

This film, which is part of the BFI Gothic season, also screens on Friday 31st January.

Time Out review:
An example of Hollywood's mooncalf affair with Freud during the '40s, ending in an absurd instant cure for psychopathy. But the premise is fascinating, and fraught with Gothic overtones as Bennett's heroine ('This is not the time to think of danger', she murmurs at the outset, shaking off premonition, 'this is my wedding day') gradually realises that, married to an architect (Redgrave) who literally and obsessively 'collects' rooms in which murders have occurred, she must uncover the secret of the one room always kept locked. Lang himself didn't think much of the film, but nevertheless set it under his usual sign of destiny ('This is not the time to think of danger...') and invested it with roots in older myths of the magic power of love. His direction is masterly, imposing meanings and tensions through images that are spare, resonant and astonishingly beautiful. A remarkable film.
Tom Milne

Here (and above) is an extract.