Capital Celluloid 2015 - Day 11: Sun Jan 11

From Russia With Love (Young, 1963): Prince Charles Cinema, 8.45pm

The Prince Charles Cinema continues its full 007 Retrospective showing every James Bond movie over the coming months. You can see all the details of the screenings here.

The press reviews of the films don't capture the excitement of this retrospective for Bond fans and I am recommending the Blogalongabond series by Neil Alcock (aka @theincrediblesuit on Twitter). Here is his take on From Russia With Love.

Chicago Reader review:
For my money, still the best Bond, with a screwball plotline that keeps the locales changing and the surprises coming—even when reason dictates that the picture should be over. Lotte Lenya and Robert Shaw make a creepy pair, and Daniela Bianchi embodies the essence of centerfold sex, circa 1964.

Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is an extract.

Capital Celluloid 2015 - Day 10: Sat Jan 10

Haxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages (Christensen, 1922): Hackney Picturehouse, 7pm

This famous silent film screens as part of the London Short Film Festival and full details of all the screenings can be found here. Tonight's ticket includes free entry to the 'Salt, Sweat, Sugar' night on the Hackney Attic  dancefloor till 1am.

This is part of a Filmphonics season at Hackney Picturehouse, a series of live score screenings at Hackney Attic that bridge the gap between sound and moving image, curating diverse nights that include silent films brought to life by live scores, special screenings of films about music, experimental collaborations and edgy live performances.

Chicago Reader review:
A silent curiosity made in Denmark in 1922, with an episodic, rhetorical structure that would have appealed to Jean-Luc Godard. Director Benjamin Christensen apparently intended his film as a serious study of witchcraft (which he diagnoses, in an early pop-Freud conclusion, as female hysteria), but what he really has is a pretense for sadistic pornography. The film has acquired impact with age: instead of seeming quaint, the nude scenes and scatological references now have a crumbly, sinister quality—they seem the survivals of ancient, unhealthy imaginations.
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is an extract.

Capital Celluloid 2015 - Day 9: Fri Jan 9

My Night with Maud (Rohmer, 1969): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 9pm

This film, part of the Eric Rohmer season, also screen son 15 January. Full details here.

Chicago Reader review:
Eric Rohmer's droll and delicate comedy of language (1969), about a devout Catholic (Jean-Louis Trintignant) who delivers an all-night monologue on the philosophy of Pascal to escape being seduced by the lovely atheist Maud (Francoise Fabian). Number three in Rohmer's series of “Six Moral Tales,” it is probably the most pure: the plotline transpires entirely in the central character's mind and is never explicitly acknowledged by Rohmer's direction, which concentrates instead on the elaborate gambits of a style of speech meant to do anything but communicate.
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2015 - Day 8: Thu Jan 8

Viva Las Vegas (Sidney, 1964): Barbican Cinema, 7pm

Here is the Barbican introduction to a night of celebration of the King in the movies:
Today marks 80 years since the birth of Elvis Presley. The evening begins with an hour long talk by Adrian Wootton, chief executive of Film London and the British Film Commission. Following a short break, we screen the glorious Viva Las Vegas.

In his stellar 22 year career, Elvis Presley was regarded as the most popular singer the world had ever seen, but 37 years after his death, it is easy to forget the importance of his many movies on his incredible career. As Elvis stopped touring between 1958 and 1970, his films were the only way for his immense worldwide fan base to see and hear their hero in action. Although they were subject to much critical mauling, his films were incredibly popular and included the very songs that went on to become classics of his repertoire.

Illustrated with clips from the King’s best flicks, Adrian Wootton, will recount the history of Elvis’s extensive career on the silver screen from 1956 to 1973.

Chicago Reader review:
Vulgar, spirited, and neglected director George Sidney (Bye Bye Birdie, The Eddy Duchin Story, Kiss Me Kate) meets his match with this 1964 Elvis Presley vehicle: Presley, Ann-Margret, and Las Vegas itself are all ready-made for his talents, which mainly have to do with verve and trashy kicks. Unfortunately not as many sparks fly as one might hope. Still there's Presley as a race car driver who doubles as a singing waiter, and, as critic Tom Milne describes it, “Ann-Margret revs her chassis at him.” There's also William Demarest and, among the songs, "The Yellow Rose of Texas."
Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here (and above) are the opening credits.

Capital Celluloid 2015 - Day 7: Wed Jan 7

The Collector (Rohmer, 1966): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 8.50pm

This film is part of the Eric Rohmer season at BFI Southbank and also screens on 10 January. Full details here.

Chicago Reader review:
The fourth episode of Eric Rohmer's “Six Moral Tales” series (actually the third in order of shooting, and the first of feature length). Haydee, the “collector” of the title, is a young woman who hoards sexual experiences, though she refuses to sleep with either of the two stuffy males with whom she shares a villa. Rohmer's impossibly light, graceful way of posing profound moral questions hasn't yet wholly coalesced, though this 1966 film does have his soft, slow rhythm. With Patrick Bauchau and Daniel Pommerulle.
Dave Kehr

Here is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2015 - Day 6: Tue Jan 6

Manakamana (Spray/Velez, 2014): BFI Southbank, Studio 8.40pm

One of the best releases of 2014 is on an extended run  at BFI Southbank. Details here.

BFI introduction:
A huge audience-pleaser at festivals around the world, Manakamana is a gentle pleasure, with humorous moments and serious themes. The documentary was filmed entirely in a cable car transporting visitors and locals to an ancient Nepalese mountaintop shrine. In journeys of 10 minutes – the length of a single reel of 16mm film – we witness 11 unedited encounters, from a trio of gossiping old ladies in traditional costume to a group of teen rockers.

Little White Lies review:
It may sound trite to say so, but the film is about nothing and it's about everything. It allows you to see as much or as little as you want. Maybe some will see it as a quaint people-watching comedy which explores facial expressions, age, beauty and stillness? Others might see it as a being more of a cinematic work, posing questions about the relationship between subject and camera, the relationship between subject and director, and even whether this is a film in which the industry term “director” is even valid? You could even ingest it as a purely ambient work, and in the spirit of the passengers themselves, take the practical option of using the time to allow life to gloss past your eyes and meditate on other Earthly matters. Maybe even consider what other Earthly matters are going through the heads of the people on screen?

Perhaps this is a pessimistic view of things, but Manakamana feels most enriching as a work about life and death. The people who sit in these cars are whisked across what looks to be highly treacherous (albeit breathtaking) terrain without the merest consideration for potential mortality. Stunning beauty and fiery death buffet against one another as we humans casually slip between the tiny slither of space that parts them. Manakamana itself is a temple which sits at the top of this line, and so the metaphor feels extended to one of life, death and transcendence.
David Jenkins

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2015 - Day 5: Mon Jan 5

The Leopard (Visconti 1963): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 6.10pm

This film is part of the Passport to Cinema season at BFI Southbank and also screens on 3 January. Tonight's presentation is introduced by Richard Combs. Full details here

This movie is a bona fide masterpiece which grows in stature with the passing years and seen in a remastered print on the best sccreen in London simply adds to the beauty of a magisterial work of cinema.

Here is critic Dave Kehr on the film's history, it was butchered on release and only seen in a truncated form for many years, and here is Martin Scorsese talking about his involvement in the restoration. The Leopard is one of the American director's favourite films as evidenced in this list.

Chicago Reader review:
'Cut, dubbed, and printed in an inferior color process, the U.S. release of Luchino Visconti's epic didn't leave much of an impression in 1963; 20 years later, a restoration of the much longer Italian version revealed this as not only Visconti's greatest film but a work that transcends its creator, achieving a sensitivity and intelligence without parallel in his other films. Burt Lancaster initiated his formidable mature period as the aging aristocrat Don Fabrizio, who works to find a place for himself and his family values in the new Italy being organized in the 1860s. The film's superb first two hours, which weave social and historical themes into rich personal drama, turn out to be only a prelude to the magnificent final hour—an extended ballroom sequence that leaves history behind to become one of the most moving meditations on individual mortality in the history of the cinema. With Alain Delon and Claudia Cardinale. In Italian with subtitles.'

Here (and above) is the BFI trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2015 - Day 4: Sun Jan 4

Dr No (Young, 1962): Prince Charles Cinema, 8.45pm

Starting tonight the Prince Charles Cinema are running a full 007 Retrospective showing every James Bond movie over the coming months. You can see all the details of the screenings here.

The press reviews of the films don't capture the excitement of this retrospective for Bond fans and I am recommending the Blogalongabond series by Neil Alcock (aka @theincrediblesuit on Twitter). Here is his take on the first movie in the Bond franchise.

Time Out review:
The first Bond film, made comparatively cheaply but effectively establishing a formula for the series - basically a high-tech gloss repackaging of the old serials - and setting up a box-office bonanza with its gleeful blend of sex, violence and wit. As memorable as anything in the series (the arteries hadn't hardened yet) are modest highlights like Bond's encounter with a tarantula, Honeychile's first appearance as a nymph from the sea, the perils of Dr No's assault course of pain.

Here is Bond's first introduction to the film-going public.

Capital Celluloid 2015 - Day 3: Sat Jan 3

A Private Function (Mowbray, 1984): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 6.20pm

This film, part of the Maggie Smith season at the BFI Southbank, also screens on 9 January. Full details here.

BFI Southbank preview:
Alan Bennett’s brilliant Yorkshire comedy deals with a civic ‘do’ to celebrate the Queen’s wedding in 1947, and the habits of an incontinent pig smuggled away for the banquet. Michael Palin’s chiropodist uncovers a conspiracy while Maggie Smith, the Lady Macbeth of Ilkley, aspires to her rightful milieu: ‘Put me in a long dress and surround me with sophisticated people, and I’d bloom.’

Here (and above) is the trailer.

There is some choice dialogue in Bennett's script. Here are a couple of favourites:

Joyce Chilvers (Maggie Smith): 'I think sexual intercourse is in order, Gilbert.'

[the pig has been abducted]...
Grand Hotel Manager: 'I can put my hands on two turkeys in Bradford.'
Frank Lockwood the Solicitor: 'Two? TWO? We've got a hundred and fifty people coming! And Jesus isn't one of them!'

Capital Celluloid 2015 - Day 2: Fri Jan 2

The Green Ray (Rohmer, 1986): BFI Southbank, 2.30, 6.10 & 8.30pm

The Green Ray, the centrepiece of the BFI Southbank Eric Rohmer season, starts an extended run today and runs till 18 January. You can find all the details here.

Chicago Reader review:
Eric Rohmer's fifth installment in his "Comedies and Proverbs" cycle is as conversationally obsessed as ever (which is quite all right with me), though as always in Rohmer's ironic universe, talk is less the moral equivalent of action than the rationalizing substitute for it. A jilted secretary pining away the summer in Paris decides to take a vacation on her own; unfortunately, the more she travels the lonelier she becomes as her rationalizing search for the ideal food, the ideal romance, the ideal traveling companion drives her more and more toward narcissistic nullity. I suspect Rohmer sees in his heroine an ironic reflection of his own aesthetic temper—the lighter and airier she gets, the more she threatens to evanesce completely—and at times this 1986 film comes perilously close to duplicating the girl's predicament. Fortunately, there's more to Rohmer's subtle strategy than idle distillations, and the marvelous epiphany at the end provides whatever justification is needed for the precarious formal balancing: it's a moment of emotional complexity and revelation based, appropriately enough, on a trivial optical illusion. With Marie Riviere, Lisa Heredia, Eric Hamm, and an appealingly contentious Beatrice Romand.
Pat Graham

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2015 - Day 1: Thu Jan 1

Le Signe du lion (Rohmer, 1956): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 5.50pm

This film, also being shown on 6 January, screens as part of the Eric Rohmer season at BFI Southbank. Full details here.

BFI Southbank preview:
Rohmer’s earliest extant feature still feels remarkably raw and modern as he blends fiction with documentary footage of Paris in summer, through which his feckless hero treks in search of money to survive on after taking a legacy for granted. A caustic cautionary tale, laced with dark ironies, sharp insights and appearances by Resnais, Melville and (most memorably) Godard.

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 363: Wed Dec 31

When Harry Met Sally (Ephron, 1989): Prince Charles Cinema

Time Out review:
1977: cynical womaniser Harry (Crystal) and clean-living would-be journo Sally (Ryan) are thrown together on an 18-hour trip to New York. They don't exactly hit it off, but ten years later, having suffered the traumas of break-up and divorce, they meet again and find they can offer mutual support. Will their friendship move from platonic to romantic? It seems likely, but there's a problem: Harry is reluctant to commit himself, while Sally won't countenance one-night stands. Reiner's Woody Allen-ish comedy is, for all its up-front discussion of matters sexual, disarmingly old-fashioned. A mite too pat, it never really probes or challenges Harry and Sally's attitiudes; but Nora Ephron's extended, slightly sentimental, and none-too-original meeting cute scenario includes enough funny one-liners to hold the attention of all but the most jaded viewer. As ever, Reiner clearly likes his characters, and elicits sturdy performances from a proficient cast (Kirby and Fisher are especially fine as friends and confidants to the pair).
Geoff Andrew

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 362: Tue Dec 30

Stand By Me (Reiner, 1986): Prince Charles Cinema, 8.45pm

Time Out review:
In Reiner's superior slice of teen nostalgia, Dreyfuss is the now middle-aged writer, looking back at the dear dead days beyond recall when he and a group of young friends ventured into the local woods where they believed a corpse was buried. Based on an (apparently) semi-autobiographical story by Stephen King, the film covers similar territory to countless other rites-of-passage dramas. The Ben E King theme song and all the imagery of tousled adolescents preening themselves like miniature James Deans rekindle memories of old jeans commercials, but the film is so well-observed and so energetically acted by its young cast that mawkishness is kept at bay.
Geoffrey Macnab

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 361: Mon Dec 29

American Psycho (Harron, 2000): Prince Charles Cinema, 8.45pm

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

Chicago Reader review:
The grisly murders in this modest proposal (2000), set in 80s Manhattan, are inspired by envy and ennui, and their perpetrator is a suavely pathetic solipsist and independently wealthy executive (Christian Bale). The slick satire cleverly equates materialism, narcissism, misogyny, and classism with homicide, but you may laugh so loud at the protagonist that you won't be able to hear yourself laughing with him. Guinevere Turner and director Mary Harron adapted Bret Easton Ellis's novel; with Willem Dafoe, Chloe Sevigny, Samantha Mathis, Reese Witherspoon, and Jared Leto.
Lisa Alspector

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 360: Sun Dec 28

No1: Birdman  (Inarritu, 2014): Greenwich Picturehouse, 8.30pm

Here's a chance to see one of the movies destined to be one of the big films of 2015.

Chicago Reader review:
A washed-up Hollywood star (Michael Keaton), famous for playing a winged superhero in a multimillion-dollar action franchise, tries to stage a comeback as a serious actor on Broadway, writing, directing, and starring in a stage adaptation of Raymond Carver's story "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love." Given Keaton's identification with the title character in Batman (1989), his role here might seem like the ultimate stunt casting. Yet before playing the Caped Crusader, he'd already distinguished himself in both comedy (Beetlejuice) and drama (Clean and Sober), and he more than holds his own in a cast that includes Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, Emma Stone, Andrea Riseborough, and Zach Galifianakis. Alejandro González Iñárritu, director of such ethereal dramas as Babel and 21 Grams, counterbalances the wicked backstage comedy with surreal flights of fancy, pondering the gulf between dubious celebrity and artistic immortality.
JR Jones

Here (and above) is the trailer.


No2: Harold and Maude (Ashby, 1971): ICA Cinema, 1pm

Time Out review:
Like Bob Rafelson, a director similarly obsessed with the trials and tribulations of the children of the rich, Ashby forever treads the thin line between whimsy and absurdity and 'tough' sentimentality and black comedy. Harold and Maude is the story of a rich teenager (Cort) obsessed with death - his favourite pastime is trying out different mock suicides - who is finally liberated by his (intimate) friendship with Ruth Gordon, an 80-year-old funeral freak. It is most successful when it keeps to the tone of an insane fairystory set up at the beginning of the movie.
Phil Hardy

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 359: Sat Dec 27

Barbarella (Vadim, 1968): Everyman Screen on the Green, 11.30pm

The Everyman Screen on the Green have restarted their midnight movie season. Full details here.

Time Out review:
Director Roger Vadim kicks off his adaptation of Jean-Claude Forest's 'adult' comic strip by stripping Jane Fonda starkers. From there on it's typically vacuous titillation as Barbarella takes off for the mysterious planet Sorgo in 40,000 AD, there to survive attack by perambulating dolls with vampire fangs, receive her sexual initiation from a hairy primitive, fall in love with a blind angel, be whisked off to an alarming Lesbian encounter with the tyrannical Black Queen, etc. But Terry Southern's dialogue occasionally sparkles, and the imaginative designs, as shot by Claude Renoir, look really splendid.
Tom Milne

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 358: Fri Dec 26

It's A Wonderful Life (Capra, 1946): Prince Charles Cinema, 3.30, 6.20 & 9pm

This greatest of all Christmas films is on an extended run at the Prince Charles. Details here.

Chicago Reader review:
'The film Frank Capra was born to make. This 1946 release marked his return to features after four years of turning out propaganda films for the government, and Capra poured his heart and soul into it. James Stewart stars as a small-town nobody, on the brink of suicide, who believes his life is worthless. Guardian angel Henry Travers shows him how wrong he is by letting Stewart see what would have happened had he never been born. Wonderfully drawn and acted by a superb cast (Donna Reed, Beulah Bondi, Thomas Mitchell, Lionel Barrymore, Gloria Grahame) and told with a sense of image and metaphor (the use of water is especially elegant) that appears in no other Capra film. The epiphany of movie sentiment and a transcendent experience.'
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 357: Thu Dec 25


Cinemas are closed today but you can catch my twitter recommendations for great movies on the television over the holiday period via my twitter handle @tpaleyfilm #bestxmasholidayfilmonTVtoday

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 356: Wed Dec 24

No1: Under The Skin (Glazer, 2013): ICA Cinema, 1pm

The best film of the year? Under The Skin, on a short run at the ICA, was my pick. Full details of the ICA screenings, which start on December 21, can be found here.

Time Out review:
ET landed in the cosy American suburbs and wanted to go home. Now Scarlett Johansson – or something that looks like her – lands in modern Glasgow and thinks about sticking around in Jonathan Glazer’s creepy, mysterious and bold ‘Under the Skin’. One can only guess that the weather is beyond dire on her side of the galaxy. The film is an adaptation of Michel Faber’s 2000 novel and the first in nearly a decade from the director of ‘Sexy Beast’ and ‘Birth’. It’s an intoxicating marvel, strange and sublime: it combines sci-fi ideas, gloriously unusual special effects and a sharp atmosphere of horror with the everyday mundanity of a woman driving about rainy Scotland in a battered transit van.
Dave Calhoun

Here (and above) is the trailer.


No2: Elf (Favreau, 2003): Phoenix Cinema, 12.30pm

Time Out review:
'Comedy legend Bob Newhart immediately raises a smile as the elderly elf framing the story of Santa's biggest little helper. Buddy (Will Ferrell) is different because he's a human, brought back to the North Pole as a baby when he strayed into the old boy's sack during the Christmas run. He's been raised in the traditional elfin ways of industrious good humour, but now it's time for him to venture to distant New York and discover his real father is a grumpy publisher (James Caan), who naturally thinks his 'son' is a dangerous loony. Must be the tights and the pointy hat. What follows is a fairly predictable 'fish out of water' romp with seasonal bells on. Nevertheless, Favreau delivers the cornball sentiments with an adept balance of irony and sincerity, sprinkling felicities in the margins - cult crooner Leon Redbone voicing a stop-motion snowman, indie fave Zooey Deschanel as the department store helper giving Ferrell understandable tingles, and a particularly successful running gag enshrining the significance of etch-a-sketch in elf culture. Some humour might sail over the heads of the very young, but there's a higher chuckle rate for the grown-ups than much dread 'family' fare.'
Trevor Johnston

Here is the Santa announcement scene.