Capital Celluloid 2016 - Day 263: Tue Sep 20

Counting (Cohen, 2015): Barbican Cinema, 6.30pm

Here is the Barbican introduction:
Independent American filmmaker Jem Cohen’s latest feature offers a diary of urban life in 15 chapters. Hypnotically capturing the ephemera of cities such as New York, St. Petersburg and Istanbul, his wandering camera gazes with forensic fascination upon the world around it, finding connections, beauty, and many cats, within the everyday. We’re pleased to be joined by Jem Cohen for a ScreenTalk after the screening, alongside Gareth Evans.

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2016 - Day 262: Mon Sep 19

Belladonna of Sadness (Yamamoto, 1973): Barbican Cinema, 8.30pm

This masterpiece of Japanese animation screens as part of the 'Head Trips: Films for the Innder Eye' season at the Barbican. You can find the full details here.

New York Times review:
To summarize this film is to present a solid argument that it’s one of the most unusual ever made: “Belladonna of Sadness,” is a 1973 Japanese erotic animated musical inspired by the 19th-century French historian Jules Michelet’s account of witchery in the Middle Ages.
The reality of the movie, directed by Eiichi Yamamoto, is odder still. Opening with a jazz-rock song and lyrical, static imagery of attractive Western figures in watercolor, it features narration telling of Jean and Jeanne, young French provincial marrieds “smiled upon by God.” 

But not for long. Jeanne is subjected to a brutal, surrealistically rendered gang rape by the village lord and his claque. The film then lays out an imaginative, and sometimes overwrought, narrative exegesis, positing that the power of feminine sexuality is essentially demonic. While weaving thread one afternoon, post-trauma, Jeanne is visited by a small, phallus-shaped imp.

“Are you the Devil?” she asks.“I am you,” he replies. Thus begins Jeanne’s triumph and ruin. “Belladonna of Sadness” is compulsively watchable, even at its most disturbing: The imagery is frequently graphic, and still, after over 40 years, it has the power to shock. The narrative, however implausible, is seductive. And the meticulously executed visual freakouts are awe-inspiring: The Black Death, which, of course, spices up the story line, gets its own four-minute production number. The variety of graphic modes — with references to fashion magazines, pop art, psychedelia, underground comics, arty pornography and much more — is dizzying.

“Belladonna of Sadness” is undoubtedly a landmark of animated film, and arguably a masterpiece. But it’s a very disquieting one. After experiencing the picture, you are left with the nagging suspicion that its retrograde ideology and its ravishing imagery are not contradictory attributes but are, rather, inextricably codependent.Glen Kenny
Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2016 - Day 261: Sun Sep 18

Lust For Life (Minnelli, 1956): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 3.50pm

This screening is part of the Kirk Douglas season at BFI Southbank and is also being shown on September11th. Full details here.

Chicago Reader review:
Vincente Minnelli's 1956 biography of Vincent van Gogh, adapted from the Irving Stone book. Basing his mise-en-scene on the colors of van Gogh's paintings, Minnelli anchors the film in a dazzlingly schizophrenic, first-person point of view. Kirk Douglas stars; his knotty, passionate self-destructiveness has seldom been put to better use.
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2016 - Day 260: Sat Sep 17

Chinatown (Polanski, 1974): Prince Charles Cinema, 6pm

This 35mm screening is part of the Classic Film Season at the Prince Charles. Details here.

Time Out review:
'The hard-boiled private eye coolly strolls a few steps ahead of the audience. The slapstick detective gets everything wrong and then pratfalls first over the finish line anyway. Jake Gittes (Jack Nicholson) is neither - instead he's a hard-boiled private eye who gets everything wrong. Jake snaps tabloid-ready photos of an adulterous love nest that's no such thing. He spies a distressed young woman through a window and mistakes her for a hostage. He finds bifocals in a pond and calls them Exhibit A of marital murder, only the glasses don't belong to the victim and the wife hasn't killed anyone. Yet when he confronts ostensible black widow Evelyn Mulwray (Faye Dunaway) with the spectacular evidence, the cigarette between his teeth lends his voice an authoritative Bogie hiss. Throughout, Gittes sexes up mediocre snooping with blithe arrogance and sarcastic machismo. It's the actor's default mode, sure, but in 1974 it hadn't yet calcified into Schtickolson, and in 1974 a director (Roman Polanski), a screenwriter (Robert Towne) and a producer (Robert Evans) could decide to beat a genre senseless and dump it in the wilds of Greek tragedy. 'You see, Mr Gits,' depravity incarnate Noah Cross (John Huston) famously explains, 'most people never have to face the fact that, at the right time and the right place, they're capable of anything.' As is Chinatown. The last gunshot here is the sound of the gate slamming on the Paramount lot of Evans' halcyon reign, and as the camera rears back to catch Jake's expression, the dolly lists and shivers - an almost imperceptible sob of grief and recognition, but not a tear is shed.'Jessica Winter

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2016 - Day 259: Fri Sep 16

El Sur (Erice, 1983): BFI Southbank, NFT3, 8.45pm

This classic Spanish film from the 1980s is on an extended run at BFI Southbank. You can find all the details here.

Chicago Reader review:
On the surface, despite the presence of a different fictional source (a story by Adelaida Garcia Morales) and scriptwriter (Jose Luis Lopez Linares), Victor Erice's second feature seems to bring back some of the haunting obsessions of his first, the wonderful Spirit of the Beehive (1973): the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, the magical spell exerted by movies over childhood, and a little girl's preoccupation with her father and the past. But as English critic Tim Pulleine has observed, a reference to Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt in El sur (South, 1983) points to an elaborate system of doubling and duplication that underlies the film's structure as a whole, operating on the level of shots and sequences as well as themes (north and south, father and daughter, real and imaginary). Although this subtle spellbinder ends somewhat abruptly, reportedly because the film's budget ran out, it seems to form a nearly perfect whole as it is: a brooding tale about an intense father-daughter relationship and the unknowable past, mysterious and resonant, with the poetic ambience of a story by Faulkner.
Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2016 - Day 258: Thu Sep 15

The Magic Christian (McGrath, 1969): Cinema Museum, 7.30pm

This is a Scalarama event. Here is the introduction:
Join Roz Kaveney and friends for an experimental broadcast on London’s arts radio station, Resonance FM, a recorded ‘live’ DVD commentary for the Peter Sellars and Ringo Starr starrer ‘The Magic Christian’.

With streaming online services becoming the way that most of us watch films, DVD commentaries are becoming, if not a thing of the past, then certainly increasingly rare. That means there are thousands of movies – some obscure, some not so obscure – which won’t benefit from having people talking, gossiping, showing off and occasionally making salient cultural observations over the top of them.

That’s where ‘Music for Films: Box Set’ comes in. Resonance FM’s flagship show of tangential and digressive conversation (often about film music) plans to make DVD commentaries for every single one of them, starting with ‘The Magic Christian’, partly scripted by Terry ‘Easy Rider’ Southern from his comic novel, with Pythons Graham Chapman and John Cleese also having a hand in the screenplay (Cleese makes a cameo as a snidely smooth auctioneer).

It’s a film depicting the other side of the swinging Sixties, not the love and peace version but the one where people all wanted to get filthy rich and screw the other fellow, damnit. ‘The Magic Christian’ is old fashioned in some of its attitudes yet oddly prescient of modern, hypercapitalist London.
Be part of starting our ‘Box Set’ by watching the film and commenting along with us.

(When we’ve run the film once, we’ll show it again without people talking. This is a special service for people who actually want to see the film).

Film Comment review:
“Everyone has their price,” Sir Guy Grand (Peter Sellers) assures Youngman (Ringo Starr), the hirsute vagrant he’s plucked out of a park and made his heir. Establishing an instant rapport, the pair play increasingly complex pranks upon London’s unswinging posh set, culminating with the launch of The Magic Christian (a supposedly transatlantic luxury liner whose sham maiden voyage is afflicted by choppy seas, a drunken captain, and Yul Brynner in drag) and their inviting people to fish pound notes from a vat filled with feces, blood, and vomit. Though in Terry Southern’s original novel Sir Guy was more interested in “making it hot” for the middle class and lampooning prim bourgeois taste, Joseph McGrath’s movie version remains an acerbic, late-Sixties dark comedy classic.

Violet Lucca

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2016 - Day 257: Wed Sep 14

Psychomania (Sharp, 1973): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 8.30pm

BFI introduction to this screening in the cinema's 'Cult' strand:
One of the weirdest films about young undead bikers on the rampage you’ll ever see, and the only one to feature George Sanders and Beryl Reid as toad-worshipping Satanists. With the secret of eternal life in their grasp, The Living Dead motorcycle gang and their splendidly stony-faced leader Tom (Henson) return from the grave to commit shocking acts of hooliganism in a supermarket. Depraved.

Plus tonight's entertainment also includes a Dreyer short from 1948!

They Caught the Ferry
De nåede færgen. Dir Carl Theodor Dreyer. 11min. English subtitles
Two lovers in a hurry tear through town on a motorbike in this amazing dreamlike parable of road safety. Could that be Death up ahead, out for a casual spin in his hearse?

Psychomania (fully remastered) is released Mon 19 Sep on BFI Flipside Blu-ray and DVD.

Here (and above) is the Psychomania trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2016 - Day 256: Tue Sep 13

When A Woman Ascends the Stairs (Naruse, 1960): Regent Street Cinema, 6.30pm

Chicago Reader review:
A 1960 film by Mikio Naruse, perhaps the greatest Japanese director as yet unknown to American audiences. Where most directors begin with an anonymous style, Naruse started out as a strong individualist (Wife! Be Like a Rose!) and gradually pared his work down to the sublime blankness of his late films, of which this is one. It's a melodrama of extreme emotional violence—about a woman (Hideko Takamine) who runs a bar in Tokyo's Ginza district and the seemingly endless series of betrayals that befall her—but Naruse treats it with such evenness that it becomes microscopically subtle: its deepest pain is conveyed by lack of expression on the actor's face. With Masayuki Mori (Ugetsu) and Tatsuya Nakadai (Kagemusha).

Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2016 - Day 255: Mon Sep 12

No1: Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (Cimino, 1974): Picturehouse Central, 7pm

This 35mm screening is part of an Edgar Wright Presents season. Details here.

Observer review:
An Ivy League graduate who became a successful director of commercials, Michael Cimino secured world fame for the expansive The Deer Hunter and enduring notoriety for the epic western Heaven's Gate. But his big break came in 1973 after co-writing two screenplays, the off-beat sci-fi Silent Running and Magnum Force, a sequel to Dirty Harry. His next script was not only acquired by Clint Eastwood as a vehicle for himself but also persuaded the star to let him direct it.

Inspired by Captain Lightfoot, a 1955 Douglas Sirk picture about 19th-century Irish highwaymen, it's a knowing, fast-moving combination of road movie and heist thriller, a bromance as we'd now call it, with homoerotic and homophobic undertones. It's set entirely in the beautiful, thinly populated "big sky country" of Idaho and Montana. On the soundtrack there's twanging country music by Dee Barton, who wrote the score for Eastwood's Play Misty for Me and High Plains Drifter.

Clint Eastwood plays Thunderbolt, a criminal hiding out as a country parson who meets Lightfoot (Jeff Bridges), a cheerful drifter half his age, while escaping from two old associates (a brutal George Kennedy and a dim Geoffrey Lewis) pursuing him to recover stolen loot. After chases and threats, male bonding and acrimony, the two pairs join forces for a carefully planned bank robbery in which Lightfoot dresses in drag to fool a guard. Gradually an initially light-hearted movie becomes dark, seriously violent, heavily ironic and finally tragic. Familiar character actors from the early 70s appear briefly along the road (Dub Taylor, the revivalist preacher in The Wild Bunch; Bill McKinney, the redneck rapist in Deliverance; Burton Gilliam, the racist, farting foreman in Blazing Saddles). Kennedy and Lewis are memorably unpredictable heavies.

But, above all, the film turns on the Eastwood-Bridges relationship. Eastwood confidently draws on his tender, vulnerable side. After his adult debut in The Last Picture Show (1971), Bridges continues to refine and define his role as the optimistic small-town all-American boy, retaining a cheerful, bewildered innocence even as he grows older. In Thunderbolt and Lightfoot he won his second Oscar nomination and was still working out painful variations on this similar character when he won an Oscar as the grizzled country singer in Crazy Heart in 2010.
Philip French 

Here is Edgar Wright's take on the movie 


No2: Velvet Goldmine (Haynes, 1998): Prince Charles Cinema, 8.45pm

This 35mm screening is part of the 'Women's Contribution to Film' season at the Prince Charles. You can find all the details here.

Time Out review:
This witty, evocative re-creation of the heady days of glam rock is loosely structured on the lines of a Citizen Kane-style flashback narrative, with a journalist (Christian Bale) sent back from New York to Britain to investigate, ten years on, the disappearance of Bowie-like star Brian Slade (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) after an on-stage assassination is revealed to have been a publicity stunt. Partly a film à clef which retranslates real-life events and personalities into a dazzling fiction, partly an unsentimental celebration of an era of (potential) pan-sexual liberation (complete with unexpected but fitting tribute to Oscar Wilde), and partly a typically Todd Haynesian study of transgression, identity and the gulf between private and public image, it's superbly shot, edited and performed, and exhilaratingly inventive throughout.
Geoff Andrew

Here are the opening credits.

Capital Celluloid 2016 - Day 254: Sun Sep 11

Nightbirds (Milligan, 1970): Genesis Cinema, 7pm

Genesis Cinema introduction:
While living rough on the streets of London's East End, a young man, Dink encounters the mysterious Dee and they begin a relationship. When tenderness gives way to cruelty they become consumed by darkness. Roz and Kim are back at Genesis Cinema on 11th September to discuss 1970's 'Nightbirds' and the East London films on the Scala map. Dink (Berwick Kaler) and Dee (Julie Shaw) fall into bed (and sort of in love too), living perpetually near to homelessness on Whitechapel's streets. One of the many overlooked films rediscovered and championed as part of the British Film Institute's Flipside series, 'Nightbirds' depicts an East London of peeling paint, still falling apart after the Blitz, seen from rooftops and doorways. This is part of our Scalarama 2016 programme.

Nicolas Winding Refn was partly responsible for this re-release. Read his article on the film here.

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2016 - Day 253: Sat Sep 10

The Big Sky (Hawks, 1952): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 8.20pm

This 35mm screening is part of the Kirk Douglas season at BFI Southbank and is also being shown on September 13th. Full details here.

Chicago Reader review:
Though this sublime 1952 black-and-white masterpiece by Howard Hawks is usually accorded a low place in the Hawks canon, it's a particular favorite of mine—mysterious, beautiful, and even utopian in some of its sexual and cultural aspects. Adapted (apparently rather loosely) by Dudley Nichols from part of A.B. Guthrie's novel, this adventure stars Kirk Douglas and Dewey Martin as Kentucky drifters who join an epic trek up the Missouri River, along with the latter's uncle (Arthur Hunnicutt), an Indian princess (Elizabeth Threatt), and a good many Frenchmen. The poetic feeling for the wilderness is matched by the camaraderie, yet there's also a tragic undertone to this odyssey that seems quintessentially Hawksian—a sense of a small human oasis in the center of a vast metaphysical void.
Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2016 - Day 252: Fri Sep 9

The Man Who Fell to Earth (Roeg, 1976): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 8.35pm

The re-release of this Nicolas Roeg film is on an extended run at BFI Southbank (details here) and also at a number of other cinemas across London.

Time Out review: 
'Nicholas Roeg's hugely ambitious and imaginative film transforms a straightforward science fiction story (novel, Walter Tevis) into a rich kaleidoscope of contemporary America. Newton (David Bowie), an alien whose understanding of the world comes from monitoring TV stations, arrives on earth, builds the largest corporate empire in the States to further his mission, but becomes increasingly frustrated by human emotions. What follows is as much a love story as sci-fi: like other films of Roeg's, this explores private and public behaviour. Newton/Bowie becomes involved in an almost pulp-like romance with Candy Clark, played out to the hits of middle America, that culminates with his 'fall' from innocence. Roeg, often using a dazzling technical skill, jettisons narrative in favour of thematic juxtapositions, working best when exploring the clichés of social and cultural ritual. Less successful is the 'explicit' sex Roeg now seems obliged to offer; but visually a treat throughout.'
Chris Peachment

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2016 - Day 251: Thu Sep 8

Metropolis (Lang, 1927): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 5.55pm

This film screens as part of BFI Southbank's Big Screen Classics season and is also being shown on September 13th. Full details here.

Chicago Reader review:
Fritz Lang's 1927 silent epic about class struggle in a city of the 21st century still has a lot of popular currency, but it's never been a critics' favorite. This 124-minute version is the longest since the German premiere, and the unobtrusive use of intertitles to fill in the blanks makes it more coherent. The restoration clarifies the relationships among the hero (Gustav Fröhlich); his late mother, who died giving birth to him; his father, the ruler of Metropolis (Alfred Abel); and the father's bitter romantic rival (Rudolf Klein-Rogge), an inventor who creates a robot in the mother's image. Later the robot is upgraded to impersonate the hero's heartthrob (Brigitte Helm), a radical preacher who helps organize the city's exploited workers. The film looks fabulous, and Gottfried Huppertz's original score is another worthy addition.
Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2016 - Day 250: Wed Sep 7

Pusher (Winding Refn, 1996): Prince Charles Cinema, 9pm

This 35mm screening is part of a Nicolas Winding Refn selectrospective at the Prince Charles Cinema. You can find the full details here.

Chicago Reader review:
Everybody in Copenhagen loves Frank, who sells heroin and gives away charm. Business hums along—with evenings free for hypermacho bonding that both evokes and transcends Tarantino in every line and gesture—until Frank trusts someone he shouldn't. This disturbing, insightful drama about the relationship between ethics and luck insists that we identify with Frank even when we'd prefer to distance ourselves. And it has lots of humor and even irony, though these aren't its main objectives. Jens Dahl wrote the screenplay with director Nicolas Winding Refn; with Kim Bodnia, Zlatko Buric, Laura Drasbaek, Slavko Labovic, and Mads Mikkelsen.
Lisa Alspector

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2016 - Day 249: Tue Sep 6

 No1: Lilith (Rossen, 1964): Prince Charles Cinema, 6.15pm

This 35mm screening is part of the Warren Beatty season at the Prince Charles. Details here.

Chicago Reader review:
Robert Rossen's last film (1964) is a masterpiece, and also a complete contradiction of his career. The social critic (All the King's Men, The Hustler) suddenly blossoms into a hothouse romantic, through the dreamy story of an apprentice psychoanalyst (Warren Beatty) who falls in love with one of his patients (Jean Seberg) and the sweet morbidity she represents. Photographed by the great Eugen Schufftan, the film is conceived in shades of white so delicate and elusive that the picture barely seems to brush the screen (a scratched or even mildly dirty print can be fatal to the mood). With Peter Fonda, Kim Hunter, Jessica Walter, and Gene Hackman.
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is an extract.


No2: Ace In The Hole (Wilder, 1951): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 8.40pm

This screening is part of the Kirk Douglas season at BFI Southbank and is also being shown on September 10th. Full details here.

"I've seen some hard-boiled eggs in my time but you're 20 minutes," someone says to central character Chuck Tatum, played by Kirk Douglas. You'll know you could add another 20 great lines to that once you've seen this jet-black film, even by Billy Wilder standards.

Chicago Reader review:
Billy Wilder being bitter, without Billy Wilder being funny. This 1951 film, about a cynical reporter who seizes on the plight of a man trapped in a mine shaft to promote his career, is cold, lurid, and fascinating, propelled by the same combination of moral outrage and sneaky admiration that animates the paperback novels of Jim Thompson and James M. Cain. Kirk Douglas stars, and his psychotic charm is perfect for the part; Jan Sterling is unforgettable as the victim's hard-bitten wife, who's willing to go along with Douglas's scheme.
Dave Kehr

Here is an extract.

Capital Celluloid 2016 - Day 248: Mon Sep 5

A Letter to Three Wives (Mankiewicz, 1949): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 8.40pm

This screening is part of the Kirk Douglas season at BFI Southbank and is also being shown on September 3rd. Full details here.

Time Out review:
Traditional wisdom has Jospeh Mankiewicz as more writer than director, but consider the marvellously cinematic opening of A Letter to Three Wives: shots of a prosperous town and its stately avenues of rich men's houses, all placidly awaiting the start of the country club season, as the venomously honeyed voice of an unseen female narrator (beautifully done by Celeste Holm) begins spinning a web of speculation and suspicion round three married women, shortly to be completed by their receipt of a poisonous letter indicating that the narrator has run away with one of the husbands. With the three wives trapped for the day supervising a children's picnic, flashbacks start exploring their marital worries, perceptively probing sensitive areas of social and cultural unease. Glitteringly funny at one end of the scale (Kirk Douglas and Ann Sothern), dumbly touching at the other (Paul Douglas and Linda Darnell), it's absolutely irresistible.
Tom Milne

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2016 - Day 247: Sun Sep 4

The 400 Blows (Truffaut, 1959): Prince Charles Cinema, 8.45pm

This 35mm screening is part of the European Favourites season at the Prince Charles Cinema. You can find all the details here.

Chicago Reader review:
'More conventional than Godard and more sentimental than Chabrol, Francois Truffaut spearheaded the breakthrough of the French New Wave with this highly autobiographical first feature (1959). Jean-Pierre Leaud is the wide-eyed boy who flees his battling parents only to find himself irrevocably alone. Distinguished by its intensity of feeling and freewheeling use of the wide-screen frame, the film ranks among Truffaut's best.'
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2016 - Day 246: Sat Sep 3

Tokyo Story (Ozu, 1953): Prince Charles Cinema, 6pm

This film is part of the Classic Film season at the Prince Charles.

Chicago Reader review:
The film that introduced Yasujiro Ozu, one of Japan's greatest filmmakers, to American audiences (1953). The camera remains stationary throughout this delicate study of conflicting generations in a modern Japanese family, save for one heartbreaking moment when Ozu tracks around a corner to discover the grandparents, alone and forgotten. A masterpiece, minimalist cinema at its finest and most complex.
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2016 - Day 245: Fri Sep 2

Out of the Past (Tourneur, 1947): BFI Southbank, NFT3, 8.30pm

This 35mm screening is part of the Kirk Douglas season at BFI Southbank and is also being shown on September 9th. You can find all the 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 (and above) is an extract.