Capital Celluloid 2017 - Day 13: Fri Jan 13

Pandora and the Flying Dutchman (Lewin, 1951): BFI Southbank, NFT3, 8.40pm

This 35mm screening is part of the 'Martin Scorsese Curates' season at BFI Southbank. The film is also being shown at the cinema on January 3rd. Details here.

(Here's an extended review of this extraordinary film by Dave Kehr in his excellent DVD column in the New York Times).

Time Out review:
Albert Lewin wasn’t your average Hollywood director. A professor and antiquities expert, friend of artists Man Ray and Max Ernst, he wound up at MGM, who funded this flamboyant 1950 fantasy. Exemplifying the true magic of Lewin’s cinema, its 1930s-set retelling of the ‘Flying Dutchman’ tale enshrines a vision of desire stronger than death. A brooding, restrained James Mason is the yachtsman who moors at a Costa Brava fishing port, where his destiny is soon entwined with Ava Gardner’s man-eating playgirl Pandora. A ruby-lipped incarnation of the eternal feminine, she toys with matadors and racing drivers, but in this enigmatic voyager – doomed to wander the seas – she meets a match which could be the making of them both. Lewin brings off the near-impossible task of positing a transcendent love in a sceptical age, succeeding through his own conviction, and indeed because Gardner, in the role of a lifetime, seems as much screen goddess as mere mortal – an apotheosis rendered by cameraman Jack Cardiff in Technicolor so heady it’s the stuff of legend. Unlike Powell and Pressburger at their peak, however, the storytelling remains earthbound, with a beardy English academic character on hand to explain the references lest 1950s viewers didn’t get it. A film ahead of its time? Quite possibly, though you forgive the stodgy pace for the sheer uniqueness with which Lewin conjures a celluloid equivalent of the canvasses of De Chirico and Dalí – passionate, classical, mysterious and surreal all at once.
Trevor Johnston

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2017 - Day 12: Thu Jan 12

Images (Altman, 1972): Close-Up Cinema, 7.30pm

Here's a real treat. A very rare screening of Robert Altman's 'Images' (and on 35mm too). This film is part of the Altman season at the cinema. You can find all the details here. 'Images' is also being shown on January 6th at Close-Up. Full details here.

Time Out review:
Underrated film about a lonely woman cracking up and suffering disturbing hallucinations about sex and death. Unlike most of Robert Altman's movies, which parody and reinvent genres, Images stands rather in a loose trilogy with That Cold Day in the Park and 3 Women, in its investigation of madness and its concentration upon a female character. The fragmented style of the film, in which Susannah York's mental life is portrayed as substantially as her 'real' life, might have become pretentious; but the director controls things beautifully, proffering credible biographical reasons for her inner disturbances, and borrowing shock effects from the thriller genre to underline the terrifying nature of her predicament. It's brilliantly shot by Vilmos Zsigmond (wtihout a hint of psychedelic trickery in sight), superbly acted, and lent extra menace by the sounds and music of, respectively, Stomu Yamashta and John Williams.
Geoff Andrew

Here (and above) is the trailer.

And here is a superb trailer for 'Images' from FilmBar70, which screened the film in 2013.

Capital Celluloid 2017 - Day 11: Wed Jan 11

 Summer Madness (Lean, 1955): Regent Street Cinema, 6.30pm

David Lean's movie, which is well worth seeking out, will be screened from 35mm.

Time Out review:
Katharine Hepburn is a spinster from Ohio making a lone trip to Venice, desperately in search of a 'miracle'. She gets more than she bargained for, though, when she falls for the distinctly continental charms of antique dealer Rossano Brazzi. Shirley Valentine later shamelessly milked all the exotic romance clichés, but this (based on Arthur Laurents' play The Time of the Cuckoo) is an infinitely more subtle, poignant piece, with a lovely performance from Hepburn at its centre. David Lean may well have identified with this 'fancy secretary', her ciné camera always primed, for the film marks a turning point in his career: this was his first movie shot on location abroad, an experience he obviously enjoyed.
Adrian Turner

Here (and above) is the trailer.



Day of the Outlaw (De Toth, 1959): Prince Charles Cinema, 6.40pm

This 35mm screening is part of the Prince Charles Cinema's 'Cinematic Jukebox' season. You can find all the details here. Andre de Toth's western is one of my favourite repertory cinema discoveries of recent years and comes highly recommended.

Chicago Reader review:
Arguably Andre de Toth's greatest film, this 1959 western combines a hostage situation with a bleak, snowbound terrain to produce a gripping vision of hopeless entrapment. Robert Ryan stars as a rancher who's about to start a gunfight over land when a motley gang of outlaws led by Burl Ives ride in and take over the town. Because it's at the end of the trail, the outlaws become "prisoners of a white silence," in de Toth's words: isolated, surrounded by snow, they're about to run wild with the townswomen when Ryan leads them on a false escape route through the mountains. Their final ride is one of the most despairing visions in all cinema: the turning course followed by the men seems to twist back on itself, and the stark black-and-white background of rock and snow forms a closed, lifeless world excluding all human warmth.

Fred Camper

Here (and above) is the opening of the film.

Capital Celluloid 2017 - Day 10: Tue Jan 10

Evil Dead II (Raimi, 1987): Picturehouse Central, 7pm

To celebrate the release of Paterson, Culture Shock presents a special season curated by acclaimed filmmaker Jim Jarmusch (details here) at Picturehouse Central. This is the final screening.

Time Out review: 
Not so much a sequel, more a self-parodic reprise, like some black comic nightmare in the damaged brain of sole survivor Ash (Bruce Campbell). This time though, tired of cowering in the corner, Ash gets tooled up with a shotgun and a chainsaw, and lets the monsters suck on some abuse. Meanwhile, four other victims - none of whom has ever seen a horror movie - arrive at the shack and start settling in, unaware that they'll be dead by dawn. The dialogue has been pared to the bone, the on-screen gore toned down, and the maniacal laughter cranked up to full volume. Using the same breathless pacing, rushing camera movements and nerve-jangling sound effects as before, Sam Raimi drags us screaming into his cinematic funhouse. Delirious, demented and diabolically funny.
Nigel Floyd

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2017 - Day 9: Mon Jan 9

El Aura (Bielinsky, 2005): Prince Charles Cinema, 6.15pm

This 35mm screening is part of the 'Cinematic Jukebox' season at the Prince Charles. You can find the full details here.

Chicago reader review:
Argentinean writer-director Fabian Bielinsky made only two features before dying of a heart attack at age 47, but they're both masterful in their gripping storytelling. Nine Queens (2000), a hugely entertaining tale of scam artists in Buenos Aires, anticipated Argentina's economic crisis and was vastly superior to Criminal, the 2004 remake produced by Steven Soderbergh. The Aura (2005) also involves a scam, but the story unfolds with a minimum of dialogue as an epileptic taxidermist (Ricardo Darin), stranded in the wilds of Patagonia during a hunting trip, intuitively works his way into an elaborate casino heist. The moody ambience suggests noir writers David Goodis and Jim Thompson, though the reported inspiration was Deliverance.
Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2017 - Day 8: Sun Jan 8

The Long Goodbye (Altman, 1973): Close-Up Cinema, 7.30pm

This 35mm screening is part of the Robert Altman season at the cinema. You can find all the details here. The film is also being shown at the cinema on January 20th.

Time Out review:
Despite cries of outrage from hard-line Chandler purists, this is, along with Hawks' The Big Sleep, easily the most intelligent of all screen adaptations of the writer's work. Altman in fact stays pretty close to the novel's basic narrative (though there are a couple of crucial changes), but where he comes up with something totally original is in his ironic updating of the story and characters: Gould's Marlowe is a laid-back, shambling slob who, despite his incessant claim that everything is 'OK with me,' actually harbours the same honourable ideals as Chandler's Marlowe; but those values, Altman implies, just don't fit in with the neurotic, uncaring, ephemeral lifestyle led by the 'Me Generation' of modern LA. As Marlowe attempts to protect a friend suspected of battering his wife to death, and gets up to his neck in blackmail, suicide, betrayal and murder, Altman constructs not only a comment on the changes in values in America over the last three decades, but a critique of film noir mythology: references, both ironic and affectionate, to Chandler (cats and alcoholism) and to earlier private-eye thrillers abound. Shot in gloriously steely colours by Vilmos Zsigmond with a continually moving camera, wondrously scripted by Leigh Brackett (who worked on The Big Sleep), and superbly acted all round, it's one of the finest movies of the '70s. 
Geoff Andrew

Here (and above) is the trailer. Here is the theme tune, sung by Jack Sheldon.

Capital Celluloid 2017 - Day 7: Sat Jan 7

The Night of Counting the Years (aka The Mummy) (Salam, 1969):
BFI Southbank, NFT2, 6.20pm

This screening is part of the 'Martin Scorsese Curates' season at BFI Southbank. The film is also being shown at the cinema on January 14th. Details here.

Parallax View review:
The story is inspired by a real-life incident of an isolated mountain tribe in the late 19th century that was secretly selling off ancient artifacts from the tombs of the Pharaohs, specifically a cache of mummies hidden in the mountain caves to hide them from looters, which the government discovers after the recovery of one of the treasures. The drama ostensibly sets the government against the insular tribe, where the elders justify the looting of its own culture to sustain the people (as well as enrich themselves), but it’s the reaction of the young men to this tribal secret that fires the film. They are appalled at the desecration of their ancestors and their refusal to be a part of it marks them as enemies of the tribe. Not an ideal situation in such an insular culture. This is no detective story or an action film. Salam opens and end the film on hushed processions, the first of which appears to be a holy rite and turns out to be the equivalent of a mob ritual conducted in protective secrecy, the latter a secular march that takes on the dignity and integrity of religious observance as the dawn breaks and the sun shines an approving light on their mission. These two processions define Salam’s theme of identity, from the tribe in isolation of the first to the national and cultural unity of Egypt in the latter. The film is measured and stylized, not so much theatrical as constructed in cultural modes of formal conduct. Every conversation is layered in levels of status and respect and power, even when the youth rebels against the traditions of the elders, and director Salam sets them against stark, austere setting, from the blank landscape of the desert to the Spartan surroundings of cave-like rooms dug out of the mountains of this village. The quality of light in the desert scenes is breathtaking, especially in the final minutes, as the dawn breaks and the silhouettes against the sky slowly light up. And while this risky bit of cultural rescue is carried out like a military mission in hostile territory, it is directed like a holy (and non-violent) crusade, an Egyptian answer to a Bressonian cinema of simplicity and grace.
Sean Axmaker

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2017 - Day 6: Fri Jan 6

Force of Evil (Polonsky, 1948): BFI Southbank, NFT3, 6.30pm

This 35mm screening is part of the 'Martin Scorsese Curates' season at BFI Southbank. The film is also being shown at the cinema on January 2nd. Details here.

Chicago Reader review:
Abraham Polonsky's superior 1949 melodrama about the numbers racket. A poetic, terse, beautifully exact, and highly personal re-creation of the American underworld, with an unpunctuated Joycean screenplay by Polonsky that is perhaps unique in the American cinema. This is film noir at its best. Beautifully acted by John Garfield, Thomas Gomez, and Beatrice Pearson.
Don Druker

Here (and above) you can see Mark Cousins introducing the film on the TV programme Moviedrome.

Capital Celluloid 2017 - Day 5: Thu Jan 5

No1 The Delinquents (Altman, 1957): Close-Up Cinema, 7.30pm

This rare 35mm screening of Robert Altman's debut film is part of the director's season at the cinema. You can find all the details here.

Close-Up Cinema introduction:
Shot on the cheap in his hometown of Kansas City, Altman's feature debut—on which he served as writer, director and producer—has all the surface components of a go-for-broke American independent film. The end product, however, suggests less the reckless primal scream of a young visionary than an uncommonly proficient industry calling card. Notwithstanding a bookending Public Service Announcement tacked on to placate censors, 
The Delinquents offers a narratively graceful and emotionally rich take on the mostly disreputable Eisenhower-era subgenre of the teenage exploitation film. In an exciting promise of things to come, Altman corrals a spirited cast of amateurs for a snapshot of the fractious cross-sections of suburban Middle America: the pampered pretty boys, the bad seeds from across the tracks, and the adults who are all-too-oblivious to their children’s changing social habits. Though more a forecast of Altman’s formidable gifts as a storyteller than his relatively avant-garde stylistic sensibilities, the film nonetheless features striking bird’s-eye-view camerawork that encourages one to see provincial conflict as the product of an interconnected community rather than mere individuals.

Here (and above) is the trailer.


No2 Raging Bull (Scorsese, 1980): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 6.10pm

This film (which also screens on January 7th and 9th) is part of the Martin Scorsese season at BFI Southbank over January and February. Details here.

Time Out review:
You was my brudda. You shoulda looked out for me a little bit… I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum…’ When the washed-up Jake La Motta (Robert De Niro) quotes ‘On The Waterfront’ to himself, it tells us as much about his self-pity as the actual parallels with Brando’s Terry Malloy. Not just a contender but a champ, La Motta’s fall stemmed not from outside pressures but inner weaknesses, stunningly realised in De Niro’s colossal performance; both he and Scorsese have arguably never been better. Following from 1941 to 1964 the explosively jealous and narcissistic middle-weight, his brother-manager Joey – Joe Pesci, great in his breakthrough role, first of the badabing pairings with De Niro that would define his career – and Jake’s tenderised wife Vickie (Cathy Moriarty), ‘Raging Bull’ is a masterclass in pain inflicted on oneself and one’s loved ones, as well as one’s opponents. The use of pop and opera and the black-and-white photography (by Michael Chapman) are exemplary, the actual boxing a compulsive dance of death.
Ben Walters

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2017 - Day 4: Wed Jan 4

The Red Shoes (Powell & Pressburger, 1948): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 6pm

This 35mm screening is part of the Martin Scorsese Curates season at BFI Southbank. The film is also being shown at the cinema on January 22nd. Details here.

Two things fascinate me about this great film: firstly, no one mentions that it could all be the feverish dream of one of the central characters; see if you can spot the key moment I mean. Secondly, the character of Lermontov, superbly played by Anton Walbrook, who is one of Powell & Pressburger's greatest creations. Enjoy. Here are extracts featuring the aformentioned Lermontov.

Chicago Reader review:
Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's Trilby-based ballet film (1948, 133 min.) has been the cult property of dance freaks for far too long. A look beneath its lushly romantic surface reveals a dark, complex sensibility, and that surface, rendered in the somber tones of British Technicolor, reflects a fantastically rich cinematic inventiveness. Moira Shearer is the ballerina who, following the outlines of a Hans Christian Andersen tale, trades her life for her art; Anton Walbrook, as her impresario, is perhaps the most forceful embodiment of the shaman figures–magical, outsized, sinister–who haunt Powell and Pressburger's work. The Red Shoes remains the best known of Powell and Pressburger's 18 features, yet it's only the tip of the iceberg–beneath it lies the most commanding body of work in the British cinema. 
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2017 - Day 3: Tue Jan 3

Charley Varrick (Siegel, 1973) & Pulp Fiction (Tarantino, 1994):
Prince Charles Cinema, 6.30pm

This pair of 35mm screenings is part of the Prince Charles 'Double Features' season. Details here.

Chicago Reader review of Charley Varrick:
Don Siegel wants to turn the tables on the paranoid fantasies that have animated some of his best films (Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Madigan, Dirty Harry), but he never lets this get in the way of his impressive sense of humor and undisputed mastery at constructing an action film. Walter Matthau stars as a small-timer who unwittingly rips off a Mafia bank in a routine, low-budget heist and spends the rest of the film outwitting hit man Joe Don Baker and Mafia lieutenant John Vernon. This 1973 feature is one of the finest examples of action montage from its period, a dynamite piece of work.
Don Druker

Here (and above) is the trailer.  


Time Out review of Pulp Fiction:
A sprawling, discursive fresco: three stories bookended by a prologue and epilogue. In the first story, a mobster (John Travolta) is charged with looking after the irresponsible wife (Uma Thurman) of his vengeful boss. In the second, a washed-up boxer (Willis) tries to trick the Mob by failing to throw a fight. And in the third, two hitmen (Travolta and Jackson) carry out a job, only to call on the services of a 'cleaner' (Harvey Keitel) when it gets messier than planned. It's the way Tarantino embellishes and, finally, interlinks these old chestnuts that makes the film alternately exhilarating and frustrating. There's plenty of sharp, sassy, profane dialogue, and there are plenty of acute, funny references to pop culture, though the talk sometimes delays the action, and the references sometimes seem self-consciously arch. And there are, too, the sudden lurches between humour and violence - shocking, but without moral depth. What writer/director Tarantino lacks, as yet, is the maturity to invest his work with anything that might provoke a heartfelt emotional response to his characters. Very entertaining, none the less.
Geoff Andrew

Here is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2017 - Day 2: Mon Jan 2

A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies
(Scorsese/Wilson, 1995):
BFI Southbank, NFT3, 3.30pm

This brilliant documentary, part of the Martin Scorsese season at BFI Southbank, is also being screened at the cinema on January 8th. Full details here.

Here is the BFI introduction:
Made for the BFI’s Century of Cinema series of documentaries, this survey of American filmmaking from the silent era to the end of the 60s (just before Scorsese’s own career took flight) is an exhaustive but always engrossing account of how the movies affected him both as a cinephile and as a director. Scorsese’s profound passion for the film medium is evident throughout.

Chicago Reader review:
An enjoyable, lively, informal three-part history of American movies, more than three hours long, conducted by Martin Scorsese (writer Michael Henry played a substantial role in putting it together). One of the film's many virtues is that not all the names and titles cited are obvious ones. Part one deals with the struggle between business and creativity, offers a survey of early American cinema called “The Director as Storyteller,” and takes a look at three genres—the western, the gangster film, and the musical. Part two deals with film language and studio directors who smuggled subversive ideas into their work. Part three carries the smuggling theme into the McCarthy era, then winds up with a discussion of “the director as iconoclast” that includes a discussion of Orson Welles, among others. Any of the parts can be viewed in isolation; together they add up to a rich survey of the subject by a genuine aficionado.
Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here (and above) is the opening of the documentary.

Capital Celluloid 2017 - Day 1: Sun Jan 1

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (Leone, 1966): Prince Charles Cinema, 5pm

This 35mm screening is one of three films on New Year's Day on offer at £1 for Prince Charles Cinema members. You can find details on the website.

Chicago Reader review of The Good, The Bad & The Ugly:
Sergio Leone's comic, cynical, inexplicably moving epic spaghetti western (1966), in which all human motivation has been reduced to greed—it's just a matter of degree between the Good (Clint Eastwood), the Bad (Lee Van Cleef), and the Ugly (Eli Wallach). Leone's famous close-ups—the "two beeg eyes"—are matched by his masterfully composed long shots, which keep his crafty protagonists in the subversive foreground of a massively absurd American Civil War. Though ordained from the beginning, the three-way showdown that climaxes the film is tense and thoroughly astonishing.

Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2016 - Day 365: Sat Dec 31

When Harry Met Sally (Reiner, 1989): Prince Charles Cinema, 6.30pm

An appropriate New Year's Eve screening of this re-released crowd-pleaser, the Prince Charles Cinema trumping the other venues showing the movie by screening on 35mm.

Time Out review:
Too often dismissed as the bland, cutesy, cakey-bakey face of the modern romcom, the late Nora Ephron was an unacknowledged genius when it came to screenplay construction – and ‘When Harry Met Sally’ remains her finest work. This is a film where everything works: Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan’s just-this-side-of-smug central couple, the gorgeous photography of New York through the changing seasons, even Harry Connick Jr’s jazz-lite soundtrack. And it’s all rooted in that flawless script. The story is simple: Crystal and Ryan meet after college, and loathe one another on sight. As the years pass the random meetings pile up, and dislike turns to reluctant friendship. But, as the film insistently, infamously asks, can men and women ever really be just friends? It’s not just that Ephron poses these kinds of obvious-but-important questions. It’s that she does so while circumventing romantic clichés left and right, creating unforgettably loveable characters and throwing in some of the most fluid, insightful and witty set-piece conversations ever written (the diner orgasm is the most famous, but it’s the tip of a very large iceberg). ‘Perfect’ is a big word to use about any film, but in this case no other will do.
Tom Huddleston

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2016 - Day 364: Fri Dec 30

I Am Cuba (Kalatozov, 1964): ICA Cinema, 6.15pm

Don't miss this 35mm screening of a long lost film now recognised as a world masterpiece.

Chicago Reader review:
Some of the most exhilarating camera movements and most luscious black-and-white cinematography you'll ever see inhabit this singular, delirious 141-minute communist propaganda epic of 1964, a Cuban-Russian production poorly received in both countries at the time (in Cuba it was often referred to as "I Am Not Cuba"). Directed by Mikhail Kalatozov—best known in the West for his 1957 The Cranes Are Flyingfrom a screenplay by Yevgeny Yevtushenko and Enrique Pineda Barnet, this multipart hymn to the Cuban communist revolution may be dated to the point of campiness in much of its rhetoric, but it stands alongside the unfinished masterworks of Sergei Eisenstein and Orson Welles about Latin America, Que Viva Mexico and It's All True, two parallel celebrations from foreign perspectives. (The constructivist shack occupied by a Havana prostitute in the first episode is one example of stylization run amok here.)
Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2016 - Day 363: Thu Dec 29

Contact (Zemeckis, 1997) & Interstellar (Nolan, 2014):
Prince Charles Cinema, 5.15pm & 8.15pm

An excellent 35mm double-bill from the great programmers at the Prince Charles.

Chicago Reader review of Contact:
Given that Robert Zemeckis, in his post-Forrest Gump mode, has a clear case of Oscaritis, and that the heaps of piety expended on this ambitious 1998 adaptation of Carl Sagan's SF novel lead to traces of unintentional camp, this is still an adroit and compelling piece of storytelling, well worth anybody's time. Jodie Foster plays a dedicated radio astronomer and atheist who receives the first message from extraterrestrials; Matthew McConaughey (one of the campier elements) portrays a sort of New Age Billy Graham and romantic hunk who helps to negotiate her dealings with Washington, not to mention spirituality and sexuality. Others in the cast include not only James Woods, John Hurt, Tom Skerritt, Angela Bassett, and Rob Lowe, but also a host of TV regulars (most of them CNN favorites) playing themselves: Bernard Shaw, Larry King, Bill Clinton (who seems to be taking over the Forrest Gump role), Jay Leno, etc. If indeed the view of reality is strictly CNN, the aesthetics (if not the politics) are strictly Ayn Rand; the otherworldliness manages to be both visually exciting and very southern California. James V. Hart and Michael Goldenberg wrote the screenplay, though the late Sagan and his widow Ann Druyan both worked with Zemeckis on the adaptation.
Jonathan Rosenbaum


Chicago Reader review of Interstellar:
On a visual level, Interstellar is an exceptionally well-crafted Hollywood entertainment. Director Christopher Nolan, art director Dean Wolcott, and their effects artists render the imaginary settings in stunning detail. The film is rife with brilliant imagery: a horizon of frozen clouds, an ocean wave as tall as a skyscraper, the flashing interior of a wormhole through which the principal characters fly their spacecraft. The most striking thing about these images is that we’re rarely encouraged to ooh and aah over them; unlike most ambitious space operas since 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Interstellar inspires not wonder but a cool contemplation. Nolan and his brother Jonathan, who cowrote the script, advance a hard-science perspective, incorporating such concepts as the theory of relativity and placing dramatic emphasis on research and problem solving.
Ben Sachs

Here (and above) is the trailer for Interstellar.

Capital Celluloid 2016 - Day 362: Wed Dec 28

Alice in Wonderland (Miller, 1966): Close-Up Cinema, 8pm

Here is the Close-Up Cinema introduction:
Broadcast in the centenary year of the publication of Lewis Carroll's novel, Jonathan Miller's television adaptation is both a completely logical translation of the book, and a radical departure from convention. Almost all other versions of Alice in Wonderland are aimed squarely at children, but Miller's intended audience was not only adults but those so familiar with the book that they would still be able to recognise what was going on even when his film was at its most elliptical. [...] Miller is careful not to create a clichéd 'dreamlike' ambience – he respects the logic of Dodgson the mathematician as well as the fantasies of Carroll the dreamer, and plays everything straight, photographed in crisp, deep-focus black-and-white by regular Ken Russell collaborator Dick Bush. Of all Carroll adaptations, only Jan Svankmajer's partly animated Alice is as faithful to the spirit as well as the letter of the original.
Michael Brooke

Here (and above) is an extract.

Capital Celluloid 2016 - Day 361: Tue Dec 27

In A Lonely Place (Ray, 1950): Picturehouse Central, 7pm

In a Lonely Place is one of the best films about life in Hollywood and one of Nicholas Ray's finest. Highly recommended. This 35mm screening is part of the Jim Jarmusch season at Picturehouse Central (you can find the full details here).

"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 the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2016 - Day 360: Mon Dec 26

Black Narcissus (Powell/Pressburger, 1947): Prince Charles Cinema, 6pm

All the films screening at the Prince Charles Cinema on Boxing Day, which include Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch, are £1 for members. You can find the details here. This choice is one of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's finest achievements.

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 2016 - Day 359: Sun Dec 25


The 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 and the hashtag #bestxmasholidayfilmonTVtoday.

Capital Celluloid 2016 - Day 358: Sat Dec 24

It's A Wonderful Life (Capra, 1946): Prince Charles Cinema 3pm & 5.50pm/
Regent St Cinema

This greatest of all Christmas films is on an extended run at the Prince Charles. You can find all the 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 2016 - Day 357: Fri Dec 23

Three Wishes for Cinderella (Vorlicek, 1973): ICA Cinema, 6.30pm

Here is the ICA introduction:
A well-beloved classic of Eastern European cinema, Václav Vorlíček's reworking of the Cinderella tale is both delightful and unconventional. Shot on location in and around the famous Švihov castle and the surrounding forests of Bohemia, Three Wishes for Cinderella takes the familiar fairytale and invests it with down-to-earth characters and a feisty and rebellious Cinderella who rides a horse, knows how to hunt and actively pursues her handsome Prince.

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2016 - Day 356: Thu Dec 22

Black Christmas (Clark, 1974): Genesis Cinema, 7pm

Here is the Genesis Cinema introduction to this 35mm screening:
Join us for our terrifying Christmas edition of our regular cult film screenings and post-film salons hosted by Rochester Kino's Nick Walker. Black Christmas is a 1974 Canadian psychological slasher film directed by Bob Clark and written by A. Roy Moore. It stars Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea, Margot Kidder, Andrea Martin, Marian Waldman and John Saxon. The story follows a group of sorority sisters who are receiving threatening phone calls, while being stalked during the holiday season.

Popcorn Horror website review:
What’s so terrifying about Black Christmas is its own history. If you’re a film buff you’re probably aware of this film’s existence: “that Christmas themed horror”/”the first slasher”. It's this status as one of the earliest slashers that sets up a false sense of security. Unlike the standard template however, the antagonist is not a lumbering threat. The fact he stays hidden in the shadows of the house means his omnipresence (an idiom Black Christmas does conform to) is verisimilitudinous without resorting to fantastical devices.
Something is a little unsettling about Black Christmas. It’s a little too confined, the players somewhat more trapped, the playing field is that bit smaller. There’s the traditional set-up but then, early on are the phone-calls. Not calls that Scream hoped to parody; Scream would be lucky if it could capture something as revolting as these. The calls in the movie are genuinely some of the most horrifying, deranged audio ever committed to film. It’s something that will stand out and stay with you. This helps build the palpable tension and star Olivia Hussey is a grand scream queen.
But the best thing about Black Christmas? The plot goes in a direction that will leave you thinking for days , if  not weeks. Yes, there are huge leaps in logic (why do the girls stay in the sorority house after several murders? Why do the police not have someone next to the phone 24/7?) It doesn’t  matter, this remains utterly original and raw. Thanks to the performances and brutality of the story, this continues to be a terrifying movie to all but the most cynical; and frankly if this picture doesn’t make your skin crawl, it’s on too tight.
RJ Bayley

Capital Celluloid 2016 - Day 355: Wed Dec 21

Whistle And I'll Come To You (Miller, 1968) & The Signalman (Gordon Clark, 1976):
Picturehouse Central, 6.30pm

This double-bill screens as part of A Warning To The Curious: Ghost Stories at Christmas at Picturehouse Central (full details here), a season of films inspired by M R James and Charles Dickens. With introduction by Jonathan Rigby: This screening is introduced by Jonathan Rigby, actor and author of books including Studies in Terror: Landmarks of Horror Cinema (2011) and English Gothic: A Century of Horror Cinema (2000)

Here is the Picturehouse Central introduction:
A rare screening of two classic films from the BBC's Ghost Story For Christmas strand. An extended introduction precedes the 1976 adaptation of Charles' Dickens The Signalman and the 1968 adptation of M R James Whistle and I'll Come To You.
All ticket-holders will receive a complimentary special edition of Notes for the Curious

Here (and above) are extracts from the genuinely very creepy 'Whistle And I'll Come To You'.

Capital Celluloid 2016 - Day 354: Tue Dec 20

The Legend of Hell House (Hough, 1973): Regent Street Cinema, 7.30pm

This 35mm screening is presented by Josh Saco of Cigarette Burns Cinema. More details here.

Here is the Regent Street Cinema introduction:
On 20th December, physicist Lionel Barrett takes a small group of psychics to get to the bottom of the strange stories in Belasco House, a notoriously haunted house. The Legend of Hell House is a titan of haunted house films, steeped in atmosphere with an outrageous performance from Roddy McDowell, they don’t get any better than this. We’ll be joined by director John Hough for a discussion and Q&A after the film.

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2016 - Day 353: Mon Dec 19

Inside (Maury, 2007) & In My Skin (De Van, 2002): Picturehouse Central, 6.30pm

Between the films, in this Picturehouse double-bill the feminist horror collective, The Final Girls, will host a panel discussion about the way the films of the New French Extremity tackled body horror, female psyschosis and the slasher tropes.

Here is the Picturehouse introduction:
There was a brief, bloody moment in the mid-2000s, when French film turned bloodthirsty. We pay homage to that gruesome period dubbed New French Extremity with a double dose of body horror with A l’interieur (Inside) and Dans ma peau (In my skin). Both films have the female neuroses at its core, and peel back (sometimes, literally) every layer of it until the core is left exposed. Inside follows a young pregnant widow who must deal with a relentless woman that appears one night in her home. In My Skin while not strictly a horror film, goes deep inside the psyche of a woman obsessed with inflicting damage to her own body. Both films push boundaries of what we expect from women in horror, and confront the anxieties of the female body with vivid detail.

Here is a Jonathan Romney article from the Independent in 2004 on New French Extremity.

In My Skin review (from Time Out):
When businesswoman Esther (de Van) accidentally cuts her leg, she discovers that the wound is a source of pleasure as well as pain. Soon she is inflicting further blessures, neglecting her job and her relationship with her nice-guy boyfriend (Laurent Lucas), and sliding slowly into dementia… At last year’s Edinburgh Film Festival, de Van’s film provoked a steady stream of walkouts as ‘disturbing images and themes’ started to unfold. But, despite several grisly moments, it never delivers anything truly grotesque. Instead, de Van always seems about to show us something awful. There’s no shortage of stuff to chew on, however, in this most graceful and poised of ‘skin-flicks’ – one which, like ‘Secretary’, shows scarification as a direct response to reification. The most remarkable scene sees Esther slowly threatening various parts of her body with a knife, making it perhaps the first stalk-and-slash film in which victim and assailant are the same person. 
Neil Young

Here (and above) is the trailer for Inside.

Capital Celluloid 2016 - Day 352: Sun Dec 18

Donnie Darko (Kelly, 2001): BFI Southbank, NFT3, 2.45pm

This screening includes an introduction by writer-director Richard Kelly. The Sold Out signs have gone up for this event but get down to BFI Southbank early for returns on the day if you have the chance. There are plenty of other screenings (details here) of this movie at the cinema from December 17th onwards.

BFI introduction:
This mind-bending cult classic gets a loving restoration. October, 1988. In the middle of the night, a man in a monstrous rabbit suit appears to Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal), a troubled teenager living with his family in suburban Virginia, to tell him that the world will end in 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes and 12 seconds. And so, a cult movie is born. As Donnie’s grip on reality weakens, we’re drawn into the darkness that lurks underneath the surface of suburbia. Underappreciated upon its initial release in 2001, Richard Kelly’s mind-bending film gets the 4K restoration treatment and is ripe for rediscovery on the big screen.

Chicago Reader review:
Like George Romero's ambiguous vampire Martin, writer-director Richard Kelly's otherworldly-wise Donnie may have stumbled onto the science behind the apparently supernatural—in this case time travel—which would explain why everyone thinks he's crazy. His sessions with his therapist—and with a high school teacher who's not supposed to discuss theoretical physics with students—are, like the rest of this creepy, insightful coming-of-age story (2001), beautifully kaleidoscopic in tone. Kelly is a supple and courageous storyteller, boldly free-associating as he mixes parody and satire with earnest psychodrama and coming up with plot points no one could anticipate. Donnie submits to the therapist's increasingly questionable treatment, taking his medication even though it seems to be causing hallucinations—or are they visions?—involving an evil-looking bunny the size of a man.

Lisa Alspector

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2016 - Day 351: Sat Dec 17

The Shop Around the Corner (Lubitsch, 1940): BFI Southbank, NFT 6.20pm

This 35mm screening is part of the Re-releases strand at BFI Southbank (see here for full details) and this particular film is on from December 16th to the 20th.

Chicago Reader review:
There are no art deco nightclubs, shimmering silk gowns, or slamming bedroom doors to be seen, but this 1940 film is one of Ernst Lubitsch's finest and most enduring works, a romantic comedy of dazzling range that takes place almost entirely within the four walls of a leather-goods store in prewar Budapest. James Stewart is the earnest, slightly awkward young manager; Margaret Sullavan is the new sales clerk who gets on his nerves—and neither realizes that they are partners in a passionate romance being carried out through the mails. Interwoven with subplots centered on the other members of the shop's little family, the romance proceeds through Lubitsch's brilliant deployment of point of view, allowing the audience to enter the perceptions of each individual character at exactly the right moment to develop maximum sympathy and suspense. With Frank Morgan, Joseph Schildkraut, Sara Haden, and Felix Bressart.
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2016 - Day 350: Fri Dec 16

Patience (After Sebald) (Gee, 2012): Close-Up Cinema, 8pm

Time Out review:
German by birth and British by choice, the writer W.G. Sebald was a world-class literary straddler: His dense, hauntingly descriptive work toggled between fiction and memoir, interior and exterior landscapes, the ugly legacy of his native country (specifically WWII and the Holocaust) and the beauty of East Anglia, where he lived for 35 years prior to his death in 2001. Personal and social memory preoccupied him, as did the English countryside; his 1995 novel, The Rings of Saturn, concerned a man named “W.G. Sebald” (himself? an avatar? some combination of the two?) who walks through rural Suffolk and ponders everything from European history to silkworms, encountering a host of interesting (real? imagined?) characters.
Judging from the number of writers, editors and pundits who attest to the greatness of that book’s sprawling psychogeographical magical mystery tour, Saturn is a favorite tome among Sebald’s legion of fans—including documentarian Grant Gee (Meeting People Is Easy), who’s constructed his own memorial collage-cum-tone-poem about the belletrist’s travelogue. Black-and-white shots of pastoral tableaux, lapping waves and the occasional animal corpse are accompanied by philosophical musings from Chris Petit, Rick Moody, Iain Sinclair and others; the protagonist’s route is traced via textual maps; pages of Sebald’s work read aloud butt up against testimonies and a radio interview with the man himself. It’s less a biographical sketch than an attempt at remembrance via a replication of Sebald’s stream-of-consciousness prose, an outside-the-vérité-box effort that obfuscates as much as it fascinates. Look elsewhere if you want a linear timeline of Sebald’s life or don’t possess that titular virtue; everyone else will want to make a beeline to their local bookstore. 
David Fear

Capital Celluloid 2016 - Day 349: Thu Dec 15

Scrooge (Hurst, 1951): BFI Southbank, Studio, 6.15pm

This movie, the best film version of Dickens' A Christmas Carol, also screens at the cinema on December 22nd and 27th (full details here). Tom Charity's review below is an honest and excellent one but I defy you not to be moved by Sim's central performance and it is this Ghost of Christmas Future that has haunted me since I saw this film as a ten-year-old.

Time Out review:
Surprisingly, there isn't a film version of the Dickens novella which merits the imprimatur 'classic'. The Muppets had a good stab at it, and Bill Murray was well cast in the otherwise scattershot Scrooged. On the plus side, this version is cast like an engraved illustration: Miles Thesiger, Mervyn Johns, Michael Hordern, Kathleen Harrison, Ernest Malleson, Hermione Baddeley and, above all, the splendidly aloof Alastair Sim, who feasts on Dickens' best lines ('I expect you want the whole day off tomorrow?'), greets each new ghost with a weary shiver, and handles his giddy rebirth with aplomb. A jobbing director who knew how to point a camera, Brian Hurst never betrayed much facility for cutting or movement. He stages the action competently, but the transitions between scenes are so choppy you wonder where the ads are. Add to this a prosaic adaptation by Noel Langley which gets bogged down in the backstory (the relatively dull visitation from the ghost of Christmas Past which explains how nice Ebenezer - a bashful George Cole - fell from the path of righteousness), some rather depressed-looking spirits, and the cringeworthy sentimentality of the Tiny Tim scenes, and you have what Scrooge himself might call 'Ho-hum-bug'.
Tom Charity

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2016 - Day 348: Wed Dec 14

My Night with Maud (Rohmer, 1969): BFI Southbank, NFT3, 6.10pm

This film, introduced by BFI Programmer-at-large Geoff Andrew, is part of the cinema's Big Screen Classics season (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 2016 - Day 347: Tue Dec 13

Point Blank (Boorman, 1967): Picturehouse Central, 7pm

To celebrate the release of Paterson, Culture Shock presents a special season curated by acclaimed filmmaker Jim Jarmusch (details here) at Picturehouse Central. This film is showing from a "glorious 35mm print".

Chicago Reader review:
John Boorman's modernist, noirish thriller (1967) is still his best and funniest effort (despite the well-phrased demurrals of filmmaker Thom Andersen regarding its cavalier treatment of Los Angeles). Lee Marvin, betrayed by his wife and best friend, finds revenge when he emerges from prison. He recovers stolen money and fights his way to the top of a multiconglomerate—only to find absurdity and chaos. Boorman's treatment of cold violence and colder technology has lots of irony and visual flash—the way objects are often substituted for people is especially brilliant, while the influence of pop art makes for some lively 'Scope compositions—and the Resnais-like experiments with time and editing are still fresh and inventive. The accompanying cast (and iconography) includes Angie Dickinson, John Vernon, and Carroll O'Connor; an appropriate alternate title might be “Tarzan Versus IBM,” a working title Jean-Luc Godard had for his Alphaville. 
Jonathan Rosenbaum
Here (and above) is the trailer.