Capital Celluloid 2018 - Day 11: Thu Jan 11

The Lovers on the Bridge (Carax, 1991): Close-Up Cinema, 7.30pm

This 35mm screening is part of the Leos Carax season at Close-Up Cinema. Full details here. The film is also being shown on December 29th.

Chicago Reader review:
This 1992 French feature by Leos Carax (
Boy Meets Girl, Bad Blood) could be the great urban expressionist fantasy of the 90s: like Sunrise and Lonesome in the 20s and Playtime and Alphaville in the 60s, it uses a city's physical characteristics to poetically reflect the consciousness of its characters. Carax daringly and disconcertingly begins the film as a documentary portrait of the homeless in Paris, but it becomes a delirious love story between two people (Denis Lavant and Juliette Binoche) who live on one of Paris's most famous bridges and experience the whole city as a kind of enchanted playground, a vision that reaches an explosive apotheosis during a fireworks display over the Seine. To realize his lyrical and monumental vision Carax built a huge set in the French countryside that depicted Pont-Neuf and its surroundings, making this one of the most expensive French productions ever mounted, not to mention Carax's best work to date.
Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here (and above) is a trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2018 - Day 10: Wed Jan 10

Bad Blood (Carax, 1986): Close-Up Cinema, 7.30pm

This 35mm screening is part of the Leos Carax season at Close-Up Cinema. Full details here. The film is also being shown on December 28th.

Chicago Reader review:
The distinctive and unusual talents of French filmmaker Leos Carax have relatively little to do with story telling, and it would be a mistake to approach this, his second feature, with expectations of a "dazzling film noir thriller," which is how it was described for the Chicago Film Festival last year. Dazzling it certainly is in spots, but the film noir, thriller, and SF trappings--hung around a vaguely paranoid plot about a couple of thieves (Michel Piccoli, Hans Meyer) hiring the son (Denis Lavant) of a recently deceased partner to help steal a cure to an AIDS-like virus--are so feeble and perfunctory that they function at best only as a literal framing device, an artificial means for Carax to tighten his canvas. The real meat of this movie is his total absorption in his two wonderful lead actors, Lavant and Juliette Binoche (The Incredible Lightness of Being), which comes to fruition during a lengthy attempt at the seduction of the latter by the former, an extended nocturnal encounter that the various genre elements serve only to hold in place. The true sources of Carax's style are neither Truffaut nor Godard but the silent cinema--its poetics of close-ups, gestures, and the mysteries of personality, its melancholy, its silence, and its innocence. Bad Blood uses color with a sense of discovery similar to that found in the morbidly beautiful black and white of Boy Meets Girl, and the rawness of naked emotion and romantic feeling is comparably intense. The tendency of critics to link Carax with the much older Beineix (Diva) and the much callower Besson (Subway) seems misguided, because as Carax points out, "Mauvais sang is a film which loves the cinema, but which doesn't love the cinema of today." From the standpoint of a Beineix or a Besson, Bad Blood is jerry-built and self-indulgent; from the standpoint of cinema, it blows them both out of the park.
Jonathan Rosenabum

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2018 - Day 9: Tue Jan 9

Sullivan's Travels (Sturges, 1941): BFI Southbank, NFT3, 6.20pm

This 35mm screening, which is also being shown on January 6th and 24th, is part of the Big Screen Classics season at BFI Southbank. Full details here.

Chicago Reader review:
'Preston Sturges's remarkable autobiographical fantasy (1941) about a famous comedy director (Joel McCrea) who, after years of turning out things like Ants in Your Pants of 1940, yearns to create a great social statement. The lesson he learns—on a research trip through America's seamy underside—is that the downtrodden masses need Mickey Mouse more than Marx. A dubious proposition, but in Sturges's hands a charming one, filled out by his unparalleled sense of eccentric character.' 
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2018 - Day 8: Mon Jan 8

Wild Strawberries (Begman, 1957): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 8.40pm

This film, which is also being shown on January 3rd, 4th, 20th and 26th, is part of the Ingmar Bergman season at BFI Southbank. Full details here.

Chicago Reader review:
An archetypal Ingmar Bergman film, and one of his best (1957). An aging professor (Victor Sjostrom, who as a director was Sweden's D.W. Griffith) making a long journey by car takes the opportunity to rummage through his past, wondering for the first time what kind of man he was. There's a lot of allegorical baggage on board, but the film's virtues lie in its relative simplicity. With Ingrid Thulin and Bibi Andersson.
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2018 - Day 7: Sun Jan 7

Fanny and Alexander (Bergman, 1982): ICA Cinema, 1pm

This 35mm screening of the Ingmar Bergman classic is also being shown on December 23rd and 30th. You can find all the details here.

Chicago Reader review:
Ingmar Bergman's 1983 feature, condensed from a much longer TV series, is less an autumnal summation of his career than an investigation of its earliest beginnings: through the figure of ten-year-old Alexander (Bertil Guve), Bergman traces the storytelling urge, developing from dreams and fairy tales into theater and (implicitly) movies. The film doesn't so much surmount Bergman's usual shortcomings—the crude contrasts, heavy symbolism, and preachy philosophizing—as find an effective context for them. Tied to a child's mind, the oversimplifications become the stuff of myth and legend. As in The Night of the Hunter
, a realistic psychological drama is allowed to expand into fantasy; the result is one of Bergman's most haunting and suggestive films. With Ewa Fröling and Gunn Wållgren.
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2018 - Day 6: Sat Jan 6

Lost in Translation (Coppola, 2003): Prince Charles Cinema, 6pm

This 15th anniversary 35mm screening is part of the 35mm season at the Prince Charles Cinema. You can find the details of all the films in the season here.

Time Out film review:
Contemporary Tokyo, and Bob Harris (Bill Murray) is having an out-of-body experience. Nothing says disconnection so much as giant billboards of yourself commending Suntory whisky to a foreign audience when the shoot behind the ads leaves you stranded in a sterile hotel bar nursing your loneliness over several glasses of the same. That's when he meets Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson), a soul-searching young New Yorker idling time while her photographer husband disappears on assignment. She recognises a fellow castaway, and soon the two are trading quips and confidences. A comedy of dislocation framing a love story bound up in an expression of existential melancholy, Sofia Coppola's film is a deft, manifold delight. Johansson again impresses as an old head on young shoulders, but it's Murray's infinitely modulated performance that underpins the film. Riffing on his own image, he gives a sweet-sad study of a man lost inside himself, resigned to the likelihood that it's for life. Certainly the film has the ring of experience. The anomie of international living, the push-pull of shirking home. Admittedly it makes life easier on itself by camping up Japan's way-out culture (an irrepressible chat show host and a voluble photo director are particular standouts), but that's in keeping with its alienation principle. So far as the central relationship goes, the film is almost European in its subtlety and nuance. Cinematic cherry blossom.
Nick Bradshaw

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2018 - Day 5: Fri Jan 5

Boogie Nights (Anderson, 1997): BFI Southbank, NFT3, 8.15pm

This 35mm screening, which is also being shown on January 8th, is part of the Big Scteen Classics season at BFI Southbnak. Full details here.

Chicago Reader review:
Writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson's second feature (1997) is a two-and-a-half-hour epic about one corner of the LA porn industry during the 70s and 80s—a seemingly limited subject that becomes the basis for a suggestive and highly energetic fresco. The sweeping first hour positively swaggers, as a busboy (Mark Wahlberg) is plucked from obscurity by a patriarchal pornmeister (Burt Reynolds at his near best) to become a sex star. Alas, this being the American cinema, tons of gratuitous retribution eventually come crashing down on practically everybody in mechanical crosscutting patterns, and because Anderson has bitten off more than he can possibly chew, a lot of his minor characters are never developed properly. Moreover, just as his first feature, Hard Eight, at times slavishly depended on Jean-Pierre Melville's Bob le flambeur, Anderson here attempts to "outdo" Tarantino (in a fabulous late sequence with Alfred Molina) and to plagiarize a sequence from Raging Bull that itself quotes from On the Waterfront, rather than come up with something original. But notwithstanding its occasional grotesque nods to postmodernist convention, this is highly entertaining Hollywood filmmaking, full of spark and vigor.
Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2018 - Day 4: Thu Jan 4

The Night of Counting The Years (Salam, 1969): Barbican Cinema, 6.15pm

Time Out review:
An impressive directorial debut by ex-art director Shadi Abdelsalam, The Night of Counting the Years is an examination of cultural imperialism in reverse: instead of selling Coca-Cola to Egypt, Western merchants are stealing rarities from Egyptian tombs. At first posed in moral terms - should the new chief of an Egyptian tribe allow his people to earn money by selling the antiquities from 'officially' undiscovered tombs, or stop the trade at the cost of stopping the flow of money to his poverty-stricken people - the film develops into a study of the importance of defending the past from would-be cultural exploiters. Slow-moving but absorbing, and quite beautifully shot.

Here (and above) is the trailer. 

Capital Celluloid 2018 - Day 3: Wed Jan 3

New Year's Evil (Alston, 1980): BFI Southbank, NFT3, 8.40pm

This 35mm screening, which can also be seen on January 1st, is part of the Cult strand at BFI Southbank. You can find the full details here.

BFI introduction:
Appearing in the early stages of the 1980s slasher boom, this grisly blend of holiday cheer and bloody violence featured a particularly nifty plot device – a maniacal killer offs a new victim every time the clock strikes midnight in a different time zone. For those who enjoy their slaughter with a side of sleaze, there’s no better way to ring in the New Year.

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2018 - Day 2: Tue Jan 2

Persona (Bergman, 1966): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 6.30 & 8.30pm

This fim, part of the Ingmar Bergman season at BFI Southbank, is on an extended run at the cinema. See here for details.

Time Out review:
Bergman at his most brilliant as he explores the symbiotic relationship that evolves between an actress suffering a breakdown in which she refuses to speak, and the nurse in charge as she recuperates in a country cottage. To comment is to betray the film's extraordinary complexity, but basically it returns to two favourite Bergman themes: the difficulty of true communication between human beings, and the essentially egocentric nature of art. Here the actress (named Vogler after the charlatan/artist in The Face) dries up in the middle of a performance, thereafter refusing to exercise her art. We aren't told why, but from the context it's a fair guess that she withdraws from a feeling of inadequacy in face of the horrors of the modern world; and in her withdrawal, she watches with detached tolerance as humanity (the nurse chattering on about her troubled sex life) reveals its petty woes. Then comes the weird moment of communion in which the two women merge as one: charlatan or not, the artist can still be understood, and can therefore still understand. Not an easy film, but an infinitely rewarding one.
Tom Milne

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2018 - Day 1: Mon Jan 1

A Star is Born (Cukor, 1954): BFI Southbank, NFT3, 2.30pm

Welcome to the reason this blog exists. In December 2010 I watched this film, a movie I went to see when restored and re-released in cinemas in 1983, on television. I thought afterwards how much I would love to see this movie on the big screen again and that prompted an idea to write a daily blog picking a film to see in London. The purpose of starting the blog was to highlight to film lovers the best movies on the capital's repertory cinema circuit.

What writing the blog has also done is reinvigorate my moviegoing. The act of putting this small contribution to the London film scene together has resulted in encouraging me to go and see more movies. I hope the blog has had that impact on others too. This brilliant restoration of one of the greatest Hollywood films of all time comes highly recommended. Many believe Judy Garland gave her greatest performance in this film and one critic has called Mason's the best supporting performance by a male actor in modern Hollywood. Try and get to see A Star is Born where it should be seen - in a cinema.

This film, part of the Big Screen Classics season at BFI Southbank, and is also being shown on January 7th and 27th. Full details here

Chicago Reader review:
Even in this incomplete restoration George Cukor's 1954 musical remake of the 1937 Hollywood drama is devastating. Judy Garland plays a young singer discovered by aging, alcoholic star Norman Maine (James Mason), who helps her to fame as "Vicki Lester" even as his career slips. Garland gives a deeply affecting performance--halting, volatile, unsure of herself early on and unsure of Norman later--and her musical numbers are superb. Yet the film's core is its two-character scenes, in which small shifts in posture subtly articulate the drama's essence. Cukor gives his preoccupation with self-image a surprisingly anti-Hollywood spin: despite the many industry-oriented group scenes, the characters seem fully authentic only when they're alone with each other. The scenes of Lester acting seem tainted with artifice, and her a cappella performance of her current hit for Norman on their wedding night further separates the public from the private. Later, reenacting the production number shot that day, she uses a food cart for a dolly and a chair for a harp; Cukor's initial long take heightens the intimacy between her and Norman, just as the household props implicitly critique studio artificiality. All that matters, Cukor implies, is what people can try to become for each other. The film was badly mangled when Warner Brothers cut a half hour shortly after its release; this 1983 35-millimeter restoration replaces some footage, offering stills when only the sound track could be found. Fortunately these slide shows are confined to early scenes, giving some sense of what was lost. 
Fred Camper 

Here (and above) is the trailer.

If you want to read an excellent account of the film, its making and the background to the 1983 restoration I can recommend Ronald Haver's book A Star is Born. Full details here.

Capital Celluloid 2017 - Day 362: Sun Dec 31

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

An appropriate New Year's Eve screening of this crowd-pleaser, the Prince Charles Cinema trumping all other venues showing the movie in the holiday season 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 2017 - Day 361: Sat Dec 30

Tales from the Crypt (Francis, 1972): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 8.10pm

This 35mm screening, which is also being shown on December 23rd, is part of the Cult strand at BFI Southbank. Full details here.

Chicago Reader review:
A 1972 precursor of George Romero's Creepshow: five short stories drawn from William Gaines's horror comics of the 50s. This British production looks handsome enough under Freddie Francis's direction, and for those who say they'd watch Ralph Richardson in anything, well, here's your chance.
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2017 - Day 360: Fri Dec 29

A Matter of Life and Death (Powell/Pressburger): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 8.20pm

This 4k restoration can be seen in NFT1 and NFT3 on the extended run for this film at BFI Southbank. You can find all the details here.

Here is John Ellis's superb analysis of the film from Ian Christie's book 'Powell, Pressburger & Others.

Chicago Reader review:
This enduring 1946 Technicolor fantasy by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger began as a propaganda piece meant to cement wobbly British-American postwar relations, and some of that theme survives, notably in the climactic trial scene set in heaven. But the rest is given over to a delirious romanticism, tinged with morbidity, mysticism, and humor. David Niven is the British fighter pilot who misses his appointment with death, falling in love with a Wac (Kim Hunter) on his borrowed time. Powell had more and bigger ideas than any other postwar British director: his use of color and bold graphic images is startling and exhilarating, as is his willingness to explore the subsidiary themes of Pressburger's screenplay, never sacrificing creative excitement to linear plot. And yet, for all its abstraction, the film remains emotionally specific and affecting. With Roger Livesey and Marius Goring.
Dave Kehr

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

Capital Celluloid 2017 - Day 359: Thu Dec 28

Desert Hearts (Deitch, 1985): Genesis Cinema, 6.45pm

Genesis Cinema introduction:
As part of our #DirectedByWomen2017 season, which will see us screening 52 films by female directors across the whole of 2017 in association with the F-Rating and Bechdel Test Film Fest, and in collaboration with Film London, we proudly present .... DESERT HEARTS. This screening has been brought to you as a partnership with Criterion Collection who will be giving away 5 Blu-ray copies of the film to the five first to book a pair of tickets!

Chicago Reader review:
I guess you're supposed to like this 1985 movie because it strikes all the right attitudes about lesbian sex; it's set in the 50s to make all of the 80s platitudes look revolutionary, and in the southwest to allow some fun with twangy regional accents and dippy local yokels. In an opening deliberately reminiscent of The Women, a tweedy, uptight professor of literature (Helen Shaver) arrives at a Nevada dude ranch to establish residency for a quickie divorce; her eye is caught by swaggering cowgirl Patricia Charbonneau, and she spends most of the rest of the film trying to rationalize the strange urge that possesses her. Mercifully, when the sex scene does finally arrive, it's good, steamy stuff, but director Donna Deitch is hopelessly clunky when it comes to getting her characters to talk—and they talk, and talk, and talk. Clipping that one scene is all it would take to qualify Desert Hearts as one of those “controversial” TV movies. Viewer discretion is indeed advised, on more than one level.
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2017 - Day 358: Wed Dec 27

Obsession (Dmytryk, 1949): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 6.10pm

This 35mm screening is part of the Thriller: Can You Trust Them season at BFI Southbank. You can find full details of the season here.

In Obsession you have noir master Edward Dmytryk – on the Hollywood Blacklist and  exiled from the US – dealing with a story of adultery, but one that has almost nothing to do with his wife and everything to do with the man who has done the dirty on him. It's no coincidence that the man is an American, with the embarrassment of country's fortunes drawing so heavily on US reserves. Making great use of the Blitzed city as a space for unruly behaviour, this ripe, Hitchcock-esque film is a blackly comic delight. Duncan Carson

Here (and above) are extracts from the film.

Capital Celluloid 2017 - Day 357: Tue Dec 26

Jaws (Spielberg, 1975): Prince Charles Cinema, 5.40pm

This screening is part of the Classic Film season at Prince Charles. Full details here.

Time Out review:
'Is there such a thing as a perfect film? One that knows what it wants to achieve and does it, flawlessly, artfully and intelligently? If so, then ‘Jaws’ is as good a candidate as any. Thirty-seven years on (and reissued in a new HD print), this tale of an island community terrorised by a killer shark still feels timeless and terrifying. The characterisation is precise and acutely observed (it’s one of the great guys-on-a-mission flicks), the dialogue is witty and wise, and the plot fits together like a finely crafted watch. The performances – not just leads, but the kids, townsfolk and the grief-stricken mother too – are impeccable. Best of all is Steven Spielberg’s direction: the camera moves like a predatory animal, gliding eerily across the surface of the vast Atlantic, creating sequences of almost unbearable suspense (never mind that the scariest scene was shot in a swimming pool). It’s no wonder a generation of holidaymakers still thinks twice before stepping into the water.'
Tom Huddleston

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2017 - Day 356: Mon 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 2017 - Day 355: Sun Dec 24

It's A Wonderful Life (Capra, 1946): Prince Charles Cinema, 6.15pm

This classic Christmas film is on at the Prince Charles throughout December. 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 2017 - Day 354: Sat Dec 23

Amour (Haneke, 2012): Curzon Soho, 3pm

This 35mm screening is part of a Michael Haneke season at Soho Curzon cinema which starts on December 10. All the films are shown from prints and you can find all the details here.

Chicago Reader:
Love is measured in devotion, and devotion in the minutes and hours of suffering, in this harrowing and moving romance from Austrian master Michael Haneke (The White Ribbon, Cache). Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva play a long-married couple trying to adjust as the wife, a piano teacher, suffers a series of strokes that leave her paralyzed and finally bedridden. Anger, humiliation, and despair all take their toll, but Riva, extraordinary in the role, also communicates the class, intelligence, and beauty that the husband still sees. His tireless attention to her as her body breaks down and her spirit wilts is a thing of wonder to Haneke, who has put his finger on a very particular kind of heartbreak: seeing a lover give up not on you but on the life you've shared.
JR Jones

Here (and above) is the trailer.