Capital Celluloid 2019 - Day 98: Mon Apr 8

Ran (Kurosawa, 1985): Prince Charles Cinema, 8.15pm

This screening is part of the Akira Kurosawa season at the Prince Charles Cinema. You can find all the details here.

Chicago Reader review:
Akira Kurosawa's 1985 film is slightly marred by some too obvious straining toward masterpiece status, yet it's a stunning achievement in epic cinema. Working on a large scale seems to bring out the best in Kurosawa's essentially formal talentsKagemushaseems only a rough draft for the effects he achieves here through a massive deployment of movement and color. Both landscape and weather seem to bend to his will as he constructs an imaginary 16th-century Japan out of various locations throughout the islands, which seems to re-form itself to reflect the characters' surging passions as the violent tale progresses. It's loosely adapted from King Lear: an aging warlord (Tatsuya Nakadai, in a performance that approaches a Kabuki stylization) decides to step down as the head of his clan, which unleashes a power struggle among his three sons. As in Kagemusha, Kurosawa envisions the only alternative to rigid oppression as apocalyptic chaos, yet the bleak proposal is put with infinitely more immediacy and personal involvement.
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2019 - Day 97: Sun Apr 7

Lolita (Kubrick, 1962): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 3pm

This 35mm presentation, also screening on April 2nd, 16th and 23rd, is part of the Stanley Kubrick season at BFI Southbank. Full details here.

Chicago Reader review:
Keeping his misanthropic tendencies somewhat in check, Stanley Kubrick made a solid film (1962) out of Vladimir Nabokov's notorious and brilliant novel. James Mason is the pederastic representative of Old Europe, yearning after the 14-year-old flower of American girlhood, Lolita (Sue Lyon). Where Nabokov was witty, Kubrick is sometimes merely snide, but fine performances (particularly from Peter Sellers, as the ominous Clare Quilty) cover most of the rough spots. With Shelley Winters.
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2019 - Day 96: Sat Apr 6

Meshes of the Afternoon (Deren/Hammid, 1943): Close-Up Cinema, 8pm

Close-Up Cinema introduction:
On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of his first Film Poems touring programme, Peter Todd presents a programme framed by Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid's Meshes of the Afternoon and Guy Sherwin's Messages.
"Film Poems (1-4) sought to explore the relationship between poetry and film, but also films that are "poems". It was also a part of my dialogue as a film maker and curator with Margaret Tait and her work. The programme notes for the first programme reprinted her article "FILM – POEM or POEM – FILM A few notes about film and poetry, from Margaret Tait" which she had written for me in 1997. Others who contributed pieces to the four accompanying programme notes would include Gareth Evans and William WeesStan Brakhage and Lucy Reynolds. This programme includes an early Margaret Tait work The Leaden Echo and The Golden Echo (from the poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins) which became available after the Film Poems series. As Sarah Neely has noted, a number of film makers, found in film, a place for their poetry "Tait continued with her poetry through her camera, with what she referred to as her film poems… Stan Brakhage proclaimed himself a failed poet, Maya Deren also referred to her earlier life as being that of a frustrated poet…only when a camera was put in her hand that she felt able to fully express herself; "it was like coming home."" (Between Categories The Films of Margaret Tait: Portraits. Poetry, Sound and Place). That this screening takes place during Margaret Tait 100 is a happy co-incidence." – Peter Todd
Film Poems launched as a touring programme at Riverside Studios Cinema London on 11th April 1999. It was followed by Film Poems 2 Moments/Histories/Feelings (2000), Film Poems 3 (2001), and Film Poems 4: Messages (2004), visiting over 40 venues in total.
Curated and introduced by Peter Todd. Readings from Gareth Evans and Messages introduced by Guy Sherwin.
Meshes of the AfternoonMaya Deren & Alexander Hammid, 1943, 14 min, 16mm
The Leaden Echo and the Golden EchoMargaret Tait, 1955, 7 min, 16mm
AerialMargaret Tait, 1974, 4 min 16mm
First Hymn to the Night NovalisStan Brakhage, 1994, 4 min, 16mm
For YouPeter Todd, 2000, 2'15 min, 16mm
MessagesGuy Sherwin, 1983, 40 min 16mm

Capital Celluloid 2019 - Day 95: Fri Apr 5

Birth (Glazer, 2004): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 8.50pm

This 35mm presentation, also being screened on April 19th, is part of the ‘Inspired by Kubrick’ season at BFI Southbank. Full details here.

Chicago Reader review:
In this eerily tranquil psychological thriller, Nicole Kidman's placid countenance is like a Rorschach: you'll project onto it what you want to see. A widow on the verge of remarrying, she's troubled by the arrival of a ten-year-old boy (Cameron Bright) who claims to be the reincarnation of her dead husband. In extreme close-ups, Kidman stares impassively at nothing. Does she believe the kid? Is he crazy? Is she? Director Jonathan Glazer (Sexy Beast) unnerves us with an almost sleepy tone, helped by Alexandre Desplat's lush score. The atmosphere is really the point, though I wish the script weren't quite so elliptical. 
Hank Sartin

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2019 - Day 94: Thu Apr 4

Goodfellas (Scorsese, 1990): Prince Charles Cinema, 8.30pm

This 35mm presentation is part of the Martin Scorsese season at the Prince Charles Cinema. You can find the full details here.

Chicago Reader review:
Martin Scorsese collaborated with Nicholas Pileggi on this 1990 adaptation of Wiseguy, Pileggi's nonfiction book about gangsters in Brooklyn, and in terms of narrative fluidity it may well be the most accomplished thing Scorsese's ever done. Set between the mid-50s and the mid-80s, the semifictionalized story centers on a half-Irish, half-Sicilian Mafia recruit (Ray Liotta)—who narrates along with the Jewish woman (Lorraine Bracco) he eventually marries—and the other gangsters in his immediate circle (Joe Pesci, Robert De Niro, and Paul Sorvino). Paradoxically, the violent, amoral world the film depicts may be the darkest Scorsese has ever shown, but the surface mood is lighter than any Scorsese film since Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore. Stylistically, it's a remarkable effort, but the sociological insights never go very far beyond the obvious.
Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2019 - Day 93: Wed Apr 3

Only Angels Have Wings (Hawks, 1939): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 6.10pm

This 4K restoration of the classic Howard Hawks film, which is also being screened on April 28th and 29th, is introduced tonight by critic and BFI programmer-at-large Geoff Andrew. The film is part of the Big Screen Classics season. Full details here.

Only Angels Have Wings, is a major American movie and a pivotal film in the great Howard Hawks's career. Indeed, Robin Wood, in his BFI book on Hawks, describes the movie as a "completely achieved masterpiece". Cary Grant leads a group of pilots who regularly take their life in their hands flying mail planes across the Andes. They are joined by a sparky Jean Arthur, who drops in for a steak but fascinated by the life and times of Grant's team stays on and witnesses the adventures of one of Hawks's archetypal male groups. Only Angels Have Wings mixes tragedy and comedy in typical Hawks style and has an atmosphere all its own.

Chicago Reader review:
Howard Hawks's 1939 film represents the equilibrium point of his career: the themes he was developing throughout the 30s here reach a perfect clarity and confidence of expression, without yet confronting the darker intimations that would haunt his films of the 40s and 50s. The setting is a South American port where a group of fliers, led by Cary Grant, challenges the elements nightly by piloting mail across a treacherous mountain range. This all-male existential ritual (Grant almost seems the high priest of some Sartrean temple) is invaded by an American showgirl (Jean Arthur) who stops off for a steak and remains, fascinated by the heightened, heady atmosphere of primal struggle. The film's moral seriousness (which sometimes approaches overt didacticism) is balanced by the usual Hawks humor and warmth, and as Grant and Arthur are drawn into a romance, the film moves toward a humanistic softening of its stark premises.
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2019 - Day 92: Tue Apr 2

The Gold Diggers (Potter, 1983): Horse Hospital, 7pm

Horse Hospital introduction:

Orlando magazine* presents Sally Potter's first feature film, The Gold Diggers. The film was co-written by Potter and the artist Rose English, who is the current subject of a solo show at London's Richard Saltoun Gallery. This screening marks the final event in an ongoing series of happenings, which have been loosely related to the current print issue of Orlando (Beyond the Body), with all ticket sales going towards raising funds for the future of the magazine. The Gold Diggers is a key film of early 1980s feminist cinema. Made with an all-woman crew, featuring stunning photography by Babette Magolte and a score by Lindsay Cooper, it embraces a radical and experimental narrative structure. Celeste (Colette Laffont) is a computer clerk in a bank who becomes fascinated by the relationship between gold and power. Ruby (Julie Christie) is an enigmatic film star in quest of her childhood, her memories and the truth about her own identity. As their paths cross they come to sense that there could be a link between the male struggle for economic supremacy and the female ideal of mysterious but impotent beauty.

*Orlando is an annual print magazine and rolling online platform that advances art and culture through the lens of feminism and gender fluidity, and prioritises an intersectional and polyphonic discourse that is liberated and critically engaged. The non-profit platform is independent and free from commercial interest.

Chicago Reader review:
Sally Potter's surrealistic and metaphorical epic about women, gold, and cinema—shot in ravishing black and white by Babette Mangolte on location in Iceland—is a good deal wittier and more fun than its checkered career would lead you to expect. Starring Julie Christie and Colette Laffont, this feminist fantasy-musical, set in the past and the future, was financed by the British Film Institute in 1983 and has a relatively lavish budget for an experimental feature. What keeps it alive—apart from the arresting music and uncanny, haunting images—is Potter's imaginative grasp of film history: odd references to Chaplin's The Gold Rush and Kuleshov's By the Law are recalled in the mise en scene, but the ambience may also remind you a little bit of The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T. Not a film for everyone, but if you like it, chances are you'll like it a lot.
Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2019 - Day 91: Mon Apr 1

The Picture of Dorian Gray (Lewin, 1945): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 8.30pm

This film, which is also being shown on April 17th and 19th, is part of the Big Screen Classics season at BFI Southbank. You can find the full details here.

Time Out review:
Generally underrated version of Oscar Wilde's Faustian tale about a young Victorian gentleman who sells his soul to retain his youth, directed with loving care by the equally underrated Albert Lewin (best known, perhaps, for Pandora and the Flying Dutchman). Hurd Hatfield - cool, beautiful, and effortlessly suggesting the corruptibility of Dorian's dark soul - is excellent, though even he is overshadowed by the cynical, epigrammatic brilliance of George Sanders as Lord Henry. With elegant fin de siècle sets superbly shot by Harry Stradling, and the ironic Wildean wit understated rather than overplayed, it's that rare thing: a Hollywoodian literary adaptation that both stays faithful and does justice to its source.

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2019 - Day 90: Sun Mar 31

Wild At Heart (Lynch, 1990): Cinema Museum, 6.30pm

35mm presentation of a David Lynch classic!

Cinema Museum introduction:
Wonder Reels return to the Cinema Museum with their unique events featuring live performances from outstanding London musicians followed by a 35mm screening of a full feature film chosen with the artist in mind.
The series will be kicking off with a rare set from dark electronic gem Vindicatrix, fronted by multi-instrumentalist David Aird, whose dystopian crooning will create the perfect atmosphere to a Lynchian evening. The concert will be followed by a 35mm projection of 1990 Palme d’Or winning masterpiece Wild at Heart (1990), in which Laura Dern and Nicolas Cage portray lovers on the run Lula and Sailor, chased by a stunning cast of villains. Doors open at 18.00, live performance from 18.30, film from 19.30.
Time Out review:
As petty criminal Sailor (Nicolas Cage) and his lover Lula (Laura Dern) go on the run through a murderous Deep South, fleeing but meeting sleazy oddballs hired by Lula's mom (Diane Ladd) to end their relationship, Lynch evokes a surreal, sinister world a mite too reminiscent of his earlier work: bloody murder, violent sexual passion, kooky kitsch, freaky characters immersed in private fantasies, digressive metaphors, symbols and cultish references, and bizarre humour to lighten the nightmare. This 
déjà vu weakens the film; sometimes the weirdness seems so forced that Lynch appears merely to be giving fans what they expect. But it's churlish to focus on flaws when so much is exhilaratingly unsettling. Even more than a virtuoso shoot-out, two scenes - Stanton tortured by a gang of grotesques, a truly nasty car crash - exemplify Lynch's ability to disturb through carefully contrived atmosphere; while the performances lend a consistency of tone lacking in the narrative (but ever-present in Fred Elmes' fine camerawork). The film, finally, is funny, scary and brilliantly cinematic.

Capital Celluloid 2019 - Day 89: Sat Mar 30

Tongues Untied (Riggs, 1989): BFI Southbank, NFT3, 2.15pm

The film will be followed by a discussion hosted by BFI Flare programmer Jay Bernard, with filmmaker Vivian Kleiman, poet Dean Atta and singer, writer and historian David McAlmont. This archive selection is part of the BFI Flare festival. Full details here.

Time Out review:
A polemical, avowedly personal video documentary on the American black gay experience. It's a bit of an ordeal: a barrage of images, newsreel, stories narrated to camera, poetry readings, 'Vogue' dance performance, voices and rap, which examines, with savage but poetic candour, those questions of identity, culture, history and self-expression that are most pertinent to black gays and lesbians. Are they gay first, or black first? Why have they little or no voice in the American gay movement? Riggs takes great risks: he challenges and threatens to offend all sensibilities here, gay or straight, black or white, but does so with remarkable composure, humour and positive attitude. At heart, it's a celebratory film which buzzes with intelligence, unashamed emotion, adrenalin, and that strange tenderness forged in suffering. As a character says in the film: 'If in America a black is the lowest of the low, what is a gay black?' Riggs says to black gays: stand up, speak out, tell your story; to others: listen.

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2019 - Day 88: Fri Mar 29

Letter from an Unknown Woman (Ophuls, 1948): Ealing Town Hall, 7.30pm

This film is part of the Ealing Classic Cinema Club programme. Details here.

Chicago Reader review:
One of Max Ophuls's four Hollywood films, this masterpiece nearly defines the film melodrama, complete with the genre's often implausible twists--the lover who fails to remember a former flame, the child a father never knew was his, the train compartment contaminated with typhus. But Ophuls brings to life this story of the tragically selfless love of Lisa (Joan Fontaine) for Stefan (Louis Jourdan), a dissolute pianist in turn-of-the-century Vienna, with imagery that's at once convincingly rapturous and humorously down-to-earth. A key moment in an army officer's courtship of Lisa is interrupted by a marching band--but with the precise choreography of ballet; a romantic "ride" in a fake train car with painted panoramic views is twice interrupted by the changing of backdrops. More deeply, while Ophuls uses camera movements and written narratives to convey love's delirium, the baroque architecture of his frames also imprisons the characters, denying them transcendence, even happiness. Watch for a shot of Lisa waiting on a stairway for Stefan's return: the camera films his entry with a giggling woman from Lisa's point of view, panning right as they enter his apartment. When the same shot is repeated (but from no character's point of view, the stairway now being empty), this time as Stefan enters with Lisa, we understand that their fate is foredoomed both by the artifices of melodrama and by the cycles of human fallibility and misunderstanding, which the form at its best so devastatingly expresses. I for one am always brought to tears.
Fred Camper

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2019 - Day 87: Thu Mar 28

Dial M For Murder (Hitchcock, 1953): Castle Cinema, 6.45pm

This 16mm presentation is also being screened on March 31st. Details here.

Chicago Reader review:Alfred Hitchcock's 1953 adaptation of Frederick Knott's dinner-theater warhorse about a fading tennis champion (Ray Milland) who arranges the murder of his wife (Grace Kelly). The film is confined almost entirely to a cramped apartment set—a constricted space that takes on a highly expressive quality in the picture's original 3-D version. The screenplay tends to constrain rather than liberate Hitchcock's thematic thrust, but there is much of technical value in his geometric survey of the scene and the elaborate strategies employed to transfer audience sympathy among the four main characters.
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2019 - Day 86: Wed Mar 27

Sergeant York (Hawks, 1941): Regent Street Cinema, 12 & 3.30pm

This Howard Hawks’ film will be presented in 35mm at the Regent St Cinema.

Variety review:
For more than 20 years studios sought permission to film the heroic World War deeds of Sergeant York. And for as long a period York refused the necessary cooperation for a film of his heroism on the early morning of 8 October 1918, when he single-handed killed 20 Germans and compelled the surrender of 132 of the enemy in the Argonne sector. Lauded, praised, awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, York side-stepped all proffers to benefit from the acclaim. He returned from army service to his home in Pall Mall, Tenn, where he devoted himself to farming and educational work. It is film biography at its best. The writers have paid more attention to character, and the backgrounds and associations which create it, than to incident. For Gary Cooper the role is made to order. He convincingly portrays the youthful backwoodsman, unruly as a youth, who in time gains mastery over his wildness. The romantic passages played with Joan Leslie are tender and human. But Cooper is best, perhaps, in the scenes of early camp training when his marksmanship, learned in the woods, attracts attention. Among the featured players the reliable Walter Brennan is splendid as the combination village pastor and storekeeper.

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2019 - Day 85: Tue Mar 26

Love and Anarchy (Wertmuller, 1973): Barbican Cinema, 8.35pm

This screening is introduced by writer and curator Isabel Stevens. It is part of the Lina Wertmuller season at the Barbican. Full details here.

Chicago Reader review:
Passion, in its various forms, doesn't mix with politics, and nowhere is this clearer than in Lina Wertmüller's marvelous 1973 study of a simple peasant (Giancarlo Giannini) with a mission to assassinate Mussolini, and of the two ladies of Rome's most decadent and sumptuous brothel who innocently (yet destructively) manipulate his anarchist ardor—and ultimately set up his destruction. A giddy, Felliniesque portrait of human feelings building to a fever pitch. With Mariangela Melato, Eros Pagni, and Lina Polito.

Don Druker

Here (and above) is an extract.

Capital Celluloid 2019 - Day 84: Mon Mar 25

The Wild Bunch (Peckinpah, 1969): Prince Charles Cinema, 8.45pm

This 35mm presentation is part of the Anniversary Screenings season at the Princer Charles Cinema. You can find all the details here.

Chicago Reader review:
Sam Peckinpah's notorious western depicted an outlaw gang, made obsolete by encroaching civilization, in its last burst of violent, ambiguous glory. By 1969, when the film was made, the western was experiencing its last burst as well, and in retrospect Peckinpah's film seems a eulogy for the genre (there is even a dispassionate audience—Robert Ryan's watchful Pinkerton man—built into the film). The on-screen carnage established a new level in American movies, but few of the films that followed in its wake could duplicate Peckinpah's depth of feeling. With William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Edmond O'Brien, Warren Oates, Ben Johnson, Strother Martin, and Albert Dekker; scripted by Walon Green and Peckinpah from a story by Green and Roy N. Sickner, and photographed by Lucien Ballard.
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is the original trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2019 - Day 83: Sun Mar 24

Little Forest (Yim, 2018): Barbican Cinema, 4pm

Barbican Cinema introduction:
Recently graduated from university, Hye-won (Kim Tae-ri) is disillusioned by her life in Seoul – she works a dead-end job and eats terrible food.  After returning to her hometown, in countryside South Korea, she plunges into a journey of self-discovery by rekindling old friendships and cooking up a storm. Yim Soon-rye’s tasty slice of feel-good realism celebrates the restorative ability of food to evoke feelings of tenderness and home, and the power of everyday perseverance within oneself. Based on the slice-of-life manga Ritoru Foresuto by Daisuke Igarashi, Soon-rye uses a colourful and vivid lens to depict the universal toil of finding your way in life.

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2019 - Day 82: Sat Mar 23

Sanjuro (Kurosawa, 1962): Prince Charles Cinema, 2.55pm

This 35mm presentation is part of the Akira Kurosawa season at the Prince Charles Cinema. You can find the full details here.

Time Out review:
Kurosawa was pressured by his producers into directing this sequel to Yojimbo, and rose to the occasion by making his funniest and least overtly didactic film. The plot has Sanjuro (Mifune) running lazy rings around nine would-be samurai and two genteel ladies while cleaning up a spot of corruption in local government. Kurosawa plays most of it for laughs by expertly parodying the conventions of Japanese period action movies, but the tone switches to a magnificent vehemence in the heart-stopping finale.

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2019 - Day 81: Fri Mar 22

Stalker (Tarkovsky, 1979): Close-Up Cinema, 7.30pm

This film, which also screens on March 31st, is part of the Andrei Tarkovsky season at Close-Up Cinema. Full details here.

Chicago Reader review:
Andrei Tarkovsky's 1979 masterpiece, like his earlier Solaris, is a free and allegorical adaptation of an SF novel, Arkady and Boris Strugatsky's Roadside Picnic. After a meteorite hits the earth, the region where it's fallen is believed to grant the wishes of those who enter and, sealed off by the authorities, can be penetrated only illegally and with special guides. One of them (Aleksandr Kaidanovsky), the stalker of the title, leads a writer and a professor through the grimiest industrial wasteland you've ever seen. What they find is pretty harsh and has none of the usual satisfactions of SF quests, but Tarkovsky regards their journey as a contemporary spiritual quest. His mise en scene is mesmerizing, and the final scene is breathtaking. Not an easy film, but almost certainly a great one.
Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2019 - Day 80: Thu Mar 21

Phase IV (Bass, 1974): Castle Cinema, 7pm

Castle Cinema introduction:
When a desert ant population teams up with others of their species to create a super colony, two scientists (Nigel Davenport and Michael Murphy) search for an explanation to the evolutionary shift that has allowed the ants to adopt a hive mind. But when a lone survivor (Lynne Frederick) takes refuge in their lab the ants begin to infiltrate, and the scientists are faced with the choice of either communicating with, or eradicating their antagonists…

The film will be preceded by a talk from Dr Yannick Wurm, Senior Lecturer in Bioinformatics at Queen Mary University of London, who will provide an overview of the fascinatingly diverse lifestyles of ants, and how we are using modern genetic tools to understand how this diversity comes to be. This special screening is presented by Science Fiction Theatre - a monthly film club dedicated to the exploration and celebration of classic science fiction cinema.

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2019 - Day 79: Wed Mar 20

Ashik Kerib (Parajanov/Abashidze, 1988): Close-Up Cinema, 8.30pm

This 35mm presentation is part of the Sergei Parajanov season at Close-Up Cinema. You can find all the details here.

Chicago Reader review:Sergei Paradjanov's 1988 film, loosely adapted from Lermontov's tale about a Turkish minstrel and maiden, is a relatively minor work with much personal and autobiographical significance. But minor Paradjanov would qualify as something very close to major from most other filmmakers. The style is somewhat akin to the frontal tableaux vivants of The Color of Pomegranates with the addition of some camera movement, dialogue, and offscreen narration; the Azerbaijani dialogue and the subtitled Georgian narration tell the story proper, though the visuals tend to be more illustrative than is usual with Paradjanov. But even if Ashik Kerib were only a collection of beautiful shots (and it is clearly more than that), they'd still be some of the most beautiful shots to be found in late-Soviet cinema—richly colored, mysterious, and magical.
Jonathan Rosenbaum 

Here (and above) is an extract.


Capital Celluloid 2019 - Day 78: Tue Mar 19

Too Early, Too Late (Straub/Huillet, 1981): ICA Cinema, 6.15pm

This film is part of the Jean-Marie Straub/Danielle Huillet season at the ICA Cinema. You can see the full details here.

Chicago Reader review:
This 1981 color documentary by Jean-Marie Straub and Daniele Huillet, one of their few works in 16-millimeter, is almost certainly my favorite landscape film. There are no “characters” in this 105-minute feature about places, yet paradoxically it's the most densely populated work in their oeuvre to date. The first part shows a series of locations in contemporary France, accompanied by Huillet reading part of a letter Friedrich Engels wrote to Karl Kautsky describing the impoverished state of French peasants, and excerpts from the “Notebooks of Grievances” compiled in 1789 by the village mayors of those same locales in response to plans for further taxation. The especially fine second section, roughly twice as long, does the same thing with a more recent Marxist text by Mahmoud Hussein about Egyptian peasants' resistance to English occupation prior to the “petit-bourgeois” revolution of Neguib in 1952. Both sections suggest that the peasants revolted too soon and succeeded too late. One of the film's formal inspirations is Beethoven's late quartets, and its slow rhythm is central to the experience it yields; what's remarkable about Straub and Huillet's beautiful long takes is how their rigorous attention to both sound and image seems to open up an entire universe, whether in front of a large urban factory or out on a country road. As in Jacques Tati's studio-made 
Playtime, their subject is the sheer richness of the world we live in.
Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here (and above) is an extract.