Capital Celluloid 2021 — Day 23: Tue Jun 8

Thieves Like Us (Altman, 1974): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 8.30pm

This film, which also screens on June 3rd and 21st, is part of the Robert Altman season.

Time Out review:
Perhaps Robert Altman's most persistently charming film, a remake of Nicholas Ray's They Live By Night (or rather, second adaptation of Edward Anderson's novel), in which a trio of semi-competent bank robbers attempt to emulate the big-time gangsters publicised by the media, comics, and radio serials, and finally get their come-uppance after a brief respite from prison and poverty. Altman adheres to Ray's conception of the youngest criminal (Keith Carradine) and his plain-Jane lover (Shelley Duvall) as innocents all at sea in an uncaring world, although the tone here is one of bitter-sweet irony rather than romantic pessimism. And while casting a critical eye on Depression America, with a New Deal being promised that would keep democracy safe, there is none of the cynicism that has occasionally flawed some of Altman's fascinating genre parodies/tributes. Never portentous, never a mere spoof, this is a touching, intelligent, and - in its own small way - rather wonderful movie.

Capital Celluloid 2021 — Day 22: Mon Jun 7

The James Dean Story (Altman, 1957): BFI Southbank, NFT2,  8.50pm

This 35mm presentation is part of the Robert Altman season at BFI Southbank.

BFI introduction:
After an inauspicious first feature (The Delinquents, which Altman preferred not to be screened), he co-directed this rather poetic documentary portrait of the life and character of the star and cult hero who had recently died. It has illuminating interviews, well-chosen clips (including a stunning outtake from East of Eden) and crisp monochrome camerawork depicting the bleak landscape of Dean’s youth.

Capital Celluloid 2021 — Day 21: Sun Jun 6

Pumping Iron II (Butler, 1985): Rio Cinema, 4.15pm

The queer, feminist collective Club des Femmes are presenting a weekend of movies at Rio Cinema (full details here) and this rarely seen doc is their Sunday offering.

Chicago Reader review:
George Butler's sequel to his 1977 Pumping Iron resorts to so many fictional techniques that the word “documentary” barely seems to apply. The film follows four entrants in a Las Vegas women's body-building championship as they go through their training and learn their routines; each one is characterized in such broad, symbolic terms—there's the articulate black New Jerseyite, the shy Texan, the overconfident Los Angeleno, and the hulking Australian—that they seem like pure products of a screenwriter's imagination. And Butler packs so many dramatic conflicts into the competition—will small-town simplicity win out over big-city slickness? will the conventionally “feminine” look win out over the heavily muscled figures of the new generation of body builders?—that Rocky seems scrawny by comparison. Not at all a bad time, but a little queasy all the same.
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2021 — Day 20: Sat Jun 5

But I'm A Cheerleader (Babbit, 1999): Rio Cinema, 4.15pm

The queer, feminist collective Club des Femmes are presenting a weekend of movies at Rio Cinema (full details here) and this satirical romantic comedy is the highlight of their Saturday programme.


Programme 5-6 June 2021

5 June, 2pm - Just Livin’: Yes it’s f**king political - 5 shots films - on sale soon

5 June, 4.15pm - But I’m a Cheerleader: Director’s Cut + Skype Q&A

6 June, 4.15pm Pumping Iron II: The Women + Introduction by Sam McBean

Chicago Reader review: 
High school cheerleader Megan (Natasha Lyonne) comes home one day to find family and friends gathered in the living room. They talk her into going to a rehabilitation camp for homosexuals that's no more surreal than her suburban community—the absurdist environment, with its rigorously defined gender roles, tweaks reality enough to show how little exaggeration the satire requires. As a ditz who's just smart enough to know something isn't right, Lyonne blends hyperbole and sincerity in perfect proportions. Jamie Babbit directed a screenplay by Brian Wayne Peterson; with Clea DuVall, Cathy Moriarty, and RuPaul Charles. 

Lisa Alspector

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2021 — Day 19: Fri Jun 4

The Man Who Wasn't There (Coen, 2001): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 5.50pm

This 35mm presentation, which is part of the Big Screen Classics season at BFI Southbank, will also be shown on June 27th. Full details here.

Chicago Reader review:
Joel and Ethan Coen stay true to their bent for dense heroes and neonoir, and to their unshakable conviction that life usually turns out to be splendidly horrific. Here they've cast Billy Bob Thornton as a self-effacing small-town barber in the late 40s who's slowly enmeshed in a doomed crime plot. Apart from a couple of screwy Coen-style flashbacks, several fancy plot twists, and a few other postmodern indulgences, this 2001 drama is straight out of James M. Cain, though the high contrasts of Roger Deakins's glorious black-and-white cinematography suggest at times Fellini's 8-1/2 more than noir classics. Thornton seems born to play the sort of slow-witted poet of the mundane that the Coens find worthy of their condescending affection. It's a story that's easier to rent than buy, but it does look good on the big screen. Others in the cast, all pretty effective, include Frances McDormand (in the Barbara Stanwyck part), Michael Badalucco, Richard Jenkins, Scarlett Johansson, Jon Polito, Tony Shalhoub, and James Gandolfini.
Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2021 — Day 18: Thu Jun 3

Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (Altman, 1982):
Southbank, NFT1, 5.50pm

This 35mm presentation, part of the Robert Altman season, is also being screened on June 19th. You can find the full details here.

Time Out review:
Startlingly successful translation from one medium to another, with Robert Altman turning the first of his theatrical adaptations into a cinematic tour de force. A group of women, members of a James Dean fan club, reunite in '75 to pay tribute to the death, 20 years earlier, of their hero while shooting Giant in the Texan desert nearby. Ed Graczyk's play itself is a humdrum if highly enjoyable affair, gradually proceeding from its comic observations about the way the women aren't quite friends any more to a more serious consideration of shattered dreams and saddened lives, all exposed in a gripping if familiar series of intimate revelations. But beyond the excellent performances and Altman's evident sympathy for his garrulous gathering of beautiful losers, what marks the film is the way he uses both the camera and a wall mirror (which periodically reflects us back to '55) to explore and open up his single dime-store set and the cracks in the masks of his deluded/deluding characters. Stunning stuff.

Capital Celluloid 2021 — Day 17: Wed Jun 2

Tampopo (Itami, 1985): Prince Charles Cinema, 5.55pm

This sparkling movie also screens at the Prince Charles on June 12th. Full details here

Chicago Reader review

Juzo Itami's second comedy (1987) represents a quantum leap beyond his first (The Funeral): without abandoning his flair for social satire, he expands his scope to encompass the kind of narrative free play we associate with late Buñuel. His subjects are food, sex, and death, roughly in that order, his ostensible focal point the opening of a noodle restaurant. Working with a venerable cast that includes veterans of Kurosawa, Ozu, Shinoda, and Terayama, he takes us on a wild spree through an obsession, winding his way through various digressions with a dark, philosophical wit that is both hilarious and disturbing. Not to be missed.

Jonathan Rosenbaum 

Capital Celluloid 2021 — Day 16: Tue Jun 1

A Perfect Couple (Altman, 1979): BFI Southbank, NFT3, 5.50pm

This 35mm presentation, part of the Robert Altman season, is also being screened at BFI Southbank on June 14th and 16th. Full details here.

Time Out review:

Altman hits a note of surprising magic here, commenting on cinematic traditions of romantic comedy even as he updates them. The lovers (Dooley, Heflin) meet through an LA video-dating service. He's an ageing antique dealer, driven to the bureau by his entombment in a repressive Greek-American family; she's an aimless waif who lives and sings in a communal rock group tyrannised by its lead singer. Music is as focal as it was in Nashville: the classics in which Dooley's family are steeped, versus the Easy-Listening raunch which Heflin peddles. Though both commune and traditional family are shown to be equal parts alluring and lethal, the search for togetherness is treated with a satirical sympathy, so that the happy ending - clearly recognised when it comes as a slyly structured fantasy - works as a real reward for both lovers and audience.

Capital Celluloid 2021 — Day 15: Mon May 31

California Split (Altman, 1974): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 3.45pm

This film, part of the Robert Altman season at BFI Southbank, is also being shown on June 20th and 24th. Details here.

Robert Altman made a number of groundbreaking films in the 1970s (MASH, The Long Goodbye, Nashville and McCabe and Mrs Miller). This one has slipped through the net but is no less innovative and is a must-see for anyone interested in the director's work.

Elliott Gould (slumbering through the decade in his inimitable style) and George Segal are excellent in the lead roles. It's funny and poignant and undoubtedly the best film I've seen on the subject of gambling as the pair take the well-worn road from casino to racetrack to card hall, ending up in Reno.

Chicago Reader review:
Robert Altman's masterful 1974 study of the psychology of the compulsive gambler. Elliott Gould, loose, jocular, and playful, and George Segal, neurotic, driven, and desperate, are really two halves of the same personality as they move from bet to bet, game to game, until they arrive for the big showdown in Reno. As in all Altman films, winning is losing; and the more Altman reveals, in his oblique, seemingly casual yet brilliantly controlled way, the more we realize that to love characters the way Altman loves his, you have to see them turned completely inside out.

Capital Celluloid 2021 — Day 14: Sun May 30

Dr Strangelove (Kubrick, 1964): Castle Cinema, 1.30pm

This 16mm presentation is also screened on May 27th at Castle Cinema.

Chicago Reader review:

Like most of his work, Stanley Kubrick's deadly black satirical comedy-thriller on cold war madness and its possible effects (1964) has aged well: the manic, cartoonish performances of George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden, and Peter Sellers (in three separate roles, including the title part) look as brilliant as ever, and Kubrick's icy contempt for 20th-century humanity may find its purest expression in the figure of Strangelove himself, a savage extrapolation of a then-obscure Henry Kissinger conflated with Wernher von Braun and Dr. Mabuse to suggest a flawed, spastic machine with Nazi reflexes that ultimately turns on itself.

Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here (and above) is the trailer 

Capital Celluloid 2021 — Day 13: Sat May 29

That Cold Day in the Park (Altman, 1969): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 5.50pm

This 35mm presentation in the Robert Altman season is also being screened on June 8th. You can find the full details here.

BFI preview:
Though Altman’s second feature Countdown (unavailable for this season) displayed some of his stylistic hallmarks in embryonic form, this third feature was his first truly personal film. It concerns the unsettling relationship that develops between a lonely woman (Dennis) and a mute young dropout (Burns) whom she notices on a park bench and invites home for food and shelter. Laszlo Kovacs’ (Easy Rider) cinematography enhances the dreamily enigmatic mood.

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2021 — Day 12: Fri May 28

Fight Club (Fincher, 1999): Prince Charles Cinema, 8.30pm

This 35mm screening is also being ahown on June 13th. Details here.

Chicago Reader review:
This exercise in mainstream masochism, macho posturing, and designer-grunge fascism (1999) is borderline ridiculous. But it also happens to be David Fincher's richest movie--not only because it combines the others (Alien 3SevenThe Game) with chunks of Performance, but also because it keeps topping its own giddy excesses. Adapted by Jim Uhls from Chuck Palahniuk's novel, this has something--but only something--to do with a bored Edward Norton encountering a nihilistic doppelganger (Brad Pitt) who teaches him that getting your brains bashed out is fun. Though you're barely allowed to disagree with him, your jaw is supposed to drop with admiring disbelief at the provocation, and the overall impression of complexity might easily be mistaken for the genuine article. In other words, this is American self-absorption at its finest.
Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2021 — Day 11: Thu May 27

A Tale of Springtime (Rohmer, 1990): Prince Charles Cinema, 6pm

This is a 35mm presentation.

Chicago Reader review:
After his “Six Moral Tales” and “Comedies and Proverbs,” Eric Rohmer launched a new cycle of films, “Tales of the Four Seasons,” with this characteristically masterful and low-key talkfest (1989). A young doctor of philosophy (Anne Teyssedre) spends a few days with a new friend (Florence Darel), a musician whose father (Hugues Quester) is living with a student she detests (Eloise Bennett). What seems to be slowly building toward a seduction of the philosophy teacher by the musician's father actually has more to do with the development of the friendship between the teacher and the musician, and Rohmer unravels the plot coolly and authoritatively—as usual, like the warp and woof of an 18th-century novella. This takes some time to get going, but steadily picks up interest and momentum.
Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2021 — Day 10: Wed May 26

Goodbye, Dragon Inn (Tsai, 2003): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 6.10pm


This film, which is also being shown on June 2nd (details here), will be introduced tonight by director Peter Strickland.

Chicago Reader review:
For all its minimalism, Tsai Ming-liang's 2003 masterpiece manages to be many things at once: a Taiwanese Last Picture Show, a failed heterosexual love story, a gay cruising saga, a melancholy tone poem, a mordant comedy, a creepy ghost tale. A cavernous Taipei movie palace on its last legs is (improbably) showing King Hu's groundbreaking 1966 hit Dragon Inn
 to a sparse audience (which includes a couple of that film's stars) while a rainstorm rages outside. As the martial-arts classic unfolds on the screen, so do various elliptical intrigues in the theater—the limping cashier, for instance, pines after the projectionist, even though she never sees him. Tsai has a flair for skewed compositions and imparts commanding presence to seemingly empty pockets of space and time.
Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2021 — Day 9: Tue May 25

 Taxi Driver (Scorsese, 1976): Vue Cinemas across London and UK


Hats off to Vue Cinema which is screening this 70s Scorsese classic from Monday 17th May in its cinemas across London and the UK. Full details here.

Chicago Reader review:
Martin Scorsese put all the city dweller's irrational, guilty fears into this 1976 story of a New York taxi driver (Robert De Niro) on a one-man rampage against the "scum"—pimps, whores, muggers, junkies, and politicians. Scorsese's style is a delirious, full-color successor to expressionism, in which the cityscape becomes the twisted projection of the protagonist's mind. Paul Schrader's screenplay, with its buried themes of sin and redemption, borrows heavily from Robert Bresson's Pickpocket, yet the purloined material is transformed in startling, disturbing ways. It would be hard to imagine an American film more squarely in the European “art” tradition than this, yet it was misunderstood enough to become a significant popular success—a thinking man's Death Wish.
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2021 — Day 8: Mon May 24

Syndromes and a Century (Weerasethakul, 2006): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 8.30pm

This 35mm presentation, which tonight will be introduced by director Chaitanya Tamhane, is also being screened on une 19th (full details here).

Chicago Reader review:
The unpredictable and provocative Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Tropical Malady) offers a mysterious and beautiful experimental feature (2006) based on memories of his parents, who were both doctors. It's divided into two parts, both set in the present, with many rhyme effects between them. The first, set in and around a rural clinic, centers on his mother; the second, set in the vicinity of a Bangkok hospital, focuses on his father, though it's a kind of quizzical remake of the first and both characters appear in each section. There's nothing here that resembles narrative urgency, but this is a quiet masterpiece, delicate and full of wonder.
Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2021 — Day 7: Sun May 23

Magnificent Obsession (Sirk, 1954): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 12.45pm

Shot on Eastmancolor negative and later subjected to the dye-transfer printing process (known as Techncicolor No V), this widescreen film is exemplary of Technicolor’s transition into the 1950s. It will be screened from a vintage 35mm Technicolor print preserved in the BFI National Archive. The film will be introduced by BFI Creative Director, Heather Stewart. The film can also be seen on Sunday June 6th - full details here.

Time Out review:
Douglas Sirk directed a number of films which say an awful lot about '50s America. A European who saw Americans more clearly than most, he found, in the 'women's weepies' producers often gave him, a freedom to examine contemporary middle class values. This one (from a novel by Lloyd C Douglas) has a preposterous plot: playboy Hudson takes up medicine again after being indirectly responsible for the death of a philanthropic doctor and directly responsible for his widow's blindness. Assuming the dead man's role, Rock Hudson starts practising the same kind of secretive Christianity, but has to resort to an alias to win the widow herself. Sirk turns all this into an extraordinary film about vision: sight, destiny, blindness (literal and figurative), colour and light; the convoluted, rather absurd actions (a magnificent repression?) tellingly counterpointed by the clean compositions and the straight lines and space of modern architecture. Sirk's films are something else: can Fassbinder even hold a candle to them?
Chris Peachment

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2021 — Day 6: Sat May 22

Black Narcissus (Powell/Pressburger, 1947): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 2.20pm

This 35mm presentation will be introduced by director Edgar Wright. The film, details here, will also be screened on June 7th.

Chicago Reader review:
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 2021 — Day 5: Fri May 21

Car Wash (Schultz, 1976): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 8.55pm

This 35mm print is too faded to show unfortunately but this presentation will still be introduced by director Gurinder Chadha. The film is also being screened on May 31st – details here.

Chicago Reader review:
Not quite a disco musical, this 1976 release sure feels like one in terms of bounce, verve, and energy. It's basically a comedy-drama built around a string of vignettes related to a day in the life of a Los Angeles car wash, with a very good, largely nonwhite cast featuring Franklyn Ajaye (a particular delight), Antonio Fargas, Bill Duke, Ivan Dixon, Richard Pryor, Tracy Reed, and Garrett Morris; Sully Boyar plays the white boss. The gags tend to be much more concerned with questions of class than one is accustomed to in American movies—and the contrapuntal punctuations of the disco DJ are positively Altman-esque. Michael Schultz (Cooley High) directed a screenplay by Joel Schumacher, and if you compare this movie to Schumacher's somewhat similar D.C. Cab, made seven years later, you may conclude that Schumacher's is the dominant creative voice. Critics seemed to like this less than audiences; personally I had a ball.

Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here (and above) is the trailer

Capital Celluloid 2021 — Day 4: Thu May 20

 Drive (Winding Refn, 2011): Prince Charles Cinema, 8.30pm

This screening is part of the 35mm season at the Prince Charles Cinema. Full details here.

Time Out review:
'The truly great ‘LA noir’ movies – ‘Point Blank’, ‘The Driver’, ‘Straight Time’, ‘To Live and Die in LA’, ‘Heat’ – share common characteristics beyond the basic clichés of the crime genre. These are movies informed by the city in which they were made, a city constructed of gleaming surfaces – six-lane highways, vast industrial wastelands and endless suburban sprawl – and a place where crime is grubby and small-time, carried out by empty, hopeless loners in hock to dapper despots with unpredictable personalities. It’s in this world that we find the near-silent hero of ‘Drive’, Nicolas Winding Refn’s self-consciously slick, synth-scored throwback. Ryan Gosling plays the unnamed Driver, a mechanic and occasional getaway guy whose life is overturned when he meets Irene (Carey Mulligan), a struggling mum with a husband in the joint. As all the above implies, this is a film built on familiarity, in terms of narrative and style: neon lights flash, rubber tyres screech, Gosling broods, Mulligan swoons and a trio of wisecracking, overdressed character actors – Albert Brooks, Ron Perlman and Bryan Cranston – provide both levity and dramatic weight. But ‘Drive’ never drags: this is an entirely welcome riff on old material, a pulse-pounding, electronically enhanced cover version of a beloved standard. Sure, it’s shallow, but it’s also slickly compelling, beautifully crafted and so damn shiny.'
Tom Huddleston

Here (and above) is the trailer.