Wednesday, 30 June 2021

Capital Celluloid 2021 — Day 52: Wed Jul 7

Showgirls (Verhoeven, 1995): Prince Charles Cinema, 8.30pm

This film (presented on 35mm tonight and on July 20th) was roundly slammed on release was nominated for film turkey awards in the past but I have always been a big fan. Director Paul Verhoeven is incapable of making a boring movie and this picture with Elizabeth Berkley as a wild-eyed ingénue who takes the Las Vegas exotic-dance scene by storm has energy to spare. It is also a somewhat subversive movie.

Chicago Reader review:
Director Paul Verhoeven and writer Joe Eszterhas's fresh meat market—a sleazy Las Vegas porn show with clunky production numbers that resemble body-building exercises, backed by heaps of big studio money. The story, a low-rent version of All About Eve, charts the rise of one bimbo showgirl (Elizabeth Berkley) at the expense of another (Gina Gershon); alas, the only actor who seems comfortable is Kyle MacLachlan. I must admit that, as with Basic Instinct and Starship Troopers, which I also underrated initially, this 1995 movie has only improved with age—or maybe it's just that viewers like me are only now catching up with the ideological ramifications of the cartoonlike characters. In this case, the degree to which Las Vegas (and by implication Hollywood) is viewed as the ultimate capitalist machine is an essential part of the poisonous package. With Glenn Plummer, Robert Davi, Alan Rachins, and Gina Ravera.
Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Tuesday, 29 June 2021

Capital Celluloid 2021 — Day 51: Tue Jul 6

Cookie's Fortune (Altman, 1999): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 2.50pm


Rarely seen Robert Altman film in the director's season which also screens on July 7th and 27th. You can find all the details here.

Time Out review:
Holly Springs, Mississippi. Snooty aesthete Camille (Glenn Close) is off to rehearse her Easter am-dram production of Wilde's Salome. First, however, she and her downtrodden sister Cora (Julianne Moore) must drop in on eccentric aunt Cookie (Patricia Neal). When Camille finds the old lady dead in bed, she persuades Cora it couldn't possibly be suicide (such disgrace!), steals a necklace to make it look like murder, and then lets Cookie's loyal caretaker/companion Willis (Charles S. Dutton) take the rap. Not that cop Lester (Ned Beatty) believes his fishing pal should be behind bars, any more than do the town's only lawyer (Donald Moffat) or Cora's rebellious daughter Emma (Liv Tyler). Altman's mercurial film is a mesmerising jewel that works its magic as soon as the faintly shaky opening scenes are over. It may not be 'about' very much (friendship, loyalty, love, self-knowledge), and it'd be too easy just to praise the excellent performances of the typically eccentric cast. Rather, what's so distinctively charming is the easygoing tone, which manages to turn black comedy into a strangely gentle, touching and delicate affair.

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Monday, 28 June 2021

Capital Celluloid 2021 — Day 50: Mon Jul 5

Apocalypse Now (Coppola, 1979): Prince Charles Cinema, 2.50pm

Time Out review:

No deleted scenes or unseen Martin Sheen, in this relatively lean, unrelentingly mean original cut of Coppola’s massive man-on-a-mission masterpiece. Shorn of its ‘Redux’ excesses, which transformed this already epic film into something sprawling, unwieldy and soap-operatic (if still brilliant), it’s remarkable how slick and streamlined the film feels: five guys in a boat, and the river only goes one way. Not that there isn’t room for experimentation. The central storyline – Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) is tasked with tracking down and executing Marlon Brando’s rogue Colonel Kurtz – is essentially a slender thread upon which Coppola and his co-writer John Milius hang a number of increasingly wild asides. But these brief, brutal and seemingly unconnected incidents work together to drive the film forward: in their very randomness, they build a picture of a war being fought without strategy or clear intent, making Willard’s mission simultaneously clearer and more morally meaningless. In contrast to Coppola’s earlier ‘The Godfather Part II’ and ‘The Conversation’, ‘Apocalypse Now’ isn’t a conspicuously ‘smart’ film: literary references aside, there are no intellectual pretensions here. Instead, as befits both its tortuous hand-to-mouth genesis and the devastating conflict it reflects, this is a film of pure sensation, dazzling audiences with light and noise, laying bare the stark horror – and unimaginable thrill – of combat. And therein lies the true heart of darkness: if war is hell and heaven intertwined, where does morality fit in? And, in the final apocalyptic analysis, will any of it matter?

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Sunday, 27 June 2021

Capital Celluloid 2021 — Day 49: Sun Jul 4

 Short Cuts (Altman, 1993): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 11.30am

This 35mm presentation is also screened on July 17th. Details here.

Time Out review:

From the exhilarating opening, you know Altman's epic 'adaptation' of eight stories and a poem by Raymond Carver is going to be special. Like Nashville, it's a tragicomic kaleidoscope of numerous barely interlinked stories (plus a similarly portentous ending). Here, the focus is on couples whose relationships are, at one point or another, subjected to small, seismic shudders of doubt, disappointment or, in a few cases, disaster. A surgeon suspects his wife's fidelity; a pool-cleaner worries over his partner's phone-sex job; a waitress is racked by guilt after running down a child; a baker makes sinister phone calls to the injured boy's parents; the discovery of a corpse threatens a fishing-trip...and a marriage. The marvellous performances bear witness to Altman's iconoclastic good sense, with Tomlin, Waits, Modine, Robbins, MacDowell and the rest lending the film's mostly white, middle-class milieu an authenticity seldom found in American cinema. But the real star is Altman, whose fluid, clean camera style, free-and-easy editing, and effortless organisation of a complex narrative are quite simply the mark of a master.

Here (and above) is the trailer

Friday, 25 June 2021

Capital Celluloid 2021 — Day 48: Sat Jul 3

The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou (Anderson, 2004): Prince Charles Cinema, 2.40pm


This is a 35mm presentation.

Time Out review:
'Despite its typically painstaking attentions to elaborate set dressings and assignations of quirk, The Life Aquatic meanders and stalls in its journeys with ocean explorer Steve Zissou (Bill Murray), a down-at-heel Cousteau-manqué pursuing a filmed revenge mission against the jaguar shark who devoured his best friend. Suffused with lush yet faded primary colours like a 30-year-old Kodak snap and spiced with Henry Selick’s stop-motion animations and a starry (if often idle) cast of supporting players, ‘The Life Aquatic’ is a beautifully appointed but airless dollhouse-by-the-sea, populated by wistful figurines in their matching little red caps and Team Zissou Adidas, and scored to Seu Jorge’s deckside acoustic renditions of Bowie songs in Portuguese. The movie pokes along in a manner at once listless and affable, like a series of semi-improvised outtakes that didn’t quite gel. And yet the director magically conjures emotional dividends in the film’s invigorating last moments, which wordlessly celebrate an underrated and truly Andersonian virtue: solidarity.'
Jessica Winter

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2021 — Day 47: Fri Jul 2

Heat (Mann, 1995): Prince Charles Cinema, 2.45pm


This 35mm presentation is also being screened on July 25th. Details here.

Time Out review:
Investigating a bold armed robbery which has left three security guards dead, LA cop Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino), whose devotion to work is threatening his third marriage, follows a trail that leads him to suspect a gang of thieves headed by Neil McCauley (Robert De Niro). Trouble is, McCauley's cunning is at least equal to Hanna's, and that makes him a hard man to nail. Still, unknown to Hanna, McCauley's gang have their own troubles: one of their number is a volatile psychopath, while the businessman whose bonds they've stolen is not above some rough stuff himself. Such a synopsis barely scratches the surface of Mann's masterly crime epic. Painstakingly detailed, with enough characters, subplots and telling nuances to fill out half a dozen conventional thrillers, this is simply the best American crime movie - and indeed, one of the finest movies, period - in over a decade. The action scenes are better than anything produced by John Woo or Quentin Tarantino; the characterisation has a depth most American film-makers only dream of; the use of location, decor and music is inspired; Dante Spinotti's camerawork is superb; and the large, imaginatively chosen cast gives terrific support to the two leads, both back on glorious form.
Geoff Andrew

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Thursday, 24 June 2021

Capital Celluloid 2021 — Day 46: Thu Jul 1

Galaxy Quest (Parisot, 1999): Prince Charles Cinema, 6.15pm


This 35mm presentation is on an extended run at the Prince Charles from June 26th. You can find all the details of the screenings here.


Time Out review:
The series only ran from '79 to '82, but the cast of 'Galaxy Quest' are making a living of sorts on the fan convention circuit. Facing yet more dorky devotees hardly enthuses the show's alien and science officer, Alexander Dane (Rickman), communications officer Gwen DeMarco (Weaver), and commander Jason Nesmith (Allen). Still, they need the money, so they tag along when a dweeby-looking bunch inveigles them into visiting their mock-up of the programme's old vessel, the 'Protector'. But the twist is, this time the ship was actually crafted on a distant planet, where transmissions of 'Galaxy Quest' have been mistaken for historical documents, and the misguided extra-terrestrials have gambled on recruiting heroic Allen and crew to save their world from interstellar rivals. The actors have played this script before, but now it's for real. Gently satirising the Trekkie phenomenon, Parisot's movie works a treat because it's sufficiently knowing to have the references down pat, but affectionate enough to have a soft spot for just about everyone. Effects and production design are also splendidly integrated into the overall enterprise, which is even more enjoyable for being so unexpected.

Trevor Johnston

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Wednesday, 23 June 2021

Capital Celluloid 2021 — Day 45: Wed Jun 30

The Seventh Seal (Bergman, 1957): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 2.30pm


Time Out review:

The late twentieth century’s defining anxiety – nuclear catastrophe –inspired film masterworks in a variety of genres, from noir (‘Kiss Me Deadly’) to essay (‘Hiroshima, Mon Amour’), faux documentary (‘The War Game’) to horror (‘Godzilla’). But it found possibly its greatest cinematic expression in Ingmar Bergman’s doom-laden medieval allegory, a film that re-imagines a previous period of existential angst and primal fear: the plague-ridden thirteenth century. ‘The Seventh Seal’ has the courage to give fear a face. You could say of its most famous image – returned crusader Max von Sydow’s desperate chess game with Death (Bengt Ekerot), shot in superb high-Gothic relief by cinematographer Gunnar Fischer in homage to an image Bergman remembered from a childhood church visit – that it has lost none of its power to impress. But, it seems to me, 50 years of relentless quotation and parody have taken some toll, as they have on the climactic improvised ‘dance of death’.

The film’s other inspirations were the extraordinary, sometimes ecstatic, often profane poems and music of the ‘Carmina Burana’, composed by anonymous wandering scholars scattered by Europe-wide famine, disease and death, which are sung in snatches in the film and echoed in the soundtrack. Bergman’s inclusion of a company of comic travelling players, which may once have seemed like a balancing, populist device, now provides quietly eloquent proof of the great director’s empathy and essential humanism. While ‘The Seventh Seal’ is most often characterised as a beautifully directed, portentous and despairing cry of abandonment to a godless world, it may be the film’s gentler but insistent curiosity about man’s peculiar talent for survival and artistic expressiveness, even under the direst threat, that ensures it remains not only highly impressive but thought-provoking, relevant and intensely moving in our present, nervous, times.

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Tuesday, 22 June 2021

Capital Celluloid 2021 — Day 44: Tue Jun 29

Popeye (Altman, 1980): BFI Southbank, NFT2 5.50pm


This is a 35mm presentation.

Time Out review:
With neither production companies (Paramount and Disney, for heaven's sakes!) nor critics able to make up their minds what a maverick iconoclast like Altman was doing turning EC Segar's comic strip into a live-action musical, this film was virtually doomed to failure and neglect. Certainly, with Williams giving a virtuoso fast-mumbling performance as the hero, and gags ranging from expertly choreographed slapstick to subtle verbal infelicities (Popeye muttering about 'venerable disease'), it is far too sophisticated to function merely as kids' fodder. Nor is its story - in which Popeye searches for his lost Pappy while courting Olive Oyl - any less discursive, fragmented or off-the-wall than Altman's finest work. Indeed, the film may be seen as a weird and wonderful variation on the McCabe and Mrs Miller theme, with the immaculately designed township of Sweethaven, the vividly drawn characters, and Harry Nilsson's songs of inarticulacy all contributing to a portrait of a bizarre society at once recognisably human and fantastically dreamlike. Often, watching the actors contorting themselves into non-human shapes, you wonder how on earth Altman did it; equally often, you feel you are watching a wacky masterpiece, the like of which you've never seen before.

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Monday, 21 June 2021

Capital Celluloid 2021 — Day 43: Mon Jun 28

The Royal Tenenbaums (Anderson, 2001): Prince Charles Cinema, 3pm

This 35mm presentation is also being screened on June 25th, 26th and 29th. Details here.

Time Out review:
Wittier, a lot more enjoyable and infinitely richer than the year's major Oscar contenders, this is clearly a blood brother to Anderson's Rushmore. The Tenenbaums are New York high society gone to seed. Scandalous Royal (Hackman) separated from wife Etheline (Huston) two decades ago, and after that kept his distance as his once prodigious offspring slumped. Business whizz Chas (Stiller) has become a paranoid neurotic; Richie (Wilson) is a tennis star whose career was sacrificed to love; adopted daughter Margot (Paltrow) is a closed book of a playwright. Financially embarrassed and claiming a dying man's last rights, Royal returns to put his house in order. The milieu is reminiscent of Preston Sturges' screwball fancies from the early 1940s - albeit scored to '70s rock. Anderson's unusually pronounced literary influences include Salinger, Edith Wharton and the New Yorker magazine, and the film sometimes resembles a cartoon from that august publication's glory days: an elegantly composed caricature given the finishing touch with an immaculately turned one-liner. It exists in a bubble - Anderson's New York doesn't exist and never did - but the rarefied atmosphere is a bit of a blind; what sneaks up on you is how, in his deliciously roundabout way, Anderson wears irony on his sleeve to camouflage a deeper sincerity. At its heart, this is a comedy of unrequited love, melancholy and disappointment. One to savour.

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Sunday, 20 June 2021

Capital Celluloid 2021 — Day 42: Sun Jun 27

Nashville (Altman, 1975): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 2.50 & 6.30pm


Nashville is on an extended run at BFI Southbank from June 26th

Time Out review: landmark American film, Altman's breathtakingly assured C&W epic has perhaps exerted an even greater influence on non-Hollywood cinema. Certainly its disdain for the tidy niceties of conventional narrative (it merely follows the mostly none-too-consequential fortunes of 24 musicians, managers, politicians, promoters and punters variously involved in, or connected to, a weekend music festival in Nashville, Tennessee) makes for an unusually illuminating perspective in terms of character, mood and moral insight. But the impressionistic vignettes, coupled with the expert use of overlapping dialogue, also build slowly but surely to create a coherent and persuasive portrait of a society that has somewhere along the way carelessly abandoned its original ideals and turned instead to the false gods of fame, fortune, easy sentiment, self-congratulation and political expediency. If, as some claim, the final assassination attempt is a rather weak attempt at gathering up the many loose ends, that invalidates neither Nashville's vision of a world where appearances count for more than substance, nor the originality and imagination with which it expresses that vision. A masterpiece.


Saturday, 19 June 2021

Capital Celluloid 2021 — Day 41: Sat Jun 26

Citizen Kane (Welles, 1941): Prince Charles Cinema, 12.35pm


This is a 35mm presentation at the Prince Charles Cinema.


Chicago Reader review: 
'What can you say about the movie that taught you what movies were? The first time I saw Kane I discovered the existence of the director; the next dozen or so times taught me what he did—with lights and camera angles, cutting and composition, texture and rhythm. Kane (1941) is no longer my favorite Orson Welles film (I'd take Ambersons, Falstaff, or Touch of Evil), but it is still the best place I know of to start thinking about Welles—or for that matter about movies in general.'   

Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is the trailer. 

Capital Celluloid 2021 — Day 40: Fri Jun 25

Images (Altman, 1972): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 6pm


Time Out review:
Underrated film about a lonely woman cracking up and suffering disturbing hallucinations about sex and death. Unlike most of 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 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 great FilmBar70 trailer.

Thursday, 17 June 2021

Capital Celluloid 2021 — Day 39: Thu Jun 24

The Birds (Hitchcock, 1963): Castle Cinema, 7.30pm


This 16mm presentation is also being screened at the Castle Cinema on June 27th and July 4th.

Chicago Reader review:
Alfred Hitchcock's most abstract film (1963) and perhaps his subtlest, still yielding new meanings and inflections after a dozen or more viewings. As emblems of sexual tension, divine retribution, meaningless chaos, metaphysical inversion, and aching human guilt, his attacking birds acquire a metaphorical complexity and slipperiness worthy of Melville. Tippi Hedren's lead performance is still open to controversy, but her evident stage fright is put to sublimely Hitchcockian uses. With Rod Taylor, Suzanne Pleshette, and Jessica Tandy (and does anyone besides me believe that Mrs. Brenner was having an affair with Dan Fawcett?).
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Wednesday, 16 June 2021

Capital Celluloid 2021 — Day 38: Wed Jun 23

Hard Eight (Thomas Anderson, 1996): Prince Charles Cinema, 1.30pm


Chicago Reader review:
'A pared-down crime thriller set mainly in Reno, this first feature by writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson is impressive for its lean and unblemished storytelling, but even more so for its performances. Especially good is Philip Baker Hall, a familiar character actor best known for his impersonation of Richard Nixon in Secret Honor, who's never had a chance to shine on-screen as he does here. In his role as a smooth professional gambler who befriends a younger man (John C. Reilly), Hall gives a solidity and moral weight to his performance that evokes Spencer Tracy, even though he plays it with enough nuance to keep the character volatile and unpredictable. Samuel L. Jackson and Gwyneth Paltrow, both of whom have meaty parts, are nearly as good, and when Hall and Jackson get a couple of good long scenes together the sparks really fly.'
Jonathan Rosenabum

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Monday, 14 June 2021

Capital Celluloid 2021 — Day 37: Tue Jun 22

A Summer's Tale (Rohmer, 1996): Prince Charles Cinema, 6.25pm


This is a 35mm presentation at the Prince Charles Cinema.

Chicago Reader review:
The third installment (1996) of Eric Rohmer's "Tales of the Four Seasons" is set in a resort town on the Brittany coast, where an impassive guitar-strumming lad (Melvil Poupaud) tries to forge relationships with a charming ethnologist (Amanda Langlet of 
Pauline at the Beach), a music-loving tomboy (Gwenaelle Simon), and a mercurial narcissist (Aurelia Nolin). Their scintillating conversations, set against a sensuous backdrop of sun-dappled beaches and hills, center on love, friendship, and life's possibilities, and it's a measure of Rohmer's art that neither the moral predicaments nor the erotic tensions are ever fully resolved.
Ted Shen

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Sunday, 13 June 2021

Capital Celluloid 2021 — Day 36: Mon Jun 21

Streamers (Altman, 1983): BFI Southbank, NFT3, 8.40pm

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

Time Out review:
Another of Robert Altman's gripping demonstrations of how to transform theatre by means of composition and close-up. As in Come Back to the 5 & Dime, he restricts his material to a single set, this time an army barracks dormitory, where a group of young US recruits live, laugh and lay into each other while waiting to be sent off to action in Vietnam. Sex, class, race and war are the main topics under discussion, brought to boiling point by the arrival of the ranting Carlyle (Michael Wright), an argumentative black whose abrupt changes in articulacy and temper reveal a madman's insights into reality. Confusion and confinement are the keynotes here: freedom of thought and action has been removed from these boys, with the result that finally they turn with inexorable anguish upon one another. Altman's direction keeps the atmosphere admirably taut and claustrophobic, while allowing the cast plenty of opportunity to excel with spontaneous, vivid performances, subtly explored by a hesitantly prowling camera.

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Friday, 11 June 2021

Capital Celluloid 2021 — Day 35: Sun Jun 20

The Good, the Bad & The Ugly (Leone, 1966): Prince Charles Cinema, 5.20pm


This 35mm presentation is on an extended run at the Prince Charles Cinema from June 18th to 24th. Full details here.

Chicago Reader review:
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 2021 — Day 34: Sat Jun 19

Queen of Diamonds (Menkes, 1991): Barbican Cinema, 6.15pm


This film is part of the Journey to the City season at the Barbican. Full details here.

Chicago Reader review:
One of the most jarringly original independent films of the 1990s, Nina Menkes’ lost underground classic reemerges in a gorgeous new restoration. In a neon-soaked dream vision of Las Vegas, a disaffected blackjack dealer (played by the director’s sister Tinka Menkes) drifts through a series of encounters alternately mundane, surreal, and menacing, while death and violence hover ever-present in the margins. Awash in lush, hallucinatory images, Queen of Diamonds is a haunting study of female alienation that “may become for America in the 90s what Jeanne Dielman was for Europe in the 70s—a cult classic using a rigorous visual composition to penetrate the innermost recesses of the soul”

Berenice Reynaud

Here (and above) is the trailer.