Capital Celluloid 2022 — Day 13: Thu Jan 13

Hoffman (Rakoff, 1970): BFI Southbank, NFT3, 6.15pm

This fascinating film, the highlight of the January picks on the blog, is part of the Projecting the Archive season at BFI Southbank, and will be introduced by director Alvin Rakoff.

BFI review:
Hoffman is a film without much of a reputation, which is a shame because it contains one of Peter Sellers’ most interesting performances. Famously, he considered the end result to be too revealing of his own personality and offered to buy back the negative from EMI. This in itself is fascinating because Hoffman is a troubled, dark character, a man who becomes obsessed with the woman he imprisons in his flat for a weekend for the purposes of blackmail. It’s a complex and enlightening turn, with Sellers appearing gaunt and grim, spitting out misogyny and simmering with suppressed rage. The film falls apart after the first half and never becomes the battle of wills that it promises to be – no reflection on Sinead Cusack’s excellent performance – but it’s full of interesting things. It shows a demon inside Sellers which we now know to have been ever-present in his life and it’s not comfortable to watch.
Mike Sutton

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2022 — Day 12: Wed Jan 12

Casque d'Or (Becker, 1952): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 5.50pm

This presentation will feature a pre-recorded intro by film critic and historian Pamela Hutchinson

Time Out review:
There is a deceptive simplicity to Jacques Becker's work which may explain why, alone among the major film-makers, he has never quite achieved due recognition. This elegant masterwork is a glowingly nostalgic evocation of the Paris of the Impressionists, focusing on the apache underworld and an ill-starred romance that ends on the scaffold, with an elusive density, a probing awareness of emotional complexities, which reminds one that Becker was once Renoir's assistant. Not his equal, perhaps, but the relationship is inescapable in the texture of the movies themselves. Simone Signoret, as voluptuously sensual as a Rubens painting, has never been more stunning than as the Golden Marie of the English title; and she is perfectly partnered by Reggiani, seemingly carved out of mahogany yet revealing an ineffable grace in movement, as the honest carpenter who defies the malevolent apache leader (Claude Dauphin) to claim her. Along with Letter from an Unknown Woman, one of the great movie romances.

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2022 — Day 11: Tue Jan 11

Stolen Kisses (Truffaut, 1968): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 8.35pm

This film, part of the Francois Truffaut season at BFI Southbank, also screens on January 1st, 15th and 23rd. You can find the full details here.

Chicago Reader review:
The third instalment (1968) of Francois Truffaut's autobiographical Antoine Doinel cycle, with the hero of The 400 Blows on the brink of adulthood, hard at work in a series of absurd jobs, desperate to fit into middle-class society, and hopelessly in love (with Claude Jade). One of Truffaut's best, lyrical and resonant in a way the later films in the cycle would not be.
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2022 — Day 10: Mon Jan 10

The Hunger (Scott, 1983): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 6.10pm

This film, part of the David Bowie season at B FI Southbank, is also being shown on January 22nd. You can find all the details here.

Time Out review:
'Catherine Deneuve is the ageless, possibly final survivor of an ancient immortal race dependent on humans for both sustenance and companionship. Her superior blood allows her lovers a triple lifetime until they ultimately succumb to instant decline. Not all of this is apparent in the film, where style rules at the expense of coherence. But that style is often glorious, from a bloody sun sinking over a gothic hi-tech Manhattan skyline to living quarters that are sumptuous. Neat touches of grim humour also: Deneuve and David Bowie manhunt in a disco as Bauhaus sing 'Bela Lugosi's Dead'; and Bowie rots away in a hospital waiting room where the 20 minutes wait becomes a subjective century of ageing. Visual sensualities will have a feast.'

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2022 — Day 9: Sun Jan 9

The Man Who Loved Women (Truffaut, 1977): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 6.20pm

This film, part of the Francois Truffaut season at BFI Southbank, also screens on January 24th. You can find the full details here.

New Yorker review:

François Truffaut’s bittersweet 1977 comedy, about the pleasure and the pathos of sexual pursuit, is also an ode to the art of writing. The film’s title is that of a memoir written by the protagonist, Bertrand Morane (Charles Denner), an engineer in Montpellier who spends his free time chasing women (sometimes literally), until, after an unexpected rejection, he decides to type out his erotic reminiscences. Despite being played by fine actors (including Brigitte Fossey, Leslie Caron, and Nelly Borgeaud), the women Bertrand “loved” remain ciphers, collections of attributes surrounding elusive personae and bodies—seemingly by design. The egotist is writing about himself and relying on women to reveal different facets of his own identity. Like Bertrand, Truffaut pays homage to old-school formalities, constraints, and styles, both social and sartorial (the film dwells obsessively on elaborate lingerie, formal skirts and dresses, and the rustle of silk stockings). His reticence about sex mirrors Bertrand’s; both the director and the character come off as rear-guard warriors against the sexual revolution—against the banalization of their epicurean delights.
Richard Brody

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2022 — Day 8: Sat Jan 8

The 400 Blows (Truffaut, 1959): BFI Southbank, NFT3, 2.30, 6.20 & 8.40

This film, part of the Francois Truffaut season, is on an extended run at BFI Southbank. You can find all the details here.

Chicago Reader review:
More conventional than Godard and more sentimental than Chabrol, Francois Truffaut spearheaded the breakthrough of the French New Wave with this highly autobiographical first feature (1959). Jean-Pierre Leaud is the wide-eyed boy who flees his battling parents only to find himself irrevocably alone. Distinguished by its intensity of feeling and freewheeling use of the wide-screen frame, the film ranks among Truffaut’s best.
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2022 — Day 7: Fri Jan 7

Black on White (Donner, 1968): Close Up Cinema, 8.15pm

Jörn Donner (1933-2020) was a Finnish author, film director, producer, screenwriter, film critic and former CEO of the Swedish Film Institute. Curated by Ehsan Khoshbakht, this small tribute at Close Up Cinema presents two of his best known and influential films made in Finland in the 1960s, screened from archival 35mm prints. Full details here.

According to film historian Peter von Bagh "[t]he arena of conflict here, as in Donner's subsequent films, is the bed, wheresoever it might be. The point of departure is a family portrait: an ideal image of happiness, a miniature of affluent Finland. The protagonist borders on burnout, and the camera follows the drama of the other disintegrating characters and relationships as if in a laboratory experiment."

Time Out review:
A simple triangle affair, shot in stunning colour, which somehow contrives to make capital out of its own banality. Nothing much happens, but a great deal is revealed about the illusion of happiness, as a young businessman (well played by Donner himself) breaks up his 'perfect' marriage to pursue a short-lived affair with a flighty young secretary (Kristiina Halkola). He manoeuvres to get her away on an imaginary business trip; he begins to get caught up in a tissue of lies both at home and at the office; and he watches helplessly as the girl gradually drifts indifferently away, leaving him forlornly dogging her footsteps. With quiet, unobtrusive compassion, always revealing more than is said, Donner records the hell on earth of man's quest for happiness.
Tom Milne

Capital Celluloid 2022 — Day 6: Thu Jan 6

The Dead (Huston, 1987): ICA Cinema, 7pm

Badlands Collective introduction:
Based on one of the most celebrated short stories ever written, which comprises the final chapter in James Joyce’s Dubliners, the film takes place at a seasonal dinner party in 1908 and intently follows the ritual of what appears to be a buttoned-down family gathering, while building to a blindsiding revelation. We are delighted to be screening this masterful adaptation of the story on Epiphany, the holiday on which the film takes place, as well as in the year of the film’s 35th anniversary.

Chicago Reader review:

John Huston devoted the better part of his career to a sort of intelligent second-degree cinema predicated on the adaptation of literary works—a practice informed by crafty casting and fluid storytelling, but often limited by the fact that his attraction to heavyweights (
The Maltese Falcon, The Red Badge of Courage, Moby-Dick, “The Man Who Would Be King,” Wise Blood, and Under the Volcano, among others) guaranteed “faithful” reductions at best. His last film (1987), which adapts the final story in James Joyce’s Dubliners, represents the apotheosis of this position—isolating the story from the rest of Dubliners (which gives it much of its resonance) and most of its perfectly composed language, and then doing his best with what remains. Scripted by his son Tony and starring his daughter Anjelica, the film hews to the original plot and much of the dialogue. The results are leagues ahead of Joseph Strick’s unfortunate Joyce adaptations, but inevitably leagues behind the original story. That said, the film’s concentrated simplicity and purity achieve a kind of perfection. The uniformly superb cast includes Donal Donnelly, Cathleen Delany, Helena Carroll, Ingrid Craigie, Frank Patterson, Dan O’Herlihy, and Donal McCann as Gabriel Conroy; the lilting Irish flavor is virtually decanted, and Fred Murphy’s gliding camera movements are delicately executed. There’s also a rather awesome and unpretentious directness as well as calmness about the way that Huston contemplates his own rapidly approaching death.

Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2022 — Day 5: Wed Jan 5

Love on the Run (Truffaut, 1979): BFI Soutbank, NFT1, 8.40pm

This film, part of the Francois Truffaut season at BFI Southbank, also screens on January 15th and 31st. Full details here.

Chicago Reader review:
Francois Truffaut took a few steps toward modernism with this very self-conscious experiment in narrative form (1979). It’s not so much another episode in the Antoine Doinel cycle as a reflection on it, using extensive clips from the previous features to examine the ways in which art devours life—a theme that has always been present in Truffaut’s autobiographical cinema, but never so directly stated. Still, the results are more interesting than satisfying; it is a film more thought than felt.
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2022 — Day 4: Tue Jan 4

A Gorgeous Kid Like Me (Truffaut, 1972): BFI Suthbank, NFT2, 8.40pm

This film, part of the Francois Truffaut season at BFI Southbank, also screens on January 1st and 22nd. Full details here.

BFI introduction:
Truffaut is at his most atypical with this black comedy about a young woman (Lafont, gleefully raucous) rising from rural rags to richly ironic celebrity by means of murder, deceit and ruthless, repeated seduction. The movie revels in bad taste, yet Camille’s progress towards prison and beyond recalls Renoir’s Boudu... in exposing the hypocrisy, corruption, vanity and gullibility of the men she encounters en route.

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2022 — Day 3: Mon Jan 3

Bed and Board (Truffaut, 1970): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 1.30pm

This film, also being screened on January 13th and 19th, is part of the Francois Truffaut season at BFI Soutubank. You can find the full details here.

Chicago Reader review:
Chapter four in Francois Truffaut’s Antoine Doinel cycle (1970) finds Antoine (Jean-Pierre Leaud) married and his wife (Claude Jade) expecting a child. Still temperamentally unable to settle down, Antoine undermines his security by initiating an affair with a beautiful Japanese woman (Hiroko Berghauer). Told in Truffaut’s elegantly episodic style, the film is entertaining and discreetly sentimental, though perhaps a little too flattering to the fantasies of the young adult audience (in the manner that Woody Allen would later make his own).
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is the trailer. 

Capital Celluloid 2022 — Day 2: Sun Jan 2

Day for Night (Truffaut, 1973): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 6.30pm

This film, also screening on January 7th, 15th and 25th, is part of the Francois Truffaut season at BFI Southbank. Full details here.

Time Out review:
If we’re to learn anything from François Truffaut’s delicately cynical, New Hollywood-style satire from 1973 on the joys and pains of movie making (re-released in conjunction with the BFI’s current Truffaut season), it’s that we must view directors as social and professional chameleons. They must tap in to the emotions of their cast and exploit real suffering for the good of their camera. They must stand their ground with money men, sometimes employing visual trickery and snap decisions to preserve their integrity. Most of all, they must suppress the cosmic fury that comes when a leading lady arrives on set drunk or a trained kitten refuses to hit a mark.

It’s a hilarious and informative movie, and in the pantheon of films about filmmaking, it strikes a neat balance between the operatic neuroses of ‘8 1/2’ and the warm, pastel-hued nostalgia of ‘Singin’ in the Rain’. Also of interest – and a devious nod back to his ’60s heyday – is the manner in which Truffaut captures these behind-the-scenes shenanigans, employing gliding crane shots and flashes of abrupt editing to make us fully aware of the majestically artificial way the world is depicted by filmmakers.

Truffaut stars as indefatigable director Ferrand, shooting a fusty melodrama called ‘Meet Pamela’ and wearing the same sports jacket, shirt and tie combo as he would in ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’. He delivers the same coolly detached performance too, though it works a lot better in this context. The fact that his childish lead (Jean-Pierre Léaud, of course) is too often in a strop to concentrate on the part, or that his star (Jacqueline Bisset) is a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown are accepted as part and parcel of the business. But as Ferrand makes sure he’s seen in possession of a stack of serious film tomes and has nightmares about being trapped outside a cinema showing ‘Citizen Kane’, the point is that even if the end result is a piece of trash, a director always strives to be an artist.

David Jenkins

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2022 — Day 1: Sat Jan 1

The Prestige (Nolan, 1996): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 5.30pm

No apologies for putting up this brilliantly involving and endlessly fascinating Christopher Nolan work again so quickly after last month. Don't miss this 35mm presentation in the David Bowie season - also screens on January 11th (full details here).

Chicago Reader review:
The premise of this Victorian drama—a London theatrical magician (Hugh Jackman) tries to fend off a more cunning rival (Christian Bale)—weirdly parallels the predicament of director Christopher Nolan, whose movie opened in the long shadow of Neil Burger's The Illusionist. That movie also centers on a 19th-century magician, and the elegant contours of its story are even more impressive compared with Nolan's clutter of double and triple crosses. A substantial subplot here involves Jackman developing a secret project with pioneering electrical engineer Nikola Tesla (a delectably arch David Bowie); it doesn't really add anything, but Tesla's high-voltage coils throw off a lot more lightning than Scarlett Johansson as Jackman's sultry stage assistant. With Michael Caine, Piper Perabo, and Rebecca Hall.
JR Jones

Here (and above) is the trailer.


Capital Celluloid 2021 — Day 227: Fri Dec 31

 When Harry Met Sally (Reiner, 1989): Prince Charles Cinema, 6pm

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

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

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2021 — Day 226: Thu Dec 30

Shall We Dance (Suo, 1996): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 5.40pm

This film, also screening on December 21st, is part of the Japan season at BFI Southbank.

Time Out review: This entertaining Japanese comedy opens with a dreamy shot of Blackpool's Tower Ballroom, but it's back in suburban Tokyo that Masayuki Suo's film really begins. A salaryman (Yakusho) is locked in routine until curiosity gets the better of him: each evening, from the train, he sees a beautiful woman gazing out of the window of a ballroom dancing class, and one night he plucks up the courage to go in. As lessons progress, his secret cannot remain hidden for long - dancing has entered his bloodstream and he'll never be the same again. All he needs now is the girl. While the film's balancing act, between the love interest in fragile beauty Tamiyo Kusakari and the call of the protagonist's domestic ties, is ultimately contrived, unlike Hollywood tosh, it never feels blatantly manipulative. The salaryman's reserve carries a significant charm, and although the overly careful pacing at times threatens to dull our involvement, director Suo still knows when to throw in the comic fizz. The real star of the show is Naoto Takenaka as the office colleague transformed into a rumba tornado. Trevor Johnston 

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2021 — Day 225: Wed Dec 29

Moving (Sōmai, 1993): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 8.35pm

This film (also being screened on December 18th) is part of the Japan season at BFI Southbank. You can find the full details here.

BFI introduction:
Director Sômai, who died (aged 53) in 2001, was one of the most distinguished Japanese filmmakers of the 1980s and 90s. This understated, thoughtfully compelling and very touching film, about a troubled 11-year-old girl trying to come to terms with her parents' separation, expertly maintains the tradition of family drama in which directors like Ozu and Shimizu once specialised.

Here (and above) is an extract.

Capital Celluloid 2021 — Day 224: Tue Dec 28

The Far Road (Hidari, 1977): BFI Southbank, NFT3, 3pm

This presentation (with an introduction by professor Ayako Saito) is part of the Japan season at BFI Southbank. Full details here.

BFI introduction:
Directed by Sachiko Hidari (The Insect Woman), The Far Road was commissioned by the Japan National Railway Union and integrates documentary narration and visuals. It follows railway workers’ struggles to create unions during a period of economic growth and increased automation. Hidari also produced and stars in the film as the wife of a retired rail worker whose struggles have turned him into a compassionless patriarch.

Capital Celluloid 2021 — Day 223: Mon Dec 27

The Emperor's Naked Army Marches On (Hara, 1987): BFI Southbank, NFT3, 6.20pm

This presentation is part of the Japan season at BFI Southbank. Full details here.

Time Out review:
A documentary portrait of Kenzo Okuzaki, a 62-year-old WWII veteran who acquired a prison record (for killing a man and for firing pachinko balls at the Emperor) in the course of his fanatical campaign to lay the blame for Japan's conduct of the war on the Emperor. Here the self-proclaimed messenger of God seeks to uncover what truly happened in New Guinea in 1945, 23 days after the war ended, when two Japanese soldiers were killed by their colleagues in very mysterious circumstances. The outcome of his investigations is gruesomely weird (cannibalism figures heavily), but stranger still is his style of interrogation, a volatile mix of apologetic politeness, deceit (his wife and anarchist friend pose as victims' relatives), and sudden violence, so relentless that one of his many ageing interviewees, fresh from hospital, ends up in an ambulance. Kazuo Hara's fly-on-the-wall documentary fascinates both for its bizarre protagonist, and for its brutally frank portrait of a society constrained by notions of shame rather than guilt. Jigsaw-like in construction, alleviated by mad wit, the film is unlike any other: rough, raw and sometimes surprisingly moving, it's absolutely compelling.

Geoff Andrew

Here (and above) is an extract.

Capital Celluloid 2021 — Day 222: Sun Dec 26

Ferris Bueller's Day Off (Hughes, 1986): Prince Charles Cinema, 3pm

Chicago Reader review:

Chicago has rarely looked more radiant than it does in Tak Fujimoto’s cinematography, but otherwise this 1986 comedy is standard John Hughes, with a few plot elements on loan from The Blues Brothers and Risky Business. Matthew Broderick, toothy and smug, plays the champion hustler of his North Shore high school (sort of an adenoidal variation on the characters Tony Curtis used to play); he concocts an elaborate scheme to cut class in favor of a joyride to the Loop with his best girl (Mia Sara), his best friend (Alan Ruck), and a borrowed Ferrari. Their adventures aren’t particularly imaginative (they have lunch, see a Cubs game, go to the Art Institute), and Hughes shifts to Breakfast Club moralizing for the last two reels, as the characters are exhorted to “believe in themselves.” Yet the overriding impression is one of utter nihilism, of a world divided into bored, crassly materialistic teenagers and doltish, unfeeling adults. With Jeffrey Jones, who displays some sharp comic timing as the vengeful principal on Bueller's trail.
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2021 — Day 221: Sat Dec 25


The repertory 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 (on this thread) and the hashtag #bestxmasholidayfilmonTVtoday.

Capital Celluloid 2021 — Day 220: Fri Dec 24

 It's A Wonderful Life (Capra, 1946): Prince Charles Cinema, 12.30pm & 6pm

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.