Capital Celluloid 2024 — Day 21: Sun Jan 21

Vertigo (Hitchcock, 1958): Castle Cinema, 2.15pm

This film, part of the monthly 16mm Cine-Real events at the Castle Cinema, will also be screened on January 9th. Full details here.

Here is all you need to know about the film and more on the Cinephilia & Beyond website.

Chicago Reader review of Vertigo:
'One of the landmarks—not merely of the movies, but of 20th-century art. Alfred Hitchcock's 1958 film extends the theme of Rear Window—the relationship of creator and creation—into the realm of love and sexuality, focusing on an isolated, inspired romantic (James Stewart) who pursues the spirit of a woman (the powerfully carnal Kim Novak). The film's dynamics of chase, capture, and escape parallel the artist's struggle with his work; the enraptured gaze of the Stewart character before the phantom he has created parallels the spectator's position in front of the movie screen. The famous motif of the fall is presented in horizontal rather than vertical space, so that it becomes not a satanic fall from grace, but a modernist fall into the image, into the artwork—a total absorption of the creator by his creation, which in the end is shown as synonymous with death. But a thematic analysis can only scratch the surface of this extraordinarily dense and commanding film, perhaps the most intensely personal movie to emerge from the Hollywood cinema.'
Dave Kehr 

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2024 — Day 20: Sat Jan 20

Long Day's Journey Into Night (Bi Gan, 2018): Close-Up Cinema, 8pm

This film, in the Modern Masterpieces strand at Close-Up Cinema, is also screening on January 14th. Full details here.

Chicago Reader review:
Gorgeously designed and formally audacious, Bi Gan’s second feature (after Kaili Blues) is constructed around an hour-long tracking shot originally filmed in 3-D. This sequence, which occurs in the second half of the movie, takes viewers on quite a ride, both literally and metaphorically, as Bi moves the camera freely through space and presents clever ways to translate the language of dreams into cinema. (As dream-narrative films go, it’s as distinctive an achievement as The Blood of a Poet, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, or Eyes Wide Shut.) Before that, though, this is basically a mood piece; the scant plot concerns a detective (Huang Jue) searching for a missing woman whom he hasn’t seen in years. Bi creates a strong atmosphere out of familiar detective-movie and melodramatic elements, thanks largely to the inventive camerawork and charismatic performances (the cast also features Tang Wei and Sylvia Chang). My colleague Scout Tafoya has likened this to a Disney theme park attraction based on the films of Wong Kar-wai, and I’m inclined to agree.
Ben Sachs

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2024 — Day 19: Fri Jan 19

Pink Flamingos (Waters, 1972: BFI Southbank, NFT2, 6.20pm

This film is part of the 'Scala: Sex, drugs and rock and roll cinema' season at BFI Southbank. The screenings on January 1st and 19th are on digital but youcan see the film on 35mm with intro by Mark Moore and Tasty Tim on Fri 26th January at 8.50pm in NFT1.

Chicago Reader review:
Among the most famous entries in the shock-cinema canon and the key example of the “Baltimore aesthetic,” this pitch-black comedy is usually the first stop for the uninitiated. John Waters not only refuses to glamorize poverty but strives to deglamorize the very idea of glamor, so much that the film becomes a critique of materialism as much as an exercise in trash aestheticism. As the director Gus Van Sant once wrote, “It’s all part of the lowball-punk-fuck-it-who-cares-and-who’s-gonna-know-anyway ground rules of the Baltimore aesthetic.”
Drew Hunt

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2024 — Day 18: Thu Jan 18

Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (Meyer, 1965): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 9pm

This 35mm presentation is part of the 'Scala: Sex, drugs and rock and roll cinema' season at BFI Southbank. The screening on January 18th is introduced by filmscholar and write Virginie Selavy. The movie also screens on January 2nd. Full details here.

Time Out review:
This shows Russ Meyer to be a fine action director as well as America's best-known tit man. Though decorated with the usual array of top-heavy starlets - a trio of homicidal disco dancers on rest-and-recreation in the Californian desert (which means fast cars and whatever kinky thrills come their way) - it was in fact made as an exploiter for the Southern states' undemanding drive-in market. A cheap and efficient comic horror movie, it's funniest when its dialogue and characters' behaviour are at their most non sequitur. The twaddlesome plot about the cover-up of a man's murder by the (lesbian) leader of this girlie gang is helped enormously by a brooding music score which sounds as if it had walked in from a paranoid Cold War sci-fi film; and the weirdo desert farmhouse family the trio happen upon pre-dates 
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre 
by almost a decade.

Here (and above) is the trailer. 

Capital Celluloid 2024 — Day 17: Wed Jan 17

The Ladies Man (Lewis, 1961): Prince Charles Cinema, 6pm

This film is part of the 'Greta Gerwig Barbie Watchlist' season. Full details here.

Chicago Reader review:
One of the stranger chapters in Jerry Lewis’s continuing psycho-biography, the most direct and intimidating confrontation between his perpetual preadolescent character and the wide world of sex. Jerry bungles into a plot line that might have been lifted from an ancient stag movie: he’s the handyman at a women’s boardinghouse. But Jerry resists the fleshy temptations of the opposite sex with all the blind determination of a six-year-old. An interesting, if not screamingly funny, film (1961), enlivened by some of Lewis’s most audacious camera work and a spectacular three-story cutaway set that impressed Godard so much he borrowed it for Tout va Bien.
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2024 — Day 16: Tue Jan 16

 Nighthawks (Peck, 1978): Prince Charles Cinema, 6.15pm

This 35mm presentation is presented by the Funeral Parade Queer Society. You can full details of their screenings here.

BFI review:
Nighthawks took shape around a teacher character who struggles to come out to his friends and colleagues as he becomes newly acquainted with the underground gay scene. It was the first British feature film explicitly about contemporary gay life, made by out gay people and presenting a powerful portrait of pre-AIDS London. Through it Peck met Paul Hallam, the Nighthawks co-writer who became an important collaborator and confidant.  The film was superficially social-realist in shape, and yet the searching point-of-view camera shots travelling down London’s tungsten-lit roads, plus the strange, plastic, electronic music in the club scenes, lend the work an eerie, almost sci-fi perspective. It powerfully evokes the Ballardian London of the 1970s, a city emptying itself of people while bracing for the onslaught of Thatcherism.
Will Fowler

Here (and above) is an extract.

Capital Celluloid 2024 — Day 15: Mon Jan 15

 Jezebel (Wyler, 1938): Regent Street Cinema, 1pm

Chicago Reader review:
They wouldn’t let Bette Davis be Scarlett O’Hara, so Warners cooked up this 1938 antebellum epic for her—and her performance, as the fiery southern belle who marries a banker (George Brent) though her heart belongs to a dandy (Henry Fonda), was good enough to win her an Oscar. As usual with director William Wyler, the film is far more interesting for its actors than for its direction; but some of the set pieces—the ball where Davis appears in a scandalous red dress and the yellow-fever epidemic (shades of the burning of Atlanta)—are still impressive.
Don Druker

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2024 — Day 14: Sun Jan 14

The Warriors (Hill, 1979): BFI Southbank, NFT3, 12pm

This film is part of the 'Scala: Sex, drugs and rock and roll cinema' season at BFI Southbank. The screening on January 17th is introduced by Scala!!! co-director Ali Catterall. The movie also screens on January 6th. Full details here.

Time Out review:
'From its powerhouse opening, in which all the gangs of New York gather in tribal splendour in Riverside Drive Park, to the last ditch stand in dilapidated Coney Island, Hill has elevated his story of a novice gang on the run into a heroic epic of Arthurian dimensions, with sex as sorcery and the flick-knife as sword. Anyone expecting gritty realism will be disappointed, because Hill is offering something better: shooting entirely on NY locations at night, he has transformed the city into a phantasmagoric labyrinth of weird tribes in fantastic dress and make-up who move over (and under) the streets as untouched as troglodytes by the civilisation sleeping around them. The novice gang from Coney accidentally encounters some middle class swingers on the subway, and the two groups stare at each other like aliens from different galaxies (while the gang's new female recruit has to be gently restrained from instinctively putting a hand up to straighten her hair). Mixing ironic humour, good music, and beautifully photographed suspense, it's one of the best of 1979.'
David Pirie

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2024 — Day 13: Sat Jan 13

 Looking for Mr Goodbar (Brooks, 1977): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 5.45pm

This 35mm presentation is part of the 'Scala: Sex, drugs and rock and roll cinema' season at BFI Southbank. Tonight's screening is introduced by season curator Jane Giles. The movie also screens on January 22nd. Full details here.

Peter Bradshaw wrote about the film in an article he wrote for the Guardian to coincide with the release of Gaspar Noe's film Love. Here is an extract:
Diane Keaton plays a teacher: here, specifically a teacher of hearing-impaired children, a touch that accentuates her utterly respectable, in fact, laudable life. She gets involved in casual sex with men she meets in seedy bars. It ends in shocking violence. It is as if female sexuality is always a natural fit for the erotic thriller or crime thriller genre, and undoubtedly, Goodbar pathologises female sexuality to some extent, indicating that for a woman to have an interest in recreational sex is symptomatic of damage, and essentially tragic in origin and destiny. The film has been occasionally reviled and dismissed, but is arguably ripe for rediscovery as a confrontational exploitation classic from the Martin Scorsese/Paul Schrader 70s. It is not available on DVD. 

Here (and above) are the opening credits.

Capital Celluloid 2024 — Day 12: Fri Jan 12

Nosferatu the Vampyre (Herzog, 1979): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 6.10pm

This film is part of the Werner Herzog season at BFI Southbank and is also being screened on January 24th ad 27th. Full details here.

Chicago Reader review:
Werner Herzog's 1979 remake of F.W. Murnau's classic vampire film is a flop as a horror movie, but it works as a string of Herzogian epiphanies centered on death and the apocalypse. The acting is too eccentric and the narrative drive too weak to satisfy fans of the genre, but Herzog's admirers will find much in the film's animistic landscapes and clusters of visionary imagery. The largely superfluous cast includes Klaus Kinski as the decaying count, Isabelle Adjani as the pure-hearted heroine, and the excellent Bruno Ganz as the paralyzed hero.
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is the BFI trailer for the film.

Capital Celluloid 2024 — Day 11: Thu Jan 11

Shivers (Cronenberg, 1975): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 9pm

This film is part of the 'Scala: Sex, drugs and rock and roll cinema' season at BFI Southbank. The movie also screens on January 21st. Full details here.

Chicago Reader review:
David Cronenberg made his commercial debut with this aggressively unpleasant 1975 horror film on the theme of sexual disgust. A swinging-singles apartment building is overrun by slimy little creatures who carry an exotic form of VD. Hard, if not impossible, to take, the film nevertheless represents a major turning point in the genre—the discovery of the body itself as a source of terror. Cronenberg's later films are superior in technique, though not necessarily in intensity.
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2024 — Day 10: Wed Jan 10

Land of Silence and Darkness (Herzog, 1971): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 8.45pm

This film is part of the Werner Herzog season at BFI Southbank and is also being screened on January 10th. Full details here.

Chicago Reader review:
As a rule, Werner Herzog’s documentaries are more unearthly than his fictions. This 1971 study of Germany’s deaf-and-dumb population presents its subjects as a privileged class with access to an alternate reality. Herzog shuns the expected tone of social-worker condescension in favor of mystic’s awe. A remarkable, unaccountable film, both cold and moving.
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is an extract.

Capital Celluloid 2024 — Day 9: Tue Jan 9

Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom (Pasolini, 1975): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 8.35pm

This 35mm presentation is part of the 'Scala: Sex, drugs and rock and roll cinema' season at BFI Southbank and is introduced by season curator Jason Wood. The movie also screens on January 23rd. Full details here.

Chicago Reader review:
Pier Paolo Pasolini's last feature (1975) is a shockingly literal and historically questionable transposition of the Marquis de Sade's 
120 Days of Sodom
 to the last days of Italian fascism. Most of the film consists of long shots of torture, though some viewers have been more upset by the bibliography that appears in the credits. Roland Barthes noted that in spite of all its objectionable elements (he pointed out that any film that renders Sade real and fascism unreal is doubly wrong), this film should be defended because it "refuses to allow us to redeem ourselves." It's certainly the film in which Pasolini's protest against the modern world finds its most extreme and anguished expression. Very hard to take, but in its own way an essential work.
Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2024 — Day 8: Mon Jan 8

California Split (Altman, 1974): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 8.45pm

This film (also screening on January 22nd) is part of the Big Screen Classics season at BFI Southbank. You can find full details of the season 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 2024 — Day 7: Sun Jan 7

The 39 Steps (Hitchcock, 1935): Prince Charles Cinema, 3.40pm

This 35mm screening is part of an Alfred Hitchcock season at the Prince Charles Cinema. You can find all the details here.

The 39 Steps is my favourite Hitchock fim. I wrote about the movie here for the Guardian.

Chicago Reader review:
'As an artist, Alfred Hitchcock surpassed this early achievement many times in his career, but for sheer entertainment value it still stands in the forefront of his work. Robert Donat is the dapper young man who stumbles across a spy ring; Madeleine Carroll is the cool, luminous blond with whom he shares a pair of handcuffs. The ideas established in this 1935 feature lead in two different directions in Hitchcock's later work—toward the interpersonal themes of the “couple” films (Marnie, Frenzy, The Paradine Case) and the metaphysical adventures of the chase pictures (North by Northwest, The Man Who Knew Too Much)' 
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2024 — Day 6: Sat Jan 6

Thundercrack! (Kuchar, 1975): BFI Southbank, NFT3, 8pm

This film is part of the 'Scala: Sex, drugs and rock and roll cinema' season at BFI Southbank. The movie also screens on January 14th. Full details here.

Time Out review:
The cult classic of weirdo hardcore, an irresistibly infuriating bad taste whip of raunch and skewed melodrama, like a very horny Soap, that quite literally leaves you unsure of whether you're coming or going. Often seen cut, but in the full-length version there's more of George Kuchar's parodically overripe dialogue, tracking the convergence of storm-tossed travellers (a gorilla included) on cackling Gertie's Old Dark masturbatorium, and giving a slower fuse to the series of casual libidinous explosions there. But there's also more of Kuchar's truly brilliant trash-noir lighting through which to peer at the pickles, the puke, and the polymorphs.
Paul Taylor

Here (amd above) is an extract.

Capital Celluloid 2024 — Day 5: Fri Jan 5

The Evil Dead (Raimi, 1981): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 8.45pm

This film is part of the 'Scala: Sex, drugs and rock and roll cinema' season at BFI Southbank. The movie also screens on January 30th. Full details here.

Chicago Reader review:
Sam Raimi directed this 1981 horror feature fresh out of film school, and his anything-for-an-effect enthusiasm pays off in lots of formally inventive bits. The film is ferociously kinetic and full of visual surprises, though its gut-churning reputation doesn’t seem fully deserved: if anything the gore is too picturesque and studied, an abstract decorator’s mix of oozing, slimy color, like some exotic species of new-wave interior design. There’s a weird comic energy in the frenetic physical playing—hysterical actors running in and out of rooms, zombies popping up from the floorboards and out of wall cabinets like jack-in-the-boxes—and the mad Punch-and-Judy orchestration takes on an almost choreographic quality at times (this may be the first commedia dell’arte horror film). There are lots of clever turns on standard horror movie formulas, and one image especially lingers in the mind: a woman splintering into an infinity of hairline cracks, like the suddenly shattered surface of a ceramic vase.
Pat Graham

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2024 — Day 4: Thu Jan 4

Heart of Glass (Herzog, 1976): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 6.30pm

This film is part of the Werner Herzog season at BFI Southbank and is also being screened on January 19th. Full details here.

Time out review:
It's hard to imagine that anyone other than Herzog would have wanted to make a film like Heart of Glass. It returns to the formal and conceptual extremism of his work before Kaspar Hauser: almost the entire cast are performing under hypnosis throughout, and the plot unfolds in increasingly oblique fragments, making it Herzog's most stylised film to date. It's certainly extremely bizarre, but by no means unapproachable. The tale it tells is plainly allegorical: a glass factory declines into bankruptcy when its owner dies without divulging the formula for its special ruby glass, and the village that depended on the factory for employment goes down with it. But one doesn't have much chance to mull over the implications during the film itself: Herzog directs attention squarely at the performances (which are almost agonisingly intense) and at the imagery (which is very beautiful in a German Gothic way). Any film that dares to hover so close to sheer absurdity needs - and deserves - a sympathetic audience.
Tony Rayns

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2024 — Day 3: Wed Jan 3

Taxi Zum Klo (Ripploh, 1981): BFI Southbank NFT3, 8.50pm

This film is part of the 'Scala: Sex, drugs and rock and roll cinema' season at BFI Southbank. The movie also screens on January 8th. Full details here.

Chicago Reader review:
Frank Ripploh’s funny and well-made autobiographical German feature (1980), about the wild nights and gray days of a gay schoolteacher in Berlin. Ripploh, with his hangdog face and slinging gait, is a very appealing performer, and the film floats on his charm and happy sexual voraciousness. Fantasy elements (Ripploh is never rejected) combine with documentary asides on the texture of gay life to make up an entertainingly varied series of anecdotes. The hard-core footage, shocking at first, performs the salutary function of demystifying gay sex for a straight audience, and the central theme—monogamy versus promiscuity—is certainly a universal one. The film is limited by its creeping misogyny and willful superficiality, yet its sheer freedom from guilt is infectious and uplifting.
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2024 — Day 2: Tue Jan 2

Even Dwarfs Started Small (Herzog, 1970): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 6.15pm

This film is part of the Werner Herzog season at BFI Southbank and is also being screened on January 15th. Full details here.

Chicago Reader review:
Werner Herzog’s second feature (1970) is a frightening, obscene, and brilliant study of what happens when rebels (however justified) aren’t worthy of the rebellion they start. Twenty-seven dwarfs, incarcerated in a “reformatory” grotesquely constructed to accommodate average-size inmates and presided over by a fatuous dwarf director who should know better but doesn’t, stage a protest that quickly degenerates into aimless, pitifully malicious bouts of random violence. Not a vicious denial of the legitimacy of revolt (as too many critics have charged) but a bitter lament over the disservice revolutionaries do their revolutions.
Don Druker

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2024 — Day 1: Mon Jan 1

Fata Morgana (Herzog, 1971) + The Ecstasy of Woodcarver Steiner (Herzog, (1974):
BFI Southbank, NFT2 6pm

This double-bill is part of the Werner Herzog season at BFI Southbank and is also screened on January 17th. You can find the full details here.

Chicago Reader review of Fata Morgana:
Cold, documentarylike images of the Sahara are used in a grotesque retelling of the story of creation in Werner Herzog’s 1971 experimental feature. Every shot has a double edge of harsh reality and surrealist fantasy, as when the landing of a jet plane, repeated nine or ten times, becomes an odd spiritual symbol, at once banal and mysterious. You’ll either be bored to death or fascinated—for me, it’s Herzog’s most interesting film.
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is the trailer for Fata Morgana.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 364: Sun Dec 31

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

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 2023 — Day 363: Sat Dec 30

Strange Days (Bigelow, 1995): BFI Southbank, NFT3, 8pm

This screening is part of the Woman with a Movie Camera strand at BFI Southbank.

Chicago Reader review:
LA, Year Zero: 30 December 1999. Riot police are on the streets. The angry, poor, disenfranchised - the blacks - are ready to tear down the walls of the city. Yet Lenny Nero fiddles while LA burns. A sleazeball in an Armani suit, Lenny's dealing illicit 'playback clips', raw human experience recorded direct from the cerebral cortex. Bigelow's spectacular millennial maelstrom has divided critics, and apparently repelled audiences. Written by James Cameron and Jay Cocks, this is tech-noir, action movie and love story rolled into one. It also pursues a sophisticated treatise on the nature of voyeurism, the psychic dangers of vicarious entertainment and cinema itself. A sequence in which Nero watches a snuff clip of rape and murder has excited accusations of exploitation and hypocrisy. It's certainly hard to stomach, but then shouldn't it be? The impeccable moral centre is to be found in Bassett's karate-chopping single mother 'Mace', who rescues Lenny from his own faithless stupor. Nero isn't irredeemable, either: Fiennes makes him a persuasively seedy knight errant. In fact, despite its own barely suppressed despair, the film exhibits markedly progressive leanings. Flawed, but often brilliant, provocative film-making.
Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 362: Fri Dec 29

Fanny and Alexander (Bergman, 1982): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 1.30pm

This film, also screening on December 23rd and 30th, is part of the cinema's Big Screen Classics season. You can find details of the season here.

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

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 361: Thu Dec 28

My Night with Maud (Rohmer, 1969): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 6.15pm

This film, also screening on December 14th, is part of the cinema's Big Screen Classics season. You can find details of the season here.

Chicago Reader review:
Eric Rohmer's droll and delicate comedy of language (1969), about a devout Catholic (Jean-Louis Trintignant) who delivers an all-night monologue on the philosophy of Pascal to escape being seduced by the lovely atheist Maud (Francoise Fabian). Number three in Rohmer's series of “Six Moral Tales,” it is probably the most pure: the plotline transpires entirely in the central character's mind and is never explicitly acknowledged by Rohmer's direction, which concentrates instead on the elaborate gambits of a style of speech meant to do anything but communicate.
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 360: Wed Dec 27

Interstellar (Nolan, 2014): Prince Charles Cinema, 8.15pm

This is a 70mm screening and the film is on an extended run. Details here.

Chicago Reader review:
On a visual level, Interstellar is an exceptionally well-crafted Hollywood entertainment. Director Christopher Nolan, art director Dean Wolcott, and their effects artists render the imaginary settings in stunning detail. The film is rife with brilliant imagery: a horizon of frozen clouds, an ocean wave as tall as a skyscraper, the flashing interior of a wormhole through which the principal characters fly their spacecraft. The most striking thing about these images is that we’re rarely encouraged to ooh and aah over them; unlike most ambitious space operas since 2001: A Space Odyssey(1968), Interstellar inspires not wonder but a cool contemplation. Nolan and his brother Jonathan, who cowrote the script, advance a hard-science perspective, incorporating such concepts as the theory of relativity and placing dramatic emphasis on research and problem solving.
Ben Sachs

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 359: Tue Dec 26

The Big Lebowski (Coen, 1998): Prince Charles Cinema, 3.30pm
 Chicago Reader review:
Probably the Coen brothers' most enjoyable movie—glittering with imagination, cleverness, and filmmaking skill—though, as in their other films, the warm feelings they generate around a couple of salt-of-the-earth types don't apply to anyone else in the cast: you might as well be scraping them off your shoe. The Chandler-esque plot has something to do with Jeff Bridges being mistaken for a Pasadena millionaire, which ultimately involves him as an amateur sleuth in a kidnapping plot. A nice portrait of low-rent LA emerges from this unstable brew, as do two riotous dream sequences. Set during the gulf war and focusing on a trio of dinosaurs—an unemployed pothead and former campus radical (Bridges), a cranky Vietnam vet (John Goodman), and a gratuitous cowboy narrator (Sam Elliott)—this 1998 feature may be the most political Coen movie to date, though I'm sure they'd be the last to admit it. With Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi, David Huddleston, John Turturro, and Ben Gazzara.
Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 358: Mon Dec 25

It's A Wonderful Life (Capra, 1946): JW3 Cinema, 12 noon

Chicago Reader review: 
The film Frank Capra was born to make. This 1946 release marked his return to features after four years of turning out propaganda films for the government, and Capra poured his heart and soul into it. James Stewart stars as a small-town nobody, on the brink of suicide, who believes his life is worthless. Guardian angel Henry Travers shows him how wrong he is by letting Stewart see what would have happened had he never been born. Wonderfully drawn and acted by a superb cast (Donna Reed, Beulah Bondi, Thomas Mitchell, Lionel Barrymore, Gloria Grahame) and told with a sense of image and metaphor (the use of water is especially elegant) that appears in no other Capra film. The epiphany of movie sentiment and a transcendent experience.
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 357: Sun Dec 24

Tangerine (Baker, 2015): Curzon Bloomsbury, 2pm

Chicago Reader review:
This rollicking indie comedy takes place among the hookers of West Hollywood on Christmas Eve, a time for peace on earth and good will toward—bitch, I will fucking kill you! Back on the street after 28 days in jail, working girl Sin-Dee (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) learns that her pimp/boyfriend has been cheating on her and, dragging along her best pal (Mya Taylor), sets out to collar the woman in question. Writer-director Sean Baker (Starlet, Prince of Broadway) locates the viewer so squarely inside the characters' sad, constricted world that when Sin-Dee and her nemesis overlook their differences long enough to share a crack pipe in the ladies' room, they might as well be drinking egg nog at a holiday party. With Baker regulars Karren Karagulian, Mickey O'Hagan, and James Ransone.
JR Jones

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 356: Sat Dec 23

Crown v Stevens (Powell, 1936) & Behind the Mask (Powell, 1936):
BFI Southbank, Studio, 3pm

This presentation is part of the Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger season at BFI Southbank. There is a further screenings of this double-bill on December 9th. You can find the details here.

BFI introduction to Crown v Stevens:
Powell’s penultimate quota production was this proto-film noir for Warner Bros., stylishly shot by Basil Emmott. Patric Knowles stars as a naïve young man who becomes embroiled in the murderous, money-hungry scheming of his boss’s wife, played with real femme fatale relish by Beatrix Thompson, a renowned theatre actress appearing here in her only starring role for the cinema. 


BFI introduction to The Man Behind the Mask:
Crucial for being the film that introduced Powell to The Edge of the World producer Joe Rock, Powell’s final quota film was this bizarre thriller of masked balls, kidnapping and master criminals. It was long considered lost and listed on the BFI’s ‘Most Wanted’ list, but a 16mm print of a truncated version survived at the George Eastman Museum, and it is from that print that this new scan was taken.
James Bell

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 355: Fri Dec 22

Age of Consent (Powell, 1969): BFI Southbank, NFT3, 8.45pm

This 35mm presentation is part of the Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger season at BFI Southbank. There is a further screenings of this film on December 27th. You can find the details here.

Chicago Reader review:
Shot in luscious color around the Great Barrier Reef, the final feature (1969) by British director Michael Powell (who with Emeric Pressburger codirected such classics as The Red Shoes and The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp) returns to Chicago in a 35-millimeter print. James Mason stars as a frustrated artist who moves to a small island off the east coast of Australia in hopes of rekindling his passion for painting. He discovers his muse in the form of a free-spirited teenage girl who lives on the island (Helen Mirren), and Powell charts their blossoming relationship with sensitivity and earthy humor. Martin Scorsese, a lifelong admirer of Powell, has said of this life-affirming comedy: “For years before and after they made the film, Powell and Mason tried to get a version of The Tempest off the ground, and in fact there are strong echoes of The Tempest in Age of Consent. There’s a sense of magic and color and the power of the natural world. . . . It’s about the singular vision, the passion, the obsession of the artist to continue to create; I think this, distilled down, is the Powell-Pressburger cinema."
Ben Sachs

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 354: Thu Dec 21

Meet Me in St Louis (Minnelli, 1944): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 6.10pm

This classic Christmas film is also being screened, on December 20th and 23rd at BFI Southbank. You can find all the details here.

There are numerous articles and features on this film, including an excellent one by Richard Dyer in the January 2012 edition of Sight & Sound. Dyer refers to work by Andrew Britton on the film which has been reproduced in the recent publication of his complete film criticism and by Robin Wood in his collection Personal Views. Both are well worth seeking out.

And here is an excellent piece by the Guardian's John Patterson on Minnelli to coincide with a previous re-release of today's film. 

Time Out review: 

In 1939, rosy-cheeked chanteuse Judy Garland trumpeted the cosy, all-American proverb that ‘there’s no place like home’ in ‘The Wizard of Oz’. She returned five years later to reaffirm those beliefs in Vincente Minnelli’s musical masterpiece, ‘Meet Me in St Louis’, a Technicolor ode to the joys and tensions of living side-by-side with your fellow man. In a snow globe rendering of St Louis, Missouri circa 1903, the affluent Smith clan must face the prospect of ripping up their ancestral roots to chase future fortunes. The film has only a whisper of a plot, preferring to amass the simple pleasures of life (flirting with neighbours, riding the trolley, Christmas with the folks) into a single romantic vision of a perfect society. Framed as a sepia-tinted postcard come to life, Minnelli’s panoramic city symphony examines the meanings of nostalgia and memory while offering a sweetly ironic depiction of Middle American conservatism where sex is taboo, dinner is at six, money is evil and father knows best. A heavenly slice of brassy Hollywood romanticism that’ll still have you swooning all the way to the trolley stop.
David Jenkins

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 353: Wed Dec 20

Lazybones (Powell, 1935) + Her Last Affaire (Powell, 1936):
BFI Southbank, Studio, 5.50pm

This presentation is part of the Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger season at BFI Southbank. There is a further screenings of this double-bill on December 2nd. You can find the details here.

BFI introduction to Lazybones:
The lazybones of Powell’s amiable comedy is idle, penniless aristocrat Sir ‘Reggie’ Ford, who is shaken into a more productive existence when a criminal plot forces him to prove his worth to his American heiress wife. Shot after-hours with a cast hot-footing it from the West End, it betrays its stage origins, but Powell sprinkles it all with flashes of invention.


BFI introduction to Her Last Affaire:
Powell’s adaptation of Walter Ellis’s successful West End play S.O.S. was the most prestigious production he had made to date. A ‘society drama’ involving suspicion, clandestine romance and presumed murder, its cast of accomplished stage actors are nonetheless entirely upstaged by the glorious comic double-act of Googie Withers as mischievous maid Effie, and John Laurie as her pious, disapproving employer.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 352: Tue Dec 19

Distant Thunder (Ray, 1973): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 6pm

This 4K presentation is part of the Restored strand at BFI Southbank (details here).

BFI review:
Satyajit Ray had been planning to make a film about the Bengal famine of 1943 to 1944 for some years when he finally returned to the village landscapes he’d left behind with Three Daughters. A man-made catastrophe exacerbated by war and natural disasters, the famine decimated rural agriculture, leading to the death of some five million people. Adapted by Ray from the contemporaneous novel by Bibhutibhusan Banerjee, Distant Thunder examines the causes of the cataclysm. Shooting in vibrant colour, Ray fielded accusations that he’d glamourised or aestheticised the famine, and while it’s true that cinematographer Soumendu Roy captures the lushness of the natural world in vibrant detail, its disharmony with man speaks to the film’s bitter critical ironies. Although Distant Thunder took the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival, otherwise it seems Ray couldn’t win. Local critics found it insufficiently anguished, while western writers saw only unsubtle melodrama. It’s a powerful examination of human failure, but charges of universality do Ray – and his subject – a disservice. “From the first moment of any Ray film,” read The Times review, “the spectator forgets the racial and cultural difference of the characters and sees only human beings.” As biographer Andrew Robinson has noted, however, that’s a misleading charge, however well-intentioned, for such an explicit – and specific – examination of caste tensions.
Matthew Thrift

Here (and above) is the trailer.


Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 351: Mon Dec 18

The Great Escape (Sturges, 1963): Prince Charles Cinema, 8.15pm

This film, part of the Christmas season at the Prince Charles Cinema, is also being screened on December 12th. You can fiund the full details here.

Time Out review:
Uneven but entertaining World War II escape drama, which even when it first appeared seemed very old-fashioned. Based on Paul Brickhill's factual account of the efforts of Allied prisoners to break out of Stalag Luft North, it contains memorable sequences and a sea of well-known faces. Steve McQueen comes off best as 'The Cooler King'; Charles Bronson and James Garner (perhaps surprisingly) give good support; James Coburn is totally miscast as an Australian, yet turns in an amusing performance. Worth seeing the last half hour, if nothing else, for one of the best stunt sequences in years: McQueen's motor-cycle bid for freedom.
Chris Peachment

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 350: Sun Dec 17

Cash on Demand (Lawrence, 1961) & The Silent Partner (Duke, 1978): Cinema Museum, 6pm

Cinema Museum introduction:
Lost Reels continues its series of celluloid double bills with the pairing of two very different, but strangely similar, Christmas bank robbery thrillers. Christmas Crackers continues Lost Reels’ series of celluloid classics, curios and forgotten gems with two Christmas bank heist thrillers. Quentin Lawrence’s Cash on Demand (1961) is at once a nail-biting suspense drama, a sly take on Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, and one of the best British ‘B’ movies ever made; The Silent Partner (1978) is a clever, dark, and sometimes brutal cat-and-mouse thriller scripted by Curtis Hansen; a modern-day noir delivering a bottomless Santa’s sack of surprises.

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 349: Sat Dec 16

They're a Weird Mob (Powell, 1966): BFI Southbank, NFT3, 5.45pm

This 35mm presentation is part of the Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger season at BFI Southbank. There is a further screenings of the movie on December 29th. You can find the details here.

Time Out review:
The first of Michael Powell's Australian ventures, a very bizarre comedy about the prejudicial problems that face a young Italian who emigrates to Sydney. There are many delightful moments of almost Hitchcockian humour centred around social embarrassment (how to eat a meringue without making a mess), and pleasing parodies of movie styles (epic Eisensteinian expressionism at a building site). Hardly a great film, but an exhilarating and playful demolition of nationalist stereotypes.

Here (and above) is the trailer.