Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 113: Sun Apr 23

Victor and Victoria (Schünzel, 1933) + Victor/Victoria (Edwards, 1982):
Cinema Museum, 2.30pm

Cinema Museum introduction: A musical double bill featuring the rarely seen original German version, followed by the Julie Andrews classic. Two gender-bending classics that inspired many imitators, but that have rarely been equalled. Victor And Victoria (1933), not screened in the UK for decades and not officially available in this country in any format, is the original movie that inspired not only the Julie Andrews remake, but also the British comedy First a Girl (1935).

Chicago Reader review of Victor And Victoria (1933):
If you’re a consumer of queer and transgender cinema, you may already be familiar with Blake Edwards’s Julie Andrews-fronted musical Victor/Victoria (or the 1995 stage musical also fronted by Andrews). But the original 1933 version from German filmmaker Reinhold Schünzel—which tragically did not get much circulation in the United States at the time—is just as delightful as its sequin-clad remakes. Susanne (Renate Müller) is an aspiring entertainer, but can’t seem to get any work despite her burgeoning talent. Her opportunities explode, however, when she pretends to be a man doing drag as a woman, but juggling her personal life, her career, and her various identities becomes overwhelming, especially when she finds herself falling for her producer, who has only seen her as a man. Victor and Victoria is charming as a musical comedy, but it is also a remarkably poignant commentary on the performance—and illusion—of gender far before the likes of Judith Butler and other feminist scholars would do the same.
Cody Corrall

Here (and above) is the trailer.


Chicago Reader review of Victor/Victoria (1982):
Blake Edwards's 1982 sex comedy has the most beautiful range of tones of any American film of its period: it is a work of dry wit, high slapstick, black despair, romantic warmth, and penetrating intelligence. A tale of transvestism in the Paris of the 1930s is used as a study of socially fixed identities turned gloriously fluid, which Edwards sees as the only way of surviving in a churning, chaotic world. It is a direct thematic and stylistic sequel to 10, with the shallow, telescoped images of the earlier film giving way to deep-focus compositions and a corresponding shift in interest from beautiful surfaces to soulful interiors. Very personal and very entertaining, with Julie Andrews, James Garner, and a brilliant Robert Preston.
Dave Kehr

Here is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 112: Sat Apr 22

Bachelor Mother (Kanin, 1939): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 3.30pm

This film, which also screens on April 7th and 18th, is part of the Ginger Rogers season at BFI Southbank. Full details here.

Chicago Reader review:
Two of Hollywood’s smarmier talents, director Garson Kanin and screenwriter Norman Krasna, teamed up for this rib-nudging 1939 screwball comedy, featuring Ginger Rogers as a department-store clerk who takes in an abandoned baby and prompts a lot of gossip around the lingerie counter. David Niven, the boss’s son, is drafted as the suspected father; many unpleasant complications follow.
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 111: Fri Apr 21

Babette's Feast (Axel, 1987): Cinema Museum, 7.30pm

Cinema Museum introduction: Wonder Reels return to the Cinema Museum with their unique events featuring live performances from outstanding London musicians followed by a 35mm screening of a full feature film chosen with the artist in mind. Opening the door to a more sensual world, we will start with a concert by artist Phoebe Coco whose music is equally beautiful, haunting and delicious. See her latest video here. The concert will be followed by a 35mm projection of Babette’s Feast, Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film in 1988, staring Stephane Audran in a captivating tale of mystical awakening through the pleasures of food.

5 stars

Time Out review: One of the few foreign language films your unadventurous grandmother might enjoy, ‘Babette’s Feast’ is a cosy, appetising but ever-so-slightly complacent period tale from 1987. In remotest 19th-century Denmark, a pair of elderly, benevolent Protestant sisters have, through a series of coincidences, acquired a kindhearted French maid. But when Babette (Stéphane Audran) announces her intention to cook a slap-up French feast for the townsfolk, she comes up against a broad streak of local Puritanism. Dealing gently but considerately with life, love, loneliness, old age, religion and class, ‘Babette’s Feast’ is a philanthropic, aren’t-people-great sort of film, a celebration of fairness and generosity. But this soft focus extends to the characters who, with the exception of our heroine, are fuzzily sketched and forgettable. This is a pleasant but overgenerous and predictable film, so eager to embrace the good in people that it never fully succeeds as drama. Tom Huddleston

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 110: Thu Apr 20

Desert Fury (Allen, 1947): Cinema Museum, 7.30pm

Time Out review:
This odd little drama usually gets labeled a film noir, with the caveat that it’s filmed in Technicolor. It would be more accurate to say that it’s a genre hybrid, an uncategorizable whatsit from an era when films didn’t always have to be tidily slotted. The action takes place in a small Nevada town called Chuckawalla, where tough dame Fritzi Haller (Mary Astor) runs the local casino. Fritzi’s bad-girl daughter Paula (Lizabeth Scott) starts a romance with gangster Eddie Bendix (John Hodiak), who’s got a shady secret involving his wife’s death. He’s also got a gun-toting sidekick (Wendell Corey) whose closeness to Eddie can’t help but raise an eyebrow for contemporary audiences. Lewis Allen’s fondness for the landscape suggests a Western transplanted to the postwar era. There’s even a scene with local cop Tom (Burt Lancaster) breaking in a horse. But the script also feels like a melodrama, with mother/daughter tensions and a love affair as the central plot element. It could easily have been a horrible jumble, but in fact it’s compulsively watchable. Maybe it’s the great supporting cast, all of them more interesting than Scott or Hodiak. Maybe it’s the gorgeous but not garish use of Technicolor. Or maybe Allen, an all-but-forgotten studio director, deserves more credit for holding it all together.
Hank Sartin

(and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 109: Wed Apr 19

Liberté (Serra, 2019): ICA Cinema, 6.30pm

This film is part of an Albert Serra season and will include a Q&A with the director.

Little White Lies review:
Describing a film that, from the outset, doesn’t appear to be a comedy, as a comedy, is a method sometimes used by critics as a form of deflection. Comedy tends to be primal and instinctual, maybe even a bit throwaway, and so to use it as a descriptor in this way serves to eliminate both a film’s complexities and your own need to take that film at its purported face value. To give an example, in 1997, at a screening of William Friedkin’s The Exorcist, most of the patrons chose to laugh their way through some of the film’s most gruelling sequences, using comedy as a way to offset the potential for trauma. Albert Serra’s Liberté was widely lambasted when it screened at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival for its extended duration and lack of a storyline, as it presented a fleshy coterie of bewigged 18th-century French dandies skulking around a moonlit woodland clearing while engaging in all manner of erotic tomfoolery. Having been ejected from the court of King Louis XVI for their foul predilections, this clandestine collective decide instead to enact their own private revolution – just ahead of the one on the horizon that resulted in the king’s sudden head loss via guillotine. About an hour in, it seems clear that Serra is joking with his audience, placing us in the uncomfortable position of being unwilling voyeurs (among others on screen with frilly blousons and handy telescopes) to these miniature episodes of unbridled libertinism. But then maybe it’s not so uncomfortable, as isn’t this what film watching is all about? That is, being asked to observe people from a safe distance while they synthesise and offload naked emotions for the camera. Is all cinemagoing not just tacit participation in a scrubland orgy? If you think about it, that’s pretty funny. There’s a sequence in which one nobleman is being repeatedly caned on his derriere while another man watches excitedly, and it goes on for so long that you pass through the looking glass of pure horror and into the realms of absurdist comedy. Each scream translates as an equal fusion of pleasure and pain. But which side to fall on? Liberté is not a comedy that evokes belly laughter, but one that elicits coiled amusement at the idea of the microdramas that arise from such a situation. Serra managed a similar tonal balancing act in his previous film, The Death of Louis XIV, in which it was hard not to titter as fussbudget retainers attempt to prolong the life of a desiccating regent played with deadpan aplomb by Jean-Pierre Léaud. Here though, roles are enforced, couplings are suggested and then suddenly reneged upon, complete sexual equality appears to be the rules of the game, though clear class structures remain. It’s a fascinating, unique and affirmative film about the revolutionary act of self-expression, and the connection between backroom intellectual inquiry and broad public thinking. Serra and DoP Artur Tort film the vignettes in a manner which negates any eroticism, as they are instead interested in the logistics, the process and the unspoken transactions that are made between these consenting adults. It’s a film which could arouse outrage, or boredom, or even a strange kind of mirth, and as such it feels as if Serra may have ended up making one of the seminal midnight movies.
David Jenkins

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 108: Tue Apr 18

Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid (Peckinpah, 1973): Prince Charles Cinema, 6pm

This 35mm presentation (also screening on April 21st) is part of the Sam Peckinpah season at the Prince Charles. Full details here.

This movie, one of my all-time favourites, was one of the films central to my developing a passion for cinema. As is now widely known director Sam Peckinpah had the film taken away from him soon after completion and his work was substantially re-edited in order that the studio could put out a truncated 105-minute version which they thought would prove more popular in cinemas.

Peckinpah arranged for his original cut to be stolen and hidden away and it was this version, which was found after his death and released in 1988, which will be shown tonight. The beginning and end are radically different and scenes integral to the understanding of the relationship of the two main characters are included in the director's 121-minute cut.

I saw the film at the Cornerhouse cinema in Manchester and that experience, plus reading Richard Combs's article on the restoration in the September 1989 issue of the Monthly Film Bulletin, had a major impact on me.

Time Out review:

Restored and reassembled, this is the full and harmonious movie that Sam Peckinpah wanted to be remembered by before the butchers at MGM got their hands on it. Starting with a framing sequence from 1909 which shows James Coburn's aged Garrett being gunned down by the same men who hired him to get Billy the Kid back in 1881, the additional 15 minutes introduce the menacing figure of Barry Sullivan's Boss Chisum, a frolicsome brothel scene ('Last time Billy was here it took four to get him up and five to get him down again'), some engaging Wild West cameos, and a less obtrusive use of Bob Dylan's soundtrack. All in all the film is more playful, more balanced, and very much an elegy for the old ways of the West, rather than a meandering bloodthirsty battle between Kristofferson's preposterously likeable outlaw and Coburn's ambivalent survivor, Garrett. Like Ford's The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, it both records and condemns the passage of time and the advent of progress; and there is a sombre, mournful quality which places the film very high up in the league of great Westerns. Steve Grant 

Here is an extract on YouTube with commentary on one of the most famous scenes.

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 107: Mon Apr 17

Losing Ground (Collins, 1982): Barbican Cinema, 6.35pm

Barbican introduction: A masterpiece from the late Kathleen Collins, this film is a beautifully crafted drams, focusing on the tension between university lecturer Sara Rogers and her artist husband played by Bill Gunn. A rare example of an Black independent film depicting the ennui of a Black middle class, focusing on a community of professional well-educated artists, this is a rare object, made all the more rare by the premature passing of both Collins and Gunn, two artists, whose short career’s were important examples of refusing to be subsumed by the limitations provided by the film industry at the tie and would be integral in developing networks and avenues for independent Black creative spaces. The film was restored in 2022, premiering in October, having received a preservation grant from the Film Foundation and the Hobson/Lucas Family Foundation which enabled the creation of a new digital master from the original 16mm film elements, a new 35mm film negative, and a restored 35mm optical soundtrack, which we will be showing for our screening. The screening will be introduced by Dr Terri Francis.

New Yorker review:
It’s great news that one of the first American features directed by a black woman, “Losing Ground,” Kathleen Collins’s 1982 film, which wasn’t released until 2015, is about to come out on DVD and Blu-ray, thanks to Milestone Films. Though it’s good to see this film on the big screen, it’s most important simply to see it and see it again, freeze-frame on its deeply textured images and rewatch its sharply constructed scenes, flip through it rapidly for the pleasures of memory and watch it backward to see how it hangs together. I think it’s the movie that I’ve watched most often in the past year-plus, in the time since its rediscovery at the Film Society of Lincoln Center in February, 2015, and it continues to yield mysteries along with revelations. Rewatching it again this week, I was struck by a quality that had eluded me earlier: anger, an emotion that’s potentially destructive to express but self-destructive to repress.
The film’s protagonist, Sara Rogers (Seret Scott), is a professor of philosophy (she teaches, as Collins did, at City College of New York), whose research involves the quest for ecstatic experience outside the realm of religion. Her husband, Victor (Bill Gunn), is an older artist finally enjoying the first flush of success and looking to advance his work by spending a summer upstate spent sketching landscapes and people. To join him there, Sara would have to put her own research on the back burner, and Victor doesn’t hesitate to urge her to do so. The title of the film suggests the conflicts at its core—the paradox faced by many individual black women despite general progress regarding opportunities for women and African-Americans—and the action of the film, as I discuss in this clip, suggests some of the reasons why. Reason itself is among them—the effort to advance constructively while gripped by the irrational force of tradition, of unexpressed assumptions and unexamined mythologies, repressed desires and frustrated aspirations, undiscussed history and unacknowledged grief. The movie’s subject is the notion of liberation, one that’s as much aesthetic, philosophical, and emotional as it is practical and political. It’s one of the great tragedies of the modern cinema that Collins didn’t make any subsequent movies in which to pursue her powerful art and her powerful ideas—or that this very movie wasn’t seen widely in its time, and thus didn’t inspire (as it doubtless would have) a wide range of other filmmakers to pursue those ideas, to seek their own cinematic liberation.
Richard Brody

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 106: Sun Apr 16

Blue Valentine (Cianfrance, 2010): Prince Charles Cinema, 6.15pm

This superbly acted, heartbreaking movie is showing from a 35mm print, and also being screened on May 11th. More details here.

Chicago Reader review:
Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling tear up the screen as mismatched lovers, shown in alternating sequences as a giddy young couple forging a much-compromised emotional bond on their earliest dates and then years later as bitterly divided spouses with a young daughter. They're just getting by on his wages as a boozy house painter and hers as a nurse, and his close, intuitive relationship with the little girl seems to be the only glue holding it all together. In a desperate move, husband and wife retreat for a romantic evening alone in a crummy hotel with theme rooms; theirs is the "future room," a garish space-age pad, and—wouldn’t you know it?—the future arrives. The performances are so gripping that the movie works despite its diagrammatic structure, which focuses on ironic rhymes between past and present and omits the entirety of the couple’s marriage. 
JR Jones

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 105: Sat Apr 15

Moonlighting (Skolimowski, 1982): BFI Southbank, NFT3, 6.20pm

This film is also screened on April 9th at BFI Southbank. Full details of the Jerzy Skolimowski season at the cinema can be found here.

Chicago Reader review:
Conceived and shot in the space of a few weeks due to the Solidarity crisis of December 1981, Jerzy Skolimowski’s black comedy is much more than a political tract: it’s a profound, gripping comedy of terror and isolation, oppression and entrapment. Jeremy Irons, in a performance worthy of Chaplin, is the head of a Polish construction crew doing illegal work on a flat in London; when the military coup occurs back home, Irons—the only member of the group who speaks English—must keep it a secret from his men. Though the film is founded on a metaphor, it is never forced or abstract: Skolimowski’s direction is a concrete creative response to these actors in this setting at this time, making full expressive use of the details, gestures, and situations at hand. It is, in short, a film—unimaginable as theater or literature—and very possibly a great one.
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 104: Fri Apr 14

No1 Raging Bull (Scorsese, 1980): BFI Southbank, 2.30pm, 6.10pm and 8.30pm

This modern masterpiece is on an extended run at BFI Southbank and across cinemas all over London in a new 4K restoration.

Time Out review:
You was my brudda. You shoulda looked out for me a little bit… I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum…’ When the washed-up Jake La Motta (Robert De Niro) quotes ‘On The Waterfront’ to himself, it tells us as much about his self-pity as the actual parallels with Brando’s Terry Malloy. Not just a contender but a champ, La Motta’s fall stemmed not from outside pressures but inner weaknesses, stunningly realised in De Niro’s colossal performance; both he and Scorsese have arguably never been better. Following from 1941 to 1964 the explosively jealous and narcissistic middle-weight, his brother-manager Joey – Joe Pesci, great in his breakthrough role, first of the badabing pairings with De Niro that would define his career – and Jake’s tenderised wife Vickie (Cathy Moriarty), ‘Raging Bull’ is a masterclass in pain inflicted on oneself and one’s loved ones, as well as one’s opponents. The use of pop and opera and the black-and-white photography (by Michael Chapman) are exemplary, the actual boxing a compulsive dance of death.
Ben Walters

Here (and above) is the new trailer.


No 2: Vivacious Lady (Stevens, 1938): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 6.20pm

This 35mm presentation, which also screens on April 1st, is part of the Ginger Rogers season at BFI Southbank. Full details here.

Time Out review:
Mostly a light-hearted fable in which nightclub dancer Ginger Rogers meets, falls for, and marries Professor James Stewart. Much humour is derived from the couple's inability to consummate their wedding owing to family and social pressures, but there are also traces of a critique of the institution of marriage itself: it is always the women who have to adapt and make sacrifices for the sake of monogamy. Rogers is the accomplished centrepiece of the film, slightly atypical as the soft-focus romantic heroine, but with welcome eruptions of her tough and shrewd persona throughout.

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 103: Thu Apr 13

Aprile (Moretti, 1998): Castle Cinema, 7pm

This film is presented by the Jellied Reels film club. Full details here.

Time Out review:
More explicitly political than Dear Diary, this again occupies that intriguing territory between reality and fiction as it celebrates both the birth of Nanni Moretti's son and (with some reservations) the long awaited triumph of the Left in Italy. Once again, too, it's heartfelt, eccentric and often very funny, as Moretti shares his anxieties and joys, likes and dislikes, incidentally including his own manifest shortcomings (paranoia, hysteria, self-centredness, indecision). Simultaneously sharp and gentle, rambling and to the point, it stealthily leads us into an ever stranger personal world, so that by the finale, extraordinary images of the film crew (with Moretti in cape, motorbike helmet and shades) swaying to the rhythms of a musical sequence about a Trotskyist pastry chef (!) seem perfectly normal.
Geoff Andrew

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 102: Wed Apr 12

Lady in the Dark (Leisen, 1941): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 8.30pm

This 35mm presentation, which also screens on April 28th, is part of the Ginger Rogers season at BFI Southbank. Full details here.

Time Out review:
A gorgeously garish adaptation of the Moss Hart musical, with songs by Kurt Weill and Ira Gershwin, in which a high-powered fashion magazine editor (Ginger Rogers) turns to psychoanalysis to resolve her inability to choose between three loves: a middle-aged backer (Warner Baxter), an attractive but independent-minded employee (Ray Milland), and a hunky movie star (Jon Hall). It doesn't bear too close examination, since Hollywood got cold feet about the lady's Electra complex, leaving only hints of her competition with mommy for daddy's love, and completing the bowdlerisation by removing the haunting key song 'My Ship'. What's left is a cardboard charade, but one given a dynamic charge by Leisen's witty visual styling. The three dream sequences, in particular, are superb, with the first two coolly designed, respectively in shades of blue and gold, the third - the circus sequence in which Jenny finds herself on trial for emotional delinquency - bursting into full colour.
Tom Milne

Here (and above) is an extract.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 101: Tue Apr 11

The Major and the Minor (Wilder, 1942): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 8.30pm

This film, which also screens on March 29th and April 22nd, is part of the Ginger Rogers season at BFI Southbank. Full details here.

Chicago Reader review:
Billy Wilder’s first American directorial effort (1942) stars Ginger Rogers as a broke New York career woman who poses as a 12-year-old to get a half-fare train ride home to Iowa. The Wilder ironies and favorite themes—sexual deception, innuendo, the power of words to slice up and serve a character—are all present in abundance. Ray Milland is properly straight as the officer who tries to take care of Ginger as she’s falling in love with him.
Don Druker

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 100: Mon Apr 10

Hands Up! (Skolimowski 1967/1981): BFI Southbank, NFT3, 3.40pm

This film is also screened on March 31st at BFI Southbank. Full details of the Jerzy Skolimowski season at the cinema can be found here.

Time Out review:
Though doubts have been expressed as to the wisdom of re-editing the original footage to make space for a prologue shot in 1981 in London and Beirut, Skolimowski's film, more aptly titled than he realised, proves well worth waiting for since its suppression by the Polish authorities in 1967. Shot in sepia and grey, bursting with '60s energy and invention, funny yet vitriolic, it details in consistently vivid imagery a collective psychodrama staged by four disillusioned students in an abandoned cattle truck. Unforgettable.
Gilbert Adair

Here (and above) is an extract.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 99: Sun Apr 9

Identification Marks: None (Skolimowski, 1964): BFI Southbank, NFT3, 6.40pm

This film is also being screened on April 3rd. Full details of the Jerzy Skolimowski season at BFI Southbank can be found here.

Chicago Reader review:
Few movies have portrayed killing time with as much urgency as Jerzy Skolimowski’s debut feature (1964), completed when the director was only 26. It takes place over several hours before a young layabout (played by Skolimowski in a deadpan performance) has to leave town for two years of military service; the character’s impending loss of freedom gives way to a film of unfettered imagination, with a narrative that zigzags from one digression to another and ambitious camerawork that transforms the dreary industrial town of Łódz into something out of a dream. The freewheeling vibe might remind you of contemporaneous films by Richard Lester (The Knack . . . and How to Get It) or Jean-Luc Godard (Band of Outsiders), though Skolimowski’s fantasy of youth is distinctly more acrid. For all his liberated behavior, the hero never manages to transcend the repressiveness of Soviet bloc culture–nor, for that matter, his inherent selfishness.
Ben Sachs

Here (and above) is an extract.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 98: Sat Apr 8

The Lightship (Skolimowski, 1985): BFI Southbank, NFT3, 12.15pm

This 35mm presentation also screens on April 14th. Full details of the Jerzy Skolimowski season at BFI Southbank can be found here.

Chicago Reader review:
A moody, carefully crafted film by Jerzy Skolimowski (Moonlighting) set aboard an isolated U.S. Coast Guard ship, where captain Klaus Maria Brandauer, a German-American with a military black mark against his name, is confronted by a band of hijackers led by a menacing Cajun (Robert Duvall). Opaque and literary in Skolimowski’s late, gray exilic mode, but still well worth seeing.
Pat Graham

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 97: Fri Apr 7

Top Hat (Sandrich, 1935): BFI Southbank, NFT3 2.40pm, NFT1 6pm & NFT3 8.40pm

This classic is on an extended run at BFI Southbank. Full details here.

Time Out review:
The third Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers movie (not counting Flying Down to Rio) and one of the best, with a superlative Irving Berlin score (it includes 'No Strings', 'Isn't This a Lovely Day?', 'Top Hat, White Tie and Tails' and 'Cheek to Cheek'), and equally superlative Hermes Pan routines which spark a distinct sexual electricity between the pair. Oddly enough, the film is almost slavishly patterned on The Gay Divorcee, with the scene again shifting from London to a resort (Venice in this case), the plot again turning on mistaken identity, and the comedy again reliant on Horton, Blore and Rhodes. The reason you don't really notice this - with Top Hat readily springing to mind as the archetypal Fred'n'Ginger movie - is the booster given by Van Nest Polglase's stunning white Art Deco designs, which were to set the tone for the series.
Tom Milne

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 96: Thu Apr 6

Billy Liar (Schlesinger, 1963): BFI Southbank,NFT2, 8.30pm

This great film, also screening on April 14th & 27th, is part of the Northern Voices season at BFI Southbank. Full details here.

Time Out review:
Released in the wake of the early social realist films of Karel Reisz and Tony Richardson, Schlesinger’s physical world is the same – northern and working-class – but his approach to social commentary and storytelling, as adapted from Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall’s book and play, is more playful and less concerned with realism than films like ‘Taste of Honey’ and ‘Saturday Night, Sunday Morning’. Schlesinger’s Billy (Tom Courtenay) is a confused young man with too much imagination for considering kitchen sinks: nominally he’s an undertaker’s clerk, but his real job is to carve a parallel, fantasy world for himself, whether leading men to war in a state called Ambrosia or forging himself a career in showbiz. Billy’s endless lies feel less like deceptions and more like an expression of the conflicts within a young man who’s uneasy in a fast-changing world. Funny and unexpectedly poignant.
Dave Calhoun

Here's my favourite scene (and above). Courtenay rehearses his resignation ahead of the arrival of employer Emmanuel Shadrack (Leonard Rossiter).

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 95: Wed Apr 5

Kundun (Scorsese, 1997): Prince Charles Cinema, 8.30pm

This 35mm presentation also screens on Apri 21st and 27th and is part of the Martin Scorsese 90s season at the Prince Charles Cinema. Full details here.

Chicago Reader review:
Recounting the life of the 14th Dalai Lama prior to his departure from Tibet, this highly uncharacteristic feature by Martin Scorsese is his best since The King of Comedy, but you can’t profitably approach it expecting either the violence or the stylistic punchiness of something like GoodFellas. Scripted by Melissa Mathison (in close consultation with the Dalai Lama and his family) and cast almost exclusively with Tibetan exiles, this nonreligious movie about a religious leader is beautiful, abstract, charged with mystery, but never pretentious. Far from dictating a position on the Dalai Lama, the film doesn’t even define a particular point at which the spoiled toddler is transformed into a holy man; a good deal of the historical, political, and religious context is implied rather than explained, and most of the major events occur offscreen. Despite the somewhat questionable wallpaper score by Philip Glass, Scorsese’s delicate, inquisitive style has an inevitability and a rightness all its own.
Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 94: Tue Apr 4

Barrier (Skolimowski, 1966): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 8.50pm

This screening includes an introduction by season curator Michael Brooke while the film is also on at BFI Southbank on April 1st. Full details of the Jerzy Skolimowski can be found here.

Chicago Reader review:
In his third feature (1966), Polish director Jerzy Skolimowski captures the spirit of youthful anarchy so prevalent in 60s cinema but cloaks his philosophical hero, a graduating Warsaw university student (Jan Nowicki), in a mantle of pessimism and ennui. With no immediate plans, the graduate wanders a modern but impersonal cityscape; after failing to connect with his preoccupied father, he tries to impress his former classmates by enlisting an attractive streetcar operator (Joanna Szczerbic, Skolimowski’s wife at the time) to pose as his fiancee. Their big date in a fancy restaurant unfolds as absurdist slapstick, but the overall tone of the film is one of sardonic despair, from a Fellini-esque scene of a blood drive during Holy Week to the hero’s climactic blind tumble down a steep incline.
Andrea Gronvall

Here (and above) is an extract.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 93: Mon Apr 3

The Getaway (Peckinpah, 1972): Prince Charles Cinema, 6pm

This great heist movie is part of the Sam Peckinpah season at the Prince Charles. Details here.

Time Out review:
An evident precursor to The Driver (Walter Hill scripted both, this one from Jim Thompson's novel). The major strength of The Getaway rests solidly on Steve McQueen's central role, a cold tense core of pragmatic violence. Hounded by furies (two mobs, police, a hostile landscape), he responds with a lethal control, blasting his way through shootouts that teeter on madness to the loot, the girl, and Sam Peckinpah's mythic land of Mexico. Survival, purification, and the attainment of grace are achieved only by an extreme commitment to the Peckinpah existential ideal of action - a man is what he does. Peckinpah's own control of the escalating frenzy is masterly; this is one of his coldest films, but a great thriller.
Chris Peachment

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 92: Sun Apr 2

L'Atalante (Vigo, 1934): Cine Lumiere, 2pm

This film is also screened on April 4th. Details here.

Chicago Reader review: 
'Jean Vigo's only full-length feature (1934), one of the supreme masterpieces of French cinema, was edited and then brutally reedited while Vigo was dying, so a “definitive” restoration is impossible. (The reassembled version released in France in 1990 is almost certainly the best and most complete we'll ever be able to see—it's wondrous to behold.) The simple love-story plot involves the marriage of a provincial woman (Dita Parlo) to the skipper of a barge (Jean Daste), and the only other characters of consequence are the barge's skeletal crew (Michel Simon and Louis Lefebvre) and a peddler (Gilles Margaritis) who flirts with the wife at a cabaret and describes the wonders of Paris to her. The sensuality of the characters and the settings, indelibly caught in Boris Kaufman's glistening cinematography, are only part of the film's remarkable poetry, the conviction of which goes beyond such categories as realism or surrealism, just as the powerful sexuality in the film ultimately transcends such categories as heterosexuality, homosexuality, and even bisexuality. Shot by shot and moment by moment, the film is so fully alive to the world's possibilities that magic and reality seem to function as opposite sides of the same coin, with neither fully adequate to Vigo's vision. The characters are at once extremely simple and extremely complex (richest of all is Simon's Pere Jules, as beautiful a piece of character acting as one can find anywhere), and while the continuity is choppy in spots—a factor skillfully cloaked by Maurice Jaubert's superb score—the film's aliveness and potency are so constant that this hardly seems to matter. A major inspiration to subsequent generations of filmmakers, yet no one has ever succeeded in matching it.'
Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 91: Sat Apr 1

Burn After Reading (Coen, 2008): Everyman Screen on Green, 10.30pm

This film (also screening on April 5th) is part of the 35mm Coen Brothers season at Screen on the Green. Full details here.

Time Out review:
With their hangdog mugs now nestled against the bosom of mainstream Hollywood, indie-crossover darlings the Coen brothers have concocted another of their Hawkesian screwball quickies in which an ensemble of beautiful A-listers merrily play the fool. Already a hit in the US, ‘Burn After Reading’ is a snappy, confident, lightly satirical and stridently mischievous entertainment that arrives on the back of their sand-blasted lament for times past, ‘No Country for Old Men’. But while the tenor may have changed, the madcap template is very much in place. The rub: a disc containing the memoirs of recently dismissed, mid-level CIA operative Osbourne Cox (John Malkovich at his high-falutin, foul-mouthed best) floats into the hands of two gormless gym employees-turned-recreational grifters, plastic surgery-obsessed singleton Linda (Frances McDormand) and soft liberal airhead Chad (Brad Pitt, right). After an inevitably calamitous attempt at bribery (‘We’ve got your secret shit!’), the pair find themselves cack-handedly doorstepping the Russian embassy in search of a swifter pay-off. Fold into that a parallel story where George Clooney’s rubber-faced philanderer, Harry, tries to juggle semi-serious flings with Linda and Osbourne’s flamed-haired ex, Katie (Tilda Swinton).

Considering the Coens’ past form with intricately plotted farces (‘Raising Arizona’, ‘Fargo’, ‘The Big Lebowski’), this does feel effortless to the point that you might imagine they could have scribbled it on the back of a napkin between breakfast and brunch. Yet, beneath its deadpan façade, nimble direction and robust photography (care of Emmanuel Lubezki) lies a cheerily nihilistic (misanthropic even?) work which paints its characters as preening, self-obsessed, idiot savants who wear stupid clothes, habitually lie, misuse the internet for dating and wouldn’t know a conscience from a Coke bottle. Even at their lowest ebb (2004’s ‘The Ladykillers’) the brothers’ palpable affection for old movies injected some humanity into the overly sardonic proceedings; but here, even the movies are bad, as seen in their snarkily anodyne film-within-a-film, ‘Coming Up Daisy’.  The audience are, in the end, placed in the boots of JK Simmons’s flummoxed CIA chief who, having been nervously informed of the preceding antics, finds it tough to fathom how these people could have been so damn stupid. It’s possibly the Coens’ least romantic film, which makes the cynical tone a tough pill to swallow, but chances are that you’ll be too busy hooting and chuckling idiotically to notice.

David Jenkins

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 90: Fri Mar 31

Détective (Godard, 1985): Close-Up Cinema, 8.15pm

This tremendous Jean-Luc Godard film (which also screens omn March 23rd) is part of the year-long Godard season at Close-Up Cinema. You can find all the details here.

Time Out review:
A mini-masterpiece, this is a cross between a ‘Grand Hotel’ for the 1980s and film noir: a crumbling Paris hotel houses four groups of people whose paths occasionally cross. One is the group around detective Terzieff, still trying to solve a murder of years ago; another is the entourage of boxer Tiger Jones, in training with his manager (Johnny Hallyday); another is a couple on the verge of breaking up; and the last is the Mafia. Much of it, especially Léaud (Terzieff’s nephew-aide) and Cuny as a Godfather who judges men by their toilet habits, is riotously funny. Built on the charisma of its stars and on memories of the great thrillers of the ’40s, tenuously held together by Godard’s romantic pessimism, curiosity and sense of humour, it’s co-dedicated, sensibly, to Clint Eastwood.
Tony Rayns

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 89: Thu Mar 30

Rio Bravo (Hawks, 1959): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 8.20pm

This Howard Hawks masterpiece is my favourite film. Indeed, I wrote about the movie in the 'My favourite film' season in the Guardian. My conclusion was: 'Over the course of Rio Bravo we are treated to an entertainment masterclass, a high watermark of Hollywood cinema in its heyday. I may not go as far as Quentin Tarantino, who declared that he would show the film to any new girlfriend and end the relationship if she did not declare her undying love for Hawks's classic, but it is the movie I return to again and again, to revisit old friends and remind myself what form optimism takes in a work of art.'

The movie forms part of the Big Screen Classics strand (highlighting films in the Greatest of All-Time Poll) and also screens on April 9th and 21st. Full details here.

Chicago Reader review:
Howard Hawks's finest western (1959), and perhaps his finest film—but who wants to quibble on this level? John Wayne, Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson, and Walter Brennan hole up in a sheriff's office, there to protect a prisoner from a band of hired guns outside. But the subtly stylized setting soon becomes an arena for a moral battle, as the characters discover and test their resources of trust, skill, and courage, values poised against encroaching chaos. It's American filmmaking at its finest—clean, clear, and direct—and it's also the most optimistic masterpiece on film, valiantly shoring fragments against human ruin. Superb in every respect, from Wayne's performance to Russell Harlan's brilliant night photography. With Angie Dickinson.
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 88: Wed Mar 29

The Love Expert (Kirkland, 1920): Cinema Museum, 7.30pm

Cinema Museum introduction (to this 35mm silent screening):
In this comedy, Constance Talmadge plays Babs, a girl who is thrown out of boarding school because she’s more interested in studying romance than she is in studying books. The object of her affections is Jim Winthrop, but before they can wed, he has to find suitable mates for his two plain sisters, Dorcas and Matilda – and Winthrop’s elderly aunt, too. To speed things up, Babs takes it upon herself to find them all men.

Here (and above) is an extract.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 87: Tue Mar 28

Tristana (Bunuel, 1970): Prince Charles Cinema, 12.45pm

This film is part of the Luis Bunuel season and is also being screened on March 22nd. You can find all the details here.

Chicago Reader review:
Luis Buñuel’s 1970 masterwork, adapted from a novel by Benito Perez Galdos. Catherine Deneuve is a young woman unhappy with the constraints of turn-of-the-century Spanish society; her mild revolt is rewarded by an amputated leg. Buñuel conjures with Freudian imagery, outrageous humor, and a quiet, lyrical camera style to create one of his most complex and complete works, a film that continues to disturb and transfix.
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 86: Mon Mar 27

Amarcord (Fellini, 1973): Prince Charles Cinema, 6pm

This 35mm presentation also screens on March 21st. Details here.

Time Out review:
Fellini at his ripest and loudest recreates a fantasy-vision of his home town during the fascist period. With generous helpings of soap opera and burlesque, he generally gets his better effects by orchestrating his colourful cast of characters around the town square, on a boat outing, or at a festive wedding. When he narrows his focus down to individual groups, he usually limits himself to corny bathroom and bedroom jokes, which produce the desired titters but little else. But despite the ups and downs, it's still Fellini, which has become an identifiable substance like salami or pepperoni that can be sliced into at any point, yielding pretty much the same general consistency and flavour. 

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 85: Sun Mar 26

Things To Come (Menzies, 1936): Barbican Centre, Main Hall, 7pm

Barbican introduction:
Alexander Korda’s cinematic vision of the future, with Arthur Bliss’s classic score played live by the orchestra who originally recorded it 
– the London Symphony Orchestra.
Imagine a future of shining cities, global travel and endless leisure for art and science. But first, a half-century of horror – of terror, war and global pandemic. Incredibly, Alexander Korda’s film Things to Come saw it all in 1936: transforming H G Wells’s novel into a stunning Art Deco vision of a future that now seems startlingly real. Things to Come has lost none of its prophetic power, and its dazzling designs and commanding central performances make it one of the enduring landmarks of 1930s cinema. The LSO recorded the original score back in 1936, and tonight, for this one-off screening it plays Sir Arthur Bliss’s music live with the film. No crackles, no wonky sound, just the thrilling sweep of one of the greatest of all British film scores.

Time Out review:
HG Wells thought Metropolis to be 'quite the silliest film', but a decade later Alexander Korda gave him enormous creative freedom to write a movie version of The Shape of Things to Come, which turned out to be just as silly. However, like Metropolis, it isn't just silly. It is a spectacular production wherein Wells takes his 'science versus art' preoccupations into the future (as seen from the '30s); and to make it work, only lacks the kind of pure cinematic form which a Powell/Pressburger would have given it, for its scale and love of 'ideas' pre-figure their films and make it just as unique in British cinema history. In the realm of 'prophetic science fiction', it is a genre landmark.
Chris Wicking

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 84: Sat Mar 25

Le Beau Mec (Potts, 1979): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 4.15pm

This screening is part of the BFI Flare Festival. Full details here.

BFI Flare introduction:
The facts behind Le Beau Mec are just as extraordinary as the viewing experience. Rudolf Nureyev’s last lover Wallace Potts directed hot hunk Karl Forest in this Parisian porno – featuring choreography by the Russian legend – that included camerawork by legendary cinematographer Néstor Almendros (Days of Heaven, The Blue Lagoon, Sophie’s Choice). Until very recently an almost-lost film, surviving only in decaying VHS tapes, collector Gerry Herman’s lengthy search finally uncovered some prints. A series of erotic episodes are recounted by Forest’s titular ‘handsome guy’ – memorable sexual encounters in parks, clubs, a gym, a hotel and a fetish club. Remarkable for the beauty of its images and the dynamic range of passionate lovemaking, this is a dream of a film.
Bruce Robinson

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 83: Fri Mar 24

8½ (Fellini, 1963): Close-Up Cinema, 8.15pm

Chicago Reader review:
If all you know about this exuberant, self-regarding 1963 film is based on its countless inferior imitations (from Paul Mazursky's Alex in Wonderland and The Pickle to Woody Allen's Stardust Memories to Bob Fosse's All That Jazz), you owe it to yourself to see Federico Fellini's exhilarating, stocktaking original, an expressionist, circuslike comedy about the complex mental and social life of a big-time filmmaker (Marcello Mastroianni) stuck for a subject and the busy world surrounding him. It's Fellini's last black-and-white picture and conceivably the most gorgeous and inventive thing he ever did—certainly more fun than anything he made after it. (The only Fellini movie that's about as pleasurable is The White Sheik.)' With Claudia Cardinale, Sandra Milo, and Anouk Aimee.
Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here (and above) is the original trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 82: Thu Mar 23

The Red Shoes (Powell & Pressburger, 1948): Castle Cinema, 7.30pm

This is a 16mm presentation (also screening on March 16th) from the wonderful Cine-Real team.

Two things fascinate me about this great film: firstly, no one mentions that it could all be the feverish dream of one of the central characters; see if you can spot the key moment I mean. Secondly, the character of Lermontov, superbly played by Anton Walbrook, who is one of Powell & Pressburger's greatest creations. Enjoy. Here are extracts featuring the aformentioned Lermontov.

Chicago Reader review:
Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's Trilby-based ballet film (1948, 133 min.) has been the cult property of dance freaks for far too long. A look beneath its lushly romantic surface reveals a dark, complex sensibility, and that surface, rendered in the somber tones of British Technicolor, reflects a fantastically rich cinematic inventiveness. Moira Shearer is the ballerina who, following the outlines of a Hans Christian Andersen tale, trades her life for her art; Anton Walbrook, as her impresario, is perhaps the most forceful embodiment of the shaman figures–magical, outsized, sinister–who haunt Powell and Pressburger's work. The Red Shoes remains the best known of Powell and Pressburger's 18 features, yet it's only the tip of the iceberg–beneath it lies the most commanding body of work in the British cinema. 
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 81: Wed Mar 22

Exorcist II: The Heretic (Boorman, 1977): Genesis Cinema, 8.45pm

Chicago Reader review:
Everybody seems to hate this movie, and not without good reason. But John Boorman’s 1977 follow-up to William Friedkin’s shocker is a much more interesting film than the original, and Boorman deserves credit for trying out some new ideas, even if most of them backfire. Visually, it’s fascinating—sort of a blend of Minnellian baroque and Buñuelian absurdity—but the dialogue is childish, the story is incomprehensible, and the metaphysics are ridiculous. Still, an audacious failure is preferable to a chickenhearted success. More than worth a look, if only out of curiosity.
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 80: Tue Mar 21

Straw Dogs (Peckinpah, 1971): Prince Charles Cinema, 6pm

Peter Mandelson’s grandfather Herbert Morrison, deputy Prime Minister in Clement Attlee’s landmark post-War Labour government, famously carried his Desert Island Discs choices in his wallet, expecting the call to appear on the programme. It was an invitation that sadly was never extended to him and I thought of that tale when I was actually asked to contribute to the most famous of all movie polls, run by Sight & Sound magazine. All those years of trawling the previous decades choices with rapt fascination, reading the articles on the canon and the time keeping that running list of my ten all-time favourites that were inevitable mixed up with the greatest in my head was not wasted. Now, though, I was going to be forced to think about it and make a definitive list. Others were doing the same, prompting responses varying widely from “it’s a bit of fun” to “it’s agony”. 

The more I thought about it the more I wanted my contribution to be just that, a genuine heartfelt one, made up of the films I desperately wanted people to see but had not been considered in the previous voting, and modestly hoping for a re-evalution of the choicesI made two rulesAll of the films in my list (reproduced below) would deserve to be part of the Sight & Sound Greatest poll conversation and all the choices would not have received a single vote in the 2012 poll.

Some in this list are simply neglected favourites but in other cases there are very good reasons some of these films have been overlooked. Jean Grémillon, for instance, faded from view after an ill-fated directorial career, and has only resurfaced in the last decade with devoted retrospectives and DVD releases. The heartbreaking Remorques is one of his masterpieces. The Alfred Hitchcock melodrama Under Capricorn, which quickly disappeared after bombing at the box office and the subsequent dissolving of the director’s production company, deserves high rank in the Master’s work but languishes in limbo, only seen at major retrospectives. The Exilesand Spring Night, Summer Night are both once lost American independent classics only just receiving their due after recent rediscovery. White Dogafter a desultory release overshadowed by misguided accusations of racism, was not in circulation for many years. Warhol's Vinly, based on Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange, was shown in 2013 from (fortuitously I later discovered) 16mm in an ICA gallery and felt thrillingly authentic, the sound of the whirring projector and the artist’s singular framing combining to create a mesmeric experience. Here is the full list:

Remorques/Stormy Waters (Jean Grémillon, 1941)

Under Capricorn (Alfred Hitchcock, 1949)

The Exiles (Kent Mackenzie, 1961)

La Baie des anges/Bay of Angels (Jacques Demy, 1963)

Vinyl (Andy Warhol, 1965)

Spring Night, Summer Night (Jospeh L. Anderson, 1967)

Heroic Purgatory (Yosgishige Yoshida, 1970)

Straw Dogs (Sam Peckinpah, 1971)

White Dog (Sam Fuller, 1982)

Three Times (Hou Hsiao-Hsien, 2005)

The ten I chose (above) should all ideally be seen screened so continue to keep an eye on this blog and the listings at Close-Up Cinema in Shoreditch. Meanwhile, you have a chance to see Straw Dogs at the Prince Charles in 35mm as part of their Sam Peckinpah season. The film also screens on March 24th and 30th. Full details here.

Chicago Reader review:
Released the same year as Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange (1971), this Sam Peckinpah film touched off innumerable debates about violence in the movies. But the difference between Kubrick and Peckinpah is the difference between impersonal sadism and an individual morality strongly expressed; though doubtlessly reactionary, Straw Dogs 
has the heat of personal commitment and the authority of deep (if bitter) contemplation. It is also moviemaking of a very high order. Dustin Hoffman's performance, as the weak mathematician goaded into violence, is still his best. With Susan George, Peter Vaughan, and (unbilled) David Warner.
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is the trailer.