Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 335: Sat Dec 2

The Apartment (Wilder, 1960): Prince Charles Cinema, 2.50pm

This is a 35mm presentation and part of the Christmas season at the Prince Charles Cinema.

Time Out review:
Re-teaming actor Jack Lemmon, scriptwriter Iz Diamond and director Billy Wilder a year after ‘Some Like It Hot’, this multi-Oscar winning comedy is sharper in tone, tracing the compromises of a New York insurance drone who pimps out his brownstone apartment for his married bosses’ illicit affairs. The quintessential New York movie – with exquisite design by Alexandre Trauner and shimmering black-and-white photography – it presented something of a breakthrough in its portrayal of the war of the sexes, with a sour and cynical view of the self-deception, loneliness and cruelty involved in ‘romantic’ liaisons. Directed by Wilder with attention to detail and emotional reticence that belie its inherent darkness and melodramatic core, it’s lifted considerably by the performances: the psychosomatic ticks and tropes of nebbish Lemmon balanced by the pathos of Shirley MacLaine’s put-upon ‘lift girl’.
Wally Hammond
Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 334: Fri Dec 1

 Eyes Wide Shut (Kubrick, 1999): Prince Charles Cinema, 2.45pm

Here's one of the great films set during Christmas, and an opportunity to see Stanley Kubrick's much-underrated final movie in an original 35mm print. The film, part of the Christmas season at the cinema, is also being shown on December 7th and you can find all the details here.

If you're interested in reading more about this film I can recommend two BFI publications - Michel Chion's Modern Classics monograph on Eyes Wide Shut and the chapter on the film in James Naremore's book titled On Kubrick. And also Robert P Kolker and Nathan Abrams' illuminating 2019 book Eyes Wide Shut: Stanley Kubrick and the Making of His Final Film.

Chicago Reader review:
Initial viewings of Stanley Kubrick's movies can be deceptive because his films all tend to be emotionally convoluted in some way; one has to follow them as if through a maze. A character that Kubrick might seem to treat cruelly the first time around (e.g., Elisha Cook Jr.'s fall guy in The Killing) can appear the object of tender compassion on a subsequent viewing. The director's desire to avoid sentimentality at all costs doesn't preclude feeling, as some critics have claimed, but it does create ambiguity and a distanced relationship to the central characters. Kubrick's final feature very skillfully portrays the dark side of desire in a successful marriage; since the 60s he'd been thinking about filming Arthur Schnitzler's brilliant novella "Traumnovelle," and working with Frederic Raphael, he's adapted it faithfully--at least if one allows for all the differences between Viennese Jews in the 20s and New York WASPs in the 90s. Schnitzler's tale, about a young doctor contemplating various forms of adultery and debauchery after discovering that his wife has entertained comparable fantasies, has a somewhat Kafkaesque ambiguity, wavering between dream and waking fantasy (hence Kubrick's title), and all the actors do a fine job of traversing this delicate territory. Yet the story has been altered to make the successful doctor (Tom Cruise) more of a hypocrite and his wife (powerfully played by Nicole Kidman) a little feistier; Kubrick's also added a Zeus-like tycoon (played to perfection by Sydney Pollack) who pretends to explain the plot shortly before the end but in fact only summarizes the various mysteries, his cynicism and chilly access to power revealing that Kubrick is more of a moralist than Schnitzler. To accept the premises and experiences of this movie, you have to be open to an expressionist version of New York with scant relation to the 90s (apart from cellular phones and AIDS) and a complex reading of a marriage that assumes the relations between men and women haven't essentially changed in the past 70-odd years. This is a remarkably gripping, suggestive, and inventive piece of storytelling that, like Kubrick's other work, is likely to grow in mystery and intensity over time.
Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 333: Thu Nov 30

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (Gilliam/Jones, 1975): Cinema Museum, 7.30pm

This is a 35mm presentation. 

The Cinema Museum report that the rights holders Python (Monty) Pictures wish to remind film lovers that this ISN’T a quote-along screening and please not to come in costume. Thank You.

Chicago Reader review:

Silly, sophomoric, and slapped together—but would you want it any other way? The Pythons' second feature (1975) is full of things that even the relatively tolerant BBC wouldn't allow—including real violence, real pestilence, real death, and other comic devices. TV's 30-minute format may be better suited to the team's fragile conceits (the killer bunny bit seems to go on forever), but for all the stretching the film never snaps. Look sharp for the Ken Russell hommages. Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam directed.
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 332: Wed Nov 29

The Truman Show (Weir 1998): Prince Charles Cinema, 6.15pm

This 35mm screening is part of the Animus Magazine season devoted to Peter Weir. Details here. The Truman Show also screens on November 24th and 25th (with Elena Lazic introduction).

Time Out review:
Truman Burbank is beginning to wise up. People seem to listen to him, but they never really connect; he feels trapped in a job he doesn't care about, a marriage he doesn't believe in, and a small island community he's never been able to leave. It's as if his life has been pre-programmed from the start: as indeed it has, for Truman is the unwitting subject of television's most audacious experiment, a real-life soap following one man from birth to death. When Truman (Jim Carrey) appeals to a higher power, he's actually addressing the show's omniscient creator/director, Christof (Ed Harris). The best comedy since Groundhog Day - better, even, than that - this is more than just a savvy and ingenious satire on media saturation, it's a moving metaphysical fable. One movie you can pronounce a modern classic with absolute confidence.
Tom Charity

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 331: Tue Nov 28

Impulse (Locke, 1990): Prince Charles Cinema, 6.15pm

This is part of the 'Undone: Women of the Erotic Thriller' season at the Prince Charles Cinema (full details here). The curation was by Abby Spira and the movies are presented in partnership with the National Film & Television School.

Time Out review:
Theresa Russell (excellent) plays an undercover cop on the edge, burned out and unable to sustain her relationship with men. Under assessment by the police shrink after shooting a criminal, she is still moonlighting as a decoy hooker, a role that feeds her desire to lose control. Assistant DA Fahey, meanwhile, is looking for a second witness to secure a watertight case against a drug kingpin. Russell is recruited to make a fake drugs buy designed to force a low-life dealer into testifying, but her cover is blown and things get very complicated. Although a subsequent plot twist, linking Russell's dangerous impulsiveness to a loose thread of Fahey's complex case, is a shade too convenient, Sondra Locke directs with great assurance. The action is tough, the low-life atmosphere authentic, and the relationship between Russell and Fahey charged with tremulous eroticism. Stylish, exciting, and emotionally satisfying.
Nigel Floyd

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 330: Mon Nov 27

Night Moves (Penn, 1975): Prince Charles Cinema, 2.30pm

This 35mm presentation (also screening on November 19th) is part of the Neo-Noir November season at the Prince Charles Cinema. Details here.

Chicago Reader review:
Released in 1975, near the end of Arthur Penn's most productive period (which began in 1967 with Bonnie and Clyde), this haunting psychological thriller ambitiously sets out to unpack post-Watergate burnout in American life. Gene Hackman plays an LA detective tracking a runaway teenager (Melanie Griffith in her screen debut) to the Florida Keys while evading various problems of his own involving his father and his wife. The labyrinthine mystery plot and pessimistic mood suggest Raymond Chandler and Ross MacDonald, and like them screenwriter Alan Sharp has more than conventional mystery mechanics on his mind. One of Penn's best features; his direction of actors is sensitive and purposeful throughout. With Jennifer Warren, Susan Clark, Edward Binns, Harris Yulin, Kenneth Mars and James Woods.
Jonathan Rosenabum

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 329: Sun Nov 26

Vertigo (Hitchcock, 1958): Picturehouse Central, 2pm

This is part of the Picturehouse Cinemas Sight and Sound Top 10 season. Details here.

Here is all you need to know about Vertigo 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 is the trailer

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 328: Sat Nov 25

Gone To Earth (Powell & Pressburger, 1950): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 5.50pm

This 35mm presentation, part of the Powell & Pressburger season, also screens on October 28th and November 22nd. Full details here.

Time Out review:
A film much maligned in its time, not least by producer David O Selznick, who issued an American version retitled The Wild Heart, incorporating additional footage directed by Rouben Mamoulian and running only 82 minutes. Mary Webb's 1917 novel was the archetypal bodice-ripper - wicked squire, pious yokels, adultery and redemption - out of which Powell and Pressburger made a visually spellbinding romance. Christopher Challis' photography evokes Shropshire and the Welsh borders so that you can smell the earth. Menace, the bloodlust of the chase (of the fox or the outcast sinner), is omnipresent as trees bend and wild creatures panic before an unseen primal force. Cruelty besides beauty sweeps these pastoral vistas. Forget Jennifer Jones' rustic English (Kentucky? Australian?) and the melodramatic clichés (boots trampling posies): the haunting, dreamlike consistency recalls that other fairy story of innocence and menace, The Night of the Hunter.
Martin Hoyle

Here (and above) is an extract.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 327: Fri Nov 24

Perceval le Gallois (Rohmer, 1978): Cinema Museum, 7pm

This presentation, as part of the Painted Skies season, includes an introduction by season curator Bruno Savill De Jong and a panel discussion afterwards with medievalist scholar Sarah Salih, Immersive Art specialist Ed Cookson and LARP expert Vicky Hawley.

Unique amongst auteur Éric Rohmer’s output, Perceval le Gallois (1978) places its Arthurian legend between Medieval illustrations and classic studio-bound Westerns. As naïve Perceval (Fabrice Luchini) seeks to become a knight, he roams around a hermetically-sealed set with painted castles and minimalist trees. Rohmer’s adaptation of Chrétien de Troyes’s 12th Century poem makes no attempts at ‘realism’, instead rendering the Medieval world as it saw itself, including third-person narration and a singing chorus. A rare but celebrated treat, Perceval is a fascinating film that finds beauty in its literal and figurative simplicity, with Andréa Picard calling it “Éric Rohmer’s masterpiece maudit, undoubtedly one of the most original, daring and meticulous devised films in all of cinema.”

Painted Skies is a film season celebrating fake backgrounds, spotlighting films with innovative set design that reminds us of their artificiality. This season was curated by Bruno Savill De Jong as part of the National Film and Television School (NFTS). Find more info at their website for Painted Skies and follow them on Instagram (@paintedsky_films) and Twitter (@paintedskyfilm).

Chicago Reader review:
Eric Rohmer’s least typical and least popular film also happens to be his best: a wonderful version of Chretien de Troyes’ 12th-century epic poem, set to music, about the adventures of an innocent knight. Deliberately artificial in style and setting—the perspectives are as flat as in medieval tapestries, the colors bright and vivid, the musical deliveries strange and often comic—the film is as faithful to its source as it can be, given the limited material available about the period. Rohmer’s fidelity to the text compels him to include narrative descriptions as well as dialogue in the sung passages. Absolutely unique—a must for medievalists, as well as filmgoers looking for something different. This film also features the acting debut of the late and very talented Pascal Ogier.
Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 326: Thu Nov 23

Carol (Haynes, 2015): Prince Charles Cinema, 8.30pm

This 35mm presentation is part of the Little White Lies at 100 season. Details here.

Little White Lies introduction:
It remains a travesty that Todd Haynes’ 2014 melodrama Carol was snubbed by awards committees across the board, but that didn’t stop us celebrating it on the cover of our 62nd issue, with an amazing cover illustration of Rooney Mara by illustrator Timba Smits. In this masterful, heart-crushing work, Mara and Cate Blanchett play a pair of romantically idle women in '50s New York who meet cute in a department store and begin an intense affair. A gorgeous evocation of classic-era cinema, and the perfect pre-Christmas treat. With an intro by LWLies editor-at-large, Adam Woodward.

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 325: Wed Nov 22

From Russia With Love (Young, 1963): ICA Cinema, 8.40pm

This is the first night in the exciting 'Last Movies' season at the ICA Cinema. Full details of all the screenings in the five-month long repertoire can be found here. Subsequent evenings include tributes to John Dillinger, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Kurt Cobain and the Heaven’s Gate religious group, with live guests including Chris Petit, Elena Gorfinkel and CM von Hausswolff.

Last Movies remaps the first century of cinema according to what a selection of its key cultural icons saw just before dying. Conceived and created by Stanley Schtinter to enable an audience ‘to see what those who see no longer saw last,’ the ICA hosts a five-month programme to coincide with the publication of his book of the same title, described by Alan Moore as ‘Profound and riveting . . . a remarkable achievement,’ and by Laura Mulvey as ‘deeply thought-provoking.’

According to Erika Balsom, Last Movies ‘abandons all those calcified criteria most frequently used to organise cinema programmes ... period, nation, genre, director, star, theme: nothing internal to these films motivates their inclusion, their ‘quality’ least of all ... Last Movies embraces chance.’

Balsom will be in conversation with Schtinter to launch the programme and publication tonight, the 60th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s death. Kennedy tethered his image to that of James Bond’s; United Artists produced From Russia with Love due to the President’s affection for the book. This film will screen alongside a fifteen-minute fragment of War is Hell, the ‘lost’ movie that the President’s assassin Lee Harvey Oswald was in the cinema watching at the time of his arrest.

The press reviews of the Bond films don't capture the excitement of them and I recommend the Blogalongabond series by Neil Alcock (aka @theincrediblesuit on Twitter). Here is his take on From Russia With Love.

Chicago Reader review:
For my money, From Russia With Love is still the best Bond, with a screwball plotline that keeps the locales changing and the surprises coming—even when reason dictates that the picture should be over. Lotte Lenya and Robert Shaw make a creepy pair, and Daniela Bianchi embodies the essence of centerfold sex, circa 1964.

Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is the trailer.


Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 324: Tue Nov 21

Twilight (Feher, 1990): BFI Southbank, NFT3, 6.20pm

This is the latest film in the excellent new 'Restored' strand at BFI Southbank and will be introduced by Jason Wood, BFI Executive Director of Public Programmes and Audiences.

BFI introduction:
Recently unearthed by connoisseur label Second Run and presented in a 4K restoration supervised by cinematographer Miklós Gurbán, Twilight may be the most transcendent cinematic discovery of the year. Based on a novel by Swiss author Friedrich Dürrenmatt, it’s a harrowing psychological drama in which a veteran detective allows his hunt for a child murderer to become an obsession. Incredibly haunting and atmospheric (and that’s just the hypnotic sound design), it’s directed with taut precision by György Fehér, a long-time associate of Béla Tarr.

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 323: Mon Nov 20

Touch of Evil (Welles, 1958): Prince Charles Cinema, 6pm

This presentation is part of the Neo-November noir season at the Prince Charles and also screens on Novemeber 20th. Full details here.

Chicago Reader review:
After seeing the work print of his last Hollywood feature, Orson Welles wrote a lengthy memo requesting several changes in editing and sound—work that was carried out in 1998 by producer Rick Schmidlin and editor Walter Murch with myself as consultant. About the original 95-minute 1958 release (superseded since the mid-70s by a 108-minute preview version), Dave Kehr wrote, "Eternal damnation to the wretch at Universal who printed the opening titles over the most brilliant establishing shot in film history—a shot that establishes not only place and main characters in its continuous movement over several city blocks, but also the film's theme (crossing boundaries), spatial metaphors, and peculiar bolero rhythm." These titles now appear at the film's end—yielding a final running time of 111 minutes—and in the opening shot Henry Mancini's music comes exclusively from speakers in front of the nightclubs and from a car radio. Other changes involve different sound and editing patterns and a few deletions, all of which add up to a narrative that's easier to follow, but there's no new or restored footage. To quote Kehr again, "Welles stars as the sheriff of a corrupt border town who finds his nemesis in visiting Mexican narcotics agent Charlton Heston; the witnesses to this weirdly gargantuan struggle include Janet Leigh, Marlene Dietrich, Akim Tamiroff, and Joseph Calleia, who holds the film's moral center with sublime uncertainty."
Jonathan Rosenbaum

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

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 322: Sun Nov 19

Dick Tracy (Beatty, 1990): Cinema Museum, 7.30pm

Cinema Museum introduction for this 35mm screening:

Introduction by critic Kambole Campbell

Virtual Q&A afterwards with matte painter David Mattingly

Leaping out of Chester Gould’s 1930s cartoon strips, Dick Tracy (1990) is a comic book adaptation unlike any other. Ace policeman Dick Tracy (Warren Beatty) takes on mob boss Big Boy Caprice (Al Pacino) while resisting femme fatale Breathless Mahoney (Madonna). Warren Beatty’s bizarre passion project boasts extraordinary matte paintings and prosthetics to create an incredible pop-art world on film captured by Vittorio Storara’s cinematography. This stylishly unique Hollywood flick is a stunning, primary coloured spectacle with a surprisingly sincere love story within this righteously corny pulp-noir.

Painted Skies is a film season celebrating fake backgrounds, spotlighting films with innovative set design that reminds us of their artificiality. This season was curated by Bruno Savill De Jong as part of the National Film and Television School (NFTS). Find more info at their website for Painted Skies and follow them on Instagram (@paintedsky_films) and Twitter (@paintedskyfilm).

Time Out review:
Set in the '30s, Warren Beatty's film culls its villains - a gallery of grotesques with names like Pruneface, Flattop and The Brow - from the later '40s strips. As Tracy (Beatty) sets about foiling the plans of Big Boy and The Blank to take over the city, Breathless Mahoney (Madonna) introduces emotional conflict for the careerist detective, whose long-standing relationship with Tess Trueheart (Glenne Headly) is going nowhere fast. Beatty has rejected 'psychology and behaviour' (read complexity) in characterisation; this is old-fashioned, clearly defined morality, with literally no shades of grey (the use of colour is wonderfully imaginative and carefully modulated). Pleasing restraint is evident in the way Beatty allows his character to be outshone by his adversaries. As mobster Big Boy, a brash thug fond of misquoting Lincoln, Nietzsche and Plato, Al Pacino is virtually unrecognisable and hugely enjoyable; and Madonna gives confident renditions of the Stephen Sondheim numbers. A spectacular movie whose technical achievements - notably the sharp editing - will surely provide a gauge by which subsequent comic strip films are judged.
Colette Maude

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 321: Sat Nov 18

The 400 Blows (Truffaut, 1959): Prince Charles Cinema, 3.35pm

This is a 35mm screening and is also being shown on December 12th.

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

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 320: Fri Nov 17

Tenebrae (Argento, 1982): Rio Cinema, 11.30pm

Movies Are Dead have chosen another great late-night movie with this Dario Argento classic.

Screen Slate review:
Anthony Franciosa plays Peter Neal, an American mystery writer who travels to Rome in promotion of his latest novel, but must confront the influence his lurid fiction has when a black-gloved murderer begins mutilating people. Genre film actor John Saxon (Enter the Dragon, Black Christmas) and frequent Dario Argento collaborator (and former spouse) Daria Nicolodi (Deep Red, Phenomena, Opera) also star as Neal's agent and assistant who become embroiled in the investigation — Nicolodi in particular gives an impressive performance (with an even more impressive scream) that elevates an admittedly thin role. Tenebrae is often regarded as a giallo comeback for the filmmaker, a return to the subgenre he helped define, following his foray into supernatural horror with Suspiria (1977) and Inferno (1980). However, it is also a self-reflexive examination of his own career, and the accusations of misogyny often directed at him. Argento was never one to conceal his more perverse preoccupations; if there is an opportunity to capture the strangling of a beautiful woman on screen, he will not only take it but provide the grip of his own hand in front of the camera. At the same time, the technical focus in Tenebrae — from rather majestic (and now-infamous) crane shots to the general construction of the plot itself (essentially a way to move from one intricate and gorgeous murder set-piece to another) feels like an acknowledgment of responsibility: like pulling back the curtain on the machinations in place that not only punish women, but turn such punishment into spectacle. Tenebrae is essential Argento: perhaps the auteur's clearest articulation of his own psychological and stylistic obsessions, but with a more critical eye. We long to see men who dehumanize and kill women eventually fall on the sword themselves. In Argento's world those glimmers of hope are there if you look: the impalement will just most likely involve a stiletto.
Stephanie Monahan

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 319: Thu Nov 16

Dune (Lynch, 1984): Genesis Cinema, 6pm

Chicago Reader review:
If this 1984 film really cost $60 million, producer Dino De Laurentiis must be the greatest patron of avant-garde cinema since the Vicomte de Noailles financed Buñuel's L'Age d'Or. Director David Lynch thoroughly (and perhaps inadvertently) subverts the adolescent inanities of Frank Herbert's plot by letting the narrative strangle itself in unnecessary complications, leaving the field clear to imagery as disturbing as anything in Eraserhead. The problem is that the imagery—as Sadean as Pasolini's Salo—isn't rooted in any story impulse, and so its power dissipates quickly. The real venue for this film is either a grind house or the Whitney Museum; its passage through the shopping malls of America was a once-in-a-lifetime anomaly. Kyle MacLachlan is the pallid hero who becomes a messiah to an oppressed desert tribe.
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 318: Wed Nov 15

Paths of Glory (Kubrick, 1957): Castle Cinema, 7.30pm

This is a 16mm presentation from the fabulous Cine-Real team. Enjoyment guaranteed.

Chicago Reader review:
The 1957 film that established Stanley Kubrick's reputation, adapted by Kubrick, Calder Willingham, and Jim Thompson from Humphrey Cobb's novel about French soldiers being tried for cowardice during World War I. Corrosively antiwar in its treatment of the corruption and incompetence of military commanders, it's far from pacifist in spirit, and Kirk Douglas's strong and angry performance as the officer defending the unjustly charged soldiers perfectly contains this contradiction. The remaining cast is equally resourceful and interesting: Adolphe Menjou, George Macready, Wayne Morris, Ralph Meeker, and the creepy Timothy Carey, giving perhaps his best performance. Banned in France for 18 years, this masterpiece still packs a wallop, though nothing in it is as simple as it may first appear; audiences are still arguing about the final sequence, which has been characterized as everything from a sentimental cop-out to the ultimate cynical twist.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 317: Tue Nov 14

Ungentle (Igwe, and Lemmey, 2022): ICA Cinema, 8.30pm

This film, starring Ben Whishaw, is part of the season curated by artist Gray Wielebinski who has an exhibition currently at the ICA. You can find details of all the movies here.

ICA introduction: 'Created by writer Huw Lemmey and artist Onyeka Igwe, Ungentle (2020) investigates the historical convergence of British espionage and homosexuality, probing themes of secrecy, privacy, deception, and underground knowledge. One of the film’s central locations is St. James’ Park, which lies opposite the ICA and has historically served as both a cruising ground and site of British military and imperial spectacle.' Gray Wielebinski

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 316: Mon Nov 13

 Journey to Italy (Rossellini, 1954): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 8.40pm

This great Roberto Rossellini film is part of the 'Joanna Hogg: Influences' season at BFI Southbank. Full details here.

BFI introduction: This influential and devastating study of a marriage on the rocks centres on Bergman and Sanders’ English couple holidaying in Italy. To mark the publication of Jeremy Cooper’s recent novel Brian, this event will bring together Cooper in conversation with filmmaker Ben Rivers as they introduce Rossellini’s masterpiece, and discuss the novel and cinephilia more broadly.

Chicago Reader review:
'Roberto Rossellini's finest fiction film and unmistakably one of the great achievements of the art. Ingrid Bergman and George Sanders play a long-married British couple grown restless and uncommunicative. On a trip to Italy to dispose of a piece of property, they find their boredom thrown into relief by the Mediterranean landscape—its vitality (Naples) and its desolation (Pompeii). But suddenly, in one of the moments that only Rossellini can film, something lights inside them, and their love is renewed as a bond of the spirit. A crucial work, truthful and mysterious.'

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 315: Sun Nov 12

The Red Shoes (Powell & Pressburger, 1948): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 3.30pm

This 35mm screening is part of the Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger season at BFI Southbank.

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 314: Sat Nov 11

A Clockwork Orange (Kubrick, 1971): David Lean Cinema, 2pm

This is a rare 35mm presentation.

Time Out review:
Swap Beethoven for heroin, and Stanley Kubrick’s scandalous 1971 Moog-mare based on Anthony Burgess’s novel might work as a forerunner to ‘Trainspotting’. It presents the wayward travails of Little Alex (Malcolm McDowell) a tearaway who likes nothing more than a bit of the old ultra violence. But after a bungled break-in where he is abandoned by his band of cock-nosed droogs, he is packed off to a hospital to be ‘cured’. The style of filmmaking is at once clinically precise and imaginatively loose. This is down to the multitude of tricks that Kubrick hoists in (slo-mo, fast-forward, cartoon inserts, back projection) to encapsulate the total autonomy these characters have and why they see their behaviour as thrilling. The violence is plentiful and invites a mixture of revulsion and amusement, not least because it is usually overlaid by Walter Carlos’s mad reinterpretations of classical standards. Does it stand up psychologically? Probably not. But as an example of a work in which the filmmaking style matches the tone of the material, it’s peerless.
David Jenkins

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 313: Fri Nov 10

Tomorrow I’ll Wake Up and Scald Myself with Tea (Polak, 1977): BFI Southbank, NFT3, 8.40pm

This film also screens on November 25th and is part of the Time Travel season at BFI Southbank.

BFI introduction: Karel Bures works for Universum, a time travel agency. When Karel chokes to death one morning on a bread roll, his twin brother Jan takes his place at work hoping to travel back in time and save his brother. Instead, he finds himself in an insane plot to give Adolf Hitler an A-Bomb and to alter the outcome of the Second World War. An absurd convoluted, constantly surprising cult gem.

+ La Jétee
France 1962. Director Chris Marker. 28min. EST
Chris Marker’s award-winning and hugely influential exploration of time and memory.

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 312: Thu Nov 9

Bound (The Wachowskis, 1996): Prince Charles Cinema, 8.30pm

This is the first film in the 'Undone: Women of the Erotic Thriller' season at the Prince Charles Cinema (full details here). The curation was by Abby Spira and the movies are presented in partnership with the National Film & Television School.

Season introduction: Sex and danger. The linkage has always existed in Hollywood, but it wasn’t until the late 80s and 90s that the association was made so explicit with the boom of the erotic thriller. Often demeaned as schlocky and exploitative, the genre highlighted societal fears and anxieties about women and their sexuality. Unsurprisingly, most films were directed by men, but across the decade, some select women could get their version of the genre onto the big screen. This season celebrates that. Over the course of four films, we will look at the women behind and in front of the camera who used this genre to explore both the fears of erotic desires of women. Let’s bring the Prince Charles back to its roots and make it sexy again.

Chicago Reader review:
The Wachowskis, who scripted Assassins, wrote and directed this adroit and sexy 1996 crime thriller about the hot romance between a gangster’s moll (Jennifer Tilly) and the ex-con who’s her neighbor (Gina Gershon). Eventually they concoct an elaborate scam to rip off the gangster (Joe Pantoliano)—a money launderer for the mob who temporarily has a couple million dollars. (The laundering here involves literally washing blood off bills.) This gets very suspenseful (as well as fairly gruesome) in spots, and if it never adds up to anything profound, it’s still a welcome change to have a lesbian couple as the chief identification figures.
Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 311: Wed Nov 8

Black Narcissus (Powell/Pressburger, 1947): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 6.15pm

This is a 35mm (nitrate) screening, introduced by Thelma Schoonmaker and part of the Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger season at BFI Southbank. For other presentations see this link.

Chicago Reader:
A story of damaged faith and rising sexual hysteria (1946) set among a group of nuns in India who are working to convert a sultan's palace into a convent. Films on this subject are generally solemn and naive, but director Michael Powell and writer Emeric Pressburger bring wit and intelligence to it—the title, for example, refers not to some campy romantic theme but to a cheap men's cologne worn by the local princeling. The film's lush, mountainous India, full of sensual challenges and metaphorical chasms, was created entirely in the studio, with the help of matte artist Peter Ellenshaw. Powell's equally extravagant visual style transforms it into a landscape of the mind—grand and terrible in its thorough abstraction. With Deborah Kerr, David Farrar, Jean Simmons, and Sabu.
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 310: Tue Nov 7

Blow Out (De Palma, 1981): Prince Charles Cinema, 3.30pm

This 35mm presentation also screens at the Prince Charles Cinema on November 12th and 27th. You can find all the details here.

Full review here:
Blow Out
is among Brian De Palma's very best films. It entertains a close relation with a very strong (and better respected) American film of the '70s, Francis Coppola's The Conversation (1974). Both these films are about the art and the act of sound recording; both are about the uncovering of conspiracies. Through The Conversation, De Palma reaches back to Michelangelo Antonioni's famous (and somewhat overrated) Blow Up (1966), where it was still photography that inadvertently uncovered a mystery. All three films trace a sad arc of failure: the conspirators rise up and crush the would-be everyday investigators, with their cameras and sound recording machines. All are about the treachery of appearances, and the ease with which technological evidence can be tampered with (photos can be falsified, audiotapes can be erased), something which usually happens mysteriously, off-screen, in the dead of night. Finally, all three films, from the '60s to the '80s mark a certain kind of moral, or rather amoral mood. Their heroes, whether played by David Hemmings (Blow Up), Gene Hackman (The Conversation) or John Travolta (Blow Out), tend to have pretty soft, flabby, moral senses to begin with – they're cool, indifferent, cruising, sometimes repressing very effectively some past crisis or trauma. And although fate spurs all three into some daring action, they eventually take the blows of the world as some kind of sad, tragic or just matter-of-fact confirmation that no ordinary person can effect or change anything in this dirty world – so you may as well sink back into sloth, and keep drifting off to the big sleep. Adrian Martin

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 309: Mon Nov 6

49th Parallel (Powell, 1941): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 8.30pm

This 35mm presentation, also screening on October 22nd, is part of the Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger season at BFI Southbank.

Chicago Reader review:
Retitled The Invaders and cut by 16 minutes for American release, this 1941 film is a typically perverse and entertaining propaganda piece by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. The plot—a German U-boat lands in Canada, and the crew must make it across the U.S. border before they’re captured—forces the audience to identify with the enemy, and the forces of freedom are represented by a series of oddballs and misfits—including Laurence Olivier in an out-there performance as a French-Canadian fur trapper and Leslie Howard as a poetry-reading recluse who lays down his volume of Shelley to take on the intruders single-handedly. Somehow, all this deliberate inversion and eccentricity ends up being more stirring than most straight propaganda films—and certainly a lot more imaginative and suspenseful.
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 308: Sun Nov 5

Prince of the City (Lumet, 1981): ICA Cinema, 5pm

This is a 35mm presentation from the Badlands Collective.

Time Out review:
Dealing with drugs, cops and corruption, this is Serpico all over again, but revised, enlarged and immeasurably improved. All moral certainties have gone, leaving instead a can of worms where questions of friendship, loyalty and honesty are redefined in the ambiguous light of corruption as a NY police officer (Treat Williams), inspired by an indefinable mixture of reformist zeal, guilty self-loathing, and sheer delight in the opportunity for headline exploits, turns informer on behalf of the DA's commission of enquiry. An astonishing in-depth portrait of the interlocking worlds of police and hoodlum results, with no punches pulled and no easy solutions. Sidney Lumet isn't noted as the most cinematic of directors; but here the intricate mosaic structure he developed in Dog Day Afternoon generates a dynamism entirely its own, with the invisible mise en scène guaranteed by the galvanising interplay of New York locations and a brilliant ensemble cast.
Tom Milne

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 307: Sat Nov 4

 Goodbye, Dragon Inn (Ming-liang, 2003): Garden Cinema, 6pm

Barbican introduction (for a previous screening):
Susan Sontag wrote that movie-going is an essential part of the experience we want from film – the experience of surrendering to and being transported by what’s on the screen. It’s not just a question of the size of the screen; to be properly “kidnapped” in this way by a movie, she writes, “you have to be in a movie theatre, seated in the dark among anonymous strangers.” It’s never the same at home. Now that there are so many other ways of watching films, the centrality of movie-going to the movie experience is sadly much diminished. This beautiful, mournful 2003 film, a kind of Taiwanese Last Picture Show, is an affectionate tribute to the film medium, cinemas and the pleasures of cinema-going.

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

Jonathan Rosenbaum 

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 306: Fri Nov 3

White of the Eye (Cammell, 1987): Prince Charles Cinema, 6.15pm

This is a 35mm presentation.

Time Out review:
Donald Cammell transforms a stalk'n'slash thriller into a complex, cubist kaleidoscope of themes and images. Paul and Joan White (David Keith and Cathy Moriarty) lead a happy enough life in a quiet Arizona mining town, until Paul suddenly finds himself chief suspect in a police investigation of a series of violently misogynistic murders. Matters are complicated by the reappearance of Joan's gun-crazy ex-husband (Alan Rosenberg). A determinedly offbeat murder mystery, delving into dotty Indian mysticism and throwing up symbols, red herrings, and Steadicam flourishes for the asking, this nevertheless remains oddly effective. Imbued with a brooding, oppressive atmosphere and coloured by vivid performances, though often murkily motivated, it is genuinely nightmarish in its portrait of relationships where love is blinding and the past casts an intolerably heavy spell.

Geoff Andrew

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 305: Thu Nov 2

The Queen's Guards (Powell, 1961): BFI Southbank, NFT3, 6.20pm

This 35mm presentation, introduced by BFI National Archive Curator Jo Botting, is part of the Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger season at BFI Southbank. BFI update: We are pleased to announce that this screening will be introduced by actor Jess Conrad.

Rather than reproduce a review here's an extract from the Brad Stevens column 'Bradlands' in the October 2012 issue of Sight and Sound. Stevens explains why: 'An especially memorable event scheduled by The Art House Cinema Meetup, involved a rare screening of Michael Powell’s The Queen’s Guards (1961) at BFI Southbank earlier this year. Although the film’s reputation could hardly have been worse – Ian Christie, who introduced the screening, virtually apologised for it – everyone I spoke to afterwards seemed pleasantly surprised. Several members of the group who attended our post-screening discussion were familiar with Peeping Tom, and noted how the protagonists of both films were attempting to simultaneously imitate and rebel against their obsessively traditional fathers, the central character of The Queen’s Guards being depicted as a helpless puppet (via the toy soldier possessed by his girlfriend) and a fly caught in a spider’s web (his crippled father moves around the family home by swinging from steel bars attached to the ceiling). One of our members, Yusef Sayed, continued this discussion in an email he sent me, observing that “the emphasis on the Captain’s trolley rail system cast an eerie comment on a person’s actions being determined by external barriers and guidelines. As you said, the ascent of the stairs was striking and almost spider-like. The central character, too, was obviously troubled by the feeling that he needed to fulfil a role and stick to a tradition, stay within set codes of conduct – leading to the uncertain feelings about following in his brother’s footsteps… This, of course, leads to the idea of being governed by tradition, expectations, identified only by your role in society, whether a soldier or a gentleman…”

I had noticed Kim Newman heading into the screening, and subsequently posted a message on his Facebook wall, noting that The Queen’s Guards had “reminded me of John Ford’s The Long Gray Line (1954), another CinemaScope film in which the director’s admiration for military institutions struggles with an awareness of the neuroticism of those institutions”; to which Kim responded, “I thought of the same Ford film, but also saw odd connections with that 80s cycle about being in not-really-needed services (Top Gun, An Officer and a Gentleman, Heartbreak Ridge)… The nicest touch was the hero not taking his girlfriend’s job as a fashion model seriously since all she does is dress up in silly clothes and pose, when it turns out that the highlight of his military career is exactly like that.” These discussions were clearly far more carefully considered than the ‘official’ discourses on Powell’s film, demonstrating how cinephilia has been enriched by technologies all too frequently imbricated with superficiality.'

Here (and above) is the opening scene.