Friday, 31 October 2014

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 325: Sun Nov 23

Donkey Skin (Demy, 1970): Cine Lumiere, 2pm

This film is part of the Cine Lumiere French Classics season. Full details here.

Time Out review:
Even on paper this couldn't have seemed such a terrific idea, and Demy's attempt to fuse Cocteau with Disney via one of Perrault's less endearing conceits (a gold-shitting donkey) contrives to be both garish and coyly tasteful. Deneuve sings four Michel Legrand ballads whose resemblance to each other is matched by their resemblance to the composer's earlier work, while a soppy Perrin emerges as more Prince Charles than Prince Charming. To its credit are Delphine Seyrig as a chic, malicious Fairy Godmother, and Marais as the genuinely Cocteau-esque King.
Geoff Andrew

Here (and above) is an extract.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 324: Sat Nov 22

House of Whipcord (Walker, 1974): Barbican Cinema, 4pm

This film, introduced by Jonathan Rigby and the director, is part of a season at the Barbican Cinema dedicated to the cult director Pete Walker. Full details here.

Here is the Barbican introduction:
Coaxed to an ominous country house, model Anne-Marie (Penny Irving) finds herself trapped in a makeshift girls’ prison ruled by a retired judge, the blind Justice Bailey. As his sadistic wife (Sheila Keith) subjects the inmates to cruel and unusual punishments, Walker's sleazy masterpiece becomes a powerful condemnation of the justice system.

Time Out review:
An above average sexploitation/horror that has been put together with some polish and care from a fairly original script. The film is dedicated ironically to all those who wish to see the return of capital punishment in Britain, and it's about a senile old judge and his wife who are so appalled by current permissiveness that they set up a gruesome house of correction for young girls.
Dave Pirie

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 323: Fri Nov 21

Begotten (Merhige, 1990): Horse Hospital, 8pm

Here's a chance to catch a rare screening of a landmark American experimental horror film written, produced and directed by E. Elias Merhige.

Here is the Horse Hospital introduction: God disembowels himself with a straight razor. The spirit-like Mother Earth emerges, venturing into a bleak, barren landscape. Twitching and cowering, the Son Of Earth is set upon by faceless cannibals as a new Aeon is born.

A film cultist’s delight, the breathtakingly stark Begotten presents birth, life and death as an endless procession of the damned, crawling through filth to a new aeon, accompanied by a soundtrack of cricket stridulations. Painstakingly shot and processed on black and white reversal film, director Merhige claims that each minute of film took ten hours to process and distress. Banned in Singapore and long unavailable on DVD, Begotten has been described by Susan Sontag as “one of the 10 most important films of modern times”.

Tonight’s screening will be accompanied by The Begotten’s live, improvised soundtrack for guitar and electronics.
"Few motion pictures have the power to jolt an audience with the fury, imagination, and artistic violence of Begotten, a 1991 tour de force from Elias Merhige currently debuting on home video. This cryptic independent production is a film of eccentric brilliance, skillfully balancing the glorious and the grotesque in an unforgettable work of art."
—Phil Hall, Wired

Here (and above) is an extract.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 322: Thu Nov 20

Whiplash (Chazelle, 2014): Barbican Cinema, 8.40pm

Here's a chance to see a film that created a buzz at both the Sundance and London Film Festivals. It is screening here as part of the London Jazz festival season of films. You can find the full details here.

Time Out review:
You already know J.K. Simmons’s ferocious jazz teacher in the electrifying Whiplash if you’ve seen Full Metal Jacket, Battle Royale or Grizzly Man (he’d be the grizzly). Clad fully in black, biceps bulging, Simmons’s Fletcher exudes downtown attitude. He rules the top department of an elite NYC music program with a clenched fist, instantly squeezing off the wayward bleat of a saxophone. Part of the joy of watching dramas like this must be a masochistic thrill in seeing young punks suffer: Drumming hopeful Andrew (The Spectacular Now’s Miles Teller, fully convincing behind the kit) is nearly destroyed by this monster, a barking man who’s impossible to please. Yet even though our wunderkind’s knuckles bleed and his snare gets spattered, you think: That’s some truly glorious noise he’s making. The discipline and beauty of bebop has never been better served by a film.

Whiplash might have followed this trajectory to a feel-good destination, one involving a recital, some proud parents and a teary hug. But that’s not where writer-director Damien Chazelle wants to go—bless him for it. Fletcher’s put-downs become more vicious (and riotously un-PC); the drive to perfection turns Andrew into a bitter, uncaring boyfriend; and the plot’s tone nears that of a thriller, sometimes awkwardly. Credibility is burned upping the stakes: Will a violent car crash prevent Andrew from staggering to the gig in a concussed delirium? Don’t wonder. Disappointing Fletcher is too terrifying a prospect. But there’s also unusual, spiky attention paid to the pursuit of excellence, as Andrew begins to resent the mediocre aspirations of his family. By film’s end, he’s an arrogant, cymbal-smashing machine.

How breathtaking it is to see a story go there. The identity this teen chases is a lonely one, but it’s impeccably on beat. Real art, the movie suggests, isn’t for those who merely hope to do a “good job” and please themselves. Whiplash scrapes the far edge of crazy passion. It never apologizes. And the flurry of drumming it concludes with—Teller’s solo is staggering—is both a magical cacophony and, obliquely, a door slamming shut. I don’t know if I’d show this film to a curious young person, not if I ever wanted to see them again. They’d be in their room practicing, forever.
Joshua Rothkopf

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 321: Wed Nov 19

Once Upon A Time In Anatolia (Ceylan, 2011): BFI Southbank, 8pm

This film, part of the Nuri Bilge Ceylan season at BFI Southbank, also screens on 19 and 20 November. Details here.

The movie was given a five-star review by Time Out magazine:
'Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceyan is unlikely to attract heaving crowds to his sixth film, ‘Once Upon A Time in Anatolia’, but since when was the 51-year-old director of ‘Uzak’, ‘Climates’ and ‘Three Monkeys’ in it for the multiplex? Ceylan is a sly and daring screen artist of the highest order and should draw wild praise with this new film for challenging both himself and us, the audience, with this lengthy, rigorous and masterly portrait of a night and day in the life of a murder investigation on his country’s Anatolian steppes. It’s a mysterious and demanding work, and it marks a distinct progression in Ceylan’s career as he continues to gnaw at the boundaries of film storytelling with humour, grace, empathy and a dry, wry view of everyday life.'
Dave Calhoun

Here is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 320: Tue Nov 18

Stray Dogs (Ming-liang, 2013): Westfield Vue Cinema, 7.30pm

Here is the A Nos Amours Film Club preview of tonight's special screening which will feature an introduction by Jonathan Romney:
Read Romney's Film Comment review
here - he has some reservations, but says the film is mesmerising. It is after all the mature work of a great film maker.

A father and his two children wander the margins of modern day Taipei, from the woods and rivers of the outskirts to the rain streaked streets of the city. By day the father scrapes out a meager income as a human billboard for luxury apartments, while his young son and daughter roam the supermarkets and malls surviving off free food samples. Each night the family takes shelter in an abandoned building. The father is strangely affected by a hypnotic mural adorning the wall of this makeshift home. On the day of the father's birthday the family is joined by a woman - might she be the key to unlocking the buried emotions that linger from the past?

Time Out review:
Taiwan’s Tsai Ming-liang, whose last feature was 2009’s underrated French fantasia Face, returns to familiar territory, or so it initially seems. For a good hour or more, the rigorous and demanding Stray Dogs plays like a greatest-hits package. (Newbies shouldn’t start here.) The writer-director’s usual star, Lee Kang-sheng, is a homeless Taipei man who by day holds up advertising placards along a busy city roadway and by night squats in an abandoned building with his two children. It’s a tough and tedious life punctuated by doses of the surreal comedy that fans have come to expect from the filmmaker. In one lengthy scene, Lee devours a head of cabbage that his daughter uses as a doll—an encounter that plays both like a sex-film parody and a tragedy-tinged howl from the void.
Such sequences are mesmerizing in their way, but Tsai’s done this sort of thing with greater potency in movies like 2005’s porn-world musical The Wayward Cloud (there, a watermelon was the object of affection). Stray Dogs really starts to come alive in its second half, when the action switches to a decrepit apartment out of a J-horror film and the family-of-outcasts narrative tips completely into the slippery realm of the avant-garde. It’s at this point that you understand Tsai’s disorienting choice to have the lead female character (a grocery-store manager who takes a motherly interest in Lee’s kids) played by three different performers. Everything that came before is reoriented through a newly nightmarish prism, and the lengthy final two shots (each running more than ten minutes) rank among the best work this inimitable artist has ever done.
Keith Uhlich
Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 319: Mon Nov 17

Summer with Monika (Bergman, 1953): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 6.10pm

This movie, part of the Passport to Cinema season at BFI Southbank, also screens on 22 November. Full details here.

You can read Dave Kehr's full New York Times review of the film here. This is an extract:
The film “Summer With Monika,” released in 1953, isn’t among the best known or most representative works of Ingmar Bergman, but it may be his most influential.No doubt, its international success was due in large part to the film’s bold eroticism. The young lovers escape the city, and the looming prospect of adult responsibilities, by borrowing a motorboat and heading off to the archipelago that lies east, off the Baltic coast, where they spend an idyllic summer drifting among the islands, living off the land and making love in the open air. In France, where casual nudity in films was no particular novelty, “Monika” passed almost unnoticed on its first release, but when Henri Langlois included it in a 1958 Bergman retrospective at the Cinémathèque Française, several of the young filmmakers who would soon make up the New Wave found in it a model for the kind of intimate, personal, present-tense cinema they were aspiring to create. “The most original film by the most original of filmmakers,” wrote Jean-Luc Godard, “it is to the cinema of today what ‘Birth of a Nation’ was to the classical cinema.” 

Here (and above) is an extract from the film.