Friday, 27 February 2015

Capital Celluloid 2015 - Day 73: Sat Mar 14

Far From the Madding Crowd (Schlesinger, 1967): Barbican Cinema

This film's re-release got its premiere at last year's London Film Festival.

BFI introduction to LFF screening:
1967 saw Julie Christie and Terence Stamp immortalised by The Kinks in ‘Waterloo Sunset’ and cast as lovers in Thomas Hardy’s epic love story. Headstrong and independent, farmer Bathsheba Everdene is among the most modern of 19th-century heroines and Christie’s performance beautifully underlines her as a woman at odds with the conventions of the time. The film contains a number of stand-out set-pieces, such as Stamp’s seductive, almost Freudian display of swordsmanship. But what resonates so deeply is the way in which Schlesinger and cinematographer Nicolas Roeg frame the passions and tragedy at the film’s heart with the patterns of rural life and the harsh, sodden beauty of the Dorset landscape. Almost 50 years on, this restoration reveals the film as an immersive piece of cinema with Hardy’s cruel ironies and bleak lyricism fully intact.
Robin Baker

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Capital Celluloid 2015 - Day 72: Fri Mar 13

Go Tell It To The Judge (Barraclough, 1977): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 6.20pm

This is one of the films from the season devoted to documentary filmmaker Jenny Barraclough at BFI Southbank.

Here is the BFI introduction:
Jenny Barraclough learned her craft on two TV series that broke the mould – Granada’s tough, investigative World In Action and BBC’s ‘human interest’ series Man Alive. During the 70s she was continually drawn to those who battled for justice against those in power, and the heroic ‘little people’ caught up in world crises. It’s clear that she delighted in irreverence – whether sharing a telling, intimate moment in the life of an Indian movie star, or observing Mrs Thatcher in her kitchen. In 1989 Barraclough set up a production company with BBC producer George Carey, through which she made, among others, The Plague (RTS Best Documentary Series), Lost Civilizations (Best Series Emmy), and Frontiers (Best series ACE). Above all, Barraclough’s films are deeply humane and demonstrate two constants – support for those who fall through the cracks, and a talent for finding the humour beneath big stories.

Tonight's films are Go Tell It To The Judge: A small group of residents from a remote Pacific island travel to London to seek justice as their home is literally being mined from under them. This extraordinary inside story of the longest and most expensive case in British legal history had such impact that it actually altered the outcome of the case, and includes one of the first attempts at reconstruction within the documentary genre.

... and Iron In The Soul: Presented by Stuart Hall, this powerful film with a wonderfully rich cast of characters tells the dramatic history of the English Caribbean and the mixed legacy of the British Empire. It includes an early planter’s scandalous diary detailing his sexual exploits and brutal methods of punishment; the little-known story of the poor whites known as ‘the Redlegs’; and the famous cricketer who took the world by storm and beat his old master.

Here (and above) is an extract from Barraclough's Man Alive film on Hyde Park.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Capital Celluloid 2015 - Day 71: Thu Mar 12

A Couch in New York (Akerman, 1996): ICA Cinema, 7pm

This is part of the complete Chantal Akerman retrospective from the A Nos Amours film club.

Here is their introduction to tonight's film:
The plot of Un divan à New York can read like the outline of a 50s melodrama: a dour New York psychoanalyst Henry (William Hurt) decides to house swap his Fifth Avenue apartment for a place in Paris. He ends up in the bohemian home of a dancer named Béatrice (Juliette Binoche). She is as insouciant as he is dour, and messy as he is tidy.

But Henry’s patients love Béatrice, and she finds she really can help them. Coming home, Henry finds his world in superb shape. Even his dog is happier. Henry has the wit to lie on her couch.
Akerman’s confection has a lightness that is hard to catch if in a hurry. 

Good to watch some Lubitsch beforehand to get into the mood. Then think of Peter Bogdanovich talking about Lubitsch’s style (and imagine that he is describing Akerman: “Something light, strangely indefinable, yet nonetheless tangible… one can feel this certain spirit; not only in the tactful and impeccably appropriate placement of the camera, the subtle economy of his plotting, the oblique dialogue which had a way of saying everything through indirection, but also - and particularly - in the performance of every single player, no matter how small the role." (read the whole article here.)

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2015 - Day 70: Wed Mar 11

The Mother (Michell, 2003):
Birkbeck Cinema, 43 Gordon Sq, WC1H OPD, 2.30pm

This is a screening organised by the London Screen Study Collection, created at Birkbeck College to promote public awareness of and research into London's screen history. You can find all the details of the current season, titled In And Out of the Tube, here. 

Time Out review:
Anyone who thought the film Calendar Girls bottled it will find this an altogether meatier proposition. Scripted by the congenitally unsentimental Hanif Kureishi, The Mother gives Anne Reid the role of a lifetime as the recently widowed May, who comes down to stay with her middle class son in London and can't find the courage to leave. Even then, it's only her son's friend Darren (Daniel Craig) who sees May as a person, not an antiquated nuisance. They become friends and, secretly, lovers. Reid is wonderful, subtly revealing a difficult, longtime repressed woman coming out of her shell under the attentive curiosity of the younger man. The director, Roger Michell, treats the sex scenes just so, with frankness, humour and compassion. It's only in the wider social realm that this affair assumes the status of taboo. May's grown children busily set about fixing her up with a likely partner never imagining the object of her real heart's desire lies so close to home. Very handsomely shot, the film exists in an altogether different zone to Michell's Notting Hill - this is a London natives may actually recognise. It's a shame, though, that the melodramatic showdown at the end of the movie smacks of nothing more than bad faith.
Tom Charity

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Capital Celluloid 2015 - Day 69: Tue Mar 10

Life of Riley (Resnais, 2014): BFI Southbank, NFT 3, 6pm & NFT2, 8.40pm

Here is the BFI introduction:
At the Berlinale, weeks before he died, Alain Resnais’ final film won the nonagenarian a Silver Bear for opening new perspectives in cinema. Life of Riley screens at the BFI from 6th to 19th March.

'A faithful yet mischievous adaptation of a play by his friend Alan Ayckbourn, it charts the responses of three couples – especially the women – to the news that their friend George Riley (never seen in the film) has just months to live. Stressing the theatrical artifice of a storyline which is itself about amateur dramatics and role-playing, Resnais elicits excellent performances from his cast, who speak French while inhabiting a surreal Yorkshire of the mind comprised of stylised sets, cartoons and roadscapes. A wise, witty, admirably airy look at life, love and death by one of film’s greatest modernists.'
Geoff Andrew, Senior Film Programmer

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2015 - Day 68: Mon Mar 9

The War Game (Watkins, 1965): BFI Southbank, NFT, 6.10pm
+ Culloden (1964) & Forgotten Faces (1961)

A triple bill of early work by Peter Watkins, one of cinema’s great provocateurs, that takes in the past, near-present and future as part of the BFI's Passport to Cinema season: Forgotten Faces recreates the Hungarian revolution on the streets of Canterbury; Culloden is an as-it-happens faux documentary about the Jacobean uprising; The War Game (banned for 20 years by the BBC) is a haunting film about the aftermath of nuclear war.

A comment on The War Game by Jonathan Rosenbaum:
Watkins's The War Game (1965), probably his best-known film—a terrifying 47-minute pseudodocumentary that imagines the immediate effects of a nuclear strike on Britain—won a well-deserved Oscar for best documentary, yet it was banned from worldwide TV broadcasting for 20 years by the BBC, which rationalized its suppression by calling it an artistic failure. That only encouraged supporters to be hyperbolic. Kenneth Tynan, probably the greatest theater critic of the second half of the 20th century, saw it at a private screening and wrote in the London Observer, "I suspect that it may be the most important film ever made. We are always being told that works of art cannot change the course of history. Given wide enough dissemination, I believe that this one might....The War Game is more than a diagnosis; it is a work of art. It precisely communicates one man's vision of disaster, and I cannot think that it is diminished as art because the vision happens to correspond with the facts. Like Michelangelo's 'Last Judgment,' it proposes itself as an authentic documentary image of the wrath to come—though Michelangelo, of course, was working from data less capable of verification." Watkins's gargantuan Web site (; he's now based in Lithuania, where his Lithuanian wife works as a freelance translator and editor) quotes portions of this review and several others, positive and negative, though it fails to cite Tynan by name—just as it fails to cite the names of most of the actors in his films.

You can find Rosenbaum's full feature on Peter Watkins here

Here (and above) is an extract from Culloden.

Capital Celluloid 2015 - Day 67: Sun Mar 8

A Scandal in Bohemia (Elvey, 1921): Barbican Cinema, 4pm

Here is the Barbican introduction:
Three classic episodes from the Stoll series of short films, starring Eille Norwood as Holmes and Hubert Willis as Dr Watson: A Scandal in Bohemia (1921), The Man with the Twisted Lip (1921) and The Final Problem (1923). 

+ live musical accompaniment by Stephen Horne

Special thanks to curator Bryony Dixon (BFI National Archive)