Monday, 20 October 2014

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 316: Thu Nov 13

Three films by Chantal Akerman: ICA Cinema, 7pm


Les trois dernières sonates de Franz Schubert
1989, 49 mins
Alfred Brendel, one of the greatest of all pianists, plays and reflects on Franz Schubert’s last three piano sonatas. As he points out, Schubert can’t have known that he was soon to die, so they probably do not embody the air of resignation and finality future generations have sentimentally insisted they bear. They were however long neglected, all but forgotten, and only in more recent times have they come to be treasured and performed. The repose and wisdom of the maestro, together with the patient observation of one who is no stranger to the idea of the irrevocably lost, of the erasures of history, and of the value of fragile objects passed carefully from generation to generation, is a joy.

Trois strophes sur le nom de Sacher (above)
1989, 12 mins
The first of Chantal Akerman's screen collaborations with cellist Sonia Wieder-Atherton. Here Wieder-Atherton performs Henri Dutilleux's Strophes, composed between 1972 and 1986. These are ethereal, at times hesitant, but lyrical pieces.

Le déménagement
1992, 42 mins
It is worthy of Beckett: 'I should never, never have moved. What got into me? I was happy before. Well, almost. No, mostly I was not. Not good at all. I had to move.' The man in his new home, unable to unpack the many boxes and crates that surround him. His soliloquy is one of indecision, of regret, of a sense of predicament that is inescapable. Through this protagonist, Akerman reflects on the impossibility of making decisions, of the forlorn hope of certainty.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 315: Wed Nov 12

Seconds (Frankenheimer, 1966): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 8.50pm

This film, part of the BFI's sci-fi season, also screens on 9 November. Details here.

Time Out review:
Hemmed in by an arid marriage, paunchy middle-aged banker John Randolph grasps another chance at life when a secret organisation transforms him into hunky Rock Hudson and gives him a new start as an artist in Californian beach-front bohemia. Freedom, however, turns out to be a rather daunting prospect, and the struggle to fill the blank canvas comes to typify Hudson's unease with his new existence. Saul Bass' unsettling title sequence sets the scene for the concise articulation of fifty-something bourgeois despair, as visualised by James Wong Howe's distorting camerawork and the edgy discord of Jerry Goldsmith's excoriating score. After that, the film's uptight view of the hang-loose West Coast feels like a slightly forced argument, until Frankenheimer regroups and the jaws of the narrative shut tight on one of the most chilling endings in all American cinema. Little wonder it flopped at the time, only to be cherished by a later generation, notably film-makers Siegel and McGehee who drew extensively on its themes and visuals in their debut Suture. (This downbeat sci-fi thriller completed Frankenheimer's loose 'paranoid' trilogy - earlier instalments being The Manchurian Candidate and Seven Days in May).
Trever Johnston

Here (and above) is Saul Bass's great title sequence.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 314: Tue Nov 11

Citizen Kane (Welles, 1941): Prince Charles Cinema, 8.45pm

This movie screens as part of the Classic Film season at the Prince Charles. Details here.

Chicago Reader review:
'What can you say about the movie that taught you what movies were? The first time I saw Kane I discovered the existence of the director; the next dozen or so times taught me what he did—with lights and camera angles, cutting and composition, texture and rhythm. Kane (1941) is no longer my favorite Orson Welles film (I'd take Ambersons, Falstaff, or Touch of Evil), but it is still the best place I know of to start thinking about Welles—or for that matter about movies in general.'
Dave Kehr

Here is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 313: Mon Nov 10

Bigger Than Life (Ray, 1956): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 6.10pm

Here's another chance to see Bigger Than Life, generally regarded to be Nicholas Ray's finest work, at the NFT. I saw the film on TV recently again and was mightily impressed.

Ray was one of the most interesting directors of Hollywood's Golden Age. Famously lauded for Rebel Without A Cause, he was also responsible for some of the most remarkable movies to emerge from America in the 1950s.

Ray directed the weird western Johnny Guitar and a fascinating anti-war drama in Bitter Victory, a Richard Burton vehicle now almost entirely forgotten but which deserves its growing reputation. However, Bigger Than Life is Ray's masterpiece. A searing indictment of American middle-class values, the film was trashed on release but came to the attention of film buffs in the 1960s after being championed by Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard.

In the movie James Mason plays a quiet sububan teacher who is transformed into a murderous megalomaniac following his addiction to cortisone. If the radical story wasn't recommendation enough, Ray's use of colour and his unequalled use of Cinemascope are masterful.

The film is also on at the NFT on 15 November but tonight's screening is introduced by Philip Kemp.

Chicago Reader review:
Nicholas Ray's potent 1956 CinemaScope melodrama dealt with the ill effects of cortisone on a frustrated middle-class grammar-school teacher (James Mason) at about the same time that the first wave of “wonder” drugs hit the market. But the true subject of this deeply disturbing picture is middle-class values—about money, education, culture, religion, patriarchy, and “getting ahead.” These values are thrown into bold relief by the hero's drug dependency and resulting megalomania, which leads to shocking and tragic results for his family (Barbara Rush and Robert Simon) as well as himself. Ray's use of 'Scope framing and color to delineate the hero's dreams and dissatisfactions has rarely been as purposeful. (It's hard to think of another Hollywood picture with more to say about the sheer awfulness of “normal” American family life during the 50s.) With Walter Matthau in an early noncomic role as the hero's best friend; scripted by Cyril Hume, Richard Maibum, and an uncredited Clifford Odets.
Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 312: Sun Nov 9

Day for Night (Truffaut, 1973): Ritzy Cinema, 4pm

This is a  Guardian Film Club presentation with director Richard Ayoade and the newspaper's film critic Peter Bradshaw. Here is the Ritzy Cinema introduction to the afternoon's events:

Guardian Film Club is a chance to hear some of today’s filmmakers talk about their work and the films that have influenced them, and to revisit a classic of modern cinema. Each guest will curate a film of their choice and take part in a Q&A hosted by a member of the Guardian Film team, followed by a screening of the film.

First up: Richard Ayoade will introduce François Truffaut’s DAY FOR NIGHT. The comedian and actor, best known for his role in The IT Crowd, has directed music videos for bands including the Arctic Monkeys and Vampire Weekend. His first film, SUBMARINE, was a stylish adaptation of Joe Dunthorne’s coming-of-age novel. THE DOUBLE, released this year, is an unsettling, absurdist comedy about a meek office worker who meets his doppelgänger, and is inspired by a Dostoyevsky story.

Richard will talk to Guardian film critic Peter Bradshaw about François Truffaut’s DAY FOR NIGHT, a film about filmmaking. Truffaut himself plays the harassed director making a melodrama called Meet Pamela on location in Nice. As the production descends into chaos, it is his job to keep the drama of real life (including affairs, accidents, imbroglios, death) off the screen. A gentle, funny tribute to the movie business and the magic of cinema, the film won the 1973 Oscar for Best Foreign Film. Watch out for a cameo appearance by Graham Greene.

This October, Faber will publish Ayoade on Ayoade: A Cinematic Odyssey, in which the director reflects on his great cinematic legacy as only he can: in conversation with himself. You can buy a copy of the book at a special discount price of £12 when you purchase your ticket for this event.

Time Out review:
If we’re to learn anything from François Truffaut’s delicately cynical, New Hollywood-style satire from 1973 on the joys and pains of movie making (re-released in conjunction with the BFI’s current Truffaut season), it’s that we must view directors as social and professional chameleons. They must tap in to the emotions of their cast and exploit real suffering for the good of their camera. They must stand their ground with money men, sometimes employing visual trickery and snap decisions to preserve their integrity. Most of all, they must suppress the cosmic fury that comes when a leading lady arrives on set drunk or a trained kitten refuses to hit a mark.

It’s a hilarious and informative movie, and in the pantheon of films about filmmaking, it strikes a neat balance between the operatic neuroses of ‘8 1/2’ and the warm, pastel-hued nostalgia of ‘Singin’ in the Rain’. Also of interest – and a devious nod back to his ’60s heyday – is the manner in which Truffaut captures these behind-the-scenes shenanigans, employing gliding crane shots and flashes of abrupt editing to make us fully aware of the majestically artificial way the world is depicted by filmmakers.

Truffaut stars as indefatigable director Ferrand, shooting a fusty melodrama called ‘Meet Pamela’ and wearing the same sports jacket, shirt and tie combo as he would in ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’. He delivers the same coolly detached performance too, though it works a lot better in this context. The fact that his childish lead (Jean-Pierre Léaud, of course) is too often in a strop to concentrate on the part, or that his star (Jacqueline Bisset) is a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown are accepted as part and parcel of the business. But as Ferrand makes sure he’s seen in possession of a stack of serious film tomes and has nightmares about being trapped outside a cinema showing ‘Citizen Kane’, the point is that even if the end result is a piece of trash, a director always strives to be an artist.

David Jenkins

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 311: Sat Nov 8

House of Mortal Sin (Walker, 1975): Barbican Cinema, 4pm

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

Here is an introduction to the season by Nia Edwards-Behi at the Brutal As Hell website: Londoners, and those of you inclined to travel: Cigarette Burns, brainchild of Josh Saco, unraveller of reels of oft-forgotten but much-adored cult oddities on silver screens across London, has got one hell of a treat lined up for you this coming November. The Barbican Centre has invited Cigarette Burns to programme a season of films, and the result is The House of Walker, dedicated to the cinema of British cult stalwart, Pete Walker.

With an active career of roughly 10 years, Pete Walker churned out a staggering 16 films, capturing a 1970s England ripped from the most hysterical of Daily Mail headlines. Exclusively genre based, and one of the very few independent UK exploitation directors, his efforts have long been somewhat overlooked, but every Saturday throughout the month, a choice cut from Walker’s body of work will be presented complete with an introductory talk – including one from Walker himself.

Here is the Barbican introduction to House of Mortal Sin:
Scriptwriter David McGillivray's third collaboration with Walker, and this time they take on the might of the Church. Father Meldrum (Anthony Sharp) is suffering from a serious case of moral decay. Fortunately, his position in society provides just the right cover, and when young Jenny Welch (Susan Penhaligon) catches his eye, he'll go to any length to get what he wants.

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 310: Fri Nov 7

Playtime (Tati, 1967): Cine Lumiere, 3pm

This re-release of the Jacques Tati classic is on a short run at the Cine Lumiere. Details here.

Chicago Reader review:
My favorite movie, this 1967 French comedy by actor-director Jacques Tati has the most intricately designed mise en scene in all of cinema. The restored 65-millimeter version, with four-track DTS sound, expands the possibilities of becoming lost in Tati's vast frames and creatively finding one's way again. His studio-constructed vision of Paris begins in daytime with nightmarishly regimented straight lines and right angles and proceeds to night with accidental yet celebratory curves of people instinctively coming together. It peaks in an extraordinary sequence, set in a gradually disintegrating restaurant, that comprises almost half the film: once various musicians start to perform, the viewer's gaze inevitably follows the customers in a kind of improvised dance, collecting and juxtaposing simultaneous comic events and details. In this landscape everyone is a tourist, but Tati suggests that once we can find one another, we all belong.
Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here (and above) is the trailer.