Friday, 27 May 2011

Capital Celluloid - Day 151: Thursday June 2

A Clockwork Orange (Kubrick, 1971): Brunel University, Kingston Lane, Uxbridge Middlesex 6.30pm

Stanley Kubrick's controversial film, withdrawn from circulation by its director for many years, needs little introduction but See Films Differently, the organisation that has arranged this screening, may well do. They show movies at locations where they were filmed as their publicity for tonight's event explains:

'Those lucky enough to attend will be watching the film in the actual lecture theatre where Alex DeLarge underwent controversial aversion therapy. Thankfully, our guests will be able to enjoy the evening in considerably more comfort than Alex (he was strapped down and drugged with his eyelids forced open). In fact, the evening promises to be a premium movie experience, including refreshments, a live string quartet and a special exhibition in a themed ‘Moloko’ bar. And who knows, you may even be surprised by a special guest or two…

The event is taking place on Thursday 2nd June at Brunel University Middlesex. The campus is on Kingston Lane off Hillingdon Hill, about a mile south of Uxbridge tube station (a short cab or bus ride away).

Applications for tickets are now closed. We will however, be giving away a limited number of tickets on the door. These will be on a ‘first come first served’ basis, so if you’d like to come along on the night, be sure to arrive early. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

Entry is subject to venue capacity and management reserve the right to refuse entry.'

Sounds very intriguing. Of course many won't be able to make it so for those who want to see a film in London tonight, here's an alternative:

Bad Company (Benton, 1972): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 6.10pm

The Jeff Bridges season continues at BFI Southbank with this impressive revisionist western from the early 70s.

Here is the Time Out review:

'Benton's first film, a Western good enough to make everything he has done since seem disappointing by comparison. Set in 1863, with Union troops scouring the countryside for reluctant recruits who scurry about dressed as girls, it offers Vietnam parallels for the asking, but is really more concerned with the old mythologies as the innocent young hero sets off in best Horatio Alger fashion to seek safety, fame and fortune out West. Wandering through a land of russet melancholy (superb camerawork by Gordon Willis), he and the ragtail gang of youths he falls in with find themselves light years away from the myth of the heroic West. A few inhabitants scratch a miserable existence on chicken farms. The gunfighters are sordid, petty crooks who hit and run. Everybody else seems to be coming or going, cursing the ill luck which brought them to this wilderness. And virtue, as the young man discovers to his cost, is the first thing to go west. Elegantly and engagingly funny, it is filmed with a loving care for period detail which gives the images the feel of animated tintypes.' Tom Milne

This screening will feature an extended season introduction by Geoff Andrew. You can find Ryan Gilbey's Guardian article here on what Bridges' friends, co-stars and directors make of the lugubrious star.

Here is an extract from the film.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Capital Celluloid - Day 150: Wednesday June 1

Fat City (Huston, 1972): BFI Southbank, NFT1 6.10pm

John Huston is much better known for The Dead, African Queen and The Maltese Falcon but this is surely his finest work.  Don't miss the chance to see a rare screening of this wonderful slice of Hollywood melancholia in which Stacy Keach gives the performance of a lifetime as a struggling boxer giving it one last try and Jeff Bridges shines as a naive up-and-coming fighter. Watch out in particular for the final scene and an audacious, haunting shot a minute from the end.

Here is the Time Out review:

'Marvellous, grimly downbeat study of desperate lives and the escape routes people construct for themselves, stunningly shot by Conrad Hall. The setting is Stockton, California, a dreary wasteland of smoky bars and sunbleached streets where the lives of two boxers briefly meet, one on the way up, one on the way down. Neither, you sense instantly, for all their talk of past successes and future glories, will ever know any other world than the back-street gymnasiums and cheap boxing-rings where battered trainers and managers exchange confidences about their ailments, disappointments and dreams, and where in a sad and sobering climax two sick men beat each other half to death for a few dollars and a pint of glory. Huston directs with the same puritanical rigour he brought to Wise Blood. Beautifully summed up by Paul Taylor as a "masterpiece of skid row poetry".' Tom Milne

Here's a sneak preview.

Capital Celluloid - Day 149: Tuesday May 31

Two Or Three Things I Know About Her (Godard, 1966):
Bethnal Green Workingmen's Club, 44 Pollard Row, E2 6NB, 8pm

This is part of a season of Jean-Luc Godard films presented by those wonderful people at Close-Up. Here are all the details. 

Here is the Time Out review:

'Despite some time-bound concerns and irritating conceits, the sheer energy of Godard's dazzling sociological fable is enough to commend it. Paris and prostitution, seen through 24 hours in the life of a housewife-prostitute (Vlady), tell a story of selling yourself to buy happiness, but getting paid in bad dreams. A fictional documentary of Alphaville's nightmare, its virtuoso display of confession and analysis, the sublime and ridiculous, show Godard's deft grasp of the subversive nature of laughter and passions. Too good to miss.' Don Macpherson

Here is an extract.

Capital Celluloid - Day 148: Monday May 30

The Magnificent Ambersons (Welles, 1942): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 6.10pm

The regular National Film and Television School Passport to Cinema seasons are one of the highlights of the screenings at BFI Southbank. The NFTS say the films chosen are "designed to give a continuous and comprehensive overview of every facet of cinema, from its beginnings to the present day, showcasing key films from the classic, mainstream and avant-garde of European, American and world cinema, mixing the familiar with the experimental and rediscovering forgotten gems. Guest speakers introduce each programme and there's often a lively discussion in the café after the film."

Tonight's presentation is one of the most celebrated films in cinema history, one whose ending was altered against the wishes of director Orson Welles but which still stands as one of the great achievements in the history of Hollywood.

Personally, this is my favourite film by Welles and my appreciation and understanding of its richness has been aided in no small part by two great books, This Is Orson Welles by Orson Welles and Peter Bogdanovich, which contains a condensed version of the original script, and the BFI Film Classics monograph The Magnificent Ambersons by VF Perkins. The website Frequently Asked Questions About Orson Welles is well worth a look if you want to find out more about this film and the legends that have grown up around it.

Here is the Chicago Reader review:

'Orson Welles's second completed feature (1942) and arguably his greatest film (partisans of Citizen Kane notwithstanding). By far his most personal creation, this lovingly crafted, hauntingly nostalgic portrait of a midwestern town losing its Victorian innocence to the machine age contains some of Welles's most beautiful and formidable imagery, not to mention his narration, a glorious expression of the pain of memory. A masterpiece in every way (but ignore the awkward ending the studio tacked on without Welles's approval).' With Joseph Cotten, Tim Holt, Ray Collins, Agnes Moorehead, Dolores Costello, and Anne Baxter. 88 min.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Capital Celluloid - Day 147: Sunday May 29

Today is quite simply the best day of the year so far for film screenings in London. So it's take your pick time.

You could go to hear horror movie critic Kim Newman introduce a screening of The Beast Must Die at the Roxy Bar and Screen on Borough High Street (details here).

You could go and watch 1958 cult classic The Tingler at the wonderful Aubin Cinema in Shoreditch (details here).

There's also the Leonard Cohen documentary Bird on a Wire at the Cinematograph in the Duke of Wellington pub on Balls Pond Road (details here).

I have chosen this great double-bill but honestly you're spoilt for choice.

Vertigo (Hitchcock, 1958) and Phase IV (Bass, 1973): Ritzy Cinema, 3pm

A great double-bill dedicated to famous film designer Saul Bass, including Hitchcock's masterpiece for which Bass did the credits plus a rare screening of Phase IV, the only film directed by Bass himself, in which the world is threatened by an army of giant ants.

Here is the Chicago Reader review for Hitchcock's film:

'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.'

Capital Celluloid - Day 147: Saturday May 28

Django (Corbucci, 1966): Odeon Covent Garden, 4.30pm

The fifth Cine-Excess festival features filmmaker discussions, exclusive UK theatrical premieres and a three-day conference with over 30 separate talks on cult film controversies from around the world. You can find all the details about the event here at the Cine-Excess website. All the talks and screenings are at the Odeon Covent Garden.

The screening of the infamous spaghetti western Django will follow a special onstage interview and career retrospective with its star, Italian acting legend Franco Nero. The actor has made over 150 films films including Keoma (1976), Hitch Hike (1977), Enter the Ninja (1981) and Die Hard 2 (1990).  Nero is best known for his iconic screen role as the amoral but deadly gunslinger in Sergio Corbucci’s landmark western, which was the subject of notoriety for its excessive scenes of violence and torture. 

Here is the Time Out review:

'Originally banned in Britain for its comic-strip iconoclasm and graphic violence, this rates alongside Leone's 'Dollars' trilogy as one of the daddies of the spaghetti/paella Western. It's a clean- up-and-paint-the-town-blood-red revenge drama with a difference. Nero's mud-spattered ex-Yankee soldier, first seen squelching towards a US-Mexican border ghost town, a coffin forever in tow, has every Western hero's quality in extremis. His speed-of-light gunslinger outlaw has a romantic heart - his wife was killed by one of Major Jackson's KKK-like henchmen - and an enigmatic morality. He solves the war between Jackson's men and General Rodríguez' bandidos by dispensing death to all, but his sympathies are shown when he later teams up with Rodríguez for a gold heist. Corbucci's style is a mix of social realism, highly decorative visuals, and finely mounted action sequences. For the rest, there are enough mud-wrestling prostitutes, whippings, ear-loppings, explosions and scenes of wholesale slaughter to keep any muchacho happy. Funny, visceral, bloody, no-nonsense entertainment with a touch of class.' Wally Hammond

Here is the trailer. 

Capital Celluloid - Day 146: Friday May 27

Hilary and Jackie (Tucker, 1998): Riverside Studios, 6.30pm

One of the finest British films of the 90s and a much underrated one, this movie traces the life and career of the celebrated cellist Jacqueline du Pré.

Here is the Time Out review:

'This subjective double take transcends the limitations of the biopic to exult in the artistry of the great cellist Jacqueline du Pré, even as it poses profound troubling questions about communication, destiny and the artist's sense of her own identity. Taking its cue from the controversial memoir A Genius in the Family, by Jackie's siblings Hilary and Piers, the movie begins with the prodigy finding free expression in the cello, and rapidly overtaking her elder sister's musical development. This opening movement is played out in a florid, ostentatiously romantic style which is slowly undercut as the sisters - now played by Watson and Griffiths - go their separate ways. Jackie disappears into music's jet setting high society, while Hilary's self-confidence gets a boost from the courtship of the ebullient Kiffer Finzi (Morrisey). When they come together again, the trauma is a defining moment in their lives and the movie's emotional centrepiece. The film's most audacious inspiration is to track back from this shocking, very moving and apparently unforgivable act, to retrace events from Jackie's perspective, revealing her loneliness and her ambivalence towards her instrument and her calling. Watson's performance is virtuoso: passionate, sensitive, impressionable and sometimes grotesque; and she's well matched by the subtle Griffiths and vibrant Morrisey.' Tom Charity

Here is the trailer.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Capital Celluloid - Day 145: Thursday May 26

Pandora's Box (Pabst, 1928): Prince Charles Cinema, 8.30pm
With live piano accompaniment from John Sweeney

This is based on two Frank Wedekind plays and is one of the great silent works of Weimar Germany, most notable for a startling performance by Louise Brooks.

Here is an extract from the excellent Silent London blog which gives some background to this memorable movie:

'If you haven’t seen Pandora’s Box (1929) before, I’m actually a little jealous of you. This film and its notorious leading lady are so irrepressibly gorgeous that your first viewing really should be a big-screen experience – and this is the perfect opportunity.

By the end of the 1920s Louise Brooks had had her fill of Hollywood, and Hollywood had pretty much had its fill of her. Lucky, then, that she caught the eye of German director GW Pabst and moved to swinging Weimar Berlin to take the lead role in Pandora’s Box. Brooks plays Lulu, a hedonistic dancer who pursues her own pleasure at the expense of bourgeois morality, or pretty much anyone’s morality, come to mention it. 

The role has come to define Brooks and rightly so. Who hasn’t, when watching Brooks shake her iconic bob, thought: “That girl could get away with murder”? Pandora’s Box puts that theory to the test like no other movie, and Brooks’s sensual performance radiates here – even as events take a series of sinister turns and the film transforms from a backstage comedy, to a thriller, to something approaching horror.'

Here is the Chicago Reader review:

'G.W. Pabst's 1928 portrayal of eroticism and despair, a seductive and craftily constructed vehicle. Louise Brooks is magnificent as Lulu the seductress, who, as Lotte Eisner describes her, is “endowed with an animal beauty, but lacking all moral sense, and doing evil unconsciously.” One of the classic films of the German silent era.' 109 min.

Capital Celluloid - Day 144: Wednesday May 25

Too Long For The Duke Night: The Duke Mitchell Film Club
King's Cross Social Club, 2 Britannia St, WC1X 9JE, 7pm

The Duke Mitchell team are guaranteed to put on a superbly planned show and this one - which will include the best 'long' short films that they've discovered over the past 12 months - promises to be a highlight of the film club's current season.

The Duke himself has been in touch and has given Capital Celluloid a sneak preview of the delights on offer at tonight's event. The trailers will be a collection of films the Duke really wants to see in the next few years as well as a few oddities. The centrepiece of the night, though, are the shorts, goodies they've always wanted to show at Duke Mitchell nights but - for some reason or another - couldn't.

Here is a trailer for a short horror film the Duke is screening called AM1200. It's a chiller. 

More details about the night from the Duke himself can be found here.

Capital Celluloid - Day 143: Tuesday May 24

Pierrot Le Fou (Godard, 1965): Bethnal Green Workingmen's Club, 44 Pollard Row, E2 6NB, 8pm

When this film, which will surely come to be seen as one of Jean-Luc Godard's finest, was re-released in 1989 after many years out of circulation, critic Jonathan Rosenbaum had this to say in an article in Chicago Reader : "Looking at Pierrot Le Fou again almost a quarter of a century after it was made, 20 years after its initial U.S. release, is a bit like visiting another planet; it’s an explosion of color, sound, music, passion, violence, and wit that illustrates what used to be regarded as cinema."

It's impossible to give a swift synopsis for Pierrot Le Fou in which Jean Paul Belmondo, ostensibly escaping stifling domesticity, and Anna Karina, fleeing a group of gangsters, depart Paris for the south of France suffice to say that it is brimming with ideas and scenes of extraordinary complexity. My abiding memories of seeing this the first time was of the vitality and colour - I was reminded when viewing it again last year that this was also a caustic commentary by the director on his relationship with Karina. Still, a huge treat and a film you will not forget in a hurry.

If I had to pick one excerpt it would be this one in which fellow director Sam Fuller is asked what is the meaning of cinema: "Film is like a battleground", recounts the American filmmaker. "Love, hate, action, violence, death. In one word: emotion."

This is part of a season of Godard films presented by those wonderful people at Close-Up. Here are all the details.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Capital Celluloid - Day 142: Monday May 23

Strip! Strip! Hooray! A Tribute to Pamela Green (28 March 1929 - 7 May 2010)
Sanctum Soho Hotel, 20 Warwick Street, W1B 5NF London, 7pm

The Society Film Club have put this evening together and here are the details they have supplied:

'Pamela Green was Britain's very own queen of curves, famed for her appearance in Michael Powell's Peeping Tom (1960), star of the epic nudist picture Naked As Nature Intended (1961) and joint founder of Kamera films and magazines. A short introductory talk by Yak El-Droubie will be followed by a selection of 8mm Striptease films and rare footage from The Naked World of Harrison Marks.

Poet and former pin-up Tiffany Anne Tondut will be reading extracts from Pamela's biography.

Programme:
Art for Art's Sake (1959) 3.32m
Cover Girl (1960) 6.49m
The Naked World of Harrison Marks (1966) 30m
Xcitement (1960) 5.47m
The Window Dresser (1961) 5.51m

The fabulous Trixie Malicious, the living embodiment of Mae West’s quip about 'a girl who lost her reputation and never missed it.' will be performing a special dance for us in honour of Soho and the striptease.'

Capital Celluloid - Day 141: Sunday May 22

8½ (Fellini, 1963): Prince Charles Cinema, 8.30pm

The Prince Charles are showing this masterpiece by the Italian director Frederico Fellini as part of their Vintage Film Season Series. It's widely regarded as perhaps the greatest movie about movie-making.
Here is the Chiacgo 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. In Italian with subtitles.

Here is the original trailer.

Capital Celluloid - Day 140: Saturday May 21

Content (Petit, 2009): Rio Cinema, 3.45pm
Plus Q&A with director Christopher Petit

Chris Petit made the great British road movie Radio On in 1979. Look at this beautiful sequence as the principal character exits London on the Westway to the tune of Always Crashing in the Same Car by David Bowie. In 1982 he brought us the crime thriller An Unsuitable Job For A Woman. I wish I could share the opening with you, which uses a track by Chas Jankel called Reverie. Here's the music anyway.

Petit went on to make Flight To Berlin and Chinese Boxes in the early 80s but has had more success as a novelist than a feature film maker in the past couple of decades which is a shame. He has made a number of documentaries, though, often with or involving his friend and fellow writer and filmmaker Iain Sinclair.

The Rio cinema describe Content as "a beguiling autobiographical road movie and film essay conceived as a coda to Chris Petit's seminal Wenders-inspired English road movie Radio Od and as a reckoning with the economic crash of 2008. Content ended up being a deeply personal meditation on memory, loss and renewal, as Petit began to assimilate reflections on his young son and his late father. It is, incidentally, the most witty and eloquent account to date of the impact of living in cyberspace and of film making in the digital age."


This is a fascinating opportunity to see Petit's latest work and hear the director, who was film editor of Time Out back in the 1970s talk about his life in cinema and TV.

Capital Celluloid - Day 139: Friday May 20

Whatever Happened To Baby Jane (Aldrich, 1962) & Mommie Dearest (Perry, 1981)
Venue 229, 229 Great Portland St, London, W1W 5PN 8pm

Before you do anything take a look here at the trailer for the evening. I spotted Hattie Jacques, Dollie Parton, Marilyn Monroe, Divine and Micky Michaels, the simpleton from the Job Centre in the League of Gentleman who wants to be a fireman, all to the tune of the Pearl & dean theme. Watch it yourself and see if you can correctly identify any more.

This is the double-bill to end all double-bills. Whatever Happened To Baby Jane stars Bette Davis and Joan Crawford in a gothic thriller about a wheelchair-bound cripple terrorised by her crazed sister while Mommie Dearest is a biographical drama starring Faye Dunaway in one of her crazed performances as Joan Crawford.

According to the information provided by Amy Grimehouse, the people behind the event, the first film "will be complimented by an extraordinary performance from Princess Knickers as Baby Jane Hudson. Then Holestar follows suit with a raucous performance as Joan Crawford, complete with wire
hangers leading the night seamlessly into its second feature, Mommie Dearest."

Here are the Chicago Reader reviews:

Whatever Happened to Baby Jane:
'Grand Guignol runs head-on into 40s film noir and the result is this chilling, hysterical 1962 movie by the master of the bleak (black) vision, Robert Aldrich (The Dirty Dozen, Ulzana's Raid, Emperor of the North, Kiss Me Deadly). Bette Davis, garish and loony, is a former child star who passes the time torturing her crippled sister Joan Crawford. Aldrich's direction and dynamite performances from the two old troupers make this film an experience.'

Mommie Dearest:
'No one would mistake this stiff, shoddy 1981 film for a “good” movie, but in terms of issues—movies, melodramas, mothers and daughters—it's rich, stimulating thought in spite of itself. Frank Perry was a poor choice to direct (Robert Aldrich and Paul Morrissey would have been more appropriate), yet his gross inadequacies somehow help the film—the bad laughs he gets push it into black comedy, which is what the audience wants. The dominant tone is that of a horror movie as it might have been produced by soap opera king Ross Hunter in the 50s: lots of elegant clothes and settings, weirdly linked to a shock rhythm of tension and release. It's a movie dream turned into a movie nightmare, a wonderful idea the film doesn't know it has.' With Faye Dunaway and Diana Scarwid. PG, 129 min.

This is the Time Out guide to the evening to give you a visual flavour as to what's in store.

Don't miss the trailer here for Whatever Happened to Baby Jane and this one for Mommie Dearest.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Capital Celluloid - Day 138: Thursday May 19

Les Enfants Terribles (Melville, 1949): Phoenix Cinema, 11am

The Phoenix in East Finchley is excelling with its Thursday morning film classics season and here is a chance to see what many consider to be one of the great Jean Pierre Melville's finest movies, an adaptation of Jean Cocteau's novel about the claustrophobic and quasi-incestuous relationship of a brother and sister.

Here is the Chicago Reader review:

'Jean Cocteau selected Jean-Pierre Melville to direct the 1949 film version of his novel on the basis of Melville's only previous film, Le silence de la mer. Working closely with Cocteau, Melville developed a location-based style that eventually became one of the strongest influences on the directors of the New Wave generation. The story of Les enfants terribles is typically Cocteau: two adolescents (Nicole Stephane and Edouard Dhermitte), willfully cutting themselves off from the adult world, bind themselves together through a series of strange, enigmatic games—which end in incest and death.'  In French with subtitles. 102 min.

Capital Celluloid - Day 137: Wednesday May 18

Taxi Driver (Scorsese, 1976): Everyman Hampstead, Ritzy & Curzon Soho. All week.

Martin Scorsese's brilliant slice of New York alienation is back in a special 35th anniversary release and looks as fresh and as vital as ever. Critics taking another look at this American masterwork have been unanimous in their praise for perhaps the director's most famous film and this is a marvellous chance to savour the movie on a big screen.

Guardian writer John Patterson has written a superb summation of the film's lasting legacy. You can read his full article here. This is the conclusion:

'You might ponder the wild bestiary of mad assassins and gunmen thronging the American cinema of the 1970s: Scorpio in Dirty Harry; snipers in The Parallax View and Executive Action, Nashville and Two-Minute Warning; the vengeful heroes of Death Wish and Walking Tall. Also, note the generational links between Arthur Bremer – who shot and paralysed governor George Wallace in 1972, and whose diaries inspired Schrader's script – and John Hinckley Jr, inspired by a film about a would-be assassin, based on the words of a would-be assassin, to become a would-be assassin himself – a perfect circle.

You can also see, on TV and in the streets and bars, more Travis Bickles these days than ever before.
And not just in the form of The Office's Dwight K Schrute and Seth Rogen in the Taxi Driver-centric Observe And Report, but among anti-abortion snipers and the viler fringes of the far right (Tim McVeigh was pure Travis). He is the toxic waste by-product of John Wayne's racist avenger Ethan Edwards in The Searchers; not merely, as I thought at the time, a local symptom of America's post-Vietnam malaise but a recurrent and ineradicable archetype: the Psychotic American Nobody who wants to be Somebody.'

Quentin Tarantino rates the film in his top five of all-time and you can hear him talk about the movie here on YouTube.


Here is the celebrated opening credit sequence with music by Bernard Herrmann.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Capital Celluloid - Day 136: Tuesday May 17

Wonderland (Winterbottom, 1999): Cineworld Haymarket, 6.30pm

The latest Time Out screening to celebrate the magazine's poll of the 100 best British films is not only one of the finest movies about living in the capital it's one of the best about the way we live today.

Michael Winterbottom captures the fragmented, sometimes lonely existence of modern-day city dwellers perfectly and the cinematic style he has adopted - jerky and fast-paced through the use of handheld cameras - complements the fractured and busy urban environment in which the characters live. The acting is uniformly excellent and the scene in which diffident father Dan, played by Ian Hart, loses his son at a fairground is unbelievably tense.

Celebrated composer Michael Nyman, who wrote the superb score, will introduce the film. Here is a flavour of his work as director and composer unite to evoke the life of one of the central characters, Nadia, played by Gina McKee. 


Here is the Time Out review:

'A long weekend in the lives of an extended family of strangers in South London. Dad and mum (Shepherd and Markham) have long since settled for habitual resentment, their general disappointment accentuated by runaway son Darren. They also have three grown daughters: Nadia (McKee) has resorted to the lonely hearts columns; Debbie (Henderson) is the eldest, with an 11-year-old boy and a good-for-nothing ex (Hart); the youngest, Molly (Parker), is pregnant, and blissfully happy with her partner, Eddie (Simm). Only Eddie's getting cold feet. Winterbottom's best film by some measure offers an intimate, suburban panorama of London life now. In the past, this director has slapped style over substance with more vigour than sensitivity; here he's opted for handheld 16mm cameras and a skeleton crew to shoot on the streets of Soho and SW1. The result rings true in a way precious few London films have managed, so that the experience of going to the movie in a local cinema practically blurs with what you've seen on screen. Not that the technique obscures the humanity in Laurence Coriat's fine screenplay, which keeps tabs on half-a-dozen emotionally deprived lives, and endows mundane occurrences with an unforced resonance. Shored up with a memorable Michael Nyman score, this achingly tender film makes most new British cinema look downright frivolous.' Tom Charity

Here is the trailer.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Capital Celluloid - Day 135: Monday May 16

L'Age d'Or (Bunuel, 1930): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 6.10pm

If Buñuel did not quite cause the expected scandal with his first film Un chien andalou, his second amply compensated. Financed by the Vicomte de Noailles (who backed Cocteau's Le sang d'un poète in the same year), the film begins with desire frustrated as two lovers are torn apart, and ends with an extended quotation from the Marquis de Sade's 120 Days of Sodom. The subsequent scandal saw the film - one of the truest examples of the spirit of surrealism - withdrawn from circulation for almost 50 years.

This movie still has the power to shock. I defy anyone not to gasp when the figure emerges from the castle in which an orgy of 120 days of depraved acts has taken place.

Certainly the reaction at the time of its release was one of anger. On 3 December 1930, a group of incensed members of the fascist League of Patriots threw ink at the screen during a screening of the film, assaulted members of the audience, and destroyed art works by Dalí, Miro, Man Ray and others on display in the lobby after which the film was withdrawn.

Here is the Chicago Reader review:

'Luis Buñuel's first and most radical feature (1930) was banned for decades, and it continues to pack a jolt. Forsaking consecutive plot, the film is more like an anarchist bomb, starting off as a documentary before assaulting church, state, and society—particularly high society—in the name of eros. Funny, blasphemous, sexy, strange, subtle, and evocative in its use of sound, it's also thoroughly Buñuelian, though without the bittersweet sense of resigned acceptance that characterizes some of his later works. Except for his 1932 documentary Las Hurdes, this ferocious act of revolt kept Buñuel virtually unemployed as a director for 17 years; when he finally returned as a narrative filmmaker, he delivered something quite different from the wild poetry of his first three films.' In French with subtitles. 60 min.

Here is an extract.

Capital Celluloid - Day 134: Sunday May 15

California Split (Altman, 1974): ICA London 10am

Robert Altman made a number of groundbreaking films in the 1970s (MASH, The Long Goodbye, Nashville and McCabe and Mrs Miller). This one has slipped through the net but is no less innovative and is a must-see for anyone interested in the director's work.

Elliott Gould (slumbering through the decade in his inimitable style) and George Segal are excellent in the lead roles. It's funny and poignant and undoubtedly the best film I've seen on the subject of gambling as the pair take the well-worn road from casino to racetrack to card hall, ending up in Reno.

The film, part of the Screening Conditions ‘Costly Games’ series exploring the cinematic portrayal of gambling and chance from a psychoanalytic perspective, will be introduced by psychoanalyst Andrea Sabbadini and followed by a discussion with guest speaker Al Alvarez. There's a two-for-one ticket offer available if you click here.

Here is the link to the ICA website with more details on the presentation.

Here is the Chicago Reader review:

'Robert Altman's masterful 1974 study of the psychology of the compulsive gambler. Elliott Gould, loose, jocular, and playful, and George Segal, neurotic, driven, and desperate, are really two halves of the same personality as they move from bet to bet, game to game, until they arrive for the big showdown in Reno. As in all Altman films, winning is losing; and the more Altman reveals, in his oblique, seemingly casual yet brilliantly controlled way, the more we realize that to love characters the way Altman loves his, you have to see them turned completely inside out.' '

Capital Celluloid - Day 133: Saturday May 14

Who Can Kill A Child? (Serrador, 1976): Rio Cinema, 11.30pm

The Cigarette Burns team continue to impress with their midnight movie choices at the Rio Cinema in Dalston and this rare screening of the 1970s Spanish shocker deserves to pull the punters in.

Here is the wikipedia entry on the movie and this is the link for Cigarette Burns who are putting on the show with live dj and the invariably excellent regular trailers and short films.

Here is a New York Times review (spoiler warning: this gives significant plot details):

'Children strike back at adults in this chilling horror film from director Narcisco Ibanez Serrador. While vacationing on the remote island of Almanzora, Tom (Lewis Fiander) and his pregnant wife Evelyn (Prunella Ransome) notice only giggling children. They wonder where all the adults are, until Tom spies a little girl beating an old man to death with his own walking stick. The man is then hung up in the town square and used as a piñata by the scythe-wielding children. Tom soon discovers that the demonic youths have killed every adult on the island, because none would ever fight back if it meant killing a child. Even Evelyn's unborn baby is affected, and Tom becomes the target of gunfire as the children go after him. Aside from a silly ending, Serrador's film is remarkably effective, slowly introducing the situation and playing on both xenophobia and cultural taboos while building an atmosphere of mounting dread. Unlike most Spanish shockers, this is not an unintentionally funny melodrama or a sexually-charged exploitation item. It is a serious-minded horror film with a message, based on Juan Jose Plans' novel {-The Game}, and is both worthwhile and frightening. ~ Robert Firsching,

This is the link for the Rio cinema where the film will be screened and the trailer for the film can be found here.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Capital Celluloid - Day 132: Friday May 13

Vampir Cuadecuc (Portabella, 1970): Tate Modern 7pm

Here is a real rarity. A chance to see Catalan director Pere Portabella's slyly subversive take on vampirism with, get this, Christopher Lee and Herbert Lom. Tate Modern are screening a season of Portabella's work and the director himself will be at the gallery for a Q&A in June. Here are the details.

The current issue of Sight & Sound contains an appraisal of Portabella's oeuvre by film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum in which he counts tonight's film as his favourite work by the Catalan filmmaker. The movie itself consists of a black and white film of Jesus Franco's "very conventional colour movie Count Dracula (1970), starring Christopher Lee," writes Rosenbaum. "The material is submitted to a great deal of processing in visual textures and accompanied by a kind of musique concrete by Carlos Santos, consisting of such elements as jet planes, drills, operatic arias, kitschy muzak and sinister electronic drones."

I will be going to the June presentation but felt it incumbent on me to highlight the fact that this screening  is only one of two chances to catch this film at the Tate.

Rosenbaum first saw Vampir Cuadecuc at the Cannes Film Festival in 1971 and reckoned it the highlight of that year's crop. "Vampir was my favorite of all the films I saw at Cannes that year. I returned to it several times, and described it afterwards in the Village Voice  as 'at once the most original movie at the festival and the most sophisticated in its audacious modernism', says Rosenbaum in this essay on his website.

Here is an extract from the film.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Capital Celluloid - Day 131: Thursday May 12

Touch of Evil (Welles, 1958): Phoenix Cinema, 11am

The film opens with a three-minute, twenty-second tracking shot widely considered by critics as one of the greatest long takes in cinematic history. This is all you really need to see to persuade you to see this. 

Meanwhile, the Chciago 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.”

Capital Celluloid - Day 130: Wednesday May 11

The Portuguese Nun (Green, 2009): ICA Cinema, 7pm

After the screening on May 11th, the director of The Portuguese Nun Eugène Green discusses his uniquely fascinating views on cinema and filmmaking with critically acclaimed screenwriter Paul Mayersberg (Man Who Fell to Earth, Croupier, Eureka).


Here is David Jenkin's review in Time Out:

‘The Portuguese Nun’ is French writer-director Eugène Green’s love letter to Lisbon. His reverence for the city's history, architecture, skyline and music inspires this meandering tale of nervy, French-Portuguese actress Julie (Leonor Baldaque) and the epiphanies she experiences while filming a series of silent tableaux to illustrate a recitation of the anonymous French seventeenth-century text, ‘Letters of a Portuguese Nun’. Now, if your trusty pretention-o-meter is already overheating, then just switch it right off, as the tone Green adopts here is one of almost childlike sincerity dashed, of course, with a strain of delicate, absurdist humour.

This is Green’s fourth feature, and his first to receive UK distribution. It’s constructed in his customary style that draws heavily on the sort of clipped, neutral non-performance favoured by Bresson and the crisp, flat-on compositions of Ozu. The film is an exercise in economy and yet swells with romance and mystery. Baldaque’s huge, olive-green eyes are her primary acting tool, and Green allows his camera to drink in their gaze. We drift around the city, as one scene melts in to the next and Julie’s search for meaning takes in her co-star, a suicidal local, a displaced child, the reincarnation of a dead king and the director of her film (Green himself). Radiant, perplexing and distinctive, Green’s world is a place where art and life converge: it’s an enchanting place in which to get lost.

Capital Celluloid - Day 129: Tuesday May 10

Dracula (Fisher, 1958) and Theatre of Blood (Hickox, 1973): 
Haymarket Cineworld, 6.30pm

The latest Time Out screening to celebrate the magazine's poll of the 100 best British films is a great double-bill from the horror annals of British cinema.

When David Pirie wrote his groundbreaking study of British horror films in A Heritage of Horror in 1973 not many were taking Hammer productions such as Dracula seriously. Fisher's film was voted No 65 in the recent poll.

Here's David Jenkins review in Time Out:

Digitally restored by the BFI to mark the fiftieth anniversary of  Hammer Horror, this creepy period yarn has retained much of its bite. A tripartite narrative focuses on the death of amateur vampire hunter Jonathan Harker (John Van Eyssen) and the subsequent ripples of terror that engulf the family of his girlfriend and one Doctor Van Helsing (Peter Cushing). Fun anachronisms abound, from the optimistic belief that the Berkshire countryside plus an overzealous smoke-machine equal rural Transylvania, to Van Helsing’s worrying assurance that the best way to recover from a blood transfusion is to consume plenty of ‘tea, coffee or even better…wine’. One shouldn’t be brutal about a film of such noble intent, but as ‘horror’ it doesn’t have the honest-to-goodness scares that modern audiences expect. Still, Christopher Lee’s Dracula is a menacing and complex presence who never lets his fangs and cape dominate. There’s also the canny use of vampirism as an allegory for drug abuse and sexually transmitted disease: is this the camp forerunner to Abel Ferrara’s ‘The Addiction’?

Meanwhile, look at this gorgeous credits sequence for Theatre of Blood.

Capital Celluloid - Day 128: Monday May 9

The Passenger (Antonioni, 1975) & Last Tango In Paris (Bertolucci, 1972):
Prince Charles Cinema, 6.10pm 

Two films from Italian masters on foreign shores. If you have the patience The Passenger is a revelation, the celebrated circular shot towards the end one of the most audacious in movie history.

Here is the trailer.

Last Tango In Paris is worth seeing for Marlon Brando's performance alone, as naked and honest a performance as you're likely to ever see up on the screen.

Take a look at these credits (with images of the work of artist Francis Bacon)  

Here are the Chicago Reader movie reviews:

The Passenger

A masterpiece, one of Michelangelo Antonioni's finest works (1975). Jack Nicholson and Maria Schneider star as a journalist who trades one identity for another and the woman who becomes his accomplice (and ultimately the moral center of his adopted world). Less a thriller (though the mood of mystery is pervasive) than a meditation on the problems of knowledge, action for its own sake, and the relationship of the artist to the work he brings into being. Next to this film, Blowup seems a facile, though necessary, preliminary. By all means go. 126 min.



The operatic extravagance of Bernardo Bertolucci's style has emerged more clearly since this 1972 drama, which still managed to seem vaguely naturalistic in the midst of its extravagant camera moves and eccentric construction. The surface plausibility is probably the contribution of Marlon Brando, whose performance has strength and detail enough to counterbalance Bertolucci's taste for pure psychological essence. With Maria Schneider as Brando's lover and Jean-Pierre Leaud in the Ralph Bellamy part (he has a job). Photography by Vittorio Storaro. In English and subtitled French. 127 min.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Capital Celluloid - Day 127: Sunday May 8

The Leopard (Visconti 1963): Curzon Millbank, 1.30pm

A bona fide masterpiece which grows in stature with the passing years and now in a remastered print which simply adds to the beauty of a magisterial work of cinema.

Here is critic Dave Kehr on the film's history, it was butchered on release and only seen in a truncated form for many years, and here is Martin Scorsese talking about his involvement in the restoration. The Leopard is one of the American director's favourite films as evidenced in this list.

The Chicago Reader review:

'Cut, dubbed, and printed in an inferior color process, the U.S. release of Luchino Visconti's epic didn't leave much of an impression in 1963; 20 years later, a restoration of the much longer Italian version revealed this as not only Visconti's greatest film but a work that transcends its creator, achieving a sensitivity and intelligence without parallel in his other films. Burt Lancaster initiated his formidable mature period as the aging aristocrat Don Fabrizio, who works to find a place for himself and his family values in the new Italy being organized in the 1860s. The film's superb first two hours, which weave social and historical themes into rich personal drama, turn out to be only a prelude to the magnificent final hour—an extended ballroom sequence that leaves history behind to become one of the most moving meditations on individual mortality in the history of the cinema. With Alain Delon and Claudia Cardinale. In Italian with subtitles.'

Friday, 6 May 2011

Capital Celluloid - Day 126: Saturday May 7

13 Assassins (Miike, 2010): Cinemas everywhere.

Sometimes there's a proper buzz about a movie and that was the case when this had a limited screening at the London Film Festival in the autumn. Now it has got a proper release and can be seen in all its glory at your local multiplex or arthouse as this is a genuine crossover film that will appeal to the widest audience. This has been garnering excellent reviews this week and here are a few to whet the appetite.

Here is critic David Jenkins review in Time Out:

'Likely to tan the high-concept hides of every Hollywood action flick this year, this majestically violent film from ultra-prolific Japanese maestro Takashi Miike is probably the closest modern cinema has come to Akira Kurosawa’s mud-and-blood-caked Samurai showdowns.

The first hour is a pure, slowburn tease. One plot strain demonstrates the outlandish barbarism of a feudal lord, while another has a select unit of fighters hatching a grand plan to take him down. The film is built as a long crescendo, opening at a level of considered, Zen-like reflection and ending with a prolonged cacophony of elaborate, town-wide annihilation.

There are occasional dashes of CGI for elements that couldn’t be staged for the camera (cue rampaging herds of burning bulls), but Miike’s film is all the more triumphant for offering elaborate, tangible sets, elegant period attire, hardboiled dialogue and rolling oceans of glorious, rosy red blood. Pure joy.'


Sight & Sound magazine hailed the film as worthy of Kurosawa. High praise indeed and you can read why in Christopher Huber's assessment via this link.

Here is the trailer.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Capital Celluloid - Day 125: Friday May 6

The 1000 Eyes of Dr Mabuse (Lang, 1960): Riverside Studios Cinema, Hammersmith, 8.45pm

A very rare chance to see Fritz Lang's final movie as part of the cinema's Celluloid Curtain: Spy Films season. Here is an introuduction to that season from Sight & Sound magazine.

Here is Time out's review:

'Lang's last film. Resisting the producer's requests for a remake, sequel or Son of... Lang instead updated the setting to postwar Germany, and invented a new Mabuse-type character (Preiss). Set in a large hotel where the characters' every move is monitored by the mastermind's TV screens, 1000 Eyes is none the less distinctly and wilfully old-fashioned in a way that is all Lang's own. Lines like 'Don't leave town', exploding telephones, blind prophets, gadgets more quaint than modern, and a supremely elaborate thriller plot where no one and nothing are what they seem, give it an anti-realist ambience more reminiscent of the Hollywood serial than of contemporary film-making. And, of course, Lang's anti-Fascist sentiments are unmistakably as up-to-date as they were in the '20s. Great stuff.'

And here is Dave Kehr in Chicago Reader: 

'After a long and fruitful career in Hollywood, Fritz Lang returned to Germany in 1960 to make the final chapter in his trilogy about the criminal genius Dr. Mabuse. (The first two films in the series were released in 1922 and 1933.) The Thousand Eyes has the stripped-down, elemental feel of many late masterpieces: all the distractions have been cleared away, and Lang is able to present his concerns with a disarming directness. The comic-book story focuses on the psychopathology of power; around the edges lurk the shadows of paranoia, sexual displacement, and death. The director himself is finally equated with the omniscient Mabuse in one of the first overtly modernist flourishes in cinema.'

Look at this brilliant trailer. 

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Capital Celluloid - Day 124: Thursday May 5

Sweet Smell of Success (Mackendrick, 1957): Phoenix Cinema, 11am

The Phoenix Cinema in East Finchley screen film classics each Thursday morning and this is undoubtedly one of the highlights of the current season. A colleague of mine simply said "It has everything" when she watched this movie for the first time and it is one of those rare instances when script, acting, mise-en-scene, cinematography and soundtrack combine to create a true classic.

Here is the Time Out review:

'A film noir from the Ealing funny man? But Mackendrick's involvement with cosy British humour was always less innocent than it looked: remember the anti-social wit of The Man in the White Suit, or the cruel cynicism of The Ladykillers? Sweet Smell of Success was the director's American debut, a rat trap of a film in which a vicious NY gossip hustler (Curtis) grovels for his 'Mr Big' (Lancaster), a monster newspaper columnist who is incestuously obsessed with destroying his kid sister's romance... and a figure as evil and memorable as Orson Welles in The Third Man or Mitchum in The Night of the Hunter. The dark streets gleam with the sweat of fear; Elmer Bernstein's limpid jazz score (courtesy of Chico Hamilton) whispers corruption in the Big City. The screen was rarely so dark or cruel.' 96 min.

Anyone interested in reading more about this classy piece of film making is urged to seek out this BFI monograph written by James Naremore.

Just look at this great opening. 

Monday, 2 May 2011

Capital Celluloid - Day 123: Wednesday May 4

Deep End (Skolimowski, 1970): BFI Southbank, NFT1 8.45pm

Here's a genuine curio. A film that has been out of circulation for far too long and one getting a welcome revival from Friday and presented here in a preview at the BFI with the added bonus of a Q&A with stars Jane Asher and John Moulder-Brown.
 
I saw this late night on BBC2 a couple of decades ago and it left a deep impression. The tale of Moulder-Brown's character's coming-of-age in a run-down swimming baths takes surprising and disturbing turns and has a quality that led the distinguished American critic Andrew Sarris to compare the film with the best of Godard, Truffaut and Polanski.

Anyone who sees this in its current run (and it is on at BFI Southbank from Friday until May 20 and in other selected cinemas) is in for a treat and it comes highly recommended.

New Statesman film correspondent Ryan Gilbey wrote this feature in Monday's Guardian while here is the Chicago Reader review from Dave Kehr:

'Jerzy Skolimowski's first English-language film (1970), made just after his departure from Poland—which may help account for the film's unusually strong sense of displacement, unfamiliarity, and isolation. These are feelings shared by the film's protagonist, a British teenager (John Moulder-Brown) whose job as an attendant at a public bath brings him his first experiences with sexuality and mortality. It's one of the most authentic films about adolescence that I know, yet through mise-en-scene Skolimowski effortlessly expands detailed, specific situations into haunting universal images, much as he did in his later masterpiece Moonlighting. With Jane Asher and Diana Dors.' 88 mins.

Here is an extract which includes work by legendary German band Can on the soundtrack.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Capital Celluloid - Day 122: Tuesday May 3

Withnail and I (Robinson, 1986): Cineworld Haymarket, 6.30pm

The latest Time Out screening to celebrate the magazine's poll of the 100 best British films is a superb movie but one which many may think they know too well to trek into the West End to watch. Time Out film editor Dave Calhoun wrote an article on the publication's website, reproduced below, which perfectly encapsulated why that would be a mistake:

'The legend is well known. Bruce Robinson’s ‘Withnail and I’, his film about two actors thrown together by circumstance in London at the fag end of the 1960s, didn’t make much of an impression at the box office when it opened in 1988. But a few years later it was a hit on video, with copies being passed among teenagers and students and watched repeatedly until the tape began to jump and fade.

As time went on, many of the film’s quotable lines – ‘I demand to have some booze!’; ‘We’ve come on holiday by mistake’; ‘I’m going to be a star!’ – slipped into common usage. You’d overhear people repeating the dialogue and feel slightly affronted that someone was speaking the script of a film that belonged to you and your living room or bedroom. By the time the twentieth-anniversary DVD came out in 2008, it was all a bit embarrassing. The extras featured ‘Withnail’ geeks slavering over the film’s locations and there was even a version of a game demanding that you down a drink every time someone in the film does the same. Enough with the nerdish behaviour, please! Can we get back to the film?

And that’s exactly what Time Out will be doing on Tuesday May 3 when we screen ‘Withnail and I’ in London’s West End at the Cineworld Haymarket – the same cinema (then an Odeon) where the film had its premiere in February 1988. My fellow Time Out critic Wally Hammond remembers joining the magazine’s team around that same time and walking down Haymarket and seeing his quote plastered all over the billboard in huge letters – ‘Superb! I loved it… Gloriously funny.’

I have to agree with him. It’s simply a great film, and one that rewards repeated viewings. Yes, it’s funny, but it’s also tender and sad too, from the arresting sound of Procul Harum’s ‘Whiter Shade of Pale’ in the opening scene to the final, rainy farewell between Withnail and his unnamed friend (revealed as 'Marwood' in the screenplay) in the last scene in Regent’s Park.

I’m thrilled that Time Out is now showing the film in a West End cinema. It deserves an audience it never had on its release, and we’re doing our little bit to redress the balance. I’m also very happy that we’ll be joined by the gifted comedy writer Sam Bain – co-writer of TV series ‘Peep Show’ and one of the writers of Chris Morris’s ‘Four Lions’ – to introduce the film and talk about what makes 'Withnail and I' such an enduring classic.

So please join us for this special screening of one of British cinema’s great comedies. It doesn't mean you can't continue to drink along to the DVD, or mutter those great lines under your breath...
 '

Dave Calhoun

Here is an extract to get you in the mood