Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Capital Celluloid - Day 186: Thursday July 7

Rolling Thunder (Flynn, 1977): & Reservoir Dogs (Tarantino, 1992) Prince Charles Cinema, 6.35pm

This is screening as part of the Prince Charles Cinema's Quentin Tarantino inspiration series.

Chicago Reader review for Rolling Thunder: 

'William Devane returns from Vietnam with dead eyes and a hollow soul, snapping to life only when his wife and child are killed in a robbery. As he sets out for vengeance, he seems motivated less by love for his family than by an unholy nostalgia for his wartime experiences. Scripted by Paul Schrader, this 1977 feature is effectively cold and frightening for much of its length. But director John Flynn lacks the skill to put across the madness and masochism, and the ending tends toward traditional revenge melodrama. With Tommy Lee Jones and Dabney Coleman.' Dave Kehr

Here is the Rolling Thunder trailer.

Chicago Reader review for Reservoir Dogs: 

'A stunning debut (1992) from writer-director Quentin Tarantino, though a far cry from Stanley Kubrick's 1956 The Killing, to which it clearly owes a debt. Like The Killing, it employs an intricate flashback structure to follow the before and after of a carefully planned heist and explores some of the homoerotic allegiances, betrayals, and tensions involved; unlike The Killing, it never flashes back to the heist itself and leaves a good many knots still tied at the end. The hoods here—including Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Steve Buscemi, and (in a bit) Tarantino himself—are all ex-cons hired by an older ex-con (Lawrence Tierney) who conceals their identities from one another by assigning them the names of colors. Our grasp of what's going on is always in flux, and Tarantino's skill with actors, dialogue, 'Scope framing, and offbeat construction is kaleidoscopic. More questionable are the show-offy celebrations of brutality: buckets of blood, racist and homophobic invective, and an excruciating sequence of sadistic torture and (offscreen) mutilation that's clearly
meant to awe us with its sheer unpleasantness. It's unclear whether this macho thriller does anything to improve the state of the world or our understanding of it, but it certainly sets off enough rockets to
hold and shake us for every one of its 99 minutes.' Jonathan Rosenbaum


Here is the Reservoir Dogs trailer.

Capital Celluloid - Day 185: Wednesday July 6

A Separation (Farhadi, 2011): Rio Cinema 3.15, 6.00 & 8.45pm

A rare foray into new-release territory for Capital Celluloid on a quiet night on the repertory circuit in order to highlight this much-lauded new Iranian film and my local cinema.

Guardian Film have started a series of articles entitled Cine-files reviewing cinemas rather than the movies shown in them. Here's their take on the much-loved Rio.

Here, meanwhile, is an extract from the Time Out review for A Separation, a drama about the messy divorce of a middle-class Iranian couple:

'Here’s an Iranian film that plunges us into life in Tehran with an urgent sense of reality and framed by a style of handheld realism more familiar from the likes of French director Laurent Cantet’s ‘The Class’ or the best of recent Romanian cinema, such as ‘The Death of Mr Lazarescu’. It takes place over a few weeks, perhaps a few months, but it’s one of those films that tricks you into believing it’s unfolding in real time, even though what it doesn’t show – what it actively conceals – is as important to its ethically teasing dynamic as what it reveals.

A Separation’ is lively and suspenseful as both drama and debate. It employs a tricksy moral compass that swings all over the place as we see its story from various viewpoints. It prods gently at middle-class entitlement of the how-can-this-be-happening-to-me variety, but it also avoids the trap of coming down on the side of less worldly characters. If it reserves a significant amount of sympathy for anyone, it’s for the side players – the old man and the kids – to whom its gaze keeps returning, refusing to forget those outside the eye of the storm but equally bruised by it.'
Dave Calhoun

Here is the trailer.



Capital Celluloid - Day 184: Tuesday July 5

Anatomy of a Murder (Preminger, 1959): BFI Southbank, 6.10pm

Screening as part of the BFI's Passport to Cinema season and introduced by critic Richard Combs.

Otto Preminger was one of Hollywood's most fascinating and underrated directors. Here's Jonathan Rosenbaum's in-depth article on the Austro-Hungarian exile's best work, which includes this superb courtroom drama. And here's his capsule review for the Chicago Reader:

'This 1959 release is a prime contender for Otto Preminger's greatest film—a superb courtroom drama packed with humor and character that shows every actor at his or her best. James Stewart plays a small-town Michigan lawyer asked to defend an army lieutenant (Ben Gazzara) on a charge of murdering a local businessman who allegedly raped his flirtatious wife (Lee Remick); Boston lawyer Joseph Welch (of the army-McCarthy hearings), in his only screen performance, plays the judge; and George C. Scott is a lawyer working for the prosecution. There are also wonderful performances by Arthur O'Connell and Eve Arden, and even a cameo by Duke Ellington, who composed the memorable jazz score. As an entertaining look at legal process, this is spellbinding, infused by an ambiguity about human personality and motivation that is Preminger's trademark, and the location shooting is superb. Adapted by Wendell Mayes from Robert Travers's novel. 161 min.' Jonathan Rosenbaum

Look at this great trailer.

Capital Celluloid - Day 183: Monday July 4

The Way Home (Kumar, 2010): Watermans Cinema, 6.30pm

This is screening as part of the Indian Film Festival in the capital. I haven't seen the film but Time Out's Other Cinema section editor Tom Huddleston reckons it is the pick of this year's crop.

Here is the Time Out review:

'Kumar's film deservedly won the Indian government's award for the Best Picture in the Malaysian language. A prison doctor promises a dying patient to escort her young son to his father Tariq, the head of a notorious terrorist group. A predictable mismatched man and boy road trip plot is enhanced by stunning cinematography through various Indian states, a dignified lead performance and sensitive handling of a contentious subject matter. It never soft pedals the touchy issue posed by current Indian terrorism and its devastating impact. Highly recommended.'

Here is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid - Day 182: Sunday July 3

Badlands (Malick, 1973): & Days of Heaven (Malick, 1978) Ritzy Cinema 4pm

The place to be this weekend is the Ritzy in Brixton where film buffs can catch up on Terrence Malick's work so far prior to the long-awaited release of his Cannes Festival Palme d'Or winner The Tree of Life in the UK on July 15.

The Tree of Life has clearly divided audiences wherever it has been shown and on Monday night on Radio 3 critic Nigel Floyd, who is on record as saying he has liked none of Malick's work since Days of Heaven, will discuss The Tree of Life with the director of Senna, Asif Kapadia. The debate will take place on the programme Night Waves (details via this link).

If Malick's three most recent works have caused arguments as to their merits these are two bona-fide classics hailed pretty universally as key American films of the 1970s.

Here is the Chicago Reader review of Badlands:

'Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek as an aw-shucks madman killer and his fudge-brained girlfriend. Loosely based on the Starkweather-Fugate horror show of the late 50s, writer-director Terrence Malick's 1973 first feature is a film so rich in ideas it hardly knows where to turn. Transcendent themes of love and death are fused with a pop-culture sensibility and played out against a midwestern background, which is breathtaking both in its sweep and in its banality. Days of Heaven put Malick's intuitions into cogent form, but this is where his art begins. With Warren Oates and Alan Vint.' Dave Kehr

Here's a clip.

Here is the Chicago Reader review of Days of Heaven:

'Terrence Malick's remarkably rich second feature (1978) is a story of human lives touched and passed over by the divine, told in a rush of stunning and precise imagery. Nestor Almendros's cinematography is as sharp and vivid as Malick's narration is elliptical and enigmatic. The result is a film that hovers just beyond our grasp—mysterious, beautiful, and, very possibly, a masterpiece. With Richard Gere,
Brooke Adams, and Sam Shepard.
' Dave Kehr

Take a look at the wonderful opening credits.

Capital Celluloid - Day 181: Saturday July 2

The Thin Red Line (Malick, 1998): Ritzy Cinema 8.30pm

The place to be this weekend is the Ritzy in Brixton where film buffs can catch up on Terrence Malick's work so far prior to the long-awaited release of his Cannes Festival Palme d'Or winner The Tree of Life in the UK on July 15.

The Tree of Life has divided critics just as much as The New World and The Thin Red Line. On Monday night on Radio 3 critic Nigel Floyd, who is on record as saying he has liked none of Malick's work since Days of Heaven, will discuss The Tree of Life with the director of Senna, Asif Kapadia. The debate will take place on the programme Night Waves (details via this link).

The Thin Red Line confused Jonathan Romney so much when he was the Guardian's chief film critic that he said he wasn't sure whether it was worth one star or five so he put a row of question marks at the top of his review which you can read in full here.

Here is the Chicago Reader review:

'There's less sense of period here and more feeling for terrain than in any other World War II movie that comes to mind. Terrence Malick's strongest suits in his two previous features, Badlands (1973) and Days of Heaven (1978)—a painterly sense of composition and a bold and original use of offscreen narration—are enhanced here, first by a successful wedding of ecology and narrative (which never quite happened in Days of Heaven) and second by the notion of a collective hero, which permits the internal monologues of many characters in turn. I haven't read the James Jones novel this is based on,  which some feel is his best, but Malick clearly is distancing the material philosophically and poetically, muting the drama periodically and turning it into reverie. This may have its occasional dull stretches, but in contrast to Saving Private Ryan it's the work of a grown-up with something to say about the meaning and consequences of war. The fine cast includes Sean Penn, Adrien Brody, Jim Caviezel, Ben Chaplin, John Cusack, Woody Harrelson, Elias Koteas, Nick Nolte, John C. Reilly, and, in tiny parts, John Travolta and George Clooney.' Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid - Day 180: Friday July 1

The New World (Malick, 2005): Ritzy Cinema 8.30pm

The place to be this weekend is definitely the Ritzy in Brixton where film buffs can catch up on director Terrence Malick's work so far prior to the long-awaited release of his Cannes Festival Palme d'Or winner The Tree of Life in the UK on July 15.

The Tree of Life has divided critics just as much as The New World did when released in 2005. On Monday night on Radio 3 critic Nigel Floyd, who is on record as saying he has liked none of Malick's work since Days of Heaven, will discuss The Tree of Life with the director of Senna, Asif Kapadia. The debate will take place on the programme Night Waves (details via this link).

Here for the prosecution on the subject of The New World is Jonathan Rosenbaum in the Chicago Reader:

'No important American filmmaker in recent years has divided audiences more than writer-director Terrence Malick (The Thin Red Line), and his fourth feature in 35 years pushed me for the first time into the skeptics' corner. The subject matter is partly to blame: after four centuries of Anglo denial about the genocidal conquest of America, I was hoping for something a little more grown-up and educational about John Smith (Colin Farrell) and Pocahontas (the striking Q'Orianka Kilcher). Malick still has an eye for landscapes, but since Badlands (1973) his storytelling skill has atrophied, and he's now given to transcendental reveries, discontinuous editing, offscreen monologues, and a pie-eyed sense of awe. All these things can be defended, even celebrated, but I couldn't find my bearings. With Christopher Plummer, David Thewlis, and Christian Bale.'

Here for the defence is the Guardian's John Patterson who hailed the film the best of the last decade – and by some way. This is his article from December in full and here is an extract:

'It may seem like an exaggeration, but with The New World cinema has reached its culmination, its apotheosis. It is both ancient and modern, cinema at its purest and most organic, its simplest and most refined, made with much the same tools as were available in the infancy of the form a century ago to the Lumières, to Griffith and Murnau. Barring a few adjustments for modernity – colour, sound, developments in editing, a hyper-cine-literate audience – it could conceivably have been made 80 years ago (like Murnau and Flaherty's Tabu). This is why, I believe, when all the middlebrow  Oscar-dross of our time has eroded away to its constituent molecules of celluloid, The New World will stand tall, isolated and magnificent, like Kubrick's black monolith.'

Here is the opening.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Capital Celluloid - Day 179: Thursday June 30

Cutter's Way (Passer, 1981): BFI Southbank, NFT3 6.10pm & 8.45pm
Screening at BFI Southbank for an extended period from Friday June 24. Details here.

I was lucky to see this brilliant neo-noir classic last year at Tom Huddleston's much-missed Exploding Head Film Club. Here is Time out critic Huddleston's ecstatic review in the current issue:

'In Hollywood, decades aren’t so much periods of time as states of mind. So, just as early-’70s moviegoers might have been fooled into thinking it was still swinging 1967, cinema in the early ’80s was still suffused with the doubt and melancholy which had defined the preceding decade. One of the archetypal figures in that mood-shift was Jeff Bridges, his keen, frisky but oddly lonesome persona defined in new-Hollywood masterpieces like ‘The Last Picture Show’ and ‘Fat City’. By 1981, Bridges was showing signs of wear and tear, but this only enriched his performances: sadder even than a lonely teenager is a lonely thirtysomething who still tries to live like one.

‘Cutter’s Way’ feels like a farewell to the ’70s: to honest political activism, social responsibility, excessive but essentially good-natured drug and alcohol abuse, Vietnam, California and the young Bridges. His character, Richard Bone, clings to his fading prime the way his best friend and mentor, crippled war veteran Alex Cutter (
John Heard) clings to his walking stick. Together, the two men attempt to solve a murder, but that’s window dressing: this is a tale of friendship, endurance and loss, and one of the saddest movies ever made. 
Everything in the film feels tuned to capturing this spirit: Czech director Ivan Passer’s use of late-summer light is rich and entrancing, while Bridges and Heard give their all: the latter delivers a performance of spectacular rage and intensity. The result is nothing less than a modern masterpiece, and a film ripe for rediscovery.'

Lisa Eichhorn has also been praised for her portrayal of Cutter's wife and you can here her and critic Nigel Floyd talk about the film here on Radio 4's The Film Programme on BBC iPlayer.

Guardian film writer John Patterson, who has seen it around 30 times, labelled the movie a "cinematic masterpiece" in his article here earlier this month. Do not miss.


Here are the wonderful opening credits. 

Capital Celluloid - Day 178: Wednesday June 29

Suspiria (Argento, 1976): Dalston Roof Park, 18 Ashwin Street, London E8 3DL, 7.30pm

This screening showing after a set from the band Tasseomancy (more details here).

I can think of few better films to see at this sort of venue than this horror masterpiece from the famed Italian director Dario Argento.

Time Out review:

'From his stylish, atmosphere-laden opening - young American ballet student arriving in Europe during a storm - Argento relentlessly assaults his audience: his own rock score (all dissonance and heavy-breathing) blasts out in stereo, while Jessica Harper gets threatened by location, cast, weather and camera. Thunderstorms and extraordinarily grotesque murders pile up as Argento happily abandons plot mechanics to provide a bravura display of his technical skill. With his sharp eye for the bizarre and for vulgar over-decoration, it's always fascinating to watch; the thrills and spills are so classy and fast that the movie becomes in effect what horror movies seemed like when you were too young to get in to see them. Don't think, just panic.'


If you want to read a longer discussion of the film's merits I can certainly recommend this essay by Tribune critic Neil Young.  


Here is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid - Day 177: Tuesday June 28

Assault (Hayers, 1971): Roxy Bar and Screen, 7.30pm

Now this is a rare one, a 1971 British thriller directed by Sidney Hayers and starring Suzy Kendall, Frank Finlay and Freddie Jones with David Essex in a minor role and Lesley Anne-Down making an early screen appearance. It is based on the novel The Ravine by Kendal Young and tells about a police attempt to track down a dangerous rapist/killer on the loose. It is also known as Tower of Terror and in America it was retitled In The Devil's Garden.

The intriguing aspect here is that this was an attempt by those involved with the Carry On films to transplant the sordid yet stylish murder mysteries of the Italian giallo genre to UK shores.

As Justin Harries of FilmBar70, who are behind this screening. puts it: "Assault is Britsploitation at its most wonderfully outrageous and is replete with more male chauvinist pigs, dodgy gender politics and sensational shenanignas that you can possibly shake a black leather encased fist at . . ."

Here is the FilmBar70 trailer.

Capital Celluloid - Day 176: Monday June 27

Soho Incident [AKA Spin A Dark Web] (Sewell, 1956):
Sanctum Soho Hotel, 20 Warwick Street, London, W1B, 7pm

This is a Society Film Club @ Sanctum Soho screening and you can find out more about the people behind the club here. I can't tell you a lot about the movie other than that it's about a mobster and is set in Soho in the 1950s. You can find out a little more here from the club, which reveals there are great scenes set in Berwick Street and other landmark thoroughfares in the area.

What I do know is that the Society Film Club put on a great night and that there couldn't be a better place to see a movie about Soho than in the heart of Soho.

Their film nights are clearly going from strength to strength as this news item in West End Extra testifies.

Here's an IMDB review of tonight's screening:

'A rather good surprise. British thriller are sometimes flat and uninteresting, talkative and boring. Not this one, I must admit. Vernon Sewell, as Montgommery Tully, is a good director for this kind of productions. B movies of course. It tells the story of an American, a prizefighter, who is involved with gangsters in a sort of race track racket. The film points out the techniques, about the betting. I don't know the lead actor, but Faith Domergue is the femme fatale of this movie, the "bad girl". After the boss of the gang has killed one of his partners, our hero wants to quit the gang. . . '

Capital Celluloid - Day 175: Sunday June 26

Cat People (Tourneur, 1942) & Scream and Scream Again (Hessler, 1969):
Roxy Bar and Screen, 128-132 Borough High Street, London, SE1 1LB, 3pm

This superb double-bill has been organised by the Classic Horror Campaign, a presure group trying its best to get horror films back on our TV screens. You can find out more about them via this Facebook page.

After meeting Sarah James and Richard Gladman of the Classic Horror Campaign at the Roxy on Sunday I was intrigued to discover more about Scream and Scream Again, a film which I did see thanks to a late-night television screening, but which unfortunately was over 20 years ago.

For those interested David Pirie writes about the work of Scream and Scream Again's director Gordon Hessler in his groundbreaking book A Heritage of Horror. Pirie was especially taken with the film and wrote in his volume in the mid-1970s: "Hessler is one of the few British directors who could be said to have evolved an unmistakable style in the course of his first two major films and it is scarcely surprising that Fritz Lang – one of the masters of the thriller – should have been so impressed by Scream and Scream Again that he singled it out for special praise in a recent interview."

Film devotees will know plenty about Jacques Tourneur's highly influential Cat People, a superb example of the director's subtle work in the thriller/horror genre. Scream and Scream Again is precisely not subtle but is a real find, as bizzare a film as you are likely to see all year. The least known in advance the better but there are numerous pleasures here not least the fact that Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and Vincent Price are all in one and the same movie. Without doubt the highlight of the week.

Chicago Reader review of Cat People:

Like most people with a cat phobia, Val Lewton, the legendary producer of RKO's horror cycle, was fascinated by them. His first film (1942), eerily directed by Jacques Tourneur, is dedicated to his fetish. Based on a wholly fabricated Serbian legend about medieval devil worship, Cat People describes the effects of this legend on the mind of a New York fashion designer (Simone Simon) who believes herself descended from a race of predatory cat women. More a film about unreasoning fear than the supernatural, this work demonstrates what a filmmaker can accomplish when he substitutes taste and intelligence for special effects.





Time Out review of Scream and Scream Again:

'An impressive if somewhat fragmented horror film in which mad scientist Price uses surgery and organ transplants to create a super race of emotionless creatures, one of which (Gothard) attracts the attentions of the police by going berserk and committing a number of grisly vampiric murders. The underlying narrative thread about the creatures taking over positions of authority is not sufficiently well developed to have any real impact, but individual scenes are conceived to gory and striking effect.' Nigel Floyd


Here is the trailer for Scream and Scream Again

Capital Celluloid - Day 174: Saturday June 25

Celine and Julie Go Boating (Rivette, 1974): ICA Cinema, 5pm
Also screening Sunday June 26, 3pm

A personal favourite that comes with a word of warning. This is a long movie and I took a hip flask in when I went to see this on a date at Notting Hill's Electric Cinema back in the day. That worked wonderfully as this is a meandering film probably best seen under some sort of influence. Another showing as part of the ICA's Cinema Architects of the Uncanny season.

Chicago Movie review:

'Jacques Rivette's 193-minute comic feminist extravaganza is as scary and unsettling in its narrative high jinks as it is exhilarating in its uninhibited slapstick (1974). Its slow, sensual beginning stages a meeting between a librarian (Dominique Labourier) and a nightclub magician (Juliet Berto). Eventually, a plot within a plot magically takes shape—a somewhat sexist Victorian melodrama with Bulle Ogier, Marie-France Pisier, Barbet Schroeder (the film's producer), and a little girl—as each character, on successive days, visits an old dark house and the same events take place. The elaborate Hitchcockian doublings are so beautifully worked out that this movie steadily grows in resonance and power. The four main actresses scripted their own dialogue with Eduardo de Gregorio and Rivette, and the film derives many of its euphoric effects from a wholesale ransacking of the cinema of pleasure (cartoons, musicals, thrillers, and serials).' In French with subtitles.

Capital Celluloid - Day 173: Friday June 24

Malpertius (Kumel, 1971): ICA Cinema, 9pm
Also screening Wednesday 29 June, 8.45pm

Belgian director Harry Kumel was responsible for the cult vampire movie Daughters of Darkness which the Cigarette Burns crowd showed earlier this year. I haven't seen this film, which gets a rare screening as part of the ICA's Cinema Architects of the Uncanny season, but quite clearly it will be well worth a trip to The Mall to investigate.

Here is the Time Out review:

'A fresh-faced blond sailor (Carrière) is shanghaied from a '20s port full of sleazy bars and art-nouveau mansions, and held captive in the endless corridors of a crumbling Gothic pile called Malpertuis: we don't discover why until the end, in a denouement as outrageous and devastating as any ever filmed. Kümel elaborates the mystery like a master, drawing much of his design and composition from Surrealist painting (Magritte, de Chirico), and weaving serpentine patterns from the intrigues between the many characters. Welles is at his most mountainous as the house's patriarch; Hampshire is a revelation, playing three contrasted women. This English-dialogue version is better than the French and Flemish originals (which run 22 minutes longer). From the novel by Jean Ray.' Tony Rayns


Here is an extract (no translation available)

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Capital Celluloid - Day 172: Thursday June 23

Dr Strangelove (Kubrick, 1963): Queen of Hoxton Rooftop Film Club, 8.30pm

I went to a screening of Stand By Me at this venue a fortnight ago and was very impressed. Seating in directors' chairs; lovely food and drink and blankets to keep warm in cool weather. Here is a list of their upcoming attractions.

Chicago Reader review:

'Like most of his work, Stanley Kubrick's deadly black satirical comedy-thriller on cold war madness and its possible effects (1964) has aged well: the manic, cartoonish performances of George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden, and Peter Sellers (in three separate roles, including the title part) look as brilliant as ever, and Kubrick's icy contempt for 20th-century humanity may find its purest expression in the figure of Strangelove himself, a savage extrapolation of a then-obscure Henry Kissinger conflated with Wernher von Braun and Dr. Mabuse to suggest a flawed, spastic machine with Nazi reflexes that ultimately turns on itself. With Peter Bull, Keenan Wynn, Slim Pickens, and James Earl Jones.'  

Here is the trailer

Capital Celluloid - Day 171: Wednesday June 22

Inferno (Argento, 1980): ICA Cinema, 8.45pm
Also showing: Saturday 25th 8.45pm

With the work of Pablo Bronstein currently housed in, around and through the ICA, the gallery turns to some of cinema’s master builders to observe human characters who are possessed by architecture and living in the mansions of their minds.

In his groundbreaking book Nightmare Movies horror writer Kim Newman describes Dario Argento's Inferno as a "masterpiece".

"Every sequence is a meticulously orchestrated mini-symphony of camera movement, stylised lighting, sound effects, music and found objects," writes Newman, who describes the director's break with the traditional forms of movie making.

"Although nothing rally happens in [these scenes], Argento's absolute film approach turns them into set pieces. Other directors would have cut these sequences back and conveyed the essential plot information in a few brief cuts, but Argento makes ordinary events mysterious, erotic or horrifying. Previously, the murders in Argento's films (particularly the first death in Suspiria) have been set pieces; Inferno is all set pieces, and thus all of a piece."

Here is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid - Day 170: Tuesday June 21

Don't Look Now (Roeg, 1973): Soho Curzon, 6.30pm

Curzon welcomes acclaimed director Nicolas Roeg for a Q&A after a special screening of his celebrated film, Don’t Look Now, widely acknowledged as perhaps Roeg's finest film and one of the best British films of the 70s. Roeg will also be joined by writer Allan Scott after the screening.

Don't Look Now was voted No1 in the recent Time Out Best of British movies poll.

Time Out review:

'A superbly chilling essay in the supernatural, adapted from Daphne du Maurier's short story about a couple, shattered by the death of their small daughter, who go to Venice to forget. There, amid the hostile silences of an off-season resort, they are approached by a blind woman with a message of warning from the dead child; and half- hoping, half-resisting, they are sucked into a terrifying vortex of time where disaster may be foretold but not forestalled. Conceived in Roeg's usual imagistic style and predicated upon a series of ominous associations (water, darkness, red, shattering glass), it's hypnotically brilliant as it works remorselessly toward a sense of dislocation in time; an undermining of all the senses, in fact, perfectly exemplified by Sutherland's marvellous Hitchcockian walk through a dark alley where a banging shutter, a hoarse cry, a light extinguished at a window, all recur as in a dream, escalating into terror the second time round because a hint of something seen, a mere shadow, may have been the dead child.' Tom Milne


Here is the trailer 
 

Capital Celluloid - Day 169: Monday June 20

Mulholland Dr (Lynch, 2001): The Chapel Cinema, 21 Old Ford Rd, Bethnal Green, 7.30pm FREE


Chicago Reader review:


I'm still trying to decide if this piece of hocus-pocus (2001) is David Lynch's best feature between Eraserhead and Inland Empire. In any case, it's immensely more likable than his other stabs at neonoir (Blue Velvet, Wild at Heart, Lost Highway), perhaps because it likes its characters and avoids sentimentalizing or sneering at them (the sort of thing that limited Twin Peaks). Originally conceived and rejected as a TV pilot, then expanded after some French producers stepped in, it has the benefit of Lynch's own observations about Hollywood, which were fresher at this point than his puritanical notations on small towns in the American heartland. The best-known actors (Ann Miller, Robert Forster, Dan Hedaya) wound up relatively marginalized, while the lesser-known talents (in particular the remarkable Naomi Watts and the glamorous Laura Elena Harring) were invited to take over the movie (and have a field day doing so). The plot slides along agreeably as a tantalizing mystery before becoming almost completely inexplicable, though no less thrilling, in the closing stretches—but that's what Lynch is famous for.

Here is the trailer

Capital Celluloid - Day 168: Sunday June 19

The 39 Steps (Hitchcock, 1939): Prince Charles Cinema, 8.30pm

Part of the Vintage Film Season

Chicago Reader review:

'As an artist, Alfred Hitchcock surpassed this early achievement many times in his career, but for sheer entertainment value it still stands in the forefront of his work. Robert Donat is the dapper young man who stumbles across a spy ring; Madeleine Carroll is the cool, luminous blond with whom he shares a pair of handcuffs. The ideas established in this 1935 feature lead in two different directions in Hitchcock's later work—toward the interpersonal themes of the “couple” films (Marnie, Frenzy, The Paradine Case) and the metaphysical adventures of the chase pictures (North by Northwest, The Man Who Knew Too Much). With Lucie Mannheim, Peggy Ashcroft, and Godfrey Tearle. 85 min.'

Here is an extract (the wonderful opening Music Hall scene)

Capital Celluloid - Day 167: Saturday June 18

Shoah (Lanzmann, 1985): Prince Charles Cinema, 9.30am

Part of the Open City Documentary Festival

Time Out review:

'Lanzmann's nine-hour documentary meditation on the Holocaust is a distillation of 350 hours of interviews with living 'witnesses' to what happened at the extermination camps of Treblinka, Auschwitz, Sobibor, Chelmno and Belzec. Feeling that the familiar newsreel images have lost their power to shock, Lanzmann concentrates instead on the testimony of those survivors who are 'not reliving' but 'still living' what happened, and on 'the bureaucracy of death'. One of the two Jews to survive the murder of 400,000 men, women and children at the Chelmno death camp describes his feelings on revisiting Poland for the first time. A train driver who ferried victims to the concentration camps is seen making that same journey to 'the end of the line' again and again; a retired Polish barber who cut the hair of those about to enter the gas chambers describes his former work; an SS officer talks about the 'processing' of those on their way to the concentration camps; a railway official discusses the difficulties associated with transporting so many Jews to their deaths. The same questions are repeated like an insistent refrain, the effect is relentless and cumulative. One word of caution as you watch the witnesses giving testimony; bear in mind Schiller's observation that 'individual testimony has a specific place in history but doesn't, alone, add up to it' 
Nigel Floyd


Here is an extract.

Capital Celluloid - Day 166: Friday June 17

Heaven's Gate (Cimino, 1980): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 6.20pm

Time Out review:

'For all the abuse heaped on it, this is - in its complete version, at least - a majestic and lovingly detailed Western which simultaneously celebrates and undermines the myth of the American frontier. The keynote is touched in the wonderfully choreographed opening evocation of a Harvard graduation in 1870: answering the Dean's ritual address urging graduates to spread culture through contact with the uncultivated, the class valedictorian (Hurt) mockingly replies that they see no need for change in a world 'on the whole well arranged'. Twenty years later, as Hurt and fellow-graduate Kristofferson become involved in the Johnson County Wars, their troubled consciences suggest that some change in the 'arrangements' might well have been in order. Watching uneasily as the rich cattle barons legally exterminate the poor immigrant farmers who have taken to illegal rustling to feed their starving families, they can only attempt to enforce the law that has become a mockery (Kristofferson) or lapse into soothing alcoholism (Hurt). Moral compromise on a national scale is in question here, a theme subtly echoed by the strange romantic triangle that lies at the heart of the film: a three-way struggle between the man who has everything (Kristofferson), the man who has nothing (Walken), and the girl (Huppert) who would settle for either provided no fraudulent compromise is asked of her. The ending, strange and dreamlike, blandly turns a blind eye to shut out the atrocities and casuistries we have witnessed, and on which the American dream was founded; not much wonder the American press went on a mass witch-hunt against the film's un-American activities.' Tom Milne


Here is the trailer.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Capital Celluloid - Day 165: Thursday June 16

Alice (Svankmajer, 1988): Barbican Cinema, 7.30pm
The great Czech filmmaker is at thre Barbican to open a summer animation season with a screening of Alice, followed by a Q&A with Peter Hames

Chicago Reader review:


'Czech puppet animator Jan Svankmajer began making shorts in 1964, but not until 1988 was he able to realize his dream of a feature adapting Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. The world on the other side of Svankmajer's looking glass is hilariously macabre: taxidermy is the controlling metaphor, as a live-action Alice (Kristyna Kohoutova) descends an elevatorlike rabbit hole following a white rabbit that's broken out of its glass display case. She enters a subterranean house populated by bizarre creatures constructed from small animals—mammal skulls top off bird or reptile torsos, and in one scene Alice is attacked by a shopping cart with bird wings and clawing feet. In a strange kitchen, nails sprout from a piece of bread and little skulls burst out of eggs and dash away. With its episodic structure, Carroll's story is the perfect vehicle for Svankmajer's dark, 30s-style surrealism ' 86 min.


Here is an extract.

Capital Celluloid - Day 164: Wednesday June 15

Welcome To The Dollhouse (Solondz, 1995): @ The Book Club, 100 Leonard St, Shoreditch 7.30pm

This is an Amy Grimehouse presentation and you can expect guest DJs and chocolate cake. This is what they do. Here's where you can get involved.

Chicago Reader review:

'An intriguing and arresting dark comedy (1995) from American independent writer-director Todd Solondz, who focuses on an 11-year-old misfit in New Jersey but refuses to sentimentalize her. It's worth pondering whether Solondz goes out of his way to pile on her miseries, but this isn't as obvious a skewering of what it means to be American, adolescent, and unloved as it may first appear; it's also about the interactions of a twisted world we all live in. Winner of the grand jury prize at the Sundance film festival; with Heather Matarazzo, Victoria Davis, Christina Brucato, and Brendan Sexton Jr.'

Capital Celluloid - Day 163: Tuesday June 14

The Scarlet Empress (Von Sternberg, 1934): BFI Southbank, 6.10pm
Part of the Passport to Cinema season with introduction by Philip Kemp

Chicago Reader review:

'Josef von Sternberg's 1934 film turns the legend of Catherine the Great into a study of sexuality sadistically repressed and reborn as politics, thus anticipating Bertolucci by three decades. Marlene Dietrich's transformation from spoiled princess to castrating matriarch is played for both terror and sympathy, surface coolness and buried passion, with weird injections of black humor from Sam Jaffe's degenerate grand duke. Sternberg's mise-en-scene is, for once, oppressively materialistic, emphasizing closeness, heaviness, temperature, and smell. With John Lodge, Louise Dresser, and C. Aubrey Smith.' 110 min.
 
Here is an extract.

Capital Celluloid - Day 162: Monday June 13

The Phantom of Liberty (Bunuel, 1974): The Chapel, 21 Old Ford Road, Bethnal Green. 7.30pm

Luis Bunuel's favourite of all his films. He said of the movie: "Chance governs all things; necessity, which is far from having the same purity, comes only later. If I have a soft spot for any one of my movies, it would be for The Phantom of Liberty, because it tries to work out just this theme."

Time out review:

'As a good Surrealist who aimed to disturb rather than to please, Buñuel must have felt that the Oscar which crowned the worldwide success of The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie was the last straw. At any rate, he made sure that this isn't such an easy pill to digest, though its delightful humour goes down just as easily. The Chinese box structure, with a series of bizarre episodes never quite reaching the point of resolution, is exactly the same as in the earlier film. But where The Discreet Charm used the interrupted dinner-party as a comfortably recognisable motif, The Phantom of Liberty works more disconcertingly by stringing its episodes on an invisible thread woven by the prologue (where Spanish patriots welcome the firing-squad with cries of 'Long live chains!', and a Captain of Dragoons falls in love with a statue of a saint). Thereafter, beneath the surface, the film busily explores the process whereby the human mind, burying itself ostrich-like in convention, invariably fails to recognise the true nature of freedom and sexuality.' Tom Milne

Here is an extract.

Capital Celluloid - Day 161: Sunday June 12

La Bete Humaine (Renoir, 1938): Cine Lumiere, 2pm

What better way to spend a weekend afternoon than watching one of the Cine Lumiere's regular Sunday classic French movie screenings.

Here is the Time Out review:

'Stunning images of trains and railway lines as a metaphor for the blind, immutable forces that drive human passions to destruction. Superb performances from Gabin, Simon and Ledoux as the classic tragic love triangle. The deterministic principles of Zola's novel, replaced by destiny in Lang's remake Human Desire, are slightly muffled here. But given the overwhelming tenderness and brutality of Renoir's vision, it hardly matters that the hero's compulsion to kill, the result of hereditary alcoholism, is left half-explained.' Tom Milne


Here is an extract.

Capital Celluloid - Day 160: Saturday June 11

House (Obayashi, 1977): Cafe El Paso, 350-354 Old Street, EC1V 9NQ, 8pm FREE
Plus live music from GNOD and Teeth Of The Sea, and Night of the Long Swords club night.

A kitsch Japanese cult horror classic, complete with live bands and great DJ set.

Here is the Chicago Reader review:

'This incredibly odd Japanese horror feature (1977) is like a Hello Kitty backpack stuffed with bloody human viscera. The insufferably cute and campy opening scenes involve a schoolgirl who invites six gal pals to accompany her on a visit to her aunt's mansion in a dark wood. Once these mugging, irrepressibly sunny heroines have arrived, all hell breaks loose: one girl is decapitated, another watches her face shatter like a mirror, a third has her fingers bitten off by a piano keyboard. Director Nobuhiko Obayashi, making his feature debut after a career in commercials and experimental films, loads the movie down with visual effects both familiar (zooms, wipes, irises) and novel, for the era (some striking video animation). There's never a dull moment, though I certainly felt dulled by the time it was over.' 

Here is the suitably crazy trailer.

Capital Celluloid - Day 159: Friday June 10

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (Wilder, 1970): Lexi Cinema, Kensal Rise, 8.30pm
With introduction by Mark Gatiss

Mark Gatiss of League of Gentlemen and BBC-TV's Sherlock fame will be along to discuss his favourite movie adaptation at a screening which launches the Queens Park Book Festival.

While this film is not typical of Wilder's output, this was a pet project of his and ranks among the director's greatest works.

Here is the Time Out review:


'A wonderful, cruelly underrated film. Although there are some terrifically funny moments, and on one level the Wilder/Diamond conception of Conan Doyle's hero does tend to debunk the myth of the perfect sleuth (there are allusions to his misogyny and cocaine addiction), this alternative vision of Holmes sets up a stylish and totally appropriate story (concerning dwarfs, dead canaries, and the Loch Ness monster) as a context in which to explain the reason for Holmes' forsaking of his emotional life to become a thinking machine. Betrayal and lost love are the elements that catalyse this process, turning Holmes from a fallible romantic into a disillusioned cynic. With a stunning score by Miklós Rozsa, carefully modulated performances, lush location photography, and perfect sets by Trauner, it is Wilder's least embittered film and by far his most moving.' Geoff Andrew

Here is the wonderful opening.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Capital Celluloid - Day 158: Thursday June 9

Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (Cimino, 1974): BFI Southbank, NFT3 6.10pm

A supremely enjoyable film and one of the highlights of the Jeff Bridges season at BFI Southbank.

Here is the Time Out review:

'This was Cimino's only preparation as director for the epic undertakings of The Deer Hunter and Heaven's Gate, and is separated from them both in time (four years until The Deer Hunter) and in subject (a buddy love/honour among thieves caper). The male bonding of The Deer Hunter is one connection, but Thunderbolt and Lightfoot still more or less merges with its production circumstances. Having written the script, Cimino was given his first chance to direct by Eastwood (for whom he had previously collaborated with John Milius on Magnum Force). The likeable result, made for and with the personnel of Eastwood's Malpaso Company, looks like a throwaway Eastwood vehicle, through which he drifts as the 'older' partner, allowing Jeff Bridges to strike most of the sparks and steal the movie as his good-natured sidekick.'


Here is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid - Day 157: Wednesday June 8

Apocalypse Now (Coppola, 1979): BFI Southbank, NFT3 5.15 & 8.10pm

This great Vietnam film, on an extended run at BFI Southbank, needs no introduction.

Here is the Time Out review:

'No deleted scenes or unseen Sheen, just a straight remaster and reissue for the relatively lean, unrelentingly mean original cut of Coppola’s massive man-on-a-mission masterpiece. Shorn of its ‘Redux’ excesses, which transformed this already epic film into something sprawling, unwieldy and soap-operatic (if still brilliant), it’s remarkable how slick and streamlined the film feels: five guys in a boat, and the river only goes one way.

Not that there isn’t room for experimentation. The central storyline – Captain Willard (
Martin Sheen) is tasked with tracking down and executing Marlon Brando’s rogue Colonel Kurtz – is essentially a slender thread upon which Coppola and his co-writer John Milius hang a number of increasingly wild asides. But these brief, brutal and seemingly unconnected incidents work together to drive the film forward: in their very randomness, they build a picture of a war being fought without strategy or clear intent, making Willard’s mission simultaneously clearer and more morally meaningless.

In contrast to Coppola’s earlier ‘The Godfather Part II’ and ‘The Conversation’, ‘Apocalypse Now’ isn’t a conspicuously ‘smart’ film: literary references aside, there are no intellectual pretensions here. Instead, as befits both its tortuous hand-to-mouth genesis and the devastating conflict it reflects, this is a film of pure sensation, dazzling audiences with light and noise, laying bare the stark horror – and unimaginable thrill – of combat. And therein lies the true heart of darkness: if war is hell and heaven intertwined, where does morality fit in? And, in the final apocalyptic analysis, will any of it matter?' 
 Tom Huddleston 

Here is an extract.

Capital Celluloid - Day 156: Tuesday June 7

Ace In The Hole (Wilder, 1951): Hampstead Town Hall 7pm

"I've seen some hard-boiled eggs in my time but you're 20 minutes," someone says to central character Chuck Tatum, played by Kirk Douglas. You'll know you could add another 20 to that once you've seen this jet-black film, even by Billy Wilder standards.

Here is the Chicago Reader review:

'Billy Wilder being bitter, without Billy Wilder being funny. This 1951 film, about a cynical reporter who seizes on the plight of a man trapped in a mine shaft to promote his career, is cold, lurid, and fascinating, propelled by the same combination of moral outrage and sneaky admiration that animates the paperback novels of Jim Thompson and James M. Cain. Kirk Douglas stars, and his psychotic charm is perfect for the part; Jan Sterling is unforgettable as the victim's hard-bitten wife, who's willing to go along with Douglas's scheme.' 111 min. by Dave Kehr


Here is an extract.

Capital Celluloid - Day 155: Monday June 6

The Living End (Araki, 1992): Ritzy Cinema, 6.30pm

The Ritzy are presenting an excellent week-long Gregg Araki season and there's no better way to start than here with this, perhaps his best work, from 1992. I was first alerted to Araki's work by critic Robin Wood who wrote extensively about the director in his book From Vietnam To Reagan. Here is an interview with Araki from Slant magazine in which he talks about meeting Wood and how influenced he was by the critic's work.

Here is the Chicago Reader review:

'Shot with camera equipment and film stock furnished by Jon Jost, the third feature from radical independent writer-director-cinematographer-editor Gregg Araki—after the award-winning Three Bewildered People in the Nightand The Long Weekend (o' Despair)—is a talky but potent doomed-couple-on-the-run picture in which both leads are desperate young men who've recently tested HIV positive. Jon (Craig Gilmore) is a sometime film critic who lives in LA, and Luke (Mike Dytri) is a cop killer; in a rough parallel to Godard's Breathless, Gilmore plays Jean Seberg to Dytri's Jean-Paul Belmondo. After opening episodes involving Luke's flight from murderous women (including Mary Woronov) that seem more misogynistic than satirical, the film settles down to something more serious and affecting, though not always more lucid. The main postmodernist references Araki has in mind are plainly Godard and Antonioni, and the sincerity and purity of his rage often give this 1991 film more bite than its verbose and raw dialogue; a sharp sense of camera and editing rhythm helps. 92 min.'  Jonathan Rosenbaum


Here is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid - Day 154: Sunday June 5

Senna (Kapadia, 2010) Plus Q&A with director: Rio Cinema, 6.15pm

One of the most eagerly anticipated films of the year - plus to chance to hear Asif Kapadia talk about this very personal project.

Here is the Time Out review:

'The story of racing driver Ayrton Senna – charming, talented, mouthy and dead at 34 after a crash at the San Marino Grand Prix in May 1994 – was screaming to be told, and this moving and often funny film brims with energy, passion and respect. The drama was already there: the rivalry with Frenchman Alain ‘The Professor’ Prost, the crashes, the backroom politics, the rapturous Brazilian fanbase, the appeals to God and the tragic ending. Director Asif Kapadia (‘The Warrior’, ‘Far North’) takes us back to that era with a documentary that roots us in the emotion and feel of the period. No narration. No talking heads. No new footage. And surprisingly little Murray Walker. Those are the rules, and they make for a rousing watch, both sad and celebratory.

Give or take some priceless backstage footage culled from the Formula 1 archives of fiery drivers’ meetings or home video of Senna’s close family on holiday – including a tanned, toned Ayrton lounging in tight black Speedos on a yacht – this is mostly made up of TV clips and other found footage, with all the grainy sense of intimacy and immediacy that brings with it. The look of the film stresses the public rise and fall of Senna, while voices offscreen guide us through the story. Senna was a TV star and pin-up, a celebrity who took Formula 1 to new places and acclaim during the decade he dominated it. He first shot to prominence speeding through the rain at the 1984 Monaco Grand Prix. Later, he showed astonishing stamina when fighting to finish the 1991 Brazilian Grand Prix stuck in sixth gear, determined not to fail at home. He flirted with his girlfriend, Adriane Galisteu, live on her TV show. And, of course, he died in front of cameras, his car flying off the track at Imola with the moment repeated endlessly on TV.

Inevitably, a cloud of doom hangs over the film’s final section, and Antonio Pinto’s varied score, moving from electro-jazz to more orchestral sounds and always with a distinctly Brazilian vibe, adjusts accordingly to remind us what’s coming. But this film isn’t ever an intro leading to a death. Most of it deals with a select chronology of races and crashes, team swaps and victories. Prost always looms over Senna’s shoulder, and Kapadia sets up an entertaining contrast between the Brazilian’s passion and the Frenchman’s steely pragmatism, as well as placing Prost in a Gallic axis of evil with Formula 1 boss Jean-Marie Balestre, who emerges as the film’s villain. ‘The best decision is my decision,’ he growls, smiling. It’s hard not to boo or throw things at the screen.

This is a Proustian madeleine of a film that will jolt the nostalgia of anyone who was even vaguely aware of Formula 1 in the late 1980s and early ’90s. Even if you couldn’t give two crank shafts about motor racing, Senna’s life remains a remarkable one and this film
is a punchy, good-looking and clever tribute that should have an appeal far beyond a petrolhead crowd.' Dave Calhoun



Here is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid - Day 153: Saturday June 4

Masque of the Red Death (Corman, 1964): Stoke Newington Town Hall, 9.30pm
This event is taking place at the annual Stoke Newington Literary Festival and promises to include Poe memorabilia from the Edgar Allan Poe Society and one or two demons lurking in the darkness.
"There are chords in the hearts of the most reckless which cannot be touched without emotion. Even with the utterly lost, to whom life and death are equally jests, there are matters of which no jest can be made." Edgar Allan Poe, The Masque of the Red Death.
Roger Corman is perhaps best known now in his role as a producer for kick-starting the careers of the Movie Brats who were so influential in the 1970s and beyond, including Coppola, Scorsese, Bogdanovich and Hellman. However, as a director he made a number of memorable movies, the best of which were his Edgar Allan Poe adaptations.
The Masque of the Red Death was one of the finest, a deliciously macabre take on Poe's short story which allowed Vincent Price free rein to leer and Nicolas Roeg to astound us with his cinematography. The tale concerns Prince Prospero (Price), who terrorises a plague-ridden population while he indulges in general debauchery and depravity with a group of fawning courtiers in his isolated castle.
Here is an extract. 


Capital Celluloid - Day 152: Friday June 3

Cria Cuervos (Saura, 1975): BFI Southbank, NFT1 6.20pm

A rare chance to see Carlos Suara's landmark Spanish film about the corrosive effects of fascism on a middle-class family living in Madrid.

Time Out review:

'A mesmerising film which conflates the drive to wish-fulfilment - a young girl, after watching the death of her father, comes to believe she holds the key to life and death - with a partial account of the last days of Fascism in Spain. At the root of both strands of Saura's elliptical script lies the idea of repression as the motor force behind the strange goings-on in the isolated (yet in the middle of Madrid) house of the Anselmo family. Intriguingly, the film suggests that the spirit of the dusty surrealism of Buñuel lives on in his native Spain.'


Here is the trailer