Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Capital Celluloid - Day 214: Thursday August 4

Gilda (Vidor, 1946): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 6.10pm & 8.40pm.

King Vidor's steamy 1940s noir gets the re-release treatment from the BFI and this is its last night. The film is perhaps most famous for Rita Hayworth's central performance and John Patterson has written about her smouldering display here in the Guardian.

Time Out review:

'When Gilda was released in 1946, striking redhead Rita Hayworth had already starred in a series of musicals that made her America’s pin-up, yet here she delivers the same va-voom (in sundry shoulderpad-tastic Jean Louis outfits) while always hinting at the anxieties beneath the ‘love goddess’ surface. It was the defining role of her career, yet it says a lot about the rest of the movie that Hayworth’s fire never overwhelms it.

There’s an element of ‘Casablanca’ exoticism in the Buenos Aires setting, where moody leading man
Glenn Ford plays a drifter taken under the wing of casino owner George Macready – a silky-voiced character actor who always brought an element of sexual ambiguity to the screen. When the latter marries Hayworth on the spur of the moment, Ford bristles because he has previous with this femme fatale and is still feeling it. ‘Hate,’ as the pearly dialogue has it, ‘can be a very exciting emotion.’ From then on, homoerotic undertones, atmospheric black-and-white camerawork, Ford’s fight not to let bitterness get the better of decency and Hayworth’s ever-present heat combine in one of the great films noirs, softened just a little by the moralising censorship strictures of the time. See it.' Trevor Johnston



Here is Hayworth's extraordinary first appearance in Gilda

Capital Celluloid - Day 213: Wednesday August 3

This Transient Life (Jissoji Akio, 1970): BFI Southbank, NFT 2, 5pm

The Japanese Art Theatre Guild's 50th anniversary is being celebrated in a retrospective at BFI Southbank. Here is an excellent article from Sight & Sound on underground cinema in the country during the 60s and 70s.

BFI introduction: TV-director Jissoji Akio's feature debut - and one of Art Theatre Guild's's biggest hits - is a sensuous exploration of Buddhist spirituality in tandem with sex. Scripted by Ishido Toshiro, the film contemplates incest with a daring sincerity that chimes with its unique shot composition and fluid camera movements that seem to defy gravity. The lucid pace and captivating control of its aesthetic universe enthralled its audience worldwide on its release.

J-Film Pow Pow website review by Chris Magee:

'Besides its merits of its heavy-handed religious/ sexual messages there is one thing about “This Transient Life” that cannot be debated -- the beauty of its construction. For a film that is only marginally known in North America it is remarkable to see how influential it has been on on the work of a group of very well known film-makers. Jissoji's constant camera movement and dramatically composed black-and-white shots can been seen the the work of such diverse directors as Shinya Tsukamoto, Go Shibata and even in "Love & Pop", the frenetic live-action directorial debut of animator Hideaki Anno.'

Capital Celluloid - Day 212: Tuesday August 2

Chinatown (Polanski, 1974): Film4 Summer Screen, Somerset House, 9.15pm

One of the highlights of Film4's outdoor Summer Screen season, Chinatown was voted best film of all-time in the Guardian's 2010 Film Season poll.

Time Out review:


'The hard-boiled private eye coolly strolls a few steps ahead of the audience. The slapstick detective gets everything wrong and then pratfalls first over the finish line anyway. Jake Gittes (Jack Nicholson) is neither - instead he's a hard-boiled private eye who gets everything wrong. Jake snaps tabloid-ready photos of an adulterous love nest that's no such thing. He spies a distressed young woman through a window and mistakes her for a hostage. He finds bifocals in a pond and calls them Exhibit A of marital murder, only the glasses don't belong to the victim and the wife hasn't killed anyone. Yet when he confronts ostensible black widow Evelyn Mulwray (Dunaway) with the spectacular evidence, the cigarette between his teeth lends his voice an authoritative Bogie hiss. Throughout, Gittes sexes up mediocre snooping with blithe arrogance and sarcastic machismo. It's the actor's default mode, sure, but in 1974 it hadn't yet calcified into Schtickolson, and in 1974 a director (Polanski), a screenwriter (Towne) and a producer (Evans) could decide to beat a genre senseless and dump it in the wilds of Greek tragedy. 'You see, Mr Gits,' depravity incarnate Noah Cross (Huston) famously explains, 'most people never have to face the fact that, at the right time and the right place, they're capable of anything.' As is Chinatown. The last gunshot here is the sound of the gate slamming on the Paramount lot of Evans' halcyon reign, and as the camera rears back to catch Jake's expression, the dolly lists and shivers - an almost imperceptible sob of grief and recognition, but not a tear is shed.' Jessica Winter


Here is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid - Day 211: Monday August 1

Chimes At Midnight (Welles, 1966): Gate, Notting Hill, 1.20pm

Take the afternoon off. This is a newly restored print, screening as part of Picturehouse Cinemas' "Screen Arts Festival", of what a number of critics think is Orson Welles's greatest film. I haven't seen this for 20 years (and here Geoffrey Macnab details the reasons this masterpiece was lost to audiences) but it was Welles's own favourite and it's easy to understand why.

Time Out review:

'The mongrel heritage of Chimes at Midnight is hard to credit, given the intensely personal reading of English history and literature that emerges from an incongruous Spanish/Swiss co-production of a life of Falstaff culled from five Shakespearean texts and Holinshed's Chronicles. Infused with a politically acute nostalgia for Merrie England, this elegiac tragi-comedy comes over as uncompromisingly modern entertainment, from its playful ruptures of traditional film grammar to its characterisation of Falstaff as hero at the crossroads of history, a spiritual and thematic precursor of Peckinpah's Cable Hogue. Welles waddles through the foreground with an eye on his own problems of patronage, while behind the camera he conjures a dark masterpiece, shot through with slapstick and sorrow. Magic.' Paul Taylor


Here is an extract.

Capital Celluloid - Day 210: Sunday July 31

Big (Marshall, 1988): And/Or Gallery, 3 Mare St, Hackney, 5pm

Perfect Sunday afternoon viewing and one of the great American comedies of the 1980s.

Time Out review:

'It's no fun being in your early teens, especially if you're none too tall. So thinks Josh Baskin, having been denied a ride on a fairyground superloop. But neither is being a kid in a grown-up body so hot, as Josh discovers after a carnival wishing-machine grants the change overnight. What do you do when Mom doesn't recognise you, and thinks you're your own abductor? How do you get a job when you can't drive and have no social security number? And when you do find work with a toy-design company, how do you cope with board meetings, office rivalries, and swish staff parties? Marshall's movie may be a mite predictable, but it's genuinely funny, thanks partly to Hanks' engagingly gauche and gangly performance as the overgrown Josh, and partly to a script that steers admirably clear of gross innuendo. Much of the humour derives from Josh's inability to comprehend adult life; much of its charm from the way his forthright innocence steadily revitalises those around him. Admittedly, this latter theme makes for an ending oozing with saccharine sentiment; but until then Marshall, Hanks, and his co-stars seldom put a foot wrong.' Geoff Andrew

Here is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid - Day 209: Saturday July 30

Wild Grass (Resnais, 2009): BFI Southbank, 8.10pm

"It starts like a Brian De Palma movie . . ." So says Adrian Martin at the start of his review here of the 88-year-old Alain Resnais's most recent film Wild Grass. This is guaranteed to startle and puzzle the way only Resnais can. Indeed Jonathan Romney in the Independent concludes: "What really makes the film, though, is its closing flourish – just when the budding romance seems to gel, Resnais and his runaway camera give matters a final enigmatic shake-up. The ending is as baffling as the last moments of 2001, and in its way, as eerie"

Time Out review:

'It’s based on a surreal novel by French author Christian Gailly called ‘L’Incident’ and details the fallout of a preposterous romance that forms between antisocial house husband Georges Palet (André Dussollier) and dentist-cum-budding aviatrix, Marguerite Muir (Azéma) when her purse is snatched and he recovers it. Every frame is filled with blushed neon hues that look like they’ve been filmed through a smear of Vaseline. The kinetic camera hovers and glides around scenes, at one point even leaping over the top of a house. These stylistic elements –  along with a dainty, midi-jazz score – lend the film a dreamlike quality. What’s it all about, though? It could be everything and nothing. There are allusions to psychosis, chaos, reincarnation, anxiety, communication and even the romanticised nature of cinema itself. It’s cheeky and confident, maybe one of the director’s finest, and its loopy final line is the cryptic cherry on this oddball gâteau.' David Jenkins

Here is the trailer. 

Capital Celluloid - Day 208: Friday July 29

The Devils (Russell, 1971): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 8.40pm

The Vintage Festival at BFI Southbank starts tonught with this genuinely shocking movie which is introduced by critic Mark Kermode.

Tom Huddleston's review in Time Out sums it up well. Go out and beg, borrow or steal a ticket for this event and I'll see you there:


'The unexpurgated cut of Russell's ornate, near-unwatchable taboo-busting masterpiece receives only its third British screening. The only major addition is the infamous 'rape' of Christ, in which the 'possessed' nuns use a life-size statue of the Saviour as a rutting post, but although that sequence may seem relatively tame by modern standards, there's plenty here that's still incredibly shocking. The scenes of plague are truly vile, as are the climatic torture scenes. But what horrifies most is Russell's nihilistic view of the world in general, and humanity in particular: almost without exception, we are shown to be vain, lustful, perverse, self-serving, murderous, disease-ridden, exploitative, decadent, deluded creatures unworthy or incapable of salvation. Approach with extreme caution.'

Here is an extract to give you a flavour.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Capital Celluloid - Day 207: Thursday July 28

The Birds (Hitchcock, 1963): Nomad Cinema, Bushy Park, 9pm

Going to the cinema does not have to entail driving to the out-of-town multiplex or even to any sort of picture house at all these days. There are plenty of pubs and clubs putting on films while the pop-up cinema phenomenon is becoming far more prevalent in the movie listings. The Nomad Cinema, run by the people at the excellent Lexi Cinema in Kensal Green, is the most adventurous of the pop-up brigade and tonight's screening of The Birds in a park is typically innovative of the Nomad and Lexi partnership.


This, from Chicago Reader, is one of my favourite reviews of any film:


'Alfred Hitchcock's most abstract film (1963), and perhaps his subtlest, still yielding new meanings and inflections after a dozen or more viewings. As emblems of sexual tension, divine retribution, meaningless chaos, metaphysical inversion, and aching human guilt, his attacking birds acquire a metaphorical complexity and slipperiness worthy of Melville. Tippi Hedren's lead performance is still open to controversy, but her evident stage fright is put to sublimely Hitchcockian uses. With Rod Taylor, Suzanne Pleshette, and Jessica Tandy (and does anyone besides me believe that Mrs. Brenner was having an affair with Dan Fawcett?).'

Here is the scene where Mrs Brenner finds Dan Fawcett. Not for the squeamish.

Capital Celluloid - Day 206: Wednesday July 27

The Skin I Live In (Almodovar, 2011): Film4 Summer Screen, Somerset House, 9.15pm

This is the UK premiere of Almodovar's latest work which was the subject of resoundingly positive reports at the Cannes Film Festival in May.

'The less said about the story, the better, as it’s built on slow revelations and quick surprises. ‘The Skin I Live In’ is rooted in pain and loss, which pulls the film’s more melodramatic side into a more thoughtful, provocative place than its surface suggests. It begins in Toledo in 2012, and Robert is a successful surgeon who lectures on the possibilities of genetic skin transformation and transplants. At his stylish villa, he lives with a loyal female housekeeper, Marilia (Marisa Paredes), and locked in an airy room at the top of his house is a beautiful young woman, Vera (Elena Anaya), who we first meet dressed up to her neck in a tight, flesh-coloured body suit. After ‘Broken Embraces’, ‘The Skin I Live In’ continues Almodóvar’s journey into darker, more sombre storytelling and into more upscale and interior worlds. Again, too, he chills his palette, rejecting the brighter colours of old for something more maudlin and steely. There are flashes of humour, usually of the nervous kind. Mostly, though, this plays as a psychosexual thriller whose wild events and plot turns are anchored soberly in both Almodóvar’s meticulous direction and a performance from Banderas that swerves the more maniacal aspects of his character to offer an intensely controlled, deadly charming screen presence.' Dave Calhoun


Here is the trailer 

Capital Celluloid - Day 205: Tuesday July 26

The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (Fassbinder, 1972): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 6.10pm

Reiner Werner Fassbinder's superb claustrophobic chamber piece is being shown as part of the Out at the Pictures strand at BFI Southbank.

Time Out review:

'If Fassbinder's Fear Eats the Soul used Emmi and Ali's improbable relationship as a key to deep-set patterns of social prejudice and fear, then the slightly earlier Bitter Tears sketches the currents of dominance and submission that lie beneath the surface of any human relationship. This time, the focus is gay rather than straight: fashion designer Petra (once widowed, once divorced) develops a fiercely possessive crush on her model Karin, and, as soon as the one-sided affair reaches its necessary end, starts wallowing in theatrical self-pity. Coldly described, the set and costume design and the hothouse atmosphere represent so much high-camp gloss; but once again this careful stylisation enables Fassbinder to balance between parody of an emotional stance and intense commitment to it. He films in long, elegant takes, completely at the service of his all-female cast, who are uniformly sensational.' Tony Rayns

Here is an extract

Capital Celluloid - Day 204: Monday July 25

Paths of Glory (Kubrick, 1957) & The Thin Red Line (Malick, 1998): Prince Charles Cinema, 6.40pm

Terrific war film double-bill at the Prince Charles in Soho tonight.

Paths of Glory: Chicago Reader review:

'The 1957 film that established Stanley Kubrick's reputation, adapted by Kubrick, Calder Willingham, and Jim Thompson from Humphrey Cobb's novel about French soldiers being tried for cowardice during World War I. Corrosively antiwar in its treatment of the corruption and incompetence of military commanders, it's far from pacifist in spirit, and Kirk Douglas's strong and angry performance as the officer defending the unjustly charged soldiers perfectly contains this contradiction. The remaining cast is equally resourceful and interesting: Adolphe Menjou, George Macready, Wayne Morris, Ralph Meeker, and the creepy Timothy Carey, giving perhaps his best performance. Banned in France for 18 years, this masterpiece still packs a wallop, though nothing in it is as simple as it may first appear; audiences are still arguing about the final sequence, which has been characterized as everything from a sentimental cop-out to the ultimate cynical twist.' 



Here is the trailer.

Across town there's an excellent recent American thriller at BFI Southbank

Gone Baby Gone (Affleck, 2007): BFI Southbank, NFT3, 6pm

Ben Affleck's film had a late release in Britain as it was slated for release at the height of the Madeleine McCann case. It's a powerful and harrowing tale, one of the most impressive American thrillers of recent years. There is a joint ticket available for tonight's screening to hear author Denis Lehane in conversation.

Chicago Reader review:

“I always thought it was the things you don't choose that make you who you are,” declares the narrator at the opening of this powerful mystery, words that turn out to be hauntingly prophetic. Adapted from a novel by Dennis Lehane (Mystic River), the movie centers on the disappearance of a four-year-old girl whose life has already been sadly defined by her vile single mother and grim working-class Boston neighborhood. The girl's aunt hires a pair of private detectives (Casey Affleck, Michelle Monaghan) to assist the police, and as they get closer to the truth, even the child's rescue begins to seem like a tragic fate. Ben Affleck directed and cowrote the script; his biggest gamble was casting his irksome little brother as a pistol-whipping tough guy, but the picture is so superbly executed in every other respect that Casey seems more quirky than miscast. With Amy Ryan, Ed Harris, and Morgan Freeman.' 

Here is the trailer

Capital Celluloid - Day 203: Sunday July 24

The Wicker Man (Hardy, 1973): Dulwich Park, 9pm

Going to the cinema does not have to entail driving to the out-of-town multiplex or even to any sort of picture house at all these days. There are plenty of pubs and clubs putting on films while the pop-up cinema phenomenon is becoming far more prevalent in the movie listings. The Nomad Cinema, run by the people at the excellent Lexi Cinema in Kensal Green, is the most adventurous of the pop-up brigade and tonight's screening of The Wicker Man, a genuine cult classic, should be hugely popular.


Time Out review:
'Robin Hardy’s bizarre 1973 cult classic is set on the Western Isles of Scotland and poses a burning question for investigating mainland Sergeant Edward Woodward: could a missing 12-year-old girl have been sacrificed in some creepy, ancient fertility rite by the libidinous, pre-feudal inhabitants? Anthony Shaffer’s script – written at the end of an annus mirabilis in which he also wrote ‘Sleuth’ and ‘Frenzy’ – brews together a heady concoction of police procedural and post-Hammer horror with a pagan pastiche of counter-cultural faddishness, with scenes of dancing naked pregnant women in stone circles or a ranting, windswept Christopher Lee in drag beautifully filmed by Harry Waxman and accompanied by Paul Giovanni’s risible ’60s-style folk revival soundtrack. Essentially, it’s an insane guilty pleasure, still enjoyable for its delightfully eccentric casting – Britt Ekland’s fine Scottish accent and Hammer star Ingrid Pitt’s dour librarian – and for the funniest, creepiest pub scene in British movies outside of next week’s reissue, ‘Withnail & I’. Wally Hammond


Here is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid - Day 202: Saturday July 23

Gilda (Vidor, 1946): BFI Southbank, NFT3, 3.30, 6pm & 8.30 and all week.

King Vidor's steamy 1940s noir gets the re-release treatment from the BFI and is on an extended run at their Southbank HQ until August 4. The film is perhaps most famous for Rita Hayworth's central performance and John Patterson has written about her smouldering display here in the Guardian.

Time Out review:

'When Gilda was released in 1946, striking redhead Rita Hayworth had already starred in a series of musicals that made her America’s pin-up, yet here she delivers the same va-voom (in sundry shoulderpad-tastic Jean Louis outfits) while always hinting at the anxieties beneath the ‘love goddess’ surface. It was the defining role of her career, yet it says a lot about the rest of the movie that Hayworth’s fire never overwhelms it.

There’s an element of ‘Casablanca’ exoticism in the Buenos Aires setting, where moody leading man
Glenn Ford plays a drifter taken under the wing of casino owner George Macready – a silky-voiced character actor who always brought an element of sexual ambiguity to the screen. When the latter marries Hayworth on the spur of the moment, Ford bristles because he has previous with this femme fatale and is still feeling it. ‘Hate,’ as the pearly dialogue has it, ‘can be a very exciting emotion.’ From then on, homoerotic undertones, atmospheric black-and-white camerawork, Ford’s fight not to let bitterness get the better of decency and Hayworth’s ever-present heat combine in one of the great films noirs, softened just a little by the moralising censorship strictures of the time. See it.' Trevor Johnston



Here is Hayworth's extraordinary first appearance in Gilda

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Capital Celluloid - Day 201: Friday July 22

The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou (Anderson, 2004): Nomad Pop-Up Cinema, Brockwell Lido, 8pm

Going to the cinema does not have to entail driving to the out-of-town multiplex or even to any sort of picture house at all these days. There are plenty of pubs and clubs putting on films while the pop-up cinema phenomenon is becoming far more prevalent in the movie listings.

The Nomad Cinema, run by the people at the excellent Lexi Cinema in Kensal Green, is the most adventurous of the pop-up brigade and the screening of Wes Anderson's hilarious send-up of the underwater explore Jacques Cousteau at a lido is an inspired idea. This film may puzzle at first but stick with it - it's a grower and, in the end, both amusing and in parts moving. The soundtrack is first rate.

Time Out review:

'Despite its typically painstaking attentions to elaborate set dressings and assignations of quirk, The Life Aquatic meanders and stalls in its journeys with ocean explorer Steve Zissou (Bill Murray), a down-at-heel Cousteau-manqué pursuing a filmed revenge mission against the jaguar shark who devoured his best friend.

Suffused with lush yet faded primary colours like a 30-year-old Kodak snap and spiced with Henry Selick’s stop-motion animations and a starry (if often idle) cast of supporting players, ‘The Life Aquatic’ is a beautifully appointed but airless dollhouse-by-the-sea, populated by wistful figurines in their matching little red caps and Team Zissou Adidas, and scored to Seu Jorge’s deckside acoustic renditions of Bowie songs in Portuguese. The movie pokes along in a manner at once listless and affable, like a series of semi-improvised outtakes that didn’t quite gel. And yet the director magically conjures emotional dividends in the film’s invigorating last moments, which wordlessly celebrate an underrated and truly Andersonian virtue: solidarity.' Jessica Winter


Here is the trailer.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Capital Celluloid - Day 200: Thursday July 21

Mars Attacks! (Burton, 1996) & Attack The Block (Cornish, 2011)
Riverside Cinema, 6.45 & 8.55pm

Now the Riverside know how to programme double-bills and this is a brilliant sci-fi combination.

Chicago Reader review of Mars Attacks!:

'Tim Burton's attractive and funny 1996 SF extravaganza, inspired by a series of Topps trading cards, has been described as satire, but whether its target is the present, the taste of SF fans in the 50s and 60s, or some combination thereof isn't entirely clear. Jack Nicholson plays both the president of the United States and a real estate salesman (bringing a lot of brio to both parts but especially the latter), Glenn Close is the first lady, and Natalie Portman is first daughter. A large segment of the American population gets wiped out during the movie, but Burton and company play it all for laughs, finding derisive humor in pacifists as well as warmongers, ecologists as well as capitalists, media types as well as gun-toting hillbillies. The movie reserves most of its respect for a couple of youngsters (Portman and Lukas Haas), a partially senile grandmother (Sylvia Sidney), and a splintered black family (including Pam Grier and Jim Brown). I'm not sure what it all means, but, as in Ed Wood, Burton's visual flair and affection for the characters make it fun.'





'At first glance, it looks as though Cornish has set the bar low for his first movie. A storyline inspired by the ’80s genre movies he grew up with (and lovingly parodied on ‘The Adam and Joe Show’), tied to a currently popular film fad – the London yoof movie – and set literally on his doorstep, ‘Attack the Block’ could easily have been a lazy, smug sci-fi parody: ‘Morons from Outer Space’ goes gangsta.

But, like the aliens that rampage through a Brixton tower block, this is an entirely unexpected beast. An unrecognisably well-spoken Jodie Whittaker plays Sam, the jobbing nurse whose decision to move into a south London estate backfires when she’s first mugged by teen thugs, then chased by marauding monsters. But Whittaker, and comic relief Nick Frost as weed dealer Ron, are merely the audience-friendly commercial face of ‘Attack the Block’. The real stars are those thugs, led by taciturn wannabe player Moses (John Boyega, stunning), whose decision to tool up and defend their turf kicks the plot into high gear. . . .


These kids start out as caricatures – the moody leader, the speccy geek, the mouth – but the respect shown to them is hugely refreshing, and their progressions are heartfelt and wholly believable: Shane Meadows would be proud.

All of which elevates ‘Attack the Block’ from fun creature-feature throwback to this year’s unmissable British movie, and Cornish from just another geek-turned-filmmaker to a major talent: if he can strike a similar balance between sympathy, insight and crowd-pleasing thrills in future projects, his status is assured.

‘Attack the Block’ isn’t perfect – the aliens are a tad unremarkable and the final blowout never hits the frenzied peak it might have – but it’s hard to imagine British audiences having more fun in a cinema this year.'
Tom Huddleston


Here is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid - Day 199: Wednesday July 20

The Lickerish Quartet (Metzger, 1970):
Roxy Bar & Screen, 128-132 Borough High Street, London SE1 1LB, 7.30pm

Now this is a proper treat. One of Andy Warhol's favourites and a very rare screening from the innovative FilmBar70 folk.
 
Here is their description:

'A jaded, wealthy couple watch a porn movie in their castle home along with her adult son. The son is testy, so they go into town and watch a circus-like thrill ride. The daredevil woman in the show looks exactly like one of the women in the movie, so the man invites her to join them for a nightcap  . . .

By fusing the deconstructed narrative approach of Alain Resnais’ art-house hit ‘Last Year at Marienbad’ (1961) with the emergent soft-porn chic that was raising more than eyebrows across the continent, Metzger created a glamorous and cerebral form of sinema far removed from the shoddily shot, dirty mac fodder that would eventually dominate the red-light picture house.'

Here is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid - Day 198: Tuesday July 19

Last Year in Marienbad (Resnais, 1961): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 6.30 & 8.45pm

The art house classic is showing on an extended run at the BFI as part of the Alain Resnais season.

Here is the Chicago Reader review:

'This radical experiment in film form by director Alain Resnais and screenwriter Alain Robbe-Grillet was a surprising commercial success in 1961, even in the U.S., and it's been a rallying point for the possibilities of formal filmmaking ever since. A highly seductive parable about seduction, it's set in and around a baroque European chateau/hotel, where the nameless hero (Giorgio Albertazzi) tries to persuade the nameless heroine (Delphine Seyrig) that they met the previous year. Shot by Sacha Vierny in otherworldly black-and-white 'Scope, it oscillates ambiguously between past, present, and various conditional tenses, mixing memory and fantasy, fear and desire. The overall tone is poker-faced parody of lush Hollywood melodrama, yet the film's dreamlike cadences, frozen tableaux, and distilled surrealist poetry are too eerie, too terrifying even, to be shaken off as camp. For all its notoriety, this masterpiece among masterpieces has never really received its due.' In French with subtitles. 93 min.

Capital Celluloid - Day 197: Monday July 18

It Always Rains on Sunday (Hamer, 1947):
Sanctum Soho Hotel
, 20 Warwick Street, London, W1B, 7pm

I have been praising the Society Film Club @ Sanctum Soho for some time and this looks another terrific evening. Their film nights are clearly going from strength to strength as this news item in West End Extra testifies.

Tonight they are celebrating novelist Alan Brownjohn’s 80th birthday and his most recent novel, Windows on the Moon - a brilliant evocation of London in the bitter winter of 1947/48 - by recreating a night at the pictures in late 1947. The austerity of ration cards and the glamour of the New Look will be hanging in the air. There will be newsreels; period clothing; ice creams nestling between crispy wafers and the sound of the mighty Wurlitzer.

They are also promising, for one night only, in the great tradition of Soho a live nude tableau,  performed by the “Spring chickens”. I am told: "They will be - oh so tastefully - recreating for us the art of the great masters of centuries past."

As far as the film is concerned, director Robert Hamer is one of the unsung heroes of British cinema. His best-known film is Kind Hearts and Coronets, the blackest of jet-black comedies, but this noirish
East end thriller is thoroughly deserving of attention too. Echoes of the work of Carne, Renoir and Lang have been detected in this fatalistic tale of Googie Withers and the ex-boyfriend convict who
comes back into her life.

Here is Chicago Reader critic JR Jones' review:

'Rooted in the film noir of the 40s but anticipating the kitchen sink realism of the 50s, this superlative British drama (1947) transpires in the dingy Bethnal Green neighborhood of east London, where it
probably rains Monday through Saturday as well. A former barmaid (Googie Withers) grimly keeps up her end of a loveless working-class marriage, barely concealing her jealousy toward her attractive young stepdaughters. When her former lover (John McCallum) breaks out of Dartmoor Prison and shows up at her doorstep, she can't help but take him in. Robert Hamer, best known for directing Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949), shows a fluency with noir's shadowy visual vocabulary, but what really links this to the genre is its sense of haunting regret and lost opportunity.
'

Here is an extract.

Capital Celluloid - Day 196: Sunday July 17

Handsworth Songs (Akomfrah, 1986): Phoenix Cinema, 2pm FREE

A key movie of 1980s British cinema, shown here with the short film Territories by Isaac Julien. 

Time Out review:

'An invigorating and thoughtful documentary from the London-based Black Audio Film Collective that examines elements of the Black experience in Britain from the perspective of the tragic events of 1985: the Handsworth riots, the death and funeral of Cynthia Jarrett, and the - seemingly - ever downward path of race relations, brought to a head by the deteriorating economic plight of Britain in the '80s. What is in evidence here is a fertile and imaginative cinematic intelligence which, in waging 'the war of naming the problem', musters a range of archive material, interviews, and filmed records of the disturbances in such a way as to provide an essay that is as full of subtle, rich and allusive argument as it is devoid of empty didacticism and stridency.' Wally Hammond 

Here is an extract.

Capital Celluloid - Day 195: Saturday July 16

Piranha 3D (Aja, 2010): Rio Cinema, 11.30pm

This is a Cigarette Burns screening and you can find more details on their website here.

As it's a CB production you are guaranteed extra special goodies before the screening including great trailers and adverts, plus a DJ set.

As for the movie Kofi Outaw of Screen Rant sums it up here:

'Let’s get the obvious out of the way upfront, Piranha 3D is exactly what you’d expect: a B-movie creature-feature throwback that’s full of cheesy dialogue, hammy acting and over-the-top scenes of exposed flesh, mangled meat and plenty of red sauce. But that’s definitely a kind of sandwich that some moviegoers will eat right up.'

Here is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid - Day 194: Friday July 15

Treacle Jr (Thraves, 2010): Clapham & Greenwich Picturehouse, All week

Stop press: since I posted this blog Sight & Sound magazine have made their review of the movie, which they made their film of the month,  available on the internet. You can access it here.

Jamie Thraves has made three critically acclaimed movies but has yet to have a breakthrough hit. He started with The Low Down (2000), a tale of Bohemian Londoners at the crossroads both in their personal and work lives which the Observer named among the "neglected masterpieces" of film history in its rundown of 50 Lost Movie Classics.

He then made The Cry Of The Owl (2009), an adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's psychological thriller made in conjunction with BBC Films which had a limited release in this country but which again garnered excellent reviews. Here is John Gibbs' detailed take in the new web version of the influential Movie film journal.

Treacle Jr, which Thraves funded by mortgaging his house, got an airing at the London Film Festival in October and is now being shown by the Picturehouse group. Thraves' film has been picked up by Sight & Sound and is their film of the month in the August edition. Here is Adam Lee-Davies on the movie in Time Out:

"An electric performance by Aidan Gillen (reteaming with director Jamie Thraves for the first time since 2000’s ‘The Low Down’) is the cornerstone of this blackly funny but ultimately heartrending essay on loneliness and dependence that mixes the tender treatment of dysfunction of 'Rain Man' with the bleak urban redemption of ‘The Fisher King’. For reasons known only to himself, architect Tom (Tom Fisher) has abandoned his young family and taken to the streets of an anonymous south London where he forms a halting friendship with Gillen’s rambling half-witted naïf. As their bond deepens – thanks in part to a kitten named Treacle Jr – the story gravitates toward a conclusion that’s as hard won as it is inescapable. Funny, touching and gritty, this coolly rendered observation on need and rejection really is a Brit drama to shout about."

Here is the trailer.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Capital Celluloid - Day 193: Thursday July 14

Grindhouse (Tarantino & Rodriguez, 2007) 6.30pm & Hobo With A Shotgun (Eisener, 2010) 10.10pm
Prince Charles Cinema 

Now this is clever. A triple-bill consisting of the Grindhouse double-bill of Planet Terror and Death Proof plus Hobo With A Shotgun, based on the winning trailer of the same name from director Robert Rodriguez's South by Southwest festival Grindhouse trailers contest.

The groundbreaking feature from directors Quentin Tarantino and Rodriguez combines two exploitation flicks with fake trailers and adverts purporting to be from the 1970s ‘Grindhouse’ era. Rodriguez’s ‘Planet Terror’ sees blood-crazed zombies take over a town, while Tarantino’s ‘Death Proof’ is a high octane serial killer flick about a deadly car.

Here's Robert Abele's take on Hobo With A Shotgun in the LA Times:

'Emboldened by gutter-minded revenge flicks of the '70s and '80s and the hilarious "gore-gies" of Peter Jackson's early days, director Jason Eisener and screenwriter John Davies — expanding a fake trailer that became a YouTube hit — bring a grizzled rail-rider (Rutger Hauer) into a criminally terrorized urban hellhole run by a sadistic family whose sadistic sons dress like sunglasses-and-smiles-era Tom Cruise as they gleefully behead, maim and cruelly use skate blades on citizens.

Entrails, vileness and atrocities abound here (including a questionable moment of school bus villainy), so this isn't every popcorn aficionado's cup of tea. But as gonzo ephemera it's a spirited example of the cohesive chaos that give certain midnight movies the thrill of extreme sport.'


Here's the famous scene from Death Proof featuring Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Titch on the sundtrack.

Capital Celluloid - Day 192: Wednesday July 13

La Jetee (Marker, 1962): BFI Southbank, 8.40pm

This film is screening as part of the Essential Experiments season at BFI Southbank and also includes Marker's 1953 work Statues Also Die.

Time Out review: 

'This classic 'photo-roman' about the power of memory - 'the story of a man marked by an image of his childhood' - begins at Orly airport a few years before WWIII. That image is of a woman's face at the end of the pier; and in the post-apocalyptic world the man now inhabits as a prisoner, he is given the chance to discover its true significance as a guinea-pig in a time travel experiment. Marker uses monochrome images recognisably from the past, such as the ruins of Europe after WWII, and with a few small props and effects, subtly suggests a future environment. The soundtrack's texture is similarly sparse, and the fluid montage leads the viewer into the sensation of watching moving images. Until, that is, an extraordinary epiphany when an image genuinely does move: the man's sleeping lover opens her eyes.' David Thomson 

Here is an extract.

Capital Celluloid - Day 191: Tuesday July 12

Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid (Peckinpah, 1973): BFI Southbank, NFT3, 6.10pm

This is screening as part of the Passport to Cinema series and will be introduced by Richard Combs.

This movie, one of my all-time favourites, was one of the films central to my developing a passion for cinema. As is now widely known director Sam Peckinpah had the film taken away from him soon after completion and his work was substantially re-edited in order that the studio could put out a truncated 105-minute version which they thought would prove more popular in cinemas.

Peckinpah arranged for his original cut to be stolen and hidden away and it was this version, which was found after his death and released in 1988, which will be shown tonight. The beginning and end are radically different and scenes integral to the understanding of the relationship of the two main characters are included in the director's 121-minute cut.

I saw the film at the Cornerhouse cinema in Manchester and that experience, plus reading Combs's article in the September 1989 issue of the Monthly Film Bulletin, had a major impact on me.

Here is the Time Out review:

'Restored and reassembled, this is the full and harmonious movie that Peckinpah wanted to be remembered by before the butchers at MGM got their hands on it. Starting with a framing sequence from 1909 which shows Coburn's aged Garrett being gunned down by the same men who hired him to get Billy the Kid back in 1881, the additional 15 minutes introduce the menacing figure of Barry Sullivan's Boss Chisum, a frolicsome brothel scene ('Last time Billy was here it took four to get him up and five to get him down again'), some engaging Wild West cameos, and a less obtrusive use of Bob Dylan's soundtrack. All in all the film is more playful, more balanced, and very much an elegy for the old ways of the West, rather than a meandering bloodthirsty battle between Kristofferson's preposterously likeable outlaw and Coburn's ambivalent survivor, Garrett. Like Ford's The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, it both records and condemns the passage of time and the advent of progress; and there is a sombre, mournful quality which places the film very high up in the league of great Westerns.' Steve Grant 

Here is an extract on YouTube with commentary on the scene.

Capital Celluloid - Day 190: Monday July 11

Faster, Pussycat! Kill!Kill! (Meyer, 1965: 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. 

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

Tonight’s entertainment, the central part of which is a screening of Russ Meyer’s 1965 exploitation movie, also features author and journalist Jessica Berens talking about her experiences when she met the stars of the movie.

The film club’s Nurse Ratched explains the appeal of Meyer’s work:
“Meyer wasn't just a better filmmaker than most in the soft-core porn industry. Technically and cinematically, he was easily one of the most exciting and inspiring independent filmmakers working in America. His films are about big tits and more big tits. They are about women who want and men who want, and wanting as a way of life. They are about sex and how it is such a joke and such a part of life and all the ways we try to ignore our instincts just make it a bigger part of life. But, mostly, they are about big tits.”

As you can see from the trailer here.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Capital Celluloid - Day 189: Sunday July 10

Close Encounters of the Third Kind 4pm (Spielberg, 1977) & They Live 7pm (Carpenter, 1988)
Ritzy Cinema

An excellent sci-fi double-bill from the Ritzy. Spielberg's movie needs little introduction but Carpenter's, which got a fairly lukewarm response on release, has increasingly garnered a fan base and is well worth tracking down.

This article on They Live by Jonathan Lethem at salon.com is fascinating but be warned: here be spoilers.

Here are the Chicago Reader reviews by Jonathan Rosenbaum:

Close Encounters: 

For better or worse, one of Steven Spielberg's best films (1977), and perhaps still the best expression of his benign, dreamy-eyed vision. Humanity's first contact with alien beings proves to be a cause for celebration and a form of showbiz razzle-dazzle that resembles a slowly descending chandelier in a movie palace. The events leading up to this epiphany are a mainly well-orchestrated buildup through which several diverse individuals—Richard Dreyfuss, Francois Truffaut, Melinda Dillon—are drawn to the site where this spectacle takes place. Very close in overall spirit and nostalgic winsomeness to the fiction of Ray Bradbury, with beautiful cinematography by Vilmos Zsigmond that deservedly won an Oscar. This is dopey Hollywood mysticism all right, but thanks to considerable craft and showmanship, it packs an undeniable punch. With Teri Garr, Cary Guffey, and Bob Balaban.

Here is the trailer.

They Live:

John Carpenter's 1988 SF action-thriller about aliens taking over the earth through the hypnotic use of TV. The explicit anti-Reagan satire—the aliens are developers who regard human beings as cattle, aided by yuppies who are all too willing to cooperate for business reasons—is strangely undercut and confused by a xenophobic treatment of the aliens that also makes them virtual stand-ins for the Vietcong. Carpenter's wit and storytelling craft make this fun and watchable, although the script takes a number of unfortunate shortcuts, and the possibilities inherent in the movie's central conceit are explored only cursorily. All in all, an entertaining (if ideologically incoherent) response to the valorization of greed in our midst, with lots of Rambo-esque violence thrown in, as well as an unusually protracted slugfest between ex-wrestler Roddy Piper and costar Keith David. 

Capital Celluloid - Day 188: Saturday July 9

Grave of the Fireflies (Takahata, 1998): Barbican Cinema 4.15pm

A harrowing animated film that looks at war through a child's perspective.

Here is an extract from Tom Huddleston's Classic Film Club review in Time Out. You can read his full appraisal here.

'Grave of the Fireflies is perhaps unique in that the medium of animation in no way softens the events of story. In fact, the opposite is true. Animation allows Takahata to draw performances from his children that no human of equal age could or should be expected to give. His treatment of little Setsuko results in arguably the most realistic four-year-old in cinema, simultaneously curious and wary, playful and serious, exploring her place in the world just as that world is beginning to fall apart. The older Seita feels withdrawn by comparison, though this decision feels wholly intentional and appropriate. This is a boy torn between childhood selfishness and societally imposed feelings of obligation, whose only point of focus becomes the sister he cannot save. And the scenes of Setsuko’s gradual decline would be simply impossible in a live-action context as it would be unwatchable, and with good reason.Visually, the film hews close to the established Ghibli palette, with motionless, often rather crude backgrounds and blurred upfront action. Takahata makes the most of these limitations – often focusing on characters faces in moments of grief or stillness, using the stillness of his backdrops to suggest a blank, unknowable world beyond their grasp – but they remain limitations.

Grave of the Fireflies’ is not a film to be taken lightly. It is not even a film to be enjoyed. It is a film which demands – and deserves – total concentration and emotional surrender. The reward is an experience unlike any other: exhausting, tragic and utterly bleak, but also somehow monumental.' 


Here is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid - Day 187: Friday July 8

Ring (Nakata, 1988) 6.45pm & Poltergeist (Hooper, 1982) 8.50pm: Prince Charles Cinema

The Cigarette Burns crew are adding another venue to their list this week in addition to the Rio Cineman in Dalston and the Mucky Pup pub at the Angel as they invade the West End for the first time with their innovative brand of programming.

Tonight's offering has been labelled the Kill Your TV double-bill and consists of the hugely influential Japanese horror movie, Ring, from the late 1980s and the Steven Spielberg-produced Poltergeist about the invasion of a young family by hostile spirits through the TV.

You can read a good introduction to Nakata's truly terrifying movie here at the Cigarette Burns website while the Time Out reviews of the two films are reproduced below:

Ring review: 

'Time has been very kind to Hideo Nakata’s sublime, quietly terrifying 1997 techno-horror, re-released for Halloween night (see more Halloween screenings  on page 79). Time, coupled with the fact that 99 per cent of the ensuing copycat Asian (and often then US remade) chillers have been rather naff. Here, the thrilling, simple conceit is that of a haunted VHS tape: watch it, and you’ll snuff it within a week. The film follows a divorced journalist as she travels around the country, desperately trying to uncover the tape’s mysteries, a task which becomes even more urgent when her young son accidentally watches it. Seeing it again, you can’t help but notice the stylistic parallels to the David Lynch of ‘Mullholland Dr.’ and ‘Inland Empire’, especially with its use of distorted imagery, creeping camera movements and avant-garde sound effects. The finale, too, still feels as twisted, bizarre and down-right nightmarish as it did all those years ago.' David Jenkins 

Here is an extract from Ring.

Poltergeist review:

'Credited to Hooper, but every inch a Spielberg film, this is a barnstorming ghost story, set in one of the small suburban houses Spielberg knows and loves, where the family canary is called Tweety, and the kids read Captain America comics and eat at the Pizza Hut. Gradually this impossibly safe world is (in a truly ingenious plot development) invaded by something inside the family television. Soon the plot takes off into a delirious fight with demonic forces suggestive of nothing so much as a Walt Disney horror movie; and although the sub-religious gobbledegook (including a tiresome midget medium) is hard to take, it is consistently redeemed by its creator's dazzling sense of craft. For this one, Spielberg has even contrived a structural surprise which leaves the audience spinning like one of his house's haunted rooms, and arguably matches the opening of Psycho in its impudent virtuosity.' David Pirie

Here is the trailer for Poltergeist.