Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Capital Celluloid 2017 - Day 240: Wed Aug 30

The Game (Fincher, 1990): Prince Charles Cinema, 8.45pm


This 35mm presentation is a 20th anniversary screening of the David Fincher film.

Time Out review:
San Francisco. Ruthless financier Nicholas Van Orton (Douglas) is a control freak who no longer knows the meaning of fun or friendship. When his estranged, addictive brother Conrad (Penn) enrolls him with Consumer Recreation Services for his birthday, his curiosity's aroused by the offer of a mysterious 'game' tailored to the needs of each participant. At first his application is rejected, but when, on TV, a newscaster starts talking directly to him, Nicholas realises the game's already begun and that his actions are being monitored and manipulated. As his privacy is progressively invaded and the situations in which he finds himself become ever more life-threatening, Van Orton tries to pull out of the game, but too late. Though the film's 'message' about complacency transformed by chaos and uncertainty is hackneyed, the alarming twists of the witty, ingenious script (by John Brancato and Michael Ferris) hold the attention throughout.
Geoff Andrew

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Capital Celluloid 2017 - Day 239: Tue Aug 29

Leon Morin, Priest (Melville, 1961): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 6.15pm


This 4K restoration of the Jean-Pierre Melville film, part of the director's season at BFI Southbank, is also being shown on August 19th, 21st and 25th. You can find all the details here.

Chicago Reader review:
Aiming successfully for a wider audience in 1961, the neglected French independent Jean-Pierre Melville (Le Samourai) adapted Beatrix Beck's autobiographical novel, set in a French village during World War II, about a young woman falling in love with a handsome, radical young priest who's fully aware of his power over her. For the starring roles Melville, godfather of the New Wave, ironically selected two talented actors catapulted to fame by that movement—Emmanuele Riva (Hiroshima, Mon Amour) and Jean-Paul Belmondo (Breathless). The poetic results are literary and personal; the heroine's offscreen narration suggests the pre-Bressonian form of Melville's first feature, Le Silence de la Mer, and sudden subjective shots convey the woman's physical proximity to the priest as she undergoes an ambiguous religious conversion. Not an unqualified success, the film remains strong for its performances, its inventive editing and framing, and its evocative rendering of the French occupation. The eclectic and resourceful nonjazz score is by jazz pianist Martial Solal.
Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2017 - Day 238: Mon Aug 28

The Wicker Man (Hardy, 1973): Prince Charles Cinema, 6.30pm


This film is screening is part of the Cinematic Jukebox season at the Prince Charles Cinema. You can find full details of the season here.

Time Out review:
All those sacrifices to the cinema gods must have worked, because after a yearlong worldwide search, the final cut of ‘The Wicker Man’ has been found. The thrill of seeing the 1973 cult classic on the big screen is reason enough to drop everything and go – but doubly so with this longer version, which deeply enhances the film’s eerie pagan weirdness. That creepiness is what made distributors delete some of the film’s most evocative scenes: a sermon at the start, the ‘Gently Johnny’ song segment with snail-on-snail action and more of Christopher Lee’s splendid Lord Summerisle. The print quality is variable and much of the ‘new’ material has appeared on DVDs previously. Whole websites have been dedicated to spotting the differences, so fans will keep debating about which version is ‘definitive’. What an incredible treat, though, to see it all in one place, in the cinema, as director Robin Hardy intended. ‘The Wicker Man’, as a British classic, has it all: ‘Carry On’-style gags, a haunting folk soundtrack, spectacular Scottish landscapes, Edward Woodward’s stiff-upper-lip sense of duty, a critique of organised religion and that still-harrowing ending.
Kathryn Bromwich

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Capital Celluloid 2017 - Day 237: Sun Aug 27

Savage Messiah (Russell, 1972): Cinema Museum, 2.30pm


Over five days in August (Wednesday 23rd – Sunday 27th) the Cinema Museum will be celebrating the life and work of the director Ken Russell with a host of famous guests, including Glenda Jackson, Robert Powell and Georgina Hale. You can find the selection of his movies, TV films and rare shorts in the line-up here. Before today's screening Lisi Russell will be talking to Brian Sibley about living and working with Russell, with other guests including Judith Paris and Mike Bradsell. Savage Messiah will be screened from a 35mm print.

Here is an extract from film critic Neil Young's review:
'Vibrantly unconventional biopic, (melo-)dramatising the unorthodox relationship – more inspirational/mental than romantic/sexual – between penniless French sculptor Henri Gaudier (Scott Anthony) and a much older Polish writer Sophie Brzeska (Dorothy Tutin), in Paris and London during the early years of the 20th century. Though not all of Russell’s flashy directorial and gambits pay off, Savage Messiah has a spiky, bracing charm all its own and rivals The Elephant Man among the most convincing, scruffily evocative cinematic visions of bygone London. The air of persuasively percussive exuberance renders the sudden ending (reflecting Gaudier’s fate in the Great War’s trenches) all the more jarringly poignant: a pair of sepia-tinted stills show Anthony-as-Gaudier among his comrades-in-arms, grinning laddishly in uniform, white of tooth and muddy of face.'
You can read the review in full here.


Here (and above) is the trailer. 

Capital Celluloid 2017 - Day 236: Sat Aug 26

The Music Lovers (Russell, 1970): Cinema Museum, 2.30pm


Over five days in August (Wednesday 23rd – Sunday 27th) the Cinema Museum will be celebrating the life and work of the director Ken Russell with a host of famous guests, including Glenda Jackson, Robert Powell and Georgina Hale. You can find the selection of his movies, TV films and rare shorts in the line-up hereGlenda Jackson returns for this screening and to discuss working with Ken on Women in Love (1969), The Boyfriend (1971), The Rainbow (1989) and The Secret Life of Arnold Bax (1992).

Chicago Reader review:
This Ken Russell fantasia—musical biography as wet dream—hangs together more successfully than his other similar efforts, thanks largely to a powerhouse performance by Glenda Jackson, one actress who can hold her own against Russell's excess. Richard Chamberlain stars as a befuddled, banal-minded Tchaikovsky, who imagines the cannon fire of the 1812 Overture aimed at the heads of his enemies.
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2017 - Day 235: Fri Aug 25

Mahler (Russell, 1974): Cinema Museum, 7pm


Over five days in August (Wednesday 23rd – Sunday 27th) the Cinema Museum will be celebrating the life and work of the director Ken Russell with a host of famous guests, including Glenda Jackson, Robert Powell and Georgina Hale. You can find the selection of his movies, TV films and rare shorts in the line-up here. This screening will be followed by an interview with the stars of the film, Robert Powell and Georgina Hale, conducted by Brian Sibley.

Time Out review:
This musical biography, Russell-style, comes over like a cross between a comic strip and Life with the Mahlers (or the trials of bringing up and living with a genius). All the usual brashness and obsessions are there, which may well offend the purists, especially as the film is very much a reply to Visconti's Death in Venice. What he gives us is in fact one of the more successful excursions into the cinema of pantheism, a series of tableaux interpreting Mahler's music. Robert Powell is suitably impressive as the composer, and Georgina Hale excellent as his wife (on its most serious level, the film is about her stifled creativity). Despite the low budget (maybe because of it), Russell has produced his most appealing work since his BBC Omnibus days.
(This review is uncredited online and in the Time Out volume of collected reviews) 

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Capital Celluloid 2017 - Day 234: Thu Aug 24

The Devils (Russell, 1971): Cinema Museum, 7pm


Over five days in August (Wednesday 23rd – Sunday 27th) the Cinema Museum will be celebrating the life and work of the director Ken Russell with a host of famous guests, including Glenda Jackson, Robert Powell and Georgina Hale. You can find the selection of his movies, TV films and rare shorts in the line-up here. Mark Kermode, who introduces tonight's screening, says of the film: “It remains a genuinely breathtaking work, the jewel in the crown of Russell’s magnificent career; a film which was ahead of its time 40 years ago, and which (like its creator) never lost the power to entral and enrage in equal measure.”

Time Out review:
'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 Ken 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.'

Tom Huddleston


Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2017 - Day 233: Wed Aug 23

The Debussy Film (Russell, 1965): Cinema Museum, 7.30pm


Over five days in August (Wednesday 23rd – Sunday 27th) the Cinema Museum will be celebrating the life and work of the director Ken Russell with a host of famous guests, including Glenda Jackson and Mark Kermode. You can find the selection of his movies, TV films and rare shorts in the line-up here. Tonight Melvyn Bragg will talk about Ken Russell’s films for BBC’s Monitor programme, followed by a screening of The Debussy Film (1965), the penultimate of these films, co-scripted by Russell and Bragg.

BFI Screenonline review:

Ken Russell's penultimate film for Monitor (subtitled 'Impressions of the French Composer') was originally planned as a feature film about Claude Debussy (1862-1918), though after the failure of his theatrical debut French Dressing (1963) he ended up making it for television. Little else was sacrificed, as the 82-minute result (co-written by the young Melvyn Bragg) was easily his most ambitious film up to then, and still represents a career high point. This opinion was not shared by Debussy's estate, which initially prevented repeat screenings, though the composer's copyright has since expired. The film operates on, and constantly switches between, three levels. First, there's the dramatised life story of Debussy and his stormy relationships with lovers, friends, colleagues and patrons. Then, there are visualisations of his music, along similar lines to those in Elgar (BBC, tx. 11/11/1962) and Béla Bartók (BBC, tx. 24/5/1964), beginning with a startling sequence in which a young woman, representing Saint Sebastian, is shot at point-blank range with arrows. And finally, there's the film within The Debussy Film, as an ambitious director attempts to capture the complexities of his subject while negotiating his actors' own turbulent relationships. Although this treatment might seem gimmicky, it represents the logical culmination of Russell's Monitor output. In constantly pushing at the boundaries of what was considered acceptable for a BBC documentary, he had to spend much time thinking about what he was attempting, not least in order to justify it to his boss Huw Wheldon, a stickler for factual accuracy. His director frequently voices these dilemmas, musing about how to convey particular ideas on film, incorporate additional material without unbalancing the narrative, or simply to vouch for the accuracy of individual scenes. Russell confirmed that the line "They did play with balloons - I checked" was a cheeky dig at Wheldon. Cast primarily because of his physical resemblance to Debussy, Oliver Reed has surprisingly little to do except intersperse smouldering broodiness and violent rage. The dominant performance is by the saturnine Vladek Sheybal as both the film's director and Debussy's own Svengali, the pornographer-poet Pierre Louÿs. Decades before the introduction of the DVD, Sheybal supplies a near-constant 'director's commentary' on the soundtrack, though he also knows when to let 'his' film speak for itself, notably the climax of the extraordinary sequence that fuses Debussy's own decline with the subject of his unfinished opera, The Fall of the House of Usher.
Michael Brooke

Here (and above) is an extract

Capital Celluloid 2017 - Day 232: Tue Aug 22

Out Of Sight (Soderbergh, 1998): Prince Charles Cinema, 8.45pm


This 35mm screening is part of the Cinematic Jukebox season at the Prince Charles Cinema. You can find full details of the season here.

Time Out review:
A splendid reminder of just how assured, intelligent and involving Soderbergh's movies can be. Working from Scott Frank's exemplary adaptation of Elmore Leonard's novel, the director deftly mixes suspense, comedy and romance, and generates considerable erotic tension. Bank robber George Clooney and ambitious federal marshal Jennifer Lopez - whose first brush with each other comes when he holds her hostage in a car trunk while escaping from prison - circle one another irresistibly but warily, both knowing she'll put him away if she can. This evidently ill-starred relationship is the pulsating heart of the film, but there are more than enough subplots involving a host of vividly drawn characters to prevent the unlikely pair's courtship from becoming cute, obvious or overbearingly smart. All the performances are first rate, while the pace, wit and low key concern with questions of honour, professionalism and loyalty are wholly in keeping with Leonard's perky, deceptively effortless style. Most impressive, though, is how Soderbergh keeps every ingredient simmering enticingly while sacrificing none of his storytelling subtlety. The finest Leonard adaptation to date, and a rare example of a Hollywood film that's adult, ambitious and terrific entertainment.
Geoff Andrew


Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2017 - Day 231: Mon Aug 21

Guelwaar (Sembene, 1993): Close-Up Cinema, 7.30pm


This 35mm screening is part of the Ousmane Sembene season at Close-Up Cinema. You can find all the details here.

Chicago Reader review:
Alternately wise and very funny in its treatment of tribalism and in its grasp of neocolonial corruption, Senegalese filmmaker Ousmane Sembene's seventh feature (1992, 115 min.) has so much to say about contemporary Africa that you emerge from it with a sense of understanding an entire society from top to bottom. A political activist and Catholic figurehead known as Guelwaar (which means “the noble one”) dies from a beating after delivering an impassioned speech against foreign aid and its attendant corruptions, and when friends and family gather for his funeral they're shocked to discover that his body is missing. It emerges that he was accidentally buried in a Muslim cemetery, and the tribal, political, and cultural disputes that arise from this constitute the remainder of this beautifully told story. (A lot of significance is attached to when the characters speak French and when they speak Wolof, the principal language of Senegal.) In French and Wolof with subtitles.
Jonathan Rosenbaum


Here (and above) is the trailer.

Friday, 4 August 2017

Capital Celluloid 2017 - Day 230: Sun Aug 20

Camp de Thairoye (Sembene & Sow, 1987): Close-Up Cinema, 7pm


This screening is part of the Ousmane Sembene season at Close-Up Cinema. You can find all the details of the season here.

Chicago Reader review:
It's possible that a good half of the greatest African movies ever made are the work of novelist-turned filmmaker Ousmane Sembene (Black Girl, Xala, Ceddo). Camp Thiaroye, his first feature in 11 years, co-written and co-directed by Thierno Faty Sow, recounts an incident that actually occurred in 1944. Returning from four years of European combat in the French army, Senegalese troops are sent to a transit camp, where they have to contend with substandard food and other indignities. An intellectual sergeant major (Ibrahima Sane) gets thrown out of a local bordello when he goes there for a drink; mistaken for an American soldier, he is arrested and beaten by American MPs, which provokes his men into kidnapping an American GI. Then when the Senegalese troops discover that they're about to be cheated out of half of their back pay, they launch a revolt. Leisurely paced, with some talky stretches devoted to debates among the soldiers, this lengthy feature is neither a simple tract nor a loose, undisciplined fresco, but a novelistic (and often witty) treatment of a complex subject in which all the characters get their due. Sane is especially fine, but the other characters--including a mute and traumatized Senegalese survivor of Buchenwald and a sympathetic if naive white officer--are delineated with comparable depth. The film as a whole offers a multifaceted commentary on colonialism and a nuanced history lesson, and the subtle direction is masterful throughout.
Jonathan Rosenbaum


Here (and above) is the opening.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Capital Celluloid 2017 - Day 229: Sat Aug 19

Point Break (Bigelow, 1991): Prince Charles Cinema, 8.45pm


Finally, this cult movie is being screened in 35mm. How hard could that be? Read Sophie Brown's article to see why it has been so difficult before now.

Time Out review:
Undercover FBI agent Keanu Reeves strips for action and gets into some serious male bonding when he infiltrates the Californian surfing fraternity in search of a gang of bank robbers who call themselves the Ex-Presidents. During the course of the investigation, however, Reeves is seduced by 'spiritual' surfer Patrick Swayze's cosmic talk about one-ness with the sea, and becomes addicted to the adrenalin rush of life on the edge. Despite this theme of Faustian redemption, the distinction between good and evil is far from black and white, Swayze's reckless craving for danger filling an elemental void in Reeves' hollow soul. There are times when the dialogue is a shade comic, others when the brilliantly staged action set pieces become almost abstract. Plausibility, though, has never been director Bigelow's strong suit, and there's precious little to be found here. Even so, there's enough high-octane, heart-racing excitement for a dozen movies.
Nigel Floyd


Here (and above) is the trailer.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Capital Celluloid 2017 - Day 228: Fri Aug 18

Black Girl (Sembene, 1966): Close-Up Cinema, 7.30pm


This 35mm screening (which also screens on August 23rd) is part of the Ousmane Sembene season at Close-Up Cinema. You can find all the details here. The film is being shown on a double-bill with the short Borom Sarret.

Chicago Reader review: 
The 1966 first feature of Senegalese director Ousmane Sembene. A girl from a lower-class district in Dakar goes to work as a maid for a French couple and accompanies them on a vacation to France, where her newfound sense of freedom gradually turns into feelings of isolation and invisibility. Sembene keeps his metaphors under control, and the result is a message movie with an unusual depth of characterization. 
Dave Kehr


Here (and above) is the trailer.

Borom Sarret (dir: Ousmane Sembene)
1964 | 19 min | B/W | 35mm
“Sembene’s first film, Borom Sarret (“cart owner”) chronicles a day in the life of a beleaguered horse-cart driver in Dakar. In spite of the material limitations of the production - if not because of the challenges they posed – Borom Sarret manages to create a powerful social statement as it combines simple means with complex observations on bureaucracy, religion, and the anonymity of the modern city. Compressing his narrative into a mere nineteen minutes, Sembene conveys the condition of Senegal’s urban poor as he situates their experience in the larger social panorama of post-independence Africa.” – Harvard Film Archive

Capital Celluloid 2017 - Day 227: Thu Aug 17

Chinatown (Polanski, 1974): BFI Southbank, NFT3, 8.30pm


This film (which is also being shown on August 6th, 27th and 28th) is part of the Big Screen Classics season at BFI Southbank. You can find full details of the season here.

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 (Faye 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 (Roman Polanski), a screenwriter (Robert Towne) and a producer (Robert 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 (John 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 (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2017 - Day 226: Wed Aug 16

Xala (Sembene, 1974): Close-Up Cinema, 7.30pm


This 35mm screening (which is also being shown on August 25th) is part of the Ousmane Sembene season at Close-Up Cinema. You can find all the details here.

Time Out review:
An invigorating film which tells, in leisurely fashion, of a middle-aged Dakar businessman whose social standing begins to slip when he takes a third wife and finds that he's lost his touch in bed ('xala' means impotence). There's no sniggering humour, though; instead, Sembene aims satirical thrusts at the Senegalese bourgeoisie, who impotently ape the worst aspects of their former colonial masters, particularly their corruption and extravagance (our hero, for instance, uses imported mineral water to wash his car). The jokes and details are delightful, yet there's real anger behind them, and it bursts spectacularly into view in the concluding frames.

Geoff Brown


Here (and above) is the trailer.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Capital Celluloid 2017 - Day 225: Tue Aug 15

Love Streams (Cassavetes, 1984): Prince Charles Cinema, 8.40pm


This 35mm screening is part of the Prince Charles Cinema's Cinematic Jukebox season. You can find all the details here.

Chicago Reader review:
John Cassavetes's career of risk taking comes to a climax in this rich, original, emotionally magnificent 1984 film about a brother who is unable to love (Cassavetes) and a sister who loves too much (Gena Rowlands). For half its length the film follows their separate experiences—he as a celebrated novelist living a life of desperate dissolution in Los Angeles; she as a wife and mother undergoing a painful divorce in Chicago—and then brings them together for a rocky reunion. At the climax they trade roles, and each is alone again in a new way. Cassavetes follows his vision to the limit, a course that takes him through extravagance, indulgence, and hysteria—yet for all of his apparent disdain for classical construction, there isn't a moment in the film that doesn't find its place in a grand design. With Seymour Cassel and Diahnne Abbott.
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Capital Celluloid 2017 - Day 224: Mon Aug 14

The Return of the Pink Panther (Edwards, 1975): Regent Street Cinema, 7.30pm


This film is part of the Nick Broomfield Presents season at Regent Street Cinema. You can find the full details of the season here.

Chicago Reader review:
A triumphant 1974 return of Peter Sellers as the exquisitely inept Inspector Clouseau. The razor-sharp direction is by Blake Edwards, whose instinct for the amusing aspects of life's gruesome interludes makes this innocent looking comedy-mystery a study of survival-with-style in the face of almost certain disaster. With Christopher Plummer and Herbert Lom.
JR Jones

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2017 - Day 223: Sun Aug 13

Out Of the Past (Tourneur, 1947): Rio Cinema, 3.45pm


This 35mm screening is part of Remembering Robert Mitchum' day at Rio Cinema. Details here.

Chicago Reader review:
The most delicate and nuanced of film noirs (1947), graced with a reflective lyricism that almost lifts it out of the genre. Robert Mitchum, a former private eye, has taken refuge from life as the owner of a small-town gas station. A gangster (Kirk Douglas) presses him back into service to search for his wandering mistress (Jane Greer). This is no expressionist thunderstorm of guilt and fate, but a film of small, finely textured effects, centered on subtle grades of morality. The cool, feathery photography is by Nicholas Musuraca; the director is Jacques Tourneur. With Rhonda Fleming, Steve Brodie, and Richard Webb.
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is an extract.

Capital Celluloid 2017 - Day 222: Sat Aug 12

Le Doulos (Melville, 1962): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 4, 6.20 & 8.45pm


This 4K restoration of the Jean-Pierre Melville film, part of the director's season at BFI Southbank, is on an extended run at the cinema. You can find all the details of the screening here.

Chicago Reader review:
Jean-Pierre Melville's existentialized gangster films are one of the glories of the French cinema, American forms played out with European self-consciousness. This 1962 effort stars Jean-Paul Belmondo as an informer on the lam, but plot pales before Melville's detailed noir imagery of dingy hotel rooms, back alleys, and subterranean passages. Melville's love for American films (he was a man of taste as well as talent) was one of the most profound influences on the New Wave generation.
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Capital Celluloid 2017 - Day 221: Fri Aug 11

1991: The Year Punk Broke (Markey, 1992): Rio Cinema, 10.30pm


This is the second in a regular series of NTS Radio & Rio Cinema screenings, a special presentation of the 1992 music documentary '1991: The Year Punk Broke'.

The documentary follows Sonic Youth around their legendary 1991 European tour and its screening at the Rio will mark 25 years since its theatrical debut. The show will be accompanied by never-before-seen footage of Sonic Youth and Nirvana, kindly provided by the film's director Dave Markey.

Skinny Girl Diet will perform a live set before the film starts, with NTS hosts Black Impulse DJing in the Rio's foyer after the film. Doors from 10.30pm BST. Skinny Girl Diet play at 23.15. DJ's till late.


AV Club review:
Sometimes it takes a little serendipity for a rock documentary to become something special. While the filmmakers behind classics such as Don’t Look Back, Woodstock, and Gimme Shelter deserve credit for choosing their subjects wisely, they couldn’t have predicted their excellent timing. The same can be said of Dave Markey’s 1991: The Year That Punk Broke, an occasionally amateurish, frequently riveting film about Sonic Youth’s tour of European rock festivals in August 1991. As the band’s Thurston Mooreadmits during a panel discussion included in the extras for the film’s new DVD edition, 1991 was essentially a “home movie” shot on Super 8, and not intended to become an actual motion picture. It was only after one of Sonic Youth’s supporting acts—a scruffy, largely unheralded Seattle trio named Nirvana—became a sensation within weeks of playing those shows that Markey’s ragtag collection of performance footage and backstage goofiness suddenly became bankable.
Not that Markey rushed to cash in on Nirvana-mania. He didn’t even want to include an early performance of “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” reasoning that nobody would want to hear a song that was still all over the radio when the film was released in 1992. Fortunately, he decided otherwise—the live clip is both fantastically explosive and historically valuable—but 1991 stubbornly keeps the focus on Sonic Youth, the tour’s unquestioned star and a vital pillar of the oncoming alt-rock empire about to take over pop culture. While future stars like Kurt Cobain, Dave Grohl, and Courtney Love lurk in the background of 1991—and bands like Dinosaur, Jr., Babes In Toyland, and the Ramones contribute gloriously unruly performances—the spotlight never leaves Sonic Youth for long.
Steven Hyden

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Capital Celluloid 2017 - Day 220: Thu Aug 10

Dancer in The Dark (Von Trier, 2000): Prince Charles Cinema, 8.40pm


This film is part of the Cinematic Jukebox season at the Prince Charles. Details here.

Chicago Reader review:
Disgusting yet interesting, Lars von Trier's much heralded musical (2000)—or, more precisely, feature-length music video with interspersed dialogue—deserves to be seen because it's a freakish provocation, not just because it won the Palme d'Or at Cannes. A Czech immigrant working at a factory in rural Washington State in the early 60s (Icelandic pop star Bjork) is going blind and knows her son will too if she can't save enough money for an operation; the story gets even more melodramatic once a murder trial takes over. Reportedly shot with 100 digital video cameras (very few of which manage to find a good angle), the film reprises the sadomasochistic celebration of female suffering in Breaking the Waves, and with it von Trier affirms his solidarity with America's impoverished and downtrodden people (apparently a diversion from his career in Denmark as a porn producer). The musical numbers are a weird blend of rock video and Jacques Demy postmusicals, with lousy songs and choreography and a distance between the music and the action that suggests an amateur remake of Pennies From Heaven. But in spite of everything, Bjork's absolute dedication and submission to the material periodically blew me away. With David Morse, Peter Stormare, and a spectacularly misused Joel Grey.
Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Capital Celluloid 2017 - Day 219: Wed Aug 9

Le Silence de la Mer (Melville, 1949): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 6.10pm


This film, which is also being shown on August 16th, is part of the Jean-Pierre Melville season at BFI Southbank. You can find full details here.

Chicago Reader review:
Jean-Pierre Melville made this film, his first, in 1948 on a minuscule budget and without securing the rights to the famous resistance novel (by Vercors) it was based on. It's an allegory of French-German relations during the occupation, played out largely in a single sitting room where a German officer (Howard Vernon) bares his soul in endless monologues for his silent, unwilling French "hosts" (Nicole Stephane and Jean-Marie Robain). The minimalism of the material anticipates Bresson, while the theatrical dash of the staging suggests the strong influence of Orson Welles. Though too often abstract and rhetorical, the film is sustained by mood and visual resourcefulness; it's a strong debut for Melville, who went on to become one of the great eccentrics of the French cinema (Bob le Flambeur, Le Samourai).
Dave Kehr


Here (and above) is the trailer.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Capital Celluloid 2017 - Day 218: Tue Aug 8

The Evil Within (Getty, 2017): Regent Street Cinema, 8.40pm


Cigarette Burns introduction:
We’re thrilled to present the English premiere of The Evil Within - Movie, a genuinely shocking and surprising horror film, a piece of outsider art and passion project which was very nearly lost when its writer and director Andrew Getty died during post production. Getty, himself the heir of American oil baron J. Paul Getty, spent 15 years and millions of his own money to tell his twisted and tragic tale of a young man (a tour de force performance by Frederick Koehler) with learning difficulties whose dreams are haunted by a demonic creature (horror genre icon Michael Berryman) ordering him on murderous rampages. Unable to understand or control himself, the bodies pile up and we fall deeper and deeper into the nightmares of the mind. We’ll be joined by the producer and saviour of the film, Michael Luceri, in a Skype Q&A hosted by filmmaker Jörg Tittel (The White King), who has been left permanently scarred by the film. In a good way. He hopes.

Starburst Magazine review:
A title like The Evil Within might make you write off the film as just another DTV supernatural horror, and even an overview of its plot – Danny, a man with learning difficulties living with his brother John, is urged to kill by his reflection in the large antique mirror John brings home one day – sounds almost purposefully generic. However, rest assured it’s something far more special than that. In much the same way that the ropy production values of low budget films can be overlooked when they’re creative enough, in this case enough money has been pumped into it that its journeyman vision is afforded the aesthetics of a major production. Getty throws in all the visual techniques you can think of, but instead of becoming the anarchic mess you would expect, they somehow coalesce into something not exactly coherent, but indisputably compelling. The film does have noticeable faults, such as sub-plots of dubious purpose drifting in and out of the narrative and some stilted dialogue with no purpose other than expository contrivance. It’s a cinematic chimera of pieces hacked apart and stitched together, its inspirations and influences write large across every moment. It’s clear Getty was figuring out his craft as he went, but unlike, say, Ed Wood’s enthusiastic incompetence or Tommy Wiseau’s oblivious narcissism, Getty displays flashes of genuine talent, and we can only try (and probably fail) to imagine what he would have gone on to make.
Andrew Marshall