Thursday, 31 August 2017

Capital Celluloid 2017 - Day 255: Thu Sep 14

The Dark Half (Romero, 1993): BFI Southbank, NFT3, 6.10pm


This 35mm screening is part of the Stephen King season at BFI Southbank and you can find the details of the season here. Tonight's presentation is introduced by season curator Michael Blyth.

Time Out review:
Proof that not all films derived from Stephen King's books need be intellectually banal and cinematically dull. Romero's movie centres on Thad Beaumont (Timothy Hutton), a small-town author and creative-writing tutor, who, threatened with exposure, decides to kill off his literary doppelgänger, crime novelist George Stark. Soon afterwards, Thad's friends and colleagues start meeting violent deaths, apparently at the hands of the late Stark. Thad's wife Liz (Amy Madigan) is frightened for the children, but although the local lawman (Michael Rooker) is sympathetic, he refuses to believe that Thad's fictional alter ego is the razor wielding culprit. It's a strong conceit, but precisely how it's linked to a feather-brained subplot about the black-outs and aural hallucinations Thad suffered as a child remains obscure. This one-paced psychological horror movie delivers its share of visual shocks, but relies mainly on a controlled build-up of tension.
Nigel Floyd


Here (and above) is the trailer.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Capital Celluloid 2017 - Day 254: Wed Sep 13

Cast A Dark Shadow (Gilbert, 1955): Horse Hospital, 7pm


This is the second film in a three-part season at the Horse Hospital, curated by Duncan Carson, called Blitzed: A Season about British men, masculinity and the 1950s. You can find the details about all three of the the films via the page on the Horse Hospital website here.

Here is Duncan's introduction to the season and a note on tonight's film:
It's tempting to look at British cinema of the 1950s as waiting for something more exciting to come by. But before the Angry Young Men stormed the old guard, repression was creating something equally interesting, if you knew where to look. Contrary to what the view from 2017 might tell you, post-War Britain was a grim place. The end of the war brought the end of Empire, twelve more years of rationing, and a series of humiliations that put Britain's unique self-regard to the test. And that's without taking into account the readjustment of a generation of men ill equipped to deal with the emotional scars of war, and with a home-front effort that challenged the enduring patriarchy. British cinema did its best to hide these issues, but plenty crept in.
This series is designed as a primer to knowing what to spot in British cinema in the 1950s. 


In Cast a Dark Shadow, we have another thinly veiled queer narrative. Most people know Dirk Bogarde hinting at his sexuality in Victim but this film, four years before, hinted heavily at what he was hiding. He plays Edward 'Teddy' Bare, a manipulative gold digger who kills his first wife, only to find he has made a big mistake and won't inherit her fortune. Forced to find a new sucker, he makes the mistake of falling in with Freda (Margaret Lockwood) who is unwilling to accept Edward's sexual reticence. It's a thrilling portrait of a figure that the post-war generation feared: someone totally self-interested and in opposition to mainstream mores.

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Capital Celluloid 2017 - Day 253: Tue Sep 12

The Army of Shadows (Melville, 1969): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 8.20pm


This film, part of the Jean-Pierre Melville season at BFI Southbank, is also being shown on September 2nd and 30th. Full details here.

Chicago Reader review:
Jean-Pierre Melville's film on the French Resistance, L'armee des ombres (1969), drawn from a novel by Joseph Kessel. Melville is best known for his philosophical pastiches of American gangster films (Le samourai, Le doulos), and some of their distinctive rhythms—aching stillness relieved by sharp flurries of action—survive here. The film is long and episodic, strangely divided between art-house enigmas and melodramatic payoffs for the matinee crowd. The unifying theme is one of perverse nostalgia for the good old/bad old days. With Lino Ventura, Simone Signoret, and Jean-Pierre Cassel.
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Monday, 28 August 2017

Capital Celluloid 2017 - Day 252: Mon Sep 11

Attack The Block (Cornish, 2011): Prince Charles Cinema, 6pm



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

Time Out review:
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 (and above) is the trailer.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Capital Celluloid 2017 - Day 251: Sun Sep 10

Le Deuxieme Souffle (Melville, 1966): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 8.10pm


This 35mm screening, part of the Jean-Pierre Melville season at BFI Southbank, is also being shown on September 2nd and 7th. Details here.

Chicago Reader review:
Described by many as a sort of "minimalist epic," this gangster drama deals with dire fatalistic themes in the reserved, affectless manner of Robert Bresson. Melville was known for mixing American sensationalism with brooding French mannerism, and never is this commingling more resonant than it is here.
Drew Hunt

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2017 - Day 250: Sat Sep 9

McCabe & Mrs Miller (Altman, 1971): BFI Southbank, NFT3, 8.30pm


This film, part of the BFI Southbank's Big Screen Classics season, is also being shown on September 20th, 22nd, 23rd and 25th. Note that the 4K screenings of this film will only be shown in NFT1 and NFT3. Critic and programmer Geoff Andrew will introduce the 20th September presentation, which will be screened in NFT1. More details here.

Chicago Reader review:
Still Robert Altman's best moment, this 1971 antiwestern murmurs softly of love, death, and capitalism. Warren Beatty is the two-bit gambler who falls in with whorehouse proprietress Julie Christie; together they grope toward money and oblivion.
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Capital Celluloid 2017 - Day 249: Fri Sep 8

Beau Travail (Denis, 1999): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 9pm


This 35mm screening is part of the Big Screen Classics season at BFI Southbank and can also be seen on September 2nd and 13th and October 2nd. Full details here. The screening on September 13th will be introduced by Sophie Mayer.

Chicago Reader review:
A gorgeous mirage of a movie (1999), Claire Denis' reverie about the French foreign legion in eastern Africa, suggested by Herman Melville's Billy Budd, Foretopman, benefits especially from having been choreographed (by Bernardo Montet, who also plays one of the legionnaires). Combined with Denis' superb eye for settings, Agnes Godard's cinematography, and the director's decision to treat major and minor elements as equally important, this turns some of the military maneuvers and exercises into thrilling pieces of filmmaking that surpass even Full Metal Jacket and converts some sequences in a disco into vibrant punctuations. The story, which drifts by in memory fragments, is told from the perspective of a solitary former sergeant (Denis Lavant, star of The Lovers on the Bridge) now living in Marseilles and recalling his hatred for a popular recruit (Gregoire Colin) that led to the sergeant's discharge; the fact that his superior is named after the hero of Jean-Luc Godard's Le petit soldat and played by the same actor almost 40 years later (Michel Subor) adds a suggestive thread, as do the passages from Benjamin Britten's opera Billy Budd. Most of all, Denis, who spent part of her childhood in Djibouti, captures the poetry and atmosphere—and, more subtly, the women—of Africa like few filmmakers before her. A masterpiece.
Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Capital Celluloid 2017 - Day 248: Thu Sep 7

Obsession (Dmytryk, 1949): The Horse Hospital, 7pm


This is the first film in a three-part season at the Horse Hospital, curated by Duncan Carson, called Blitzed: A Season about British men, masculinity and the 1950s. You can find the details about all three of the the films via the page on the Horse Hospital website here.

Here is Duncan's introduction to the season and a note on tonight's film:
It's tempting to look at British cinema of the 1950s as waiting for something more exciting to come by. But before the Angry Young Men stormed the old guard, repression was creating something equally interesting, if you knew where to look. Contrary to what the view from 2017 might tell you, post-War Britain was a grim place. The end of the war brought the end of Empire, twelve more years of rationing, and a series of humilations that put Britain's unique self-regard to the test. And that's without taking into account the readjustment of a generation of men ill equipped to deal with the emotional scars of war, and with a homefront effort that challenged the enduring patriarchy. British cinema did its best to hide these issues, but plenty crept in. 

This series is designed as a primer to knowing what to spot in British cinema in the 1950s. In Obsession
 you have noir master Edward Dmytryk – on the Hollywood Blacklist and  exiled from the US – dealing with a story of adultery, but one that has almost nothing to do with his wife and everything to do with the man who has done the dirty on him. It's no coincidence that the man is an American, with the embarrassment of country's fortunes drawing so heavily on US reserves. Making great use of the Blitzed city as a space for unruly behaviour, this ripe, Hitchcock-esque film is a blackly comic delight.

Here (and above) are extracts from the film.


 

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Capital Celluloid 2017 - Day 247: Wed Sep 6

Petulia (Lester, 1968): BFI Southbank, NFT3, 6.30pm


Melanie Williams, Reader in Film and Television Studies at the University of East Anglia, and a member of the project team for ‘Transformation and Tradition in 1960s British Cinema’, which is holding its conference at BFI Southbank 6-7 Sept 2017, will introduce the 35mm screening of one of the best films of the 1960s.


Chicago Reader review:
One of the finest films of and about the 60s, Richard Lester's romantic comedy tells the story of the relationship between a recently divorced surgeon (George C. Scott) and an unhappily married San Francisco socialite (Julie Christie) and takes deft, unexpected turns into the tragic and terrifying. Lester's volatile, quick-cut style finds its most expressive application in his description of a world fatally fragmented into rich and poor, past and present, compassion and indifference. Scott has never been more powerful or so subtle: his weary but still hopeful physician is a Shakespearean figure, cloaked in a majestic sadness. But the film belongs to Christie, who earns the Oscar she won for Darling with a plangent portrayal of a woman struggling to transcend her own shallowness. With Richard Chamberlain, Shirley Knight, Arthur Hill, and Joseph Cotten; the excellent screenplay is the work of Lawrence Marcus, and Nicolas Roeg did the cinematography (1968). 105 min.
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2017 - Day 246: Tue Sep 5

The Dead Zone (Carpenter, 1983): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 6.20pm



This film is part of the Stephen King season at BFI Southbank and you can find the full details of the season here. David Cronenberg's movie will also be screened on September 10th. Full details here.

Time Out review:
After a long coma, school teacher Christopher Walken wakes up with psychic powers (but no girlfriend). Depending on your point of view, this is either Cronenberg's most progressive, humanist movie (pace Robin Wood), or one of his least personal, most conventional pictures. Adapted from a Stephen King novel, and produced by Dino De Laurentiis, it's well crafted and atmospheric, with an arresting central character (Walken in one of his most sympathetic and controlled performances), but the episodic plot strands don't really mesh. In the most striking, the teacher unmasks a serial killer; in another he prevents a young boy from drowning; and in yet another his path crosses with a single-minded politician (Martin Sheen). Cronenberg pulls it off, but you can't help feeling it's a movie in search of a TV series.
Tom Charity

Here (and above) are the opening titles.

Capital Celluloid 2017 - Day 245: Mon Sep 4

L'Aine des Ferchaux (Melville, 1963): BFI Southbank, NFT3, 8.45pm



This 35mm screening, part of the Jean-Pierre Melville season at BFI Southbank, is also being shown on September 9th. Details here. This film has been almost impossible to see on the big screen for many years owing to disputes over the rights.

BFI introduction:
Very loosely adapted from a Georges Simenon novel, this film chronicles the geographical and emotional odyssey undertaken by an elderly embezzler (Vanel) and the young boxer (Belmondo) he hires as his assistant when he flees with his fortune to America. Inevitably, suspicion takes its toll in what becomes a strange, intense love-hate relationship. The two stars bring great charisma and intelligence to a psychologically complex film.

Here (and above) is an extract.

Capital Celluloid 2017 - Day 244: Sun Sep 3

Night of the Demon (Tourneur, 1957): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 4.30pm


This film, part of the Stephen King Picks strand at BFI Southbank, is also being screened on September 7th. You can find the full details here.

Chicago Reader review:
A major work in that minor genre, horror movies. Intelligent, delicate, and actually frightening (no kidding), this 1957 feaure was directed by Jacques Tourneur, author of many of the best of Val Lewton's famous series of B-budget shockers. A shot or two of a cheesy monster (insisted upon by the producer) are the only violations of the film's sublime allusiveness, through which the unseen acquires a palpitating presence. Tourneur is attempting a rational apprehension of the irrational, examining not so much the supernatural itself but the insecurities it springs from and the uses it may be put to. With Dana Andrews, Peggy Cummins (of Gun Crazy), and Niall MacGinnis in a witty, Hitchcockian performance as an urbane warlock.
Dave Kehr


Here (and above) is a video essay on the film by Chris Fujiwara.

Capital Celluloid 2017 - Day 243: Sat Sep 2

Salem's Lot (Hooper, 1979): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 7.30pm


The 35mm screening of this TV miniseries is part of the Stephen King season at BFI Southbank and you can find the full details of the season here. The presentation will be introduced by Stace Abott from the University of Roehampton.

BFI introduction:
The small screen proved the perfect vessel for King’s story of a sleepy Maine town infiltrated by vampires (humorously described by King himself as ‘Peyton Place meets Dracula’), with the mini-series format allowing ample space for multiple narratives to develop. A heavily edited two-hour cut was released theatrically in Europe, but the full-length version most effectively captures the spirit of the original text.

Here (and above) is an extract.

Monday, 21 August 2017

Capital Celluloid 2017 - Day 242: Fri Sep 1

Le Samourai (Melville, 1967): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 6.30pm


This 35mm screening, part of the Jean-Pierre Melville season at BFI Southbank, is also being shown on September 3rd and 5th. Details here.

Time Out review:
Jean-Pierre Melville's hombres don't talk a lot, they just move in and out of the shadows, their trenchcoats lined with guilt and their hats hiding their eyes. This is a great movie, an austere masterpiece, with Alain Delon as a cold, enigmatic contract killer who lives by a personal code of bushido. Essentially, the plot is about an alibi, yet Melville turns this into a mythical revenge story, with Cathy Rosier as Delon's black, piano-playing nemesis who might just as easily have stepped from the pages of Cocteau or Sophocles as Vogue. Similarly, if Delon is Death, Francois Périer's cop is a date with Destiny. Melville's film had a major influence in Hollywood: Delon lying on his bed is echoed in Taxi Driver, and Paul Schrader might have remade Le Samourai as American Gigolo. Another remake is The Driver, despite Walter Hill's insistence that he'd never seen it: someone on that movie had to have seen it.
Adrian Turner

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Capital Celluloid 2017 - Day 241: Thu Aug 31

Twin Peaks: The Missing Pieces (Lynch, 2014): Prince Charles Cinema, 8.45pm


This collection of unseen footage and scenes from Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me is part of the 'Films of David Lynch' seaon at the Prince Charles. Full details here.

Buzzfeed review:
Missing Pieces may not pull back the curtain on the larger mysteries of Twin Peaks or give us a definitive look at what happens to Dale Cooper after his possession (other than his presence in the Black Lodge and him comforting Laura, whose spirit has arrived there — more time shifts!), but what these deleted and extended scenes do is give us a deeper appreciation both for what David Lynch's maligned film set out to do and for the incredibly nuanced and powerful performance achieved by Sheryl Lee here. Laura Palmer isn't a character in Twin Peaks, but rather an emblem. Here, Lee gives television's most famous dead girl a profound sense of vulnerability, exploring both her flaws and her strength in the face of a harrowing experience. Twin Peaks might best be summed up in a sentence uttered by Lara Flynn Boyle's Donna in the show — "It's like I'm having the most beautiful dream and the most terrible nightmare all at once." — and Fire Walk With Me turns up the temperature on that whole statement, resulting in a film that pulses with Hitchcockian tension but also a strange and ineffable humanity.
Jace Lacob (you can read the full review here).

Here is Lynch introducing the film before the world premiere.

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