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Online Special General Meeting – Sunday 16th October 5pm

Welcome

The Friends of the Hyde Park Picture House is a registered charity made up of a group of people who enjoy cinema and feel some way connected to the Hyde Park Picture House. We want as many, and as wide a range of people as possible to be able to experience the same enjoyment through it that we do.

During the pandemic and redevelopment work we stopped accepting new members but are now looking ahead and preparing a new membership scheme for 2023. You can find out more about this on our Frequently Asked Questions page or by signing up for our email newsletter.

Latest Posts

Heritage Open Days

Hyde Park Picture House normally opens its doors every year as part of Heritage Open Days but this year, they have decided to use the On the Road programme to take the love of all things heritage out and about across the city through a range of events. Wendy has written about this on the Leeds Heritage Theatre website and there is an overview of some more events happening this September below.

You can find out more about the Heritage Open Days on their website which includes a search to find events all over the country. There is also a booklet of Leeds events available from LCC Libraries, Museums and Galleries or as a PDF download.

The Lost Films of Louis Le Prince

Friday 9th September 2pm – Leeds Becket University

This illustrated lecture from historian Irfan Shah will investigate the work of Leeds-based film pioneer, Louis Le Prince. It will take place in the exciting new cinema space of Leeds School of Arts at Leeds Beckett University.

In the years 1888-89, Louis Le Prince shot at least six continuous motion picture sequences in the city of Leeds, of which only a few seconds of three remain. Researcher, Irfan Shah, tells the story of the lost films of Le Prince and shows how Leeds itself was not merely a location for them but an essential ingredient of the inventor’s work.

You can read more about Louis Le Prince in our blog post “Louis Le Prince – moving image pioneer – 1841 to 1890” from earlier this year.

More Details

Screenings at Palace Picture House

Saturday 10th & Sunday 11th September – Leeds Industrial Museum

Nestled amongst the Kalee Projectors and Louis Le Prince’s early cameras, there will be a mixed programme in celebration of our favourite astounding invention: film.

Featuring:

  • Shorts programme: Cinema Memory (30min) – 12.30pm and 1.15pm
  • Hyde & Seek Screening: A Grand Day Out (1994, U, 24min) and The Wrong Trousers (1994, U, 30min) – 2.00pm
  • Minute Bodies: The Intimate Works of F. Percy Smith (2017, U, 53min) – 3.10pm

More Details

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Celebrate Yorkshire Day with Billy Liar

Wednesday 3rd August 6pm Leeds University Union

To celebrate Yorkshire Day this year there is a screening of Billy Liar (1963) at Leeds University Union on Wednesday 3rd August at 6pm.

Before the film there will be a brief update on the upcoming changes to the Friends Membership scheme and how that fits in with the development, changes and reopening of the Picture House in the autumn.

The Friends will be moving to an annual “Pay What You Decide” membership model and focussing more on our charitable aims. Soon, The Hyde Park Picture House will be introducing their own new membership scheme which will include discounted tickets and other benefits.

We’ve made these changes because membership schemes are an important way for cinemas like the Picture House to raise income and grow audiences. The primary motivation for the Friends has always been different, focussing on our charitable objects to support and celebrate the cinema. At this point clearly separating the two so both could thrive felt like a great opportunity.

We’ve put together a page of Frequently Asked Questions on our website which explains things in more detail but if you have any other questions please get in touch

Back to Billy Liar in which Tom Courtenay plays an irresponsible funeral director’s clerk, who fiddles the petty cash, is at war with his parents, and has become involved with two young women who share the same engagement ring. An incorrigible liar and day dreamer by nature, whenever possible, Billy retreats into a fantasy world where he is the hero: a dictator of an imagined land of Ruritania or a famous novelist. Anything to avoid have to make a decision, grow up, get out.

Filmed on location in Bradford and Leeds, Billy Liar is outlier to the brand of kitchen-sink realism then current in 60s Britain. Director John Schlesinger, with screenwriters Keith Waterhouse (who wrote the 1959 novel the film is based on) and Willis Hall, craft a wonderfully cast and irreverent film that sits somewhere between reverie and reality, cleverly mirroring the modernisation of British society at the time.

Rosie, Ireland 2018

This movie was screened at the Hyde Park Picture House in 2019; now it is transmitted this coming Sunday evening at 8.40 p.m. on the new BBC Three channel [Freeview 109 – also on the BBC iPlayer) . The Picture House screening was accompanied by presentations from members of the production, including  the director;  which added a welcome dimension to the event. I was impressed and included the title in my ‘best of the year’ selection . Rotten Tomatoes had very positive reviews and commented:

“Equal parts empathy and outrage, Rosie offers a heartbreaking glimpse of economic insecurity that will hit many viewers uncomfortably close to home.”

A day in the life of a family whose lose their rented home and find that the city [Dublin] is no place to be homeless. The key character is the mother, Rosie Davis (Sarah Greene); critics generally had high praise for her performance. But the whole family cast are really good with her partner John Paul Brady (Moe Dunford) and their four children, Kayleigh (Ellie O’Halloran) and three younger children Millie (Ruby Dunne), Alfie (Darragh McKenzie) and Madison (Molly McCann) equally convincing.

The day is a bleak procession of failures and lack of provision. The parents desperately seek a shelter, even for one night, as the children suffer from their poverty and insecurity. Much of the day is spent in their car as they search the city: this offers distinctive variation on the road movie: perhaps influenced by some of the also distinctive but different variants in Iranian cinema. This is the bleak landscape for the homeless in Ireland’s capital, but this is a story that could equally be filmed in British cities and in those of North America.

The screenplay is by the noted Irish writer Roddy Doyle. And the script was developed from real-life experiences  of people caught in the trap of homelessness. Filmed on location in Dublin the cinematography by Cathal Watters  uses frequent hand-held camera and large close-ups to present the emotional problems for the family.  The director Paddy Breathnach handles the production extremely well and achieves a documentary feel to the drama.

The film was likely shot in colour on a digital format in colour, it circulated on a DCP. It should show up well on the BBC HD channel though the widescreen 2.35:1 ratio may be slightly cropped. The title runs for 86 minutes. If you missed the Hyde Park screening the title was hard to see; the fate of many independent but really worthwhile movies. So it is a definite must on Sunday; be prepared for an emotional and powerful drama.

Louis Le Prince – moving image pioneer – 1841 to 1890

I suspect that most of the Friends are familiar with this C19th inventor who, in 1888, produced what is the earliest surviving example of a strip of moving image; scenes shot on a single lens camera of people in a Roundhay garden and then of people and traffic on Leeds Bridge. The second Leeds International Film Festival was, in his centenary year, a celebration of Le Prince’s achievement. And Blue Plaques commemorate his pioneer work on Leeds Bridge and the site of his workshop on Woodhouse Lane. Now a new study has appeared, ‘The Man Who Invented Motion Pictures’ by Paul Fischer, published by Simon & Schuster this month, in 2022, [ ‘The Genius, Secrecy and Disappearance of Louis Le Prince’]. Helpfully, a condensed version of the publication was premiered by BBC’s Radio 4’s ‘Book of the Week’; five episodes of 15 minutes each and available on BBC Sounds.

The book adds to the available studies of this important pioneer of what became cinema. There is Christopher Rawlence’s ‘The Missing Reel’ [Collins 1990): there is Rawlence’s documentary dramatisation of the book, made for Channel 4 in 1990, but not apparently available: David Wilkinson’s 2015 The First Film, more an argument for Le Prince’s recognition that a documentary [available on MUBI]: a detailed Wikipedia page links and detailed references: archive material at Leeds Industrial Museum and at Bradford’s National Media Museum Insight collection: interesting discussion of Prince’s achievement on a blog devoted to William Friese-Greene: and the Louis Prince Leeds Trail. YouTube has transfers of Le Prince’s moving images and a number of short video pieces on him; some have debatable claims.

The title is slightly over the top. The 1880s was a time when a number of pioneers were experimenting with developing photographic technology into a format for moving images. The author does detail the way that Le Prince worked at developing camera and projector for moving images. His descriptions in the BBC extracts are clear and understandable. However, all that survives are examples of what Le Prince filmed and one of his model cameras. As Fischer points out these are the earliest surviving examples of projectable moving images. However, there is no clear evidence that Le Prince successfully projected these. And after his death, when his family attempted to prove his prior claim to the patents of Thomas Edison, they failed; partly because what Le Prince patented did not offer enough detail.

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Stan & Ollie (Britain, Canada, USA 2018)

This is a portrait of two icons of film comedy, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. However, most of the film deals with their later years, an eight month tour of Ireland and Britain in 1953, presenting performances on stage in music halls based on their famous routines. It was a success at the time and now offers a combination of celebration, humour and nostalgia. The film is screening this Wednesday [April 6th] at 9 p.m. on BBC 2. Since it is, in part, a BBC production it should be featured on the iPlayer for some time.

The film is well put together and has a fairly straightforward narrative. The stand out aspect are the performances as Stan / Steve Coogan and Ollie / John C. Reilly. For fans like myself it was as if watching the duo once again. The supporting cast is excellent, especially their two partners: Ida Laurel / Nina Arianda: Lucille Hardy / Shirley Henderson. In fact the actual tour, organised by impresario Bernard Delfont (Rufus Jones), is more or less played in reverse. At the opening the audiences are small and lukewarm; the reverse of actuality. The intention it would seem is to develop a rising narrative ending with a highly successful performance and a delighted audience.

It is not all humour. The tour ended when Oliver suffered a heart attack and following the tour they were unable to work again. So there is also a disconsolate note at the conclusion. The film also shows in flashback how Stan and Ollie ended their association with Hal Roach (Danny Huston). Continue reading

Oscar Micheaux: The Superhero of Black Filmmakers

This is a documentary screening on April 1st on Sky Arts at 2.40 a.m. This appears to be the only Sky channel available on Freeview, Channel 11. It offers a range of programmes on the arts including frequent studies of cinema, film and film-makers. The majority of these are rather lightweight; they tend to ‘talking heads’, which means the comments are spread across a series of interviewees and rarely have the space to develop complex comments. And the extracts from films tend to be short and not necessarily illustrative of the important points. Some, like the programmes on Buster Keaton or Josephine Baker, involve the European Media Company Arte and are more analytical. This documentary falls rather in the middle.

Oscar Micheaux was a pioneer film-maker in what was known in early C20th USA as ‘race cinema’. These were films produced specifically for black audiences and usually screened in segregated cinemas in the South and either in segregated auditorium or programming in the North. The earliest ‘race’ film dates from 1905 but the cinema took off around 1910 , mainly in Chicago. There were independent ‘race films’ production companies like The Lincoln Motion Picture Company [1916 to 1921] owned by black entrepreneurs. Most companies in this field were owned by white entrepreneurs. There were also black production crew and ‘stars’ like comedian Mantan Moreland, who actually appeared in a few mainstream Hollywood titles. The ‘race cinema’ died out at the end of the 1940s when Hollywood finally decided to attract the ‘black dollar’; and then the 1950s saw the appearance of black stars in Hollywood like Sidney Poitier.

Oscar Micheaux was possibly the most important producer and director in this field. His Micheaux Film Corporation was set up in Chicago in 1918 and he later also worked in New York. Between then and 1940 he made forty four movies; most, like much of the ‘race cinema’, are lost. But the surviving silent and sound films are key examples of that cinema and also are seminal film texts in the history of US film and black film-making. Continue reading

A Positive Start To 2022

Chair of the Friends, Bill Walton has started to get out more and take advantage of some of the many films on offer, here is a round up of some of the films he has seen so far this year.

The Picture House On The Road programme has screened some gems:

Licorice Pizza (2021) directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. A delightful romance between Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman (talented son of the late Philip Seymour Hoffman) ably supported by actors including Sean Penn, Tom Waits and Bradley Cooper. A little over long at 133 minutes, but great entertainment.

Parallel Mothers (2021). Once again Pedro Almodóvar shows his talent for getting superlative performances out of a cast including Penélope Cruz and Milena Smit and some babies who certainly qualify as emerging talent. It includes important themes such as giving a decent burial to people killed in the Spanish Civil War (a conflict which seems more significant with today’s struggle for democracy in Ukraine); and the part women play in child rearing (Penelope Cruz puts on her ‘We Should All Be Feminists’ t-shirt to underline the point).

At the HEART Centre in Headingley I watched:

In the Heat of the Night (1967). A celebration of the contribution of Sidney Poitier to film, and to his confrontation of racism more generally. A great performance by Rod Steiger too. A film that retains its power over 50 years later.

Border (2018) an imaginative Swedish film about a customs officer who is not all she seems. Entertaining and thought provoking.

Honeyland (2019). A beautifully photographed story showing the vulnerability of living at subsistence level (in Macedonia), and the fragility of ecosystems plus a cast of many thousands (of bees).

Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), a ‘food and film’ event with this classic film, another reminder of war in Europe, accompanied by delicious paella.

So the word is that great film offerings are available and audiences are starting to return. Venues are going out of their way to keep everyone safe. What are your highlights of the year so far?

The reopening of our rejuvenated Picture House is now only about six months away. With our Annual General Meeting behind us, the Friends’ Committee is actively putting plans into place to give you new opportunities to become involved. 2022 is set to be an exciting year!


Bill Walton

Knives Out, USA 2019

If you are still unable to enjoy theatrical screenings you can at least enjoy a very smart movie on terrestrial television. It offers comedy with drama; a clever pastiche [celebration rather than the spoof] of a popular genres. This highly praised title plays with the ‘murder mystery-cum-detective’ story; in particular the variant that made Agatha Christie so successful. A mysterious death occurs in a family mansion of the patriarch who made his money in writing the sort of stories presented in this movie. A famous private detective is paid anonymously to investigate the death and solve the mystery. The family members fight over the money and the mystery; one aspect of the title.

The writer and director Rian Johnson had already made a teen neo-noir: an action movie: and an episode of the Star Wars franchise. He clearly has watched innumerable examples of the genre and one can spend time spotting the influences. The plot is labyrinthine and perhaps at times too clever. There re a number of red herrings, even an occasional Hitchcock ‘macguffin’. I suspect that very few viewers will unravel the plot in advance of the conclusion; a major surprise.

The production values are good and the tempo of the film is slick. But I felt that it was the cast in particular who made the movie so effective. Christopher Plummer plays patriarch Harlan Thrombey with ease and skill that have graced so many performances. Daniel Graig as detective Benoit Blanc reveals characterisation skills that have not been much seen in his  earlier roles. And I really liked Ana de Arnas as Harlan’s nurse Maria. But all the actors are really fine in their roles. There are several canine characters; and two of them race in an important sequence.

The title was shot on a combination of 35mm and digital formats. It is screening on Channel 4 at 9 p.m. this Saturday. – 130 minutes in colour and standard wide-screen. On the HD channel it should look and sound fine. It did when screened at the Picture House.

Andy’s Look Back At 2021

Our newest committee member, Andy Smith, takes a look back at another unusual year in cinema.

Before we get to the nitty-gritty let me put some context around where my film preferences lie: Here are some of my favourite films, by which I mean films that I would happily watch over and over again, but not on a loop! (in no particular order): Casablanca (1942), Ex Machina (2014), Leon (1994), Dirty Harry (1971), Farmegeddon (2019), Wall-E (2008). I don’t mind a suspense film but I am not a fan of horror or ‘action’ movies. Although Tenet (2020) was simply brilliant… My wife and I always mark a film out of 10 as we leave the cinema – it has to be our instant impression, given without conferring which we then average and record. More that 8 is very good, less than 2 means we probably walked out if we could without disturbing people. 10s are like hen’s teeth.

The first half of 2021 was spent watching films on-line via a 12 inch laptop or DVDs via a projector on to the sitting room wall trying to replicate “The Experience” of the big screen – we even got ice creams in. It was a poor substitute.

From May we were back in cinemas and managed to rack up 20 films between then and the end of the year. Most of them were excellent – only one was poor. So a good strike rate.

The first film was Nomadland – pretty much a 10/10. What an interesting ‘storyline’ fantastic direction (Chloe Zhao), great characters (Frances McDormand, David Strathairn and members of the nomad community), cinematography (Joshua James Reynolds) and social comment.

Frances Mcdormand in Nomadland
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Review: The Man Who Invented Christmas

Tara (Charles Dickens’ servant, played by Anna Murphy): Is Tiny Tim dead?
Scrooge: Well, of course he is, imbecile.
Charles Dickens: He was very ill.
Scrooge: You can’t save every child in London.
Charles Dickens: And the family has no money for a doctor.
Tara: Then Scrooge must save him!
Scrooge: ME?
Charles Dickens: He wouldn’t…
Tara: WHY?
Charles Dickens: Well, he’s too selfish.
Tara: He can change, there’s good in him, somewhere. I know it.
Scrooge: People don’t change.
Charles Dickens: He’s been this way, for a long time. I’m not sure he can change.
Tara: Of course he can, he’s not a monster.
Scrooge: I thought this was a ghost story, not a fairy tale.

Forty people joined us for the Friends’ screening of the 2017 film The Man Who Invented Christmas. It tells the story of how Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens) wrote and published “A Christmas Carol” during a frantic six weeks in the run up to Christmas 1843. Many thanks to Wendy the Picture House manager and her team for making the arrangements.

It is easy to underestimate the challenge of writing and publishing a book (or making a film for that matter) to a very tight deadline with a very limited budget. Dickens had written Oliver Twist in 1838 but that had been followed by three unsuccessful books. He often had writer’s block, was heavily in debt, and had a large family to support. He could easily have ended up in a debtors’ prison as his father did. Despite this A Christmas Carol became one of the best selling books of all time and went on to influence the way Christmas is celebrated across the world.

This film is not a documentary but does draw upon Dickens’ life experiences, including the ridicule he faced as a child while forced to work in a blacking (metal polish) factory. It’s worth watching for the locations, costumes and the photography, and especially for its portrayal of Dickens’ interactions with the characters which highlights the creative struggle at the moral core of the book, And I enjoyed spotting Christopher Plummer, Jonathan Pryce, Miriam Margolyes, Miles Jupp and Simon Callow among the cast.

However. the film treats lightly the deep flaws in Dickens’ personality, including his recklessness and instability and his ill treatment of his wife. In my view the film is a very interesting “one-watch” but too sentimental to become a regular feature of Christmas screenings,

Agree/disagree? We welcome your comments or reviews below.


Bill Walton