Scalarama – Leeds 2017.

Organising film treats for September.

Every September we now have this month-long Festival dedicated to cinema and film of all shapes and sizes. The Festival offers varied pleasures for film lovers and cinema goers across Britain. Happily Leeds has a well-endowed and well organised presence. The recently hoisted Webpages have a full list of titles, events and venues throughout September.

Wednesday August 23rd sees the programme launch at the Left Bank in Cardigan Road – 7.30 to 11 p.m. As well as fliers and details there will be a new documentary, Jobriath A.D. and live music from ‘Das Pain’.

From September 1st, there will be almost daily events spread across the whole city. The titles that catch my attention include:

Berlin: Symphony of a Great City / Berlin: Die Sinfonie der Groβtadt (1927) at the Hyde Park Picture House. This is a classic ‘city symphony’ from the silent era. Tending to the abstract it is dazzling portrait of Berlin. And there will be a live piano accompaniment.

Moonlight, the surprise Academy Award winner this year, is at the Otley Film Society. The film is engaging, unconventional and beautifully realised.

My Life as a Courgette /Ma vie de Courgette  (2016) is at HEART in Headingly. This is a delightful French animation, with an inventive and slightly oddball story.

The Intruder aka The Stranger (1962), is at Wharf Chambers. A cult film by Roger Corman,  set in the earlier segregation period: it seems eerily prescient in 2017

London Symphony (2017) at Left Bank. This is a C20th ‘city symphony’. Only just released but promising a visual treat.

Do the Right Thing (1989) at Leeds Cineforum [ previously The Arts PGR Film Club]. Spike Lee’s masterwork spoke volumes about the USA of its decade and still speaks loudly today.

There is a lot more: and enough to satisfy every taste.

Notes from another India

Wednesday August 16th at 6.30 p.m.

Kolkata view.

This is another screening presented by the Pavilion together with the Picture House. In fact, we can look forward to a number of films about the su-continent and the sates created seventy years ago, in 1947, India and Pakistan. As one would expect from the Pavilion these are unconventional film which offer a distinctive take on the sub-continent na d its culture.

Here the focus will offer :

“three perspectives on Kolkata, a city whose name was anglicised to Calcutta during the British Imperial period, then officially changed to it’s Bengali pronunciation in 2001.”

First we have

Tales From Planet Kolkata, Ruchir Joshi 1993, 38 min)

He is an Indian writer and filmmaker and also authors a columns in ‘The Telegraph’, ‘India Today’ and other publications. He was born in Kolkata and how is an artist tin the Diaspora, commuting between London and Delhi.

“In 1993, Ruchir Joshi decided to spoof the Western cinematic notions of the city that he loves. “My documentary Tales From Planet Kolkata was made to mock the popular perception of the city. I was fed up of everyone telling me about the progression of Mumbai and Delhi while Kolkata, apparently, languished in the backwaters,” says Joshi.” (From ‘Indian Express’: the film was commissioned by Channel 4.

Mark Lapore [or LaPore] was a USA-based experimental filmmaker and teacher: he died in 2005. The ‘Boston Globe obituary included the comment on Lapore’s films as :

”unique, a form of visual anthropology but equally about the mystery of being and film as consciousness. These uncompromising films have enormous integrity and deserve a very important place within the entire history of film.’”

Two films by Lapore are featured:

The Glass System (Mark Lapore, 2000, 20 min)

Kolkata (Mark Lapore, 2005, 35 min – his final film)

And finally there is an excerpt from

Dreams and Apparitions of Mark Lapore (Saul Levine, 2006/7, 12 min)

friends and colleagues of Lapore talk about him and his work.

Lapore’s film are screening from 16mm, [a rare pleasure] and the other films are on video.

This will be a good way to kick off one of the important anniversaries of 2017.

Dunkirk, Netherlands, UK, France, USA 2017

Opens on Friday  July 21st at 6.15 p.m.

This is the new film directed by Christopher Nolan. He is not only an extremely talented filmmaker but also one who appreciates the superior qualities of ‘reel’ film. In an interview in Sight & Sound (August 2017) he explained that

“The entire film is shot on 65mm film. Seventy per cent of the film is 15 perf IMAX 65 and the other 30 per cent is 5 perf 65mm [‘perf” refers to the number of perforations on the print: the IMAX format runs horizontally rather than vertically]. …

Also, the entire film is finished photo chemically and so where we’re doing 70mm prints and were doing reductions of the IMAX photography, those are done on an optical printer. [A device for copying or altering film prints].”

However, the 70 mm version does not appear to be screening in West Yorkshire and the IMAX screenings all seem to be digital. So the screening of a 35mm print at the Hyde Park is definitely the best version on offer locally.

The epic of Dunkirk, a ten day military disaster that somehow is presented as a victory, looms large in the British psyche. And it also figures frequently in British cinema.

The Foreman Went to France (Ealing Studio 1942, in black and white) presents a parallel story about the evacuation of vital machinery from France to Britain.

A fictional treatments of the actual evacuation appears in a Hollywood product, M-G-M’s Mrs Miniver (1942 in black and white) with Greer Garson holding up the home front whilst husband Walter Pidgeon joins the heroic armada rescuing British and allied soldiers.

The definitive version to date is Ealing Studio’s Dunkirk (1958, in black and white and standard wide-screen) with John Mills, Richard Attenborough and Bernard Lee leading a familiar cast of British characters. This is very much in the mould of the low-key British war movies. It combines scenes of military action with the intervening moments of the troops waiting and watching as the evacuation proceeds.

Intriguingly there is a French treatment, Week-end à Zuydcoote / Weekend at Dunkirk (Paris Film Production, 1984 in colour and a scope format). This deals with French troops stranded on the beaches.

More recently Atonement (Universal Pictures and Studio Canal 2007, in colour and standard wide screen) has a fine sequence as James McAvoy’s Private Turner waits and dies on the crowded beaches.

Most recently Their Finest (BBC Films, Pinewood Pictures , 2016 in both colour and black and white and a scope format] offers a film-within-a film [The Nancy Starling] celebrating the event, whilst the main narrative celebrates British filmmakers of the period with a certain amount of irony.

It will be interesting to see where the treatment by Nolan and his team fits into this cinematic discourse.

Dr. Strangelove, Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb

Showing Saturday 29th July 10pm

General Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden): “Mandrake, do you recall what Clemenceau once said about war?”
Group Captain Lionel Mandrake (Peter Sellers): “No, I don’t think I do, sir, no.”
General Jack D. Ripper: “He said war was too important to be left to the generals. When he said that, 50 years ago, he might have been right. But today, war is too important to be left to politicians. They have neither the time, the training, nor the inclination for strategic thought. I can no longer sit back and allow Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, Communist subversion and the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.”

All is not well on Burpelson Air Force Base. The sign outside the base says PEACE IS OUR PROFESSION; nevertheless a senior commander has ordered B-52 bomber crews to launch a nuclear first strike on Russia. For sure, the United States President and his Joint Chiefs of Staff below ground in the Pentagon War Room are extremely worried.

Can the planes really not be recalled?

Has the human element in the military machine set us on course for catastrophe?

Surely the American and Russian leaders can be trusted to avoid the doomsday nightmare …

Maybe Dr. Strangelove (Peter Sellers) will give them helpful advice about avoiding Mutual Assured Destruction.

Dr Strangelove is a brilliant satire on the Cold War, strong on suspense and high on humour. Director Stanley Kubrick brings us a stellar cast, and stunning photography combined with excellent set design and soundtrack. What’s more, it raises important ethical issues. Unsurprisingly is has often been voted one of the best films of the 20th Century.

 General Buck Turgidson (George C. Scott): “Mr. President… I’m beginning to smell a big, fat Commie rat.”
President Merkin Muffley (Peter Sellers): on phone to Russian premier: “Dimitri, we have a little problem … “

P.S. DJT tweets: FAKE NEWS! They made up a phony collusion with the Russians story, found zero proof, so now they go for obstruction of justice on the phony story. Nice


Bill Walton

New Programme: July – September

The new film programme starts on July 14th and is now available as a PDF on the website, the printed version should be available from the cinema early next week.

It includes new films from directors Sofia Coppola (The Beguiled), Christopher Nolan (Dunkirk – on 35mm celluloid) and Kathryn Bigelow (Detroit). The cover image is from God’s Own Country, the phenomenal debut feature from Yorkshire filmmaker Francis Lee  (you may remember his 2013 short film Bradford Halifax London ). Francis will be attending a special preview Q&A on Wednesday 23rd August.

Other highlights include selections of films for the new INDIs Festival, an Amnesty International miniseries focussing on children’s rights. Our Friends’ screening to celebrate Yorkshire Day will take place on Sunday 30th July and is a double bill of The Battle For Orgreave (1985) and The Battle of Orgreave  (2001). Two very different but complementary approaches to documenting the fractious period in British history which encompassed the miner’s strikes of 1984-1985.

What are  you looking forward to seeing, let us know in the comments below.

Mid Year Favourites

With July on the horizon it seemed like a good time for some mid-year reflection. Before they headed off to Glastonbury, committee members Stephen and Bill picked their favourite films of 2017. As always, it would be great to hear your favourites in the comments. If you need a reminder here’s a page with a list of everything shown at the Picture House this year.

Bill

Three of my best films so far feature women taking the lead in tales of sex and violence.
Elle (2016)
Another stunning performance from Isabelle Huppert.
Chicago (1927)
Cecil B DeMille film featured in the Yorkshire Silent Film Festival , with live music. Phyllis Haver stars, supported by a strong cast.
Lady Macbeth (2016)
Florence Pugh plays the lead character, a charismatic and chilling performance.
I Am Not Your Negro (2017)
Damn Right I’ve Got the Blues! Samuel L Jackson narrates James Baldwin’s elegant accounts of the murders of Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, and brings the American civil rights story up to date. Great archive footage and sound track.
The Other Side of Hope (2017)
An entertaining film, set in Finland, which uses comedy to challenge our stereotypes of refugee from Syria.

Stephen

“My Trilogy Of Grief”:  Manchester By The Sea, A Monster Calls and Jackie

I’m starting with a cheat by grouping three films together. All three came out early in the year and for many (i.e. Americans) were considered 2016 films. All three deal with grief and all remain three of my favourite films of the year.

20th Century Women

After seeing this I wrote “Just beautiful. I can’t decide if it’s life affirmingly brilliant or depressingly sad but it all feels so very real.

Prevenge

I’ll need to see this again to know if it’s really one of the best films of the year but the Valentine’s night screening with Alice Lowe was a great night and one of the reasons why we’re so lucky to have the Picture House. The same could also be said for the preview of Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire.

My Life As A Courgette

Despite appearances I still think this is one of the most honest depictions of life and growing up.

Some Other Films

I thought it was worth pointing out that I don’t feel like I’ve seen as many films this year but that’s only because a lot of this years releases were showing at the Film Festival. If I hadn’t already seen them I’d be considering the following for my list: The Handmaiden, Toni Erdmann, Moonlight,  Certain Women,  Life Animated and Mindhorn.

 

La Strada, Italy 1954

Showing Sunday 25th June 3:20pm

 

The circus is here. “Zampanò e arrivato!”
La Strada (The Road) is a rich mix of love and loneliness, tenderness and violence, humour and sadness. Director Federico Fellini sets this story in Italy soon after World War Two. As in his other films, great photography makes full use of circus, parades, the sea, the weather, and bleak early morning light. La Strada was filmed on location, with local people and settings adding to the atmosphere.
What characters!
Giulietta Masina’s portrayal of Gelsomina (an impoverished, innocent simpleton, described in the film by her mother as ‘a bit strange’) is brilliant. In fact so brilliant that when she attended a showing of La Strada at the Italian Cinema Festival in London, viewers thought that Fellini had really rescued her from a circus. Out of sympathy they sent scarves, socks, sweaters and shawls to the hotel where she was staying. In reality, at that time, she had had been married to Fellini for over ten years. Charlie Chaplin said that he saw Giulietta as his spiritual daughter.
Actor and former prize-fighter Anthony Quinn gives an inspired performance as Zampanò, a brutish circus performer.  He excels as the volatile and dim-witted outcast, racked with jealousy.
Richard Basehart is very engaging as the exuberant, fun-loving Fool, a high-wire performer and clown. And the Fool can’t resist flirting with Gelsomina …
La Strada has had a huge influence on film making.  And apparently it was also the inspiration for  both Bob Dylan’s ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’ and Kris Kristofferson’s ‘Me and Bobby McGee’.
This story of human frailties and personal rivalries should not be missed!
“It is only when I am doing my work that I feel truly alive”
Federico Fellini

Bill Walton

After the Storm / Umi yori mo mada fukaku, Japan 2016

Saturday June 17th and Monday June 19th

This is the new film by Kore-eda Hirokazu. Like a number of his recent films the story [scripted by Kore-eda himself] deals with family relationships: here between a father, ex-wife and their son. His film career goes back to the early 1990s and his his output is varied: the 2006 Hana is a Samurai film that plays with the genre conventions. But the majority of his recent films have dealt with family issues and, in particular, the relationship between the worlds of adults and the worlds of children.

Still Walking / Aruitemo aruitemo (20080 covers a day-long visit by grown-up children to their older parents. The film is reminiscent, both thematically and stylistically, of the work of the great Japanese film master Ozu Yasujiro. I Wish / Kiseki (2011) deals with the attempts of a twelve year old to re-establish contact with his brother after a divorce. Finally, the wonderful Our Little Sister  / Umimachi Diary (2012), adapted from a manga novel, follows the lives of four ordinary but beautifully characterised sisters.

These films by Kore-eda all fit into the Japanese film genre of Shomin-geki, stories of ordinary people. And like many films from South-East Asia, the films use food and meals as both plot devices and metaphors.

In an interview in the July Sight & Sound Kore-eda commented on the ‘storm’ in the film:

“A typhoon is part of everyday life in Japan. When i was a child, every time there was one, everything looked fresh in the morning. I remember going to school the morning after the big storm and the grass seemed greener. It was a kind of elevation of ‘ordinariness’. Nothing has been resolved; the problems are still three. But everybody feels cleansed after the storm.”

After the Storm was shot on 35mm and there is a 35mm print version, though I do not know if it is available in Britain. Hopefully it will look good on digital. Note, there are only two screenings at the cinema, but this will be a film that repays efforts to see it.

My Cousin Rachel – a novel and two films.

The new film is screening daily from Friday June 6th until Thursday June 15th.

Daphne Du Maurier published this novel in 1951. It offered a romantic and mysterious story with many of her familiar features. The novel is set in the C19th, but offers no particular dates. The setting is Cornwall, and the book includes descriptions of the Cornish countryside and, importantly, the coastline and the sea. There is a Gothic feel to the novel, and there are traces of the influence of the Brontë sisters. The obvious reference is Du Maurier’s earlier classic, ‘Rebecca’. It shares the setting and the mystery from the past. However, instead of a young and naïve female narrator, we have a young, naïve and male narrator. This is Philip Ashley who has been bought by up an older landowning relative Ambrose. Early on Ambrose’s death takes Philip to Florence and later leads to his meeting Ambrose’s widow Rachel.

Rather as with ‘Rebecca’ the book offers an investigation of a woman; in the earlier novel this was the dead wife of Maxim de Winter; this later novel investigates Philip’s cousin Rachel. However, the final resolution of this story holds ambiguities whereas in ‘Rebecca’ the mystery is fully explained. Just as Rebecca is aided by the intimidating Mrs Danvers Rachel is aided by the more slippery Rainaldo: [slippery perhaps because he is Italian].

The first film adaptation of the book was produced by Twentieth Century Fox in 1952. In black and white and running 98 minutes the film was helmed by Hollywood professionals: script by Nunnally Johnson who also produced and direction by Henry Koster. The filmed starred Richard Burton as Philip and Olivia de Havilland as ‘my cousin Rachel’. This was Burton’s first film in Hollywood. Du Maurier was not keen on the initial screenplay and later unimpressed with de Havilland’s characterisation. She did, though, enjoy Burton’s Philip and some sequences actually filmed in Cornwall. The cinematography by Joseph LaShelle is finely done. And the visual chiaroscuro emphasises the Gothic feel more than the novel. There is a romantic and dramatic score by Franz Waxman. The screenplay is highly compressed: 98 minutes is really insufficient for the plot and characters. The setting of the film is the 1830s: information gained from Ambrose’s tombstone visited by Philip, something he avoids in the novel. Burton has Philip’s intensity and impetuosity but lacks the naivety in relation to women. De Havilland lacks the complexity of Rachel, but this is at least partly due to the scriptwriting. The film does retain the ambiguity of the novel, but the relationships do not convincingly prepare for this. On a happier note Don, the Labrador, survives avoiding his accidental death in the novel.

Now, in 2017, comes a new adaptation. The main production company is Fox Searchlight, who presumably retain the copyright to Daphne Du Maurier’s novel. It is a company project and writer and director Roger Mitchell was recruited to this. The film has received quite a few favourable reviews. It is in colour, with a ratio of 2.35:1 and runs ten minutes longer than the 1952 version. It has also enjoyed location filming in both England and Italy, so the film should offer settings that would meet the wishes of Du Maurier.

This is Mitchell’s first screenwriting credit, so that is an unknown. His previous directorial record does not offer a lot of relevance to this type of property. He did direct Hyde Park on the Hudson (2012) which I enjoyed and which has some slight parallels with this story. Rachel Weisz is cast as ‘cousin Rachel’. This would seem to be ideal. She has starred in some rather run-of-the mill genre films but also some fine dramas: of particular relevance here is her role as Hester Collyer in  Terence Davies’ beautifully judged version of The Deep Blue Sea (2012). Sam Claflin plays Philip. Rather like the director how appropriate he will be is hard to judge. The ‘Pirates’ film and the ‘Hunger’ series’ have little in common with Du Maurier’s romantic mystery. I thought he was good in Their Finest (2017) as Tom Buckley, but that character is far removed from Phillip Ashley.

Some reviews praise the romance but are less enthused by the mystery. It will clearly be worth seeing. Will it match the great Du Maurier adaptation, David O. Selznick’s 1940 version of Rebecca directed by Alfred Hitchcock?

Get Out, USA 2017

Friday June 9th at 6.00 p.m.

Sunday June 11th at 8.00 p.m.

Another chance to see this excellent genre movie:

This is a well made, and gripping 100 minutes of gripping entertainment. The film opens with an unexplained street crime which only makes full sense near the close of the film. The main story follows Afro-American Chris Washington, from LA, as he visits the family of his girlfriend Rose Armitage (Alison Williams) in rural Alabama. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967) this is not.  His weekend becomes increasingly odd and the family/community he meets are, at times, reminiscent of the classic The Invasion of the Body Snatchers. There is a touch of sci-fi but we are not meeting aliens. As the film develops we move through comedy, the macabre to fully fledged horror.

This is the first film directed by Jordan Peel. He has a longer career as an actor, performer and more recently scriptwriting. This is an auspicious début, both exploiting and subverting genre expectations in audiences.