Laura Ager, Creative Engagement Officer at the Hyde Park Picture House, has written a guest blog post for the Friends of the Hyde Park Picture House about her ongoing research during lockdown into the remarkable history of the iron lamppost that stands outside our building.
Laura joined the small team of permanent staff at the cinema last summer and her work is facilitated by funding we received from the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF). A big part of her job is to communicate the value of our cinema’s unique heritage to our local community and beyond. We hope that you enjoy reading this article and please contact us if you have any further information to share about the lamppost or anything related to it!
I have always liked to gaze out of the cinema doors at this red painted cast iron lamppost, it has been a familiar symbol in the neighbourhood for almost three decades of my life. I sometimes wonder about how many of us have arranged to meet friends beside it, or will have smiled as its familiar shape has appeared in view as we headed down Chestnut Avenue or Brudenell Road towards our favourite cinema, looking forward to the friendly greeting at the door.
Its thick, opaque plastic globes are lit up every evening, maybe you have stopped to take a picture there as you have departed, perhaps trying to mark that moment in which we discovered something new about the world, or ourselves, through the power of the film we’d just been watching.
Since 1996 the lamppost has been protected with a Grade 2 listing (listing No 1255796) which means it is inscribed on the National Heritage List for England, these are all buildings and structures that are considered nationally important, being of ‘special architectural or historic interest’. That list is currently managed by Historic England, who offer the following information about the Hyde Park lamppost on their website:
Gas lamp post. Early C20. Cast-iron, Approx 7m high, base and column with relief decoration, ladder arms and 2 scrolled arms, vase finial between.Historic England
Last year, in August, Peter Meehan, a specialist from the Historic Metalwork Conservation Company Ltd, visited the cinema to assess our lamppost and he wrote a report about it that contained a lot more detail. In his report he said that the lamppost likely dates from after 1904 and it was certainly manufactured at the Saracen Foundry in Glasgow. The side of the lamppost that faces the cinema doors quite clearly bears their company mark: Macfarlane & Co, Glasgow.
As I have had a little extra time on my hands recently, during these endless months of lockdown, I thought that I’d like to find out a bit more about the history of the foundry and of this unique heritage feature, and to share my findings with our Friends. This has since become a fascinating project in its own right, because it turns out that our lamppost is part of the story of Walter Macfarlane, who was a prolific Scottish ironworks manufacturer in the 19th century. His company flourished for over one hundred years, like our cinema.
From there we are able trace a much deeper set of connections that link our much-loved and perhaps slightly eccentric Victorian lamppost, situated on a corner in a Leeds suburb, with the combined global histories of the British Empire, urban development, technical innovation, public aesthetics, public health, and 19th Century free trade.Continue reading
2020 was always going to be a strange year for the Hyde Park Picture House, we were somewhat prepared for the doors to be closed whilst the renovation work got underway but none of us could have predicted how things have turned out.
As we enter the second half of the year we normally take a look back over the last 6 months and pick out our highlights of the year so far. Fortunately there were quite a few good releases before lockdown begin and there have been a number of great films released straight to streaming since. It’s also been great that online discussions, watch parties and interviews have been able to continue.
Here are my 10 highlights of films I did see (mostly on the big screen)
- Uncut Gems (Netflix)
- JoJo Rabbit (Rent/Buy)
- Amanda (Rent/Buy)
- A Hidden Life (Rent/Buy)
- The Lighthouse (Rent/Buy)
- Parasite (Rent/Buy)
- Portrait Of A Lady On Fire (Mubi)
- Bacurau (Mubi)
- Never Rarely Sometimes (Rent/Buy)
I’d also like to recommend Lynn Shelton’s final film Sword Of Trust. I don’t think it got a proper release in the UK but it turned up on Sky Movies/NowTV earlier this year. I’ve always loved Shelton’s films and this is no different, hear death was a tragic loss because it feels like she had so much more to offer. There is a celebration of her on YouTube which I haven’t had chance to watch yet and Birds Eye View interviewed her a few weeks before her death.
There are other films that I’ve heard good things about but still haven’t had chance to watch:
- Little Joe (Rent/Buy & Bfi subs)
- The Assistant (Rent/Buy)
- Color Out Of Space (Rent/Buy)
- Queen & Slim (Rent/Buy)
- Woman Make Film (Bfi subs)
- Da 5 Bloods (Netflix)
Don’t forget about the Hyde Park Picks on Facebook and Twitter for more recommendations of great things to watch at home.
- Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019) feminist tale of lesbian desire
Frank (2014) comedy
- Persepolis (2017) animated story of girl growing up in Iranian revolution
- Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) dark fairy tale
- Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972) satire
- Orgy of the Dead (1965) cult classic
- Army of Shadows (1969) French resistance, suspense
- The White Sheik (1952) early Fellini
- La Bête Humaine (1938) psychological thriller
- Grand Illusion (1937) anti-war classic
Let us know in the comments if you’ve joined Mubi (or other services) and have any recommendations.
Our friends at HEART have been organising a weekly online film discussion club during the lockdown.
LOCKDOWN FILM CLUB with Gurj Kang meets on Zoom on Fridays from 7pm
We are a friendly group who discuss films that have been keeping us going through Lockdown. We have a theme each week such as comedy or rom coms and you are encourage to nominate two favourites in advance.
To give you an idea of the variety, rom com favourites included:
- Bringing up Baby (1938)
- Notting Hill (1999)
- When Harry Met Sally (1989)
- ChungKing Express (1994)
- Her (2013)
- Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down (1989)
- Say Anything (1989)
- Gregory’s Girl (1981)
The film club is organised by HEART, the arts, enterprise and community centre in the middle of Headingley run by the community for the community. HEART will be the venue for Hyde and Seek family friendly films and for Memory Matinees (screenings inclusive for people with dementia) as the Lockdown ends. There is no charge but members are encouraged to support HEART’s work through Just Giving. https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/heartheadingley
The theme for May 8th is music-related films. To get the Zoom link and password email email@example.com
Fresh off the end of an affair with an older man Vittoria meets the vital and exciting Piero. The two start to explore their passion for one another while wandering the deserted suburbs of Rome but their affair soon reveals itself to be doomed.
This pick was selected by Leeds Cineforum who invited Fabio Vighi, Professor of Italian and Critical Theory at Cardiff University, to write about themes in Antonioni’s work for us.
Leeds Cineforum are also keeping active during lock down in part by compiling this rich list of sites where films can be streamed for free. We’re always looking for new contributors so if you find anything interesting on that list or elsewhere and would like to flex your writing muscles please get in touch.
by Fabio Vighi, Professor of Italian and Critical Theory at Cardiff University
The dominant theme throughout Antonioni’s filmography is what we could call, borrowing from French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan’s 1960s motto, “the non existence of the sexual relationship”. This theme is especially apparent in L’eclisse, where the couple’s failure works as the film’s leitmotif from start (Vittoria leaves Riccardo) to end (Vittoria and Piero break up), effectively bringing the main character back to her initial position. Particularly in his Italian films, Antonioni explores fraught relationships by focusing on middle-class alienation against the background of the country’s rapid modernization. But the originality of his cinema has less to do with sociology than with aesthetics. More specifically, it lies in the way narrative content is over-determined by precise formal choices, which result in a stylized framing of the characters’ positioning within their space. Let us consider the long, almost experimental opening sequence of L’eclisse (1962), set in Riccardo’s flat. The sequence details both Vittoria’s inability to come to terms with her state of emotional drainage and Riccardo’s morose ineptitude at responding to it. Antonioni’s minimalist long takes convey a sense of impasse and claustrophobia, while dialogue is sparse and cryptic. This is clearly a cinema that works by subtraction: while the viewer is denied assistance in retrieving narrative information, the camera slowly pans over various objects scattered around the room, as if more interested in framing them than narrating the lovers’ separation. This aspect of Antonioni’s cinema epitomises his typically modernist penchant for sabotaging narrative progression through the erosion of conventional representations of space and time. That is to say, tension is created not so much through action and reaction, as in classical cinema, but by the opposite process of abstraction, fragmentation and de-dramatization, which ultimately reveals the director’s fascination with seemingly meaningless formal patterns. Continue reading
BBC 2 Sunday April 26th at 12 noon.
This is a film from Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger; arguably the most imaginative British filmmakers to work in our mainstream industry. The 1940s was the great decade for the duo with a string of master-works that were both popular and ground breaking. The pair had their own production company, ‘The Archers’, with the famous logo of an arrow striking a target.
The ‘Colonel Blimp’ of the title was well known in war-time Britain; a character in a cartoon series by David Lowe which satirized the traditionalist British military. Powell and Pressburger transformed the character though they cleverly retained aspects of the series as with the Turkish bath sequence that opens the film.
At this point the ‘Blimp’ character, Clive Candy [Roger Livesey) has come out out retirement to manage the newly organised Home Guard. He retains traditional military attitudes which come into conflict with the modern and ruthless attitudes of a young brash regular army lieutenant. The action leads into a flashback which traces Clive career and personal life from the Boer War period.
This, the main part of the film, is partly a war story, partly a romantic drama, but also a moving portrait of ageing, devotion and friendship. The friendship is with a member of the German military, Theo Kretschmar-Schuldorff (Anton Walbrook). The devotion involves a series of women, Edith, Barbara and Angela, all played by Deborah Kerr.
The cast are superb. Roger Livesey also played the lead in the later and equally fine I Know Where I’m Going (1945). Deborah Kerr was the lead in several films by Powell and Pressburger, notably Black Narcissus (1945). And Anton Walbrook played the far less sympathetic ‘’Svengali’ producer Boris Lemontov in The Red Shoes (1948).
Whilst Clive Candy’s career and personal-life are full of interest there is also a strong thematic current. This is the critical examination of the mores of war when Clive commenced his career at the turn of the century and those now required by the current European war against the ruthless Nazi regime. The film manages to marry this critical perspective with an emotional interest in Candy and his friends and his loves.
The film runs 183 minutes, but I never found this a long film to watch. As is the case with really talented film-makers, Powell and Pressburger had a fine eye for skilled craft people. The Technicolor cinematography by Georges Perinal is excellent. The Production Design by Alfred Junge together with the Costumes by Joseph Bato are very fine. And there is clear crisp editing by John Seabourne with well-scored musical track Allan Gray.
The film has undergone two restorations over the years. Contemporary 35mm prints enjoy a high standard of colour and definition. This film is screening on BBC HD which should do sufficient justice to the original. And be thankful. Winston Churchill disliked the film but his efforts to stop the production were in vain. Whilst the British public liked the film which came fourth in the 1943 box office.
Well, it’s been a rather dramatic month hasn’t it?!
Our latest newsletter has been sent out via email to all members (or in the post to those without email). It contains an update on the development plans, details about Hyde Park Picks, how you can help or get support from the community and a request for any information about local cinemas.
Three of the finest contributions to British cinema have been Powell and Pressburger, British Documentary and the output of this famous studio from 1945 until 1955. If you want an excellent overview then the book to read is Charles Barr’s study, [a Movie Book, 1980 and 1993, Leeds Central Library have a copy when they reopen]. This is of a comparable quality to many of the best titles produced at Ealing.
As Stephen pointed out BBC 2 is screening one of the comedy classics every day this week. Three of them are, to mine mind, among the great classics of our own film industry.
The Man In The White Suit
BBC2 Tuesday 3.25 p.m.
1951, black and white, 85 minutes.
This is a superb film which is effectively a science fiction drama. It was directed by one of the finest film-makers in Britain in this period, Alexander Mackendrick. The director also worked on the script with two experienced writers John Dighton and Roger Macdougal.
Alec Guinness, in a decade that saw a string and variety of fine performances, plays inventor Sydney Stratton, with a new miraculous cloth. There are a fine cast of supporting players including Joan Greenwood, she of the memorable husky voice, as the romantic interest; as a key mill owner; Cecil Parker, the embodiment of pomposity; and a delightful cameo by Ernest Thesiger, as a wily capitalist
The invention has both positive and negative aspects, and this fuels the drama. The research laboratory sequences are marvelous and this film is replete with not only visual but also aural humour. The finale, with the joining of forces of both capital and labour, is a subtle critique of the entire British establishment.
BBC2 Thursday, 3.35 p.m.
1949, black and white, 92 minutes.
Another masterwork from Alexander Mackendrick and on this occasion working on the script with Angus Macphail and the author of the source novel, Compton Mackenzie. This film enjoys another performance by Joan Greenwood, accompanied by a fine supporting cast including Gordon Jackson, James Robertson Justice and, as the film’s fall guy, Basil Radford.
The population of the small island of Toddy relish their malt whiskey but wartime brings restrictions. Then a miracle; a transport ship, laden with export whisky, is driven ashore, The rest of the film depicts the ploys of the islanders to rescue and enjoy the precious liquid whilst the authorities, representing far away Whitehall, attempt to recover the salvage.
This is a different type of comedy from The Man in the White Suit. At times whimsical and at time almost farcical, this is delightful portrait of a small, intimate community. The film manages to combine some sort of moral with a celebration of Scottish island culture. Presumably there will be many member of the Scottish National Party enjoying this outing.
The Lavender Hill Mob
BBC2 Friday 3.30 p.m.
1951, black and white, 81 minutes.
This is a fine heist movie; written by one of the key writers in the Ealing of this period, T. E. B. Clarke. The film was directed was Charles Crichton; his later A Fish Called Wanda (1988) is on BBC 1 next Sunday evening.
Once again Alec Guinness stars, this time as the ‘mastermind’ of the robbery of a van of gold bulletin. He is supported by Stanley Holloway and as fellow criminals Sid James and Alfie Bass. John Gregson makes an early appearance as the representative of law and order.
The film is told in a flashback and the opening sequence features a cameo by Audrey Hepburn, stopping off in Britain on her way to Hollywood. The plotting is ingenious, in particular the method used to dispose of the stolen merchandise. And the final chase sequence has some inspired moments.
These three titles are all representative of a particular period and a particular interpretation of this ‘sceptred isle’. But they all subtly undermine this representation.
This year was always going to be a strange one for us but none of us expected it to be like this. I hope that you are all staying safe and finding plenty of things to keep you occupied. One good thing that I’ve seen is an amazing sense of community from so many people and there’s no shortage of film recommendations and opportunities for group watch alongs at home.
Hopefully you are already aware of the Hyde Park Picks, daily recommendations from the Hyde Park Picture House team along with some great extras. Our old friends at MiniCine have started a Self Isolation Season on Instagram, picking out two films each day. I’m trying to share as many of these recommendations as I can over on Twitter (and less so on Facebook) so do follow us there if you are not doing so already.
I was going to pick out some films coming up on Freeview TV this week but there are so many to go through and Mark Kermode already does a good job of this on his Radio 5 show/podcast. Instead I thought it would be worth pointing out that many of the films shown on the BBC are also available to watch on iPlayer. Here are my recommendations from what is currently available:
- Jane Eyre – be quick, it expires today, see Keith’s post.
- Midnight Special
- Score: Cinema’s Greatest Soundtracks
- Captain Underpants – we don’t always have to be so serious
- Margin Call
- The Lost City of Z
- The Lady Vanishes (1938)
- Personal Shopper – (See Keith’s post)
- Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool– (See Keith’s post)
- The Beguiled
- The Queen of Versailles
- and my favourite film of last year Minding The Gap is still available.
It’s also worth noting that from Monday BBC2 will be screening a classic film every afternoon around 3pm, usually preceded by an episode of the Talking Pictures documentary. This week it’s (mostly) Ealing comedies:
- School For Scoundrals
- The Man In The White Suit
- The Titfield Thunderbolt
- Whisky Galore
- The Lavender Hill Mob
Enjoy, stay safe and do let us know if you spot anything else we should be watching.
BBC 4 Thursday 26th March at 10 p.m. and Saturday March 28th at 4.10 p.m.
We still miss the Hyde Park screening programme but there are at least two well made film classics on terrestrial television over the next few days. On Thursday we can watch a fine biopic of England’s greatest leader, Oliver Cromwell.
Cromwell was written and directed by Ken Hughes. This is his best outing as director though an early ‘B’ movie, Joe Macbeth (1955) was an interesting variation of Shakespeare’s character; and The Trials of Oscar Wilde (1960) was a convincing portrait with Peter Finch playing against type as Wilde. The merit of Cromwell is that this is a sympathetic treatment of a historical figure often vilified by conservation and reactionaries. Whilst he should be criticised for the suppression of the Leveller movement and the brutal invasion of Ireland, he led possibly the greatest transition in English history.
The stand-out aspect of the production is Richard Harris as the lead character. Harris almost seems born to play this powerful and committed military and political leader. From his early parliamentary opposition, through his reorganization of the People’s Army and to the setting up of a Republic, he dominates the screen and the other characters.
Alex Guinness provides a graceful performance as the ill-fated king, Charles 1st. There are some excellent battle scenes and a number of skilled British actors in supporting roles. This is definitely a better version that them later 2008 Cromwell.
Geoffrey Unsworth’s cinematography is excellent. The costume design won an Academy Award for Vittorio Nino Novarese. John Stoll’s production design is also very well done. The film was shot in 35mm Panavision and Technicolor; fortunate film buffs could also see it in 70mm.
And if you like period dramas then there is also an adaptation of Charlotte Bronte’s great novel, Jane Eyre on BBC2 on Saturday. This is the 1944 version with Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine. Any day on which you can watch Welles is a good day.