Christmas Screening Suggestions

Now October is here it’s time for us to start thinking about Christmas. Every year the Friends organise a free Christmas screening for members and this year we’d like your help to select a film. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a Christmas film but should be one that captures the festive spirit. Our recent screenings (see below) have tended towards classic films but there have been a lot of new festive films recently. It’s likely to be the last Friends event before the closure so it would be good to make it special.

Leave a comment, contact us or post your ideas on Facebook or Twitter and we’ll collate all the suggestions and see what we can do. Please let us have your suggestions by Sunday 20th October and It’s A Wonderful Life will be having it’s traditional screening at the Picture House so we (probably?) won’t be showing that.

Previous Christmas Screenings include:

Review: Transit, (Germany / France 2018)

This is the latest release by the German film-maker Christian Petzold. He has already had three of his fifteen credits released in Britain; all fine movies. The last, Phoenix  (2014), was a powerful and stylish drama set in Berlin and exploring changes of identity in a story full of noir tropes. This new title has parallels with the earlier one; the question of acquiring an identity, the displacement of war and the impact of a radical new situation for the main characters.

The title refers ‘transit zone’ where people wait for the official papers to leave; they are displaced and where

“here’s no fixed home. Home is basically homelessness.” (Christian Petzold in the Press Notes).

The story comes from a novel by Anna Seghers from 1944. The settings are Paris and then Marseilles. This adaptation treats period ambiguously so we seem neither in the past nor the  present. This can challenge the audience but emphasizes the  situation of the protagonists:

“They’re borderline phantoms, between life and death, yesterday and tomorrow.” (Petzold).

There are a number of key characters but at the centre is a man seeking transit papers  Georg  (Franz Rogowski)  and the wife of a writer Marie (Paula Beer). So there is a love story in the plot but this has to try and work itself out in a world where war has produced chaos, where police are a threat and officialdom is both remote and overwhelmed.

The idea of ‘transit’ has raised parallels with both Casablanca (1942) and Port of ShadowsLe quai des brumes (1938). And there is a reflexive narration which Petzold himself has compared to Barry Lyndon (1975). In both its plot and narration it also reminded me of The Sheltering Sky (1990) with two young US characters adrift in North Africa..

There was a single presentation at the Picture House which was well attended. However, it seems no other cinema in the area has screened the title. The production is distributed by Curzon/Artificial Eye who rely as much on online as theatrical. And the title has not been helped in Sight & Sound where it received a normal review in September 2019 whereas a title I felt was inferior achieved the two-page spread offered to only three releases  an issue. My colleague on ‘The Case for Global Film‘ rates it one of the best new movies of the year and I absolutely agree. Hopefully it may return for another screening at the Picture House; I should certainly like to enjoy it a second time.

Committee Meeting

Our next committee meeting of trustees will take place on Monday 30th September, 7:30pm at Headingley Enterprise and Arts Centre (HEART). If any members have issues to raise or would like attend to find out more about helping with the committee please contact us as soon as possible so we can ensure we have enough space and time.

Please note these are working meetings with a busy agenda but we are also looking for somebody to help organise more social meetings for the Friends.

Review: Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood

Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt are established stars of the Tarantino empire and have made another corker with his 9th film. Is it his 9th? You have to count Kill Bill volumes 1 and 2 as one long epic, and remember that even though the Hateful Eight felt like it was 19 hours long, it was still only the one film. The director has repeatedly said that he only ever planned to make 10, so the pressure’s building to go out with a bang.

It’s 1969, Charles Manson is on the loose, Roman Polanski’s still a welcome neighbour and the Hollywood bubble is thriving in Los Angeles. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Rick Dalton, an actor fading out of his 30s and his cinematic heyday, with Brad Pitt as his put-upon sidekick/stuntman/driver/dogsbody Cliff Booth.

Rick is known for a 50’s cowboy TV show and as the film starts the series has come to an end so Rick is on the hunt for his next job. His flavour of dashing leading man is no longer in vogue and increasingly typecast as the villain in one-off shows and movies, Rick looks to Europe and the booming spaghetti western scene. Cliff’s career follows Rick’s, albeit in a less fortunate way. Cliff does as he’s told, travels in economy class and patiently tags along, accompanied by his faithful hound Brandy. Cliff and Brandy live in an out-of-the-way trailer, which is a far cry from Rick’s gated community mansion in the Hollywood hills where Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate are new neighbours Rick hopes to befriend to help boost his fading stardom.

There are snippets of life on set and their past filmmaking experiences, including an on-set brawl between Cliff and Bruce Lee and Rick’s encounter with a wise-before-her-time child star. We’re given some wonderful flashbacks to films he’s auditioned for and starred in, including an alternative version of a 60’s classic and one where he tackles Nazis with a flame-thrower. Like the Machete trailer in the Grindhouse double-feature, part of me hopes that we could one day see the rest of the film, although I’m afraid Tarantino might just have shown us the ending.

Once Upon A Time… skips between the big story and the small and inconsequential in a familiar way if you’ve seen any of Tarantino’s previous 8 films. Rick and Cliff chew the fat when they’re driving in a way that has a very similar feel to the ‘royale with cheese’ conversation in Pulp Fiction and the bursts of violence at the ranch and in the climactic scenes yell Tarantino’s name. He clearly isn’t squeamish about subjecting younger, female characters to the same kind of nastiness we’ve more often seen his leading men dole out to each other. He might not be squeamish about it, but I found the dynamic of those fight scenes quite difficult to watch.

If you don’t know what happened when the Manson family met Sharon Tate, you can probably ignore the departure from reality, but I’m torn about it being an alternative history when the real things that happened were so terrible. Injecting new characters on the edges of a real-life story is one thing, but then changing how that story plays out made me uneasy. I’ve read that it could be seen as a way of paying homage to Tate, a way of wishing away the truth, but I can’t help but wonder if that’s a bit of a self-indulgent fantasy on Tarantino’s part.

Misgivings aside, I enjoyed the Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood. It’s long, but checking back I’m surprised it’s as long as 160 minutes. Hollywood glamour on the cusp of the 70s, the flash cars and constant sunshine set the backdrop for an immersive ride. If it’s really to be Tarantino’s penultimate film, it lives up to his catalogue so far and sets an exciting tone for a blow-out number 10.

Hannah Bingle

Review: Sprinter

Last Saturday Leeds Black Film Club in association with Kush Films presented a special preview screening of Sprinter.

sprinter2

Sprinter is a warmly entertaining and funny film with many laugh out moments. I love it when everyone laughs at the same time. Sometimes they were laughing when I wasn’t, which meant I’d missed something that a native Jamaican hadn’t.

The things I enjoyed most about Sprinter was the humour, the music and the use of the beautiful Jamaican landscape.

I didn’t find the film too predictable and at certain points, I wasn’t sure which way the story was going to go – which is good!  There are many layers to this story: parent-child separation, family ties, high-school-sports and others (#nospoilers). It’s a lot to weave into one film but I think it’s done well.

The only downside was thinking Bryshere Y Gray’s character was too similar to his Empire role. I would have liked to see him do something different but it doesn’t take away from the film which has some very (very) special moments.

After the film preview, there was a lively Q&A session with the Producer Rob Maylor and actress Shantol Jackson (who plays Kerry Hall) and they both shared personal stories about their own families and how they got to where they are today.  

It was heartening to hear how passionate they were about retaining the cultural authenticity in many different ways such as ensuring the accents were on point and how their hard work paid off when they saw how the locals reacted to the film. 

We all love a good sports movie and Sprinter has all the elements that make it one to add to the list – even more so for me personally  – it is great to see a strong black sports film showing young people who are driven and focussed on achieving great things.

Scalarama 2019

The September Festival celebrating all forms of moving image exhibition returns to Leeds. The city is one of the areas which has an extensive and varied selection of titles; in both theatrical and non-theatrical settings. And the programme offers classics, less-known films, documentaries and animation.

‘Animated in Leeds’ on September 7th at Chapel FM Arts Centre offers a selection of some of the short films made by this pioneering Women’s Collective. The Leeds Animation Workshop has high standards of technical accomplishments and the productions invariably address important social issues.

Cutter’s Way (1981) is what is known as a neo-noir. It features many of the characteristics of the classic film noir. There is the world of chaos into which the protagonist is drawn by the siren call of, here, a mystery rather than a mysterious woman. The  film is in colour but offers many sequences shot in chiaroscuro. And, intriguingly, one could argue that the film offers both a seeker and a victim hero; both caught up in triangular relationships. It screens at the HEART in Headingley on September 9th.

A series of events highlight the film work of Bob Fosse, ‘Fosse in film’. Fosse started out as  performer and dancer and took up stage choreography. He then worked on several Hollywood productions and progressed to direction. He directed five features between 1963 (Sweet Charity) and 1983 (Star). The screenings in the Festival are of this three most famous and successful films.

Cabaret (1972) Thu 12 September at Wardrobe, ST. PETER’S SQUARE      One of the great film musicals and the best film version of Christopher Isherwood’s memoir

Lenny (1974) Sat 14 September @ 10:30 pm. Hyde Park Picture House.       Dustin Hoffman is perfectly cast as the scabrous and subversive stand-up comic Lenny Bruce. The film is beautifully shot in black and white by Bruce Surtees. [Unfortunately the Sunday screening is gone!]

All That Jazz (1979) with post film discussion on Bob Fosse and Power & Exploitation     Thu 26 September @ 6:30 pm – 9:00 pm                         Northern School of Contemporary Dance, Riley Theatre, 98 Chapeltown Road. Fosse uses his own life and experiences to present the story of a Broadway director, choreographer and film director (Roy Scheider). The parts are better than the whole with some brilliantly staged sequences.

To celebrate Babylon’s recent U.S. release, and commemorate the Windrush generation, we’re holding a special screening of Franco Rosso’s film, followed by a DJ set …

Babylon(1980) Tue 17 September @ 8:00 pm – 10:00 pm   Square Chapel Arts Centre, 10 Square Road.                                                                                 A seminal film on black culture set in the 1980s. Directed by an Italian film-maker who had already made a documentary about the infamous ‘Mangrove 9’ case. The eye of an outsider brings a distinct sensibility to a world that British cinema had yet to address in a meaningful way.

A series of short films on life and art and music of Palestinians in Palestine and exile today: as their struggle for National Liberation continues.

Films include Colours of Resistance about art and music of Palestinians trying to retain their identity with a country that is being deprived of its right to exist, Palestine Underground showing the music and hip-hop scene in Ramallah and Made  in Palestine.                                                       Tue 24 September @ 8:00 pm – 9:30 pm  LS-Ten Skatepark, Unit 1 Kitson Rd, Leeds.

If you want more information or to check our other parts of the programme visit the Leeds Web Pages.

If you are away from Leeds there maybe Scalarama where you are going, so check out the National Web Pages.

Pain and Glory (Spain, 2019)

Antonio Banderas as Salvador Mallo and Asier Etxeandia as Alberto

Pedro Almodóvar is a man of many stories. I find his vivid blend of heroism, tragedy and flashes of utter absurdity a heady combination. His films have spanned grand themes and domestic oddities, drugged gazpacho and heroin dealing, tiger owning nuns, but this time the spotlight shines back at the director himself. Or rather, it shines at the idea of ‘the Director’; Antonio Banderas stars as Salvador Mallo, an aging filmmaker whose ill health, the significant anniversary of one of his early movies and an encounter with a former friend cause him to review his life and works. Mallo’s life unfolds for the audience, encompassing a childhood with his mother (played by Penelope Cruz), his early career and first loves, through a series of flashbacks and reflections.

It seems almost unavoidable to consider this film as something of a self portrait; Banderas’ appearance is grizzled with a dandelion clock of hair similar to Almodóvar’s own, he reportedly wore the director’s clothes during filming – parts of which even took place in his own Madrid apartment. We have more than a few hints then that Mallo might be a version of the director himself. Almodóvar has shrugged off comparisons at interview, saying he wouldn’t write or direct an autobiographical work, but it feels unlikely that the similarities are entirely coincidental.

There’s a lot to look forward to here. At Cannes this year, Banderas won the Best Actor award for his portrayal of Mallo and Alberto Iglesias (another frequent Almodóvar collaborator, having worked on Volver (2006) and Julieta (2016) amongst others) won the award for Best Soundtrack. Cruz and Banderas are giants of Spanish cinema who’ve made the leap into Hollywood and both keep one foot squarely in Europe. While the pair feature in different timelines in this film, it’ll be a treat to see them on screen together – something that hasn’t happened since their brief cameos in 2013’s Los Amantes Pasajeros (I’m So Excited!). I hope that the actors’ transatlantic popularity can help to bring a wider audience than existing fans to the intense visual feast of an Almodóvar picture. If you’ve not seen any of his work to date, hunt out Volver (2006) featuring Penelope Cruz returning from the dead, try Women on the Edge of a Nervous Breakdown (1989), a dark domestic comedy with Carmen Maura and The Skin I Live In (2011) where Banderas is a sinister Dr Frankenstein-esque character haunted by his past.

On top of the Cannes gongs, there are rumours of other nominations for Pain and Glory, with reviewers describing Banderas’ performance as ‘career defining’ and the role he was ‘born to play’. I’m convinced and can’t wait to see it.

Pain and Glory will be showing at the Picture House from Friday.


Hannah Bingle

Notorious (UK 1946)

 

Alicia Huberman’s (Ingrid Bergman) behaviour is NOTORIOUS.

Has she had enough to drink? “The important drinking hasn’t started yet.”

“You can add Sebastian’s name to my list of playmates”

And personally I wouldn’t trust her as my chauffeuse!

So what’s on the menu of this excellent melodrama? For a start it includes some dodgy fare … burnt chicken, indigestible wine and adulterated coffee. And you’ll find a heady stew of manipulation and blackmail, disappointment  and murder, all seasoned with occasional expressions of trust and openness to love.

T.R. Devlin(Cary Grant) is a government agent aiming to infiltrate a group of Nazis who fled Germany for Brazil after World War 2. The setting is Rio de Janeiro in 1946. Essentially, Notorious is a Hitchcockian romance highlighting tensions between feelings of love and duty, which rivals Michael Curtiz’s film Casablanca (1942) for style and entertainment. The script, acting, screenplay and photography all showcase director Alfred Hitchcock at his best. If you are quick you can even see Hitchcock quaffing a glass of champagne just over an hour into the film.

Alicia: This is a very strange love affair.
Devlin: Why?
Alicia: Maybe the fact that you don’t love me.
Despite this, there is an extended kiss, the longest on screen at the time. In the 1930s Hollywood had introduced the Hays Motion Picture Production Code which dictated strict rules to writers and directors about permissible limits to lovemaking, immorality and vulgarity in their films. For example, in love scenes women had to have at least one foot on the ground at all times, and kisses could only last three seconds. Hitchcock got around the last one by having the lovers kiss for three seconds, stop, say a few words, kiss again, walk for a little bit and then kiss again, for a total of two and a half minutes. See the results for yourself!

Another psychological element is Alex Sebastian’s (Claude Rains) intriguing relationship with his mother, Anna Sebastain (Leopoldine Konstantin).

Madame Sebastian to her son: “We are protected by the enormity of your stupidity … for a time”.

Maybe I should have mentioned that Alex is also in love with Alicia …

So get along to the Picture House to see this iconic film at 2pm this August Bank Holiday Monday.


Bill Walton

Never Look Away / Werk ohne Autor, Germany, Italy, USA, Czech republic 2019.

Young Kurt with Elizabeth and ‘degenerate art’

This new title had two screenings at the Picture House. I managed the second which had a small but respectable audience.  They all stayed to the end, which was 188 minutes later. In fact the film did not seem three hours to me as the characters and the stories were absorbing.

I write ‘stories’ as there are two narrative strands in the film and I thought one weakness was that they never seemed to completely mesh. The English language title refers to the personal and family drama strand. This starts in 1937 as we see the young Kurt [Cai Cohrs) with his Aunt Elizabeth (Saskia Rosendahl) as they follow a guided tour of the Nazi exhibition of ‘degenerate art’. Kurt already has ambitions to be  a painter. But the emphasis is on the personal. Elizabeth admonishes the young Kurt to

‘never look away’ because ‘everything that is true holds beauty in it’.

But she is soon lost and becomes a victim of the Nazi policies of sterilization and extermination of people deemed physically and mentally ‘unfit’.

After the war Kurt and his family find themselves in the zone liberated by the Soviet armies and then the German Democratic Republic. Kurt goes to art school where the official style is ‘Socialist realism’. He meets and falls in love with another student Elizabeth, ‘Ellie’ (Paula Beer). Her father Carl (Sebastian Koch) is a gynecologist and the audience [but not Kurt or Ellie] know that he has a suspect past from the era of the Third Reich. As this starts to catch up with him he leaves for the West. Now married Kurt and Ellie follow just before the erection of the infamous ‘Wall’.

This latter part of the film is closer to the German title, which translates as ‘Without an Author’. This refers to the film using some of the life story of an actual German artist, Gerhard Richter, whose paintings figure in the film. Kurt enrolls at the Düsseldorf Art Academy, at the time a centre of avant-garde art. Here we see another thinly veiled character from real life, the artist  Joseph Beuys. Now Kurt finds an artistic voice  and critical acclaim.

Adult Kurt with a Socialist Realist portrait and an experimental canvas

Less focused is family life, but Kurt and Ellie have children and happiness. The fate of her father Carl is not revealed but there is a hint that nemesis is closing in.

The cast work well, Tom Schilling and Paula Beer are reasonably good.  Sebastian Koch is excellent with a real sense of malevolence. The stand-out performance is Saskia Rosendahl, though she is only seen in the early part of the film.

The production is extremely well done. The design, cinematography and sound all work well to produce a convincing creation of the places and times. And there are both subtle and less subtle references in the style that draw the characters and their experiences together. The music does this at times, but other sequences have a rather obvious accompaniment, sometimes with a Wagnerian tone. I suspect the film-makers were not confident that all the key moments of development totally worked.

This contributes to the sense of a division in the film. And the personal drama, especially the romantic, is rather conventional in presentation. Whereas the artistic is less so. But I think both maintain the interest of the viewer.

The film  is written and directed  by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck who was responsible for the very fine The Lives of Others  / Das Leben der Anderen (2006). This film lacks the complexity of the earlier title. The treatment of both the German Democratic Republic and of the later Art Academy rely on rather simple motifs.   I think the director’s craft suffered from a trip to the mainstream and a completely forgettable The Tourist (2010). However, this production is vastly superior to that and, in a year where the new releases  of real quality are sparse, stands out. It is in  colour, full widescreen and has English sub-titles;  definitely a movie to be seen in a cinema.

Yorkshire Day: Sculpture On Screen

Thursday 1st August 6:15pm

Yorkshire Day

Our Yorkshire Day screening this year is a special programme of films, showing as part of Yorkshire Sculpture International, celebrating some of the regions most famous sculptors.

Tickets are free for all members/friends.

Damien Hirst: Thoughts, Work, Life (2012) was directed and edited by BAFTA award winner Chris King (Senna) and features an exclusive interview with the artist, and rare early archive footage and stills.

Figures in Landscape (1953) is a poetic portrait of sculptor Barbara Hepworth and the otherworldly Cornish landscapes which inspired her.

Henry Moore Recollections of A Yorkshire Childhood (1981) is a documentary, taken from the Yorkshire Film Archive, of Moore looking back at his childhood, aged 83. And a previously unseen clip from Henry Moore on Film (1971) shows the sculptor at work – made available to screen thanks to the Frank & John Farnham Archive and the Henry Moore Foundation.