The Future Of The Friends – Open Meeting Monday 29th March

On Monday 29th March at 7pm we will be holding an open meeting online to explore and take forward ideas and proposals for developing the work of the Friends. This meeting is open to current members, past members and others in any way connected
to, or interested in, the Cinema and its contribution to community life.

There will be a brief introduction on progress so far including the main areas of work that we have identified: Social Activities, Online Activities, Outreach, Heritage and Study Groups.

There will be opportunity to discuss these areas and any other ideas that come up. We’ll also be inviting people to get more involved if they think they can help in a particular area.

For more details please see our Open Meetings page. If you are interested in attending please complete the RSVP form so we can send you the Zoom meeting details.

Peterloo on C4

Saturday March 13th on C4 at 10 p.m.

So if you missed this title on release or you want to enjoy it again this very fine film is screening tonight on C4 (and will be available on All4 ). Quite a few reviewers did not really appreciate the film on its release. British film critics, with some exceptions like Derek Malcom, do not really engage with actual and detailed politics in dramas. Even when they admire Ken Loach they tend to prefer his dramas built round personal lives rather than those constructed around political movements. This would seem to be one reason why British cinema has never quite equaled the output  from the continent.

This is one of the finest films to be made in Britain in this new century and it is certainly one of the most interesting. It is flawed in some ways. This seems to have been due to the project being rushed in its final stages. Originally planned for the Centenary of the Peterloo Massacre in 2019 it came out a year early. This seems to have affected in particular the final sequences of the title which seem less developed, especially after the lengthy treatment of the causes and actual violence of this historic protest in Manchester.

It has been very well filmed by a talented craft team with excellent cinematography by Dick Pope and sharp editing by Dick Gregory. It has a very intelligent script from Mike Leigh.  Care has been taken to render accurate local dialects and the setting shave been well reconstructed . But what stands out is that the politics of the emerging working class are given full expression here; something not often seen and heard in British films though it is also found in the other fine study of C19th working class radicalism Comrades (Bill Douglas, 1986). The cast of proletarian characters and their middle class allies are generally very fine. And the opposing local functionaries and the rising bourgeoisie are convincing.

The major weakness is in the representation of the aristocracy and the dominant political figures. Other Mike Leigh films have presented upper and middle class characters close to caricature and the royal and authority figures here are not convincing. Nevertheless their preening narcissism and their  ruthless and violent defence of undeserved and unearned privileges is accurate. .

This is a film that combines documentary style recreation, powerful and emotional sequences with a compelling political representation. It is amazing that it has taken over a hundred years of British cinema till we have a film of such a major historic event. It should be noted that Peterloo is a motif in the earlier Fame is the Spur (the Boulting brothers 1945 adaptation of Howard Spring’s novel) which is also well worth viewing. I cannot think of much else  this coming Sunday evening to match this presentation. And Jacqueline Riding’s ‘ Peterloo: The Story of the Manchester Massacre’ (2018) is worth reading as well.

Sundance Film Festival

Dr Andy Moore (@andymoore_), long-term Friend of the Picture House and Lecturer in Film, Exhibition and Curation at the University of Edinburgh, has just got back from a digital visit to Sundance Film Festival. Always one to champion the treasures which can be found when you have the opportunity to explore the festival circuit, Andy has been kind enough to write up a blog post for us on some of the films at this years’ festival which he’s most excited about.

One of the most exciting things about the film festival experience is the joy of the new discovery – that rush when you catch something really distinctive and original that feels fresh and new. For the Sundance Film Festival (which took place almost entirely online this year) this emphasis on discovery – and on distinctive, original voices – is baked into the very DNA of the festival itself.

Sundance, and its associated programs of filmmaking and talent development labs, has helped launch the careers of some of the most exciting and influential independent filmmakers of the past 30 years – from the Coen Brothers to Paul Thomas Anderson. And in championing fresh new voices, the festival has played host to the extraordinary debut features of filmmakers as varied as Marielle Heller, Kelly Reichardt, Ryan Coogler and Boots Riley (all unique voices whose work has graced the programme of the Hyde Park Picture House over the years).

Although audiences participating in this year’s fest swapped the freezing streets of Park City, Utah (and their snow boots and parkas) for slippers, dressing gowns and the comfort of their own living rooms, 2021’s virtual edition was no different on the new voices front: 39 out of the 73 features screening at this year’s festival were directorial debuts, providing plenty of opportunities to experience the joyful rush of discovery.

For me the first film to provide that dopamine hit was Summer of Soul (…Or When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised). The directorial debut from musician Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson is a pure unadulterated joy, and a discovery in more ways than one. The film, which picked up both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award for U.S. Documentary, unearths astonishing footage (untouched and unseen for 50 years) of a series of summer concerts that took place in Harlem in 1969. Known as the Harlem Cultural Festival, the concerts featured an array of incredible performances from legendary black musicians including Stevie Wonder, Sly Stone, Mahalia Jackson and Mavis Staples. Thompson’s film skilfully weaves this extraordinary concert footage together with contemporary interviews to tell a vital, generation re-defining and life-affirming story about African American history, music, culture and fashion.

Another film that shines a light on history in a way that forces you to look at the present with fresh eyes is Shaka King’s electrifying sophomore feature, Judas and the Black Messiah. Starring Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield in two of the best performances of the festival, the film tells the story of Black Panther Party chairman and revolutionary activist Fred Hampton (Kaluuya), and the FBI informant (Stanfield) who infiltrated the party and ultimately provided the information that led to Hampton’s assassination at the hands of the Chicago police.

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Special General Meeting – 1st March 7pm

The Friends of the Hyde Park Picture House online Annual General Meeting on February 1st 2021 was attended by 42 people. It was good to have so much interest. However this number fell below the quorum we needed to make formal decisions. We went through all agenda items and recorded your views in the draft minutes (which will be available soon).

We have arranged an online Special General Meeting on Monday March 1st at 7pm to take the formal decisions needed, guided by the AGM discussions. This time the quorum will just be the number of people attending rather than a set figure.

This shorter than usual Special General Meeting will be followed by discussion of ways ahead for the Friends over the next few years and beyond. We look forward to your contributions on ideas for future activities, working groups and Committee membership, the relationship of the Friends to the Picture House, and what membership of the Friends means. If you would like to raise anything ahead of the meeting please contact us.

Instructions on how to join the meeting will be sent to members via email nearer the time.

The Best of 2020

At the start of the year we usually look back over the previous 12 months and pick out our favourite films. Normally for this blog these would be restricted to those shown at the Picture House and I though this year it might have to be different. However the first few months of 2020 were really good for cinema and I’m not sure if this top 5 would be much different even if the doors had stayed open for longer.

So my Top 5 of 2020 is:

  1. Portrait Of A Lady On Fire
  2. Little Women
  3. Uncut Gems
  4. Parasite
  5. JoJo Rabbit

Of the films I saw on the smaller screen at home the following would make it into my Top 10: Lynn + Lucy (BFIPlayer), Wolfwalkers (Apple+), Saint Frances (Netflix), Babyteeth (Netflix) and Never Rarely Sometimes Always (Sky/NowTV).

What about you? Did you still manage to see lots of great films (on screens of any size), let us know in the comments.

More Festive Fun

Unfortunately we haven’t been able to put on our Christmas screening this year but there are other events and festive treats to be found online. Heart’s Lockdown Film Club continues on Fridays (see Bill’s post for details), the Kennington Bioscope seasonal special is happening tonight (7:30pm Youtube) and Carol Morley is bringing her Friday Film Club back for a festive special this Friday (18th December) at 8pm.

Director Jeanie Finlay has visited the Picture House a few times with Sound It Out and most recently Seahorse. Her 2015 film tells the story of how a small community theatre fights to keep afloat in austere times so is perhaps even more relevant today.

“The film captures magnificently the spirit of the production in all its chaotic, funny, joyful and exhilarating glory”

THE TIMES

“Wonderfully uplifting”

RADIO TIMES

A link to watch the film for free will be available on Friday (see @CarolMorley‘s Twitter page or the #FridayFilmCub hashtag for more details ), the idea is to watch at the same time and then go on Twitter to discuss the film. If you’re not on Twitter you can still watch the film and tell us what you thought in the comments below.

We’ll keep an eye out for any other online events or great films that available to watch at home over the festive period and hope that you all manage to still find a way to enjoy the holiday period.

A Festive Treat On Line

Kennington Bioscope Presents [on YouTube].

The Kennington Bioscope is a film club at London’s Cinema Museum.  It used to run on Wednesday evenings and usually offered screenings in 35mm [or sometimes 16mm] enhanced by live musical accompaniments. The prints were always from early cinema and from a ranger of territories. The musicians were really able performers; several have played for silent titles at International Film Festivals. With the arrival of the pandemic The Bioscope has gone on line; earli8er programmes are still available on You Tube and now a Festive special is panned for the coming week.

A Christmas Special courtesy of the BFI and the EYE Filmmuseum, Amsterdam.

Featuring a whole array of shorts of Winter and Christmas by the enormous generosity of EYE Filmmuseum and the British Film Institute (BFI).

 Holland in Ijs (NL 1917) – Scenes from the Netherlands in what was an extremely cold winter for them – Daan van den Hurk

Expedition to the North Pole (USA 1916) – Animated adventure by airship to the frozen North – Cyrus Gabrysch

 Il Natale di Cretinetti (IT 1909) – Early film comedian André Deed wreaks havoc with an outsize Christmas tree – José María Serralde Ruiz

Ida’s Christmas (USA 1912) – Dolores Costello and John Bunny star in this heart-warming tale from the Vitagraph studios – Colin Sell

Snowstorm in New York (NL 1926?) – A blizzard paralyzes Manhattan – Ben Model

Scrooge; or Marley’s Ghost (UK 1901) – R.W. Paul’s early and ingenious depiction of Dickens’ seasonal story – Meg Morley

Snowballs (UK 1901) – Schoolboy scamps besiege passers-by with handfuls of the cold white stuff – Lillian Henley

 Santa Claus (UK 1898) – The wonder of Christmas. British filmmaker G.A. Smith’s film features his children and wife Laura Bayley – Stephen Horne

The Little Match Girl (UK 1914) – Percy Nash directs this, the second British adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s heartrending story – Donald Sosin

The Mistletoe Bough (UK 1904) – An unlucky bride is locked in a trunk in this early film – Costas Fotopoulos

Broncho Billy’s Christmas Dinner (USA 1911) – Villainous Broncho Billy finds himself accidentally invited to the Sheriff’s home for the festive repast – Philip Carli

 Santa Claus and the Fairy (UK 1898) – Have you been naughty or nice? Stockings at the ready! – John Sweeney

This will offer a pleasure for fans of early cinema.  The titles [facsimiles versions] are provided by the support of our own National Film Archive and the fine archival collection at the Eye Museum in Amsterdam. During the pandemic, The Eye, like a number of archives is offering access on line to parts of their collections; though these screenings are usually silent. The Bioscope music is a real cachet and, in a nice touch, the pianist’s hands and instrument can be seen in a small  additional frame. The Bioscope organisers also ensure sub-titles for films with foreign language title cards. You also get introductions to the titles by film historian Michelle Facey and a chance to see the Cinema Museum.

If  interested you can read more about the Bioscope af Early and Silent Cinema.

Annual General Meeting

When we postponed our AGM (which was originally planned for May) we hoped that we would still be able to hold it later in the year. Unfortunately that has not been possible and with no clear sign of when we would be able to hold a meeting, we have decided it move it online.

Our ‘2020’ AGM will now take place on Monday 1st February 2020 at 7pm as a Zoom meeting. We will provide further details in the new year but you can find some of the documents that will be presented on our AGM page now.

Lockdown Film Club

I remember the last picture show. It was on Friday the 13th, or maybe 28 days later. Life became rocky and I started feeling dazed and confused. I took a hard look in the mirror and vowed to never say never again. While it was not exactly a matter of life and death, I was in a lonely place until I joined the Lockdown Film Club. That was a night to remember. Now all is well. Life is beautiful. Members are happy together. So don’t be clueless! No titanic effort needed. Do the right thing and get in touch with the Lockdown Film Club (details below). You will find that you don’t look back.

Steamboat Bill, Jr

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Friends’ Update For Members

Since the initial lockdown for Covid-19, the Friends of the Hyde Park Picture House have effectively been in hibernation. This was always planned to an extent given that the cinema was due to be closed for its Lottery-funded refurbishment during 2020. This work has now been unavoidably delayed due to the pandemic and the cinema is likely to stay closed for at least another year.

The Committee has met remotely using the wonders of digital technology and it has been decided given present circumstances to postpone the AGM (though the draft minutes of the 2019 AGM and the Accounts that were prepared for the postponed 2020 AGM, are available). The Accounts includes a brief report on the Friends’ activities since the 2019 AGM.

The Committee have also decided, given the unavoidable continued closure of the cinema, that the current Friends’ membership from 2019, which has already been extended at no charge to the membership, though 2020, will be extended further through 2021 as well. The Treasurer is happy that the Friends can afford this move.

The Committee is continuing to meet and is now engaged on discussing an agreed future for the Friends, given the intention of the cinema to launch its own membership scheme involving discounted tickets, running in parallel to the Friends. The Committee anticipates that this will result in a smaller Friends membership, with potentially a greater focus on volunteering and actively helping to promote the work of the cinema.

The Committee wishes all members and their families well at this difficult time and hopes that everyone has been able to keep safe and to maintain their love of film, even if cinema attendance has been severely curtailed. We look forward to seeing you again soon in happier circumstances.

Committee of the Friends of the Hyde Park Picture House
November 2020