The Salesman / Forushande Iran, France, 2016.

Daily from Friday March 24th until Thursday March 30th

Salesman

This film won the Best Foreign Language title at the Academy Awards. It also gained attention when the director boycotted the ceremony in opposition to new and discriminatory immigration controls by the USA. It is rather pleasing that most notable bane of the USA has recently won two Academy Awards; this title and A Separation / Jodaeiye Nader az Simin in 2012. That title was also written and directed by Asghar Farhadi. This film repeats some of the tropes of the earlier title though the central theme is rather different.

Both films rely on the importance of place for the characters, especially the apartments that provide their home. But this new film has an added dimension: a play within a play, ‘Death of a Salesman’. There are definite parallels between the apartment of the lead characters and the theatrical setting. However, I thought the relationships were closer to Tennessee Williams than to Arthur Miller.

The are fine performances as the central couple by Taraneh Alidoosti as Rana Etesami  and Shahab Hosseini  as Emad Etesami.  They were also a couple in Farhadi’s earlier About Elly / Darbareye Elly (2009) and if you saw that film the relationship then it offers a faint but interesting prequel to that in this film.

This is a fascinating and absorbing study. And the production is very well done. However, I found it was less compelling than the two earlier films made in Iran, [Farhadi has also worked on a French film The Past / Le passé, 2013). And I felt it was not quite as telling in its portrayal of contemporary Iran.

It is still worth seeing, especially as this has not been so far [with a few exceptions] a great year for new releases. Note regarding the UK trailer; it includes more plot than is necessary; and the cutting does not represent the film effectively, this has a rather different tempo,

Elle, 2016

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Bill Walton was impressed by Elle and recommends you catch one of the remaining screenings this week…
Our question today is:
“A woman should never be a victim of male violence. Discuss.”
The answer:
“Male violence is obviously intolerable, no exceptions, the ultimate threat of patriarchy.
Nothing more to say …”
We may know where we stand on this, but is there anything else to say? What if a ‘victim’ doesn’t accept victimhood? Is revenge the answer? What are the impacts on friends and family? Might the resulting feelings get complicated? Elle explores this disturbing territory with style and humour, and not a few very uncomfortable moments. The film works so well because of the great cast, with a standout performance by Isabelle Huppert as Michèle Leblanc, and the edgy direction of Paul Verhoeven.  A whirlwind of thrills, suspense, plot twists, shocking behaviour, and so many funny moments.
Michèle “Shame isn’t a strong enough emotion to stop us doing anything at all. Believe me.”

New Programme

March - May Programme

The new programme is now available on the main website as as PDF. The coverstar is Julian Barratt in Mindhorn, which you may remember won the Audience Award at the film festival, and is screening from May 5th. There are a few other LIFF films coming up as well: Cameraperson, Certain Women, The Handmaiden, Raw and Graduation. Speaking of festivals Leeds Young Film Festival runs over Easter from 10th to 20th April and once again it’s a great programme with something for people of all ages. The less-young should look out for Bicycle Thieves (1948), Kes (1969), The Princess Bride (1987) and The Red Turtle (2016) as well as plenty of recent animated and family friendly films.  Also on the 25th April as part of the first Leeds International Festival there’s a screening of Ex Machina (2014) followed by a Q&A with visual effects artist Andrew Whitehurst.

Elsewhere in the programme there are films that have generated a lot of buzz recently (or will do when they get released) : The Love Witch, The Fits, Free Fire, Personal Shopper, The Salesman, I Am Not Your Negro.

We really are lucky to have such a wonderful selection of films coming up over the next few months.

 

Prevenge

Showing Friday 6:20pm and  Saturday 8:45pm

Last month Alice Lowe brought her debut film as a director to Leeds…

The Valentine’s Night screening and Q&A sold out…

and everybody had a great time…

If you missed the film it’s showing again this weekend (Fri 6:20pm & Sat 8:45pm) and as Bill posted on our Facebook page earlier this week, it’s one worth catching:

Did you enjoy American Psycho (2000)?

If so, imagine Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) replaced by Ruth (Alice Lowe). Next, imagine that Patrick Bateman is 8 months pregnant (as Alice Lowe was when she starred in Prevenge) and has moved from Wall Street to South Wales.

And then further imagine that, instead of his murderous impulses being driven by materialism and envy, Patrick Bateman is carrying out his homicidal rampage guided by  his unborn child.

Prevenge is an exuberant, funny and original low-budget film, written and directed by Alice Lowe. There is some great camerawork and a strong supporting cast. And, arguably, its underlying morality is superior to that of American Psycho!

National Theatre Live At The City Varieties

For a long time customers have asked about hosting screenings of National Theatre and other live theatre performances at the Picture House. Unfortunately due to some planning restrictions it’s just not possible for us to get these in our programme however our beautiful sister venue, the City Varieties Music Hall, will be playing them from this week onwards. The launch event for this exciting new strand of their programme will be this Thursday 9th March with Hedda Gabler by Henrik Ibsen starring the wonderful Ruth Wilson.

We’ve arranged for a discount for our Friends so if you would like to attend show your membership card and you’ll receive a discount as the Friends of the City Varieties would of £15.50 for a ticket instead of £17.

Manchester by the Sea USA 2016

manchester-by-the-sea1Saturday March 4th and Monday March 6th

It is good to have another opportunity to see this film, the best new release so far of 2017. That said, the first two months of the year have been fairly undistinguished: a number of good films but a lack of masterworks [Moonlight (2016) will hopefully remedy this]. This film garnered Lead Actor and Original Screenplay Awards at the recent Academy. I do still worry that a mislaid envelope may turn up and scupper either of these.

Casey Affleck as Lee Chandler is superb and fulfils the promise displayed in his earlier films. The supporting cast are uniformly excellent. I was especially struck by Michelle Williams as Randi Chandler. She has a brief but powerful scene with Casey.

The film also fulfils the promise shown by writer and director Kenneth Lonergan in his previous films. He heads a fine production team and I was particularly struck by the cinematography by  Jody Lee Lipes, with some  beautifully executed exteriors on the North Eastern Atlantic coastline. And the  Film Editing by Jennifer Lame  is very fine, handling a complex set of flashbacks that fill out the story and the drama. Note, the actual town is ‘Manchester-by-the Sea’: odd that the title is different in all release versions as it suggests something else.

This is a film that deals with memories and loss that colour and inhibit the present. The powerful drama delves into these and the accompanying relationships with care and compassion. It is a long film, 137 minutes, but the characters and settings render that timescale completely absorbing.

Fences, USA 2016

Daily, Saturday February 18th through till Thursday February 23rd.

fences-2016-david-gropman-design

The two leading players in this film, Denzel Washington and Viola Davies, have both been nominated for Academy Awards. Viola Davis has already won a Golden Globe as Best Supporting Actress. This, like the Academy Award, nomination, should really be for Best Actress as whilst her screen time is less than Washington her character and performance are equally essential to the film.

This is an actor’s films with both Washington and Davis reprising roles that they played on Broadway in 2010: Troy and Rose Maxton. And another player in this production Stephen McKinley Henderson as Jim Bono is part of a fine supporting cast.

The film is adapted from a play originally written in 1983 by August Wilson. He died in 2005 but had already written a screenplay on which this film is based. Wilson, whose early experiences of US racism informed his work, wrote a cycle of seven plays about Afro-American life and experiences. He insisted that this play, if adapted for cinema, should be directed by an African-American, and Washington both stars and directs.

The play fits into what is almost a genre of African-American life on film, harking back to A Raisin in the Sun (USA 1961), another play adapted first for television then cinema. In fact this film displays its theatrical origins both in structure and settings. It also has lengthy dialogue scenes but the delivery by the fine cast make these compelling and convincing.

The film is set in Pittsburgh in the 1950s and moves onto the early 1960s. These times are an important backdrop to what is essentially a family drama. And the title, as Rose explains to Troy in one powerful scene, is itself a metaphor for the emotions and contradictions dramatised in this absorbing film.

T2 Trainspotting, UK 2017

Daily from Friday February 10th until Thursday February 16th

t2-trainspotting

This is a sequel twenty years on from the popular and well received original.  I suspect that the pleasures of watching the film will depend on how much you liked the 1996 title: this is clearly an exercise in retro-pleasure, even nostalgia. The original cast are all there; Ewan McGregor as Renton; Robert Carlyle as Begbie; Ewan Bremner as Spud; John Lee Miller as Simon. Kelly MacDonald also returns as Diane, but only in a brief walk-on part. She does tell Renton that the new romantic/sexual character Veronika (Anjela Nedyalkova) is ‘too young for you’.

The film also returns with familiar settings and tropes from the original: including toilets and the great Scottish outdoors. The new film also has the same certification as the earlier title, 18. However, from memory, I would say that this has slightly less violence and drug-taking and a little more sex.

The film uses extracts from the 1996 film, more frequently than I thought was justified or necessary. But it also shows the characters’ lives before the plot of 1996 and we get to see on-screen the meaning of the title of both films. At the same time it brings the story up-to-date in terms of changed mores and social settings. Thus we have Veronika who is from Bulgaria. And the ending of the film moves on from  that of 1990s Edinburgh.

The production values, including the cinematography and editing are very well done. However the film is circulating in  a 2K DCP which I think does less justice to the visual than the 35mm of the original. But probably as Renton proposes, ‘choose  Trainspotting 2′.

 

 

Toni Erdmann, Germany, Austria, Romania 2016.

Daily from Friday February 3rd till Thursday February 9th.

tonierdmannweb3

This film won the Best Film and two acting prizes at the European Film Awards 2016. It is also being considered for the Academy Awards and the UK BAFTAS. And it is one of three titles in line for the European Parliament’s Lux Prize.

The film was screened at the closing night of the 2016 Leeds International Film Festival. It is a long film, running for 162 minutes. It also has a very open narrative: the resolution is ambiguous and there are aspects of character and situation that are unexplained and/or unresolved.

“…it’s full of surprises, very warm and touching and frequently hilarious.” (LIFF Catalogue).

It does hold the interest, partly because of the central performances of Peter Simonischek as Winfried alias Toni and Sandra Hüller as his daughter Ines.  The film moves from Germany to Romania and from the comic to the dramatic and back and forth between these modes. Writer and director Maren Ade generally handles this very well though at times I found the opacity of the narrative slightly problematic. Ade includes a strong set of social themes, which I think is one reason for the film’s critical success. Sight & Sound placed it first in its top twenty films of 2016.

Definitely to be seen but prepare for a possible challenging two and half hours.

European audiences could vote for the film for the Lux Prize [including British citizens as we are still in the European Union]. There are two other finalist films; My Life as a Courgette / Ma vie de Courgette (France 2016), an animated film which was late addition to the Leeds International Film Festival programme; and As I Open My Eyes / À peine j’ouvre les yeux (Tunisia, France, Belgium, United Arab Emirates 2015). Unfortunately My Life as a Courgette seems to only have had the LIFF screening so far. And there is no sign of As I Open My Eyes at all. Final straw, the voting ended on January 31st!

 

 

Jackie

Showing daily from Friday 27th January
Jackie

“She remembers the roses. Three times that day in Texas they had been greeted with bouquets of yellow roses of Texas. Only, in Dallas they had given her red roses. She remembers thinking, how funny – red roses for me; and then the car was full of blood and red roses.”

This stylised and unconventional film about the experiences of first lady, Jackie Kennedy, in the wake of the assassination of her husband, takes it’s inspiration from a literary/journalistic source; an article written by Theodore H. White for the December 6 1963 edition of Life magazine entitled For President Kennedy, An Epilogue.

The interview White conducts with Jackie Kennedy Onassis at her home in Hyannis Port provides the framing device for the fractured narrative in which we look at the events that took place after the assassination, in particular, the funeral service in Washington D.C. and the changeover of presidency and occupation of the White House to Lyndon B. Johnson.

There are some great stylistic elements at play here. The White House set (filmed in a studio in France) is impressive, and the film was shot on super 16mm by regular Jacques Audiard DP, Stéphane Fontaine. It is also framed in the 1:66 aspect ratio, giving a convincing period feel, which beautifully recreates vintage newsreel footage.

Natalie Portman gives a strikingly un-melodramatic central performance as a self-possessed woman, struggling to appear strong and composed in the public eye, and angry at what she believes is the bad hand her husband had been dealt.

I also have to mention the great orchestral soundtrack, performed by Under the Skin composer, Mica Levi, which swells and threatens to overpower the images in parts.