The End of St. Petersburg / Konets Sankt-Peterburga, USSR 1927

Saturday September 16th at 3.30 p.m.

This was one of several films commissioned in order to celebrate the 10th anniversary of The Great October Revolution. The most famous of these is Sergei Eisenstein’s October Ten Days that Shook the World (1928). Both films include sequences showing the storming of the Winter Place: in fact the filming of these sequences found the two productions ‘stepping on each others’ heels’.

However, Vsevolod Pudovkin, the director, has a different approach to drama and to ‘montage’ from Eisenstein. There are parallels between this film and his earlier adaptation of a Maxim Gorky’s novel, Mother / Mat (1926). This film follows the experiences of a young rural worker who migrates to St Petersburg in search of employment. We follow him in a linear fashion as he experiences the exploitation of the proletariat in Tsarist Russia and he becomes politicised. The film includes very fine sequences showing the advent of war, the experiences of the Russian army and then the series of conflicts that led to the overthrow, first of the Tsarist regime, and then of its bourgeois successor.

Pudovkin, together with his script writer Nathan Zarkhi and the cinematographer Anatoli Golovnya, present the city, the social movements and its representative characters with a strong sense of the world they live in and of the historic events in which they were involved. Whilst Eisenstein’s film ends with the Vladimir Lenin announcing the start of Socialist Construction Pudovkin’s film ends on a quieter note, expressive of the victory but also of the cost it has levied.

The film is screening in a 35mm black and white print. It should have English sub-titles for the Russian title cards and lasts about 85 minutes. This screening enjoys a specially composed musical score by the Harmonie Band who specialise in Silent Film accompaniments.

This is fine film and a signal celebration as we approach the anniversary of the most important event of the C20th. Hopefully we can look forward to other significant dramas and records of 1917.

 

Cinema and Film Heritage

This Sunday, September 10th, film fans have a chance to explore the Hyde Park Picture House as part of a Heritage Open Day. Between 1000 and 1500 they can enjoy the beauty of the cinema auditorium, one of the finest surviving examples in Britain, with its distinctive gas lighting. There will also be conducted tours of the Projection Room every half-an-hour: including the 35mm projectors, fine specimens of a species that is in danger of extinction. These tours will be a little like the recently screened German silent film, Berlin: Die Sinfonie der Grosstadt (1927:  just as the Berlin of 1927 is no longer, the Picture House will soon be remodelled thanks to a Heritage Lottery Fund Award.

Appropriately there will also be a screening of 35mm films. There will all be the work of the ‘Poet of British Cinema’, Humphrey Jennings. His films are beautifully crafted and imaginative portraits of Britain in the 1930s and 1940s.

There will be Spare Time (1939, 13 minutes) a film that reflected the work of Mass Observation, a pioneering sociological research movement of the period. The film visits several regions in 1930s Britain to examine the culture of ordinary working people. The commentary is by Laurie Lee, another poet. I especially enjoy the sequence with the Welsh choir.

Then the wartime film Words for Battle (1941, 8 minutes): documentary footage of Britain during the Blitz is accompanied by a selection of poetry and prose read by Lawrence Olivier.

The Silent Village (1943, 36 minutes) is a retelling of the massacre by the Nazi occupiers of the villagers of Lidice in 1942. This was notorious event early in the war. The film relocates the story to Wales to increase the immediacy of the barbarity.

And finally Listen to Britain (1942, 20 minutes) is one of the true masterpieces of British cinema. Jennings weaves a tapestry of documentary footage, dialogue, sound and music to present the Home Front of a Britain at War.

All these films are in black and white. Note that the last three all enjoy the editing of Stewart McAllister, not always credited but a key colleague in Jennings’s film work. Also important are the regular cameraman H. E. Fowle and the sound engineer Ken Cameron. All contributors to these heritage classics.

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.

Christmas in Connecticut

For our Friends’ Christmas special this year we are pleased to present Christmas in Connecticut (1945) this Wednesday 14th December.

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Members are invited to join us from 5.45pm for a mince pie and a glass of sherry and to meet and speak with other members of the Friends then the film will screening shortly after 6.30pm.

This showing is free to members of the Friends but everybody is welcome and normal ticket prices apply to non members.

The film follows a sharp writer who, despite never setting foot in a kitchen, writes a cooking column for a women’s magazine. In order to trick her publisher, she poses as a happy homemaker, complete with husband, baby and country estate. Her goose is cooked when the publisher arranges for her to host a sailor over the Christmas holidays. The journalist has to marry her boyfriend, find a home and prepare a spectacular meal for a huge magazine spread. Things grow even more complicated when she starts to fall for her guest.

Fidel Castro, 1926 to 2016

Fidel Castro, Prime Minister of Cuba, smokes a cigar during his meeting with two U.S. senators, the first to visit Castro's Cuba, in Havana, Cuba, Sept. 29, 1974. (AP Photo)

Fidel Castro, Prime Minister of Cuba, smokes a cigar during his meeting with two U.S. senators, the first to visit Castro’s Cuba, in Havana, Cuba, Sept. 29, 1974. (AP Photo)

Apart from reactionaries in the USA most people will mourn the passing of this revolutionary leader. So a good way to celebrate his achievements and contributions would be to screen one of the  outstanding films that were produced by ICAIC. My preferred title would be Memories of Underdevelopment (Memorias del subdesarrollo, 1968) directed by Tomás Gutiérrez Alea which has been restored by the World Cinema Foundation. And Alea’s later The Last Supper (La última cena 1976) is likely to be available on 35mm . Another would be Lucía (1968) directed by Humberto Solás which should also still be available in a 35mm print.

Since either would now be in a 2017 programme this would also provide a harbinger for celebrations of the centenary of the 1917 Revolution as ICAIC were among the important heirs of Soviet Silent Montage.

 

 

Soundtracks

Part of this year’s film festival focuses on soundtracks so it seemed like a good idea to talk about music. Over the last few years I’ve found myself paying much more attention to what I’m hearing in the cinema as well as seeing. One of my  favourite recent soundtracks is Disasterpeace’s work for It Follows (2015) and it’s great to get the opportunity to hear it performed live at the Picture House at the end of the month (limited tickets available here).  There’s a similar electronic ambient sound to Cliff Martinez’s score for The Neon Demon (2016). Both soundtracks are influenced by John Carpenter’s music and I was hoping we might get a gig from the horror master at this year’s festival, alas it doesn’t look like we will.

A completely different sound can be heard in Carter Burwell’s score for Carol (2015), it’s such a beautiful piece of work and for me it may even be better than the already great film.

Print

If you are interested in film music it’s worth listening to Saturday Night At The Movies on Classic FM (5pm Saturdays), presented by Radio Times film critic Andrew Collins each week they play two hours of music around a certain theme. It was a TV special this week but recently they’ve focussed on Hitchcock, animation and westerns. It’s available to listen to for 7 days online and is also on Freeview 731.

BBC Radio 3 also have a weekly film music programme Sound Of The Cinema (3pm Saturdays, also on iPlayer and available as a podcast) which centres each week around a current new release but play music from a wide range of films. Soundtracking is another podcast but slightly different because each week Edith Bowman talks to a film director about how they use music in film.

Back to the festival, focussing on soundtracks is an interesting idea and it has thrown up some great opportunities to revisit some films with wonderful soundtracks: Jurassic Park, Jaws, Drive, Pulp Fiction, Under The Skin, Blue Velvet, Breakfast At Tiffany’s, Lost In Translation, The Virgin Suicides are all favourites of mine and there are many more featured in the retrospective.

Heritage Open Days

This weekend the Picture House is taking part in the Heritage Open Days. This is  a great opportunity to explore the building and find out why it’s so important that we are working hard to maintain the cinema’s legacy.

There will be both self-guided tours, where guests will be free to explore all of the building and learn about it’s long history, as well as guided tours of the projection room.

On Sunday at 3pm there is also a special FREE screening of This Sporting Life (1963) in conjunction with the exhibition ‘A Tender Tumult: The Art of David Storey’ which is currently on show at The Hepworth Wakefield from the 11th June – 05th October.

Saturday 10th September
Self-guided tour: 2.30pm – 3.30pm
Projection room tour: 2.45pm

Sunday 11th September
Self-guided tour: 12.30pm – 2.30pm
Projection room tour: 12.45pm, 1.15pm, 1.45pm

For projection room tours, booking ahead is required and can be done by emailing: admin@hydeparkpicturehouse.co.uk or calling 0113 275 2045.

The Body Extended: Sculpture and Prosthetics

This exhibition at the Henry Moore Institute might sound arcane or even slightly off-putting. In fact I found it a fascinating collection, including both art works and prosthetic devices.

The prosthetics and the art works are integrated so a visitor moves from the actual to the representations. My particular favourites were art works from post-World War I. There were some striking drawings, prints and paintings as artists responded to this cataclysmic event.

“Throughout history human beings have sought to extend and supplement their own forms to move faster and reach further. [This exhibition] … traces how artists have addressed radical changes to the very things we know best: our bodies” [Exhibition Catalogue).

'Monument to Unknown Prosthetics', 1930

‘Monument to Unknown Prosthetics’, 1930

There were also photographs of the treatments and developments for soldiers who suffered loss of limbs and organs in the conflict. There were interesting parallels with the film footage of post WWI rehabilitation screened at one of the HPPH WWI events, Regeneration (1997).

Most fascinating for me was a short 16mm film projected with an accompanying audio track, Entartete Kunst Lebt by Yael Bartana. The title is the German phrase coined by the Nazis to vilify the progressive art that they hated, ‘Degenerate Art’.  The foremost artist who suffered from this was Otto Dix. His painting ‘Trench War and Cripples’ was burnt by the Nazi, but a  photograph of the original survives. Bartana has used modern animation techniques to provide multiple images of the original and edit them into a five minute film. The film reworks the power of the Dix original into  a moving set of images and sounds.

warcripples

The exhibition is at the Institute until October 23rd., thirty minutes, or maybe more, and you can enjoy a stimulating walk round. There are also some parallel talks at the Institute. The interesting topic on September 28th is ‘Dismembering and Remembering Dada and the First World War’. The Dada movement worked in a number  of  forms and included avant-garde films by Man Ray and René Clair.

New Programme Chat & Drinks

Join us on Monday 5th September from 7pm at the Brudenell Social Club for a get-together to chat about the new cinema programme starting on September 9th.

We thought it would be a good idea to meet up and find out what everybody is looking forward to seeing. It would also be a good time to look back at the last few months and see how people think the year has been so far for film. We’re also looking for ideas for future posts on this blog and possibly even some new contributors.

We hope this can become a regular thing around each new programme. So come along and join us for drinks, chat and the opportunity to meet other Friends.

On Facebook? Join the event

Son Of Saul Hungary 2015

Screening daily from Friday 29th
Introduction and panel discussion Sunday 1st May 5pm

Son Of Saul

There have been countless essays written about cinematic representations of the Holocaust; are the Academy Award winning depictions by Steven Spielberg or Roberto Benigni truly important? or just trite exploitation? Is it ever OK to make a fiction film about the awful events that happened in places like Auschwitz-Birkenau and Treblinka?

Son of Saul director, Laszlo Nemes, himself a film school graduate, has made a film that places him into this ongoing conversation, and sees his debut as, among other things, a critique of established popular representations. In an interview with The New York Times, Nemes reveals his antithetical approach “Since the end of the Second World War I’ve seen very clearly that many people more or less consider the Holocaust as a mythical story and approached it probably from a defensive mechanism, as a way to get away from it through survival stories. I don’t think Auschwitz and the extermination of the European Jews was about survival. It was about death. And how Europe killed itself, committed suicide.”

But Son of Saul, now an Oscar winner itself (Best Foreign Language Film 88th Academy Awards) has been met with its own share of criticism. Manohla Dargis for The New York Times called the film “Intellectually repellent”, Michael Koresky in Reverse Shot described it as being “grotesque and exploitative” and Stefan Grissemann in Film Comment similarly sees it as exploitation; writing “In its pursuit of controversy, Son of Saul plumbs unforeseeably new depths of revulsion.”

The film does, however, have a surprising but powerful supporter in Claude Lanzmann, director of the revered holocaust documentary, Shoah (1985). Lanzmann has criticised other films for dramatising the horrors of death camps, yet has given Son of Saul his approval, praising it as an “anti-Schindler’s List”

Son of Saul first played at Hyde Park Picture House as part of the Leeds International Film Festival last November, where it didn’t quite manage to rank in the audience top 10. Yet looking at Twitter, it definitely had its fair share of supporters in the audiences, and although I’m undecided on how I feel about the suspense plotline, I have to recommend it for Géza Röhrig’s central performance, the impressive stark sound design and for the arresting shallow focus cinematography by Mátyás Erdély.

Son of Saul screens daily from Friday 29th of April. The Sunday screening at 5pm will include an introduction by Dr Dominic Williams (University of Leeds), co-author of a recent book about the Sonderkommando as well as a post-film panel discussion with Prof. Griselda Pollock (University of Leeds), Prof. Sue Vice (University of Sheffield) and Gary Spicer (Stockport College).