2019, the year Brad Pitt fixed antennas (Ad Astra and Once Upon A Time In Hollywood), Scarlett Johansson tied shoelaces (Marriage Story and Jojo Rabbit – out in the UK on 1st Jan), Adam Driver seemed to be everywhere and washing machines featured more than expected (In Fabric and Seahorse).
La Belle Époque – It’s too soon to know if this is really as good as it made me feel during the film festival or an “overegged French time-travel comedy” as Peter Bradshaw claimed in The Guardian.
The Favourite – One of the first films I saw this year which made me think it would be a while until I saw something I enjoyed more and I was right.
Eighth Grade – A really long wait to see this in the UK but it was worth it, a film about hope, despair, anxiety and it manages to be terrifying and funny in equal measures.
Marriage Story – Everything feels so authentic, it’s heartbreakingly beautiful and also surprisingly funny.
If Beale Street Could Talk – A beautiful film with a beautiful soundtrack.
Knives Out – Another recent film that may not stand the test of time but I had so much fun whilst watching it I had to include it in this list.
Midsommar & Us – Horror is a genre I tend to overlook but both of these films exceeded my expectations, both are carefully constructed and unravel in an enthralling way.
Irene’s Ghost, Seahorse, Our Most Brilliant Friends – Great documentaries that were enhanced by Q&A with the filmmakers.
My favourite film of 2019 only got a single screening as a Tuesday Wonder and (confession time) I didn’t see it at the Picture House. Minding The Gap: An American Skateboarding Story is one of those documentaries where the subject matter is just a cover story for the way it brilliantly exposes just what it means to be human and I absolutely loved it. It’s available on iPlayer as part of the Storyville strand and would make a great double bill with the underrated Mid90s.
Honorable mentions to: Collette, Beautiful Boy, RBG, Pond Life, Vox Lux, Madeline’s Madeline, Booksmart, Sometimes Always Never, Apollo 11, Only You, The Farewell, Peanut Butter Falcon.
As well as serving on the committee for the Friends I’m also involved with Keswick Film Club and in a few weeks their 19th Film Festival will be taking place. I grew up near Keswick and the film club played an important part in developing my love for art house cinema. I’ll be heading back to the Lake District town for the festival and would easily recommend a visit to see some great films in an idyllic location.
There are films you (probably) won’t have seen yet. Director Simon Hunter will open the festival with Edie, starring Sheila Hancock as an 84 year old who is determine to climb a mountain. A Fantastic Woman has been wowing festival audiences and critics around the world and François Ozon’s L’Amant Double has yet to get a UK release date. We also have one of the first screenings of John Hurt’s final film, That Good Night. John was the patron of the festival and visited a number of times, his wife will be introducing the film.
We’re also delighted to be showing Ken Russell’s Clouds Of Glory, thought for many years to have been lost. Commissioned by Melvyn Bragg for Granada TV, this is Ken Russell’s interpretation of the lives and loves of Coleridge and Wordsworth and was filmed locally. The screening accompanies a talk, Cumbria On Film, exploring how the region has been used for films over the years including Withnail & I and The Force Awakens.
It is the 30th edition of the Leeds International Film Festival this November. From its instigation in 1987 by members of the Friends of Hyde Park Picture House the festival has consistently presented a wide-ranging programme of films and film based events annually, across a shifting landscape of city venues.
Laura Ager, a volunteer at the Hyde Park Picture House who has worked with the film festival in various roles over the last 10 years, recalls how she first became interested in the history of the festival and, in the course of her research, has tracked down some of its former directors and supporters to ask them what the festival meant to them.
Two typed documents, discovered by chance in the office of the Leeds International Film Festival at Leeds Town Hall, announced the coming of The Leeds International Film Festival.
In November 1987, the Leisure Services department at Leeds City Council proclaimed that in 1988:
Leeds, the birthplace of the film industry, will celebrate the centenary of the moving image by holding a major international film festival.
This film festival would celebrate 100 years since Louis le Prince filmed the people and traffic in ‘Leeds Bridge Scene’ at a spot now marked with a Leeds Civic Trust blue plaque.
The Leeds International Film Festival took place from 13th – 29th October 1988. On the first day, the famous traffic scene was reconstructed on Leeds Bridge at 2pm, later on that day a ‘black & white ball’ was held in the Town Hall. The film programme addressed eight themes that year: comedy, horror, war, music in films, images of England, animation, women and film and documentary. Continue reading →
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.
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.
A few weeks ago I learnt belatedly, and from the surprising source of a relative’s Twitter feed, of the extremely sad news of the death of animator and illustrator FUTAKI Makiko (二木真希子), which was announced on the 16th of May.
An independent, amateur filmmaker in her own right before being recruited by Telecom Animation Film (where she first worked with TAKAHATA Isao, MIYAZAKI Hayao and such other future Ghibli regulars as TANAKA Atsuko), her subsequent freelance career has encompassed such films as Sugii’s Night on the Galactic Railroad, Oshii’s Angel’s Egg and Ōtomo’s AKIRA but I’m sure will be forever defined by her work on Studio Ghibli’s productions – and them by it.
She became their go-to person for sequences in which the human characters take a back seat to foliage, birds, minibeasts, water and wind – and the impact of that last one on all the previous, the studio’s only feature-length theatrical releases without her distinctive rendering of these (Grave of the Fireflies, The Cat Returns, The Tale of The Princess Kaguya) being from when she was particularly heavily involved in a simultaneously-produced Miyazaki project (My Neighbour Totoro, Mei and the Kitten Bus, The Wind Rises).
Extremely sad that there will be no further sequences from the mind and hands that wrought some of the most iconic (most of all probably being a draw between inside the camphor tree and the tree-growing in Totoro) and some personal favourites (my top single moment being the wild geese catching a gust of wind in Kiki) of the last 30 plus years of cinema. Very heartening news, considering those outside the industry have to glean what they can from mentions in books and production blogs to identify animators’ work, that this is being reported on beyond the rarified confines of animator-reverence.