Do the Right Thing (1989)

Creatures of the Night, Saturday 18th August 18th 10:30pm

Do The Right Thing

Phew, What a Scorcher!! I’m not talking Leeds 2018. I’m talking 30 years back when blood temperatures matched air temperatures in Brooklyn.

Director Spike Lee takes us into the smells of sweat and garbage on a Sunday in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Here we find the Blacks and Italians, Hispanics and Koreans, living and working together. And the cops and firefighters too. Do the Right Thing was inspired by real incidents in the Baked Apple we also know as New York City.

Mister Senor Love Daddy (Samuel L Jackson): Whoa. Y’all take a chill. You got to cool that shit off. And that’s the double-truth, Ruth.

So get out the cold beers, the ice, the fans, and turn on the fire hydrants. We’ll find the summer heat is taking its toll on everyone. Tempers are rising too.

Boring this movie is not. Analytical it is not. Do the Right Thing is a gripping, funny and stylish drama of Love and Hate, with a wonderful cast (including Spike Lee himself, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Danny Aiello, John Turturro, Richard Edson, Bill Nunn, Roger Guenveur Smith) and many locals from the area who are not famous names, The film-makers even paid Fruit of Islam to keep away local drug dealers who were worried about this interruption in their trade.

ML (Paul Benjamin): Well, gentlemen, the way I see it, if this hot weather continues, it’s going to melt the polar caps and the whole wide world. And all the parts that ain’t water already will surely be blooded.
Coconut Sid (Frankie Faison): You’re a simple motherfucker. Now where you read that shit, eh? Polar caps…
ML: Don’t worry about it. But when it happens, and I’m in my boat, and your black asses are drowning, don’t call for me to throw you no rope, no lifesaver, or no nothing.
Sweet Dick Willie (Robin Harris): You fool! You’re 30 cents away from having a quarter! Where the fuck you gon’ get a boat?

Spike Lee’s brilliant movie does raise many difficult questions and gives us no easy answers. It’s not just climate breakdown that is so up to date …  Black Lives Matter, boycotts, sexism, reparation, “decolonisation” of cultural images, and other drivers of racial tension are all boiling away in this steamy and complex stew. There’s even a mention of a potential Trump Plaza/pizza empire in Bedford-Stuyvesant! It’s us who need to come up with our own answers.

And it’s not easy when the odds are stacked against you:

Buggin’; Out (Giancarlo Esposito): You the man.
Mookie; (Spike Lee): No you the man.
Buggin’; Out: You the man.
Mookie: No you the man.
Buggin’ Out: No. I’m just a struggling Black man trying to keep my dick hard in a cruel and harsh world.

Our movie’s title comes from a Malcolm X quote, “You’ve got to do the right thing.” But what IS the right thing? Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. argues that violence is never justified under any circumstances; Malcolm X, argues that violence is not violence, but “intelligence” when it is used in self-defence.

And Mister Senor Love Daddy says: My people, my people, what can I say; say what I can. I saw it but didn’t believe it; I didn’t believe what I saw. Are we gonna live together? Together are we gonna live?

It’s all there. Empathy and respect; miscommunication and hate. Public Enemy sings “Fight the Power”. Al Jarreau sings “Never Explain Love”.  And we’re still standing. Even Barack  and Michelle Obama who went to this movie on their first date in 1989.

Da Mayor: Doctor…
Mookie: C’mon, what. What?
Da Mayor: Always do the right thing.
Mookie: That’s it?
Da Mayor: That’s it.
Mookie: I got it, I’m gone

So, do the right thing. That’s YOU! No excuses. Get your sorry ass down to the Picture House on August 18th.


Bill Walton

Yorkshire Day, Jane Eyre (1996)

Wednesday August 1st at 8.00 p.m.

Charlotte Brontës novel is one of the most compelling narrative of C19th English literature and it has enjoyed numerous adaptations. This version is a pan-European, trans-Atlantic production with the adult Jane played by Charlotte Gainsbourg [France], the young Jane by Anna Paquin [Canada], Edward Rochester by William Hurt [USA], and a German Shepherd cross as Pilot; they are supported by other European actors and a bevy of British character actors, including at least two born in Yorkshire [Edward de Souza as Richard Mason and Peter Woodthorpe as Briggs]. The production crew equally hail from a number of European countries, the production company Rochester Films worked in association with Miramax; all is presided over by the Italian director Franco Zeffirelli

The film follows the book fairly faithfully for much of its 112 minutes running time. The famous ‘red room’ sequence precedes the opening titles. Then we meet the young Jane in full rebellion against her aunt Mrs Reed (Fiona Shaw) and the sanctimonious Mr Brocklehurst (John Wood). The sequences at Lowood school capture the oppressive nature of the establishment and add some distinctive touches to the school routine and the friendship between Jane and Helen Burns (Leanne Rowe]. A fine edit takes us the Thornfield, the friendly housekeeper Mrs Fairfax (Joan Plowright), the young pupil Adele (Josephine Serre) and the master Edward Rochester.

Jane, Pilot and Rochester

Gainsbourg is excellent as the heroine; her accent is mostly good and she presents the steely nature of Jane’s character. Hurt offers a lower key Rochester than in other versions, taciturn but also repressed. Schneider’s Bertha is haunted rather than manic. Billie Whitelaw as Grace Poole cares for her. And Elle Macpherson as Blanche Ingram is all haughty beauty.

All this plotting at Lowood and Thornfield is very effective. Whilst the narrative represents that of Jane in the novel, there is only limited use of voice-over and indeed there are scenes that Jane does not see or recount. When St John Rivers (Samuel West) appears the film diverges markedly from the novel. I wondered if this was to reduce the ‘long arm of coincidence’ for which the book is noted: if so it introduces equal co-incidents of its own. It is likely that this aimed to reduce the complexity and length of the novel’s plot, but the final drama does seem a little rushed.

The film was scripted by Zeffirelli with Hugh Whitemore. Whitemore has an extensive background in screen writing including a television version of ‘Rebecca’, Daphne du Maurier’s novel infused with the spirit of ‘Jane Eyre’. The script uses much of the familiar dialogue from the book and other film versions and, apart from the changes, works well. The production design by Roger Hall has a strong sense of early Victorian style and colour. What stands out is the cinematography by David Watkins [in colour and standard widescreen], assisted by David Browne with the second unit. The interiors often use chiaroscuro and at times there is a definite Gothic feel to the image. The exteriors, shot at a Derbyshire stately home but also on a Yorkshire location, add visual pleasure to the film. The editing by Richard Marden, as noted, has some fine transitions. The music is generally restrained, only rising on the track at moments of high drama and moments of transition. It is by Alessio Vlad, Claudio Capponi and Stefano Arnaldi. This is a film that works even if you are not familiar with the original novel: there are such readers? And for those familiar with Brontës master-work there is sufficient of the novel to offer the pleasure of a revisiting. There is the added attraction of a screening of the film in its original format 35mm.

Mario, 2018

Tuesday Wonder – 24th July 6:10pm

It’s apt that Mario is screening in the ‘Tuesday Wonder’ strand at HPPH. Many would find the movie’s theme – gay footballers, and the struggles they face simply to be themselves – to be a source of some amazement, at least in Western Europe where LGBT rights are now seen to be well established. There’s barely a bat of an eyelid these days to learn someone in the public eye is gay in music, entertainment, politics… so why should sport be different? How can professional men’s football across the entire continent not have one single out gay male player?

The director and co-writer of ‘Mario’, Marcel Gisler, was similarly baffled – at first. Admittedly “not a football connoisseur”, the Swiss film-maker was interested to learn of how the competitive, often hyper-masculine environment of a pro team sport like football can be so pressured, to the extent that conformity is everything. To get ahead in a career that can be incredibly lucrative, you need to fit into the team ethic, be easier to manage than other players fighting for your position, and have a potentially tradeable market value. When it comes to personal relationships, the expectation is to have a beautiful girlfriend who in time becomes a wife, or be ‘jack the lad’ and play the field. In terms of sexuality, there’s only one team to represent.

So when professional hopefuls Mario and Leon – team-mates and flatmates at Swiss club Young Boys Berne – unexpectedly fall in love with each other, they set into motion a chain of events they can never fully control – least of all the reactions of friends, family and team-mates. Gisler’s film fizzes with energy in its scenes on the pitch, builds tension and drama off it, and invites empathy towards its two leads – both free to explore their feelings in private through youthful exuberance and a sense of fun, but forbidden to be in love in public due to the traditions of their sport.

When the time comes to make decisions, Mario must choose between his dreams of success, or the prospect of happiness with Leon. It’s a wrench of a dilemma with which to grapple. Little wonder then, that in real life we rarely ever learn of matters of the heart affecting gay or bisexual footballers.

In ‘Mario’, we’re afforded what amounts to a brief glimpse into one of the beautiful game’s longest-running and saddest stories. If football’s really not your cup of tea, don’t worry – there’s more than enough off-field drama to keep you watching. Two of its stars picked up the highest acting accolades available in their native Switzerland and it’s received applause at film festivals worldwide this year. Go along, show support, give ‘Mario’ a cheer – and hope that one day soon, someone in the Premier League or the EFL might show that being gay and being good at football are by no means mutually exclusive.


Jon Holmes (@jonboy79)

The best so far this year, …

at the Hyde Park Picture House, [January to June]. So the films that really impressed me were:

Jupiter’s Moon / Jupiter holdja , Hungary, Germany France 2017. A brilliant and subversive story done with panache.

The Rape of Recy Taylor, USA 2017. A tapestry of documentary, testimony and fiction that dramatises the struggle of African-American women.

Sweet County, Australia 2017. An ‘outback’ movie that includes the pleasure of a township screening of the early and seminal The Story of the Kelly Gang (1906).

The Third Murder / Sandome no satsujin, Japan 2017. Another in the series of penetrating family studies by film-maker Koreeda Hirokazu.

Zama, Argentina and seven other territories. A nine year wait for a new feature by Lucretia Martel was worth it.

And one film I am hoping to see soon,

The Young Karl Marx / Le jeune Karl Marx, France, Belgium, Germany 2017. The historic friendship between Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels together with Jenny Marx and Mary Burns.

Human Flow, 2017

A pay-what-you-can screening Sunday 24th June 2pm

This extraordinary and beautiful documentary is being shown as part of the Hyde Park Picture House contribution to National Refugee Week. ‘Human Flow’ is a deeply human and respectful response to the plight of 65 million people displaced worldwide: a fusion of art, cinema and politics which helps us to develop the empathy and understanding we need when looking for political solutions to the global refugee crisis.

Why is Human Flow so special?

  • Director, Ai Weiwei, himself lived in internal political exile in terrible conditions during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. He later escaped to the United States and then to Germany. Governments tend to think of migration in terms of numbers, of masses of migrants lacking in personal identity. By way of contrast, Ai focuses on intimate portraits of individuals and small groups, introducing us to people with hopes, families, friends, and pets. ‘Human Flow’ takes us into their frightening worlds of border fences and gates, disused railway stations, life jackets and survival blankets, interpreters and mobile phones.
  • We are facing a shifting world order. Displaced people flee the effects of war, poverty, hunger, racism, and climate breakdown which leave them with no hope for their future if they stay. Here are stories of people so desperate that they leave behind their language, homes, habits, friends and communities for life-risking journeys and unknown futures. Ai Weiwei uses technologies ranging from iPhones to drones to take us to 23 countries as far apart as Afghanistan, Greece, Myanmar and Kenya to hear from them directly.
  • Let’s not forget that Ai Weiwei is an artist as well as a human rights activist. His openness and empathy reminds me of performance artist Marina Abramović when she shared a period of silence with each stranger who sat in front of her in the New York Museum of Modern Art for three months (The Artist Is Present, 2010).
  • ‘Human Flow’ is ultimately an expression of solidarity. If someone is hurt, we are all being hurt. That refugee could be my mother, my son, my husband, or my neighbour. We are all citizens of the world. This harrowing global migration is a challenge to our freedom and democracy, for all of us, wherever we live.

Ai Weiwei says that, in the face of global displacement of human populations, resorting to physical borders and walls is like building a dam to stop a flood. It doesn’t solve the issue entirely and may well make matters worse. It is better to make paths which let this human flow continue with as much dignity and respect as possible (for example through implementing policies which match our obligations under international conventions relating to the status of refugees), while at the same time working to tackle the reasons for human displacement at their source.

‘Human Flow’ is screened at 2pm on Sunday June 24th. Entry is pay-as-you feel with proceeds going to support Asylum Seekers in Leeds through Leeds Refugee Forum and Leeds Asylum Seekers Support Network.


Bill Walton

Zama, Argentina, Spain , France, Mexico, The Netherlands, Monaco, Portugal, USA, Lebanon, Britain, Dominican Republic, 2017

Opens today, Friday, and on Sunday and Wednesday 6 p.m.

This is the new film by Argentinian film-maker Lucrecia Martel. Her earlier films, La Ciénaga (2001), The Holy Girl  / La niña santa (2004) and The Headless Woman  / La mujer sin cabeza (2008) were fine examples of C21st Latin-American cinema. These three features were all set in a contemporary world and dramatised some of the contradictions in her home country. This new film is a literary adaptations set in the C18th and part of the Spanish colonial empire. The film was shot on digital formats and critics have rightly praised the visual style and sound design of the film.

The source of this story is a novel from 1956 of the same tiltle by Antonio Di Benedetto, [only translated into English in 2016]. Set in 1790 somehere on  a river dividing Argentina from Paraguay, the protagonist is Don Diego de Zama (Daniel Giménez Cacho) a magistrate [‘corregidor’ government official}. We first see him in the film [as in the poster] staring out across the river, symbolising his frustrated hopes of a move: away and upward socially and economically. The book offered a subjective narrative and the film translates this into a hallucinatory telling that is full of ambiguities. The story takes in three different periods of Zama’s sojourn in this provincial city, best identified by the changing face [i.e. actor] of the governor under whom he serves. The first two periods focus on his recurring requests for a transfer and the contradictions of his work, a sort of C18th ‘Catch 22’. His social position is problematic because he is an ‘Americano’, born in this ‘new world’ where colonial characters from Europe control society and power. His ambiguous status is reflected in his attempt at sexual conquest, both amongst the European and the indigenous women.  These first two thirds of the film have a surreal quality with elliptical editing and moments of bizarre humour when, for examples, animals cross the frontier between the world of nature and that of human society.

The final third  involves Zama enrolled in an expedition to hunt down a local bandit, Vicuňa Porto / Gaspar (Matheus Nachtegaele) who could be as much myth as a criminal disruption. Now the film takes on aspects of horror: something Martell also essayed in her very fine The Headless Woman. The first two thirds of the film have some of the absurdist quality found in ‘magical realism’ There are the recurring and ineffectual social forays of the protagonist; writing by the characters that seems completely fruitless; and odd acts of sexuality and violence that seem totally arbitrary. The last part moves into the world of the exploration: a trope in Latin American fiction and film where the horrors that beset the Europeans and their helpers betoken the ultimate futility of their search.

Martell has scripted and directed the adaptation with genuine skill. Her cinematographer, Rui Poças, has produced a fine range of visual imagery, some in stark brightness, some in a pattern of lights and shadow. And the sound design by Guido Berenblum is really distinctive. using internal and non-simultaneous sound. Both have used digital formats which work well to produce a rather flat colour surface and aural depth that suits the non-realist form.

Her last film, The Headless Woman , was a terrific and successful melodrama dramatising class and corruption. So why have we had to wait nearly a decade for her latest film. Part of the answer lies in the number of territories where she has found funding. Clearly there has not been a rush of investors to support her work; the number of companies involved in the production takes up four columns in the Sight & Sound credits.. One is reminded of the comment of Osmane Sèmbene, comparing putting a film together as like making up a cigarette out of butt ends in the street.

The novel is, apparently, dense but only runs to 200 pages. if you have to wait to read a copy, which sound really worthwhile, then there is a fine review by J. M. Coetzee in ‘The New York Review of Books’ . This sets out the main features of the plot but also, importantly, give a sense of the tone and characterisations of the novel. It seems that Martell has been relatively faithful to the book but some material has been excised and some given greater emphasis.

At least the film is now here. It should be a treat, especially as there is a scarcity [at least in West Yorkshire] of films from this great cinematic continent. Sight and Sound have both a review and a specialised article on the film. There is also a transcript of an interview with Lucrecia Martell, excellent reading.

I found the film challenging at first. It took about half-an-hour before I felt clear about how the narrative worked. But from then on I followed the film fine. This included some colonial Spanish terms retained in the English sub-titles. So there is ‘corregidor’ and also ‘encomienda’ which referred to the practice of awarding control of indigenous people to colonialists.

There is one remaining screening this coming Wednesday [June 20th] and at present no sign of further screenings in the Leeds/Bradford area. Do not miss this film or, at some future date, you will be embarrassed during a discussion of the outstanding Latin-American films from the first two decades of the C21st.

The Rape of Recy Taylor, USA 2017

Wednesday afternoon, Tuesday and Thursday evenings.

 

This is an impressive and important film though at times it offers painful viewing. The film recounts the rape of a young Afro-American woman and mother in 1944 in Alabama by a gang of white men. This was before the period of activism known for ‘The Civil Rights Movement’. Rape of black women, like the lynching of black people, was common in the period dominated by the racist culture called ‘Jim Crow’. Recy’s struggle for justice was supported by National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People [NAACP] and by one of its field officers, Rosa Parks. Parks is famous for her role in the ‘Bus Boycotts’ in the 1950s. But this case was equally important in the development of black resistance to the racism endemic in the USA. The NAACP, committed to constitutional action, was for decades the lead organisation in the struggle for equality for Afro-Americans. In this case the struggle achieved only partial results but it was a seminal step in the struggle.

The film is directed by Nancy Buirski whose previous films include a documentary The Loving Story (2011) and a dramatised treatment Loving (2016) of an inter-racial couple prosecuted for breaking laws against ‘miscegenation’. This films uses a complex mixture of personal film and audio testimonies, commentary and archive material. The latter include clips from feature films.  Most of the clips are from the films of  Oscar Micheaux whose work was a central component of the ‘race cinema’, segregated film production and exhibition in the USA from the 1910s to the 1940s.

The style of the film is excellent with fine work in cinematography, editing and special effects. In particular there are a series of beautifully composed superimpositions and some meaningful montage. The beauty of parts of the film provide a dramatic counterpoint to the agonies of the story. The testimonies from the family and Recy herself both describe the incident and comment upon it. Two contemporary commentators draw out the key position these events and struggle played in the long march of Afro-American resitance. But late in the film comments by white residents demonstrate how the much remains to be achieved.

This is a powerful and stimulating documentary on issues that, as the news constantly reminds us, remains a central problematic in US culture. What would be good would be if we could have a follow-up with a screening of one of Oscar Micheaux’s powerful film dramas: Within Our Gates (1920) is a classic that addresses both the rape of black women and the lynching of black people.

This week you can see …

Tuesday only.

The Girls / Flickorna Sweden, 1968), a classic and rare film offering a variation on  the seminal story of the ‘Lysistrata’ by Aristophanes. Part of the Radical Film Network’s ‘1968’ Festival.

Monday and Thursday.

The Breadwinner (Eire, Canada, Luxembourg 2017), a fine animation set in Afghan under the Taliban regime. The story is conventional, and reminded me of Osama (2003), The animation, which has two styles, one for the film’s present, one for the story told by the heroine, is beautiful to watch.

Monday to Thursday

Chesil Beach (British, 2017) is adapted from a novella b y Ian McEwan. A newly married couple spend an evening in a Dorset Hotel and on the nearby beach. Flashbacks fill in the back-story of their romance. With many aspects well done but I thought it did not quite cohere.

Wednesday only

Redoubtable / Le Redoutable (France, Myanmar, Italy 2017). Some reports found it funny but fans of Jean-Luc are likely to react with dismay. With English sub-titles for the French and Italian dialogue.

Thursday only

Filmworker (USA 2017) is likely to please the fans of Stanley Kubrick who, unlike Godard, has a good June: 2001 later this month.

Opening Friday

Jeunne femme (France 2017) by a new director portraying Paris and a footloose young woman . Comic and dramatic. Sub-titled in English.

The Wound / Inxeba, South Africa, Germany, Netherlands, France , 2017

Tuesday 29th May 6.30 p.m.

This screening offers a rare opportunity to see a film made in Africa. Supported by European funding the film was shot in the mountains of the Eastern Cape in South Africa. The plot concerns a secret initiation ritual, Ulwaluko, among the Xhosa people. [There is information regarding this in the online Press Notes]. The subject of the film, and the inclusion of a gay theme in the film, has made it controversial in its home country. It has been reclassified as 18 there.

Abroad the film has been well received. It made the short list for the Academy Award category of ‘Best Foreign Language Film’ and was voted ‘Best First Feature’ at the London Film Festival. These two awards presumably explain its availability in Britain.

The director, John Trengove, researched the film among men who had experienced and/or were involved in the rituals. He notes that there seemed,

‘something profound about a ritual that shows a young boy his place in the world of men.”

This is an adult them and the film has a 15 certificate, [“strong sex, language, drug misuse”, BBFC]. Reviews suggest that is is well filmed and set in a majestic landscape. And the cast are credited with convincing portrayals. The film was shot digitally in colour and a ratio of 2.35:1: it uses Xhosa/Afrikaans/English with English sub-titles.

The last African film that I saw, Félicité (from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 2017) was the best new title that I viewed at the Leeds International Film Festival. In the 1980s African films were relatively frequent screenings and offered a world of quality and distinctive cinema. Now they are few and far between and deserve a serious effort to see them.

They Live, also I’m out of bubblegum

Showing Saturday 26th May 10:30pm

Image result for they live!

They Live, Released in 1988 and directed by John Carpenter, is a cult classic for many reasons, not including the fact that it was directed by John Carpenter (Ghosts of Mars).

We follow the story of ‘unnamed drifter’, or in the credits, ‘John Nada’, who comes to town, who discovers some sinister goings on, and is forced to dish out some justice ( see A Fistful of Dollars to continue your unnamed hero cinema binge).

Inspired by the short story ‘Eight O’Clock in the Morning’ by Ray Nelson, John Carpenter wanted this film to be protest at the state of the United States. Specifically the values of Ronald Reagan’s conservative revolution. Carpenter wanted to “scream out in the middle of the night” , about rampant consumerism and government control overtaking the values he was brought up with. They Live! is the 80’s left wing action film we needed.

It’s awesome.

The audience can see John Nada (played by the great Roddy Piper, RIP), goes on this, Platonic journey (see Allegory of the Cave for details), as he puts on some suspicious sunglasses, he see’s the world for what it truly is. No longer does John Nada have the luxury of mistaking appearance for reality, and he is forced to act as an agent of change (via ass-kicking).

The supporting cast is equally awesome, with Keith David returning to the Carpenter fold (Carpenter liked what he saw of him in The Thing!). K.David, supporting but never in the background, is a great choice of casting, and I encourage readers to see him in other things (Pitch Black, Platoon etc). Most recently he lent his voice to the President of the United States in Rick & Morty.

Image result for they live keith david

Keith David being Keith David.

This is one of my favourite John Carpenter films (although I can’t think of one I dislike, even Ghosts of Mars).

Carpenter takes the time to explore the nature of consumerism, that everything around us, is designed to make us buy something. This important topic is pushed through the kaleidoscope of John Carpenters brain, into a wacky, over the top masterpiece.

Peeling back this thin veil (via trendy shades), we get to see this world through the eyes of working stiff Mr.Nada.

Image result for they live!

Trendy shades

This film has everything.

Conspiracy. A WWF wrestler. Paranoia. Reality shattering sunglasses. Keith David.

They live. We sleep.

If you like They Live, you should also check out;

  • Invasion of Body Snatchers (1956 and 1978).
  • Pitch Black (for Keith David).
  • Big Trouble in Little China (1986).

The film will be shown on Saturday night followed by a discussion of its themes and their relationship to situationism and other currents active in 1968. The discussion will be led by Simon Hewitt, who teaches philosophy at the University of Leeds.

Screening as part of Radical Film Network’s 1968 Festival, a programme of screenings and discussions in collaboration with Film Fringe, which celebrate and reflect on the radical uprisings and revolutionary fervour of the events of 1968.

#RFN68


Henry Stocks-Fryer