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

Barbarella: 60’s Space Romp

Creatures of the Night: Saturday 5th May 10:30pm

Barbarella (1968), based on the French comic series of the same name (by Jean-Claude Forest), is a cult classic for a reason. Several reasons really.

We (the audience) follow the beautiful space adventurer Barbarella (Jane Fonda) on her mission to retrieve the scientist Dr. Durand Durand, to stop his super weapon, the positronic ray, falling into the wrong hands.

The opening scene, iconic and eternal,  Barbarella, floating around her ship, undressing. It just gets better and better. The Sci-Fi adventure is a product of its time, Jean-Claude wanted Barbarella to be representative of a free and liberated woman. This was the 60’s, and it was all about free love. Barbarella faces numerous perils in her journey to find Durand Durand, discovering sex and pleasure along the way. One early sequence, Barbarella is taught what “actual” sex is, as opposed to what has developed on earth in the future (taking pills and touching hands), far from the natural way of doing things. You can really see the films influence on future sci-fi film’s tackling of sex ( see Demolition Man).

From start to finish, the film is steeped in eroticism, fashion and far out ideas. To compare it to another cult classic, 2001:A Space Odyssey which came out the same year, a cold realistic view of space and humanities future. Barbarella came out of the psychedelia of  the 1960s, one of the most striking aspects of the film is the bizarre scenery that the titular character crashes into from scene to scene. It’s far out maaaaan.

Dealing with a chaotic, bizarre and weird worlds, we follow Barbarella on her weird journey of her mission to save the universe, and her own personal sexual exploration. Barbarella’s use of sex is inherent to film and its plot.

The film doesn’t feel hemmed in by tropes or rules, and because of this, we get an enjoyable, if not a little chaotic film. Some aspects of it may seem dated, but that comes with any piece of cinema.

If you are in the mood for a weird sci-fi space adventure with erotic overtones, Barbarella is the film for you.

You may also like these non-erotic recommendations;

  • Logan’s Run
  • Demolition Man
  • Flash Gordon

Henry Stocks-Fryer

The Third Murder / Sandome no satsujin, Japan 2017

Screening Sunday April 29th at 12 noon and Thursday May 3rd at 3.10 p.m.

Happily we have two screenings of the new Koreeda Hirokazu film. His earlier titles include the beautifully low-key Our Little Sister (Umimachi Diary, 2015) and the more dramatic but equally complex After the Storm (Umi yori mo mada fukaku, 2016). Koreeda is both a seriously fine film-maker and adept at working across genres. Apart from these two titles his output includes the children’s adventure I Wish (Kiseki, 2011); the Samurai film Hana (Hana yori mo naho, 2006); After Life (Wandafuru raifu, 1998) set in an equivalent of the Christian purgatory.

In this new film Koreeda again rings the changes in what appears on the surface to be a ‘legal thriller’. Misumi (Yakusho Kôji) is under arrest and charged with murder. A previous conviction for a double murder explains the title. Shigemori Tomoaki (Fukuyama Masaharu) is recruited to his defence team. He finds that Misumi’s account of events changes nearly every time he is questioned. He also finds that the family of the murdered victim, the wife Yamanaka Mitsue (Saito Yuki) and daughter Yamanaka Sakie (Hirose Suzu), also offer suspect testimony. The legal plot is not about innocence or guilt but the severity of the charge which may or may not lead to execution.

But if Koreeda works across genres, as an auteur, he is still identifiable by the themes which dominate his films. In this drama three of the main characters are fathers who have failed their families, in particular a daughter. Here the film crosses over with many of the director’s earlier works. Along with those mentioned these include Still Walking (Aruitemo aruitemo, 2008) and Like Father, Like Son (Soshite chichi ni naru, 2013).

There are parallels in the settings as well. The main places are towns close to the Tama River, south of Tokyo; but we also visit the region of Hokkaido in the north, noted for its cold climate.

The style is somewhat faster in rhythm than Koreeda’s other recent films. Here the team are working for the first time in an anamorphic ratio. Cinematographer Takimoto Mikiya makes excellent use of the wide frame. There are some evocative night-time sequences and a stunning use of superimposition late in the film. Koreeda who scripted, also edited this production. And there is an evocative music score by Einaudi Ludovico.

I thought, along with Sweet Country (Australia, 2017), that this is the most impressive new release so far in 2018. The film was shot in a digital format and has transferred very well to DCP. The quality of the visual and aural presentation means that much of the pleasure from the film will be missing on video or download. So this is a title to be seen at the cinema.

Isle of Dogs USA Germany 2018

Screening every day Saturday through till Thursday April 12th

Judging by the sell-out for the preview screening this title is the most eagerly awaited new release this year. Cult director Wes Anderson has produced a digital animation in colour and widescreen. The film is produced by his own Indian Paintbrush but also involving Studio Babelsberg, a partner in the earlier The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014). Babelsberg was once the site where Weimar cinema produced trailblazing special effects in the 1920s. Set in Japan, though with predominantly English dialogue, the film offers a pack of leading canine players voiced by well-known stars. Owners with cinephilic pets can enjoy a special dog-friendly screening on Saturday April 7th: repeated on April 14th. Later on the 7th a rather different canine representation can be seen in Samuel Fuller’s White Dog (1982).

Wes Anderson has experience of both animation and star voicing in Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009). He also used the techniques in the underwater sequences in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004). The plot revolves around a boy’s search for a lost dog. Youthful protagonists, along with dogs, have been seen in several Anderson titles, notably in my personal favourite Moonrise Kingdom (2012). This film also had one finest uses of an established composer [Benjamin Britten] so it will be interesting to see how Anderson and his team handle musical accompaniment.

The film also seems likely to stray close to the style and themes of Japanese anime. Anderson is, like a number of contemporary film-makers, also a film buff. His American Express: My Life. My Card was a brilliant homage to François Truffaut’s own celebratory Day for Night (La nuit américaine 1973). And I think Anderson must have had some involvement in the ‘Isle of Dogs mobile phone warning trailer’ screening at Picturehouse venues. Let us hope audiences have seen the latter.

What seems likely to be new thematically is an apocalyptic narrative. There is though the school drama in Rushmore (1998) which tends a little in that direction. What should be certain, noting Anderson’s existing output and the reviews of his new film, is that it will offer a very entertaining 100 minutes.

PS The film  is brilliantly done with excellent stop motion animation and CGI. The visual and aural quality on the DCP is fine. The canine characters speak English whilst the human characters speak Japanese with aural translation or sub-titles into English.  The soundtrack includes music by ALexandre Desplat, Hayasaka Fumio and  Sergei Prokofiev. The references and homages come thick and fast and it probably takes two viewings to catch them all. However, there are a number for Kurosawa Akira.

Hairspray, USA 1988

Showing Saturday 31st March 11pm

Maybe you are too young to remember the ‘60s.
And if you remember the ‘60s, you really weren’t there!!
Now, who first said that … was it Timothy Leary, Pete Townshend, Grace
Slick, Robin Williams or someone else? … well, whoever it was, this
great John Waters movie is your gateway to early ‘60s Baltimore.

Hairspray reveals a world of big hair, plus-size models, the Corny Collins
teenager dance show (with its “Negro Day” on the last Thursday of every
month), Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” and, of course, exuberant dances like
The Twist, The Mashed Potato, and The Watusi.

Motormouth Maybelle Stubbs (Ruth Brown): No matter what you’ve
heard, we are gonna teach the white children how to do The Bird!

Despite the upbeat music, all is not well in Maryland. Racism is an ever-
present reality. Life is certainly a bit of a challenge for some of the
parents like Edna and Wilbur Turnblad (Divine and Jerry Stiller), and
Velma and Franklin Tussle (Debbie Harry and Sonny Bono). And it’s not
just the dancing. Listen up …

Amber Von Tussle, Franklin von Tussle: Segregation today. Segregation
tomorrow. Segregation forever!

But the times, they are a changin’. Something’s blowin’ in the wind.
Iggy (Josh Charles): Would you swim in an integrated swimming pool?

Tracy Turnblad (Ricki Lake): I sure would, Iggy. I’m a modern kind of girl,
I’m all for integration.

It’s subversive. It’s gleeful. It’s bawdy. And the issues raised by
Hairspray remain very relevant today. Be there or be square!

As delightful Tracy Turnblad exclaims: Let’s dance!


Bill Walton

Aliens: Ripley’s Back Believe It or Not

sigourney-weaver-as-ripley-in-james-camerons-aliens
Released in 1986, the xenomorph returned to the silver screen under the vision of budding Canadian Director James Cameron, who got his start with Piranha II: The Spawning (seriously look it up).

Cameron’s incarnation of the Alien universe is different to the atmospheric space horror that Ridley Scott brought to life, bursting through some poor souls chest and into our collective consciousness. Cameron made Alien into an action-movie. That’s not a bad thing.

We return to Ripley (played by the wonderful Sigourney Weaver), who has been floating around in statis for 57 years. She’s rescued and unfortunately, no one really believes her stories of aliens and blowing up ships for legitimate reasons. The audience can really join in with the Socratic irony of the this, the enraging knowledge that THERE’S ALIENS and no one really believes her. Oh how wrong they were.

Ripley, along with a rag-tag group of marines, is sent to investigate a colony that has gone erily silent. This is where elements of Cameron’s Aliens take hold, where horror shifts gracefully (or not so) into action. Ships, guns and plenty of flame throwers make this ride into the Aliens universe intense in a whole other way, and the ending….oh boy.

Cameron isn’t just explosions and one-liners, he continues to explore the themes set out by Scott in the previous film. Ripley’s distrust of androids and the uncanny valley that comes with that territory is explored further with her interactions with Bishop (Lance Henriksen), a staple of science fiction, with good reason.

The extent of mega corporations power in the future, the ineptitude of those in power, survival and the horrors of things we do not know. Aliens is favourite amongst science fiction fans, because it explores these themes, and at the same time…it’s an adventure.

Ellen Ripley, is the real star of this, not the xenomorph (sorry Giger). Ripley is possibly the start of a long line of amazon-heroines. Sarah Connor, Xena, Buffy…the list goes on. But Ripley was at the forefront, and Weaver’s performance in this well rounded/written character cements her as an icon. This stock character is a firm favourite of mine, and Ellen’s true grit ensures no acid-spitting alien is going to take her down.

Please watch this film. It’s essential.

Stand out performance: Carrie Henn as Newt.

If you like this you should also watch;

  • Starship Troopers
  • Piranha II: The Spawning
  • Event Horizon

Henry Stocks-Fryer

The Creature From the Black Lagoon: A Fishman Out of Water Story

Creatures of the Night: Saturday 24th February 10.30 PM

blacklag

The Creature From the Black Lagoon, the title is typical of the science fiction films of the  1950s, especially, Jack Arnold, director of this motion picture. The title does exactly what it says on the tin. Same with Jack Arnold’s other films (which I encourage our readers to see), The Incredible Shrinking Man (one of his best), Tarantula and It Came From Outer Space.

Originally filmed in 3D (a fad which went away eventually…), Arnold takes the audience on a trip deep into the Amazon. The suspense of the piece is carried on masterfully by the director, the constant looming presence of the creature is felt, Jaws before Jaws.

The exploration of evolution, and of the future is a theme in this film. Constant references to the world of tomorrow, and how science can help humanity advance, its pro-science leading man and woman, help cement it as a film ahead of its time. Gil-Man, the creature, is not the only star player in this piece, Richard Carlson alongside the beautiful Julie Adams, bring a classic Hollywood charm to the film.  Carlson’s character (David) is a forward thinking sort, at conflict with his less noble intentioned coworkers. Julie Adams performance as Kay as one to watch out for, playing the girlfriend and coworker of David. A character in her own right (instead of the atypical damsel in distress), bringing a refreshing change to the two dimensional female leads of B-movies. Of course it is not all about scientific discovery, as we see Gil-Man become infatuated with Kay, and his various attempts to carry her off to his lagoon lair bring further drama to this tense film.

We can see that Jack Arnold wanted to portray David and Kay as the future, of what society and people should be striving towards. They are still imperfect, but they are getting there).

Future meets ancient past as the intrepid science team stumbles into the black lagoon, disturbing the Gil-Man, and prompting him into action against these intruders. There are no true bad guys in this film, which makes it all the more well rounded. There’s no cartoonish villain twirling a comic moustache. Gil-Man might be a tragic monster, more akin to Frankenstein’s Monster than Dracula. Although he is not a monster of human creation, merely left behind by evolution….

This is one of my favourite monster-horror films, and was the start of the 50’s sci fi film binge (recommended list below). The atmosphere, the well rounded characters, the action and of course, the design of the monster it(him?)self all come together to create an iconic piece of cinema.

Come join us at the Hyde Park Picture House, Saturday 24th February 10.30pm. Popcorn is essential.

Further viewing, if classic sci-fi is your thing, check out the following;

  • The Incredible Shrinking Man
  • Forbidden Planet
  • The Day the Earth Stood Still.
  • Attack of the 50 foot Woman. (so bad it’s good)

Henry Stocks-Fryer

The Post, USA 2017

From today and on Sunday January 28th at 5.00 p.m. with a Q&A

You can see the Academy Award nominated film and be involved with a Question and Answer session with Granville Williams at this special screening. Granville is an experienced writer on the Newspaper and Media Industries and is the Editor of ‘FreePress’ from the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom.  He writes;

The Post in an honourable addition to Hollywood films (All The Presidents Men (1976), Good Night, and Good Luck (2005), Spotlight (2015)) which portray journalists and journalism in a positive way, as opposed to grubby hacks chasing squalid, sensational headlines .

When I see films like these I wonder why UK film directors haven’t tackled such subjects. Couldn’t the dogged work of Guardian journalist, Nick Davies, as he probed and finally exposed the industrial scale of phone-hacking at Murdoch’s ‘News of the World’, be a suitable subject?

The credits for The Post say it is ‘based on a true story’ and whilst I can quibble with the way the film modifies some of the facts about the way the Washington Post’s publisher, Katharine Graham, finally came to back publication of the Pentagon Papers, I think the film captures perfectly how enmeshed she was in the Washington elite and the political and commercial pressures on her to take an easier route, and not publish the papers.

I will talk more about this in the Q&A session following the 5.00pm showing of the film on Sunday 28 January at the Hyde Park Picture House. Here I just want to develop a couple of points about two aspects of the film.

One is the way that Spielberg focuses on the old hot metal printing press scenes and the workings of the Linotype machines assembling the lines of type for the stories. It’s very evocative.

In 1975 after Watergate there was a ferocious strike by printers which set her and the newspaper on a conservative course. Graham devoted dozens of pages in her autobiography ‘Personal History’ to vilifying Post press operators who went on strike in 1975. She stressed the damage done to printing equipment as the walkout began and “the unforgivable acts of violence throughout the strike.”

John Hanrahan, a Newspaper Guild member at the Post, wouldn’t cross the picket lines and never went back. He pointed out,

“The Washington Post under Katharine Graham pioneered the union-busting ‘replacement worker’ strategy that Ronald Reagan subsequently used against the air-traffic controllers and that corporate America — in the Caterpillar, Bridgestone/Firestone and other strikes — used to throw thousands of workers out of their jobs in the 1980s and the ’90s.”

The other point is on the role of Ben Bagdikian in the film – he’s the journalist who gets access to Daniel Ellsberg and persuades him to hand over 4000 pages for the Post to use. He was national editor on the Post, a man who the editor, Ben Bradlee, in his autobiography, ‘A Good Life’, describes as ‘thorny’. Bagdikian had a big influence on me, and others interested in media reform. He wrote a key book ‘The Media Monopoly’  (1983) which warned about the chilling effects of corporate ownership and mass advertising on US media. Fifty corporations owned most of the US media when he wrote the first edition. By the time he wrote ‘The New Media Monopoly’ (2004) it had dwindled to five.

NB A couple of friends who have already seen the film thought it helps if one is clear about ‘The Pentagon Papers’. You can check this out on Wikipedia.