Faces Places / Visages villages, France 2017

Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday afternoons in the coming week

Happily here is one more chance to see the most recent film by Agnès Varda. Now ninety years old Agnès Varda has graced the world of film since the days when the nouvelle vague transformed both French and European cinemas. Her style is often eclectic and she has a whimsical turn of cinematic phrase. But she always brings a real empathy to her subjects and her films are fascinating but at the same time complex essays into contemporary society. Her new film follows a journey and odyssey with a French photographer known as JR. His approach to the medium is eccentric and unique. Travelling round in a vehicle shaped like a camera he snaps people in places and produces seriously enlarged copies of the image. This is followed by pasting the pictures on public places, mainly walls of buildings. This practice sheds a whole light on the subject and on photography itself.

In the course of their odyssey Agnes and JR discuss topics, revisit places and people and reminisce. Both are often playful but there is an underlying seriousness to their work. And the tone of their encounters and of their installations generates real charm.

A number of titles from Varda’s work over the years have been screened in programme ‘Gleaning Truths: The Films of Agnès Varda‘. These have included features like her early and seminal Cleo from 5 to 7 / Cléo de 5 à 7 (1962) or her documentaries like The Beaches of Agnès (2008) Les plages d’Agnès (2008); films from either end of her long career.

The latter film like this new title is less a documentary and more like a film essay; the forte of one of her peers Chris Marker. This friend and peer is referenced in the film by the ubiquitous cats; another peer, Jean-Luc Godard has a less happy reference. The film is in colour and with English sub-titles, running for 94 minutes.

Women Animators from Near and Far

Tuesday September 25th at 6.30 p.m.

‘They Call us Maids’

This programme offers a selection of animation by women film-makers from a round the world. There will we the opportunity to hear film-makers talking about their work. The occasion for this is the celebration of 40 years of the work of the Leeds Animation Workshop. Over this period they have produced 40 animated films and this evening sees the premiere of a new work, Own Skin, made with their support.

Leeds has been fortunate in enjoying the work of this collective which has produced both campaigning work and agitational films. Screening also is their They Call Us Maids from 2015; a film about the exploitation and abuse of migrant domestic workers. And there is also their earlier No Offence (1996) which uses a fairy tale form to critique sexual harassment at work. So here is the opportunity to see both their campaigning film approach and their subversive use of genre.

There will be eight other titles from Britain and from Canada, the Czech republic and the USA. A selection that will represent the rich tapestry of animation work from near and far.

‘Three Thousand’, Canada 2017

This programme should excite you. If so, the Leeds Animation Workshop have a three day residency at 42 New Briggate [right by the Grand Theatre] from Wednesday. [See the |Workshop Facebook Page].

The Eyes of Orson Welles, Britain 2018

Screening Saturday at 5.10 p.m. And Wednesday at 6.30 p.m.

More than any other film-maker of the sound era Welles seems to embody ‘renaissance man’: that is he ‘can do all things well’. His films sprawl across C20th cinema and Citizen Kane (1941) can still claim to be the outstanding Hollywood production. His series of Shakespeare adaptations on film are some of the finest renderings of the ‘Bard’, and Chimes at Midnight (1965) is one of the most moving. And F for Fake (1973) displayed his interest in magic and deception. His Federal Theatre Project productions, such as ‘Macbeth’ (1936), stood out in the decade. On Radio the Mercury Theatre’s ‘War of the Worlds’ (1938) remains the most famous media spoof in the modern era.

As an actor he graced both his own films and those of many other film-makers: in the 1956 Moby Dick he is as memorable as the great leviathan. For television he was the great raconteur; in the BBC series ‘Orson Welles Sketchbook’ he reminisced as he drew. And in the mammoth BBC Arena interview, when asked about Hollywood he responded,

‘I always liked Hollywood but it was never reciprocated’.

Equally slyly and witty were his famous commercial adverts including that for ‘Carlsberg’.

In this new film Mark Cousins explores Welles painting and drawings. This was a life-long activity and Cousins creates a biographical and artistic study using the art works, photographs, film clips and interviews. As this is Cousins there are slightly fanciful sequences but overall this is a fascinating study of one of the major film-makers of the C20th.

Dawson City: Frozen Time, USA 2016

Tuesday September 4th at 6.15 p.m.

You can now check out this film on the new Picture House Web Pages: replacing those that ‘crashed’ earlier in the year. The film is the work of the fine documentary film-maker Bill Morrison. I saw his earlier The Miners’ Hymns (2011) at the Picture House and it was a fine example of his skills in filming, selection and editing. It also has excellent use of music. This new title has fine musical accompaniment by Alex Somers.

The town and the ‘frozen time’ of the title refer to a cache of ‘lost films’ discovered in a remote township in the Klondike. These are all pre-sound films which were buried in a pool or rink in 1929. About two thirds of the films produced before the arrival of sound in the late 1920s are lost. So such a find is a real excitement for film buffs, Morrison, with his usual skill and command of technique, produces a portrait of the city and the treasure which combines historical detail with aesthetic pleasure. His work, tending to the avant garde, is often elliptical but repays continued attention.

Apart from Film Festivals, including Leeds, this fine film work has not had a British release, so it is great that there is this opportunity to see it here. The film runs for 120 minutes and Morrison uses both black and white and colour footage in the same ratio as the early films, 1.33:1.

 

BlacKkKlansman (2018)

Showing multiple times from Friday 24th August
Panel Discussion With Leeds Black Film Club & the Racial Justice Network
Sunday 2nd September 5pm

Bill was going to encourage you to go and see BlackkKlansman, but he realised that Spike Lee himself does a much better job in this video:

Blackkklansman is already been called one of the most important films of the year and should provide plenty to talk about so The Picture House is excited to welcome representatives of the Leeds Black Film Club and the Racial Justice Network to participate in a post film discussion after our screening of BlacKkKlansman on Sunday 2nd September. The discussion will be not be limited to the panel and audience members are invited to share thoughts/questions and ideas about topics raised in the film including the relevance of Lee’s 1970s set American drama to contemporary British culture.

If you see the film and want to talk about it before the panel, why not leave a comment below. Or even better why not send us a review and become a contributor to this blog.

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)

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

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.