Certain Women, USA 2015

April 8th and 9th only.

This film was screened at the 2016 Leeds International Film Festival but inextricably it was not in the top twenty ‘picks’. It is a very fine film from the talented and stimulating filmmaker Kelly Reichardt. This is a portmanteau film with three stories, all centred on female characters and set in Montana. Laura Dern plays Laura a lawyer: Michelle Williams plays Gina, a business woman, mother and wife building her new house; Kristen Stewart plays ‘Beth’ teaching an evening class on the law. All three actors provide fine performances and the final story also offers stand out performance by Lily Gladstone as Jamie, a worker on a horse ranch.

Reichardt’s films frequently fit into contemporary treatments of the western; such as Brokeback Mountain (2005), though that is a rather different film. She also has a fine feeling for landscapes, assisted her by her regular cinematographer Christopher Blauvelt. Reichardt herself edited the film.

The director also has ‘simpatico’ for our canine friends: witness the fine Wendy and Lucy (2008). In this film Laura is accompanied by a faithful canine retainer and Jamie patrols the ranch in the company of  madcap sheep dog.

These are all reasons to make sure you see the film, or see it again. Note, it is only on Saturday and Sunday as the Leeds Young Film Festival kicks off on Monday. Meanwhile, if like me you are a fan of Kristen Stewart, then she also appears in Personal Shopper (2016) at the cinema: and that film is preceded by high praise from critics. It was directed by Olivier Assayas who also wrote and directed the excellent Clouds of Sils Maria (2014) in which Stewart worked with Juliette Binoche to fine effect.

Free Fire

Showing multiple times daily until Thursday 6th April

The main feature this week is Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire, “a mad contraption, bristling with bravado and black, sardonic wit” according to Robbie Collins in The Telegraph.  The director and local actor, Sam Riley, brought the film to a sold out screening at the Picture House last month as part of a national tour.

Here are some Tweets from that night:

The Salesman / Forushande Iran, France, 2016.

Daily from Friday March 24th until Thursday March 30th

Salesman

This film won the Best Foreign Language title at the Academy Awards. It also gained attention when the director boycotted the ceremony in opposition to new and discriminatory immigration controls by the USA. It is rather pleasing that most notable bane of the USA has recently won two Academy Awards; this title and A Separation / Jodaeiye Nader az Simin in 2012. That title was also written and directed by Asghar Farhadi. This film repeats some of the tropes of the earlier title though the central theme is rather different.

Both films rely on the importance of place for the characters, especially the apartments that provide their home. But this new film has an added dimension: a play within a play, ‘Death of a Salesman’. There are definite parallels between the apartment of the lead characters and the theatrical setting. However, I thought the relationships were closer to Tennessee Williams than to Arthur Miller.

The are fine performances as the central couple by Taraneh Alidoosti as Rana Etesami  and Shahab Hosseini  as Emad Etesami.  They were also a couple in Farhadi’s earlier About Elly / Darbareye Elly (2009) and if you saw that film the relationship then it offers a faint but interesting prequel to that in this film.

This is a fascinating and absorbing study. And the production is very well done. However, I found it was less compelling than the two earlier films made in Iran, [Farhadi has also worked on a French film The Past / Le passé, 2013). And I felt it was not quite as telling in its portrayal of contemporary Iran.

It is still worth seeing, especially as this has not been so far [with a few exceptions] a great year for new releases. Note regarding the UK trailer; it includes more plot than is necessary; and the cutting does not represent the film effectively, this has a rather different tempo,

Elle, 2016

elle-verhoeven
Bill Walton was impressed by Elle and recommends you catch one of the remaining screenings this week…
Our question today is:
“A woman should never be a victim of male violence. Discuss.”
The answer:
“Male violence is obviously intolerable, no exceptions, the ultimate threat of patriarchy.
Nothing more to say …”
We may know where we stand on this, but is there anything else to say? What if a ‘victim’ doesn’t accept victimhood? Is revenge the answer? What are the impacts on friends and family? Might the resulting feelings get complicated? Elle explores this disturbing territory with style and humour, and not a few very uncomfortable moments. The film works so well because of the great cast, with a standout performance by Isabelle Huppert as Michèle Leblanc, and the edgy direction of Paul Verhoeven.  A whirlwind of thrills, suspense, plot twists, shocking behaviour, and so many funny moments.
Michèle “Shame isn’t a strong enough emotion to stop us doing anything at all. Believe me.”

New Programme

March - May Programme

The new programme is now available on the main website as as PDF. The coverstar is Julian Barratt in Mindhorn, which you may remember won the Audience Award at the film festival, and is screening from May 5th. There are a few other LIFF films coming up as well: Cameraperson, Certain Women, The Handmaiden, Raw and Graduation. Speaking of festivals Leeds Young Film Festival runs over Easter from 10th to 20th April and once again it’s a great programme with something for people of all ages. The less-young should look out for Bicycle Thieves (1948), Kes (1969), The Princess Bride (1987) and The Red Turtle (2016) as well as plenty of recent animated and family friendly films.  Also on the 25th April as part of the first Leeds International Festival there’s a screening of Ex Machina (2014) followed by a Q&A with visual effects artist Andrew Whitehurst.

Elsewhere in the programme there are films that have generated a lot of buzz recently (or will do when they get released) : The Love Witch, The Fits, Free Fire, Personal Shopper, The Salesman, I Am Not Your Negro.

We really are lucky to have such a wonderful selection of films coming up over the next few months.

 

Prevenge

Showing Friday 6:20pm and  Saturday 8:45pm

Last month Alice Lowe brought her debut film as a director to Leeds…

The Valentine’s Night screening and Q&A sold out…

and everybody had a great time…

If you missed the film it’s showing again this weekend (Fri 6:20pm & Sat 8:45pm) and as Bill posted on our Facebook page earlier this week, it’s one worth catching:

Did you enjoy American Psycho (2000)?

If so, imagine Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) replaced by Ruth (Alice Lowe). Next, imagine that Patrick Bateman is 8 months pregnant (as Alice Lowe was when she starred in Prevenge) and has moved from Wall Street to South Wales.

And then further imagine that, instead of his murderous impulses being driven by materialism and envy, Patrick Bateman is carrying out his homicidal rampage guided by  his unborn child.

Prevenge is an exuberant, funny and original low-budget film, written and directed by Alice Lowe. There is some great camerawork and a strong supporting cast. And, arguably, its underlying morality is superior to that of American Psycho!

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.

Manchester by the Sea USA 2016

manchester-by-the-sea1Saturday March 4th and Monday March 6th

It is good to have another opportunity to see this film, the best new release so far of 2017. That said, the first two months of the year have been fairly undistinguished: a number of good films but a lack of masterworks [Moonlight (2016) will hopefully remedy this]. This film garnered Lead Actor and Original Screenplay Awards at the recent Academy. I do still worry that a mislaid envelope may turn up and scupper either of these.

Casey Affleck as Lee Chandler is superb and fulfils the promise displayed in his earlier films. The supporting cast are uniformly excellent. I was especially struck by Michelle Williams as Randi Chandler. She has a brief but powerful scene with Casey.

The film also fulfils the promise shown by writer and director Kenneth Lonergan in his previous films. He heads a fine production team and I was particularly struck by the cinematography by  Jody Lee Lipes, with some  beautifully executed exteriors on the North Eastern Atlantic coastline. And the  Film Editing by Jennifer Lame  is very fine, handling a complex set of flashbacks that fill out the story and the drama. Note, the actual town is ‘Manchester-by-the Sea’: odd that the title is different in all release versions as it suggests something else.

This is a film that deals with memories and loss that colour and inhibit the present. The powerful drama delves into these and the accompanying relationships with care and compassion. It is a long film, 137 minutes, but the characters and settings render that timescale completely absorbing.

Fences, USA 2016

Daily, Saturday February 18th through till Thursday February 23rd.

fences-2016-david-gropman-design

The two leading players in this film, Denzel Washington and Viola Davies, have both been nominated for Academy Awards. Viola Davis has already won a Golden Globe as Best Supporting Actress. This, like the Academy Award, nomination, should really be for Best Actress as whilst her screen time is less than Washington her character and performance are equally essential to the film.

This is an actor’s films with both Washington and Davis reprising roles that they played on Broadway in 2010: Troy and Rose Maxton. And another player in this production Stephen McKinley Henderson as Jim Bono is part of a fine supporting cast.

The film is adapted from a play originally written in 1983 by August Wilson. He died in 2005 but had already written a screenplay on which this film is based. Wilson, whose early experiences of US racism informed his work, wrote a cycle of seven plays about Afro-American life and experiences. He insisted that this play, if adapted for cinema, should be directed by an African-American, and Washington both stars and directs.

The play fits into what is almost a genre of African-American life on film, harking back to A Raisin in the Sun (USA 1961), another play adapted first for television then cinema. In fact this film displays its theatrical origins both in structure and settings. It also has lengthy dialogue scenes but the delivery by the fine cast make these compelling and convincing.

The film is set in Pittsburgh in the 1950s and moves onto the early 1960s. These times are an important backdrop to what is essentially a family drama. And the title, as Rose explains to Troy in one powerful scene, is itself a metaphor for the emotions and contradictions dramatised in this absorbing film.