Blade Runner: A Study in Humanity

Blade Runner: The Final Cut – Thursday 28th September 6.00 PM
Blade Runner 2049 showing from October 5th

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Blade Runner, released on 25th June 1982.

Its initial run was met by a lukewarm response from critics, but has since grown into a cult film, and essential viewing for most film fans (especially Sci-Fi nerds). Based on Philip K. Dick’s book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. Blade Runner has formed the building blocks to the genres of neo-noir and cyberpunk, and with the release of the sequel, Blade Runner 2049 (screening from Thursday 5th October), I’m sure it will continue to build on that foundation.

Set in the far flung future of 2019 (which makes the author of this piece wonder if flying cars are just around the corner for us?), the viewer follows Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a retired cop, brought back in by Gaff (Edward James Olmos) to help “retire” rogue replicants, androids created by Tyrell corporation. Harrison Ford’s performance as the anti-hero, who is forced to question the morality of his work by the femme fatale Rachael (Sean Young) , is one of his best.

Ridley Scott takes the viewer on a journey throughout the world, giving us a glimpse into a cyberpunk dystopia (the concept of ‘high tech, low life’ really rings true), the power of the omnipotent state and the unchecked might of corporations (such a Tyrell).

Alongside this exploration of society, is the emerging humanity we see in the replicants lead by Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer), the Nietzschean Ubermensch of the piece, who really steals the show. We witness their struggle for meaning in their existence and freedom they will kill for.

It’s an existential crisis, but with androids and guns.

I wanted to write about Blade Runner for many reasons, but it was mainly for my love of the cyberpunk genre, and with Philip K.Dick being its spiritual founder, I thought it was quite fitting.

If you like Blade Runner you should also read; Neuromancer by William Gibson, Akira (Manga & Anime) by Katsuhiro Otomo, Ghost in the Shell (manga/film) by Mamoru Oshii, 12 Monkeys (film) and if you really want to get into the Noir side of things,you should check out The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler.

But what you really need to watch is the original Blade Runner:The Final Cut at the HPPH on September 28th and then soon after the sequel (starring the dashing Ryan Gosling) Blade Runner 2049 from October 5th.

I’ve been Henry Stocks-Fryer. You’ve been great. Follow the unicorn.

Rabbit-Proof Fence, Australia 2002

On Sunday 24th September – 1.30 PM

The screening jointly presented by the Picture House and Amnesty International. This was a relatively successful release in 2002 given that it is [in part] a foreign-langue film, in Aboriginal and English. The British distribution and exhibition scene does not do very well by such films. So it is good to see it returning to the Picture House for an opportunity to see or re-see a fine and moving drama.

The film is partly based on actual characters and events. In 1931, as part of the oppressive treatment of Aborigines, three young girls are taken from the families and placed in a ‘re-education’ camp. The film follows their epic journey home, following the fence that cuts across the continent. The fact that the fence was a built to control the imported rabbits population is a potent metaphor for the colonial policy in Australia.

The three young performers – two sisters, Evelyn Sampi as 14-year-old Molly and Tianna Sansbury as 8-year-old Daisy, with Laura Monaghan as their 10-year-old cousin Gracie are excellent. Kenneth Branagh plays the Protector of Western Australian Aborigines, A. O. Neville: the actor frequently embodies the British Empire, in this case known by Aborigines as ‘Mr Devil’. And there is David Gulpilil as Moodoo the Tracker, the Aboriginal actor whose career started with Walkabout in 1971.

The film is helmed by Phillip Noyce, the Australian director whose tally of films goes back to the 1970s including the fine Australian Film Commission production Newsfront (1978). The cinematography is the work of Chris Doyle. He is especially noted for his work with the Hong King filmmaker Wong Kar-Wai and he has won prizes at the Cannes and Venice Film Festivals. Here he reveals the sweep and epic nature of the outback landscape.

Fortunately the film, shot on Super 35 and in colour, is screening in 35mm, which will do proper justice to the visuals. And the soundtrack enjoys music by the British composer Peter Gabriel.

When released the film attracted criticism and controversy regarding the representation of the treatment of Aboriginal children. The source for the film is a personal autobiography. The film probably takes liberties in dramatising historical events. But there is plenty of evidence of the inhumane treatment of Aboriginals by the colonial government and the Australian government: from the 1978 The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith there are a number of fine film treatments of the issue,. The recent excellent documentary Al Jazeera on the ‘White Australia’ policy provides evidence on another aspect of the policies in this period.

 

Inherent Vice, USA 2014

Showing Sunday 17th September 1:30pm

as part of Scalarama and the Philosophy & Film series

Sortilège (Joanna Newsom) narrating:

“Inherent vice in a maritime insurance policy is anything that you can’t avoid. Eggs break, chocolate melts, glass shatters, and Doc wondered what that meant when it applied to ex-old ladies”.

Inherent Vice is set in Los Angeles in1970. A classic stoner movie which reflects a counterculture that will be greatly appreciated by audiences who may or may not use cannabis … please remember that the Hyde Park Picture House is a non-smoking venue! The film’s director, Paul Thomas Anderson, adapted the film from the book by Thomas Pynchon.


Sortilège:

“She [Shasta Fay (Katherine Waterston)] came along the alley and up the back steps the way she always used to. Doc Larry Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) hadn’t seen her for over a year. Nobody had. Back then it was always sandals, bottom half of a flower-print bikini, faded Country Joe & the Fish t-shirt. Tonight she was all in flatland gear, hair a lot shorter than he remembered, looking just like she swore she’d never look.”

Doc, a dazed and confused private investigator, takes up Shasta’s case and is soon enmeshed in a surreal world of crime, menace and deception. Love, sex and comedy too are all part of the mix. In the background is the menace of Nixon’s presidency and the Vietnam War. I won’t reveal the plot, largely because I don’t fully understand it myself. Suffice to say that Doc is a brilliantly acted anti-hero, who is joined by a great cast including an upright (or is he?) police officer, Lt. Det. Christian F. “Bigfoot” Bjornsen (Josh Brolin), plus Martin Short, Reese Witherspoon, Benicio Del Toro and Owen Wilson.

In total, it’s an entertaining neo-noir melange of moods and styles. It would take many viewings to grasp all the references to other films and to hippie lifestyles. Maybe you will be a little clearer after the Philosophy and Film Q&A that follows the film …

“What’s Up, Doc?” as Bugs Bunny used to say.


Bill Walton

The End of St. Petersburg / Konets Sankt-Peterburga, USSR 1927

Saturday September 16th at 3.30 p.m.

This was one of several films commissioned in order to celebrate the 10th anniversary of The Great October Revolution. The most famous of these is Sergei Eisenstein’s October Ten Days that Shook the World (1928). Both films include sequences showing the storming of the Winter Place: in fact the filming of these sequences found the two productions ‘stepping on each others’ heels’.

However, Vsevolod Pudovkin, the director, has a different approach to drama and to ‘montage’ from Eisenstein. There are parallels between this film and his earlier adaptation of a Maxim Gorky’s novel, Mother / Mat (1926). This film follows the experiences of a young rural worker who migrates to St Petersburg in search of employment. We follow him in a linear fashion as he experiences the exploitation of the proletariat in Tsarist Russia and he becomes politicised. The film includes very fine sequences showing the advent of war, the experiences of the Russian army and then the series of conflicts that led to the overthrow, first of the Tsarist regime, and then of its bourgeois successor.

Pudovkin, together with his script writer Nathan Zarkhi and the cinematographer Anatoli Golovnya, present the city, the social movements and its representative characters with a strong sense of the world they live in and of the historic events in which they were involved. Whilst Eisenstein’s film ends with the Vladimir Lenin announcing the start of Socialist Construction Pudovkin’s film ends on a quieter note, expressive of the victory but also of the cost it has levied.

The film is screening in a 35mm black and white print. It should have English sub-titles for the Russian title cards and lasts about 85 minutes. This screening enjoys a specially composed musical score by the Harmonie Band who specialise in Silent Film accompaniments.

This is fine film and a signal celebration as we approach the anniversary of the most important event of the C20th. Hopefully we can look forward to other significant dramas and records of 1917.

 

Cinema and Film Heritage

This Sunday, September 10th, film fans have a chance to explore the Hyde Park Picture House as part of a Heritage Open Day. Between 1000 and 1500 they can enjoy the beauty of the cinema auditorium, one of the finest surviving examples in Britain, with its distinctive gas lighting. There will also be conducted tours of the Projection Room every half-an-hour: including the 35mm projectors, fine specimens of a species that is in danger of extinction. These tours will be a little like the recently screened German silent film, Berlin: Die Sinfonie der Grosstadt (1927:  just as the Berlin of 1927 is no longer, the Picture House will soon be remodelled thanks to a Heritage Lottery Fund Award.

Appropriately there will also be a screening of 35mm films. There will all be the work of the ‘Poet of British Cinema’, Humphrey Jennings. His films are beautifully crafted and imaginative portraits of Britain in the 1930s and 1940s.

There will be Spare Time (1939, 13 minutes) a film that reflected the work of Mass Observation, a pioneering sociological research movement of the period. The film visits several regions in 1930s Britain to examine the culture of ordinary working people. The commentary is by Laurie Lee, another poet. I especially enjoy the sequence with the Welsh choir.

Then the wartime film Words for Battle (1941, 8 minutes): documentary footage of Britain during the Blitz is accompanied by a selection of poetry and prose read by Lawrence Olivier.

The Silent Village (1943, 36 minutes) is a retelling of the massacre by the Nazi occupiers of the villagers of Lidice in 1942. This was notorious event early in the war. The film relocates the story to Wales to increase the immediacy of the barbarity.

And finally Listen to Britain (1942, 20 minutes) is one of the true masterpieces of British cinema. Jennings weaves a tapestry of documentary footage, dialogue, sound and music to present the Home Front of a Britain at War.

All these films are in black and white. Note that the last three all enjoy the editing of Stewart McAllister, not always credited but a key colleague in Jennings’s film work. Also important are the regular cameraman H. E. Fowle and the sound engineer Ken Cameron. All contributors to these heritage classics.

Scalarama – Leeds 2017.

Organising film treats for September.

Every September we now have this month-long Festival dedicated to cinema and film of all shapes and sizes. The Festival offers varied pleasures for film lovers and cinema goers across Britain. Happily Leeds has a well-endowed and well organised presence. The recently hoisted Webpages have a full list of titles, events and venues throughout September.

Wednesday August 23rd sees the programme launch at the Left Bank in Cardigan Road – 7.30 to 11 p.m. As well as fliers and details there will be a new documentary, Jobriath A.D. and live music from ‘Das Pain’.

From September 1st, there will be almost daily events spread across the whole city. The titles that catch my attention include:

Berlin: Symphony of a Great City / Berlin: Die Sinfonie der Groβtadt (1927) at the Hyde Park Picture House. This is a classic ‘city symphony’ from the silent era. Tending to the abstract it is dazzling portrait of Berlin. And there will be a live piano accompaniment.

Moonlight, the surprise Academy Award winner this year, is at the Otley Film Society. The film is engaging, unconventional and beautifully realised.

My Life as a Courgette /Ma vie de Courgette  (2016) is at HEART in Headingly. This is a delightful French animation, with an inventive and slightly oddball story.

The Intruder aka The Stranger (1962), is at Wharf Chambers. A cult film by Roger Corman,  set in the earlier segregation period: it seems eerily prescient in 2017

London Symphony (2017) at Left Bank. This is a C20th ‘city symphony’. Only just released but promising a visual treat.

Do the Right Thing (1989) at Leeds Cineforum [ previously The Arts PGR Film Club]. Spike Lee’s masterwork spoke volumes about the USA of its decade and still speaks loudly today.

There is a lot more: and enough to satisfy every taste.

Notes from another India

Wednesday August 16th at 6.30 p.m.

Kolkata view.

This is another screening presented by the Pavilion together with the Picture House. In fact, we can look forward to a number of films about the su-continent and the sates created seventy years ago, in 1947, India and Pakistan. As one would expect from the Pavilion these are unconventional film which offer a distinctive take on the sub-continent na d its culture.

Here the focus will offer :

“three perspectives on Kolkata, a city whose name was anglicised to Calcutta during the British Imperial period, then officially changed to it’s Bengali pronunciation in 2001.”

First we have

Tales From Planet Kolkata, Ruchir Joshi 1993, 38 min)

He is an Indian writer and filmmaker and also authors a columns in ‘The Telegraph’, ‘India Today’ and other publications. He was born in Kolkata and how is an artist tin the Diaspora, commuting between London and Delhi.

“In 1993, Ruchir Joshi decided to spoof the Western cinematic notions of the city that he loves. “My documentary Tales From Planet Kolkata was made to mock the popular perception of the city. I was fed up of everyone telling me about the progression of Mumbai and Delhi while Kolkata, apparently, languished in the backwaters,” says Joshi.” (From ‘Indian Express’: the film was commissioned by Channel 4.

Mark Lapore [or LaPore] was a USA-based experimental filmmaker and teacher: he died in 2005. The ‘Boston Globe obituary included the comment on Lapore’s films as :

”unique, a form of visual anthropology but equally about the mystery of being and film as consciousness. These uncompromising films have enormous integrity and deserve a very important place within the entire history of film.’”

Two films by Lapore are featured:

The Glass System (Mark Lapore, 2000, 20 min)

Kolkata (Mark Lapore, 2005, 35 min – his final film)

And finally there is an excerpt from

Dreams and Apparitions of Mark Lapore (Saul Levine, 2006/7, 12 min)

friends and colleagues of Lapore talk about him and his work.

Lapore’s film are screening from 16mm, [a rare pleasure] and the other films are on video.

This will be a good way to kick off one of the important anniversaries of 2017.

Dunkirk, Netherlands, UK, France, USA 2017

Opens on Friday  July 21st at 6.15 p.m.

This is the new film directed by Christopher Nolan. He is not only an extremely talented filmmaker but also one who appreciates the superior qualities of ‘reel’ film. In an interview in Sight & Sound (August 2017) he explained that

“The entire film is shot on 65mm film. Seventy per cent of the film is 15 perf IMAX 65 and the other 30 per cent is 5 perf 65mm [‘perf” refers to the number of perforations on the print: the IMAX format runs horizontally rather than vertically]. …

Also, the entire film is finished photo chemically and so where we’re doing 70mm prints and were doing reductions of the IMAX photography, those are done on an optical printer. [A device for copying or altering film prints].”

However, the 70 mm version does not appear to be screening in West Yorkshire and the IMAX screenings all seem to be digital. So the screening of a 35mm print at the Hyde Park is definitely the best version on offer locally.

The epic of Dunkirk, a ten day military disaster that somehow is presented as a victory, looms large in the British psyche. And it also figures frequently in British cinema.

The Foreman Went to France (Ealing Studio 1942, in black and white) presents a parallel story about the evacuation of vital machinery from France to Britain.

A fictional treatments of the actual evacuation appears in a Hollywood product, M-G-M’s Mrs Miniver (1942 in black and white) with Greer Garson holding up the home front whilst husband Walter Pidgeon joins the heroic armada rescuing British and allied soldiers.

The definitive version to date is Ealing Studio’s Dunkirk (1958, in black and white and standard wide-screen) with John Mills, Richard Attenborough and Bernard Lee leading a familiar cast of British characters. This is very much in the mould of the low-key British war movies. It combines scenes of military action with the intervening moments of the troops waiting and watching as the evacuation proceeds.

Intriguingly there is a French treatment, Week-end à Zuydcoote / Weekend at Dunkirk (Paris Film Production, 1984 in colour and a scope format). This deals with French troops stranded on the beaches.

More recently Atonement (Universal Pictures and Studio Canal 2007, in colour and standard wide screen) has a fine sequence as James McAvoy’s Private Turner waits and dies on the crowded beaches.

Most recently Their Finest (BBC Films, Pinewood Pictures , 2016 in both colour and black and white and a scope format] offers a film-within-a film [The Nancy Starling] celebrating the event, whilst the main narrative celebrates British filmmakers of the period with a certain amount of irony.

It will be interesting to see where the treatment by Nolan and his team fits into this cinematic discourse.

Dr. Strangelove, Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb

Showing Saturday 29th July 10pm

General Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden): “Mandrake, do you recall what Clemenceau once said about war?”
Group Captain Lionel Mandrake (Peter Sellers): “No, I don’t think I do, sir, no.”
General Jack D. Ripper: “He said war was too important to be left to the generals. When he said that, 50 years ago, he might have been right. But today, war is too important to be left to politicians. They have neither the time, the training, nor the inclination for strategic thought. I can no longer sit back and allow Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, Communist subversion and the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.”

All is not well on Burpelson Air Force Base. The sign outside the base says PEACE IS OUR PROFESSION; nevertheless a senior commander has ordered B-52 bomber crews to launch a nuclear first strike on Russia. For sure, the United States President and his Joint Chiefs of Staff below ground in the Pentagon War Room are extremely worried.

Can the planes really not be recalled?

Has the human element in the military machine set us on course for catastrophe?

Surely the American and Russian leaders can be trusted to avoid the doomsday nightmare …

Maybe Dr. Strangelove (Peter Sellers) will give them helpful advice about avoiding Mutual Assured Destruction.

Dr Strangelove is a brilliant satire on the Cold War, strong on suspense and high on humour. Director Stanley Kubrick brings us a stellar cast, and stunning photography combined with excellent set design and soundtrack. What’s more, it raises important ethical issues. Unsurprisingly is has often been voted one of the best films of the 20th Century.

 General Buck Turgidson (George C. Scott): “Mr. President… I’m beginning to smell a big, fat Commie rat.”
President Merkin Muffley (Peter Sellers): on phone to Russian premier: “Dimitri, we have a little problem … “

P.S. DJT tweets: FAKE NEWS! They made up a phony collusion with the Russians story, found zero proof, so now they go for obstruction of justice on the phony story. Nice


Bill Walton

New Programme: July – September

The new film programme starts on July 14th and is now available as a PDF on the website, the printed version should be available from the cinema early next week.

It includes new films from directors Sofia Coppola (The Beguiled), Christopher Nolan (Dunkirk – on 35mm celluloid) and Kathryn Bigelow (Detroit). The cover image is from God’s Own Country, the phenomenal debut feature from Yorkshire filmmaker Francis Lee  (you may remember his 2013 short film Bradford Halifax London ). Francis will be attending a special preview Q&A on Wednesday 23rd August.

Other highlights include selections of films for the new INDIs Festival, an Amnesty International miniseries focussing on children’s rights. Our Friends’ screening to celebrate Yorkshire Day will take place on Sunday 30th July and is a double bill of The Battle For Orgreave (1985) and The Battle of Orgreave  (2001). Two very different but complementary approaches to documenting the fractious period in British history which encompassed the miner’s strikes of 1984-1985.

What are  you looking forward to seeing, let us know in the comments below.