Bill’s Festival Highlights

Another good year! Special thanks to the Leeds International Film Festival 2021 team for screening an impressive selection of films despite Covid and the non availability of the Hyde Park Picture House and Leeds Town Hall this year.

I watched a total of 8 films

Dear Future Children (2021). Very powerful interviews with young women activists facing huge personal risks in Hong Kong, Santiago and an Ugandan village, plus Q&A with the director.

The Ants and the Grasshopper (2021) following two Malawian women who share experiences of climate change with people from a wide variety of backgrounds in the USA. Great to have this screened while the COP26 Climate Conference was being held in Glasgow. (Available on LeedsFilmPlayer until Thursday)

No Straight Lines: The Rise of Queer Comics (2021), with interviews with some key American women and men artists. The documentary shows how they adapted from underground comics in the late 60s, to supporting people through the AIDS epidemic, leading on to graphic novels and a Broadway show. (Available on LeedsFilmPlayer until Thursday)

Seven Samurai (1954). Great to see on the big screen. Actors were really tough in those days!

Paris, 13th District (2021). Some interesting insights into life in the eight tower blocks of Les Olympiades.

Medusa (2021). A Brazilian feminist horror film. Despite an interesting soundtrack and colour design I struggled to follow the plot in this one.

Compartment No. 6 (2021). A great film showing the common humanity shared between a female Finnish archaeology student and a male Russian mineworker on a long train journey to Murmansk.

The Hand of God (2021). The first half is the hugely entertaining story of a gathering of an extended Italian family, followed by the story of how this and other life experiences have influenced the director’s (Paolo Sorrentino’s) work.

This is but a small taste of the huge range of films on offer. Once again it shows the importance of International Film Festivals in building the  global understanding that we so urgently need.


Bill Walton

Leeds International Film Festival 2021

It’s that time of year again and #LIFF2021 is heading back into venues and also making lots of films available to watch online. Earlier this week committee members Bill Walton and Andy Smith attended the launch of the festival and share their first impressions.

For me one of the delights of the Leeds International Film Festival has been settling into the comfy seats of the Hyde Park Picture House, and watching several films in a row. A pleasure deferred until November next year…

This year we had the usual LIFF launch, with a breathless back to back screening of many short trailers for 55 minutes. This approach does give an impression of the variety of films on offer but is not ideal for decision-making. However I came away with a few clues:

But this is just scratching the surface. I haven’t had time yet to delve into the printed programme yet, so these impressions are very much subject to change. I suggest that you have a look for yourself!

Bill Walton

I always look forward to the LIFF preview so after missing last year it was with a sense of anticipation that I went along to the Vue on Wednesday especially as the venue was bragging about their new seats….I could have happily watched more trailers [and you now can – see below] but was glad that the screening was only 55 minutes as I could not have slouched in those seats for any longer despite having fiddled with the adjustment throughout, there was not a comfortable setting for a back now in its 7th decade….

It was a whirlwind of trailers….

I picked out the same ones as Bill plus:

Our task is now to go through the brochure and working out which films and venues align with work and other commitments with the backstop of the Leeds Film Player [the clashfinder can help with this]

Andy Smith


The festival guides are available from Vue Leeds in The Light, Leeds Town Hall now and more sites around Leeds and Yorkshire soon. For a guide in the post, email your details to leeds.film@leeds.gov.uk.

A PDF version is available online and tickets and passes are on sale now.

A number of festival fans have also put together some things that may help you plan your festival.

  • Clashfinder – see what films are on at the same time, highlight your choices, export to your calendars
  • The Films of #LIFF2021 – a Letterboxd list of most of the films showing at the festival
  • Online films at #LIFF2021 – a Letterboxd lists of most of the films available on the Leeds Film Player during the festival
  • LIFF2021 Trailers – a YouTube playlist of 80+ trailers for films at the festival

Review: Censor (2021)

 Niamh Algar in CENSOR, a Magnet release. © CPL/SSF. Photo credit: Maria Lax. Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.

Censor is Prano Bailey-Bond’s spine chilling debut feature. Set in the mid 80s against the backdrop of social unrest, Thatcherism and the rise of the video nasties. We follow Enid Baines (Niamh Algar) who is a film censor. She lives a nocturnal existence watching a plethora of gore and sin in the films she is charged with watching. One day she views a film that reminds her of a tragedy from her childhood. Triggered by this, she sets out on a journey in which her fiction and reality gets blurred.

The dark and depressive world that Bailey-Bond creates is heightened by Cinematographer Annika Summerson whose hellish visuals adds an expressionistic touch. It is notable that she uses 35mm which echoes the ambience of this bygone era.

The script which Bailey-Bond co-wrote with Anthony Fletcher, is razor sharp, with one scene in particular of suitably over the top gore mirroring the video nasties themselves. However amongst the blood shed there’s occasional moments of truly dark humour. The acting is chilling with Michael Smiley delivering a cool and calculated performance as sleazy film producer Doug Smart. However, the stand out is Niamh Algar who is magnetic on screen. Enid’s character’s arch is one of the film’s takeaways and Niamh plays her unravelling superbly.

The main criticism I have of the film is it’s running time. Although admittedly most horror films tend to be under two hours, you can’t help but feel a little cheated with a running time of one hour and twenty four minutes. You are left with a sense of events being rushed over and plot points not fully explained to get to the deliciously cynical Lynchian style ending.

Sam Judd

Censor is available as a premium rental (£10) from most online platforms including BFIPlayer and Curzon Home Cinema

Summer Of Soul

Showing at City Varieties on Tuesday 10th & Wednesday 11th August at 7:30pm

Summer of Soul (...Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised)

This Sundance award-winner is an absolute joy, uncovering a treasure trove of pulse-racing, heart-stopping live music footage that has remained largely unseen for half a century.

Mark Kermode, Observer (18 July 2021)

Mark Kermode isn’t the only person to suggest this is one of the best concert films ever made and it’s hard to disagree with such claims. The music from Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Sly & the Family Stone, Gladys Knight & the Pips and more really is fantastic, not to mention incredibly moving at several points.

The film is more than just footage from 1969’s The Harlem Cultural Festival. The full title of the film is “Summer of Soul (…Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised)” because, although everybody involved knew how important it was to film these concerts, the footage was never seen and largely forgotten about. Unfortunately we can guess at some of the reasons why it never made it to TV but it’s great that we now get to see it. It was surprising to me how much more contemporary it seems compared to the more widely seen coverage of Woodstock that also took place that summer. The film captures the time and place to great effect, highlighting how much had happened leading up to the end of the decade and how much there was a need, and drive, for change.

It’s another music documentary (see also The Sparks Brothers) that will really benefit from the cinema experience. Not only will it look and sound great but this is a film to be enjoyed and experienced with other people. If you can’t make it to City Varieties it is also available to watch at home on Disney+.

Review: Another Round (2020)

Mads Mikkelsen drinking from a bottle in front of a crowd of people.

First a little quiz:

  • At a party have you ever deliberately tried to knock back enough glasses of wine to bring you to the exact point of being neither drunk nor sober?
  • Have you taken part in the  “Otley Run”,  lurching from one Headingley pub to another? (Another Round features the “Lake Run”, a Danish counterpart)
  • Are you living through a mid-life crisis? Do you long to recover your zest for life?
  • Have you ever drunk so much that you pissed the bed?
  • Or do you despair of people who use alcohol to try and fill their inner emptiness?
  • Are you a Danish student of philosopher Søren Kierkegaard who asked “What is youth? A dream. What is love? The content of the dream”.

However you answered any of these questions, this film is sure to give you additional insights.

Another Round is an entertaining buddy movie about four teachers undertaking some pseudoscientific research. But it is a lot more than that. We learn some key things about their families and their emotional lives and maybe why they behave as they do. We see them drunk and sober (admittedly often quite drunk). We share their joys, grief and reckless abandon. The film does not glorify alcohol, but it does recognise its place in European culture.

Another Round won an Oscar for best international feature. Director Thomas Vinterberg (Festen, The Hunt) has brought together a great cast in this anarchic and life affirming film. Brilliant storytelling, excellent acting (a special shout out to Mads Mikkelsen) and engaging camerawork. The film is dedicated to Thomas Vinterberg’s daughter Ida whose 19 year old daughter died in a road accident just as production began.

I watched Another Round at the City Varieties as part of Hyde Park Picture House On the Road. The staff there were very helpful and have taken great care with social distancing arrangements. I’m sure that they will give us a warm welcome at our Yorkshire Day screening. Hope to see you there!


Bill Walton

Hebden Bridge Picture House Centenary

This surviving independent cinema in the Calder Valley opened its doors on July 12th 1921. A year of celebration starts this Saturday, July 10th, with an evening event this Saturday, starting at 7.30 p.m. and including a screening [digital] of Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid (1921). The Picture House has many affinities with our own Hyde Park Picture House. Both are supported by the local council: both have an active support of a society of Friends: both have histories written and published by the said Friends: both can screen 35mm and digital, even 16mm: both have traditional auditoriums with proper masking and a low level of illumination during screenings: and both have a varied programme including mainstream titles, art and foreign language titles and early films with live music accompaniment.

Hebden Bridge’s first cinema was a wooden structure which opened in 1911. In 1913 the nearby Co-op Hall also started screening the new ‘moving pictures’. Following World War 1 a purpose built cinema was proposed and approved. The rather large building for a small town had a classical exterior and the auditorium boasted a balcony. The opening ceremony included travel and topical pictures and musical quartet. The first features at the new Picture House were two British dramas of the period. Torn Sails (1920) was a tragic romance set in Wales. The Iron Stair (1920) was a crime drama. They were followed by a film directed by Cecil Hepworth, Anna, The Adventuress, a drama of changed identity set in Paris. Hepworth also directed a film using locations around Hebden Bridge, Helen of Four Gates (1920), though that film was screened at the Co-op Hall.

The Picture House flourished through the 1930s to 1950s. There was a period closure in the 1960s and again in the 1970s. But then it came under the control first of the local council, then the Metropolitan Council and finally Hebden Royd Town Council.. It continues furnishing theatrical entertainment for the area though it has suffered in local flooding, most recently in 2016. In the year of celebration there will be screenings of titles from its history, 35mm prints and ‘silents’ with live music..

There is a programme with The Adventures of Prince Achmed / Die Abenteuer des Prinzen Achmed, a dazzling animation by Lotte Reiniger from 1926 using silhouette techniques. In December there is a screening of Pandora’s Box / Die Büchse der Pandora; G. W. Pabst’s film version of Franz Wedekind’s famous or infamous play. The film is illuminated by the luminous Louise Brooks in the main role. And the year ends with a screening of Helen of Four Gates; a print of what was though a ‘lost film’ was discovered in Canada in 207 and has now been fully restored.

The cinema is only ten minutes from Hebden Bridge railway station on the line with regular services between Leeds and Manchester. The balcony is rather cramped with wooden seats; however, the ground floor of the auditorium spacious and comfortable with a commendable low level of illumination during screenings. And the foyer offers real cups of tea with homemade cakes. So a trip to see ‘reel’ film in a real cinema should help assuage the absence until 2022 of our own Picture House.

 

Thank you to Ian Sanderson

With regret the Committee has accepted the resignation of Ian Sanderson, first as Secretary and then as a Committee Member and Trustee. Ian has had health problems and a long programme of treatment. This seems to be coming to a conclusion and we hope Ian will continue healthy and we shall see him at Picture House events and at the Picture House itself when it reopens.

Since the sad death of Peter Chandley Ian has been the longest serving member of the Committee of the Friends. He joined in 1996 when the Friends was relaunched with a Constitution and an elected Committee. Ian was soon elected Chairman and he continued in that post until 2008 when Peter became Chairman and Ian became Secretary.

1996 was the year when the Friends were campaigning for the support of the Council for the Picture House to be extended; a campaign that led to the incorporation of the Picture House in the Grand Theatre & Opera House Trust, [now Leeds Theatres Heritage Trust]. It is that support that has been crucial in the continuing survival of the Picture House up until the current development programme.

Ian was one of the active Committee members in the 1990s when the Friends had a regular Film Club at the Picture House. And he also chaired or supervised meetings and events organised by the Friends: for a time Committee Meetings were held in the basement of the Picture House: a setting suitable for a noir drama. The Annual General Meetings in the mid-1990s were held at the nearby Cardigan Centre. And there were social activities at local public houses; such as The Cardigan Arms. There was also the regular ‘Hyde & Seek’; the then version of a newsletter for the members of the Friends. In a late issue 1997 Ian was writing to Friends, then 200 members.


“Firstly, many thanks to all of you who took the time and trouble to return your completed questionnaires which have been read by the Friends and the cinema management.”

There were comments on the Newsletter; the Picture House programming: and technical issues. This was the point at which the Picture House was able to install Dolby Stereo sound system and [happily] just about all the screenings were in 35mm.

Since the turn of the century Annual General Meetings have been held at the Picture House. And Ian, first as Chairperson then as Secretary, had an important role in these. Along with the Committee Members and the Cinema Manager he organised the three annual Friends’ screening events at the Picture House. And, among other responsibilities, he had to maintain the relations with the Charity Commission.

So Ian has made an important and long-time commitment to the Friends and to the Hyde Park Picture House. The Committee wishes to record on behalf of the membership our appreciation of all his work.

The Father

Showing daily at City Varieties from Friday 18th June

UK poster for The Father featuring Olivia Coleman and Anthony Hopkins

Film has power, film can put you in the shoes of someone else and will make you see the world through their eyes. Florian Zeller’s The Father is an excellent example of this. The film centres on Anthony, played by Anthony Hopkins, who is dealing with his ever deteriorating mind and his descent into dementia. We see the strain it puts on his relationships, particularly the relationship with his daughter Anne, played by Olivia Colman.

Florian Zeller who adapted it from his own play Le Père, beautifully walks the line between both the tragedy and heartbreak that comes with dementia, and the rare comedy that also can be found in those sad situations. If you can’t laugh at yourself, who can?

The story is told almost entirely from Anthony’s perspective, meaning that the audience is confused nearly as much as him for the majority of the film. Although it is intentional and gives a glimpse into his world, at points the non-linear approach can feel overly abstract and detracts from the overall message.

The acting is superb with Anthony Hopkins deservingly walking away with the Oscar, making him the oldest winner for best leading actor. However, it is worth mentioning Olivia Colman who delivers a measured and understated performance as the loyal and grief-stricken Anne who we see trying to balance her own needs and her father’s. The supporting cast members such as Mark Gatiss, Imogen Poots and Rufus Sewell also give equally rich performances.

The artificial style does betray its conception in the theatre which sometimes makes it feel quite unapproachable, and unreal. However, it does at other points add an operatic nature and poignancy which you won’t necessarily get if it was more true to life.

Quite rarely do you see a film that deals with subject matter such as this, that takes such an experimental approach. However, what’s noteworthy is the incredible insight into what dementia patients must be going through. It is something quite unique and will make you think twice.

Sam Judd

Films at Heart

Bill Walton has been checking out some of the films at the Headingley Enterprise and Arts centre.

During Lockdown I’ve watched a lot of films on the small screen (though I draw the line at watching on a phone!), mostly on DVD or streamed from MUBI. But recently I’ve ventured out to events screened at the Heart centre in Headingley … a big screen, indoors, socially distanced, friendly, with flexible seating, refreshments and a friendly welcome.

First was Kurosawa’s Rashomon (1950). This was a tasty Food and Film evening. I hadn’t seen Rashomon before but it lived up to its reputation. The term “Rashomon Effect” has become a byword for situations which demonstrate relative truth and subjectivity of memory. In the film we have conflicting accounts by a woodcutter, a thief, a woman and the spirit of her husband about a violent incident in the forest. Flashbacks highlight the disagreements. What particularly surprised me was the vitality of the cast. Definitely worth more than one watch.

My second visit to Heart was to see Purple Rain (1984) which was arranged by a Prince enthusiast. The soundtrack produced 4 top 40 hits. The rock musical drama draws to some extent on Prince’s early difficult childhood and backstage life at the legendary First Avenue nightclub in Minneapolis. Certainly a charismatic performance.

I’ve already booked for the next Heart Food and Film event on June 18th: a celebration of Mexico with fabulous food and Ariel Award winning film – THE GOLDEN DREAM.

Heart Food & Film Present: Mexican Food and Language Film - The Golden Dream 18 June 2021

Three teenagers, Juan, Sara and Samuel from the slums of Guatemala, travelling together on freight trains and walking railroad tracks through Mexico, meet Chauk from Chiapas who doesn’t speak Spanish. Together they face a journey that will change their lives forever.

For more information and tickets visit the HEART website

The Picture House’s own family friendly Hyde & Seek screenings will be starting again at Heart later this month. These screenings are ‘Pay What You Can’, which means you’re free to pay as much or as little as you can afford but must be booked in advanced via the Picture House website.

The first film is the Disney animated Robin Hood (1973) on Saturday 26th June at 10:30am.

You know, there’s been a heap of legends and tall tales about Robin Hood. All different too. Well, we folks of the animal kingdom have our own version. It’s the story of what really happened in Sherwood Forest

Alan-A-Dale


Bring your family along on the 26th to find out for yourselves.

Two films by Satyajit Ray

May 2nd was the centenary of this outstanding film-maker and a seminal figure in Indian cinema. The British Film Institute is planning a complete retrospective of his films later this year. Whilst we wait and wonder how many actual films will make it to Yorkshire Film 4 offers transfers of two of his fine titles in the coming week.

The family in ‘Mahanagar’

Monday / Tuesday night  at 01.15 a.m. [now available on All4].

Mahanagar (The Big City) – the film was shot in 1963 in black and white academy ratio: the language is Bengali with some English and with English sub-titles: and is set in Ray’s home city of Kolkata (Calcutta). The film follows the experiences of a family home which contains parents, two children and the grandparents on the husband’s side. The husband, Subrata Mazumdar (Anil Chatterjee), works as a senior clerk in a private bank; part of Bengali ‘bhadralok culture’ which Europeans would think of as lower middle class. The large family place a strain on his income and his wife, Arati (Madhabi Mukherjee) offers to help by taking a job. Despite the disapproval of the grandfather Arati obtains a post selling knitting machines door-to-door in middle class areas. Arati is the centre of this fascinating film; Madhabi is splendid as the young wife and the whole cast are excellent. Ray’s direction is beautifully and effectively restrained and his production team are excellent, especially the regular cinematographer Subrata Mitra.

Ray won the prestigious Silver Bear Award at the 1964 Berlin International Film Festival whilst the film won the Golden Bear.. However, the film itself failed to achieve a nomination by the Hollywood academy in the Best Foreign Language Film category; this was typical of the Academy. Mother India made a nomination in 1957; the next success was not until 1988 with Salaam Bombay. Three of Ray’s fine films failed to get nominations.

Wife and husband in ‘Charulata’

Tuesday / Wednesday night at 1255 a.m. [now available on All4].

Charulata (The Lonely Wife) – the film was shot in 1964 in black and white academy ratio: the language is Bengali with some English and with English sub-titles:it is set in Kolkata (Calcutta) in the 1880s. Thus this is a period film which is set in a Bengal and India under the rule of the Raj. This period also follows the 1857 ‘first war of independence’ [termed a mutiny by the British rulers). At one point in the film the Bengali men discuss a British general election contested by the the political parties led by Benjamin Disraeli and William Gladstone.

As the title suggests the film focuses on the young wife, Charu and her relationship with her husband and a visiting relative. Bhupati Dutta plays the husband whilst two actors from Mahanagar, Madhabi Mukherjee and Anil Chatterjee, play Charulata and Bhupati’s younger cousin Amal respectively. The cast are excellent. Ray’s direction provides a slowly paced portrait of the marriage interspersed with some fine lyrical moments. The opening and closing sequences are especially highly praised, [so stay awake].

The scenario was adapted by Ray from a story by Rabindranath Tagore, the leader of the Bengal Renaissance and an important influence of Ray himself. Ray is an auteur in the fullest sense of the term; in this film providing the scenario, costume design, direction and music. However, he relies on a really skilled production team. In particular this film contains some of the finest cinematography by Subrata Mitra.For the second year running Ray won the Silver Bear Award at the Berlinale. Whilst the film did not follow Mahanagar in winning the Golden Bear it is to my mind the finer film and one of Ray’s great achievements.

With adverts both titles will run over two hours. Especially with the Charulata there are few cinematic double hours which offer the same quality and pleasure. If you are new to Ray, or indeed if you are familiar with his films, then the Saudha International Satyajit Ray Congress [available on You Tube] offers a range of interesting comments on Ray’s art.