|Date of screening
This is a ferocious and prescient satire of television, network news, and the stupidity of the public. It is the story of a news anchor in the twilight of his career who regains his appeal when he “goes crazy.” But it is more, taking on a range of social issues from feminism to political radicalism. If you are interested in television and media it is probably mandatory. It has been described as one of the most radical American movies ever made. Directed by Sidney Lumet from an (Oscar winning) script by Paddy Chayefsky, the film stars Peter Finch and Faye Dunaway, both of whom won academy awards for their performances.
|Empire of the Sun
From the autobiographically-based novel by J. G. Ballard, this is the story of a British boy stranded in Shanghai during World War Two, forced to grow up amidst the horrors of the surrounding war. It stars young Christian Bale, along with John Malcovich, Miranda Richardson, and Nigel Havers. This is sometimes regarded as Director Steven Spielberg’s first serious film. The script was by Tom Stoppard. It is thought to have been much underrated.
’Paris, Texas’ is, probably, Wim Wenders' most well known, critically acclaimed, and successful movie. This unusual road movie, with screenplay by acclaimed playwright Sam Shepard, tells the tale of Travis, a man lost in his own private hell. Presumed dead for four years, he reappears in the desert on the Mexico border, totally amnesiac and unresponsive. His brother Walt, who is bringing up Travis’ seven-year-old son Hunter, brings him back home with him and slowly Travis’ memory starts to recover. As virtual strangers, Hunter and Travis begin to build a wary friendship and conspire to find Jane, Travis’ ex-wife and Hunter’s mother, and bring her back to be a real family. With extraordinary performances from Harry Dean Stanton as Travis and Natassja Kinski as Jane, the film also boasts a soundtrack by Ry Cooder, ideally suited to the film's sun-bleached landscapes and melancholy undertones. The film won several awards, including the Cannes Palme D'Or for Best Film in 1984.
|Exit Through the Gift Shop
This is a documentary by the street artist Banksy, telling the story of Thierry Guetta, a French immigrant in Los Angeles, who is himself obsessed with street art and with documenting his own life. The film takes a satirical and ironic view that many have found very funny. It may be an exposure of modern art; or perhaps it is itself an elaborate hoax. It premiered at Sundance and was nominated for an Academy Award.
‘Stroszek’ is one of the oddest films ever made: it is the tale of three mismatched friends—each a loser—who set out from claustrophobic Berlin to find fortune and happiness in the wide open spaces of northern Wisconsin, in winter, with very little money and hardly any knowledge of English. It would be difficult to imagine three people less fit for such a journey. A positive ending is impossible, but Herzog manages to surprise his audience at every step of the way. Herzog wrote the script in four days for Bruno S. who makes an extraordinarily compelling performance in the leading role. Most other parts are played by non professional actors.
The film for Sunday, 3rd November will be John Ford's "The Searchers" (1956). This is considered the greatest Western of all times, and one of the most influential movies the history of cinema. The plot is set in Texas, right after the American Civil War. It tells the story of a former confederate, Ethan Edwards (John Wayne) and his nephew Martin (Jeffrey Hunter) in the search for Ethan's niece, Debbie (Lana Woods), who has been abducted by the Comanches after raiding Edward brother's ranch. The movie has been praised for the complexity of the main character, Ethan Edwards, for the highly charged atmosphere of violence, and for being a masterful reflection on the meaning of "identity". The story is allegedly inspired by the kidnapping of a nine-year-old girl by Comanche warriors who raided her family's home at Fort Parker, Texas, in 1836
|Let the Right One In
Start your Halloween celebrations with a scary movie from Sweden. The story is set in the 1980s. It is the story of a bullied young boy who befriends a vampire. But fear not, it goes well beyond the standard vampire genre. It is beautifully filmed but essentially dark and unsentimental. Directed by Tomas Alfredson, the film is based upon the novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist, who also wrote the screenplay for the film.
The film for Tuesday, 5 November will be “Los Olvidados” (1950). A powerful but unsentimental document of social problems, the story concerns poor children in a slum of Mexico City. Its approach has been compared to that of Italian neo-realism, but with elements of director Luis Buñuel’s distinctive sensibility. This is one of the great films Buñuel made during his residence in Mexico, and has received international acclaim. Buñuel’s own later work would develop a different sensibility, but “Los Olvidados” was widely influential.
The film for Sunday, 10 November, will be “Happiness” (1998) written and directed by the independent American film-maker Todd Solondz. Awarded in Cannes Film Festival for "its bold tracking of controversial contemporary themes, richly-layered subtext, and remarkable fluidity of visual style”, the movie tells the story of a pedophile and how he destroys his family, but the sub-plots are as important as the main theme. The film contains amazing doses of dark sense of humor, and a tremendous absence of political correctnes – these are apparently the trademarks of Todd Solondz. “Happiness” has been very controversial, but at the same time it was considered the best film of 1998 by Newsweek.
The film for Tuesday, 12 November will be “A Prophet” (“Un prophète”) (2009). A French petty criminal of Algerian background is sentenced to prison. Barely literate upon arrival, he works his way through the hierarchy of organized crime in the prison. Director Jacques Audiard made the film from an original screenplay. It explores contemporary social conflicts, but most have found it also to be a compelling and watchable crime story. The film won the BAFTA and the Grand Prize at Cannes, and was nominated for an Academy Award.
The film for Sunday, 17 November, will be “The Hustler” (1961). Paul Newman stars as “Fast Eddie” Felson, a small-time pool (billiard) hustler who aspires to greater achievement in his craft. Along the way he falls in love. Shot in black and white Cinemascope, the film takes us through a seedy world of pool halls, diners, and hotels in the mid-20th century United States. You will not need to like pool to find this a terrific and absorbing film. Directed by Robert Rossen, it also stars Jackie Gleason, George C. Scott, and Piper Laurie.
The film for Tuesday, 19 November, will be “Lust, Caution” (2007). We return to wartime Shanghai. Director Ang Lee adapts Eileen Chang’s espionage novel about a plot by Chinese students againt the occupying Japanese forces. But it is also a love story, and an explicit one. Tony Leung stars with Tang Wei in a sexy and visually stylish drama.
Altman’s films are famous for their large casts and overlapping dialogues. ‘Short cuts’ presents a great example of this: the film which was originally inspired by Raymond Carver’s short stories follows 22 different characters in loosely interlinked stories. The main focus is on couples whose relationships are, at one point or another, subjected to small, seismic shudders of doubt, disappointment or, in a few cases, disaster. But Altman is mainly concerned with coincidences and the messiness of real life, which results in a tragicomic picture of ‘ordinary’ people and human relationships that is just quite simply great to watch.
|The King of Comedy
The Film for Tuesday, 26 November will be “The King of Comedy.” (1983) A black comedy, this is one of the more original, but less celebrated, works from Director Martin Scorsese and star Robert De Niro. De Niro stars as Rupert Pupkin, an aspiring comic whose delusions of his own potential lead him to try anything to become a star, or just get close to one. His celebrity obsession shows us a different kind of sociopath made possible by the media age.
|Caesar must die
The film for Sunday (today) will be “Caesar must die” (Cesare deve morire) from last year (2012). It is a semi-documentary by the famous Italian director-brothers Paolo and Vittorio Taviani (now in their 80s). The film is set in Rebibbia Prison (in a suburb of Rome), and follows convicts in their rehearsals ahead of a prison performance of Shakespeare's “Julius Caesar”. Most of the cast are actual inmates and mix their own stories with that of Shakespeare's play. The film won the Golden Bear at Berlin film festival last year, but has since received rather controversial reviews. It should be a fascinating screening for everyone interested in contemporary Italian film and politics.
The film for Tuesday, 2 December will be “Offside” (2006). This is a drama from one of Iran’s most acclaimed writer-directors, Jafar Panahi. The story concerns women who want to watch a world cup qualifying match, but are barred from doing so because of their sex. It is in some respects critical of the regime, but with elements of warmth and comedy. It was filmed largely on location with a limited budget. Perceived as subversive, the release of the film was severely restricted within Iran.
The film for Sunday, 8 December will be “Raging Bull” (1980). This continues our look at some of the great collaborations of director Martin Scorsese and star Robert De Niro. It is based on the life of Jake LaMotta, an American middleweight boxer who competed in the mid-20th century. The story focuses on LaMotta’s inner conflicts and tendency to self-destruction. It is a raw, angry, and violent film, initially thought to be too dark for most audiences. But upon its release it was quickly recognized as a rare work of art, and is often regarded as one of the greatest American films ever made. Don’t worry if you don’t like boxing. It is not really about boxing.
In a posh neighbourhood outside Copenhagen, a cult of middle-class deserters, living in a large, unfurnished house, act out their alienation by pretending to be mentally impaired. In 1995 Lars von Trier co-founded Dogma 95, a movement which aimed at endorsing filmmaking based on the traditional values of story, acting, and theme, and excluding the use of elaborate special effects or technology. His “Idiots” were aimed at showing the Dogma 95 principles at work, but was met with controversial response by audiences. Indeed, the film teeters between being the most unwatchable and the most watchable film ever. So we will have to decide for ourselves.
From Brazil, this is the story of a retired schoolteacher obligated by circumstance to take custody of an orphaned 9-year-old boy. Their friendship grows as she agrees to help him find his father in the Northeast of the country. The story of their journey was adapted by director João Emanuel Carneiro from a story by Walter Salles. Fernanda Montenegro’s performance in the lead role has won general acclaim. This film is sometimes cited as exemplifying a recent resurgence of great film in Latin America. We will consider other examples in the coming months.
This is one of the most autobiographical films by the great Italian director, and the story of five young Italian men at crucial turning points in their small town lives also mirrors important social changes in 1950s Italy. Coming after Fellini's commercial failure with his previous film, "I Vitelloni" helped to restore his reputation and has been considered a pivotal work in the director's artistic evolution. Fellini co-authored the script with his usual suspects, Tullio Pinelli and Ennio Flaiano, and received the Academy Award nomination for Best Writing in 1958.
|The Beat That My Heart Skipped
This is the story of twenty-eight-year-old Tom (Romain Duris), a pianist who has been leading a life of crime with his father, a real estate broker. Eventually, Tom will have a chance to abandon his life of violence and become a professional concert pianist, like his mother.In this film, the acclaimed French director Jacques Audiard endeavours a fine analysis of one of his favourite themes: love and affection without language, already treated in his previous movie “Read My Lips”.
“The Beat That My Heart Skipped” has been praised as “Stylish and visceral, this able remake is infused with realism, grit, and a taut performance by star Romain Duris”.
|The Exterminating Angel
The story is set in a prosperous locale somewhere in Latin America. Guests gather in evening dress for a party, which they subsequently find they are unable to leave. The result is a social portrait and dark satire, whose wit carries undertones of menace. This continues our look at some of the great films of director Luis Buñuel, who prepared this script from an unpublished play by Jose Bergamin.
|A Scanner Darkly
The film for tomorrow (Tuesday 4th February) will be “A Scanner Darkly” (2006), directed by Richard Linklater. This is an animated science fiction thriller based on the novel of the same name by Philip K. Dick. The story is about police surveillance over the introduction of a new and powerful drug in a futuristic distopia. The film, originally shot with digital camera, was animated using interpolated rotoscope.
|Los Santos Inocentes
“Los Santos Inocentes” (1984) directed by Mario Camus. Based on the novel of the same name by the acclaimed Spanish novelist Miguel Delibes, the movie portrays the life and miseries of a poor family working in the property (“hacienda”) of a landlord in post Civil War Spain. Although it has occasionally received unfavourable criticisms, it is generally considered a masterpiece of Spanish cinema and was a major box office success.
|The White Ribbon
From Director Michael Haneke, the film is set in a north German village in the years immediately preceding the First World War. A “children’s story”, it explores themes of religious and political tyranny, exploring the origins of evil. The film has received international acclaim, winning the Palme d’Or at Cannes and an Academy Award nomination.