18/19 Film Schedule
Cold War (Zimna wojna) – 11th February
Monday 11th February, ODEON Cinema. Start time: 8:00 p.m.
Cert. 15, 85 mins. In Polish with English subtitles, 2018
Directed by: Paweł Pawlikowski
Written by: Paweł Pawlikowski and Janusz Głowacki
Starring: Joanna Kulig, Tomasz Kot, Agata Ku
The Wife – 14th January
Monday 14th January, ODEON Cinema. Start time: 8:00 p.m.
Cert. 15, 100 mins. 2017.
Directed by: Björn Runge
Starring: Glenn Close, Jonathan Pryce, Christian Slater
Distant Voices, Still Lives – 10th December 2018
Monday 10th December, ODEON Cinema. Start time: 8:00 p.m.
Cert. 15, 85 mins. 1988.
Directed by: Terence Davies
Starring: Freda Dowie, Pete Postlethwaite, Angela Walsh
‘Autobiographical masterpiece’ – The Guardian
‘Extraordinary’ – BFI
Terence Davies acknowledges that in terms of building of a career he has no idea of how to do so.
“If I am introduced to somebody powerful, I immediately forget their name. No wonder I’ve got no bloody career. I’m hopeless at all that, just hopeless.”
He also cheerfully admits he ‘knows nothing about popular culture’ which makes it difficult when meeting other filmmakers because he has no idea what to say to them. ‘I’ve never been part of the cinema crowd. I don’t feel comfortable. I don’t like big parties. You stand around with a rictus grin and you don’t know anybody.’ All these admissions along with his pithy sense of humour appear to have marked him as an outsider who consequently for many years, and perhaps as a result of his opinions, unfortunately had the door closed on him.
For a director that many claim is ‘Britain’s greatest living auteur’ this is indeed sad as his career has been full of long gaps of filmmaking inactivity denying us the opportunity to see his skill and talent on a more frequent basis. He’s been unfortunate in terms of funding in those intervening years too but his refusal to compromise has likely also prevented him from bringing projects to fruition. He’d been virtually forgotten by the time he returned 8 years after his last project to much acclaim with the documentary Of Time and the City in 2008. His poetic reflections on Liverpool were commissioned as a by-product of the then City of Culture celebrations. Made on a tiny budget using old newsreel footage it brought him back to prominence kick-starting his career.
An overview of his filmography shows however that on the surface at least he’s always moved at a leisurely pace which started soon after he made the leap from being a shipping clerk in Liverpool and moving to Coventry and drama school. During this time he began making a short film which turned into a trilogy and were screened together at film festivals winning a number of awards.
The success of the Terence Davies Trilogy as they came to be known led to the BFI and Channel 4 commissioning tonight’s film. He was incredibly fortunate in finding a pair of organisations that were willing to support him to an extent that directors rarely experience.
The film is two separate stories filmed two years apart. “When we finished Distant Voices,” Davies said, “They wanted to release it, and I said, “No, there is another piece. Will you let me write a companion piece to it?” And they said, “Yes.”
He doesn’t believe it would be possible to the film in the same way today, ‘That would be out of the question. Now there’s always this pressure: get the names. I’ve never understood it, because it doesn’t guarantee anything. But it’s still held to, like some kind of grail that if you’ve got a big name, then people will go. It’s nonsense. It’s just nonsense.’
When the structure of film funding changed in 2000 he was caught out as an intention to make films to rival Hollywood emerged and the industry moved on without him until 2008 especially as he believes whenever we try to mimic Hollywood, ‘We always do it badly.’ Having made three films in the last decade with two projects on the horizon he’s seems to making peace with the deep frustrations that he experienced in that fallow period acknowledging recently, ‘Whatever’s up there – the gods, the fates, Lady Luck – I’m so lucky that I had a second chance because some people don’t get a first chance. I’ve been very blessed.’
Just under a half of the audience filled in and returned a Feedback form. From the responses returned, it was clear that this film had generated a wide range of emotional responses ranging from bafflement as to what was going on, to evoking feelings of personal nostalgia and to delight in the film itself.
One person gave it a 1 score with 6 more assigning it a 2 rating. Of those respondents remaining, well over half of the total feedback response, the responses were reasonably split. Scores of 3 and 5 were equal with 4 scores being the highest single total with one-and-a-half times the score of either the 3 or 5 single totals.
Of the lower 1 and 2 scores the respondent giving it a 1 defined the film as, “Pointless!” The 2 scores had various similar comments such as, “Depressing”, “slow, poor story” and “Story without an ending”. This last respondent did also base their score on the non-linear structure of the film, the way it switched back and forth in time in its showing of the life of the family especially as the father became increasingly mentally unstable and violent. This comment was echoed by a number of other respondents that gave it higher scores.
The 3 scores found both good and not-so-good mixed together in the film. One respondent found the domestic violence off-putting, “too gritty for me” whilst still regarding the film as “very evocative of the period & beautifully filmed”. This capture of the 1950s period as authentic in feeling was picked up on and agreed by other 3 scoring respondents and many giving it a 4 or 5. For one 3 scoring respondent, they felt the film had, “totally un-rushed sequences” which created, “a feeling of French old film technique”.
Of those giving a 4 score, the main thread of response in comments given was that of a film that you had to put in some personal effort to follow and that this was well worth the doing. The following comments capture this conclusion. “Mesmerising. Sometimes difficult to follow but still enjoyable”, “Very powerful – great camera work”, “An insightful representation of a sensitive subject…presentation, storyline and cinematography dealt with…in a sensitive, honest and realistic way…” As one respondent summarised it, “A very important piece of British cinema”.
Those giving it a top score of 5 noted the nostalgia it brought personally back and found watching it a very positive experience. “Excellent” and “Brilliant” were used more than once and one respondent commented, “BEST THIS YEAR! Thank you I loved this one” with another clearly touched by their watching of the film, “Lyrical and elegiac, especially the second Still Lives section. On the point of tears by the end.”
The Heiresses – 12th November 2018
Monday 12th November, ODEON Cinema. Start time: 8:00 p.m.
Cert. 12A, 95 mins. Spanish with English subtitles, 2018.
Written and Directed by Marcelo Martinessi
Starring: Ana Brun, Margarita Irún, Anna Ivanova
‘Brun stuns in a richly textured drama’ **** – Film List
‘A perfectly-crafted gem’ **** – Time Out
There’s an Arab proverb which claims that a person represents the Time in which they live much more than their parent. This is a film that bears this out as the truth.
On one level this is a story about two middle-aged women in a long-term relationship and how their lives change when one of them is sent to prison for fraud. On a deeper level, this film is about the history of the country in which they are living and in which the film is set, that is, the South American state of Paraguay.
Set in the present day, in Paraguay’s capital city of Asunción, the two women are Chela and Chiquita and they have been together for 30 years. Chela is an artist but introverted and who has always been in the shadow of her much more outgoing partner, Chiquita. However, when Chiquita is sent to prison, Chela is faced with a void in her life and much more pressingly, of how to pay the bills.
Fortunately, well – it is that sort of film – Chela has inherited her father’s old Mercedes. Although she and Chiquita had intended to sell it, it proves Chela’s material salvation. Almost by accident she falls into a role as the taxi driver for a Bridge-playing set of mature ladies. Thus, she literally and metaphorically comes out of the shadows into a new life that gives her both an economic and an emotional independence that’s she never had before.
That raises the question of what happens when Chiquita is released from prison and seeks to re-establish her relationship with Chela. For, not only has Chela now found a measure of financial independence she never has had before; she has also discovered the company of other women. And it is this focus on women as fully 3 dimensional human beings with real independence, real agency and the will to act as individuals in their own right that points to this second and deeper strand contained in this film
By concentrating on the here and now of present-day Paraguay and on the empowerment of women, director Marcelo Martinessi is holding up a mirror as how Paraguay was, during its decades of dictatorship which lasted from 1945 through to 1989. During that era, the only films allowed were propaganda epics depicting brave heroic and male military types. In this sense, this film becomes not only a warning from history but also one for the future. It happened once, it could happen again.
As our two leading screen characters, Chela and Chiquita, they do meet again on Chiquita’s release from prison. As for what happens then we’ll all find out as we watch the film.
Thank you for listening so kindly.
Just over a half of the audience filled in and returned a Feedback form. From the responses returned it was clear that this film had generated a definite reaction in every person that had commented upon it. About a quarter of respondents gave it a 1 or 2 score with just over a quarter giving it a 4 or 5. Of those respondents remaining, almost a half of the total feedback response, they gave it a 3.
For those persons giving it a 1 or 2 score, the common complaints running through their comments were the film was “dull”, “slow” and “dark”. The slow pacing of the film was also commented on by some other respondents that gave it a higher score.
For those giving it a 3 score, there was an overall feeling that it had been appreciated but that it had been difficult to engage with. Typical comments were, “atmospheric”, “rather a beautiful film, very slow and deliberate but rather strange” and “…not easy to comprehend”. What was felt a definite plus was the acting of the two leads, “Great acting”, “Good characterisation, jail scenes excellent”.
This assessment of the acting as a major strength of the film was carried through by many that had given the film a 4 or 5. Such comments often also focused on the story of Chela herself and are summarised by the following responses: “I loved it. Enjoyed the exploration of relationships, a woman finding ‘herself’. The camera angles that followed her on her shoulder”, “A lovely passage of rites film – Chela found her wings!” and “Very thought provoking. A very interesting look at real life situations with real people”.
Loathed it, loved it, or just not sure at all about it, The Heiresses did not leave people indifferent to it.
Leave No Trace – 8th October 2018
Monday 8th October, ODEON Cinema. Start time: 8:00 p.m.
Cert. PG, 108 mins. 2018.
Directed by: Debra Granik
Based on: My Abandonment by Peter Rock
Starring: Ben Foster, Thomasin McKenzie
‘A sympathetic, affecting, beautifully realised portrait’ – Empire
‘Flawless, deeply affecting’ – ***** Observer
Debra Granik has taken a circuitous route into filmmaking and as her career has matured it has tended to concentrate on those living on the margins of American society, those living and dealing with issues such as addiction and poverty.
While at Brandeis University in Massachusetts during the 1980s, Granik took a film and media workshop production class and volunteered with the Boston grassroots filmmaking organization Women’s Video Collective and took film classes at the Massachusetts College of Art. During this time she made educational films for trade unions on subjects like workplace health and safety. Granik then worked in production on educational media projects before eventually working on long form documentaries by filmmakers in the Boston area before deciding to go to graduate school for filmmaking at New York University.
In 1997 Granik directed her first short film, Snake Feed, under the mentorship of NYU film professor Boris Frumin, who was instrumental in sharing his love of post-World War II European neorealist films, the genre of films set amongst the working classes, usually filmed on location and which frequently used non-professional actors. Snake Feed, began its life as a 7-minute documentary and was accepted into Sundance Institute’s Lab Program for screenwriting and directing for further development and in 2004 Granik released her first feature film, Down to the Bone. Snake Feed was a work of narrative fiction, with the main characters, real-life recovering addict Irene and her boyfriend Rick, playing dramatized versions of themselves. Down to the Bone was a fictionalised depiction of their struggles and further expanded on the original story.
She came to real prominence with 2010’s acclaimed Winter’s Bone, set in the Ozark mountains, which starred the then unknown Jennifer Lawrence whose career also took off because of her performance, in which she attempts to track down her missing drug-dealing father. Granik was nominated for the Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay Oscars for her efforts.
During the shooting of Winter’s Bone Granik met Ron Hall, who had a small role in the film and went on to make a documentary about him, Stray Dog, which is Hall’s nickname. The film documents PTSD sufferer and Counsellor Hall’s participation in an annual pilgrimage motorcycle ride called ‘Ride to the Wall’ where he and fellow biker Vietnam vets ride to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Leave No Trace appears to pull many of the themes Granik has previously explored together, touching on environment, dislocation, marginalisation and addiction. In promoting Leave No Trace she highlighted that amongst veterans opioid abuse is rife and statistically they are twice as likely to die from overdoses as non-veterans. “One of the solutions,” Granik said recently, “Was to heavily medicate people [With PTSD] – as if that could make it go away. You can’t just pill away injuries that go deep in someone. They don’t just stop those feelings from existing.”
Just under half the audience filled in and returned a Feedback form. All scores were from 3 to 5. There were 5 responses with a score of 3. All other comments had a 4 and 5 ranking with slightly more 4 scores than 5s. Comments from those giving a 3 score were, “wooden acting with little emotion shown…still pleased to have seen the film though”, “scenery was stunning but found the film a bit gloomy…” and “need a good car chase please”.
Comments from those that had given it a 4 ranking noted the very atmospheric forest scenery that formed much of the backdrop to what was seen as the entirely believable acting, especially by the lead actress playing the Veteran’s teenage daughter. As well, respondents were very much aware of the Father’s underlying mental health problems from the experience of his military service. Three feedback comments encapsulate all of these focuses, “Very watchable, pure and simple on the surface. Very complex and profound underneath”, “Gripping film. Superb filming of the scenery. Mesmerising performance by the girl. So sad to see the mental distress of the man”. “Great photography and insight into the mind of a wounded war veteran”.
These sentiments expressed in the paragraph above were echoed by those giving the film a 5 score. Many comments picked up on the deep emotions that both acting leads had attempted to portray, “Great acting – v[ery] thought provoking”, “…Few words , but not needed…Society at its worst and best”, “gentle/sad/intensive”. One comment summarised the raw emotion that ran like a leaven through the film but also picked upon the way things could change, if only (and perhaps, only), for the girl. “Very tenderly told story of a traumatised and loving father. Sunshine at the end suggested hope for Tom in departing from her father”.
Whitney – 10th September 2018
Monday 10th September, ODEON Cinema. Start time: 8:00 p.m.
Cert. 15, 122 mins. 2018.
Directed by: Kevin Macdonald
Starring: Whitney Houston, Bobby Brown, Bobbi Kristina Brown
‘A deeply sensitive portrait of a troubled singer’ – BFI
‘Deeply moving, truly tragic’ – Flickfilosopher.com
John Macdonald, the director of tonight’s film, already has a number of music-based documentaries under his belt but he’s also made other genre-defying titles such as Touching The Void (2003) which detailed a disastrous climbing expedition in the Andes and four years previous to that, One Day in September, about the terrorist attack at the Munich Olympics. Macdonald is arguably the man, who in this country at least, enabled the documentary to be seen as a viable genre for regular display on the cinema screen in recent times. His thorough research for One Day in September matched with brilliant editing and visual flair won him the Oscar for Best Documentary in 1999.
He also directed the film The Last King of Scotland which starred James McAvoy and Forest Whitaker who won the Best Actor Oscar for his role as Idi Amin.
Macdonald was apparently initially reluctant when approached by one of the producers of Whitney, amongst them a man named Simon Chinn, who was also a producer of Man on Wire, the film club’s first ever presentation 10 years ago. Once persuaded he soon found that Whitney’s family and friends were still very much bewildered by her death and that they believed her talent and life was being remembered for all of the wrong reasons.
He admits that he was never a fan but that’s what partially made it an interesting project for him to pursue. It was when he spoke to her former agent of 30 years, Nicole David, the original voice of Velma in the Scooby-Doo cartoons, who said that Houston had been her favourite client in all that time but she had never understood her that Macdonald’s curiosity was finally piqued.
Macdonald demanded the final cut ie. He would be allowed to edit and present the film as he wished. His first music documentary about Mick Jagger in 2001 ended up with Jagger taking editorial control himself and releasing something Macdonald hated.
In making Whitney, Macdonald ‘didn’t appreciate that a true portrait of such a big star would prove so slippery’. “People were not being fully truthful” he said in an interview, “I’ve never encountered so many people who gave me just a superficial PR [Public Relations] perspective on things.”
“I think a lot of people felt guilty – very few people were honest enough to say that. And actually, I’ve never known a bunch of interviewees more in denial.” His investigative instincts paid off however making discoveries with further, and honest, interviews right up until the film’s premiere in Cannes in May. “They [The family] were sensible enough to realize that was the way to help her,” said Macdonald, “There were a lot of family secrets, and if you don’t talk about them they don’t go away. Bringing it out into the open was restorative to them and her reputation.”
Just over one third of the audience returned and filled in a returned a Feedback form. All the scores were from 3 to 5 with about equal numbers for all rankings. In all the score rankings (predominantly in the 3s) there were comments that the documentary was too long, “A tragic story – bit too long”, “Too long – needs editing” and “I found the film disjointed and too long” are typical criticisms regarding its length.
There was a common thread regarding the depicted circumstances of Whitney Houston’s life, “sad”, “v. sad” “…rather harrowing” and “I am left feeling very sad. So much talent. What a rotten life” are some of the views expressed by these and many other respondents.
As a documentary film the work itself came in for much praise. Comments such as “insightful”, “A well documented film… An honest relay of life in the limelight” and “Fantastic! Excellent film in documentary style – tragic and wonderful in equal measure” illustrate the experience many had watching it. Indeed, the Director’s achievement in what they created and put on screen in this documentary is encapsulated in the feedback from one respondent (who scored it with a 3) and then commented, “Better than I expected + glad you made me see it for I would not have chosen it from a list. A sad tale”.