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Screening Highlights – The Strange, Bad and Beautiful Bastards of Cinema

This week’s picks are by Tom Grieve a Manchester based cinephile and occasional blogger, critic and reporter. You can find him on twitter: @thomasgrieve

or on his blog: http://thomasgrieve.tumblr.com


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LOVE IS STRANGE

26/03/2015 – 07:30 pm
CINEGALLERIA – Dean Clough, Halifax HX3 5AX

Love is Strange opens with the wedding of George (Alfred Molina) and Ben (John Lithgow), a couple who are finally tying the knot after nearly forty years. Their bliss proves fleeting when the higher ups at the New York Catholic high school where George works as a music teacher learn of the ceremony: “On Facebook of all places!” and he is fired from his job. It’s a set up that could have been turned into a very conventional indie drama as the couple find themselves separated on the couches of different friends and family members. But director Ira Sachs pulls together a film loaded with truthful observations and genuine pathos. It helps of course that Molina and Lithgow bring such a physical lived-in chemistry to their portrayal of the couple. One conversation in a bar could have featured just throwaway patter, but instead includes a few brief lines about past friends and infidelities that provide a brief impression of the vast history and depth of feeling that exists between the two. There are many such rewarding moments: unassuming glances, exchanges and embraces that combine into a film that packs far more of a punch than you might expect.



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BASTARDS

24/03/2015 – 08:00 pm
CHELMSFORD FILM CLUB, THE CRAMPHORN THEATRE – The Cramphorn Theatre, Fairfield Road, Chelmsford, Essex, CM1 1JG

For my money, Claire Denis (Beau Travail, 35 Shots of Rum) is one of the great directors and Bastards is one of her best films. It’s a bleak neo-noir in which a ships captain rages against capitalist tyranny; selling everything he owns in a vain attempt to right the wrongs done to his family. Sensuous details such as the musculature of a back moving beneath a shirt, the sound of clothes crumpling or lovers short of breath are typical of Denis’ films. But where in other works she uses these sorts of details to convey warmth or to illustrate the emotional dimensions that exist between her characters, here they are left empty. I’m a huge film noir fan, but too many modern examples only adopt its surface trappings. Bastards is a film that takes that film noir hopelessness and cynicism and uses it to make a terrifying point about the crushing power of the men in charge of our world today.



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THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL

26/03/2015 – 08:00 pm
THE RUSSET – The Russet, 17 Amhurst Terrace, London E8 2BT

There are plenty of movies about movies. There are plenty of movies about screenwriters (Sunset Boulevard), actresses and actors (Singin’ in the Rain) and directors (Sullivan’s Travels). Films about producers are far more rare, but The Bad and the Beautiful is a great specimen. Kirk Douglas stars as Jonathan Shields, a now down-on-his-luck producer who is struggling for friends after alienating everybody on his way to the top. Vincente Minnelli’s film tells Shields’ story through the mouths of three of his former pals: an actress, a writer and a director, each of whom were betrayed by him. The film lightly satirizes Hollywood’s grubby underbelly, poking fun at poverty row pictures and the studio bean counters. But it’s most interesting in its depiction of how different artists—Douglas’ producer included—come together to create great works (quaintly measured here in Academy Award statues) through the collaborative machinery of the Hollywood studio system.



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APPROPRIATE BEHAVIOUR

23/03/2015 – 06:00 pm
BECHDEL TEST FEST – Greenwich Picturehouse, 180 Greenwich High Road, Greenwich, London SE10 8NN

Desiree Akhavan wrote, directed and starred in this, her debut feature. She plays an Iranian-American bisexual in Brooklyn who has recently separated from her long-term girlfriend and is struggling to come out to her family. Appropriate Behaviour is not only funny (an early sight gag involving a dildo sets the tone) but also engaging in its examination of New York hipster movie tropes. It also marks the arrival of Akhavan as a genuine and exciting screen presence. She endows her character with a lazy, self-depreciating charm that flirts with awkwardness whilst always remaining very watchable. Showing as part of The Bechdel Test Fest, the screening will be accompanied by a conversation between Akhavan herself, as well as Iranian journalist and filmmaker Nika Jazaee and F Word film editor Ania Ostrowska.


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WINTER SLEEP

25/03/2015 – 08:30 pm
WHIRLED CINEMA – Whirled Cinema, 259 Hardess Street Loughborough Junction SE24 0HN

I haven’t seen Winter Sleep yet, but I’m a big fan of Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan. His previous feature, the contemplative police drama Once Upon a Time in Anatolia was one of the highlights of 2012. I always prefer to watch films in the cinema, even if it’s something that I have sitting at home on DVD, but this is especially true if the film is a lengthy one. Happily, Loughborough’s Whirled Cinema sounds like the perfect, distraction free environment to settle in for Ceylan’s three hour seventeen minute Palme D’Or winner.


You can find Tom Grieve on twitter: @thomasgrieve or on his blog: http://thomasgrieve.tumblr.com


Enjoy writing about film? Would you like to choose your top 5 for the week ahead? Get in touch.

 

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