Friday: 'Hardboiled' (The Ritzy Picturehouse, Brixton, 23:45)
Hollywood may be a tough town to make it big, but it does open it's doors every now and again if talent from elsewhere in the world shines particularly brightly. One such door-opening was granted for Asian director Jon Woo, director of 'Face/Off' and 'Mission Impossible 2'. But fans of cult cinema will remember him more fondly from his earlier work, since immortalised by the Tartan Asian Extreme DVD series. The earlier 'The Killer', also starring Chow Yun Fat, is every bit as worthy of note as 'Hardboiled', but the latter has garnered a larger following over the years. As incredibly ridiculous as the story, set pieces, soundtrack and acting are, the direction is undeniably skillful, especially the three and half minute long take, which takes places during the film's crescendo, set in (where else?) a flaming hospital full of babies. A must for anyone who finds it impossible to take action movies seriously.
Saturday: 'Akira' (Screen On The Green, Islington, 23:30)
Anime's reception continues to develop in the west; many still view it as the domain of geeks, others dismiss the idea of watching cartoons as childish. But the critical community seems to take the genre (if you will) more and more seriously these days, thanks in no small part to the consistantly brilliant work of Studio Gibli. Years before this came 'Akira', a spectacularly ambitious, accomplished, widescreen epic that was meticulously hand-drawn in 1988. Rarely has animation been so fully realised and visceral as here; the juvenile anger that the Tokyo youths feel to Japan's political system forces it's way from the screen into the audience's senses. The film does begin to lose narrative logic towards the end, but the scale of what the audience is put through visually is such that it is hard to criticise this decision. The only other occasion that a film has 'gone off on one' quite so spectacularly was '2001'. This gives those of you that haven't seen it some idea of the grandiose peaks that 'Akira' reaches.
Sunday: 'The Cabinet of Dr Calagari' (Hackney Picturehouse,19:50)/ 'Dogday Afternoon'/ 'The Conversation' (The Ritzy Picturehouse, Brixton, 13:30/16:00)
Last week, it was mentioned that the Picturehouse had let the people of London down, with virtually no late night screening worthy of note. They have responded quickly and very very impressively. I'm starting to think people actually read this thing. In addition to the screening's taking place this Sunday, Hackney Picturehouse is also showing Terry Gilliam's 'Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas' on both Friday and Saturday night, which is equally as worthy of your time as anything else listed here. London's various Picturehouses are just putting on so much groovy stuff this week that other cinemas had to be given a chance.
In cinema's early days, when cinematic language was still being developed, material for films was drawn from various place. Hollywood was heavy on book and theatre adaptations, Russian cinema used aggressive editing techniques to depict it's turbulent political situation and European cinema drew heavily on the art movements of the day. Whilst surrealists such as Dali and Luis Bunuel are mentioned more often, there are also several great examples of German Expressionistic films from this period, the most famous of which being 'The Cabinet of Dr Calagari'. The cinematography and set designs are very effective, horrfying even; the film is often mentioned nowadays as an early example of 'horror cinema'. Close attention has to be paid to fully follow the plot, but the film is such a rich visual delight that the film is just as enjoyable for a more casual viewer. This screening is also accompanied, as originally intended, by a live score. A true cinematic event.
Across town, earlier in the afternoon, Brixton Ritzy screens two early 70s New Hollywood classics. 'Dog Day Afternoon' features brilliant turns from Al Pacino and John Cazale, fresh from star-making performances in 'The Godfather'. It's a great example of a heist-gone-wrong picture, an approach that went on to be increasingly popular within the genre (the film is a clear influence on Tarantino's 'Reservoir Dogs'). This is followed by Coppola's 'The Conversation', which was sandwiched by the first two 'Godfather's. However, were those film's are sumptuously coloured and lavishly staged, 'The Conversation' is much colder and claustrophobic. And, whilst one of the chief joys of those films is to live vicariously within the Corleone family circle, 'The Conversation' is a character study of one very lonely, shy, increasingly paranoid character. It is an indescribably gripping film from beginning to end and an impressive example of a director at the top of his form exercising a number of skills not present in his other, more famous work. No central theme links these two screenings in the same way as they do over at the Prince Charles, so let's just call this a double bill of early-seventies-Godfather-related-radness.
Monday: 'The Bad and The Beautiful' (BFI Southbank, 20:40)
Whilst this film may not be as pulpy as many of the recomendations that frequently appear on this page, it is a simple example of a really great, accessible and enjoyable early fifties Hollywood movie. True, it follows the flashback formula of 'Citizen Kane' ever so slightly too closely, but 'The Bad and The Beautiful' has enough going for it not to be dismissed too easily, even if it hasn't been revisited anywhere near as often as Welles' masterpiece. Films from a similar period such as 'In A Lonely Place' and 'Sunset Blvd.' offer a similarly dark and ruthless critique of Hollywood's cold heartlessness, but 'The Bad and The Beautiful' is, in some ways, more daring and critical for taking a more commercial approach. A gem; worth making the effort to seek out.