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Tragedy and Sexuality: Black Narcissus

by Billy Stanton On Friday 15th June the ‘Tragedy and Sexuality’ series at Birkbeck cinema, organised by James Brown and on this occasion introduced by Carmen Mangion, concluded its current program of screenings with the classic Black Narcissus, one of the jewels in the crown not just of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger but of the wider British cinema. The film itself glows on the big screen, even without the benefit of a 35mm print; Jack Cardiff’s cinematography, his exquisite balancing of bright and misty blues and overheated, fire-and-brimstone reds, is a marvel of design, deliberation and deep understanding of the ways colour can signal,…

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Ulrike Ottinger: Director’s Statement on Chamisso’s Shadow

Across the weekend of July 20th-22nd we will be presenting the UK premiere of Chamisso's Shadow in partnership with The Centre for Research and Education in Arts and Media (CREAM), the Goethe-Institut and LUX and with support from the Open City Documentary Film Festival, and in association with the German Screen Studies Network. Below, reproduced from the director's website, is Ulrike Ottinger's statement on the film:  "Despite all their differences, the native groups living along the coast have one thing in common: they live from and with the ocean. I would like to observe their current living conditions, get to know and talk to them and…

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BIMI Children’s Film Club: Lotte Reiniger

by Billy Stanton Saturday 9th June saw the return of the Children’s Film Club to Birkbeck Cinema with a special presentation of six fairytale animations from German film-maker Lotte Reiniger, hosted and presented by Esther Leslie. Screened were Puss in Boots (1954), Aladdin and the Magic Lamp (1954), Cinderella (1954), The Sleeping Beauty (1954), Hansel and Gretel (1955) and Jack and The Beanstalk (1956). The last of these was the only film made in colour (however the colour only stretches as far as background paintings, Reiniger’s familiar silhouetted characters remaining steadfastly black and shadowy). As Esther Leslie explained, the films were chosen specifically to offer…

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Tragedy and Sexuality: L’Éternel Retour

By Billy Stanton May 26th saw a rare screening of Jean Delannoy’s  L'Éternel Retour at the Birkbeck Cinema as part of the ongoing ‘Tragedy and Sexuality’ season. Written by Jean Cocteau, the film serves as a sort of a predecessor to his famous La Belle et La Bete (1946), drawing upon similar fairy-tale elements and medieval myth in its retelling of the Tristan and Isolde tale. But this film is more ambivalent and more troubling than the Villeneuve adaptation, its ambiguities teased out by Dr Ruth Austin of UCL in her introduction. L'Éternel Retour was made during the German occupation, but may immediately seem to…

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Cinephiles: The Bad and The Beautiful

by Billy Stanton Friday 1st June marked the screening of a beautiful 35mm print of Vincente Minnelli’s 1952 ‘The Bad and The Beautiful’ as part of the ongoing Cinephiles strand programmed by Dr Michael Temple. The strand focuses on films about film-making, and Minnelli’s work represented a move for the series from the silent era to the sound era, delving into the Hollywood system of the talkies through the tale of the fall-rise-and-fall of Kirk Douglas’ determined, morally ambivalent movie producer. Taking on a structure similar to a sort of simplified Citizen Kane (the amount of speakers giving their account of the lead character is…

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Records of War: Film, History and the Art School

Conny Klocker, intern at the Birkbeck Institute for the Moving Image (BIMI) and PhD candidate at the School of Law writes on a recent screening of 1930s propaganda film.  As part of the UCL Festival of Culture, the Birkbeck Institute for the Moving Image (BIMI) was showing two propaganda films about the Italian invasion in Abyssinia in 1935/36 according to a programme first presented at the London Film Society in 1937. One film depicted a Soviet account of the events from the Abyssinians’ perspective, the other from the invaders, the fascist Italian perspective. The screening itself presented a difficult task for the two projectionists, who…

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CLUES, HISTORIES, MYSTERIES AND MYSTORIES

by Billy Stanton On the 28th of April the Birkbeck Institute for the Moving Image hosted “Clues, Histories, Mysteries and Mystories”, an event dedicated to essay films focusing on international, personal and familial history in the first-person mode; what was demonstrated by the films shown and the speakers arguments was the potential held by this specific form to probe and present suppressed and buried histories, both general and individual. San Sabba  The event opened with an introduction from the chair Professor Catherine Grant, before a screening of San Sabba, a 2016 documentary by Dr. Romana Turina. Dr Turina followed the screening by discussing her work and…

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Interview with film programmer and freelance writer Jonathan Ali

Ahead of the screenings of  The House on Coco Road (Damani Baker, 2016) and  Memories of a Penitent Heart(Cecilia Aldarondo, 2016)  on June 22nd and 23rd we speak with the Jonathan Ali, the programme's curator. The title of this programme, 'Of Great Events and Ordinary People', comes from a Raul Ruiz documentary, why did you chose it as the title for your programme? As a title, I think Of Great Events and Ordinary People touches on a potent idea that runs through both of the films in the programme, The House on Coco Road and Memories of a Penitent Heart. The two films attempt to explore the lives…

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Focus on James Mason

by Billy Stanton Saturday 26th May saw a very special event at Birkbeck cinema: the launch of Sarah Thomas’ BFI Film Stars book on James Mason, accompanied by papers from Thomas and Adrian Garvey, and a presentation of a rare 35mm print of Max Ophüls’ classic noir-melodrama The Reckless Moment (1949). In front of a room packed with Mason aficionados, Adrian Garvey put James Mason’s career in both the British and American film systems in context, placing him as a ‘homme fatale’ standing in contrast to the more familiar ‘femme fatale’ of noir studies. Garvey traced Mason’s history from bit-part tough in Gainsborough melodramas to…

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Ndumu: The Story of Crocodile Survival in South Africa

by Billy Stanton On Friday 25th May Dr. Simon Pooley introduced the first UK screening of Ndumu: The Story of Crocodile Survival in South Africa, a rare documentary produced for South African television around the time of its inception in 1976, and featuring Dr Pooley’s father, Tony (A.C.) Pooley, at work in the titular crocodile conservation reservation in the region now known as KwaZulu-Natal. Ndumu works as a striking alternative to the traditional mode of nature documentary film-making; the familiar authoritative voice-over is not the sole provider of information and is indeed challenged by the voices of Tony Pooley, questioned by guests around a homely…

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