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Category: Film Strands

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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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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University of Pittsburgh Annual Lecture by Ben Orgrodnik

1 & 2 December 2017 Annual Lecture by Ben Orgrodnik PART I: Film-as-Art: Excavating the Alliance of Art Museums and Experimental Filmmakers in the 1960s and 1970s PART II: The Rise of ‘Ruin Cinema’: Experimental Filmmaking in the US Rust Belt, 1970s-1980s This event was part of the series BIMI x LUX and University of Pittsburgh Annual Lecture With few exceptions, film and media studies scholarship continues to ignore or misrepresent the role of the art museum as a vital alternative site for exhibiting noncommercial film, instead perpetuating an essentialist stereotype that museums are hostile to film, and a corollary myth of the experimental filmmaker…

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Final Words on Horace Ove– Laura Mulvey and Sasha Roseneil

Hailed as Britain's first black feature film, Pressure is a hard-hitting, honest document of the plight of disenchanted British-born black youths. Set in 1970s London, it tells the story of Tony, a bright school-leaver, son of West Indian immigrants, who finds himself torn between his parents' church-going conformity and his brother's Black Power militancy. As his initially high hopes are repeatedly dashed – he cannot find work anywhere, potential employers treat him with suspicion because of his colour – his sense of alienation grows. In a bid to find a sense of belonging, he joins his black friends who, estranged from their submissive parents, seek…

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Introduction to Pressure: A Tribute to Horace Ove

Hailed as Britain's first black feature film, Pressure is a hard-hitting, honest document of the plight of disenchanted British-born black youths. Set in 1970s London, it tells the story of Tony, a bright school-leaver, son of West Indian immigrants, who finds himself torn between his parents' church-going conformity and his brother's Black Power militancy. As his initially high hopes are repeatedly dashed – he cannot find work anywhere, potential employers treat him with suspicion because of his colour – his sense of alienation grows. In a bid to find a sense of belonging, he joins his black friends who, estranged from their submissive parents, seek…

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