January Screening: Khrustalyov, My Car!

Clameur Du Cinema’s January screening is Aleksey Germain’s Khrustalyov, My Car! (1998).

Originally released in 1998 and presented here in a newly restored 4k scan, Khrustalyov, My Car! focuses on military doctor General Klenski who is arrested in Stalin’s Russia in 1953 during an anti–Semitic political campaign and accused of being a participant in a so-called “doctors plot”. It is regarded as an inspiration behind Armando Ianucci’s The Death Of Stalin (2017), and remains one of Aleksey German’s most enduring and satirical films amongst his exclusive body of work with includes the unforgettable Hard to Be a God (2013).

“Khrustalyov, My Car! is relentless and overpowering, yet the film is often poetic in its blend of pathos, freneticism, surrealism and matter of factness” – Time Out

“In this snowbound fever dream, beauty and anarchic humour co-exist with horror” – The Wall Street Journal

All pre-bookers will be entered into a draw for a copy of The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov and The Death of Stalin by Fabien Nury and Thierry Robin, the comic that inspired the movie.

Suitable for ages 18+

The screening takes place at 7.30pm on Wednesday 30 January 2019.

Tickets can be booked here.

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November Screening: The Rider (2018)

7pm, Wednesday 28 November 2018.

Written and directed by Chloé Zhao, The Rider, based on the real experiences of it’s main cast, tells the story of a young cowboy’s search for new identity and what it means to be a man in the heartland of America after a traumatic head injury.

“Movies that blend real life and fiction usually foreground the docu-style realism, using the poetry as grace notes or punctuation. Zhao privileges both, and in so doing creates a work of heartbreaking beauty.” – Bilge Ebiri, Village Voice

 

Suitable for ages 15+

Tickets: £6 – Book Here

Desert Warriors and The Problem with Dune (1984).

I’ve seen Dune more times than I really should have.  I’ve gone through phases with it and in 2013 I wrote the following…

“Although not perfect (what film is?) it’s a great big, weird and ballsy piece of sci-fi.  What really feels right is the savage nature of the world in which it’s set both in terms of the political / societal set up and hardness of the dessert planet Arrakis.  Everything in this film is life and death.  Highly Recommended.”

Having finally seen it with an audience, on a screen larger than my TV, I’ve got to admit that it’s a bad movie.  I’ve ended up here because my mind connected a shot of Alia, the young sister of the main character, with Lawrence of Arabia (1962).

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It’s hard to believe that the reference isn’t intentional, that Lynch isn’t invoking Lean.  Both stories feature outsiders leading desert warriors in military campaigns that are linked to larger political games.  The Middle Eastern influences in Dune are front and centre and so is the importance of a precious natural resource.  When O’Toole’s Lawrence dances, it’s because he’s infatuated with his robes and his shadow is his partner, he can’t help but check his reflection in his dagger.  Alia is similarly lost in herself and that’s why the shot is so striking, it’s the one moment in Dune in which a character isn’t pushing the plot forward or saddled with overly obvious inner monologue.   The two texts touch for one moment.  The big difference is that Lawrence… has subtext (voiced perfectly in that scene) and is alive, Dune is dead because it has none.

 

Their Finest (2017)

Their Finest is now available to buy / rent and I’d solidly recommend it.  It tells the story of a young woman (Gemma Arterton) who is employed to write realistic women’s dialogue (‘slop’ as it’s called in the film) in WWII propaganda reels and starts writing a feature film, based on the experience of two young women, about the evacuation of Dunkirk.

What I liked about the film was that, and this is no claim of documentary realism, it feels like the behind the scenes view of a Powell and Pressburger film… or at least as one would dream it to be.  And that’s the key, the heart and the message are in the right place.  It’s a film that knows the importance of myth and hope.  It’s funny and heartbreaking, there’s love, a bit with a dog and Bill Nighy is on top form doing his best Bill Nighy impression.

Highly Recommended.

Atomic Blonde (2017)

Watching Atomic Blonde I suddenly notice that I’m following the shot rather than the action.  The shot, a prolonged single(ish)-take fight scene, is impressively staged but I’ve lost the drama within it because it isn’t captivating.  The problem is that the central MacGuffin, a list (sigh), is duplicated in function and form with no real sense of priority, deadline or consequence.  No amount of 80’s pop music, neon, face smashing or ‘and Toby Jones’ can hide that.

On a positive note, Charlize Theron outclasses the film she’s in and McAvoy hints at a more interesting Heart of Darkness tale buried under the surface.  Also, the opening ten minutes have a great comic book feel but, alas, the film is intent on not being its own thing and jettisons this in favour of uncomfortably sitting somewhere between John and Jason, unable to mesh the two together.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017)

I walked out of Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets grinning from ear to ear and giggling like a child.  Luc Besson’s adaptation of the Valerian and Laureline comic books is a breath of fresh air after what seems like an eternity of drab fantasy comic book cinema.  This doesn’t feel recycled or ponderous, it feels like a comic book brought to life with tonnes of imagination and wit.

It sometimes feels a bit too much, it’s so packed with ideas that I’m wondering what I missed and I think watching it in 3D was maybe one layer too many.  There’s also a problem with length (a regular gripe this summer) and the charm of witnessing a comic serial unfold is lessened slightly by one long segment that side-tracks proceedings and ‘damsels’ Laureline just once too often.  Which is a real pity because the central pairing of Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne brings a weird offbeat energy to proceedings that feels much more equitable than similar films.

Slight misgivings aside, it’s still a wonderful film.  It’s brash and fun in the same way as Besson’s The Fifth Element.  I can fully see why other people might dislike or even actively hate it, it’s ‘peak Besson’ and that’s a dangerous place for film makers (Mann and Malick both need to step back from the edge) but, for me, it hit all the right notes.

Highly Recommended.

Free Fire (2016)

So, Free Fire

I like Ben Wheatley in the same way that I like Neil Marshall, I like that he’s there doing his thing.  I’m a big fan of his High Rise (it’s not Ballard’s, which I also love) and Kill List.  His other films not so much but I’m glad someone is making them.  I’m also excited by the idea of Freak Shift and an oft mentioned remake of Wages of Fear.  But I’m here because of Free Fire, his arms deal gone bad gunfight movie.  It’s been sold by various reviews as ‘stylish’ and so on but it’s not really.  It’s a film about a bunch of unlikable people being unlikable that looks a bit too clean to be as disreputable as it might think it is.

And yet I still quite liked it. It moved along, I knew where everyone was in relation to each other and I wanted to know who would be left standing.  Plus the actors are all quite good at being Frank Miller characters.

Had I first seen this film on ‘pan and scan’ VHS when I was too young to watch it then it may have been something really special.  As it stands it’s a good watch but a better poster.

Future Shock! The Story of 2000AD

I’m massively biased in favour of Future Shock! The Story of 2000AD, I would probably like it no matter what.  2000AD is one of the biggest cultural influences I can recall.  It’s found in my politics, the films and books that I like, my sense of humour, my sense of fairness.  I fell into it, following Eagle and Action annuals, at just the right age, just as I was also starting to buy music and discover cinema past Star Wars.

This documentary really gets to the pulse of it and tells an entertaining story thanks to the decision to let the creators themselves tell the story and their frankness.  It you are into comics you’ll recognise every name here but the mvp is Pat Mills who truly gives no shits.  It’s funny, eye opening and utterly fascinating.

Future Shock! has been available for a while now but it’s just come out on blu-ray courtesy of Arrow on a disc stacked with extras and extended interviews.  I haven’t managed to view all of them yet but so far they’ve been just as good as anything in the film.

Highly Recommended

Bushwick (2017)

Whilst not entirely successful, Bushwick is an interesting, scrappy little movie that suddenly finds itself relevant… I’ll say ‘spoilers’ at this point because, although the relevance is now the selling point, I enjoyed watching this with no knowledge of what was happening and, given the form the film takes, I imagine this was the intention.

Anyway: spoilers.

The set-up is simple, a young couple arrive in Bushwick by train to find the platform deserted.  After a couple of minutes someone comes down the stairs, they are on fire.  As the couple near the exit the boyfriend goes ahead and says he’ll be right back…  We follow the girl (Brittany Snow) as she makes her way through a city under attack by secessionist forces and becomes paired up with an ex-marine played by Dave Bautista.  All the while the film rolls forward in a series of protracted hand held takes (the first intended visible edit being 28 minutes in) designed to place us in the action and only give us the information that the main characters are privy to.  For the most part the film makes a decent fist of this but you can see the patches of the low budget (some bad performances, muddled and muffled dialogue, cgi explosions), and the verite shooting isn’t a friend to Bautista who seems cramped and caged by the frame.

But it’s got heart and that counts.  One of the co-writers is Nick Damici (writer / star of Stake Land (2010), who possibly should have taken the Bautista role here) which is a plus and it gives a simple but hopeful take on the weakness that the purveyors of divisive politics project on those they would oppress.

Recommended.