Tag Archives: Edinburgh

Roman Polanski season at Filmhouse

Last year I attended a screening of Roman Polanski’s 1974 crime classic, Chinatown, at the TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood’s Chinese Theatre, an event which found an audience of a thousand or so film lovers enraptured by Jack Nicholson’s performance and a suitably complex plot.

Set in the Los Angeles of 1937, Chinatown centres on Jake Gittes’ (Nicholson) investigation into the extra-marital affair of Evelyn Mulwray’s (Faye Dunaway) husband. The investigation soon spirals into other directions involving corruption and family issues involving Mulwray’s father, played by the towering John Huston.

At the time I decided to see more Polanski films at the cinema but the opportunity hasn’t arisen until now, with Edinburgh’s Filmhouse about to screen a number of them from this weekend.

Filmhouse begins its Polanski season tomorrow with eight of his short films before going on to show Knife in the Water (1962), Cul-de-sac (1966), Macbeth (1971), Repulsion (1965) and Dance of the Vampires (1967).

That’s only the start however, with the print programme noting that next month we’re getting Rosemary’s Baby (1968), The Tenant (1976), Death and the Maiden (1994), Chinatown (1974), Tess (1979), The Pianist (2002), Oliver Twist (2005), The Ghost (2010) and Carnage (2011).

Hopefully I’ll be able to make it along to a few of these and I’d recommend watching out for Chinatown if nothing else – full details can be found on the Filmhouse website.

Watch the Chinatown trailer on YouTube

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Vintage Sundays at Edinburgh’s Cameo Cinema

Vintage Sundays: Alfred Hitchcock

Vintage Sundays: Alfred Hitchcock

Edinburgh’s Cameo Cinema is attempting once again to appeal to a wide variety of cinema-goers with its programming, with a new strand of Vintage Sundays currently boasting a season of Alfred Hitchcock films through January and February.

The season began with Vertigo (1958) and continues this weekend with The Lady Vanishes (1938) before continuing with Rebecca (1940), The Birds (1963), Rear Window (1954) and Psycho (1960).

The only downside is that the films are being screened in the smaller Screen 2 rather than the grander Screen 1, but if you want to see these films away from your TV then it’s worth heading over to the Cameo website for full details.

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Hitchcock leads a killer August line-up at Filmhouse

One of the joys of living in Edinburgh is the huge amount of films I can choose to watch on any given day of the week.

From the latest blockbusters in our multiplexes to smaller independent and international titles that are regularly shown at the Cameo and Filmhouse, not forgetting the Edinburgh Film Guild and numerous special monthly film groups and events, the city is a movie buff’s paradise.

Then there are the classic film screenings which inspired this very blog.

Helping to justify the blog’s existence for another month is Filmhouse, Scotland’s finest independent cinema which presents a more varied programme than any other in the country and which has just published its August line-up.

Read it and weep. I almost did.

The new programme is spearheaded by a season of Alfred Hitchcock films, The Genius of Hitchcock, ported over from London’s BFI, which will run over an impressive three month period. Starting with the newly restored version of 1926’s The Lodger on 10 August, we’ll be served up a total of 16 slices of murder and mystery before another batch are offered up in September and into October.

Elsewhere, there’s a full week’s worth of Marilyn Monroe films, including Some Like it Hot (1959), The Asphalt Jungle (1950) and All About Eve (1950), to mark the 50th anniversary of her death.

Gregory Peck pops up in both the Hitchcock season’s The Paradine Case (1947) and in 1962’s To Kill a Mockingbird, the latter given a spit and polish and restored to its original glory.

J Lee Thompson’s 1957 melodrama, Woman in a Dressing Gown, arrives from 31 August until 6 September and stars Anthony Quayle and Yvonne Mitchell in a story that tells of the “impact of adultery on the psyche of three desperate characters” – I’m quoting from the website as I’ve not seen this one but will add it to the list.

In association with the Edinburgh International Book Festival there’s a screening of 1979’s Stalker on 7 and 8 of August, the Tarkovsky drama set in a totalitarian society.

Apologies if I’ve missed any more golden oldies, I only have so many hours of the day that I can spend perusing the programme.

Finally, I recommend booking a place at The Lost Art of the Film Explainer, a special event that takes place on Sunday 19 August in Screen One. I’ll once again quote from the Filmhouse website as it sums the event up better than I could:

“During the silent era, the live musician was an essential part of the cinema experience, but some audiences were also treated to the finely honed craft of the Film Explainer. Part narrator and part actor, the Film Explainer stood next to the screen enriching the movies with an entertaining combination of background information, unique interpretation and theatrical storytelling. Often more celebrated than the screen stars for whom they spoke, the art of the Film Explainer has since been largely forgotten.”

I managed to miss the first staging of this event at this year’s Hippodrome Festival of Silent Cinema so I’m glad to see it in the programme. Andy Cannon, Wendy Weatherby and Frank McLaughlin will present this and I’d urge every reader of this blog who can make it along to please do so.

What will you be going to see?

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La Cava set to sparkle at Edinburgh International Film Festival

Please note: This post was originally published on The Cinementals classic film blog on Friday 8 June, a few weeks before the site sadly ceased to exist. I’ve republished it here with their agreement.

Carole Lombard and William Powell in MY MAN GODFREY

Carole Lombard and William Powell in MY MAN GODFREY

It may be 60 years since Hollywood director Gregory La Cava passed away but it seems the time is finally right for him to make a comeback.

A director who straddled the silent era and the talkies, working with actors such as WC Fields, Claudette Colbert, Carole Lombard and William Powell, leading eight of them to receive Academy Award nominations, La Cava remains something of an enigma to modern audiences, certainly those in the UK starved of a decent fix of TCM.

This could soon change thanks to the Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF), the world’s oldest continually running film festival which runs from 20 June – 1 July. On browing the newly launched 2012 programme, six titles stood out for this film fan, all part of a Gregory La Cava retrospective starting on Tuesday 26 June: UNFINISHED BUSINESS (1941), FEEL MY PULSE (1928), GABRIEL OVER THE WHITE HOUSE (1933), SHE MARRIED HER BOSS (1935), MY MAN GODFREY (1936) and PRIVATE WORLDS (1935).

The season then hands over the cinematic-baton to Scotland’s leading independent cinema, Filmhouse, on Saturday 7 July as they screen a further six La Cava titles: THE AGE OF CONSENT (1932), BED OF ROSES (1933), FIFTH AVENUE GIRL (1939), THE HALF NAKED TRUTH (1932), PRIMROSE PATH (1940) and STAGE DOOR (1937).

If reading the above has exhausted you, just think what it’s going to do to me as I head along to see (almost) every one of them as God intended, on the the big screen.

Intrigued to discover how the season came about, I spoke to the EIFF’s new Artistic Director, the film writer and journalist Chris Fujiwara, about his decision to programme 12 La Cava films and the practicalities of bringing those prints to Edinburgh this June and July.

Jonathan Melville: This is your first year as Artistic Director of the EIFF. Did you set yourself any challenges or goals before you began selecting films?

Chris Fujiwara: The main goal I set myself was to build the kind of programme that I would find interesting if I were a visitor to the festival.

How important was it for you to have a retrospective as part of your programme?

Retrospectives are essential to film festivals. It’s part of the core mission of festivals to delve into the unexplored riches of the past and draw connections between the past and the present.

How did you come to choose Gregory La Cava as the focus for a retrospective? Why those 12 films?

La Cava has fascinated me for a long time, among other reasons because of the scope he gave to improvisation in making his films. I’ve felt for a long time that he has been severely neglected. He’s probably the most underrated director of 1930s Hollywood. The twelve films in our retrospective are twelve of his best and most personal films.

La Cava successfully moved from the silent era to sound, how did his style change from one to the other?

For someone with such a powerful visual imagination, which was formed in the discipline of newspaper cartoons and silent animation, La Cava adapted to sound remarkably successfully. He was excited by the possibilities of film dialogue, and in his best films there is an amazing abundance of really great dialogue. In films such as PRIVATE WORLDS and STAGE DOOR, he also experimented with the soundtrack, approaching it with the same creativity he brought to the image.

What was the process involved in securing the rights to screen the films and locate the prints? Do they all reside in the UK?

James Rice, our Programme Manager, made a monumental effort of tracking down the prints for these films, some of which are very rare. Some come from the UK, some from elsewhere in Europe, and some from the United States, and they come from both archives and private collectors.

Do you have any particular stance on the “film vs digital” debate?

We’ll be showing all but one of the La Cava films in film prints, and that’s out of necessity: high-quality digital copies of these films do not exist, with a handful of exceptions. In general, archives do not have the resources to make digital copies of their film prints, and rights holders do not have a compelling financial motive to digitise most of their older films. With the disappearance of cinemas capable of projecting film, it’s inevitable that we’ll see further erosion of the infrastructure needed to manufacture, maintain and operate film projection equipment. There is a real danger that there will be fewer and fewer opportunities to see films from the past under ideal conditions: in good copies well projected on a big screen. This danger needs to be taken into account in the film-vs-digital debate.

Joel McCrea and Ginger Rogers in PRIMROSE PATH

Joel McCrea and Ginger Rogers in PRIMROSE PATH

Unusually for a film festival, half of the season will be shown at the EIFF and half at Edinburgh’s Filmhouse cinema post-EIFF. Why did you choose to split the films like that?

Rod White [Filmhouse programmer] and I both felt it was a good chance to link the festival with the regular Filmhouse programme. Also it allows local cinephiles to see some of the La Cava films during a time when there’s not as much competition for their attention as during the festival.

For anyone who can perhaps only make it along to one or two La Cava films, which would you say are unmissable?

If you’ve never seen MY MAN GODFREY or STAGE DOOR, which are his two most famous films, or even if you’ve seen them but only on DVD, you shouldn’t miss them. Among the lesser known La Cavas we’re screening, I’d especially recommend his risqué pre-Code films THE AGE OF CONSENT, BED OF ROSES, and THE HALF-NAKED TRUTH, and his late masterpieces PRIMROSE PATH and UNFINISHED BUSINESS, which hint at the kind of work he might have done had he lived to make films during the more liberal period of the late 1950s.

You’ve written books on Otto Preminger and Jacques Tourneur, two figures from the Golden Age of Hollywood. What is it about this period of cinema history that interests you so much?

I see the Golden Age of Hollywood as a structure that made possible the making of some very personal films that broke the rules of that structure. Preminger and Tourneur, like La Cava, and also like Jerry Lewis, whom I also wrote a book about, worked with success within the Hollywood studio system but pushed the limits (stylistic and thematic) of what that system could comfortably tolerate, and sometimes crossed those limits. Put simply, they were innovators who anticipated the transition from the studio system to a system of independent auteur filmmakers.

Are there any directors you’d like to see celebrated with a retrospective on the big screen, either here in Edinburgh or elsewhere?

It would be an extremely long list. Among classic-Hollywood directors, some names that came to mind are Raoul Walsh, Ida Lupino, Robert Parrish, Robert Aldrich, and Richard Fleischer, but that would be just for starters.

Thanks to Chris Fujiwara.

Full details of the Gregory La Cava season can be found on the Filmhouse website.

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William Friedkin’s Edinburgh connection

Fans of 1971’s classic cop thriller, The French Connection, can enjoy a Q&A with director William Friedkin at Edinburgh’s Filmhouse cinema on Tuesday 19 June.

Friedkin will be a guest at the 2012 Edinburgh International Film Festival where he’ll promote his latest film, Killer Joe, on 20 June. Filmhouse, one of the UK’s leading independent cinemas, has managed to secure Friedkin for an extended Q&A following a screening of The French Connection, where he’ll be discussing his career and films.

The French Connection stars Gene Hackman as New York narcotics detective James “Popeye” Doyle, the cop charged with investigating an international drug smuggling ring. Hackman won an Academy Award for Best Actor and Friedkin won the Best Director Award.

Tickets are now on sale from the Filmhouse website and are bound to sell fast.

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The First Born at Edinburgh Filmhouse

Premiered at the BFI London Film Festival in 2011, Miles Mander’s 1928 silent melodrama The First Born finally arrived in Edinburgh tonight at the Filmhouse.

Introduced and accompanied by composer Stephen Horne, whose new score debuted with this newly restored version of the film back in October, The First Born tells of the sex lives of the rich and famous, with philandering MPs and their wives getting up to mischief behind closed doors. Nothing’s changed there then.

Written by Mrs Alfred Hitchcock, Alma Reville, Horne explained that the BFI Bryony Dixon stumbled upon the film a decade ago while researching Reville’s work, only to discover a forgotten classic.

Now spruced up and returned to the big screen, the film sees Mander, who also stars as the caddish Hugo Boycott, wringing every ounce of drama from the script. The stunning Madeleine Carroll co-stars as Boycott’s equally scheming wife.

It’s relatively fast-paced and there’s some terrific direction from Mander, who gets up close with the camera and tries out some innovative angles throughout, including an impressive point of view shot that was partly the reason Dixon went ahead with the restoration.

Although the event seemed to go somewhat unheralded by the Filmhouse’s PR team – the screening was moved from the large Screen One into the smaller Screen Three – it was nevertheless a success with the near-capacity audience and I’d recommend seeing The First Born if it comes to a cinema near you.

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