Screwball comedies

We’re getting prepared for our screening of Frank Capra’s lighthearted and endearing It Happened One Night, this Saturday. It’s part of our ongoing series for the CMPCA in Brighton, at St Michael’s Church Hall. There are a few tickets left, so for full details, please see our main website.

In the meantime, we’ve picked out five of our favourite screwball comedies (aside from It Happened One Night), to get you all in the mood:

 

Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)

Frank Capra, the director of It Happened One Night hit gold with this dark, but delightfully silly screwball comedy featuring Cary Grant. Grant plays Mortimer Brewster, who discovers a corpse hidden in window box at the house of his two sweet, harmless aunts…

The Philadelphia Story (1940)

This classic is bring rereleased in cinemas by the BFI at the moment, so do look out for screenings of it locally. George Cukor’s sparkling film is regarded as one of the best examples of the popular ‘comedy of remarriage’ – a common theme from the ‘production code era, when depictions of extramarital affairs were prohibited – a couple divorce, flirt with outsiders and then remarry.

Top Hat (1935)

Probably the best known work to come from the dance partnership of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, this musical has some some rather fun and dazzling set pieces. Irving Berlin wrote the music, with many of the songs now regarded as classics (such as ‘Cheek to Cheek’).

Design for Living (1933)

Ernst Lubitsch is the director most closely linked to the Screwball genre, and this quirky film is possibly his finest. Loosely based on a play of the same name by Noel Coward (who famously said “I’m told that there are three of my original lines left in the film—such original ones as ‘Pass the mustard'”), the film is surprising to today’s audience: it is much more racy than you would expect! It was made pre-code, and features a woman (Miriam Hopkins) leaving her husband for two  men (Frederic March and Gary Cooper).

Bringing Up Baby (1938)

Although not a hit on release (it did moderately well, but nothing to write home about), Howard Hawks’s Bringing up Baby is now widely regarded as a classic, and features on the AFI’s ‘100 Greatest American Films of All Time’ list. Katherine Hepburn is delightfully aggravating as a dotty heiress who turns the life of Cary Grant’s palaeontologist upside down.

 


2015: Filmspot’s planning a fun year!

Happy New Year, Filmspotters! We’ve been putting our programming hats on recently, and lots of exciting plans for 2015, so keep an eye on our website and blog for details. We’ve got some great cinema screenings, events and more workshops planned, so check back soon!

We are delighted to announce our first Filmspot of 2015:

Filmspot CMPCA Pop Up Cinema Present ‘It Happened One Night’
21 February, doors 7pm for 7.30pm film

 We continue the popular series of film screenings with Frank Capra’s delightful It Happened One Night. Starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert this screwball romantic comedy was the first film to win ‘the big five’ Academy Awards (best picture, director, actor, actress and screenplay).

Here’s the ever-reliable Criteron Collection’s ‘Three Reasons’ to watch It Happened One Night:

A spoilt socialite, Ellie Andrews (Colbert) has married an opportunistic aviator against the wishes of her father, who keeps her prisoner on a yacht. Ellie escapes, swimming to shore, and plans to reunite with her husband. She manages to get onto a Greyhound bus destined for New York, where she meets Peter Warne (Gable), a newspaper reporter who was recently fired for drinking on the job. He strikes a deal with Ellie, agreeing to help reunite her with her husband, provided she gives him an exclusive story. As they travel towards New York, they get involved in a series of misadventures, and they begin to fall for each other.

This film set the pace for the ‘screwball’ comedy – and was one of the first ‘odd couple’ films, featuring the eventual romance between two people with very different personalities from different social stations. The film is as breezy, light and fun as it was on initial release, and represents a director and two actors all at their peaks!

Tickets £5 in advance (£6 on the door, subject to availability). Advance booking recommended, by emailing info@lja.uk.com or telephoning 01273 328683.

2014 round up

Last year was a great 5th year for Filmspot, featuring a programme of WWI films for Newhaven Fort, screenings of silent and cult films as part of the Scalarama Festival, outdoor screenings in Isfield, a screening for the hard of hearing in Seaford  and a continuing programme for the CMPCA in Brighton. We finished the year with a bang, though, with our first Filmspot Animation Workshop, at the Crypt Gallery, Seaford, as part of The Big Draw. We invited people to help us create a fantasy version of our local landscape, which we then brought to life by animating flick book animations also created by the participants. We are so pleased with the resulting film, which can be seen here:

Special thanks to everybody at the Crypt Gallery for being so supportive – we hope to bring some film and animation events to Seaford again very soon! Finally, thank you again to the wonderful Penguin Cafe for giving us permission to use their very uplifting track ‘Pale Peach Jukebox’ on the film.


Alternative fairy tales

We’re really excited about our screening of Jean Cocteau’s gothic masterpiece, ‘La Belle et La Bete’ this evening (Saturday 25 October) at St Michael’s Hall, Brighton. Full details follow at the end of this blog – there are very limited tickets available for this screening, so get in quick!!

In honour of this, we’ve concocted a list of five rather alternative fairy tale films! So here goes…

5. Little Otik, 2000

This film is certainly not for everyone (particularly not for anybody planning to have children in the near future!), but Czech auteur Jan Svankmajer created a dark masterpiece which is in turns brutal, tragic and absurdly funny. It is based on the story Otesanek by Czech writer, poet and historian K.J. Erben, about a childless couple who bring a baby-shaped tree stump to life with horrifying consequences.

4. Tideland, 2005

Terry Gilliam’s dream-like Tideland plays out like a quirky, morbid update of Alice in Wonderland. Based on a book by Mitch Cullen, the story centres around Jeliza-Rose a girl who is left abandoned when her rockstar father dies of an overdose. She descends into a world of her own imagination, accompanied by her dolls (which are really just the heads of a selection of Barbie dolls) and her neighbours, Dickens, a mentally handicapped young man, and his rather eccentric sister, Dell.

3. The Singing Ringing Tree (Das singende, klingende Bäumchen), 1957

Here’s a nice piece of retro-kitch for you! This colourful German children’s film was originally serialised in the UK on the BBC in the mid-60s. It really is the archetypical fairy story, but with the madness turned up several notches. It follows the fate of a beautiful but haughty princess, who says she will only marry a prince if he brings her the fabled ‘singing ringing tree’ – along the way, the prince comes a cropper to an evil dwarf, who turns him into a bear!

2. Kirikou and the Sorceress, 1998

French animator/ director Michel Ocelot’s enchanting ‘Kirikou’ films are a refreshing antidote to  the rather heartless manufactured films that seem to be churned out one after another for children these days. Based on elements of folk tales from West Africa, it entries on an extraordinary newborn boy called Kirikou who saves his village front he evil clutches of Karaba the Sorceress. Although an enormous success in France, his work has not had as much exposure here in the UK – partly because of TV networks being reluctant to show a ‘family’ film which features realistic nudity. It’s a shame, because the film is delightfully upbeat, colourful and unpatronising.

1. Kwaidan, 1964

To end on something both relevant for our fairy tales theme, and also Hallowe’en, coming up at the end of next week. The title of this translates as ‘ghost stories’, and is a series of four short films based on the Japanese folk tales collected together by Lafcadio Hearn. Directed by Mitsaki Kobayashi, the films have many fairy tale elements, for example, the etherial appearance of Yuki-Onna (a ghostly apparition who resides in snowy landscapes). This hauntingly beautiful compendium of folk tales is definitely one to watch if you haven’t already!

Hopefully you are now feeling inspired for some fantastical cinema, so why not join us for our special screening of Jean Cocteau’s La Belle et La Bete tonight (25 October) at St Michael’s Hall, Brighton? There are limited tickets left, so it is advisable to book in advance  by emailing info@lja.uk.com – tickets are £5 in advance, and a limited number will be on the door for £6. Doors open at 7pm, for a 7.30pm film. We hope to see you there!


My day at Filmspot: Das Cabinet des Dr Caligari

Hello, dear reader! My name is Kathrin and I’m 22 yrs old, and come from Germany. Through my internship here in Brighton I came to know Rachel Hunter, who runs ‘Filmspot’ with her partner Rob Cunningham. It was an honour for me to accompany them to the screening of ‘Das Cabinet des Dr Caligari’ in Eastbourne and to have an insight behind the scenes. Here is a little report about the day I had my first encounter with the ‘touring celebration of cinema’.

“It looks like a doughnut that has sunk into the ground.” Well, actually this is a pretty accurate visual description of the Redoubt Fortress in Eastbourne that hosted the screening of ‘Das Cabinet des Dr Caligari’ on Friday 26 September. I didn’t have any idea of what that fortress would look like, nor had I visited one before. But there is always a first time for everything!
In bright daylight, the fortress looked quite harmless. Imagining it as a sunken doughnut, as Rachel suggested, helped me to overlook the slight spooky atmosphere that lurked behind the closed doors. It is a little bit odd but these plain doors, that faced each other in a round circle, reminded me somehow of ‘Alice in Wonderland’: do you remember the room with the vast number of doors in different sizes and shapes? Basically they have nothing in common, but because there were so many of them in one space I could easily imagine various rooms and places hiding behind them – like in Wonderland. Sorry, moving on from the doors!

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‘Our’ room, served as our little cinema for the evening, was the perfect location for the screening of such a thrilling film. The narrow walls and covered windows conveyed the perfect feeling of being trapped – with nowhere to escape. Not a good thing when it’s dark and you are at the mercy of Dr Caligari.
But one step at a time – we were still in the phase of setting up the cinema. While the Filmspotters unloaded their kit, I was entrusted with a single-lens reflex camera to take some photos of the event. Just like that! Oh my God! I felt like I was carrying the crown jewels. I wouldn’t have dared to let it out of my sight or out of my hands. Forgotten was my small pink digital camera which I loved dearly up to that day. It was the first time I held something that precious in my hands and I could somehow understand Rachel’s fear of hanging up the projector – the most important part of their kit. It was a huge joy to spend the whole afternoon practicing and familiarising myself with the camera and taking pictures of everything and everyone around me. It was nice to have an actual task and to feel like a part of the crew. There was always something to do. The main aim was to set up the projector and adjust its height and angle as well as to test the picture on an actual screen. This might sound like no big deal, but it’s quite time consuming when you see the amount of equipment that is essential for these processes. The hours went by faster than I could have imagined.

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Not long after us the musicians arrived who were responsible for the live soundtrack during the screening. A big applause for ‘Partial Facsimile’ is in order at this point. Their whole performance was amazing, not only their focus on detail, but also their wonderful costumes. For a start there were Laila (who didn’t dare to catch a breath during the whole day) and Steve, both guitarists. I was amazed by the amount of stuff they brought into that little room. At some point I had real doubts that there was still space for the audience in the end.

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It was great fun to test my camera skills now on more than two people (I hope Rachel and Rob didn’t feel harassed by the constant clicking of me pressing the camera button, I swear I would have been). Taking pictures of moving people is harder than I imagined before, but it was definitely great fun catching people off guard and documenting their working process.

Time for the lunch break! Fish and chips are always a good thing to fill your stomach, especially when you had just a small breakfast and are rushing around all day. The break gave us a nice time to sit down and to get to know each other a little bit more. Steve is from Liverpool and composed most of the music as well as playing the guitar. The same applies for Laila. She was so engaged with the set up and preparation for the screening, she would not have a proper lunch. I know that feeling so well. When you are excited and stressed out at the same time, food doesn’t seem like a good idea. After lunch the remaining musicians arrived –Ben and Andy. Ben’s task for the screening was the impersonation of Dr Caligari himself (more about that outstanding performance later), while Andy was responsible for a beautiful bass.

At this point I’d like to stress the kindness of the people at the Redoubt Fortress. They were very friendly and quite excited to see the film themselves. Also, when I visited the Fortress’s museum, I got a very detailed tour of small, specific features the visitor may overlook. They had always a sympathetic ear for us, and were there whenever we needed a hand. Thank you!

After my visit in the museum it was my time to head out to a work-related appointment while the others were getting ready to welcome the audience. To my relief, I made it back in time to take photos of the visitors before the lights went out. The appearance of the room we had prepared in the afternoon completely changed – not only because of the darkness that conquered every corner of the Fortress, but also the vast quantities of equipment had vanished. The musicians wore their theme matching costumes and had covered their faces with white colour – a perfect addition to the whole composition of this wonderful location, the upcoming film and their very own soundtrack.

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The room was filled with people and I used the remaining minutes to the start of the film to take pictures of the audience and the whole ambience. The Filmspotters did an amazing job of installing subtle lights in forms of candles and background lamps in different colours to create a haunting atmosphere.
I have never seen ‘Das Cabinet des Dr Caligari’ before, so I was quite excited about it as well. While Rachel went to the front and welcomed everyone officially, Rob and the musicians got ready to start the movie and the soundtrack in the exact same moment. Their efforts definitely paid off in the end, because it was essential for the synchronicity of both elements.

I won’t talk much about the actual movie itself because I think everyone should watch it for themselves. As much as I can say is that it was gripping and fascinating at the same time. You don’t need voices to be sucked in that haunting story. You would sit at the edge of your seat, not entirely sure if you are able to stand the intensity of the close-up shots of Dr Caligari combined with the live soundtrack. But not only the soundtrack gave me the chills, it was Ben’s impersonation of Dr Caligari as well. His deep breaths, his laughter – I was genuinely scared of him, I hope he is satisfied. I almost forgot to take pictures at this point!

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At the end of the film I just sat there on my chair, dwelling in the post-film atmosphere, before I took some last photos.
One day with Filmspot actually reawakened my longing for watching classical movies again and my interest for touring cinemas. Not only because of the screening itself but also seeing the effort and love behind the scenes, seeing how much everyone have put into this project to make the best of it.
It was so much fun to be part of that team for one day and I would do it again immediately. I hope to be back again, maybe as photographer or just as part of the audience, we’ll see.

But I will be back.

P.S. Okay, that sounded like a threat, of course it wasn’t meant that way . . . or was it?

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Fun in a field in Isfield… and Scalarama!

We had a lovely time last night, running a marquee cinema screening of Disney/ Pixar’s ‘Up’ with the Isfield Community Enterprise (ICE). Everybody had a great time, and we’re looking forward to running more events there in the future!

The Audience in the ICE Marquee, in Isfield

The Audience in the ICE Marquee, in Isfield

Some of our younger visitors, enjoying 'Up'

Some of our younger visitors, enjoying ‘Up’springing into September with

We’ve hardly drawn breath, though, and we’re on to our next screenings! As you will remember from last year, September means Scalarama, and this year we’ve got involved with three exciting film events: one in Seaford, and two in Eastbourne.

Sat 20 September: SIDEWALK STORIES (1989)
Clinton Centre, Seaford, Clinton Place, Seaford, East Sussex, BN25 1NP
7pm, tickets £4

Fri 26 September: DAS CABINET DES DR CALIGARI (1920) – with live score from Partial Facsimile
Redoubt Fortress, Royal Parade, Eastbourne, BN22 7AQ
Doors 7pm, for 7.30pm start, tickets £5

Sat 27 September: CHILDRENS FILM FOUNDATION DOUBLE BILL: THE GLITTERBALL AND THE BOY WHO TURNED YELLOW
Redoubt Fortress, Royal Parade, Eastbourne, BN22 7AQ
12.30pm, FREE

To book for any of the Scalarama screenings, please email info@filmspot.org.uk or contact me (Rachel) on 07525 357393

We’ll be looking at each of the titles in a bit more detail over coming weeks, but until then, you can see the full programme for this year’s Scalarama on their website: www.scalarama.com


Centenary cinema at Newhaven Fort

We are looking forward to our special weekend this week at Newhaven Fort, to mark the beginning of The Great War. We will be showing two classic WWI films in their atmospheric Romney Hut:

Saturday 2 August, Doors 6.30pm (film starts at 7pm)

‘Wings’ (u) [1927] A rare opportunity to see this classic silent film on the big screen, ‘Wings’ features Clara Bow, Richard Arlen and Gary Cooper, and won the first Academy Award for Best Picture.

Here’s a short clip showing some of the awe-inspiring airborne stunts from this incredible silent film:

‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ (PG) [1930] One of the most powerful anti-war films, this realistic and harrowing depiction of war is regarded as one of the greatest American movies of all time.

To give you a taster, here’s a haunting clip from the film:

Tickets are £7 per screening (£6 concessions) and are available from Newhaven Fort on 01273 517622.

We hope to see you there!!

To mark this special weekend, we shall be posting up some other films about WWI, so do check back soon!

 


Endless Summer…

Hi Filmspotters –

I hope you’re all having as enjoyable a summer as we are here at Filmspot HQ. We’ve just completed our the first leg of our summer screenings, and we’re now looking forward to a quick regroup before our August events kick off!

We ran our first Deaf Community Cinema Night, in support of the Brighton Deaf Diaspora on 21 June. We screened the short film, ‘Retreat’ by deaf filmmaker, Ted Evans, followed by a screening of ‘Gravity’ – both films featured subtitles for the hard of hearing. We feel it was a great success, with some great feedback from attendees, including:

Nice valance with deaf film andHollywood – next time I way to watch a long deaf film!”

“I enjoyed very much and [am] looking for more!”

“An excellent idea to create a community event”

Both films were very popular, but judging from the positive response we got regarding Ted Evans riveting film, I think we will be on the look out for more works by deaf filmmakers in the future.

Nadia Nadarajah from the Deaf Diaspora group gave an introduction to the event.

Nadia Nadarajah from the Deaf Diaspora group gave an introduction to the event.

Everybody in the audience really responded well to Ted Evans atmospheric short film, 'Retreat'

Everybody in the audience really responded well to Ted Evans atmospheric short film, ‘Retreat’

 

Last Saturday evening, we tagged our latest CMPCA Pop Up Cinema Club event, with a screening of Ealing’s wonderfully dark Kind Hearts and Coronets. Again, the feedback from the event was great, including many people who admitted to never having seen the film before!

The audience settling in to watch 'Kind Hearts and Coronets'

The audience settling in to watch ‘Kind Hearts and Coronets’

In honour of last weekend’s new Ealing comedy fans, we thought we would give you Filmspot’s top 5 Ealing Comedies, to get your collection started! Here goes…

5. Whisky Galore! [1949]
Alexander Mackendrick’s wonderfully subversive comedy based on the true story of the SS Politician which was wrecked in near the Hebrides.  Boats from the nearby islands soon set upon the wreck, rescuing some 7,000 cases of Scotch from a watery end! This was filmed in the same year as Kind Hearts and includes the same rather dark, biting humour.

4. Hue and Cry [1947]
The first of the post-war Ealing Comedies, Hue and Cry takes its inspiration from the children’s story, Emil and the Detectives. The story follows a group of East End children who foil a gang of robbers, and director Charles Crichton uses the chaos of the bombed streets of London after the Blitz for fascinating backdrops.

3. The Ladykillers [1955]
Perhaps the best known of the Ealing comedies (unfortunately in part to the completely unnecessary and baffling 2004 remake), The Ladykillers boasts a brilliant cast, led by the ever-charismatic Alec Guinness, and a splendidly twisted sense of humour.

2. The Man in The White Suit [1951]
Mackendrick’s deliciously cynical The Man in The White Suit appears simple on the surface, but the film gives real pause for thought. Alec Guinness is at his understated best as an idealistic young inventor who creates an indestructible, dirt-repelling fabric the threatens to overturn the entire textiles industry. Mackendrick said of the film, “Each character in the story was intended as a caricature of a separate political attitude, covering the entire range from Communist, through official Trades Unionism, Romantic Individualism, Liberalism, Enlightened and Unenlightened Capitalism to Strong-arm Reaction. Even the central character was intended as a comic picture of Disinterested Science.”

1. Kind Hearts and Coronets
Of course, Kind Hearts had to feature – this black comedy started a run of what we now see as the ‘classic’ Ealing Comedies. Remembered for Alec Guinness’s incredible performance as all eight doomed members of the D’Ascoyne family, it is Dennis Price, who plays Louis Mazzini – the murderous, yet extremely elegant lead character, who holds the film together. 

If we haven’t convinced you yet, here is the wonderful John Landis, singing its praises as only he can!

 

….We’ll be back in a week to give you full details of our August screenings!


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