One Way Pendulum poster by Marc Baines

One Way Pendulum is the choice for this month's Monorail Film Club.

A 1964 gem from Woodfall Films it sounds like a vintage slice of celluloid nuttiness involving Jonathan Miller, Peggy Mount, Eric Sykes and other Great British characters. My friend Marc Baines has picked it and even drew a poster for the occasion, bless him. It is showing at 7.30 on Sunday 26 September in the GFT.

London 2010: Introduction from stml on Vimeo.

Fans of Patrick Keiller's 1994 film London may be interested in James Bridle's London 2010 project, where he is painstakingly refilming each scene in present day London.

London takes place over the course of a year, you never see the characters and it's shot in static frames. So if you were going to refilm a film it's more manageable than most (still quite an undertaking though). I could watch it over and over again and often wondered where some of the locations are and if they still exist. Now I'm happy. Every shot is collected in a London 2010 Flickr set. To complete the project can anyone help to identify any of these unidentified locations?

Pennan phone box

We went to Pennan the other week, to pay homage to Local Hero. It was shot here (although not literally) and in various locations around Scotland. A steady stream of pilgrims make their way down the short and winding road to find a very famous phone box, a closed pub (to reopen at last) and not much else. But the little that's there is very sweet. Even the beach has a cinematic feel to it. That driftwood is so perfectly imperfect that it might be a prop, carefully placed to impress visitors. I thought calling this 'the most famous phone box in Britain' was uncontroversial but as Steviet points out, there is another contender.

Ash Road phone box, Cumbernauld

This one from Ash Road in Cumbernauld, used as a changing room in Gregory's Girl. This photo is from a great set by Route9autos showing Gregory's Girl locations then and now. Boy, Bill Forsyth really loved those phone boxes. And while the first one is more photogenic, I will always be Gregory's girl.

I like Coraline

I took the boys to see Coraline the other week and we all loved it. I didn't know much about it to be honest, apart from Tim Burton being involved, so when I saw Tadahiro Uesugi's name go up at the start it was quite exciting. I've been a fan of his illustration for a long time, and the characters that he designed are magnificent. The whole film looks amazing, it's got a great story (from Neil Gaiman's book), some brilliant stop-motion animation (by LAIKA) and any film with that many Scottie dogs in it is a hit in my book.

Even thought it's quite dark and a bit scary, it didn't seem to bother either of the kids, even Danny who is only 3. I can't remember the last film I went to where everyone in the cinema was so quiet. They were totally engrossed. The Coraline website has some nice bits and pieces on it - you can even get words of your choice spelt out by Mr Bobinsky's Mice Circus. Anyway, highly recommended for young and old.

Might be a bit short notice, but Channel 4 are showing Thunderbird 6, the second Thunderbirds film from 1968 tomorrow (Tuesday) at 7.10am. This is a sublimely stylish film, great to watch even if you're not a Thunderbirds fan. The opening sequence (above) sets the tone. It looks beautiful and has a great Barry Gray soundtrack. Well worth getting up early for.

As promised, the video of Robert "Do you know how they make veal?" Buchanan being interviewed by Stuart "Belle and Sebastian" Murdoch at the GFT showing of That Sinking Feeling is now on YouTube (not embeddable, grrrr). If you imagine the opposite of Inside the Actor's Studio this is probably it. It looks like a very good-humoured evening. Did anyone go?

Also from the GFT, David "The Wire" Simon doing a Q&A in September 2008. Haven't watched it as I'm stuck at the start of series 2.

That sinking feeling, Bill Forsyth's first feature film from 1980 is showing at the GFT this Sunday, as part of the Monorail Film Club. From the newsletter:

Bill Forsyth's iconic first feature film, set in a fictitious town called Glasgow, lays down a winning, slightly awkward style which paved the way, only one year later for the much better known Gregory's Girl. That Sinking Feeling, which has a very similar cast to Gregory's Girl, is perhaps slightly clunkier, but is still a brilliant document of a late 70s / early 80s Glasgow which already looks very different to the city we now know. But it's still raining and the character types are familiar enough - Ronnie (Robert Buchanan) and his pals are on the lookout for a brilliant scam to get rich quick, only to hit upon the idea of stealing 90 stainless steel sinks. It sounds slightly unplotted and gauche, and really it is, but somehow it totters forward with brilliant performances and excellent dialogue, into something completely life-affirming and magical.

That Sinking Feeling was selected by Dep Downie from Monorail Music and will be followed by a conversation between actor, Robert Buchanan and Stuart Murdoch of Belle & Sebastian.

And I'm going to miss it because I'm in Bournemouth. I could just cry. I saw it years ago and remember it exactly as described, unlikely to win any oscars but still wonderful. Robert Buchanan went on to play Andy in Gregory's Girl, (Gregory's daft mate who goes on about moving to Caracas). I'd love to hear what he's got to say and I'm sure Stuart Murdoch will bring something to the table to as B&S often seem to channel the spirit of Gregory's Girl. Would be great if someone could record it (the interview I mean, not the film). If you're going, enjoy.

Thanks for all the London tips. There are some brilliant things in there including the location of Sunshine Desserts from Reggie Perrin. Not sure if this is one of those things that everyone knew except me, but 1960s curio The London Nobody Knows is on YouTube. Part one is above and here are parts two and three. I only found this after I'd bought the DVD although all is not lost as it's (a) better quality and (b) paired with charming piece of 1960s whimsy Les Bicyclettes de Belsize (opening credits).

Going to see Play Time (which was wonderful) got me thinking about which films I'd choose to show if I got the run of a cinema for a day. Alphaville was on the shortlist and a bit of rooting around on the internet found it in its entirety on Google video. It was put up by a fan of the other "Big in Japan" Alphaville, for reference presumably.

For anyone that hasn't seen it, it's Jean-Luc Godard's futuristic sci-fi film noir with modern (mid 1960s) Paris playing the part of Alphaville, the city that's lost its soul. There's a good review here that describes it as "Humphrey Bogart Through the Looking Glass". It's simple and complex, beautiful and strange. I'm not a big Godard fan but could watch this over and over. It's weird, but not too weird and staggeringly beautiful in parts. Anna Karina looks foxy throughout. I started watching it yesterday afternoon but it's really the kind of film you need to watch with the lights out and a bottle of wine.

What would you pick if you could show one film at the pictures?

Jacques Tati's wonderful 1967 film Play Time is showing at the GFT this Sunday at 3.40 pm. It's a staggering film, set on a gigantic scale but made up of small, beautiful moments. The trailer (above) sums up its jazzy nature, but I remember it being full of stillness. It took 3 years to film, on a specially created set called "Tativille" that was so big it needed its own power plant. Shot on 70mm film only the cinema really does it justice. It's being shown as part of the Monorail Film Club fittingly introduced by artist Toby Paterson who takes a lot of his inspiration from modernist architecture. Supporting feature is kh-4 which features a young Bill Forsyth. Oh boy oh boy oh boy! What a Sunday afternoon that's going to be. Booking recommended.

Time for a Holiday. Found on the BFI's youtube channel, this great short film from 1957 shows Blackpool in its element. There's the wonder of the Pleasure Beach, a supergay diving competition, a freak show, and a wonderful hand-painted sign sequence round about the 4-minute mark. All with a jazzy soundtrack. It was made by Oscar-winning cinematographer David Watkin (who sounds like quite a character) for British Transport Films.

Overture Weekend

This looks amazing - a weekend of events (today and tomorrow) at the Royal Festival Hall to celebrate its reopening. Highlights include:

From 10 am til 6 on the saturday and 10 til 2 on the sunday there will be vintage documentaries under the banner of LONDON 1951 (including Ten Year Plan with Charles Hawtrey and the beautiful Festival Of Britain doc Brief City) plus SAINT ETIENNE's films and shorts to date including the Finisterre (acclaimed by Alain De Botton and Ken Livingstone!) and What Have You Done Today, Mervyn Day?

Ding dong, that's all I can say, and boo hoo that it's not next weekend when I'll actually be in London. The whole programme is on the Saint Etienne website. Anyone going?

arthur_lowe.jpg

Lindsay Anderson update part 2. This is a photo of a photo of Arthur Lowe from Is That All there Is? - an exhibition of artefacts from the Lindsay Anderson Archive on at The Changing Room in Stirling. We visited this at the weekend and it was great. Quite small and sparse but everything in it either looked fantastic or was interesting in one way or another. There are lots of Anderson's letters on show from other actors, directors, and writers plus diaries, storyboards and even his old passport. It's on until the end of March with a talk from Karl Magee, the collection's archivist on Saturday 31 March at 3pm (thanks Cathie for the tip-off).

Lindsay Anderson and Patsy Healey in the White Bus.

Lindsay Anderson update part 1. Do you ever find one thing that brings together a whole heap of things you like in an unexpected way? Lindsay Anderson's film The White Bus (shown at the GFT a couple of weeks ago) did it for me. The film is about a young woman (played by Patricia Healey) who leaves her humdrum office job in London for a visit home. She joins a civic tour on an open-topped bus alongside the Mayor (Arthur Lowe) and various visiting dignitaries. That's about as far as the plot goes. Generally I like these sort of vaguely surreal, slightly meandering sorts of films. I feel inadequate for not engaging with complicated dramas or documentaries on burning issues but I could watch these sort of films all day. As an added bonus, The White Bus also contained the following, which will be recognisable as things I like:

  • an unexpectedly Tati-esque soundtrack, but with banjos because it was in the North. The open landscapes and characters in national dress also reminded me of Playtime.
  • a beautifully shot factory scene very similar to Maurice Broomfield's photos, noted the other week.
  • a trip to a museum which was full of things in glass cases
  • a visit to a library where there was a stereotypical librarian who looked very disapproving
  • the idea of being a tourist in your own town, something that Nothing To See Here is all about
  • the glorification of bus travel - I get the bus to work every day and enjoy a quiet think. The top deck is always the best;
  • shots of grimy Manchester redolent of The Smiths. Also, it was based on a story by Smiths cover star Shelagh Delaney and was intended to be part of a trilogy (never realised) Red, White and Zero with films by Tony Richardson and Peter Brook.
  • cinema connections - the film was originally shows as a supporting feature to Daisies, fab Czech film which is also one of my favourites.

It was shown with a documentary About The White Bus shot in the Free Cinema style which was a different take on film-making showing how laborious and mundane it actually is. It's remarkable that directors can visualise how 7 seconds of film captured one day in one place will join with another from another day and another place and another and another to make a coherent whole, particularly when one scene of The White Bus took so long to shoot on a cold morning that the leading lady fainted. Seeing her getting her feet rubbed in a desperate attempt to get some warmth back in cocks a snook at acting's glitzy reputation. It looked like a lot of hard work for not much in return. The documentary was a bit too much detail for some in the audience but I liked it. It doesn't seem to be out on DVD or anything but there's a few Lindsay Anderson things going on at the moment. Part 2 coming up next.

Lindsay Anderson

The film that has made the biggest impression on me lately is Lindsay's Anderson's O Lucky Man! (1973). At over 3 hours it's quite a commitment but it's the most fantastic, entertaining, inventive 3 hours I've seen in a long time. Summarising the plot doesn't really do it justice: Malcolm McDowell reprising the Mick Travis character from If... is an aspirational travelling coffee salesman trying to get up the greasy pole but more often sliding in the other direction. I took it as a swipe at ambition (others say it's about the justice system or capitalism while If... is about education and Britannia Hospital is about health care). Alan Price pops up throughout with some wonderful songs, like a sort of earthier Ray Davis. There is a superb cast of classic British actors - not exactly megastars but familiar faces on the small screen. Arthur Lowe plays multiple parts including an African general. It's surreal and black but also coherent and funny in a way that leaves a slow-burning smile long afterwards. It's hard to imagine a film like that being made now. I loved it and have been trying to learn more about Lindsay Anderson ever since. Findings so far:

  • Britannia Hospital (1982) completes the Mick Travis trilogy. This has another fantastic cast including the divine Leonard Rossiter. I haven't seen it yet but will rent the DVD.
  • The Free Cinema movement was founded by Lindsay Anderson, Karel Reisz, Tony Richardson and Lorenza Mazzetti. The short sweet manifesto stated: "Implicit in our attitude is a belief in freedom, in the importance of people and the significance of the everyday". The introduction to O Dreamland rails against traditional British documentary film-making for being impersonal and lacking any kind of viewpoint. Social documentary should "dot its own i's". More info in Lindsay Anderson's 1977 notes on the Free Cinema movement.
  • O Dreamland and other Free Cinema films are available on Four Docs.
  • His 1966 film The White Bus is showing at the GFT as part of the Glasgow Film Festival on Friday along with a 1969 documentary on the making of it. The films will be introduced by Karl Magee archivist at the The Lindsay Anderson Archive at Stirling University.

I'm still learning about all this so any other pointers welcome.

I'm off to Bangkok now and didn't get round to writing what I mean to for next week. So instead I'll recommend Four Docs which is a meaty Channel 4 site full of documentary films free to view online. There's a lot of modern stuff but it's the archive that caught my attention. Highlights include:

  • Patrick Keiller's London (1992) - online in its entirety. It's better on the big screen but if you've never seen it before this is a great way to try it out.
  • The Battle of Orgreave (2001) - Mike Figgis and Jeremy Deller's recreation of the battle in the 1984/85 miner's strike
  • Momma don't allow (1956) - Tony Richardson/Karel Reisz film about London working-class youth.
  • We are the Lambeth boys (1959) - Karel Reisz again.
  • O Dreamland (1957) - I was looking for this when I found the site. Lindsay Anderson's documentary on Margate. Like proto-Martin Parr.
  • Terminus (1961) - John Schlesinger's look at the comings and goings of London's Waterloo station

Plus lots of Humphrey Jennings films and great post-war social documentaries. Enjoy.

Rebels Are We

From a fab set of Sleeper bubblegum cards at Bubblegum Fink. Parts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5,

After writing all that about the kind of films I like I haven't really had time to write anything up, but this week's viewing has bagged a few goodies.

I feel ashamed that one project for my maternity leave was watching lots of films (secondary to main project of raising a child) and I have managed to write about precisely none of them. The problem with reporting back is it's just a list of things - I watched this and this and this, and it was good/bad/indifferent and that seems a bit poor. But the world is swimming in lists of films, my tuppenceworth is as good as anyone else's. So, as the viewing comes grinding to a halt I'll try to make sense of the last 6 months.

  1. I watched a lot of films, sometimes 2 or 3 a day. When I had Tommy there was a lot of staying up during the night, and a lot of zombiefication during the day when I just wanted something to look at, so in the months leading up to Danny's arrival I saved up films off TCM or Sky Cinema 1 or Channel 4. They tend to specialise in the kind of films I like.
  2. I studied Film & TV for two years so have a bit of a hatred for films you "should" watch. I'd rather watch Caddyshack than Battleship Potemkin.
  3. I am very partisan when it comes to films, which also makes me a bit sheepish writing about them. If there's some actor I love who has two lines in it, I'm happy. If there's someone I can't stand (I think Nicolas Cage is the only one where this applies) I will hate it with a passion that knows no bounds. So what I like has nothing to do with quality. I'm not saying these are good films, just that I like them.
  4. I am also quite biased about entire genres of films: Westerns, gangster films, war films, anything with aliens or elves, musicals, horror, on a bad day anything in black and white or in foreign - all out.
  5. I am partial to: British films of the 1960s and 70s; kitchen sink dramas and TV spinoffs (love a TV spinoff); American films of the 60s and early 70s, particularly anything with Walter Matthau/Jack Lemmon; modern American indie; psychedelia; anything with a band in it, real or fictional; sci-fi which doesn't feature aliens or elves; anything about work or offices; anything about adolescents or misfits, anything in airports or Central Park.
  6. I like Neil Simon, Powell & Pressburger, Woodfall Films, Ealing comedies, Leonard Rossiter, Terry-Thomas, Ian Carmichael, Rodney Bewes, Margaret Rutherford, Roger Livesey, Tom Courteney, Alec Guiness, Alastair Sim, Albert Finney, Terence Stamp, David Hemmings, Peter Sellers, John le Mesurier, Irene Handl, Alan Alda, Alan Arkin, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Ben Stiller, Jerry Stiller, Parker Posey, Janeane Garofalo, Paul Rubens. That should do for starters.
  7. There is a complicated Top Trumps-style system where something I like can trump something I don't like and vice versa, so sometimes points 4-6 do not apply.

This said I'm ready to write about some films now on the understanding that they're just that, lists. Not in depth film criticism, just totally superficial, biased reportage. I'm hoping that if I mention some films (they kind of fall into groups) you, the reader, will be able to suggest other things in a similar vein and it will help to make connections. I'll start working on it next week.

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