Heavenly Creatures

Production year 1994
Written by Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh
Starring Kate Winslet, Melanie Lynskey,
Sarah Peirse and Clive Merrison
Directed by Peter Jackson

 This strange, highly original and visually mesmerising coming of age drama is based on a bizarre true life story about two schoolgirls in New Zealand whose obsession with each other causes them to commit murder.

 Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey play Juliet and Pauline, two teenagers growing up in the stultifying surroundings of 1950s Christchurch whose intense friendship leads them to create a fantasy life that soon becomes more real than the world around them. The bond between them becomes a sexual one and when Juliet is faced with having to move away they plot to kill Pauline’s mother.

 Heavenly Creatures was directed by Peter Jackson who was to achieve later fame and fortune with the hugely successful Lord of the Rings trilogy. Co-written by his wife Fran Walsh the film is imbued with a highly distinctive style - particularly in the sequences depicting the girls’ fantasy world Borovnia. The performances are uniformly excellent – this was the film that would launch Winslet on to the international stage -  only three years later she was cast as Rose in Titanic.

La Grande Illusion

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Five Easy Pieces

Production Year 1970
Starring Jack Nicholson, Karen Black
and Susan Anspach
Written by Carole Eastman and Bob Rafelson
Directed by Bob Rafelson

 One of the jewels of the so called American New Wave - a rich period in early 1970s American cinema - Five Easy Pieces comes from BBS Productions, the same stable as Easy Rider and The Last Picture Show.

 It tells the story of Bobby Dupea (Jack Nicholson) an oil worker who is hiding from his past as a classical pianist and member of an elite musical family. When he learns that she is pregnant Bobby takes to the road with his girlfriend Rayette (Karen Black) and goes to visit his sister Partita in Los Angeles. From there they continue to see his ailing father at the family home in Washington State, having a series of adventures and encounters along the way.

 The film's co-writer and director is Bob Rafelson, who made his name as one of the creators of the ground-breaking tv show The Monkees in the 1960s. This is Rafelson's most celebrated film and for Jack Nicholson it was a career defining role. His portrayal of Bobby is unforgettable - most notably in the hilarious roadside restaurant scene where he is determined to order a dish that is not on the menu. The supporting cast, particularly Karen Black, is superb and the movie is beautifully and poetically shot by Laszlo Kovacs.

 Five Easy Pieces was made in the same year as our last film club presentation The Go-Between - the contrast could not be greater.

The Go-Between

Production Year 1970
Starring Julie Christie, Alan Bates,
Michael Redgrave, Dominic Guard,
Margaret Leighton and Edward Fox
Written by Harold Pinter
based on the novel by L P Hartley
Directed by Joseph Losey

American director Joseph Losey studied under Bertholt Brecht and began his movie career in the US but after being blacklisted as a communist in Hollywood in the 1950s he moved to Europe and made all his remaining films there.

 The Go-Between is one of three highly successful collaborations between Losey and the playwright Harold Pinter. The other two films The Servant and Accident, like The Go-Between deal with themes of class and sexual transgression. Each of the three has a very different setting and each demonstrates Losey's experimentation with cinematic conventions. The Go-Between uses montage, voice over and music in combination with Pinter's sparse dialogue to create a visually striking and memorable drama. The performances are immaculate and newcomer Dominic Guard impresses as the young boy caught between the illicit lovers. He won a BAFTA for his performance.

 The Go Between features a haunting score by Michel Legrand and won the Grand Prix at the 1971 Cannes Film Festival.


Production year 1999
Directed by Alexander Payne
Based on the novel by Tom Perrotta
Starring Matthew Broderick and Reese Witherspoon

 This dark and hilarious satire takes aim at both politics and American high school life. It is directed by Alexander Payne – one of the brightest talents working in independent film. He is best known for Sideways – a bittersweet road movie about two best friends who embark on a wine-tasting expedition just before one of them gets married.

 Election was Payne’s second film and stars Matthew Broderick as Jim McAllister, an enthusiastic but frustrated history teacher in a Nebraska high school who comes up against Tracy Flick - an ambitious and vindictive student played by Reese Witherspoon. When Tracy decides to run for student body president Jim encourages another student to run against her and thus begins a chain events that quickly spirals out of control.

 Election is a real treat that deserved a wider audience than it got at the time of release. Broderick, who himself played in the classic high school comedy Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, is excellent and Reese Witherspoon makes a scary and resourceful nemesis.

Don't Look Now

Production year 1973
Directed by Nicolas Roeg
Screenplay by Allan Scott and Chris Bryant, based on a short story by Daphne du Maurier
Starring Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland

 One of the finest British films of the 1970s or any other decade, once seen this eerie thriller will haunt you for the rest of your life. Based on a short story by Daphne du Maurier it tells the tale of Laura and John Baxter – a couple struggling to come to terms with the accidental death of their daughter Christine. When they travel to Venice on business they encounter a psychic who warns them of danger and then begin to experience a mysterious series of events that seem to point to their daughter having returned from the dead…

 The film’s director Nic Roeg began his movie career as a cinematographer on such films as Lawrence of Arabia. His directing debut Performance is groundbreaking and extraordinary and he would go on to make some of the key films of the era including Walkabout, The Man Who Fell To Earth and Bad Timing.

 Don’t Look Now portrays Venice in winter with a beautiful and restrained palette of blues and greys but also uses the colour red in a striking and psychologically chilling way. The editing style of the film, like many others made by Roeg, plays with time and events to create an intriguing jigsaw puzzle that is solved only at the very end.

 Don’t Look Now was the subject of some controversy at the time because of a long and graphic sex scene – this remains one of the most affecting and realistic depictions of lovemaking in cinema.

Chimes At Midnight

Production year 1965
Directed by Orson Welles
Based on the writings of William Shakespeare and Raphael Holinshed
Starring Orson Welles, Jeanne Moreau, Margaret Rutherford and John Gielgud

Orson Welles – actor, writer, radio performer, theatre director, storyteller and voice to 1970s commercials for sherry and frozen peas is one of the most remarkable artists to have worked in the medium of film. His debut movie Citizen Kane is often voted the greatest film ever made and half a dozen of his other pictures are to be found in many critics and filmmaker top ten lists around the world.

Welles was a prodigious talent who never really fitted in with the system. After Kane he made The Magnificent Ambersons – a film that was removed from him by the studio and re-edited. From then on he would make films for a variety of backers and producers in both the USA and Europe. Chimes at Midnight was made with money from Spain, France and Switzerland and included among its production team longtime Bond producer Harry Saltzman.

The film stars Welles as Shakespeare’s comic hero Sir John Falstaff and weaves together extracts from five of his plays. The black and white cinematography by Edmond Richard is powerful, the film stars an extraordinary international cast and has narration by Ralph Richardson. Chimes at Midnight is funny, moving and at times both spectacular and realistic – notably in the scenes depicting the Battle of Shrewsbury whose influence can be seen in such diverse films as Braveheart and The Saving of Private Ryan.


Production year 1973
Written and directed by Terrence Malick
Starring Martin Sheen, Sissy Spacek and Warren Oates

Terrence Malick is one of the most reclusive and publicity shy directors working in cinema and has made only a handful of films in a career that began with Badlands in 1973. His latest work - The Tree of Life - won the Palme D’Or at the recent Cannes Film Festival but Malick declined to accept the award in person – instead leaving the job to two of the film’s producers.

 Badlands is an extraordinary movie – beautiful, poetic and dreamlike. It is loosely based on the true life 1958 exploits of Charles Starkweather and Caril Fugate and tells the story of Kit and Holly, two teenage lovers who go on the run after Kit kills Holly’s father during an argument. Their journey together across the Montana landscape is narrated by the childlike Holly in a voiceover full of romantic clichés, bizarre observations and unintentional humour. Kit, played by Martin Sheen, models himself on James Dean and dispenses his odd philosophies about life along with random acts of violence.

 The film’s score was the first to include Carl Orff’s haunting Gassenhauer. The piece has subsequently been used by many other movies and commercials but never to such great effect.

 Badlands drew universally positive reviews and announced the arrival of a major talent. In 1978 Malick went on to direct Days of Heaven, a lyrical period love story and then 20 years later The Thin Red Line – one of the most striking and unusual war movies ever made. His films continue to be highly personal and idiosyncratic but none have eclipsed the qualities of this remarkable debut feature.

Annie Hall

Production year 1977
Directed by Woody Allen
Written by Marshall Brickman and Woody Allen
Starring Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Tony Roberts and Carol Kane

 Allen Stewart Konigsberg, known to the world as Woody Allen, is one of the most prolific directors working in cinema. He has made 45 films to date and in recent years has produced at least one film a year. Some say that the sheer volume of his work has led to a diminution in quality but he continues to work with some of the best and most interesting actors around and to make films which are always on budget and over which he has complete editorial control.

 His career began in the early 1950s when he was hired at the tender age of 19 as a writer for the Ed Sullivan Show. He became a stand up comedian in the early 60s and his routines from that time are among the funniest you will ever hear. In 1969 he wrote and appeared in Play It Again Sam, a hugely successful Broadway production that later became a film. In the 1970s he turned his hand to writing and directing films and produced a series of comedies including Take the Money and Run, Bananas, Love and Death and Sleeper – all screwball comedies or genre spoofs. In 1977 he hit the box office jackpot with Annie Hall – a big hit with audiences and critics alike, the film garnered 4 Academy Awards including Best Picture.

 Sub titled A Nervous Romance it is a semi-autobiographical comedy, which tells the story of Alvy Singer, a neurotic comedian, and his relationship with a ditzy nightclub singer played by Diane Keaton. Funny, touching, romantic and poignant Annie Hall is perhaps Allen’s most enduringly popular and satisfying film and redefined romantic comedy for the modern era.
In the years that followed his films tended to become darker and less funny although Manhattan, Hannah and Her Sisters, Broadway Danny Rose and most recently Vicky Cristina Barcelona all demonstrate his qualities as a great writer and observer of the human condition.

Annie: Oh, you see an analyst?
Alvy: Yeah, just for fifteen years.
Annie: Fifteen years?
Alvy: Yeah, I'm gonna give him one more year, and then I'm goin' to Lourdes.


Production year 1969
Directed by Costa Gavras
Screenplay by Jorge Semprun and Costa Gavras
Based on a novel by Vassilis Vassilikos
Starring Jean Louis Trintignant, Yves Montand, Irene Papas and Jacques Perrin

 A French Algerian co-production in French, Z is the third film by the director Costa Gavras.

 This compelling conspiracy thriller is a thinly veiled fictionalization of the assassination of the Greek politician Giorgis Lambrakis in 1963. It satirises Greek politics and is fuelled by the outrage that was felt for the military dictatorship that ruled Greece at the time of its making. Z  (meaning He Lives!) was released in the same year as Easy Rider and made during 1968 – when the war in Vietnam was at its height and many countries in Europe and elsewhere were being rocked by revolution and civil disobedience.

 Jean Louis Trintignant plays an magistrate who uncovers a trail of state corruption and murder whilst investigating the events surrounding the death of a prominent politician. His search is a dangerous one and has incendiary results…

 Costa Gavras has a long career with a number of fine politically themed films, often closely based on true events among his credits. ‘State of Siege’ and ‘Section Speciale’ made in France in the 1970s were followed in Hollywood in the 80s by ‘Betrayed’ and ‘Missing’ – the latter based on the story of a father’s search for the truth about what happened to his son during the US backed coup to remove the Chilean leader Salvadore Allende.

 Z features a driving score by the distinguished Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis and garnered the Best Foreign Film Oscar in the Academy Awards.

Young Frankenstein

Production Year 1974
Directed by Mel Brooks
Written by Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder
Starring Gene Wilder, Peter Boyle, Madeleine Kahn, Marty Feldman, Terri Garr and Cloris Leachman

 This perfectly realized spoof of the Universal horror films of the 1930s is the work of Mel Brooks; whose career as a satirist, comedian, writer, director and producer is one of the longest and most successful in contemporary cinema. Brooks started in the 1950s as a stand up comic in the clubs and hotels of the Catskill Mountains resorts. He then became a writer on some of the cleverest and wittiest TV series of the 1960s including 'The Dick Van Dyke Show' and 'Get Smart', which he co-created with Buck Henry.

 Brooks made his feature film debut in 1968 with The Producers - a jet black comedy about a pair of Broadway producers who conceive of a way to make money from a guaranteed failure in the form of an outrageous stage musical called 'Springtime for Hitler'. He followed this in 1974 with his brilliant western spoof Blazing Saddles - paving the way for later surreal parodies like Airplane and The Naked Gun. Whilst on the set of Blazing Saddles he and the film’s star Gene Wilder conceived of Young Frankenstein. The resulting comedy – a lovingly rendered parody of monster movies, shot in glorious black and white, stars some of the most gifted comic actors of the day - including the eccentric British performer Marty Feldman as the hunchback Igor and Madeleine Kahn as Frankenstein’s neurotic fiancée Elizabeth. Look out too for a disguised cameo by Gene Hackman as the blind hermit who befriends the monster.

 Along with Blazing Saddles and The Producers Young Frankenstein represents the best of Brooks’ comedies although as a producer he has made some outstanding straight films including David Lynch's The Elephant Man and David Cronenberg’s The Fly.


Production year 1971
Directed by George Lucas
Produced by Francis Ford Coppola
Written by George Lucas and Walter Murch
Starring Robert Duval and Donald Pleasence

 Released in the same year as the last Film Club presentation Klute, this ultra low budget sci-fi allegory is the first feature by George Lucas - perhaps the single most influential figure in popular culture of the late 20th century.

 Lucas developed the script from his 1967 student film made at USC. It is set in a dystopian, ‘Brave New World’ type future where android robots police a population whose desires are kept sublimated by the enforced use of mind altering drugs. One man known as  THX 1138 breaks the rules and is pursued by the authorities for his crime…

 Cleverly shot using existing Californian locations to double for futuristic cityscapes the film is in stark contrast to Lucas’ high-tech Star Wars trilogy. It stars Robert Duvall – one of the finest actors of his generation who would go on to appear in some of the key films of the 1970s.

 Lucas made the movie with Francis Coppola’s new production company Zoetrope and once completed they took it to Warner Brothers. Warners hated the film and demanded that it was cut by five minutes and that the money they had loned Coppola be repaid. This nearly bankrupted the operation. He was also made to take on another project – The Godfather – he did so unwillingly and then went on to make one of the greatest American films of the period.

 THX had a poor reception from the critics but has since become regarded as  a cult classic. As for its director – his next film was American Graffiti – a big commercial hit which enabled him to bankroll Star Wars in 1977 – the rest is history…


Production year 1971
Directed by Alan J Pakula
Written by Andy and Dave Lewis
Starring Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland and Roy Scheider

Chosen by the winning Christmas Quiz team!

Mark Deitch will introduce the film.

Alan J Pakula is one of the most talented and interesting American directors of the 1970s. In a five-year period he produced what has become known as his Paranoia Trilogy consisting of  The Parallax View, Klute and All The Presidents Men. Each film taps into a different vein of anxiety and takes us into a world of conspiracy, uncertainty and tension.

Klute stars Donald Sutherland as a detective assigned to investigate a missing persons case. The trail leads him to Bree Daniels - a high-class call girl played by Jane Fonda (who won a Best Actress Oscar for her performance). As they follow the various leads in the case Bree is being watched by a mysterious stalker whose identity holds the key to the mystery.

Klute is by turns erotic and terrifying with brilliant use of sound and silence by Chris Newman. The cinematography by Gordon Willis is edgy and outstanding. Look out too for a brief cameo from Candy Darling – the transsexual who was the inspiration for The Velvet Underground’s ‘Candy Says’ and is mentioned in Lou Reed’s landmark song ‘Walk on the Wild Side’.

Pakula’s career peaked with All The Presidents Men in 1976, although he later had hits with Sophie’s Choice and Presumed Innocent in the 80s and 90s. He died in 1998, aged 70, in a freak car accident that would not have been out of place in one of his own films…

Withnail and I

Production year 1986
Written and directed by Bruce Robinson
Starring Richard E Grant, Paul McGann and Richard Griffiths
A personal favourite of AFC co-founder Mark Mason,

 This cult black comedy about two out of work actors in the final months of 1969 is one of the most quotable of all British movies. It was made by George Harrison's company Handmade Films and directed by Bruce Robinson, an actor turned writer who penned the script for The Killing Fields before he wrote this film.

 The film features a tour-de-force performance by Richard E Grant as Withnail, an egotistical, selfish and hilarious character who dominates the film from start to finish. It was effectively Grant's screen debut and although he has worked consistently ever since  his career has never hit such a high spot again. Paul McGann is 'I' and Richard Griffiths does a memorable turn as the flamboyant Uncle Monty. The film also features a priceless cameo by Ralph Brown playing Danny the Dealer who dispenses unforgettable deadpan, stoned wisdom along with his medicine.

 If you're hanging on to a rising balloon, you're presented with a difficult decision - let go before it's too late or hold on and keep getting higher, posing the question: how long can you keep a grip on the rope? They're selling hippie wigs in Woolworth's, man. The greatest decade in the history of mankind is over, and as Presuming Ed here has so consistently pointed out, we have failed to paint it black


Production year 1958
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Written by Alec Coppel and Samuel A Taylor from a story by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac
Starring Kim Novak, James Stewart and Barbara Bel Geddes

In a career that spanned six decades and produced more than 50 films Alfred Hitchcock made nothing more strange and delirious than this intense psychological thriller.

James Stewart is “Scottie” Ferguson - a San Francisco police detective with a morbid fear of heights whose phobia causes his partner to be killed during a rooftop pursuit. He retires from the force to become a private detective and takes on a case involving a college friend who asks him to decipher the bizarre behaviour of his wife Madeleine. When he saves her from suicide Scotty begins to fall in love with Madeleine thus beginning an intriguing tale full of strange and unexpected twists and turns…

Hitchcock’s often obsessive relationship with his leading actresses and his voyeuristic filmmaking style are perfectly blended in this intoxicating tale. James Stewart was never better as the detective and Kim Novak is perfect in her role as the ultimate troubled Hitchcock heroine. The experimental and surreal visual effects and a marvellous score by longtime collaborator Bernard Herrmann make this one of the greatest films by one of cinema’s greatest stylists