Starring Karidja Touré, Assa Sylla, Lindsay Karamoh and Mariétou Touré
Written and directed by Céline Sciamma
Running time 113 minutes
France 2014

 Our last movie - Rififi - was set in 1950s Paris and followed a group of thieves as they planned and carried out a seemingly impossible jewel robbery. Girlhood (Bande de filles) also takes place in the French capital -this time in the present day and features a gang - but an all female one. Their shoplifting exploits and the mayhem they cause around them are not the result of careful preparation but exuberance as they face the prospect of a summer out of school with nothing to do…

 Marieme is 16 and determined not to follow her mother’s path as a hotel cleaner. She begins hanging out with a girl gang in the banlieue where she lives and before long has been accepted as a member.
She learns to fight and when the gang leader Lady is defeated she steps up to the plate…

 The writer and director of Girlhood, Céline Sciamma, avoids the cliches that inhabit most coming-of-age stories. The film does not judge its young protagonists but celebrates their energy and lust for life. In another’s hands this might have been a gloomy and depressing tale but instead it is raucous and dynamic. The cast is excellent - particularly Assa Sylla as Lady and Karidja Touré
as Marieme. The use of pop music is excellent - particularly in the scene where the girls lip-synch to Rihanna’s hit song ‘Diamonds’.

 The director has said about the film”French young women today are this girl' - her
examination of girl power has been accused of exoticising its subjects but in the end Sciamma has created a real and fascinating bunch of characters from a group rarely very portrayed on screen.


Starring Jean Servais, Robert Hossein, Carl Mohner and Janine Darcey
Written by Auguste Le Breton, Jules Dassin and Rene Wheeler
Directed by Jules Dash
Running time 117 minutes
France 1955

Our last movie - A Fish Called Wanda - was about the comic aftermath of a diamond robbery. Rififi is about a heist of a very different kind and is perhaps the finest film noir ever to come out of France.

It tells the story of Tony - a down on his luck jewel thief,  who with his gang devises a plan to commit the seemingly impossible robbery of a jewellery shop in Paris. 

Rififi was directed  by an expatriate American - Jules Dassin.  Dassin had made a series of first-rate crime movies  like Brute Force and The Naked City in the US but moved to France in the early 1950s when he was blacklisted and prevented from working in Hollywood for his political views.

Rififi was originally set to be directed by Jean Pierre Melville, one of the greatest French filmmakers in the crime genre. Dassin adapted the screenplay from a bestselling novel and made some significant alterations of plot and character. The greatest change was to turn the robbery itself into the centrepiece of the film - a half hour sequence without music and featuring almost no dialogue which is a master class in  suspense  imitated in numerous other pictures since including Ocean’s Eleven.

Rififi was more than once accused of being a lesson in how to commit a robbery and was  subsequently banned in a number of countries when imitation burglaries took place !

Dassin won the best director award at the Cannes Festival and when Rififi became a success in the United States he was soon allowed to work there again. However he made most of his subsequent films in Europe going on to marry the Greek politician and singer Melina Mercouri. 

A Fish Called Wanda

Starring John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis,Kevin Kline and Michael Palin
Written by John Cleese and Charles Crichton
Directed by Charles Crichton
Running time 109 minutes
UK/US 1988

Our last film was The Sweet Smell Of Success was directed by Ealing alumni Alexander Mackendrick and co-starred Tony Curtis.

Tonight’s movie - the classic modern British comedy A Fish Called Wanda - is linked to it in not one but two ways. It stars Curtis’ daughterJamie Lee and was directed by another great Ealing man - Charles Crichton. Crichton’s credits included such solid gold hits as The Titfield Thunderbolt and The Lavender Hill Mob.  This was his final film - he was 78 years old when he made it - having been brought out of retirement by John Cleese. Like The Lavender Hill Mob it is about the aftermath of a heist but the incompetent gang in A Fish Called Wanda are attempting to find the diamonds hidden by their boss before he went to prison.

Cleese is excellent as Archie Leach - a barrister who gets caught up in the plot, while Kevin Kline and Michael Palin make a hilarious double act as Otto a Brit-hating hit man and the animal-loving jewel thief Ken. Jamie Lee Curtis proved herself to have sublime comic timing as the smart, sexy Wanda and the script by Cleese and Crichton is full of snap and crackle - packed with sharp observations on cultural difference. Only Michael Palin’s ‘comic’ stammer seems misjudged thirty years on...

A Fish Called Wanda combines the best of Fawlty Towers with impeccable Ealing craftsmanship - the cast were reunited in a 1997 sequel - Fierce Creatures - which sadly failed to come even close to the brilliance of the original.

For those interested in trivia - Cleese’s character in the film 'Archie Leach', is the original name of Hollywood legend Cary Grant.

The Sweet Smell of Success

Starring Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis
Written by Ernest Lehman and Clifford Odets
Directed by Alexander Mackendrick
Running time 96 minutes
United States 1957

Our last film before the summer break was Local Hero, featuring a memorable cameo by one of Hollywood’s most engaging stars - Burt Lancaster. Lancaster began his career as an acrobat but later turned to acting and in addition became a powerful producer with his own company - Hecht, Hill, Lancaster.

Alexander Mackendrick directed two of the finest of all the Ealing comedies - Whiskey Galore and The Ladykillers but in 1954, when the studios were sold, he found himself out of a job and moved to the USA. After a couple of false starts he was hired by Lancaster to make a film of Ernest Lehman’s novella about J J Hunsecker - a vicious newspaper columnist and his relationship with Sidney Falco - a devious press agent. Lehman (whose screen credits include North By Northwest and The Sound Of Music) had been a publicist early in his career and based the character of Hunsecker on Walter Winchell - the infamous journalist whose  column was syndicated and read by millions of people worldwide.

This brilliant noir drama, beautifully photographed in black and white by James Wong Howe, is one of the darkest and most unflinching films ever made about  show business.  An atmospheric score combines the music of Elmer Bernstein with the jazz themes of the Chico Hamilton Quintet to produce a perfect accompaniment to the sleazy machinations of the film’s plot.

As Sidney Falco Tony Curtis is the perfect foil to Lancaster - never better as the fawning agent seemingly willing to suffer any indignity to get his clients publicity. When Lancaster wants a light for his cigarette he only has to say   ‘Match me Sidney’ and Curtis is there to oblige...


Starring François Cluzet and Omar Sy
Written and directed by Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledo
Running time 113 minutes
France 2011

Our last movie Harold And Maude was a black comedy about a very odd couple and their unlikely romance. Untouchable (Intouchables) tells the story of another seemingly mis-matched pair, drawn together by fate - who form a relationship that changes both their lives.

  Philippe is a wealthy white man living in  Paris,  left a helpless quadriplegic after a paragliding accident. Driss is a young black ex-con from a poor and deprived family in the banlieue. When he turns up for an interview as Philippe’s live-in carer Driss has no intention of getting the job but the next day finds himself in the role. Philippe likes the fact that his new nurse shows him no pity and the two men develop a combative rapport with one another which suits them both very well.

  Based on a true story, this very funny film has a take on disability that  is refreshing and irreverent. Untouchable features two outstanding performances by the leads. Omar Sy in particular is a revelation in his first major movie role after a career in comedy and TV. His energy and anarchy find the perfect foil in François Cluzet as the sarcastic and embittered millionaire. 

  Omar Sy worked again with the directors of this film in Samba which was released earlier this year.

Harold and Maude

Starring Ruth Gordon and Bud Cort
Screenplay by Colin Higgins
Music by Cat Stevens
Directed by Hal Ashby
Running time 91 minutes
USA 1971

Our last movie Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? told the dark and twisted tale of two sisters growing old together unhappily…
Harold And Maude tackles age very differently. Harold is a young man obsessed with death, given to faking his own suicide in the weirdest ways. Ruth is a much older woman who believes in living life to the absolute full - no matter what the consequences. They meet at a funeral, form a bond and together embark on a series of bizarre escapades. When they become lovers it causes outrage all around them…
Hal Ashby’s beautiful, strange and touching comedy is among the finest films of the 1970s and deals with one of the last great sexual taboos. His other work includes Shampoo, The Last Detail and Being There - all wonderful quirky pictures that got under the skin of American life mercilessly lampooning convention and conservatism. Harold And Maude is perhaps his best movie and features flawless performances from Bud Cort and Ruth Gordon as the misfit pair. Ruth Gordon was a talented writer as well as an actress - her scripts included the Hepburn/Tracy comedies Adam’s Rib and Pat And Mike. She deservedly won an Oscar for her mesmerising performance as the sinister neighbour in Rosemary’s Baby.

Harold And Maude is a deeply eccentric film and perhaps the strangest romantic comedy you will ever see…

Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

Starring Bette Davis, Joan Crawford and Victor Buono
Screenplay by Lukas Heller
Directed by Robert Aldrich
Running time 128 minutes
USA 1962


Our last movie The Ruling Class was a wild British farce about a dysfunctional aristocratic family and their various hangers on. This darkly comic film also deals with family dynamics - but of a very different kind in a very different place. 

Jane and Elvira - two ageing showbiz sisters long past their prime, played by  Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, live in a crumbling Hollywood mansion. Blanche is wheelchair bound and submissive and Jane her dominating,  cracked and bitter carer.

There was a  famous rivalry between these two great movie stars who had spent thirty years competing with one another for the best parts. They seemingly disliked each other intensely and the on screen fireworks between them are consequently spectacular!

Baby Jane’s director Robert Aldrich was one of Hollywood’s most interesting and diverse talents. He made some of Hollywoods toughest tough-guy pictures including The Dirty Dozen and The Longest Yard, edgy cult films like Kiss Me Deadlyand The Grissom Gang as well as  over the top melodramas like Baby Jane and the lesbian drama  The Killing Of Sister George.

Davis and Crawford are unforgettable in this rich stew of grande guignol as the weird sisters locked in an intense and  twisted relationship. Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? spawned a string of similar entertainments starring ageing Hollywood actresses including Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte,Whatever Happened To Aunt Alice? and Who Slew Auntie Roo?


'The ultimate camp Gothic bitchfight - vastly entertaining…' 

The Ruling Class

Starring Peter O’Toole, Alistair Sim, Arthur Lowe and Coral Browne
Screenplay by Peter Barnes based on his play
Directed by Peter Medak
Running time 154 minutes
UK 1972

  Our last movie Black Cat, White Cat was a wildly anarchic farce about two fathers and their gypsy gangster families. Our next film The Ruling Class is a dark, comic satire about an equally ruthless clan - but this time they are British and part of the landed gentry.

  Peter O’Toole is Jack Arnold Alexander Tancred Gurney - the only surviving son of the 13th Earl of Gurney -  released from an insane asylum to inherit the family fortune when his father dies during a bizarre sexual act. The consequent family intrigue and plotting  unleashes a very different side of Jack to the harmless peace-loving man he is at the beginning…

  The Ruling Class began life as a play by Peter Barnes. It was Barnes' writing debut in 1968 and with Peter O’Toole in the lead enjoyed a long West End run and picked up several prestigious theatre awards. O’Toole bought the film rights and was persuaded to reprise his role on film by director Peter Medak. Medak cast a fantastic group of British character actors in the lead roles including Arthur Lowe as the communist Butler Tucker, Alistair Sim as the hypocritical Bishop Lampton and Coral Browne as the sinister Lady Claire.

  The Ruling Class is by turns outrageous, disturbing and coruscating as it puts the British political and class systems through the mincer. Like Lindsay Anderson’s  O Lucky Man!, made a year later and which we showed a few years back in the AFC, the satire seems just as chillingly relevant today as it did back then. The play was revived this year and has just finished a sell-out run with James McAvoy in the lead. McAvoy was widely praised for his performance as Jack but it pales next to O'Toole's - don’t miss this rare opportunity to see a neglected British classic.

Black Cat, White Cat

Starring Bajram Severdzan, Srdan Todorovic and Florijan Ajdini
Screenplay by Emir Kusturica and Gordan Mihic
Directed by Emir Kusturica
Running time 124 minutes
France/Germany/FR Yugoslavia 1999


Our last movie The Philadelphia Story was a madcap comedy that took place in the run up to a society wedding. Our next film Black Cat, White Cat also has a marriage ceremony at its heart but could not be more different in culture or character. Emir Kusturica’s riotous mix of farce, crime and romance is set among a gypsy community on the banks of the Danube and mixes family ties, magic and double dealing as a black marketeer tries to marry off his hapless son to the diminutive sister of a powerful gangster. The action is driven by the irresistible Gypsy music of  Kusturica’s band The No Smoking Orchestra

The director is a remarkable and fascinating artist - he has twice won the prestigious Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival for his filmsWhen Father Was Away On Business andUnderground. He built an actual village - Drvengrad - for his 2004 movie Life Is A Miracle in 2004 - where now lives and holds an annual private film festival. He is also no stranger to controversy - Underground  was accused by several sources of being pro-Serbian propaganda. These remarks  caused Kusturica  to announce his retirement from filmmaking  in the 90s - although he returned triumphantly a couple of years later withWhite Cat, Black Cat.


‘It's as though Four Weddings And A Funeral had been reimagined by Fellini with a cast of crazy Balkan rogues and a background chorus of farmyard animals.'

The Philadelphia Story

Starring Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn and James Stewart
Screenplay by Donald Ogden Stewart based on the play by Philip Barry
Directed by George Cukor
Running time 112 minutes
USA 1940

  Our last film North By Northwest starred Cary Grant in perhaps his last great film role. The Philadelphia Story sees him in one of his best-known - playing C K Dexter Haven - former husband to socialite Tracy Lord, who on the eve of her wedding to a new husband finds himself once again embroiled with his ex.

  Tracy is played by Katherine Hepburn, simultaneously enchanting and infuriating, with the love triangle completed by James Stewart as Mike Connor, a wise-cracking reporter assigned to cover the wedding. Based on a Broadway play, The Philadelphia Story is one of the most polished and sparkling romantic comedies ever to come out of Hollywood. Hepburn had played Tracy on the stage and is mesmerising in this screen adaptation - wreaking havoc among the men around her before she finally decides which one she will choose…

  The story was remade in 1956 as the musical High Society - with Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly and Frank Sinatra playing the leads. The Philadelphia Story is definitely the superior film with a sharper, defter script and more edge and character in the playing.

Mike: You're lit from within, Tracy. You've got fires banked down in you, hearth-fires and holocausts.Tracy: I don't seem to you made of bronze?
Mike: No, you're made out of flesh and blood. That's the blank, unholy surprise of it. You're the golden girl, Tracy. Full of life and warmth and delight. What goes on? You've got tears in your eyes.
Tracy: Shut up, shut up. Oh, Mike. Keep talking, keep talking. Talk, will you?

North by Northwest

In our last movie 'The Passenger' Jack Nicholson swaps identities with a dead man. In tonight’s film it is mistaken identity that causes Madison Avenue advertising executive Cary Grant  to be kidnapped and then pursued across the United States by a nameless conspiracy who want him dead.

Screenwriter Ernest Lehman says he set out to write the ultimate Hitchcock picture and he succeeded in spades. 

This elegant, witty,  and romantic adventure is one of the finest films in the Hitchcock canon. Cary Grant is at his most debonair and James Mason his most suavely menacing as the pair playing cat and mouse in a variety of iconic American locations including the United Nations building in New York and Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.

The action is played out to a thrilling score by Hitchcock’s regular musical collaborator Bernard Herrmann and the cinematography by Robert Burks and editing by George Tomasini are first rate. Add to that Lehman’s urbane, sparkling dialogue, the wonderful production design and costumes and the director Hitchcock at the top of his game. All of the familiar characteristics are there -  the ice cool blonde, the innocent man wrongly thought guilty and some stunning cinematic set piece sequences including the famous encounter between our hero and a deadly crop spraying aircraft in the middle of nowhere…

You may have watched North By Northwest on TV but don’t miss the chance to see it on a big screen - it’s a very different experience.

The Passenger

Starring Jack Nicholson, Maria Schneider, Steven Berkoff and Ian Hendry 
Screenplay by Mark Peploe 
Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni
Running time 119 minutes
Italy/Spain/France 1975

Our last screening  Nebraska was a road movie - our next film, The Passenger is a fascinating and very European take on that most American of film genres.

When David Locke, a journalist, finds the body of a fellow guest in his room in a hotel in North Africa he decides to switch identities with the corpse. Locke discovers that the dead man was running guns to rebels and is soon embroiled in a strange and dangerous plot. He teams up with a beautiful and inscrutable girl who helps him get away and they embark on mysterious journey through Spain together.

Michaelangelo Antonioni was one of the foremost European directors of the 60s and 70s. His films include Blow Up, L’Avventura and Zabriskie Point - they  frequently explore identity and alienation and are often visually quite stunning. The Passenger was one of a number of movies he made in the English language and is typically fascinating  and ambiguous in its themes and storytelling.

Playing opposite Jack Nicholson is Maria Schneider who gained lifelong notoriety for her role in Last Tango in Paris - one of the most controversial and explicit films of its era. Schneider died at the age of 58 in 2011 after an emotionally turbulent life marred by addiction and mental health problems. In The Passenger she is perfectly cast as The Girl - a freewheeling and enigmatic character who we never fully understand...

The film features a famous and intricate 7 minute tracking shot in its final act - one of the most extraordinary in cinema.


Starring Bruce Dern, Will Forte, June Squibb and Stacy Keach 
Screenplay by Bob Nelson 
Directed by Alexander Payne
Running time 114 minutes
USA 2013

Like Walkabout, our last film in the current linked sequence of movies, Nebraska is about a journey. Woody Grant is an irascible and eccentric old man living in Billings, Montana who is convinced that he has won a million dollars in a sweepstake - all he has to do is get to Lincoln, Nebraska to collect his prize. His family are unable to persuade him that he is deluded and his son David eventually agrees to drive him there to prove the point.

The two men set off on a road trip that takes them through the ramshackle landscape of small-town America where they have a series of  hilarious encounters and adventures with friends, relatives and other people from Woody’s murky past. Their complicated and difficult father/son relationship is stretched to breaking point along the way.

Alexander Payne’s wonderfully crafted comedy drama features a handful of brilliant actors - most notably the septuagenarian Bruce Dern playing Woody - for which he won the best actor award at Cannes. Also excellent are June Squibb as Woody's foul-mouthed wife Kate and Will Forte as his long-suffering son David. The black and white cinematography by Phedon Papamichael is exquisite and the script by Bob Nelson funny, deft and beautifully observed.

Alexander Payne is one of  the best independent filmmakers working today. We screened his razor-sharp comedyElection several years ago and his more recent films including Sideways and The Descendants show him to be a genuine auteur with a wonderful gift for satire.

Bruce Dern continues to be one of the most distinctive and charismatic actors in American cinema - as Woody he delivers perhaps the finest performance in his long career.

Nebraska was universally praised by critics at the time of its release but seen by far too few people - don’t miss this gem of a movie - a perfect way to start the new year.