Friday, October 4
ALASTAIR SIM BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION (BORN October 9, 1900):
HUE AND CRY (1947), LAUGHTER IN PARADISE (1951), THE BELLES OF ST. TRINIAN’S (1954), SCHOOL FOR SCOUNDRELS (1960)
Though he is perhaps best known for his role as Scrooge in the 1951 film adaptation of A Christmas Carol, Scottish character actor Alastair Sim is one of the best-loved and most prolific actors in classic British comedy. Often appearing in multiple roles, he starred in more than fifty films beginning in 1935 and was both critically acclaimed and unfailingly popular, regularly topping the cinema-goers popularity polls. This October, Film Movement Plus invites you to celebrate Sim’s birthday with the premiere of four of his classics: HUE AND CRY, LAUGHTER IN PARADISE, THE BELLES OF ST. TRINIAN’S and SCHOOL FOR SCOUNDRELS.
The first of the Ealing Studios “comedies,” 1947’s HUE AND CRY, directed by Charles Crichton (The Lavender Hill Mob, A Fish Called Wanda), follows teenager Joe Kirby, who fantasizes that he’s on the track of criminals, only to discover that it has all come true! After discovering that his favorite comic is being used as a means of communication between a master criminal and his gang of thieves, Joe sets out to alert the writer, played by Alastair Sim, and turn the page on the crooks.
In 1951’s LAUGHTER IN PARADISE, directed by Mario Zampi, famed practical joker Henry Russell leaves 50,000 pounds to each of his four surviving relatives. But his will has one last joke – they each have to undertake a task completely out of character within a month. As each sets out on their objective they find that quite apart from the promised riches, they are unexpectedly getting a lot out of the challenge. All except caddish Simon Russell, that is. Released in 1951, LAUGHTER IN PARADISE was Britain’s top-grossing film, and, if you look carefully, you’ll see a young Audrey Hepburn in a bit part as a cigarette girl.
1954’s THE BELLES OF ST. TRINIAN’S, directed by Frank Launder (scriptwriter for The Lady Vanishes and Night Train to Munich), features one of Sim’s most unforgettable performances. In an all-girls school, where the unruly students are more interested in men and mischief than homework and hockey, the arrival of Princess Fatima of Makyad and the return of recently expelled Arabella Fritton inspire even more chaos than usual. THE BELLES OF ST. TRINIAN’S features an all-star star cast including Sim playing dual roles as both headmistress Miss Millicent Fritton and her twin brother (and Arabella’s father) Clarence Fritton.
Finally, in 1960’s SCHOOL FOR SCOUNDRELS, Henry Palfrey (Ian Carmichael) tries hard to impress but always loses out to the rotter Delauney. Then he discovers the Lifeman college run by “Professor” Potter (Sim) and discovers the secrets of success. But has he the courage to put all his lessons into effect? Based on the Stephen Potter “One Upmanship” and “Lifemanship” books, SCHOOL FOR SCOUNDRELS was directed by Robert Hamer (Kind Hearts and Coronets).
Friday, October 11
EALING COMEDY CLASSICS: WHISKY GALORE (1949), THE MAGGIE (1954)
Ealing Studio’s output from the 1940s and 1950s helped define what was arguably the Golden Age for British Cinema and the birthplace of the most delectable crop of films to decorate postwar cinema. It not only fostered great directors such as Alexander Mackendrick and Robert Hamer and towering stars such as Alec Guinness, Peter Sellers Stanley Holloway, Hugh Griffith, and Margaret Rutherford, but it produced a group of “veddy” British comedy classics that found audiences the world over. Join Film Movement Plus in welcoming two restored Ealing Comedies from the legendary studio: WHISKY GALORE and THE MAGGIE.
1949’s WHISKY GALORE is one of Ealing’s best-loved comedies – incidentally retitled Tight Little Island in the U.S., where it was a big hit. During the war, the remote Scottish island of Todday is starved for scarce whisky, until a shipwreck strands thousands of cases of “the water of life” tantalizingly within reach. Basil Radford is hilariously misguided as the island’s chief of Defense, and Joan Greenwood lends her fetching presence – but every member of the large ensemble is terrific, directed by the gifted Alexander Mackendrick (The Man in the White Suit, The Ladykillers, Sweet Smell of Success) in his directorial debut.
Mackendrick also directed the 1954’s THE MAGGIE (originally released stateside as High and Dry), one of the fifty-odd puffer boats which chugged among the Western Isles of Scotland. Squat, unprepossessing, and badly in need of paint, she is destined for the scrap yard – at least until a misunderstanding welcomes the valuable cargo of the hard-charging American businessman, Calvin B. Marshall (Paul Douglas).
Friday, October 18
RAFIKI + NEWFEST CELEBRATION
Since 1988, NewFest has been one of the world’s preeminent LGBTQ festivals, dedicated to bringing together filmmakers and audiences to build a community that passionately supports queer cinema and storytelling. Supporting those who are willing to take risks in telling the stories that fully reflect the diversity and complexity of LGBTQ life, NewFest kicks off its 31st Film Festival on October 23 and, in celebration, Film Movement Plus both premieres the recent acclaimed smash RAFIKI, as well as offering a program featuring some of the best of the fest from years past.
Bursting with the colorful street style & music of Nairobi’s vibrant youth culture, director Wanuri Kahiu’s RAFIKI is a tender love story between two young women in a country that still criminalizes homosexuality. Kena and Ziki have long been told that “good Kenyan girls become good Kenyan wives” – but they yearn for something more. Despite the political rivalry between their families, the girls encourage each other to pursue their dreams in a conservative society. When love blossoms between them, Kena and Ziki must choose between happiness and safety.
Initially banned in Kenya for its positive portrayal of queer romance, RAFIKI won a landmark supreme court case chipping away at Kenyan anti-LGBT legislation. Featuring remarkable performances by newcomers Samantha Mugatsia and Sheila Munyiva, RAFIKI is a hip tale of first love “reminiscent of the early work of Spike Lee” (Screen Daily) that’s “impossible not to celebrate” (Variety)!
Also, movie lovers shouldn’t miss these other streaming classics from the NewFest screens:
- BLUSH (2015, directed by Michael Vinik)
- COBY (2017, directed by Christian Sonderegger)
- IN THE NAME OF (2012, directed by Małgośka Szumowska)
Friday, October 25
BRITISH WWII CLASSICS:
WENT THE DAY WELL? (1942), THE COLDITZ STORY (1955), DUNKIRK (1958), ICE COLD IN ALEX (1958)
Commemorate the bravery of a nation at war and experience all the explosive drama across land, sea and air in four British WWII classics, now presented uncut and fully restored on Film Movement Plus, their finest streaming hours.
Bramley End, snug and safe, seemed far away from the events of World War II. Little did the villagers suspect the coming grim events in 1942’s WENT THE DAY WELL?, directed by Alberto Cavalcanti. When lorry loads of Royal Engineers that rolled onto Bramley End’s village green, they had no reason to suspect that the soldiers were disguised German parachutists, and even less reason to mistrust the leader of their little community in this Ealing Studios film based on a story by Graham Greene.
The Germans believed that no man could escape from Colditz Castle, set as it was in the heart of the Reich, 400 miles from any neutral frontier. 1955’s THE COLDITZ STORY, directed by Guy Hamilton (Goldfinger, Diamonds Are Forever, Live and Let Die, The Man with the Golden Gun) and based on Pat Reid’s epic novel, tells the story of how the British, French, Dutch and Polish prisoners of war who were incarcerated in Colditz set out to prove their captors wrong.
It is early May: the year 1940. In London, the civil population, lulled into an atmosphere of false security, goes about its business as usual. Even the official war communiqué’s merely report activity on the Front. But Charles Forman, war correspondent, knows better. As the war in France takes a turn for the worse, he signs on with the Merchant Navy and volunteers for the greatest mission ever mounted in 1958’s powerful DUNKIRK, directed by Leslie Norman and starring John Mills and Richard Attenborough.
John Mills, Sylvia Syms and Anthony Quayle star in 1958’s ICE COLD IN ALEX. Directed byJ. Lee Thompson (The Guns of Navarone), the filmis set against a thousand square miles of blazing, pitiless desert, and features a story so unusual, and so gripping that it could spring only from life itself. It’s the Mediterranean of 1942; along the barren North African coast where war has turned towns into smoking ruins, and the grim struggle surges to and fro. But that is just the background; the story is about people, not war – and it happens to be true.