Close Up

30 January - 23 December 2022: Never on Sunday

under-your-skin-mikko-niskanen-3.jpg

Under Your Skin
Mikko Niskanen, 1966, 99 min, 35mm
Finnish with English subtitles

Directed by Mikko Niskanen, an indispensable figure of Finnish new cinema of the 1960s, Under Your Skin (Käpy selän alla) is one of the most significant films in the history of Finnish cinema which, in the spirit of New Wave, embraces a whole new generation of Finns dreaming of "a universal sense of responsibility." (Peter von Bagh). The tender and real depiction of this new politically-conscious generation, as well as fresh cinematic ideas employed, were warmly welcomed by both the Finnish audiences (making the film the second box office hit of 1966) and the critics, the latter leading to the film winning six Jussi awards, the Finnish equivalent of the Oscar.

"Set against a background of white birch trees, a glittering lake and early summer greenery, [Under Your Skin] has a rhapsodic character and describes the relationships between four young adults. The agile camera work still captures [the] fluidity of the relationships and the private feelings of the characters in a spontaneous way. The summer beauty of nature corresponds gracefully with the Scandinavian fantasy world that is always associated with freedom, youth and sentimentality. But Käpy selän alla also breaks the illusion of reality of the narrative cinema on several levels, and the focus of the camera goes beyond the confines of the narrative, and draws in the audience." Tytti Soila

Supported by Finnish Institute in London and Finland's National Audiovisual Institute – KAVI.


vida-en-sombras-Llorenc-llobet-gracia.jpg

Vida en sombras
Llorenç Llobet Gràcia, 1948, 80 min
Spanish with English subtitles
UK premiere of the restored version

“A semi-autobiographical ode to the cinema, the medium that had enraptured [director Llorenç Llobet Gràcia] since childhood. The hero of Vida en sombras is Carlos (Fernando Fernán Gómez), whose life is entwined with the cinema from his first breath: he is born in a fairground during a projection of early Lumière shorts. He starts making movies as a teenager, woos his wife at a screening of Cukor’s Romeo and Juliet (1936), and goes to work as a cameraman. This often whimsical and theatrical movie paints Carlos’s passion for the cinema as somewhat dangerous – more vampiric than nourishing. The cinema is a shadow world in which he is immersed, while real life passes him by. Carlos’s joy in movies develops into a compulsion to capture the Spanish Civil War with his camera. After a personal tragedy, his passion for cinema turns to bitter hatred, and it takes a Hitchcock film to lead him back to his first love. This absorbing film is a story of obsession, rather than a portrait of an artist.” – Pamela Hutchinson, Sight & Sound

Supported by Filmoteca de Catalunya and Generalitat de Catalunya | Departament de Cultura


the-runner-amir-naderi.jpg

The Runner
Amir Naderi, 1984, 92 min
Persian with English subtitles
UK premiere of the restored version

"Amir Naderi's autobiographical masterpiece about Amiro, an orphaned teenager trying to better his life by learning to read, was the first post-revolutionary Iranian film to be seen internationally and mark the beginning of a steady wave of great films to emerge from that country in the 80s and 90s. Breathtakingly edited by Iranian New Wave pioneer, director and writer Bahram Beyzaie, the film remains both open – as its Persian Gulf landscapes – and abstract, as its protagonist's struggle to understand and conquer a world full of hostility and indifference." – Ehsan Khoshbakht  

"An astonishing piece of film-making in which Naderi's harsh account of modern poverty supports passages of extravagant but unsentimental lyricism. Young Nirumand (as Amiro) gives a performance to make Rossellini weep." – Pierre Hodgson  

"Amir Naderi’s The Runner blew my mind when I saw it at a retrospective for him at the Lincoln Center in New York in 2000. Naderi’s decision to shoot in a simple neorealist style resonated with me deeply. I was absolutely affected as a spectator and enormously influenced as a filmmaker by its poetry and Naderi’s depiction of the resilience of the human spirit. The Runner tells the story of a young boy, Amiro (played by Majid Niroumand), who lives by collecting bits and pieces of scrap from a city rubbish dump and bottles washed ashore by passing cruise ships. The title of the film comes from the game he and his friends (and competitors) play, racing against each other to try to touch the end of an accelerating train as it leaves the station. Amiro is fascinated by the local airport and decorates his room with pictures of airplanes ripped from magazines. As a filmmaker, I dream of being able to follow a simple story with as much conviction, love, and strength as Naderi. – Annemarie Jacir

Special thanks to Amir Naderi


memories-of-underdevelopment-tomas-gutierrez-alea.-2jpg.jpg

Memories of Underdevelopment
Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, 1968, 98 min
Spanish with English subtitles

This film by Tomás Gutiérrez Alea is the most renowned work in the history of Cuban cinema. After his wife and family flee in the wake of the Bay of Pigs invasion, the bourgeois intellectual Sergio (Sergio Corrieri) passes his days wandering Havana in idle reflection, his amorous entanglements and political ambivalence gradually giving way to a mounting sense of alienation. With this adaptation of an innovative novel by Edmundo Desnoes, Gutiérrez Alea developed a cinematic style as radical as the times he was chronicling, creating a collage of vivid impressions through the use of experimental editing techniques, archival material, and spontaneously shot street scenes. Intimate and densely layered, Memories of Underdevelopment provides an indictment of its protagonist’s disengagement and an extraordinary glimpse of life in postrevolutionary Cuba.

Memories of Underdevelopment was restored by the Cineteca di Bologna at L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory in association with Instituto Cubano del Arte e Industria Cinematográficos (ICAIC).

a-day-in-barbagia-vittorio-de-seta.jpg

Islands of Fire: The Cinema of Vittorio De Seta

“An anthropologist who speaks with the voice of a poet.” Martin Scorsese  

"I don’t think I’ve discovered anything as surprising or enriching as [these] films, which are ‘documentaries’ in the tradition of Humphrey Jennings, as opposed to cinéma vérité. They are patiently observed and structured renderings of pre-industrial life in the manner of Robert Flaherty; they are also largely staged – there is not a single haphazard camera set-up in any of [the] films.  

What is remarkable is the sense of patience and care, the weight carried by each image within a compact structure. The films are all roughly ten minutes in length, and the level of poetic compression is as high as in the best D.W. Griffith shorts. Within the rhythms of exalted dailiness proper to each film there are images that are heart-stopping: sheep passing across a snow-flecked mountainside in Pastori di Orgosolo, or the shepherd leaving the cold outside for the fire-lit warmth inside his hut; lava flows contrasted with the luxuriously dark images of waves crashing against rocks in Isole di fuoco; the golden rain of wheat tossed with wooden pitchforks in Parabola d’oro." Kent Jones, Sight & Sound  

This programme features seven short films by Vittorio De Seta, introduced by Ehsan Khoshbakht:

Orgosolo's Shepherds, 1958, 10 min
A Day in Barbagia, 1958, 9 min
Golden Parable, 1955, 9 min
Easter in Sicily, 1955, 8 min
Surfarara, 1955, 9 min
Sea Countrymen, 1955, 9 min
Islands of Fire, 1955, 9 min

Restored in 2019 by the Cineteca di Bologna and The Film Foundation at L'Immagine Ritrovata laboratory with funding provided by the George Lucas Family Foundation.  

Special thanks to Cineteca di Bologna and Andrea Meneghelli


the-batwoman-rene-cardona.jpg

The Batwoman
René Cardona, 1968, 80 min
Spanish with English subtitles
UK premiere of new restoration

Introduction by Viviana García-Besné

An unforgettably colourful restoration of a classic of Mexican pulp cinema, The Batwoman (La Mujer murcielago)  is the superhero film to end all superhero films! Maura Monti stars as the titular Batwoman, or Gloria, depending on how well you know her. She’s a female twist on Bruce Wayne, one of the richest women in the world who is also a luchador and an international spy. At the outset of the film, a series of male luchadores have been found dead in Acapulco. Detective Mario Robles is one of the few people who know Batwoman’s true identity, along with FBI agent Tony Roca. Robles enlists Batwoman to help with the case since she is also a luchador, and, incidentally, train at the same gym...


tri-alexander-petrovic.jpg

Tri
Aleksandar Petrović, 1965, 80 min
Serbo-Croatian with English subtitles

“Aleksandar Petrović is both the ultimate classical master and the most refreshing innovator [in the history of Serbian and Yugoslav cinema]. Many of his trademark characteristics meet in the powerful drama Tri, which takes the form of a triptych, with stories set at the beginning, middle and the end of the Second World War. In the first, a young student arrives at a rural train station only to behold the execution of an innocent man. In the second, a partisan and his mate are hunted by German military through the mountains of Yugoslavia. In the third, an officer in a local village meets the eyes of a woman sentenced for execution. The questions of human conscience, agency, and action in the face of death are raised in compelling ways. With all three roles played by the legendary actor Velimir ‘Bata’ Živojinović, and the stories shot by master cinematographer Tomislav Pinter, Tri is a landmark of the New Yugoslav Film. A standout at Karlovy Vary and nominee at the Academy Awards, it remains a perfect introduction to Yugoslav cinema.” – Mina Radović


a-house-is-not-a-home-wright-or-wrong-mehrnaz-saeed-vafa.jpg

A House Is not a Home: Wright or Wrong
Mehrnaz Saeed-Vafa, 2020, 73 min

“This intimate saga links the filmmaker’s long-lost family home in Tehran, a historic Frank Lloyd Wright house in Alabama, and the formative years of renowned film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum. Rosenbaum, son of a family of movie-theatre owners, grew up in the Wright house, now a museum. Documenting the home over a period of years, Saeed-Vafa finds parallels between Wright’s design eccentricities and the twisting course of dysfunctional family histories.” – Barbara Scharres


hunger-henning-carlsen.jpg

Hunger
Henning Carlsen, 1966, 106 min
Danish with English subtitles

""Just because one is a sensitive kind of person doesn't mean one is mad." Henning Carlsen's adaptation of Knut Hamsun's novel, Hunger, captures a meek man (Per Oscarsson) and his insatiable search for sustenance and hope through the lifeless streets of Christiania (old Oslo). Like the tone and tenets of neorealism which probed into the harsh social realities of a war-scarred Italy, Hunger focuses on how intense starvation influences a man's experience of reality. The camera becomes an eye for the way that hunger manifests itself in this Christiania man. The architecture reveals his famished state: stark buildings, barren water-stained apartment walls, empty streets, leafless trees, eerie grey skies. Unlike neorealism, however, the 1966 production uses dreams and "mindscreen" to seize the character's emotion-charged soul-searching and heighten his imagination and intellectual inquiry. This is not hunger like that of a dog; it's a spiritual lack, a quest for the substance of life. At one point, the protagonist regurgitates the raw meat scrapings from a bone fit for a dog and exclaims: "Damnation! Is there nothing one can keep for oneself?" Per Oscarsson punctuates each line with brilliant delivery and makes the desperation of Hunger immediate."  – Gustavo Lamanna


szyfry-wojciech-has.jpg

Szyfry
Wojciech Has, 1966, 80 min
Polish with English subtitles

“Championed for his intricate narratives and hypnotic imagery by people like Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia, Luis Buñuel and Martin Scorsese, Wojciech Has uses a historical frame only to bend the notions of time and space. The result, Szyfry (The Codes), is one of the most complex Polish films about the moral dilemmas of Second World War.  

Made right after his international breakthrough, The Saragossa Manuscript, Szyfry is about a Second World War veteran returning to Warsaw from his long London exile to meet the wife and son he has left behind. His son, a former member of the resistance, open his father's eyes to the fate of the fourth member of their family, his disappeared brother, and the inconvenient truth that he might have been a Nazi collaborator. Featuring some of Has's most staggering dream/nightmare sequences, this rarely seen gem is one of the essential films of Polish cinema of the 1960s.” – Ehsan Khoshbakht


Never on Sunday is a series of screenings of rare classics, archive masterpieces, obscure delights and forgotten gems carefully curated and introduced by Ehsan Khoshbakht and taking place the last Sunday of each month at Close-Up.