Close Up

1 January - 31 December 2024: Never on Sunday

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Strange Victory
Leo Hurwitz, 1948, 64 min 

Introduced by Ehsan Khoshbakht

“In 1945, the free world rejoiced over the defeat of fascism. But the sense of peace was short-lived, and as the Cold War began, the United States entered a period of national paranoia and political repression. In response, boundary-pushing publisher and producer Barney Rosset and director Leo Hurwitz joined forces to create Strange Victory. This rarely seen, stylistically bold documentary equals the visual brilliance of landmark works like Battleship Potemkin and I Am Cuba while delivering an extraordinary cry for equality and justice. Skilfully combining real-life footage of World War II combat, post-war refugees, and the Nuremberg trials with powerful dramatic re-enactments, Hurwitz weaves an extraordinary cinematic portrait of post-war American fascism. How could it be, the film asks, that servicemen returning home from defeating a racist and genocidal enemy found a United States plagued by prejudice, Jim Crow, anti-Semitism, anti-Catholicism, and xenophobia?” – Milestone Films


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On the Bowery
Lionel Rogosin, 1956, 65 min

Introduced by Ehsan Khoshbakht

Lionel Rogosin’s landmark of American neorealism chronicles three days in the drinking life of Ray Salyer, a part-time railroad worker adrift on New York’s skid row, the Bowery. When the film first opened in 1956, it exploded onto the screen, burning away years of Hollywood artifice, jump-starting America’s post-war independent-film scene, and earning an Academy Award nomination for best documentary. Developed in close collaboration with the men Rogosin met while spending months hanging out in neighbourhood bars, On the Bowery is both an indispensable document of a bygone Manhattan and a vivid and devastating portrait of addiction.


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One Way or Another
Sara Gómez, 1977, 73 min

Introduced by Ehsan Khoshbakht

“A landmark of Cuban and feminist cinema, One Way or Another was the first feature from Cuba directed by a woman, Sara Gómez – and it was to be her last. Gómez, who got her start making short documentaries and assisting Agnès Varda and Tomás Gutiérrez Alea (Memories of Underdevelopment), died while editing the film, leaving Alea and cowriter Tomás González Pérez to complete it. She shot the film with a handheld 16mm camera during the so-called quinquenio gris (Five Gray Years), the period in which the Cuban regime’s Sovietization of the economy radically transformed all aspects of society: jobs, housing, health, education, the place of women, and artistic censorship. Gómez brings a neorealist, even ethnographic sensibility to this love story of a middle-school teacher and a factory worker on the outskirts of Havana. Bravely unflinching in her depictions of race, class, and gender inequality, she reveals a country attempting to wrest itself from its colonialist past while hurtling into an uncertain future.” – MoMA


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Llévame en tus brazos
Julio Bracho, 1954, 98 min
UK premiere of the new restoration

Introduced by Viviana García-Besné & Ehsan Khoshbakht

“After having been fired from a sugar mill, José can no longer marry Rita, the fisherman's daughter. When Rita agrees to marry the mill owner to save her father from ruin, violence looms large... Class conflicts and erotic torments – all in one visually stunning film!” – Locarno Film Festival


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Misunderstood
Luigi Comencini, 1966, 105 min

Introduced by Ehsan Khoshbakht

John Duncombe, the British consul in Florence, returns home from his wife’s funeral to his two children, who are unaware of their mother’s passing. He makes the decision to tell his eldest son, Andrea, but hides the truth from his sickly younger son, Milo. Director Luigi Comenicini captures the innocence and carefree moments of youth alongside the agonising feelings of grief, creating one of the finest films about childhood, one which can stand alongside The 400 Blows, The Spirit of the Beehive and L'enfance nue.


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Something to Live for
George Stevens, 1952, 89 min

Introduced by Ehsan Khoshbakht

“This crowning jewel of American cinema, nearly as good as the best of Roberto Rossellini and Ingrid Bergman, is one of the least known masterpieces of the 1950s. Imagine Ray Milland’s alcoholic in The Lost Weekend rehabilitated, seasoned, married with two kids and holding down a nine-to-five job in advertising. Yet something is missing in his life, which has now come to resemble an advertisement. Serving a good cause in his spare time, when an Alcoholics Anonymous rescue call comes in, he rushes to help the troubled drinker only to discover it’s a she: Joan Fontaine as a has-been actress. He saves her, they fall for each other, she brings back the vitality to his life, which according to his own wife (played by Teresa Wright) has become far too sober. Afterwards their lives improve but the pain and loss remain. Dwight Taylor’s sensitive script, originally titled Mr and Miss Anonymous, was based on his mother, an actress and alcoholic. Stevens got on board when he was still editing A Place in the Sun. The direction, in its accomplished sense of cluttered space, entanglement and inescapabilty, is full of artistry. The vulnerable characters are trapped in bars, hotel rooms, offices, and elevators, searching for a romance that is lost before it’s found. The romantic dream fails but the stage show with which the film ends is just beginning. Is this a triumph for artificiality and conformity? Stevens’s dark and tender film leaves you with this thought as no other film does.” – Ehsan Khoshbakht


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L’Amour fou
Jacques Rivette, 1969, 252 min

Introduced by David Thompson

“A director called Sébastien conducts rehearsals for a Racine play, while his marriage to an actress named Claire disintegrates back home. The rehearsals are filmed by a television crew, with the back and forth between the two cameras just one element of what makes the film akin to a pendulum. L'Amour fou is entirely built on dualities: Claire and Sébastien, mise-en-scène and improvisation, the naked stage and a crowded apartment, long shots and abrupt cuts, 16mm and 35mm. This new restoration maintains all the roughness of the film while accentuating its materiality: the differences in contrast and grain between the 16mm and the 35mm footage become key to its poetics, while the oscillating nature of the sound (mics on stage, tape recorders, whispered words, the Paris roar) creates new layers.” – Victor Guimarãesw


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The Owl's Legacy
Chris Marker, 1989, 78 minutes

Introduced by Ehsan Khoshbakht

Chris Marker's rarely seen magnum opus about the influence of the ancient Greek culture on the contemporary world remains his most elaborate project for television. Produced by the Onassis Foundation, Marker found the budget and freedom to invite some of the world’s leading philosophers, writers, logicians, politicians, artists and filmmakers (very often with explicit links to Greece, such as Theodoros Angelopoulos and Elia Kazan) to sit in front of his camera and, in a clear act of creating a cinematic forum, discuss thirteen themes, including Democracy, Nostalgia, Music, Cosmogony, and Misogyny. There is an abundance of Marker’s usual wit and his use of the image of animals for linking his philosophical investigation, here, in the form of the owl which was the symbol of wisdom for the Greeks. Marker’s words, in the English version, are spoken by Bob Peck.

For this screening Ehsan Khoshbakht has selected three episodes of the series around the themes of memory, image and cinema.


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.