2018-19 Film Season


2018 was something of a tumultuous year in the film industry as many of the issues and obstacles faced by women within the industry as a result of gender inequality and worse hit the headlines, often with spectacular results. So, it seems timely and right to focus on the remarkable women in this season’s films at Hoylake Community Cinema.

Starting with Walk the Line, whilst ostensibly about the “Man in Black” – singer songwriter Johnny Cash – it is Reese Witherspoon who won most of the accolades, and rightly so. Often unscripted – hers is a ‘masterclass’ in the power of restraint; a brilliant, effervescent game play to match Joaquin Phoenix’s pin-sharp portrayal of Cash, who shields his vulnerability with a defensive menace. The resulting chemistry between the two elevates this film to deliver one of the greatest screen pairings of all time.

In Tarsem Singh’s hugely underrated and visionary ‘Opus Magnum’ The Fall, we are treated to an astonishing performance from then six-year-old Romanian child actress Catinca Untaru (The Fall was fifteen years in the making, with filming taking over four). Catinca even learned to speak English in order to play the role, and she delivers an utterly captivating, largely improvised performance, deftfully teased out by director Singh and co-star Lee Pace. Amid a breathtaking display of swashbuckling spectacle and colour, the film ultimately belongs to Untaru.

Our Christmas special screening sees the brilliant Alastair Sim on top form as ever, as Scrooge. But look out for Mrs Cratchit, played by the brilliantly versatile Hermione Baddeley. She starred in many other classics: Brighton Rock, Passport to Pimlico, Tom Brown’s Schooldays, The Pickwick Papers, The Belles of St Trinian’s, Room at the Top, Expresso Bongo, Mary Poppins… the list goes on.

Now released after a long period under embargo (we could not get a license to screen it) Blade Runner is our sci-fi choice for this season. In the film, Rachael – a ‘replicant’; a bio-engineered human with implanted memories and emotional responses – is the perfect foil for protagonist Decker (Harrison Ford). The 2018 sequel – Blade Runner 2049 – reveals a surprise about Rachael that raises deeper philosophical questions about technology.

In what is undoubtedly one of the best British ‘kitchen sink’ dramas This Sporting Life, the visceral, powerhouse masculinity of alpha-male actor Richard Harris (playing the role of fiery tempered rising star rugby player Frank Machin in a performance often compared to the best from Marlon Brando) is matched perfectly by the electricity of Welsh actress Rachel Roberts’ Palme d’Or winning performance. Roberts subsequently succumbed to her battle with alcoholism in the wake of her divorce from husband Rex Harrison and died in Los Angeles only 53 years old.

And in The Wizard of Oz it is of course Judy Garland’s performance that continues to enthral people of all ages, 80 years on. But the film also acts as a poignant reminder of the effect of adolescent stardom on her physical and mental health; her self-esteem all but destroyed by film executives repeatedly criticizing her appearance and abilities. In trying to shorten the film, the studio almost left the song ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’ on the cutting room floor… Yes, really. Garland died in London aged 47.

The magnificent Iranian film Under the Shadow is all too often simplistically billed as a horror film. For many, however, it is much more complex; a supernatural thriller in which underlying themes of social oppression, cultural fears, the yoke of domesticity, and institutionalized subjugation of women in Iranian society that hold the film together. Narges Rashidi’s assured performance is a bravura display in this admittedly scary, but essential, film.

Produced by Liverpool-based Hurricane Films and directed by great British director Terence Davies, new masterpiece of British cinema A Quiet Passion reveals the remarkable story of American poet Emily Dickinson, whose prolific body of work won recognition only after her death. Performances by Cynthia Nixon, Jennifer Ehle and Emma Bell sear onto the memory, assuring another magnificent triumph for Davies that will surely stand the test of time.

Pedro Almodovar’s black comedy/drama Volver sees a sparkling Penelope Cruz dominate the screen with humour, beauty and confidence, displayed in equal measure in a memorable, multi-award winning performance that captivates throughout. A brilliant array of supporting performances from eccentric on-screen family Carmen Maura, Lola Dueñas, Blanca Portillo, Yohana Cobo, and Chus Lampreave add up to a hugely satisfying watch.

In Gifted, a young child, played with a remarkably light touch and sophisticated confidence by ten-year-old actress Mackenna Grace, battles with the weight of her own genius, amid conflicting academic expectations, a pushy grandmother (British actress Lindsay Duncan on top form), and an emotionally and financially difficult home life with struggling but loving father (Chris Evans). It’s melodramatic and feel-good – for all the right reasons – plus there’s real depth to be found in this full gamut of shining performances.

In Fish Tank, the outstanding British director Andrea Arnold takes us into social commentary territory ‘traditionally’ dominated by male directors such as Ken Loach or Alan Clarke, with this well-deserved Cannes Jury Prize-winning film. Katie Jarvis’ stunning performance as a teenager living on a sink estate in Essex will have you rooting for her as we did for Billy Casper in Kes; the building tension bursting out of the screen at the end as she strikes a satisfying blow for young, aspiring, independent women.

We close the season with another icon… the brilliant and beautiful comic actress Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, in what is often cited as one of Hollywood’s first significant feminist screen roles. But there’s also a tragic backstory here that reminds us of more recent events. Writer Truman Capote had wanted Marilyn Monroe for the role, but her growing instability amid the breakdown of her marriage to Arthur Miller led the studios to hire the more dependable Hepburn. Monroe’s well-documented personal troubles, inflamed by serial abuse by Hollywood executives ultimately led to her tragic death just months later…

So, please raise a glass to Women in Film, and to The Beacon, a project four years in the making, which will become our home for this new season. We are very excited about this development and hope you will enjoy the new facility, with a much bigger screen, better sound and greater seating capacity. We’re volunteers who love what we do… so please enjoy the film, support us by telling all your friends, and come back soon for more!

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