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Autumn 1998 season

Tuesday 22nd September at 8pm
Kundun     USA 1997  |  134 mins  |  12
Having turned in some of the most outstanding and successful mainstream American films of the last three decades, including Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and Goodfellas, Hollywood’s most determined maverick surprised many when he announced that his latest work would be the life story of the 14th Dali Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader. It would take someone with Scorsese’s clout to even get such a difficult project off the ground and one with his film-making skill to make the resulting work such a delight to watch. The almost exclusively non-professional cast are all remarkable and the technical credits – notably Roger Deakins’ cinematography, Dante Ferritti’s production design, Thelma Schoonmaker’s editing and a mesmerising music score from Philip Glass – are all first rate, but it’s Scorsese’s stylish, often unconventional approach to his subject matter that makes Kundun the achievement it is.

Tuesday 29th September at 8pm
The Butcher Boy     Ireland / US 1997  |  110 mins  |  15
Set in 1960s Ireland, The Butcher Boy tells the story of Francie, a young, increasingly troubled boy who escapes the harsh reality of his alcoholic father and suicidal mother through fantasy and play-acting, venting his anger on a snobbish neighbour who won’t let her son play with him. Eventually tragedy strikes, and Francie’s vendetta takes a dark turn that splits the family apart. Adapted from Patrick McCabe's highly respected novel, this has been widely hailed as not just the best work yet from director Neil Jordan (Mona Lisa, The Crying Game), but one of the most brutally honest films about childhood ever made. Boasting fine performances – especially from young Eamon Owens as Francie – this is a genuinely extraordinary piece of cinema, disturbing, fascinating and blackly humourous, executed with breathtaking technical skill and a real feel for the original material.

Tuesday 6th October at 8pm
Western     France 1997  |  133 mins  |  15
When Paco, a Spanish travelling shoe salesman, picks up Nico, a Russian hitch-hiker, he is almost instantly given cause to regret it when Nico steals his car and abandons him in a remote fishing port. When their paths cross again, Paco attacks and hospitalises Nico, but a bond nonetheless forms between them and they decide to hit the road for three weeks to test the strength of their new-found friendship. The Jury Prize winner at Cannes last year, Poirier’s light-hearted road movie is an easy-going, enjoyable spin on the well-worn theme of the mis-matched couple on the move, a gentler version of Bertrand Blier’s 1974 Les Valseuses. Their trip round the Normandy coastline is laced with wry observation and gentle character comedy, with two very engaging central performances from Sergi Lopez and Sacha Bourdo.

Tuesday 13th October at 8pm
Prisoner of the Mountains [Kavkazskii plennik]    Russia / Kazakhstan 1996  |  98 mins  |  15

Two very different Russian soldiers – battle-hardened sergeant Sasha and rookie private Vania – survive an ambush by Muslim rebels and are taken prisoner by the old patriarch of a mountain village, who wants to trade them for his own son. During their imprisonment they develop a greater understanding and respect not just for each other, but for their captors, even as escape looks increasingly unlikely. Based on a short story by Leo Tolstoy, Prisoner of the Mountains fashions a thoughtful, moving and meticulously executed film from seemingly conventional motifs and one that has not only garnered considerable critical praise but also many awards, sweeping the board at the 1997 Nikes (the Russian Academy Awards) and just losing out to Kolya for last year’s Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.


Tuesday 20th October at 8pm
Ugetsu monogatari     Japan 1953  |  94 mins  |  12
In 16th-century Japan, two ambitious peasant potters leave their homes and head off to make their fortune. One plans to sell his wares for vast profits in the local city, while the other dreams of becoming a samurai warrior. When tragedy strikes, one of them is taken in by a beautiful woman of noble birth who in reality is a ghost able to supply the potter with any material desire, which she uses to effectively imprison him. Widely regarded not just as an example of Japanese cinema at its best but one of the key works of cinema history, Ugetsu Monogatari is a lyrical, magical film full of surprises, repeatedly shifting between the realistic, the romantic and the fantastic. Kazuo Miyagawa’s black and white cinematography (presented here in a new print) is fabulous throughout and Kenji Mizoguchi shows just why he is regarded as one of Japan’s greatest ever directors. (Cine Outsider review)

Tuesday 27th October at 8pm
TwentyFourSeven / 24:7     UK 1997  |  96 mins  |  15
A group of teenagers on a Midland housing estate with nothing but drink, drugs and the threat of gang violence to occupy their time are brought together by Darcy, a middle-aged loner looking to revive the boxing club that once gave his own life the direction it was lacking. Shot in black and white on a £1.5 million budget by self-taught 26-year-old Shane Meadows, TwentyFourSeven takes seemingly clichéd situations and characters and invests them with a life and energy that makes them seem fresh and new. The gritty, deliberately non-Hollywood approach is further enhanced by some fine acting, often from non-professionals, and a searing central performance (his best in years) from Bob Hoskins as Darcy. The title, by the way, refers to the grind that makes up the lives of the film’s protagonists: twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

Tuesday 3rd November at 8pm
The General     Ireland / UK 1998  |  123 mins  |  15
This year’s Palme D’Or and Best Director winner at Cannes and the comeback film for John Boorman (Deliverance, Point Blank) tells the true-life story of notorious criminal and Dublin folk-hero Martin Cahill, whose daring robberies brought him into conflict with the police, the IRA and members of his own team. Opening with Cahill’s assasination by the IRA in 1994, the film takes us back to his formative years as child thief, showing his development to expert cat burglar and, later, small scale criminal mastermind. Shot in vivid black and white, Boorman’s film combines the style and depth of his earlier films with the myth-making elements of later works such as Excalibur and The Emerald Forest, yet never romanticises his characters, letting their stories naturally unfold. In this he is aided by some first rate performances, notably Brendan Gleeson, utterly superb as the charismatic Cahill.

Tuesday 10th November at 8pm
Rothschild’s Violin     France / Switzerland / Finland / Hungary 1995  |  101 mins  |  PG
History is brought vividly to life in this dramatisation of the efforts of Dimitri Shostakovich to first complete an opera started by Benjamin Fleischmann, one of his most talented students, then to have it performed in Stalin’s Russia. Director Cozarinsky skillfully approaches his subject on many levels, as a character study – Fleischmann the dreamer and the pragmatic Shostakovich provide a fascinating contrast, despite the music that drives them both – as a deftly handled political history lesson and as a celebration of the men’s music. And ultimately it is the music that speaks the loudest, being remarkable throughout, the performance of the finished opera providing the film with its central core.

Tuesday 17th November at 8pm
The Big Lebowski     USA / UK 1998  |  116 mins  |  18
One of the most requested films of this season, the latest work from the ever-individualistic Coen Brothers tells of the efforts of Jeff ‘The Dude’ Lebowski, an ageing hippie with a an obsession for bowling, to gain recompense for his rug, ruined by debt collectors who have mistaken him for a millionaire known as The Big Lebowski. This seemingly straightforward quest involves him in a kidnapping plot of Chandler-esque complexity and intrigue. But this is very much a Coen Brothers film, and in the end plot plays second fiddle to the dialogue, visual style and rich character detail, all of which are a delight. Bursting with memorable scenes, the greatest pleasure comes from the fabulously oddball characters, all played to perfection by a cast that includes Jeff Bridges as The Dude, John Goodman and Steve Buscemi as his hapless bowling buddies, plus memorable turns from Julianne Moore, John Turturro, David Thewlis and Ben Gazzara.

Tuesday 24th November at 8pm
Shall We Dance? [Shall We Dansu?]     Japan 1995  |  118 mins  |  PG
In modern-day Japan, a successful, middle-aged businessman yearns to break free from the rigid conformity of his daily life. One day he sees a beautiful woman looking out from the window of a dance school, and to get closer to her takes up ballroom dancing. Though at first inept, he soon discovers a natural talent for dance, which could turn out to be the escape he has been searching for. From this seemingly slight premise, director Masayuki Suo has fashioned a delightful, wonderfully entertaining film about the ability of ordinary people to surprise themselves with hidden talents, and one that combines warm character comedy and psychological insight with a deftness Hollywood mainstream movies can only dream of. A big award winner in its native Japan, this has become the most commercially successful foreign language film ever shown in America.

Tuesday 1st December at 8pm
In the Company of Men     USA  1997  |   97 mins  |  18
Two junior executives on a business trip, both recently hurt by women and bitter at being passed over for promotion, hatch an unpleasant plan to get even: find a vulnerable woman, simultaneously woo her, pledge their undying love and then dump her when it will hurt the most. They select a sweet natured but deaf secretary and set their plan into motion, but all does not go quite to plan. Made for just $25,000, director LaBute’s debut feature is one of the most disturbing to hit the screens this year, a genuinely creepy study of men at their most reprehensible, presenting an all-too-believable look at the darker side of male bonding. Executed with stylish precision and an element of dark humour, the film creates characters that are real, sometimes sympathetic – thanks to some cleverly honed performances – yet utterly, skin-crawling unpleasant. As you may have guessed, this is not a film for the overly sensitive and some may find the content disturbing.

Tuesday 8th December at 8pm
Journey to the Beginning of the World [Viagem ao principio do mundo ]     Portugal / France 1997  |  94 mins  |  U
Veteran Portuguese director Manoel travels by car through Portugal with three of his cast members, including Afonso, a famous French actor of Portuguese descent. Manoel uses the journey to visit places from his own past, while Afonso plans to visit the town of his father, who died young, in search of surviving relatives and the knowledge and insight they may have of his own past. This latest film by the seemingly inexhaustible 90-year-old Manoel de Oliveira is an autobiographical, unashamedly sentimental trip through a Portuguese landscape that clearly holds as much importance to Oliveira as it does to his on-screen alter-ego. Insightful, imaginative and cinematically playful, the film lets its story unfold through the central characters, notably the central figure of Manoel, played with touching tenderness by Marcello Mastroianni, who died shortly after the film was completed.

Tuesday 15th December at 8pm
Live Flesh [Carne Trémula]     Spain / France 1997  |  100 mins  |  18
When hapless pizza delivery man Victor accidentally shoots David, a young policeman investigating an argument, the lives of both men are completely changed: David ends up in a wheelchair and Victor in prison. In the years that follow, David makes a name for himself as a wheelchair athlete, while Victor studies for his teaching qualifications and plots revenge. But when he is released, things don’t quite go the way he had planned. Based on a novel by Ruth Rendell, Live Flesh finds director Almodovar – responsible for past treats such as Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown and Matador and one of Spain’s most notorious film-makers – right back on form, his flair for striking visuals and feel for the erotic very much up front, the pace brisk and the performances all first rate. The result is his best film in years – complex, moving and a treat for both the eye and the intellect.