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Autumn 1999 season

Tuesday 21st September at 8pm
Central Station [Central do Brasil]     Brazil / France Spain / Japan 1998  |  110 mins  |  15
Cheerless, cynical Dora scrapes a meagre living at Rio de Janeiro’s Central Station writing letters for illiterate travellers, most of whom she regards with contempt. When one of her regular clients, who has been trying to contact her young son Josue’s father, is killed in a car accident, Dora takes Josue home with her. In him she sees reflected her own sad childhood and although at first uncertain eventually she agress to help him find his absentee father. Formerly known for his documentary work such as Foreign Lands, director Walter Salles’ award-winning foray into feature territory has been widely acclaimed as one of the year’s finest films and was one of this season’s most requested inclusions. Using the familiar road movie structure as its basis, Central do Brasil paints an intimate and fascinating picture of the underbelly of Brazilian life, fragmented and in conflict with itself, where the ties of family and religion are the only binding features. Most of all, though, it tells a beautifully moving story of friendship and self-discovery, rich in social detail and boasting two utterly captivating central performances.

Tuesday 28th September at 8pm
Happiness     USA 1998  |  139 mins  |  18
Three sisters deal with the problems in their lives: Joy remains romantically unfulfilled and professionally directionless; Helen considers herself to be a fraud and is the target of her neighbour’s unhealthy fantasies; Trish is a suburban housewife who seems to have it all, but whose husband is developing an unhealthy interest in his son’s classmate. The second feature from indie director Todd Solondz, who made a splash in 1996 with the Sundance hit Welcome to the Dollhouse, Happiness examines the emotional problems and dark desires bubbling under the surface of suburban America with a frankness and power that have earned it a reputation as one of the year’s most extraordinary film experiences. Described by Pecker director John Waters as the best film he’s seen in ten years, Happiness often courts controversy with its subject matter, but Solondz handles the material with astonishing confidence and skill, forcing us to see the world through the eyes of people we might normally despise. He is also well served by some bang-on performances from the likes of Jane Adams, Jon Lovitz, Lara Flynn Boyle and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Tuesday 5th October at 8pm
Dobermann     France 1997  |  103 mins  |  18
Violent bank robber Dobermann and his gang of dangerous nutballs pull off a complex and brutal bank robbery, but are betrayed to a vicious and sadistic cop Sauver Christini, who makes it his life’s ambition to bring the gang in, dead or alive. Taking this simple plot and running with like a man demented, director Kounen serves up a live-action cartoon that revels in action, violence and sheer, unadulterated excess. Kounen doesn’t so much cross the taste barrier as refuse to acknowledge there is such a thing, throwing up a whole series of scenes that are guaranteed to offend all but the most hardened of viewers, but does so with the blackest of humour and a battery of extraordinary visual stylistics. A comic-book roller-coaster ride for those of sturdy stomach and tolerant sensitivities, but potential viewers should be warned that the film does indeed contain scenes that many will find upsetting or offensive.

Tuesday 12th October at 8pm
Aprile     Italy / France 1998  |  78 mins  |  15
Italian director Nanni Moretti’s award-winning Dear Diary was a freewheeling mixture of documentary, fiction, opinion and autobiography in which Moretti drifted around Rome on his scooter, musing on the city’s architecture and the merits of Flashdance’s Jennifer Beals. In many ways Aprile is a direct follow-up, similar in structure, style and pacing, with the director this time dishing out his thoughts on Italian politics, movies and his newly born son. Beginning with the 1994 Italian general election, Moretti observes with dismay the appointment of right-wing media mogul Silvio Berlusconi, struggles with a decision to direct either a responsible political documentary or a musical about a pastry chef, and becomes increasingly neurotic about his girlfriend’s pregnancy. The result is an intimate, frequently amusing and well crafted piece of cinema, excelling in its detail and propelled along by the winning eccentricity of its multi-talented director-performer.

Tuesday 19th Octoberat 8pm
The Idiots [Idioterne]     Denmark / France / Italy / Netherlands / Germany / Sweden 1998  |  114 mins  |  18
A woman falls in with a group of young, intelligent middle-class people who live as a community of “idiots” in a suburban mansion, their hobby being to publicly fake a mental handicap, partly to provoke a reaction, partly to discover something darker about themselves. The latest work from Danish maestro Lars von Trier marks the first film from the Dogma 95 group, whose ‘vows of chastity’ set severe restrictions on the techniques that could be used to make movies in the hope of inspiring a more spontaneous, less formulaic approach. Shot on digital video in a rough and ready hand-held style that will be familiar to those who saw von Trier’s extraordinary Breaking the Waves, The Idiots assaults traditional values with intelligence, wit and genuine daring, playing at times like an extraordinary documentary experiment, and one of uncompromising emotional and intellectual power. Funny, affecting and disturbing, the film contains scenes of a very adult nature that could offend sensitive viewers.

Tuesday 26th October at 8pm
Black Cat, White Cat [Crna macka, beli macor]     Germany / France / Yugoslavia / Austria / Greece 1998  |  128 mins  |  15
In modern-day Yugoslavia, Matko plans the theft of a trainload of petrol with the financial backing of the local gypsy Godfather and help of gangster Dadan Karambolo. When the train arrives, however, Dadan drugs Matko and takes the money and petrol for himself. Unaware it was Dadan who ripped him off, Matko agrees to his demands for compensation by having his son Zare marry Dadan’s unmarriageable sister, despite Zare’s love for another woman. And this is just the start of it. Bosnian director Emir Kusturica quit film-making after the furore surrounding his second film, Underground (which won the Palme D’Or at Cannes), but has happily returned with this almost deliberately apolitical blend of crime, romance and comedy. The result is an often joyous romp, the offbeat humour mixed with outright slapstick and some splendid character detail, given an edge by the director’s obvious affinity with the gypsy way of life. (Cine Outsider review)

Tuesday 2nd November at 8pm
On the Black Hill     UK 1987  |  117 mins  |  15
At the start of the twentieth century, twin brothers Lewis and Benjamin Jones are born on a Welsh hill farm around which their lives are destined to revolve for the next eighty years. Bonded by something stronger even than family, the brother’s lives and relationship with each other are subject to many, variously disruptive influences, including love affairs, land disputes and two world wars. Based on the novel by Bruce Chatwin, On the Black Hill is a rarely-seen, episodic an unsentimental study of often isolated lives, grittily realistic in its detail and boasting some fine performances from, amongst others, Gemma Jones and the late Bob Peck.

Tuesday 9th November at 8pm
Southpaw     Ireland / UK 1998  |  80 mins  |  15
A moving, detailed and fascinating documentary study of the 19-year-old Irish light-welterweight boxer Francis Barrett, who fought to become the first traveller to represent Ireland at the Olympic Games, knowing that he would have to overcome prejudice regarding his Romany background. Filmed over a two-year period, the film follows Barrett’s almost fairytale-like rise from humble roots to his journey to the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, and how the experience affected his life afterwards. Intimate, revealing and even exhilarating, Southpaw skilfully paints warm and involving picture of Barrett both as a boxer and an honest, decent man who remained determinedly proud of his Romany roots.

Tuesday 16th November at 8pm
Orphans     UK 1997  |  101 mins  |  18
Four Glasgow siblings come together on the eve of their mother’s funeral; when one of them is attacked, it triggers different reactions in each of them. While the injured Michael dresses his wounds and wanders aimlessly, the younger John looks for revenge for the assault – the pious Thomas, meanwhile, shuts out the outside world and seeks refuge in a church, ignoring the plight of his disabled sister Sheila, who is stranded on her way home when her motorised wheelchair breaks down. As a ferocious storm gathers, all are forced to face up to their individual torments. The single most requested film this season, this directorial debut from actor Peter Mullan (most famous for his powerful lead performance in Ken Loach’s My Name is Joe) mixes detailed character drama with the blackest of comedy in a remarkable, powerfully acted and sometimes hilarious look at one turbulent night in the lives of four disparate family members.

Tuesday 23rd November at 8pm
The Celebration [Festen]     Denmark 1998  |  105 mins  |  15
Helge Klingenfeld, the cruel patriarch of an upper-class Danish family who has never atoned for the damage he inflicted on the psyches of his children, invites them all to his estate to mark his 60th birthday. As the celebration begins, all of the family’s corruption and dark secrets are revealed, culminating in an extraordinary revelation from Christian, the haunted eldest son. Made, like Von Trier’s The Idiots, by the rules of Dogma 95, director Vinterberg delivers a fierce dissection of family life, blackly comic (and even farcial) moments being repeatedly undercut by the dark revelations of the rapidly disintegrating family. Vinterberg uses the Dogma rules to his considerable advantage, presenting the action in a nervous, edgy and often documentary-like style that is matched by a string of extraordinarily honest and convincing performances.

Tuesday 30th November at 8pm
The Dinner of Idiots [Le dîner de cons]     France 1998  |  80 mins  |  15
Every Wednesday night, successful publisher Pierre Brochant and his friends organise a “dîner de cons,” to which each of the guests compete to see who can bring with them the biggest idiot. One week Pierre plans to bring boorish accountant Francois Pignon, convinced that he cannot lose, but right from the start things do not go as planned. Adapted from writer-director Veber’s own hit stage play, this is a mainly one-set farce that manages avoid the feel of photographed stage play by virtue of Verber’s splendidly energetic writing and direction, a scene-stealing central performance by Jacques Villeret and the fact that it is very, very funny, making us laugh with each increasingly insane twist and still managing to slip in a little moral lesson along the way.

Tuesday 7th December at 8pm
Gods and Monsters     USA / UK 1998  |  105 mins  |  15
In 1957, the elderly homosexual director James Whale (whose body of work included the classic 1930s versions of Frankenstein and The Invisible Man) suffers a stroke that triggers vivid memories of his earlier life and work. Increasingly reliant on his disapproving housemaid, Hannah, he develops a fixation on his muscle-bound gardener, Clayton, who despite his dislike of Whale’s sexuality, becomes fascinated by the legendary Hollywood artist, and a strong bond begins to develop between them. Acclaimed in many quarters as one of the year’s finest films, Gods and Monsters is a beautifully played out study of friendship – literate, imaginative and emotionally compelling and directed with extraordinary skill and assurance. But it’s the acting that really makes its mark, with Ian McKellen giving a wonderful, Oscar-nominated performance as the ageing Whale and excellent support provided by Lynn Redgrave as his housemaid Hannah, and, fresh from The Mummy, Brendan Fraser as the young Clayton.

Tuesday 14th December at 8pm
Bedrooms and Hallways     UK / France / Germany 1998  |  96 mins  |  15
Following a string of failed relationships, Leo, a gay man rapidly approaching his thirtieth birthday, is so in need of emotional commitment that he even begins envying the heterosexual stability offered by marriage. Encouraged by his outgoing neighbour Angie and his spectacularly camp flatmate Darren, he joins a New Age men’s group and finds himself attracted to the devoutly straight Brendan and in no time the emotional lives of both men become seriously complicated. The latest work from American indie director Rose Troche, who made such a splash five years ago with her $15,000 Go Fish, is a colourful and acutely observed comedy of sexual misadventures that successfully manages to tell a naturalistic and sympathetic gay love story without sinking into a sea of self-conscious political correctness, helped no end by some warm and believable performances – notably Kevin McKidd as Leo, Tom Hollander as the hilariously flamboyant Darren, and Simon Callow as the horribly earnest leader of the Men’s Group – a witty and affecting script, and Troche’s assured and sympathetic direction.