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Autumn 2003 season

Tuesday 9th September at 8pm
Frida     USA / Canada 2002  |  123 mins  |  15
In 1925 after a freak trolley accident, artist Frida Kahlo is left crippled and in constant pain, a condition she fights through her art. Her talent really emerges when she befriends master muralist and notorious womaniser Diego Rivera, who introduces her to the Mexico City avant garde, and falls for more than just her painting, and a tempestuous love affair between the two begins. Julie Taymor, who made her name through imaginative stage work and her arresting first feature Titus, creates an intense, incident-packed biopic in Frida, an absorbing portrait of a life lived to the full, almost in spite of would-be restrictions. Features excellent performances from Salma Hayek as Frida and Alfred Molina as Rivera.

Tuesday 16th September at 8pm
Lilja 4-ever     Sweden / Denmark 2002  |  109 mins  |  18
‘Somewhere in the former Soviet Union’, 16-year-old Lylja is left to fend for herself after her mother leaves for America with her boyfriend. Reduced to living in a cold, run-down bedsit, she befriends 12-year-old, abused Volodya, then is persuaded by the seemingly kindly and older Andrei to take a job in Sweden, little knowing the fate that really awaits her. After the humanistic wonders of Show Me Love and Together, Lukas Moodysson’s third film is a different beast, a dark, brutally honest work that examines in unflinching detail how an ordinary, decent human being can fall victim to circumstance and sexual slavery.

Tuesday 30th September at 8pm
The Last Great Wilderness     UK / Denmark 2002  |  96 mins  |  18
Charlie is an angry man – his wife has run off with a musician and he is driving north with the intention of burning their house down. Stopping at a service station en route he falls in with would be Spanish gigolo Vincente, who is on the run after sleeping with the wife of a Mob boss. As their friendship develops, chance lands them at a strange boarding house, where events take a most unexpected turn for both men. Described elsewhere as Monarch of the Glen meets The Wicker Man, this digitally-shot, Dogme-influenced low budgeter starts as a comedy gangster film but eventually moves into horror territory, resulting in a splendidly left-field cross-genre work that is quite unlike anything else doing the rounds this year.

Tuesday 7th October at 8pm
La Comunidad     Spain 2000  |  104 mins  |  15
Having failed to sell an apartment that even she was impressed with, middle-aged estate agent Julia arranges a romantic dinner there with her husband. This innocent incident leads to the discovery of the body in the upstairs flat and later a hoard of hidden cash that Julia decides to keep, but that the building’s other residents also have their eyes on. Alex de la Iglesia, director of Acción Mutante and Day of the Beast, creates a fast-paced, inventive Hitchcockian thriller (complete with Saul Bass-like opening titles and a Bernard Herrmann-esque score) but laces it with sometimes absurdist black comedy, building to a wonderfully manic, almost hysterical climax. Features a fine central performance from one-time Almodóvar regular Carmen Maura.

Tuesday 14th October at 8pm
Dark Water [Honogurai mizu no soko kara]     Japan 2002  |  101 mins  |  15
Having delivered one of the scariest horror films in years in Ringu, Japanese director Hideo Nakata confirms his position as a master of fear with this equally arresting trip into similar thematic and generic territory. When single mother Yoshimi and her young daughter Ikuko move into a run-down apartment block, they gradually find themselves drawn into a sinister mystery involving a ghost-like figure and an apparently abandoned upstairs apartment, all of which is linked in increasingly sinister ways by water. This is the set-up for Nakata to tighten the screws and create an atmosphere of claustrophobic tension, laced with memorable set-pieces and some genuinely terrific scares. See it before the already in-production American remake swamps the cinemas. (Cine Outsider review)

Tuesday 21st October at 8pm
To Kill a King     UK / Germany 2003  |  102 mins  |  12A
England 1645, and the Royalists have just suffered a major defeat at the battle of Naseby. King Charles I is under house arrest, and the leader of the parliamentary forces, General Tom Fairfax, now finds himself in disagreement with his second in command, the loyal but ambitious Oliver Cromwell, over just how Britain should now be governed. Though a famous period in British history and the subject of regular live re-enactments, the events surrounding the Civil War have rarely been committed to film, which makes Mike Barker’s thoughtful, politically-minded historical drama all the more welcome. Chief among the attractions is a sturdy British cast that includes Tim Roth as Cromwell, Dougray Scott as Fairfax and Rupert Everett as Charles I.

Tuesday 28th October at 8pm
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress [Xiao cai feng]     China / France 2002  |  111 mins  |  12A
During China’s Cultural Revolution, two city boys of bourgeois parentage – Ma and Juo – arrive at the Phoenix Mountains for “re-education” in a peasant community. Life here is harder and more restrictive than they are used to, but the boys eventually find a form of escape through love and the clandestine reading of banned books. Based on his own best-selling semi-autobiographical novel, Dai Sijie’s gentle, romantic look back at his own youthful experiences finds both sadness and joy at his country’s past, beautifully shot and detailed, featuring winning performances from lead players Kun Chen, Ye Lui and Xun Zhou.

Tuesday 4th November at 8pm
Life and Debt     USA 2001  |  86 mins  |  PG
The image of modern Jamaica to most outsiders is the one on the tourist brochures and Malibu commercials, a laid-back, sun drenched, golden beached semi-paradise. Beyond this lies the truth of a country suffering the consequences of a $7 billion national debt, a victim of modern global economics and international corporate greed. Stephanie Black’s arresting documentary examines the disastrous long-term effects of the International Monetary Fund on the country, the destruction of its agriculture and industry and its transformation into a sweatshop of underpaid labour for North American products and industry. A powerful, persuasive, heart-felt cry of protest, essential viewing for anyone with even a passing interest in the true effects of globalisation.

Tuesday 11th November at 8pm
Springtime in a Small Town [Xiao cheng zhi chun]     China / Hong Kong / France 2002  |  117 mins  |  PG
In a South China country town in 1946, wealthy landowner Dai Liyan, whose health and property have suffered during the war, is unexpectedly visited by his old friend Zhang Zhichen, a doctor from Shanghai. Zhichen realises that Liyan’s wife Yuwen was the woman he had a passionate affair with ten years earlier, and the two discover that their desire for each other is still strong. This remake of a highly respected classic from 1948 (directed by Fei Mui) is the first film in ten years by the acclaimed director of The Blue Kite, Tian Zhuangzhuang, and recreates the style and mood of Chinese drama of the 40s and 50s, the long, beautifully composed takes and elegant tracking shots creating an extraordinary atmosphere of sensuality in this haunting tale of love, yearning and regret.

Tuesday 18th November at 8pm
Pure     UK 2002  |  97 mins  |  18
10-year-old Paul lives in East London with his mother Mel and his younger brother Lee. Since his father passed away, Paul is the man of the household, his main task being to take care of his mother, who is a heroin addict. What sounds like the outline for a Ken Loach or Mike Leigh film is given very different handling by Gilles MacKinnon, director of Small Faces and Regeneration, who takes a more studied and stylistic approach to his subject, though remains firmly grounded in the realism such a tale demands. Observing dramatically familiar events from a child’s viewpoint gives the film a unique tone, and it is carried through by excellent performances from Molly Parker, David Wenham, Gary Lewis, Keira Knightly and, almost stealing the film as the young Paul, Harry Eden.

Tuesday 25th November at 8pm
Intacto     Spain 2001  |  109 mins  |  15
In a remotely located casino owned by ex-patriot Samuel Berg, a group of people who are able to physically absorb luck from others gamble with each other for distinctly unusual stakes. When Berg’s protege Frederico attempts to leave his service, Berg robs him of his luck and casts him adrift, leaving him to search for a route back to his former strength, and plan his revenge. Juan Carlos Fresnadillo’s extraordinary debut film is an intricately plotted, dazzlingly executed and fiendishly original fantasy drama built around the idea of luck as a tangible force and presented through a narrative whose twists and turns are guaranteed to keep an audience on the edge of its seat. Features an excellent central performance from veteran actor and Bergman favourite Max Von Sydow.

Tuesday 2nd December at 8pm
Dolls     Japan 2002  |  114 mins  |  12A
Having made his reputation as a director of supremely stylish gangster films such as Hana-Bi and Sonatine and more gentle works like A Scene at the Sea and Kikujiro, Japanese all-rounder Takeshi Kitano takes a complete left-turn with this highly stylised, three-story portrait of failed love. Inspired by Japanese ‘bunraku’ puppet theatre tales, the action is presided over by puppeteers, the human characters taking on the characteristics of the dolls they manipulate, the action unfolding with the stately, mesmeric pace of a Noh play. An exquisitely composed, intricately designed film in which silence, gesture and imagery are essential elements in Kitano’s bold melding of the theatrical and the cinematic. (Cine Outsider review)

Tuesday 9th December at 8pm
In This World     UK 2002  |  90 mins  |  15
Two Afghan boys, Jamal and his cousin Enayat, leave the Pakistan-based refugee camp in which they live with the intention of reaching the UK, but the journey there proves a perilously difficult one, their lack of identity papers and money placing them at the mercy of a variety of often ruthless people smugglers. Writer Tony Grisoni (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas) and director Michael Winterbottom (Welcome to Sarajevo, 24 Hour Party People) have used this seemingly simple story to examine the plight of refugees through an honest and hard-hitting documentary-style approach. Featuring two Afghan non-professionals in the lead roles and shot on small DV camcorders, this is an intelligent, fiercely persuasive corrective to the tabloid-driven, knee-jerk reaction to the asylum issue that has become so familiar in this country.

Tuesday 16th December at 8pm
Max     Hungary / Canada / UK 2002  |  108 mins  |  15
In 1918 Munich, wealthy Jewish art dealer Max Rothman, having lost an arm and with it his artistic ambitions in the war, opens an art gallery in a disused factory. One day he meets an out-of-work ex-corporal who dreams of becoming a painter; Max is not convinced of the man’s artistic abilities, but encourages him anyway. The man’s name is Adolf Hitler... Menno Meyjes’ film has proved controversial for its humanisation of Hitler, but is in fact a bold and intelligent look at a pivotal moment in history from a “what if?” standpoint, carried off by a sharp script and some fine performances, including John Cusack as Max and Noah Taylor as the young Hitler.