Posts filed under ‘secrets & lies’

Mighty Mighty: Mostly British Festival

secrets-and-lies

Hello, mum, Secrets & Lies, 1996

The Mostly British Film Festival is in full swing in San Francisco this week (closing night is Thursday Feb. 25) and it’s a great opportunity to see a lot of indie and classic movies that might not otherwise get theatrical release here in the states. Established eight years ago, this year’s festival includes movies from the UK and the former British empire, including Australia, and India.

Night-and-the-City-8937_4

Widmark in London, Night and the City, 1950

Following along the current craze for film noir, MBFF screened the Richard Widmark/Gene Tierney vehicle Night and the City (1950). Directed by Jules Dassin after he fled to England following his blacklisting during the McCarthy era, the movie transplants the noir aesthetic to London, making great use of the city’s seedy docksides and proving that betrayal, backstabbing, conniving, and cheating aren’t strictly the domain of U.S. crime films. Richard Widmark does his thing, using his kinetic and expressionistic acting style to enliven the character of loser and conman Harry Fabian. Gene Tierney looks pretty as the moral center of the movie but doesn’t get to do a lot with a character that’s much less compelling than her leading turn in Laura. Despite an unintentionally comic climactic wrestling match, the film is an excellent example of noir’s examination of dark side of  human existence.

women-hes-undressed-marilyn-500-x-400

Costumer extraodinaire Orry-Kelly and Marilyn, Women He’s Undressed, 2015

MBFF also screened Women He’s Undressed (2015) Gillian Armstrong’s documentary about legendary Hollywood costume designer Orry-Kelly. Orry-Kelly was a native of Australia (as is Armstrong) who made his way into the U.S. movie business during its golden age in the 1930-60s. Armstrong’s doc includes lots of Orry-Kelly’s glamorous costumes for stars such as Bette Davis, Marilyn Monroe, Ingrid Berman, and Barbara Stanwyck, and also outs Cary Grant in a big way, describing his on-again-off-again affair with Orry-Kelly over the many years of their relationship. Intercutting dramatic re-enactments of Orry-Kelly’s life, interviews with top Hollywood costume designers, and many examples of Orry-Kelly movie wardrobes, Women He’s Undressed is a fun and light little romp through gay Hollywood.

spall

Sensitive and stocky Timothy Spall, Secrets & Lies, 1996

The highlight of the festival for me was the chance to see Mike Leigh’s Secrets & Lies on the big screen. I’m a latecomer to Leigh but now that I’ve seen the glory of his brilliant filmmaking I’m trying to see every movie of his that I can track down. As with most of his oevre, in Secrets & Lies Leigh explores the emotional devastation of complex human relationships. After the death of her adopted mother a young black woman discovers that her birth mother is white. Leigh’s film paints fully fleshed out pictures of each of the characters, who are brilliantly realized by actors Marianne Jean-Baptiste as Hortense, the adopted woman, Brenda Blethyn as Cynthia, her birth mother, and Timothy Spall, Cynthia’s brother. Curiously, although it’s a central element of the film, Secrets & Lies elides the narrative’s racial aspect. Although it’s significant that Hortense is black and Cynthia is white this is used mostly as a plot device and not as a means of exploring race relations in the UK in any depth. None of the white characters express any racial animosity toward Hortense and their shocked reactions to her seems to be based mostly on the fact that she is Cynthia’s long-lost daughter and not that she’s black. There’s a passing allusion to Cynthia’s father’s disapproval of Hortense’s biological father, a Jamaican man, but the film implies that the issue of Cynthia’s youth at the time and not the race of the her lover resulted in her giving up Hortense for adoption. Nonetheless, the movie is an excellent look at the overt and underlying tensions in family relations. Secrets & Lies also further indoctrinated me into the cult of Timothy Spall, who I love as a leading man despite his being stocky, doughy, and far from handsome. He’s without a doubt a sensitive, charismatic, and highly underrated actor and he was robbed last year for not getting an Academy Award Best Actor nomination for Mr. Turner (also directed by Leigh). I’m always happy to see him in performances outside of his role as comic relief in the Harry Potter franchise.

The Mostly British Film Festival concludes this Thursday, Feb. 25 with a screening of A Royal Night Out at the newly renovated Alamo Drafthouse in the Mission District. For more information and tickets go here.

 

 

February 24, 2016 at 9:17 pm Leave a comment


supported by

Blog Stats

  • 426,686 hits

Archives

tweetorama

  • RT @nameshiv: You haven't lived on the West Coast till you wear a lungi to the store & find a kid staring at you & whispering to his mom &… 3 hours ago
  • RT @DrEricDing: ⚠️CONCERNING—Millions of doses of #COVID19 vaccine shipped by Trump WH/HHS are missing. Nobody knows why yet. Biden coronav… 4 hours ago
  • RT @hugolowell: Senate Dem Elizabeth Warren now slams Republican claims that holding a Senate trial against Trump undercuts unity on CNN: “… 4 hours ago
  • This is so wholesome twitter.com/amandalitman/s… 4 hours ago
  • RT @DeniseDSLu: working w data from epidemiologists Galanti + Shaman @ Columbia, we found that social distancing measures are key to lower… 4 hours ago
  • RT @cmclymer: And there it is. President Biden has repealed Trump's trans military ban. Elections matter. https://t.co/rpyDddmgeP 4 hours ago
  • RT @mallory_yu: Cases go down. We open back up. Cases go up. We close back down. Cases go down we open back up cases go up we close back do… 4 hours ago
  • RT @MelissaForPA: Putting Kamala Harris as VP into perspective.See the red box? Until then, she would have been enslaved.See the blue box?… 20 hours ago
  • RT @mattmfm: ABC poll finds Biden uniting the country: 69% approve Biden’s COVID response 67% approve Biden’s transition 81% support r… 21 hours ago
  • RT @babadookspinoza: It’s easy to blame the severity of the pandemic in the US on frat parties and family get-togethers but what’s really d… 23 hours ago
  • RT @solarpowerspork: setting aside the fact we are one year into a pandemic and folks are still insisting they can go on vacations and hang… 1 day ago
  • RT @KaylaAncrum: Thinking about a girl from camp 15 years ago called Xiu whose name this other girl named Brittany refused to pronounce and… 1 day ago
  • RT @perrybaconjr: Biden's agenda is quite popular, per new ABC News-Ipsos poll. 81% percent support mask-wearing requirement on federal pro… 1 day ago
  • RT @SenWarren: It’s time we stop letting the Minority Leader control the Democratic majority. politico.com/news/2021/01/2… 1 day ago
  • RT @jelani9: At some point I’m gonna need hard data on the number of these Capitol rioters who got dimed out by their exes. 1 day ago