piazza Strozzi 2, tel. 055/295051
County Leitrim, 1932. Returning to bloodied and scarred Ireland from New York, socialist activist James Gralton converts the village community hall into a centre for art, dancing and political debate. Its popularity draws the attention of conservative local landowners and the local priest, who see it as a breeding ground for revolution. Ken Loach’s eleventh collaboration with screenwriter Paul Laverty is a spiritual descendant of his award-winning The Wind that Shakes the Barley, but is much more low-key and, despite their affectivity, its characters are too easily stereotypical stand-ins for conflicting ideologies. ‘Sometimes you can see the joins, but there’s also great warmth, charm and humour among the ideas, and the sense of time and place is especially strong’ (Time Out). ‘This is exasperatingly thin stuff from Loach and Laverty, who have in the past built far more textured narratives, peopled by far richer characters, even while maintaining the fierce, politicised charge they aim for here’ (Telegraph).
December 18, 9pm
Playing a tramp at odds with modern industrial society, Charlie Chaplin created one of the most potent cinematic critiques of the deleterious effects of capitalist mass production on twentieth-century life. Made as a silent movie in 1936, when sound technology was already well established, the soundtrack was added later—Chaplin ironically bowing to the pressure to modernise. A departure from the post-Victorian ethos of the tramp’s previous incarnations, the modern age is finally tackled—although sentimentally—in this classic comedy romance, which Chaplin himself dismissed as being neither socially or politically relevant. ‘With the use of more sound, Chaplin seems to drop some of his pathos; this picture doesn’t pull at your heartstrings—it has the spirit of a good vaudeville show, and the tramp doesn’t lose out at the end (he gets his gamin)’ (Pauline Kael).
A 12-year-old boy and his single mother move to Brooklyn, where the only babysitting option is the cantankerous, misanthropic, louche and hedonistic next-door neighbour (Bill Murray, who turns out to be an unlikely friend and mentor, debauching the boy accordingly through various rites of passage). ‘A film in which precocious kids say things real kids never would, and larcenous drunks come off as adorable’ (USA Today). ‘The actors don’t do all the heavy lifting by themselves. The uniformly good performances make it clear that [director Theodore] Melfi knows how to handle actors, and there are some funny bits’ (New York Times). ‘Melfi comes up with any number of good and effective scenes and there’s plenty to enjoy in the performances’ (Hollywood Reporter).
BRITISH INSTITUTE of Florence
Lungarno Guicciardini, 9
December 17, 8pm
THE HURT LOCKER
From one of cinema’s most ‘virile’ directors, Kathryn Bigelow, this tense and testosterone-filled movie about bomb disposal in the Iraq War scooped seven Oscars, including Best Film and Best Director. ‘The movie is a viscerally exciting, adrenaline-soaked tour de force of suspense and surprise, full of explosions and hectic scenes of combat, but it blows a hole in the condescending assumption that such effects are just empty spectacle or mindless noise’ (New York Times). ‘A great film, an intelligent film, a film shot clearly so that we know exactly who everybody is and where they are and what they’re doing and why’ (Roger Ebert). ‘A full-throttle body shock of a movie. It gets inside you like a virus, puts your nerves in a blender, and twists your guts into a Gordian knot’ (Village Voice).
December 10, 8pm
British director Joanna Hogg’s feature film debut tells of a visit to Tuscany and tensions that develop between friends and family. ‘Hogg stages some scenes with a sure sense of composition and dramatic tension but too often the film feels self-conscious and ponderous’ (Empire). ‘A tremendously accomplished, subtle and supremely confident feature, authorially distinctive and positively dripping with technique’ (Guardian). ‘Hogg achieves remarkable results with the most minimal of means. Camerawork and editing are consistently on the money, while performances and dialogue feel utterly fresh, spontaneous and believable’ (Hollywood Reporter). ‘This is civilized human behavior captured with a clinical precision and accuracy’ (New York Times).