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He's one of the legends of 1970s Hollywood cinema. He grew up in a Calvinist community and saw his first film when he attended University. His passion for cinema matched his obsession with guns. A fascination with masculinity would inform his finest work, but before becoming a writer-filmmaker he was a Paulette – one of the protégées of firebrand critic Pauline Kael. Admiration for the cinema of Carl Theodore Dreyer, Robert Bresson and Yasujiro Ozu would inform his films. He wrote 'The Yakuza', based on his brother Leonard's story and directed by Sydney Pollack. A bleak period informed 'Taxi Driver' (1976). It cemented his reputation. Further collaborations with Martin Scorsese followed: 'Raging Bull' (1980), 'The Last Temptation of Christ' (1988) and 'Bringing Out the Dead' (1999). But his personality proved too strong to remain just a writer. 'Blue Collar' (1978) is a stunning debut. 'Hardcore' (1979) felt more like an exorcism of his strict religious background. 'American Gigolo' (1980) was a key film in defining the 1980s – all shoulder pads and Armani suits – and drew heavily on Bresson's 'Pickpocket' (1959). It was also first in a trilogy of sorts, followed by 'Light Sleeper' (1992) and 'The Walker' (2007). He is at his best when he surprises: the rapturous splendour of 'Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters' (1985); the smart satire of religious comedy 'Touch' (1997); the dysfunctional biopic 'Autofocus' (2002). 'Affliction' (1997) is a stunning adaptation of Russell Bank's novel, 'Adam Resurrected' (2008) is a genuine oddity, 'The Canyons' (2013) is a mess. 'Dog Eat Dog' is as ferocious as it sounds, falling somewhere between 'Natural Born Killers' (1996) and a hardboiled crime drama.
Céline Sciamma was born in 1980. She first studied literature and then filmmaking in Paris. Her body of work is concerned with coming-of-age storylines which focus on gender and sexual issues in children and adolescents.
A reputation built on a small filmography, Cate Shortland’s work is acclaimed for its sensitivity and breathtaking imagery. After a series of shorts, Shortland debuted with ‘Sommersault’, which featured a compelling breakthrough performance by Abbie Cornish. She plays Heidi, a young girl who escapes the claustrophobic confines of her hometown and embarks on a journey of personal discovery in the Australian Alps. Shortland’s poetic rendering of the landscape and account of a young woman’s finding her feet in the world were magnified in her second feature ‘Lore’. The film follows its titular heroine, the eldest daughter of a high-ranking Nazi family who at the end of the war is forced to flee with her siblings. On her journey, she come to terms with the division between her old world and the one she now struggles to fit in to. It is an original take on World War II – sympathetic to its protagonist whilst never shirking the need to show the horrors wreaked on this world by her parents’ generation. Shortland’s most recent film ‘Berlin Syndrome’ once again offers a complex female character at its heart. Teresa Palmer plays a young woman involved in an intense affair only to discover how alone she is in the world. Like all her work, ‘Berlin Syndrome’ finds Shortland balancing a strong narrative with sensual, fleeting images of rapturous beauty.
Fellini's heir apparent, Paolo Sorrentino is a filmmaker whose mastery of the camera has produced images that edge towards the ecstatic. This became clear with his sophomore feature – the first to be distributed internationally – 'The Consequences of Love' (2004). Starring his on-screen alter-ego Toni Servillo, the film is a gangster drama dressed up as a character study of an elegant man living alone in a beautiful Swiss lakeside hotel. His past unlocks the mystery of who he is but his future is decided by the people he encounters on a daily basis. From it's lengthy opening shot the film is a gorgeously shot – by regular cinematographer Luca Bigazzi – and darkly humorous tale. Misanthropy is thrown into the mix for 'The Family Friend' (2006), a tale of greed and desire with a sting in its tale. With 'Il Divo' (2008), Sorrentino engages with the corruption of politics head on, telling the story of disgraced statesman Giulio Andreotti, played with vampiric glee by Servillo. (The actor is set to play Silvio Berlusconi in Sorrentino's 2018 return to the Italian political scene with 'Loro'.) 'This Must Be the Place' (2011) is the first of Sorrentino's two English language features – the other is the enjoyable but minor 'Youth' (2015). Starring Sean Penn as a Robert Smith-style rock star who is sets out to uncover his father's past, it was critically panned at the time of its release, but profits from an outsider's view of America and is at worst a curio. Sorrentino's most critically and commercially successful work on the large and small screen is 'The Great Beauty' (2013) and 'The Young Pope' (2016). The former is a rapturous paean to Rome and the director's most open homage to Fellini. 'The Young Pope', featuring a career best performance by Jude Law, is a fascinating account of life in the Vatican.
No contemporary filmmaker quite captures social comedy amongst the elite like Whit Stillman. Across five films, he has presented sophisticated satires that relish the behaviour of high society whilst simultaneously ridiculing it. He may have only produced one Jane Austen adaptation, but no other contemporary filmmaker embodies her spirit, no matter the setting. 'Metropolitan' (1990) came first. It was bundled up with the wave of American Indies, but was far too rarefied to fit in with any ease. It's set in the world of Manhattan debutante balls and if it felt out of time when it first appeared, the film now appears timeless. The same goes for the equally enigmatic 'Barcelona' (1994). Both films starred Chris Eigman, who was to Stillman what Martin Donovan was to Hal Hartley – an on-screen alter ego of sorts. Eigman took a lesser role in 'The Last Days of Disco' (1998), which is dominated by the perfect pairing of Chloë Sevigny and Kate Beckinsale. The pair were reunited in the recent 'Love & Friendship', based on Austen's 'Lady Susan'. Beckinsale once again played the more verbally dextrous character, the author's waspish heroine. In between came 'Damsels in Distress' (2011) starring Greta Gerwig, who couldn't have been a more suitable Stillman actor if she had been cloned for the role.