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An old school variety show, Maggie Smith Season, Groundhog Day and more great film events this week

Posted at 10:30 am, December 1, 2014 in Arts & Entertainment
Bill Murray

Each week, we round up the most exciting film events happening in London over the coming week, from pop-ups and one-offs to regular film clubs, outdoor screenings and festivals. Here’s this week’s top five… 

1. Terry Jones presents ‘Groundhog Day’
‘Monty Python’ alumnus Jones takes a break from prepping his hotly anticipated new film ‘Absolutely Anything’ to introduce one of the finest comedies, well, ever. ‘Groundhog Day’ is one of those movies incapable of putting a foot wrong, marshalling a wildly complex plot and a sprawling cast of often unlikeable characters with effortless ease, setting a relentless pace and sticking to it, and chucking in a few unforgettable gags for good measure. But what’s most miraculous is that it does all this while offering a series of keenly observed, often uncomfortable truths about the human condition. Phoenix Cinema, 52 High Rd, N2 9PJ. Fri Dec 5, 11.30pm. £9.50.

2. Kinima: ‘LA Confidential’
Harking back to the long-forgotten turn-of-the-century trend for cinema variety shows, this event will kick off with a plethora of music hall acts before you settle in to a rare 35mm print of this 1997 LA noir classic. Curtis Hanson’s adaptation of James Ellroy’s complex novel is a towering achievement, probably the finest mystery thriller since ‘Chinatown’. Set in the mid ’50s, this punchy cocktail of gangland violence, police brutality, racism and sex-scandal cover-ups feels torn from today’s headlines. The Cinema Museum, 2 Dugard Way, SE11 4TH. Sat Dec 6, 5.30pm. £12, £10 concs.

3. Dressing Vivien Leigh: ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’
This short season presented by the Fashion and Cinema folks features a talk and two screenings exploring the sartorial elegance of one of Hollywood’s greatest stars. You’ll find it hard not to pound your chest and scream after seeing Elia Kazan’s stirring if over-polite 1951 reading of Tennessee Williams’s claustrophobic study of passion, refinement and power games set in the seamy domiciles of New Orleans’s French Quarter. Scenes fired by brute energy abound, but they are all offset by Kazan’s decision to shine a spotlight on the small moments. Ciné Lumière, 17 Queensberry Place, SW7 2DT. Sun Dec 7, 4.15pm. £10, £8 concs.

4. Maggie Smith Season: ‘The Pumpkin Eater’
The BFI kicks off a two-month tribute to one of the UK’s classiest movie stars with one of Dame Maggie Smith’s earliest roles. Harold Pinter penned the superior script for this adaptation of Penelope Mortimer’s novel about a compulsive child-bearer and her unfaithful screenwriter husband. The influence of European cinema (in particular Antonioni) is evident in the delineation of despair among the middle classes, and there is something peculiarly self-parodic in the heroine enduring a nervous breakdown in Harrods. The performances are outstanding. BFI Southbank, Belvedere Rd, SE1 8XT. Fri Dec 5, 6.20pm. £11.50, £8.15 concs.

5. Lady Snowblood
The Barbican begins a month-long seasonal selection of freezing films with this female-fronted 1974 samurai epic. An acknowledged precursor to Tarantino’s ‘Kill Bill’, this is a far more interesting film: based on ’70s manga strip ‘Shurayuki-hime’, it’s the story of Yuki (named for the Japanese word for snow), born of rape and raised to wreak vengeance on those who murdered her father and destroyed her mother. From the tragic-beautiful opening – Yuki’s mother dies in childbirth as white flakes drift peacefully by the barred windows – through a series of shocking, angry flashbacks to the unexpectedly emotive final shot, this is beautifully controlled, almost sedate action cinema. Barbican Centre, Silk St, EC2Y 8DS. Sat Dec 6, 4pm. £9.50, £8.50 concs.

For the full list, go to Time Out’s film events page.

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