Tag Archives: sci-fi

Sci-fi on the Booking Scheme!

With the BFI’s new season Sci-fi: Days of Fear and Wonder kicking off this September we’re taking a look at the Sci-fi films available on the Booking Scheme. Sci-fi can be both a vision into the unknown and a filter through which we can view our own world. It’s an inventive and broad genre and we have a great range of films available that represent some of that diversity. So take a look and head here if you’d like to book one.

Another Earth | Mike Cahill | 2011 | USA | 89 mins

On the night that a second Earth is discovered Rhoda Williams crashes a car causing the death of a child. Wracked with guilt she applies to join the delegation that will visit Earth 2 as a means of escaping her trauma. Before she can leave however she tries to make amends with what she’s done. A subtle and moving film that uses the prospect of a second life as a means to explore how we can say goodbye to the one we have.

Battle Royale | Kinji Fukasaku | 2001 | Japan | 121 mins

A classic cult film, adapted from the manga novel, and a huge influence on films like The Hunger Games. Over the top violence, a high-concept dystopian future and taboo subject matter have all ensured Battle Royale’s reputation. But beneath the comical violence and deranged set-pieces is a bitter satire and superb filmmaking. In a near-future Japan saddled with an out of control youth Battle Royale is the yearly culling of the worst behaved schoolkids – who are shipped of to a remote island and told that only one may leave.

Brazil | Terry Gilliam | 1985 | UK | 137 mins

Filming in 1984 and released the year after it’s hard not to compare Brazil with Orwell’s masterpiece – both share a terrifying vision of a dystopian future controlled by a relentless bureaucracy and enforced by shady government agencies but Gilliam’s film is more satirical and surreal. An unassuming clerk, Sam Lowry, is instructed to resolve the problem caused by a ‘humble’ mistake: the cobbler Archibald Buttle is mistaken for the terrorist Archibald Tuttle and subsequently murdered during an interrogation. But Lowry’s investigation is thwarted by endless paperwork and an overly suspicious secret police who identify him as a potential terrorist just for looking into Tuttle.

Death Watch | Bertrand Tavernier | 1980 | France, West Germany | 125 mins

A Glasgow set (and filmed) social-realist sci-fi tale stars Romy Schneider as Katherine Mortenhoe – a woman who is diagnosed with a rare fatal disease. In a society that has cured almost all illnesses – and where elderly people are taken to die in secluded homes – Katherine’s mortality makes her a celebrity. Desperate TV producers try to buy the rights to make a reality TV show of her last days but Katherine refuses. A particularly determine TV exec (Harry Dean Stanton) convinces Roddy, a cameraman, to have a camera installed in his eye so that Katherine can be filmed against her will.

The Day the Earth Stood Still | Robert Wise | 1951 | USA | 88 mins

A certified classic The Day The Earth Stood Still is a powerful statement on the dangerous conjunction of man’s persistent wars and ever more powerful technology. The citizens of Earth are stunned by the sudden arrival of an alien spaceship. The ship is occupied by only two beings – a humanoid Klaatu and his robot guard. Klaatu is a peaceful emissary who declares he has an important message that he must deliver to all the world leaders. But the United States government reacts with suspicion and after Klaatu is injured they attempt to hold him captive until they reach a decision. Klaatu escapes and sets about learning what he can about the human race before delivering his terrifying warning.

The Fly | Kurt Neumann | 1958 | USA | 89 mins

Andre Delambre – a talented and daring scientist is working with his wife on a matter- transportation device, or teleporter. His initial experiments proving successful Andre decides to build a human sized set of telepods. Eager to deliver a new, instantaneous form of transportation that would change the world Andre decides to test the teleporter. But at the moment he turns the teleporter on a small fly enters the telepod…

Fantastic Voyage | Richard Fleischer | 1966 | USA | 96 mins

In a futuristic twist on the cold war both the Soviet Union and the United States have  discovered how to minaturise people – but only for a short period of time. The one man who knows the secret to indefinite shrinking is Jan Benes – who is held captive behind the Iron Curtain. During a rescue attempt Benes is left dying from a blood clot – the only way to save him is to save him from the inside. A  team of scientists are shrunk down and sent inside Benes blood stream to remove the clot but they only have an hour to complete their mission.

Metropolis | Fritz Lang | 1927 | Germany | 149 mins

One of the earliest and most iconic sci-fi features – Metropolis is finally available in its full version. Remastered and restored featuring its original soundtrack (after a Freddie Mercury scored cut appeared in the 70s) there has never been a better time to revel in the astounding scope of Metropolis. In a futuristic city sharply divided by economic class the son of a rich businessman falls for the prophet of the working classes who envisions a future where the poor will rise up from the underground city they work in.

Planet of the Apes | Franklin J. Schaffner |1968 | USA | 107 mins

A spaceship crew deep in hibernation crash land on an unknown planet where a species of sentient apes have enslaved the human race. The humans on this planet are pre-civilised and lack basic language – the apes are stunned therefore to find a group of intelligent humans. Featuring one of the most iconic endings in all of cinema The Planet of the Apes is a bona-fide classic and has inspired numerous sequels, remakes and re-imaginings, but none match the quality of the original.

Prometheus | Ridley Scott | 2012 | USA, UK |  119 mins

Ridley Scott returns to the Alien universe (sort of) in this ambitious sci-fi thriller. A team of scientists working for the Weyland Corporation are sent to a distant planet to investigate signs of an ancient civilisation. What they discover is far beyond their expectations and seems to indicate the origins of life in the universe.

Sunshine | Danny Boyle | 2007 | UK, USA | 103 mins

Danny Boyle’s intense and claustrophobic thriller sees a small crew of astronauts dispatched to reignite the dying sun with a fusion bomb before the Earth becomes too cold for life. A small mishap on the way leaves the ship out of direct contact with Earth and the isolation affects the crew in different ways. Paranoia, stress and anxiety threaten to derail the expedition.

Tetsuo: The Iron Man | Shin’ya Tsukamoto |1989 | Japan | 64 mins
Also including short – Adventures of Electric Rod Boy

A man with a compulsion for sticking metal into his body is run over by a businessman. Fearing the damage to his reputation this killing would trigger the businessman dumps the body in a ravine believing the metal man to be dead. But over the next few days he discovers his skin his slowly turning into scrap metal as the ‘iron man’ seeks revenge. A surreal and visionary film that has drawn comparisons to Lynch and Cronenberg.

Tetsuo II: Body Hammer | Shin’ya Tsukamoto | 1992 | 83 mins 
Also including short – Adventures of Electric Rod Boy

In this re-imagining of Tetsuo a Japanese salaryman transforms himself into a cybernetic weapon after his son is kidnapped by a gang. While seeking revenge on the thugs the man discovers he is part of a wider experiment into creating a perfect soldier. The 47 minute short film Adventures of Electric Rod Boy is a bout a young boy who is bullied at school because he happens to have a electric rod growing out of his back.

A Trip to the Moon | Georges Mélièes | 1902 | France | 13 mins +
The Extraordinary Voyage | Serge Bromberg & Eric Lange | 2011 | 60 mins

Georges Méliès’ short is widely considered to be the first example of sci-fi and had an extraordinary impact of filmmaking. The film details a group of men who travel to the moon. They first crash into the eye of the man in the moon – one of cinema’s most enduring images, and are then captured by the moon’s inhabitants.
The documentary The Extraordinary Voyage details the creation of the short as well as its influence. Original soundtrack by Air.

Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea | Irwin Allen | 1961 | USA | 100 mins

Admiral Nelson takes a new nuclear submarine through its paces – after diving to the bottom of the sea the submarine, the Seaview, surfaces and discovers the sky around the earth is burning. Upon their return the crew learn that the Van Allen Radioation Belt that surrounds the earth has caught fire and will boil the oceans if the fire is not extinguished. It is determined that the fire could be dissipated by a nuclear bomb fired at the centre of the flames. The location is right over the Marianas Trench and the Seaview is deployed in a race against time to reach the launch point before the heat kills the planet. Their journey is beset by sea monsters and saboteurs who want to sea the end of the world.

The Wall | Julian Pölsler | 2012 | Austria, Germany | 103 mins

Die Wand

A low-key sci-fi fable, The Wall is more concerned with emotion and character than spectacle or technology. A woman goes on a holiday with two friends to a remote cabin. One morning her companions drive into town to get some supplies. By the afternoon they have not returned and the woman becomes concerned. Heading out on the road she suddenly and inexplicably encounters a forcefield that prevents her from getting any further. She realises she is trapped alone surrounded by an invisible wall and must adapt to fend for herself. Life beyond the wall appears frozen and the woman must learn to live with solitude.

Woman in the Moon | Fritz Lang | 1929 | Germany | 163 mins

The first serious science-fiction feature film Lang made the most of contemporary scientific theory at the time to make his film as accurate as possible. Though mistakes were made (the film used Peter Hansen’s theory that the far side of the moon would have a breathable atmosphere) the film is nevertheless remarkable. A team of corporate spies force themselves into a scientific exploration because of rumours that the Moon is full of gold. Their interference in the mission threatens to jeopardise the whole crew once they land on the moon. Available now thanks to a sublime restoration from Eureka.

Book a film.

A Japanese gangster in America and a sinister dystopian future: Two reviews from the Park Circus Collection

Park Circus are at the forefront of bringing classic and undiscovered cinema back into cinemas and we are thrilled to feature some 30+ Park Circus titles on the BFFS Booking Scheme. With a fantastic selection of films going back 100 years to Melies’ A Trip To The Moon and A Fantastic Voyage, and taking in Chaplin’s heyday, British social realism and modern European cinema along the way, the Park Circus collection is well worth exploring.

There’s plenty of films in the collection that I’ve (shamefully) never seen so I spent the last weekend catching up on a couple…

Brother | Takeshi Kitano | 2000 | Japan, UK, US | 112 mins | 18

Brother is the first film Kitano directed outside his native Japan, with the majority of the film taking place in Los Angeles. Kitano plays Aniki Yamamato, a Yakuza gangster who flees to the States when his gang’s leader is murdered and his associates defer to their rival’s organisation. Aniki is too loyal to commit such a betrayal and escapes to Los Angeles where his younger brother lives. There he finds that his brother has become a small-time drug dealer and Aniki very quickly and ruthlessly takes over the business and rapidly expands to build an empire – his Yakuza past making him far more successful than Los Angeles’ existing gangs.

While the film is certainly action-packed, and at times beautifully shot – a gunfight under a bridge is lit only by muzzle flashes and filmed from a high-angle and long-distance giving a remarkable perspective, and mid-film highlight – Kitano is as much, if not more, interested in the complicated structures of loyalty and ranking within criminal organisations. Numerous scenes highlight the almost unbelievable commitments gang members take to prove their loyalty and the impression of a brotherhood amongst gangsters is keenly felt.

Kitano is also notable for his somewhat existential outlook on life and the inevitability of death is always acknowledged – there are no grand heroics in a Kitano film, though his characters are sometimes so incredibly good at what they do (often murder) that the body count swiftly soars amongst their enemies – there is an understanding of boundaries and limits. This sets Brother apart from many of the Hollywood films it initially appears Kitano is trying to emulate by moving his film to America. When faced with overwhelming odds Aniki laughs and rather than try to escape or fight against it, he accepts his likely demise on his own terms. And Kitano (as director and actor) portrays this matter-of-factly, not as a great tragedy but as the necessary outcome of going too far.

Kitano also refuses to pace Brother as you would expect, and while it possesses many of the elements of a typical gangster thriller, it refuses to behave like one. There are moments of quiet throughout the film, and the action explodes unpredictably in bursts. Kitano’s direction is rarely flashy – sometimes exquisitely framed, but never over the top, which again underlines Kitano’s restrained approach to the genre.

Where the film suffers is in the transition to America, many of the English-speaking supporting cast are, to put it bluntly, wooden and it’s a shame that the film-makers didn’t put more effort into finding better actors. Fortunately the main characters are, generally, much better and Omar Epps in particular delivers a great performance that develops significantly over the course of the film.

While it may not be Kitano’s best film it is one of his most accessible (particularly if you’re unfortunate enough to have subtitle-phobic audiences as most of the film is in English) and as both an action thriller and a detailed, often startling, look at criminal allegiances it succeeds admirably.

Death Watch | Bertrand Tavernier | 1980 | France, W. Germany | 128 mins | 12

One of the delights of the BFFS Booking Scheme catalogue is discovering some over-looked and forgotten gems – Tavernier’s Death Watch is one such film. A sci-fi film that feels uncomfortably close to home, Death Watch is grounded in a social-realist palette and production design that delivers the most horrifying of dystopias – one recognisably derived from our own world. In the world of Death Watch almost all diseases have been cured and death is no longer a part of everyday life. Only old age seems to kill people and they die in secluded homes, pacified and sedated by drugs to ensure they die peacefully and painlessly.

As a result when Katherine Mortenhoe (Romy  Schneider) is diagnosed with an incurable, terminal illness; and her prognosis is leaked to the press, she becomes an unwitting celebrity and is hassled by journalists who want to portray her final moments. The most determined is TV executive Vincent, played by the always-excellent Harry Dean Stanton, who wants to turn her final weeks into a Big Brother style reality TV show (the Death Watch of the title), with cameras recording her every moment. Vincent is not put off by the problem of getting her permission and arranges for a camera to be implanted in the eye of Roddy (Harvey Keitel) who manages to befriend Katherine when she tries to flee attention to die in peace.

This is as un-glossy as sci-fi gets, the only technological advancement we see is the eye-camera and that is marred by a significant drawback – after a few minutes of darkness the camera will break and cause irreparable damage to Roddy’s eye. It is also a world in which scientific advancement is not reflected in social or economic terms – while disease has been largely overcome poverty and inequality have not. In this and the media’s obsession with documenting anything unusual, regardless of privacy, the film feel remarkable prescient.

It’s a film that forces the viewer to question the extent to which we allow and accept intrusion into our private lives, regardless of what reason it is for. Vincent attempts to convince Roddy’s wife, and indeed the viewer, about the importance of the programme:

Look how shy we’ve become about death. It’s the new pornography. Nudity is nothing anymore, now we put fig leaves on the dying. We’ve sold them away in homes outside of town. Who lives with the dying anymore? No one. No relatives. A few callous, trained guardians, those are the last people they see. I want to bring them back to us, bring them home.

Indeed, the film rather subversively implicates the viewer in the exploitation of Katherine’s death – the most direct hint is the film’s title – which signals to us our own culpability as viewers of the film. But this realisation only came after I had watched the film and it’s a testament to the subtlety of Tavernier’s social critique that this was the case.

Tavernier utilises Glasgow’s streets to portray the disparity between the different social classes, the decaying and run down docks contrast with the picturesque suburbs in which Katherine lives and it is here that the dystopian feel of Death Watch is most keenly felt. Glasgow’s run down areas are also where some of the film’s astonishing camerawork takes place, particularly in the use of handheld camera: a one-take chase sequence along the waterfront markets is truly astonishing, while later Roddy and the cameraman find themselves in the midst of a fight between protesters and the police.

Death Watch is one of those films that I’ve been thinking about almost constantly since I saw it, it really is that good, but also one that I’m amazed isn’t more well known. With its themes of social inequality, the intrusion of technology and the media into our private lives, and death itself, the film is as relevant and powerful as ever.

Or how about…
That’s just 2 of the dozens of Park Circus titles on the scheme – here’s a quick run down of some of the others:

  • La Piscine, Jacques Deray’s classic – ‘The most dangerous love game every played’. Read Jack Bell’s blog about it.
  • Invincible, Werner Herzog’s imaginative interpretation of Jewish folk-hero Zishe Breitbart taking place during Hitler’s rise to power, with Tim Roth having the time of his life as a Minister of the Occult and self-proclaimed Nazi prophet.
  • The best of Chaplin – with City Lights, The Great Dictator, The Gold Rush and more!
  • Scottish masterpiece Living Apart Together, which, like Death Watch, makes the most of Glasgow’s versatility as a filming location.

You can see the full list of Park Circus films on the BFFS Booking Scheme here.