Your hearts may well need a little brush up right now, so our #HydeParkPick today should provide some shiny warmth during this particularly wintry holiday season.
Boot Polish (बूट पॉलिश, 1954, 134mins, U) is a musical drama in the best tradition of classic Hindi cinema, produced by the great Raj Kapoor. A fairy tale at heart, complete with orphan children, a wicked witch and a buttons-like character, the film is nonetheless grounded by a social realist commentary on urban poverty, shared responsibility and basic human decency - and it’s all the more wonderful for it.
When Bhola and Bel are left destitute after their mother dies, they are conscripted into a lifetime of begging by their nasty aunt Kamla. Taking to the streets, the siblings begin to save their meagre earnings to start a shoeshine business, aided by John uncle, a local bootlegger.
This life of destitution and struggle are, however, counterbalanced by some beautiful and often surreal songs, uplifting melodrama and some astonishingly assured and poignant acting from the two child leads. Whilst the film is largely shot on location, which adds an atmospheric sense of reality, it still allows for a topical and seasonally apt celebration of life, amidst the children’s bleak existence.
In a time when we are reassessing how we can improve our understanding of each other, our care and kindness, Boot Polish is a perfect example of the spirit of initiative in a hopeless situation and a determination to live to the best of our communal human values.
In 1954 Raj Kapoor wrote, "Boot Polish graphically shows the problem of destitute children, their struggle for existence and their fight against organised beggary. The purpose of this film is to bring home to you that these orphans are as much your responsibility as that of the Government. Individual charity will not solve this problem because the only solution is co-operative effort on a National scale."
Boot Polish is available to watch as part of the Mubi Library: mubi.com/films/boot-polish.
In partnership with Hyde Park Picture House, you can enjoy three months of MUBI for free. Sign up here: mubi.com/promos/hydepark
Over the last decade our New Year’s Eve programme has become one of our favourite events of the whole year. We see the same faces come and celebrate with us each year and it’s always both an honour and a challenge in equal measure to try and find just the right film that will speak a little of where our heart or our head is or to try conjure up some magic in just the perfect way that only cinema can.
This year while so many things are so painfully different to 'normal' that magic at least endures and again we have been wondering what films we could share today to help us along a little. With this in mind we've decided that this New Year's Eve we'd like to indulge in a special romantic double bill of Carol (2015) directed by Todd Haynes and Casablanca (1942) directed by Michael Curtiz.
Despite being made 73 years apart the sweeping beauty of both films and the iconic performances at their heart make both a treat to enjoy in the cinema or at home. Really though it’s the romance which we’re here for. Watching love stories unfold on film is like being invited into a person’s world as they are at their most vulnerable, most brave, most optimistic. Whether it all works out or not the leap of faith is always beautiful and that’s the idea we wanted to dive into this New Year’s Eve.
You can find Carol available to rent on BFI player or on Amazon Prime and Casablanca is currently playing on BBC iPlayer.
Today's pick, this Christmas Eve, couldn't be anything other than the hugely popular festive classic, It's A Wonderful Life.
As we approach the end of this most unusual of years, this will be the first time in decades that we’ve not screened the film. We know for many it’s become somewhat of a tradition to visit the Picture House at Christmas – and to be transported once again to Bedford Falls and the wonderful world of George Bailey. So with this not possible this year, we're thankful at least that the film is available to watch for free at home for the next seven days, on channel4.com.
We were also keen this year to find another way to keep the tradition alive and pay tribute to a film that for so many of you continues to mean so much. That's why we've dedicated our latest episode of our Philosophy & Film Podcast to the film – featuring a conversation between Joe Saunders and Prof Shannon Dea, from the University of Regina in Canada.
We know it won't quite be the same watching the film from home this year, but we'll be tuning in, and raising a glass to all of our incredible audiences, community partners, staff members and volunteers who have kept the cinema going through thick and thin – wishing you all a very merry Christmas and a much better 2021.
Our Hyde and Seek family-friendly pick this weekend is Studio Ghibli's visually astounding and gloriously riveting The Red Turtle (2017, PG, 77min) – currently available on Amazon Prime.
A well needed antidote to an unusual and at times hectic festive season, the film will give you and your loved ones time and space to slow down and transport your senses elsewhere.
The award-winning animation follows the story of a man shipwrecked on a tropical island inhabited by turtles, crabs and birds. Boasting the same effortless skill, imagination and beauty which Studio Ghibli are so admired for, The Red Turtle also takes a surprisingly minimalist approach, which results in a film that's refreshingly calm and serene.
Although light in both dialogue and story, the film expertly conveys complex milestones experienced by most – ranging from birth and love, to isolation and loss – with a masterful and effortless light touch. The film's apparent simplicity is achieved through a rich array of animation styles and devices, accompanied by a wonderful symphony of music, to depict a profoundly poignant tale.
From younger children through to older adults, The Red Turtle is a superb film that's truly accessible for all.
With the passing of the novelist John le Carré this week, today’s pick is the stark and brooding adaptation of his novel, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold.
The film follows a near-ruined British agent, Aleck Lemas (Richard Burton) as he embarks on “one last job”, drinking himself into a stupor to plant himself behind the iron curtain. Le Carré initially thought Burton too dashing to portray the sallow, washed-out Lemas, but Burton’s performance manages to carry a mountain of world-weary resignation, dragging the character along with a ground-in, gritty determination.
The film has everything you’d expect from a le Carré story, political idealists and jaded veterans caught in the same tangle of manipulation and intrigue; mundane yet grippingly suspenseful moments charged with the weight of consequence. Here, life hangs by a thread, with fate decided by sidelong glances and innocuous gestures.
Arguably the finest Cold War drama there is.
One of our favourite films from this year's Leeds International Film Festival was the delightful (and we really are serious when we use that word) Chilean docu-drama, The Mole Agent (2020, 84mins, PG).
When a family become concerned about the care their mother is receiving in her retirement home, they hire private investigator Romulo to get to the bottom of the situation. Of course he in turn hires himself a plant to place in the home in the form of Sergio, an 83 year-old widower who has grown bored of his daily routine. However, Sergio is not 007, and not an easy trainee when it comes to technology and spying techniques.
The Mole Agent is a stylish combination of an observational documentary and a spy movie, with sleek camerawork and wonderfully watchable characters. It’s a unique meditation on compassion and loneliness that will infiltrate your heart and never let go.
You can now stream The Mole Agent from Dogwoof Online, and later today (Wednesday 16th, 7pm) join Birds Eye View for a special Q&A with director Maite Alberdi to learn a little more about how this almost painfully compassionate documentary came to be made.
Feeling nostalgic for family Christmases of the past? Then the BFI Player has some free festive treats just for you! Their Christmas Crackers collection of archive films includes a gloriously evocative selection of seasonal home movies, produced by an eclectic mix of families revelling across the years – with no social distancing in sight!
The questionable fashion and food may vary throughout the years, but the familiar archetypal traditions of family, gifts and fun remain ever present.
We would particularly recommend the amateur delights of local Leeds’ filmmaker Alan Sidi, held by the Yorkshire Film Archive and added to the BFI's collection. This includes Christmas Story, a tender and insightful look into a post-war family Christmas, made by Sidi at the young age of 19. And Sidi Family Christmas, which shows the filmmaker over two decades later, introducing the film with a sherry in hand.
An innovative and eccentric man of many ideas and inventions, Sidi began making films at school in the 1940s and continued to produce travelogues and family films through until the 1970s. As well as being the driving force behind the Leeds Mercury Movie Makers, his invention of a cine-sync machine in the 1960s enabled audio to be synchronised with, and then added to 16mm film. A local film pioneer!