The majority of our Hyde Park Picks come directly from Picture House staff and volunteers – but sometimes we like to mix things up and reach out to some of Leeds' finest, for their film recommendations. And with that in mind, and to coincide with World Booksniffers Day, today's special pick comes from Colours May Vary's Andy Gray.
"The 12th of December is World Book Sniffing Day, a date in the calendar when one can indulge in the gentle, mindful act of … well, sniffing a good book. What better accompaniment to this bibliophilic bonanza than D.W Young’s documentary on the lives and loves of those involved in the antiquarian book trade in New York?
The Booksellers (2019) plunges us elbow-patch deep into the magical (and compulsive) world of bookselling and collecting. Populated by a fascinating coterie of erudite eccentrics, this film is a celebration of the book in an age where reports of its death may have been greatly exaggerated. I say ‘may have’ as, throughout this film, the faint but inescapable smell of death (which is not a good smell at Book Sniffers Club) is never too far away - the death of print, of many independent bookstores and of the collecting impetus itself comes to the fore on several occasions. However, the film manages often to counter these negatives with positives - a recent explosion in NYC of street-level, bricks and mortar stores, for example, or an ageing old-guard (largely white and male) being replaced by a younger, equally driven, but more diverse crowd. As for the Internet, sure it has somewhat killed ‘the thrill of the chase’ but hasn’t it democratized the industry too, made it shareable, accessible?
What really shines here, aside from the staggering sums paid for some of these huge, vellum covered tomes, is the passion of the people involved. Rarely do you get the feeling that personal gain is the key criteria for the collecting impulse. Yes, the rarity/desirability factor is writ large in places, but often the people we meet are creating and maintaining important archives, making them accessible, and bringing marginalised histories into the light. Yes, the antiquarian book collecting field may have been once populated by men in Tweeds, smoking pipes and banning women from their societies (although the light shone on groundbreaking work of Leona Rostenberg and Madeleine B. Stern demonstrates that they didn’t have it all their own way), but the contemporary field is far less stuffy than you might imagine. Today pre-digital hip hop magazine archives are being collated, the papers and associated ephemera of Malcolm X and James Baldwin find a home with the New York Public Library and historically important collections of female writers and history-makers are exhibited to the public.
Amid all of this, you’ll find books bound in human skin, a library where the contents are filed in height order, unfeasibly expensive Renaissance artworks and much more biblio-centric bounty besides. It is the people though, with their determination, passion and drive who are the stars here. I imagine every single one of them when sat peacefully away from the camera’s eye, pulled out a book and, with eyes closed, sniffed it deeply.
This Saturday is World Book Sniffing Day - follow us @booksniffersclub on Instagram, @sniffandtell on Twitter and visit booksniffers.club to leave your own sniff notes."
The Booksellers is available to rent and stream for £3.99 via the Curzon Home Cinema.
It’s beginning to look a lot like… well… a bit like, kind of, maybe, like Christmas... So it’s the perfect time to warm yourself with future seasonal classic contender: Echo (Bergmál, 2019, 76mins, PG) – today’s Hyde Park Pick.
Very much like a cinematic advent calendar, Echo opens the doors on 56 vignettes of contemporary Icelandic life during Christmas and New Year. Each a single stationary shot, director Rúnar Rúnarsson builds the short dramas of this naturalistic jigsaw into a mesmerising portrait of modern society.
It’s a beautifully composed and precise film - yet always nuanced in it’s depiction of our common humanity, in all it’s melancholy, compassion, loneliness and small kindnesses. From the mysterious to the mundane, the touching to the devastating, loving, heartbreaking or funny – each story stands alone, or remains part of a more momentous narrative that we can never quite see.
At its heart it is film about storytelling, ending exactly where it should - in the middle of a wonderfully majestic and lulling journey.
Echo is available to watch on MUBI as part of their library of fantastic films.
In partnership with Hyde Park Picture House, you can enjoy three months of MUBI for free! Sign up here.
Alongside our regular film recommendations #HydeParkPicks, we're also working in partnership with a number of distributors to support a select number of brand-new film releases – all available to stream via the Watch Online section of our website.
Following its digital release last Friday, this week we're pleased to be supporting Falling – Viggo Mortensen's directorial debut.
Bold, brave and often brutal, the film follows the troubled and volatile relationship between father and son, played brilliantly by Lance Henriksen and Viggo Mortensen respectively. Dealing with challenging topics of dementia and rejection, it is a story told with sensitivity and integrity – traits which fans of the director will be all too familiar with, evidenced not just in Mortensen's past work as an actor, but as a musician, artist, author and photographer.
Falling is available to rent and stream via our website for £9.99. And thanks to Modern Films, half of your rental fee will be donated to the cinema, so by watching the film with us, you'll also be directly supporting the Hyde Park Picture House.
As we watch the outgoing President of the United States hand out a series of pardons to his friends and allies, it feels important to give some time over to consider the many victims of the cruel and unusual American judicial system.
In 1999 Sibil 'Fox' Richardson and her husband Rob attempted, and failed, to rob a bank. Fox took a plea deal and served three and a half years, Rob’s lawyer advised him against the deal. He was sentenced to life without parole.
Garrett Bradley’s remarkable documentary, Time (2020), joins Fox 19 years on as she campaigns tirelessly for the release of her husband. Just as Bradley weaves together archive footage with contemporary material to build her film, so too must Fox knit together the competing demands of her situation; patience in the face of an inhumane system, fury and righteousness to spur on the fight for her husband and her children, and all the space in between to ensure that all the battles are ultimately worth the toll they must take.
Ultimately,Time is a deeply personal film, which speaks to the cruel and unjust nature of a for profit incarceration system.
After a successful run on the festival circuit Time is now available to watch on Amazon Prime. And if you want to learn more about the film check out this insightful Q&A with Bradley recorded as part of the New York Film Festival in September.
On weekends we like to recommend films the whole family can enjoy, and this week we'd like to fly the flag for A Cat in Paris (PG, 2012, 65min).
The magically detailed and inherently cool hand-drawn animation follows the escapades of Zoë and her cat as they inexplicably get drawn into the underworld of Parisian crime. The version available on both Amazon and MUBI has an English-language soundtrack, making it accessible for all ages – yet this does not distract from its rich and intricate nouveau style, along with a sublime soundtrack, a beautifully illustrated distinctive Parisian backdrop and an enthralling mysterious story from start to finish.
This animation does not hide away from difficult themes but uses imaginative imagery and innovative storytelling to express mature ideas concerning parental loss and conflict, in close tandem with more traditional child-friendly capers. A great introduction for young viewers into a more thought-provoking and rewarding style of storytelling and animation.
Whilst our Creatures of the Night series remains in its sinister, supernatural slumber, fans of fantasy-horror can get your Friday night fix with today's Hyde Park Pick: Murder Me, Monster (2020, 109mins, cert. 18).
Opening with a startlingly shocking scene, which sets the tone of this metaphysical murder mystery, Murder Me, Monster is a slow-burning police procedural, set in the remote rural region of Mendoza, Argentina.
Cruz, a stoic and taciturn police officer, investigates a series of gruesome crimes, which soon lead to David, the husband of his lover, becoming the prime suspect. After David is sent to a local mental hospital, he blames the murder on the inexplicable appearance of a creature which brutally beheads its victims, after they plead “Murder Me, Monster”.
Alejandro Fadel’s bold new film is both oblique and unsettling, but nonetheless incredibly atmospheric, in murky tones of greens and browns, split by a golden hue. It’s a graphic, visceral and cryptic tale of sad and soiled souls, obsessed with landscape, mirrors, arcane symbology and alliteration. Similar in tone to Twin Peaks (1990- 2017) and Post Tenebras Lux (2012), Murder Me, Monster is a unique vision lost within its own disturbing world. Forensics!
In partnership with Anti-Worlds, we're proud to be supporting the release of Murder Me, Monster as part of our Watch Online collection.
Head to the film's page on our website, where you can stream Murder Me, Monster for £4.99. By watching the film you'll also be directly supporting the Picture House, with 50% of your rental fee donated to the cinema.
Who’d have thought a conversation about lasagne would be a precursor to major political and civil rights change? You can discover why in the insightful documentary Crip Camp (2020, 107mins, PG), today’s Hyde Park Pick to mark International Day of People with Disabilities.
Whilst this may seem a flippant way of introducing such an important topic, it’s the good humour and humane normality that shines through the core of this film, that makes it so engaging.
With extensive 1971 footage from teenage summer camp Jened, situated in the Catskills, directors Nicole Newnham and Jim LeBrecht wisely immerse us in the young camper’s lives. This brings us much closer to their personalities and personal stories, which we follow as many are inspired to go on to fight for equity in a world of discrimination and exclusion.
This connectivity with and between the participants is emblematic of the wider themes of seemingly disparate people and communities, joining together to act for their mutual benefit. As the film points out, it’s a fight that is sadly ongoing, however it consequently makes this passionate and persuasive journey essential, if not required viewing.
For additional discussion around the film, and putting people with disabilities front and centre of representing their stories, our lovely friends at Birds Eye View recently hosted a panel discussion with the filmmakers, which is available to view via Facebook.