Our first digital cinema update of 2018 opens with a celebration of one of film’s most austere, revered masters in the year of his centenary. The stately procession of new digital prints is continued by a trio of epic westerns, both old and new - only to be upended by a double dose of trouble from two school-set titles where the unconventional teachers are as much trouble as the overachieving kids. Meet the class of February 2018.
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Celebrate the centenary
14 July 2018 will mark 100 years since the birth of Ingmar Bergman, the prolific and influential Swedish filmmaker recognised as one of the medium’s truly great masters, whose devotion to artistic, intellectual and emotional rigour spanned a 60 year career. The Serpent’s Egg, his horrific depiction of personal and social decline in 1920s Berlin, is newly available on DCP and will screen around the world as part of centenary programmes.
An American-German co-production made during the director’s self-imposed exile from his native Sweden, The Serpent’s Egg is something of an anomaly in Bergman’s filmography in terms of production context and its results. It stands in retrospect as an interesting experiment for the filmmaker; a unique text incorporating the director’s personal travails, his trademark bleakness and a touch of Hollywood polish courtesy of producer Dino De Laurentiis.
The Old West and the New West
Our old west additions to the digital catalogue come via two features starring - who else? - John Wayne. The first, Rio Grande, closes the star’s highly successful collaboration with John Ford on the cavalry triology, with Wayne reprising the role of Kirby Yorke from Fort Apache. This time, the soldier faces the prospect of a deadly mission across the titular river and into Mexico, and the arrival of his estranged wife and child. The second, True Grit, sees the Duke step boldly out of his well-worn casting and into the craggy, broken-down boots of Rooster Cogburn, a US Marshal hired by a young woman to bring in the man who murdered her father. The risk was worth it: the cantankerous Cogburn would prove to be one of Wayne’s greatest roles, netting the perfomer his sole Best Actor Oscar.
True Grit was capably remade in 2010 by the Coen brothers, but it’s the dynamic duo’s 2007 film, No Country For Old Men, that makes up the new west entry to the digital catalogue, now available in 4K. It hardly seems believable that it’s been a full decade since the Coen’s dark thriller about dirty money and even dirtier doings in rural Texas swept 4 Oscars at the 80th Academy Awards. As we approach ceremony number 90, the still-fresh, still-urgent No Country For Old Men must surely be seen as one of the most impressive achievements recognised by the Academy in the 21st century.
Back to School
From sobering comedies about wine tasting to high-concept sci-fis about miniaturisation, Alexander Payne has a gift for playing with unexpected contrasts. His 1999 comedy Election is another case in point: a scathing satire about politics, corruption and power-grabs… set in a Nebraska high school. Full marks go to Matthew Broderick doing his best anti-Ferris Bueller and Reese Witherspoon giving a breakout performance as the dedicated teacher and ambitious pupil who clash on the campaign trail during the student body elections.
Trouble is again brewing in the corridors in another new addition to our digital catalogue, School of Rock - the high-wattage musical comedy starring Jack Black as a wannabe rockstar impersonating a teacher at a prestigious prep school. Screenwriter Mike White can be seen exploring similar themes of children educating the adults in their life, albeit through a more mature lens, in his latest feature, Brad’s Status.