All features showing from December 3rd
Preview by Patrick Foley
Films have become integral to our shared Christmas celebrations. Whether it’s a journey to the cinema to see a family classic, or gathering around the TV on Christmas Day to watch a festive favourite (you’re not watching the Queen, admit it), a good movie around Christmas is the perfect way to get into the spirit. And whilst this year Christmas will be different for us all, BFI Southbank’s December season is a safe and secure way to kickstart celebrations.
It wouldn’t be Christmas without the immortal Christmas greats, and you will be hard-pressed to find a better trio than It’s a Wonderful Life, A Muppet’s Christmas Carol and Elf. Frank Capra’s timeless tale of George Bailey and his epiphany on life is as relevant as it was in 1946. The Muppets take on Dickens’ classic still resonates amongst the best adaptions ever made - with Michael Caine’s scrooge a contender for the definitive portrayal. And Elf still feels slick and modern, even as it approaches it’s 20-year anniversary. Whichever you prefer, a fantastic family day out is assured with these 3.
December also features Marlene Dietrich: Falling in Love Again for those looking to experience one of cinema’s most enduring and enigmatic icons on the big screen. Discover some of the German-American star’s finest performances, from her silent movie days in The Three Lovers, through to her explosion into Hollywood superstardom in The Blue Angel, A Foreign Affair and Rancho Notorious. Dietrich’s charisma is at it’s spellbinding best in these timeless offerings.
A little less festive but no less essential is Henry Blake’s County Lines, screening from December 4th. The true-events drama is a troubling story of Tyler, a teenager recruited into ‘county lines’ drug dealing. The film is a stark reminder that cinema’s role in addressing societal issues is more important than ever, and stories like Tyler’s matter even as our news cycle is dominated by global events.
Also hitting the screen is Mogul Mowgli, Bassam Tariq’s new release starring Riz Ahmed. Ahmed stars as Zed, a rapper about to embark on a life-changing world tour before he is stricken by an autoimmune disease. The film is a visceral study of loss, illness and righteous anger, and continues to cement Ahmed’s standing as one of Britain’s most exciting actors today.
For anyone in need of further escapism (and after this year, who isn’t?) then the Cinematic Escapes series may be just for you. Leave 2020 in the lobby and be transported to some of the most thrilling and authentic worlds imagined on film. Travel back to 18th century France in Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Céline Sciamma’s acclaimed 2019 love story. If the glamour of 1950’s Rome is appealing to you, La Dolce Vita may be the dreamlike getaway you need. If you want something more otherworldly, the dystopian Los Angeles of Blade Runner: The Final Cut is as stunningly realised and alive as it was in 1982. This 2007 directors cut is the seminal edition of one of the greatest and most influential sci-fi films ever made. Last but certainly not least is the all-conquering Black Panther, the Wakanda-set Marvel blockbuster that electrified the superhero genre. There is no better way to remember the late, great Chadwick Boseman than with his most iconic role.
Whether you are comfortable with multiple trips to the cinema or looking for your first fix since March, BFI Southbank’s December line-up is one not to miss. Enjoy this mix of classics and new releases in a safe and secure setting as the cold days draw in. For more information, head to https://whatson.bfi.org.uk/Online/ for full listings, times and booking.