How do you spot a great film? Is it widespread critical acclaim? A regular spot in all-time top ten lists? A famous director and a bunch of big stars? Or is it possible that all those things – whisper it now – don’t actually matter?
A weekly programme of screenings introduced by a critic, filmmaker or academic, the Lexi Film School aims to expand the definition of ‘classic’ cinema. Sure, they show the odd established masterpiece – the upcoming run includes ‘Rome: Open City’, Robert Rossellini’s neo-realist masterwork shot on scraps of film in the wake of the fall of fascism, alongside the timeless ‘Saturday Night and Sunday Morning’, in which Albert Finney plays a Nottingham factory worker railing against the strictures of ’60s society. And art enthusiasts won’t want to miss ‘Frida’, the controversial, bracingly original biopic of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo.
But the season also includes a fistful of titles we’re betting you haven’t even heard of (we hadn’t, and we’ve seen quite a lot of films). There’s ‘Of Love & Law’, a recent documentary about the first openly gay lawyers in Japan and the fight they face to be taken seriously in their profession. There’s ‘Saawariya’, a Bollywood romance with an unexpectedly dark edge. And there’s the fiercely radical ‘Angela Davis: Portrait of a Revolutionary’, a 1972 doc following the woman who came to symbolise the Black Power movement.
The Lexi Film School runs from April 29, every Monday at 6pm. Each screening will be preceded by an intro to place the film in context – speakers include Sight & Sound critic Jonathan Romney, journalist Kat Lister, ‘Suffragette’ actor Samuel West and Black History Studies founder Charmaine Simpson. They also come with detailed notes and a three-month trial subscription to online streaming service MUBI.
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