Celebrating Analogue

In these days of digital, it’s easy to forget the glory of the 35mm film print. But rather like those who obsess over vinyl records, there are some that still revel in the joy of seeing their movies projected the way the Lumière brothers intended. This coming weekend, you too can celebrate celluloid with Light Show #1 – a four-film event at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts, in collaboration with online streaming site MUBI and movie magazine Little White Lies.

It’s not the first time. Four years ago, Little White Lies took over the ICA to screen some real 35mm beauties – everything from Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch-Drunk Love to David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive. This time, the selection is arguably even more eclectic – “the product of genius directors”, as the promotional blurb terms it. Certainly, it’s hard to argue that Orson Welles, Jacques Tati, Agnés Varda and Leos Carax don’t all merit such an accolade.

The selection offers a rare chance to see Tati’s dynamic 1967 film Playtime on the big screen. This two-and-a-half-hour epic was Tati’s great modernist masterpiece, a film that – despite its relative commercial failure – is frequently voted as one of the greatest movies ever made. Set in various Parisian locations (all built on an enormous set), it’s a daring non-narrative exploration of the urban universe we have built around ourselves.

Also playing is Carax’s Holy Motors (2012) an infectiously wicked piece from the French provocateur. Denis Lavant delivers one (or should that be several?) of his finest performances as the shape-shifting Monsieur Oscar, who travels Paris in a white limo like a mischievous sprite. Featuring Kylie Minogue and Eva Mendes in small roles, it’s a true original.

Fiction isn’t all that’s on offer. Agnés Varda’s The Beaches of Agnés is a documentary self-portrait of the Belgian-born filmmaker who spent most of her life working in France. Including the precious sequence of Varda, aged 80, sailing up the Seine in a fishing boat, it’s a wonderful study of a filmmaker who has just received an honorary Oscar from the Academy, just one year shy of her 90th birthday.

Finally, the biggest iconoclast of them all – Orson Welles – can be seen in F is for Fake, his 1973 melding of fact and fiction. Considered his last major film, it’s ostensibly an essay on art forger Elmyr de Hory, but really it’s a meditation on the nature of fakery and fabrication. Again, the chance to see it in 35mm is rare; an opportunity that is most certainly not a hoax.

Light Show # 1 runs at London’s ICA between December 8 and 10. For details, visit: www.ica.art

James Mottram

1. Still from Leos Carax’s Holy Motors.