A SEASON OF FOLK HORROR JULY 16th - 30th Gaining traction in recent years, the term folk horror has been used to yoke together disparate cultural artefacts that exhibit common traits: an interest in paganism; traditional, rural communities with a connection to the land and its regenerative cycles; the importance of ritual and superstition over scientific rigour. Three UK films are held as exemplars of the genre: Witch finder General (1968), The Wicker Man (1973) and Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971), and while they are central to this season it is our intention to broaden the parameters of the definition to include earlier films that exhibit discernible folk horror traits; the ancient curse of Night of the Demon (1957) and the dreamscapes of Valerie and her Week of Wonders (1970) are antecedents of more readily classic fable folk horror cinema. More recently, The Blair Witch Project (1999) employed a folk horror mythology to popularise the emerging found-footage film. The films collected in this season hope to argue for the continued relevance of folk horror, not just as an intriguing footnote to the horror genre, but as an uncanny seam of energy that reverberates and echoes through the earthier corners of popular culture; one need only look at recent cinematic examples such as Robert Eggers' The Witch (2015), and Ben Wheatley’s A Field in England (2013) – and even the accompanying film to Radiohead’s recent single, Burn the Witch – to witness the continuing influence of folk horror tropes in contemporary image making. Introduction and film notes by David O'Mahony
If you are unfamiliar with the work of Elaine May, a search online will throw up videos of speeches the 84-year-old Oscar-nominated writer, director, actor and comedian has made in recent years at events paying tribute to the lifetime achievements of some major Hollywood figures. These speeches are irreverent, wildly inventive and hysterically funny - the audiences consistently tear up with laughter - and quickly you find yourself asking, ‘why aren’t they honouring her?’ Starting out in the 1950s as a comedian who formed one half of an immensely successful duo with Mike Nichols, May then turned to acting and writing before assuming the role of director for the first time on A New Leaf (1971), one of cinema’s great comedies, released 45 years ago which she also scripted and starred in. This film revealed the unique authorial voice and ingenious, daring wit common to all four works May directed, projects that nearly all involved a considerable degree of conflict with studios, particularly over swelling budgets and final cuts. These disputes, as well as May’s own elusiveness, have, for too long obscured her talent as a filmmaker, talent which is now at last being honoured with screenings of Mikey and Nicky at MoMA last year, of The Heartbreak Kid at Anthology Film Archives in February, of anniversary screenings of A New Leaf taking place at multiple international venues and festivals this year and a Laurel Award for Screenwriting Achievement from the Writers Guild of America in January. We too would like to pay tribute with these four screenings of her inimitable work. Introduction and film notes by Alice Butler.
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