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Winter 2002 season

Tuesday 8th January at 8pm
Battle Royale     Japan 2000  |  113 mins  |  18
In an anarchic Japan of the not too distant future, the government embarks on a drastic programme to deal with the increasing problem of school violence by transporting a randomly select class of teenage school children to a deserted island, arming them with as variety of weapons and giving them three days to kill each other. Only one will be allowed to leave the island alive – if there are more survivors, all will be killed. Playing like a violent, life-or-death version of TV’s Survivor, Battle Royale met with a storm of controversy when it was released in its native Japan, but the filmmakers have chosen to tackle the themes of teenage violence and the increasingly extreme nature of TV survival shows head on, and the result is inevitably strong stuff. Tense, imaginative and furiously paced, this is still fiercely provocative cinema and most definitely not for those with a weak stomach or of an even remotely sensitive disposition. The film a key role for TFS favourite Takeshi Kitano.

Tuesday 15th January at 8pm
Asoka     India 2001  |  157 mins  |  12
Arrogant young Indian prince Asoka departs from the kingdom of Magadha in search of love and adventure in the neighbouring province of Kalinga. Here he meets and woos beautiful runaway Kaurwaki, and helps another young prince escape the grip of an evil minister. But a twist of fate changes Asoka’s destiny and fills him with a ruthless determination to rule India at any cost. Despite being the world’s most prolific producer of feature films, India’s output is almost exclusive aimed at the domestic market, and Asoka offers a rare chance for a Western audience to experience the delights of a full-blown Bollywood production on the big screen. A visually sumptuous mixture of dynamic action, comedy, songs, romance and drama, spectacularly designed and filmed and featuring sequences of epic grandness and sweep, this is a majestic entertainment and the ideal work to open up this traditionally Indian cinematic art for to the world at large.

Tuesday 22nd January at 8pm
Urban Ghost Story     UK 1998  |  88 mins  |  15
12-year old Lizzie survives a car crash that killed her friend and left her technically dead for three minutes before being revived. Living with her single mother and half brother in a run-down Glasgow tower block, their nights are disturbed by pipes that bang and furniture that seems to rearrange itself when no-one is watching. Though there are plausible explanations for the events, they begin to suspect the presence of something supernatural. Though on the surface a ghost story, this latest work from director Genevieve Jolliffe and producer Chris Jones, authors of The Guerrilla Film Makers’ Handbook, plays primarily as a psychological study of a woman living with guilt amidst the urban decay of Glasgow’s underbelly, given real bite through the filmmakers’ feel for location and Heather Ann Foster’s compelling central performance.

Tuesday 29th January at 8pm
Amélie     France / Germany 2001  |  123 mins  |  15
Putting a somewhat isolated childhood behind her, Parisian café waitress Amélie believes it is her mission in life to improve the lives of those around her, but seems unable to work the same wonders on her own life, even when she falls for one of the people she is trying secretly to help. A huge commercial success in its native France and making big waves around the world, Amélie is a modern day fable that celebrates the good in people without being mawkish, succeeding through a combination of energy, invention and eye-popping technical dazzle typical of its imaginative director, previously responsible (with Marc Caro) for the cult favourites Delicatessen and The City of Lost Children. Here he throws every cinematic trick in the book at us, but makes it work for his story and characters, and is aided by a bang-on central performance from Audrey Tautou.

Tuesday 5th February at 8pm
The Man Who Wasn't There     USA / UK 2001  |  116 mins  |  15
It seems impossible that two brothers could make every film they produce a unique and richly rewarding experience, but the Coens just don’t seem to be capable of putting a foot wrong. After the delights of Fargo, The Big Lebowski and O Brother, Where Art Thou? comes their latest stunner, a typically skewed take on the noir thriller that is being hailed in some quarters as possibly their finest work yet. The increasingly compelling Billy Bob Thornton plays small-town barber Ed Crane, who suspects his wife Doris of having an affair with her boss Big Dave, a man Ed subsequently tries to blackmail, unwittingly setting in motion a chain of events that involve him in more than he ever bargained for. As usual for the Coens the script is bang on, the direction masterful and Roger Deakins’ black-and-white photography looks gorgeous, but it’s the performances that really hit home, with Billy Bob Thornton mesmerising in the lead role and fine support provided by Coen regular Frances McDormand and, from TV’s The Sopranos, James Gandolfini.

Tuesday 12th February at 8pm
Like Father     UK 2001  |  97 mins  |  15
40-year-old Joe, a music teacher in post-industrial East Durham, is commissioned to write a musical work to commemorate the supposed regeneration of the area. The project is an attractive one for Joe, but aspects of it pit him against his father, and begin to alienate him from his 10-year-old son. This latest work from Newcastle’s Amber Collective continues their stated mission, ‘reconnecting with [working-class communities], living and working in those communities and putting something back in,’ but within the framework of an involving story. More grounded in reality than the similarly set and themed Billy Elliot, Like Father is a compelling achievement featuring some fine performances from a largely unprofessional cast, including a terrific turn from Joe Armstrong as Joe.

Tuesday 19th February at 8pm
Little Otik [Otesánek]     Czech Republic / UK / Japan 2000  |  132 mins  |  15
Having unsuccessfully tried for a child for years, office worker Karel attempts to temporarily console his wife Bozena by carving a wooden baby from the root of a tree. Bozena takes the gift to heart, and her mother's love unexpectedly brings the child to life, but as it grows it develops an insatiable and cannibalistic appetite, and the parents find it increasingly difficult to hide from their apartment block neighbours. An update of a popular children’s fable, the fourth feature from master Czech surrealist Jan Svankmajer (Alice, Faust, The Conspirators of Pleasure) combines live action with stop motion animation to create a dark modern fairy tale, infused throughout by the director’s distinctive visual style and wonderful flair for the grotesque.

Tuesday 26th February at 8pm
At the Height of Summer [Mua he chieu thang dung]     France / Germany / Vietnam 2000  |  112 mins  |  PG
In modern Hanoi after the anniversary celebration of their mother’s death, the strong bond between three sisters is put at risk when their individual guilt about failings and infidelity in their personal lives threatens to surface. The latest work from Tran Anh Hung, the brilliant director of The Scent of Green Papaya and Cyclo is a beautifully observed ensemble piece, sedately paced and achieving a dreamlike, poetic quality that is characteristic of this unique filmmaker’s style and stands the film apart from anything you’re likely to see from Hollywood this year. A film about female solidarity and intimacy, and the perceived need to maintain appearances, even when things are falling apart beneath the surface. The film is also known as The Verticle Ray of the Sun.

Tuesday 5th March at 8pm
George Washington     USA 2000  |  90 mins  |  12
In North Carolina, a group of of mixed race kids spend a long hot summer with little to do but hang out, aware that they have reached an age when soon their friendships may change forever. The spell is broken, however, by a tragic accident that ultimately touches and affects all of them. This first feature by 26-year-old director David Gordon Green is just the sort of film that Hollywood seems to have forgotten how to make, a gentle, acutely observed character study and a portrait of the arrival of adolescence that is warm and touching without resorting to sentimentality, that is about growing up but refrains from assaulting the audience with the latest rock tunes for a record deal tie-in. Green’s feel for mood and his characters has already seen him compared to Terence Mallick (Badlands, Days of Heaven), and is clearly going to be a talent to watch.

Tuesday 12th March at 8pm
Ivansxtc     USA / UK 2000  |  92 mins  |  18
When Ivan Beckman, Hollywood's most sought after talent agent, is found dead from a massive lung tumour, the highs, lows and excesses of his final days begin to unfold. Having made his name with works such as Paperhouse, Candyman and Immortal Beloved, director Bernard Rose joins the digital revolution with this modern-day fable based in part on Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilyitch and his and producer Lisa Enos’ unhappy experiences of the Hollywood studio system. Shot on high-definition video, the film boasts a terrific script, an arresting, Dogme-influenced visual style and some superb performances, notably Peter Weller as the sleazy big name actor Don West, and Danny Huston, giving a career best turn as Ivan. A compelling, realistic and passionate assault on the Hollywood studio structure, and a fascinating insight into the dark underside of the American dream.

Tuesday 19th March at 8pm
The Circle [Dayereh]     Iran / Italy / Sweden 2000  |  90 mins  |  PG
In a Tehran hospital waiting room, a woman learns that her daughter has just given birth to a girl and not the boy that the family had been expecting. Knowing that her son-in-law’s family will abandon the child, the woman flees onto the crowded city streets, and her story becomes one of four about women on the run from a society that has bullied and marginalised them. This powerful and sometimes harrowing work from White Balloon director and Venice Film Festival Golden Lion winner Jafar Panahi examines the plight of women in a society in which almost every aspect of their lives is dependent on the whims and prejudices of men, and does so with conviction and honesty and a subtlety that delivers the massage all the more effectively. It clearly touched a nerve in its native Iran, where it was immediately banned, and is a genuine eye-opener for those of us unfamiliar with Iranian daily life.

Tuesday 26th March at 8pm
The Colour of Lies [Au coeur du mensonge]     France 1998  |  113 mins  |  15
In a woodland area south of St. Malo a schoolgirl is found raped and murdered on her way home from an art lesson delivered by embittered artist René, who was crippled by a terrorist bomb and is unable to support himself through his art. He becomes the target of both local gossip and police suspicion, while his seemingly loving wife becomes tempted by the possibility of an affair with local celebrity Germain-Roland Desmot. The latest work from Claude Chabrol, one of the most enduring talents of the French New Wave, is a gentle but thoroughly involving psychological thriller, loaded with sly ambiguity and featuring some fine performances from Jacques Gamblin, Sandrine Bonnaire and, in a stark change from his role as Eurotrash presenter, Antoine de Caunes. (Cine Outsider review)