Repertory Rundown

Repertory Rundown: What to Watch in London This Week, From Mistress America to The Man Who Wasn’t There

From classics to cult favourites, our team highlight some of the best one-off screenings and re-releases showing this week in the capital

Each week our critics hand-pick a selection of special screenings – classic, cult, and everything in between – showing across London's wide range of repertory cinemas, and make the case as to why they're worth catching on the big screen.

Contributors: Steph Green, Fedor Tot


The Searchers (1956)

When and where? 11 July, BFI Southbank (also 23 July)

Set in 1868, Ethan Edwards (John Wayne) returns from the South’s defeat in the Civil War to the West Texas wilderness. Shortly afterwards, a Comanche tribe lure him and some rangers away from the home and ransack their house, killing Ethan’s brother and wife and abducting his two nieces, leading Ethan to vengefully set out with his nephew to find the two girls and bring them home. But what is home for this roving renegade? Ethan is perhaps one of the most fascinating characters in any John Ford Western (and he made 33 of them); his depiction of this anti-hero – prejudiced, seething, unyielding, lost – doesn’t endorse the character’s racist vantage, but rather reflects the neuroses of an entire generation of white men riddled with post-war insecurity. Those Monument Valley VistaVision panoramas, that score, that final, mournful shot… The Searchers simply is cinema. Steph Green


The Man Who Wasn't There (2001)

When and where? 12 July, BFI Southbank (also 22 July)

Nearly every Coen Brothers film can be summarised thusly: “average schmuck gets in way over his head.” The Man Who Wasn’t There is no different – it is a smoky, shadow-drenched pastiche of 1940s noirs, in which many an average schmuck got in way over their heads. But where those films were often driven by pulpy narratives and sensationalistic marketing, the Coens naturally take a different tack, asking the viewer what would happen if the protagonist was an utter nobody whose entire life lacked agency, somebody who just let bad things happen to them (a theme partly rooted in the Coen’s interpretation of Judaism, something they would explore in greater depth in A Serious Man in 2009). For The Man Who Wasn’t There, they found their answer in Billy Bob Thornton’s blank-faced protagonist, who wanders through the film barely registering the travesty that faces him at every corner: cheating wives, suicide, blackmail, financial ruin and capital punishment. Wonderfully dark-hearted stuff. Fedor Tot


Mistress America (2015)

When and where? 12 July, BFI Southbank (also 30 July)

Though Damsels in Distress – also playing at the BFI this week – is similarly a great vehicle for Greta Gerwig’s kooky charm, perhaps Mistress America is a little more accessible. This chaotic coming-of-ager sees her thirtysomething Brooke bonding with new, younger stepsister Tracy (Lola Kirke) who is struggling to fit in at college; she soon ropes Tracy into her harebrained schemes involving her “curated unemployment,” with the script sending up and satirizing the early thirties as your supposed salad days. It’s an aggressively funny screwball, endlessly straight-faced, quotable and ludicrous. While I’m happy Gerwig is taking over Hollywood with ambitions to be a big studio director, I pray she still has these $3 million, 85-minute little capers up her sleeve. Long may she never lose this impish wit. Steph Green

Pusher III (2005)

When and where? 12 July, Prince Charles Cinema

Before he became dangerously addicted to neon lights, Nicholas Winding Refn was a brawny purveyor of gritty crime films, culminating in the Pusher trilogy, each of which tracks a different character in the Copenhagen gangster underworld. Across the first two entries, Milo (Zlatko Burić) appears as the malevolent kingpin, the one man you do not want to piss off: a Serbian war criminal-turned-gangster (his cafe is decorated with posters hailing some nasty figures of the Yugoslav wars), playing fully into the Scandinavian cliche of using the Balkans as the source of all evil in the world. The third entry centres on Milo, unravelling all those cliches, revealing him to be a schlub and a gawky loser, desperate to get clean and make sure his daughter has a great birthday. Burić, seen more recently in Triangle of Sadness, lays down an all-time great performance, loaded with pathos and bleak humour, taking a figure of evil and making him almost sympathetic. Almost! Fedor Tot


The Act of Killing (2012)

When and where? 13 July, The Garden Cinema

Want to spend your sunny July evening staring straight down the barrel of hell with fellow cinephiles? The Garden Cinema has you covered. Joshua Oppenheimer’s acclaimed 2012 documentary sees several men proudly recreate the manners in which they perpetrated mass murder of communists, ethnic Chinese and other groups from 1965-1966 in Indonesia. You watch as they, in particular the ostensibly charismatic gangster Anwar Congo – alone personally responsible for at least 1000 violent tortures and murders – mutate from showboating remorseless to something resembling guilt. But try to go in as cold as possible, because nothing quite prepares you for the moral turbulence that unspools over two hours. There have been many imitators of this style of documentary, but perhaps none has become close to the atmosphere of sheer dread and banality that emanates off the screen like a hot stench of evil. Steph Green


The Way of the Dragon (1972)

When and where? 14 July, Prince Charles Cinema (also 19, 25 and 29 July)

In his all-too-short career, The Way of the Dragon stands out as the only film Bruce Lee wrote, directed and produced, alongside being its leading man. As such, it’s the closest we’ve got to a complete idea of Bruce Lee as an auteur. Of all things then, it’s a fish-out-of-water comedy for the first half, as Lee’s expat arrives in Italy to defend his uncle’s failing restaurant from greedy mob bosses, eventually coming face to face with then-karate world champion Chuck Norris. That final fight between Lee and Norris is by far the highlight, though Lee also showcases a good knack for physical comedy too. Lee’s central authorship here also means his ego and self-belief run unchecked: that is of course part of what made him such a compelling and iconic figure, one driven by a desire to showcase Chinese kung-fu to the world, and yet there are occasional moments where it means the fight scenes have no dramatic stakes – you simply cannot touch Bruce Lee. Even so, an excellent slice of martial arts history. Fedor Tot

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