An Oscar-winning classic – ‘Casablanca’. This was April’s film at Peter’s Picturehouse. Many of us, including myself, had never seen it before – are those in their 60’s too young? – or at best, had seen the odd extract here and there. I really enjoyed it. Filmed in 1942, it’s a World War II drama and therefore contemporary at the time of filming. It focuses on an American expatriate, Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) who must choose between his love for a woman, Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman) and helping her and her husband, a Czech Resistance leader, escape from the Vichy-controlled city of Casablanca to continue his fight against the Nazis.

Maybe a little slow to get going, the film fizzed into life with the appearance of our heroine, Ingrid Bergman. How did they manage in these black and white films to make their leading women so luminously beautiful? The chemistry between her and Bogart was intense, and the flashback to their love affair in Paris at the time the Nazis entered the city was very moving. The haunting song ‘As Time Goes By’ was central to the film. The finale was tense – would Bergman and her husband get on the plane? Had the police chief betrayed them to the Germans? What would our hero Rick do? Everyone breathed a sigh of relief at the end. ‘Casablanca’ has definitely stood the test of time.

The May film is ‘Phantom Thread’ (cert. 15). Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, this is a film that came and went quite quickly when it was released early last year, and many of you might have missed it. I was lucky enough to see it at the open-air cinema in the Sydney Botanic Gardens, on a beautifully warm evening with the Harbour Bridge and Opera House in the background and a glass of wine to hand. In this setting I would have enjoyed absolutely any film, but we were agreed at the end that it had been well worth seeing.

‘Phantom Thread’ stars Daniel Day-Lewis (and if you saw him in ‘Lincoln’ you will know what a great actor he is) in supposedly his last film before retirement, and he is in top form. He plays a renowned fashion designer, Reynolds Woodcock, in 1950’s London. He creates dresses for members of high society. Woodcock’s charisma and genius are matched by his obsessive, controlling personality. His household and daily life are managed by his sister, Cyril (Lesley Manville). The equilibrium is totally disturbed when a young waitress, Alma, enters his life.

‘Phantom Thread’ scored well with the film critics. It was nominated for five Oscars (including Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress) and perhaps unsurprisingly for a film about high fashion, won the Oscar for Best Costume Design, so there is plenty to enjoy visually. One critic described it as ‘strange and mesmerizing…. romantic drama, with a touch of thriller and an unexpected dab of dark comedy.’ ‘The Independent’ said it was ‘wondrously bizarre’. There are one or two quite dark and unexpected twists (no violence however!). The audience reviews were somewhat more divided but many were very appreciative. It’s certainly an unusual film. Not one for you if you like action movies: rather sit back and admire the visuals and the superb acting. For quite a slow-paced film, I kept wide awake and absorbed throughout.

Come and see what you think. We can’t give you the Sydney Harbour setting, but you can have the glass of wine, and/or tea/coffee/ice cream if you prefer. The Village Hall doors open at 7.00 p.m. on Tuesday 7 th May and the film starts at 7.30. Admission £5.

Rosemary Harris

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