Late Spring is director Robert Siodmak season at the BFI: as the days get longer and lighter on the Southbank, the BFI plays host to a celebration of darkness.
Director Robert Siodmak
Most famous for his gripping Noir thrillers Phantom Lady and The Killers, every one of the German director Robert Siodmak's stylish films are on show throughout April and May at the BFI, with Siodmak's classic Cry of the City on general release in selected cinemas across the UK from 17 April.
Robert Siodmak season, BFI
From Siodmak's exploration in cinematic form in his early German films to his hugely entertaining camp-horror flicks Son of Dracula and Cobra Lady, the Film Noir director's extraordinary cinematic career will be celebrated in this fitting and extended tribute, showcasing the brilliance of this master of shadow, tension and illusion.
The season begins on 2 April with Siodmak’s remarkable debut People on Sunday (1929), and continues in chronological order. Highly influenced by Weimar minimalism, the silent documentary-style feature is a cinematic masterpiece, examining four friends (all played by non-actors) on a hot afternoon in the Berlin countryside. In the sexual rivalry that unfolds his penchant for tension is seeded, and in Farewell (1930) it is matched with the claustrophobia that would characterise his later work.
In exile from Nazi persecution, his work in France is important for understanding his contribution to Noir. Both Hatred (1938) and Snares (1939) pave the way for the masterpieces that were to come: the former a brilliant juxtaposition of the opulent and futuristic landscape of Shanghai and the suburbia of Dunkirk; the latter an extraordinary turn in subtlety as a young woman attempts to entrap a murderer who entices his victims with lonely hearts ADS.
Robert Siodmak: Biography and Work
Siodmak’s forced exile to America led him to Hollywood, where his first forays were enjoyable B-Movies Son of Dracula (1943) and Cobra Woman (1944), both stylish and worth a revisit (particularly at the BFI), before Phantom Lady (1944) echoed his name throughout Hollywood. Gene Kelly stars in Christmas Holiday, an unnerving story stitched in the steamy seams on night-time New Orleans. The last week of April on the Southbank the perfect time to see this fevered blend of style and realism, Siodmak’s awareness of psychological nuance making every smile, every raised eye-brow from Kelly a talking point.
The director of Film Noir directors
Cry of the City (1948) enjoys an extended two-week run at the BFI, its headlong, nimble exploration of Little Italy making it one of Siodmak’s most enduring, influential features. New York becomes a game of Shadows, and Richard Conte’s turn as the gangster, with a knowing smile that tickles across his resting face, is wonderful. It is not hard to see where Martin Scorsese found Mean Streets, nor Mike Newell Donnie Brasco, when watching this enthralling tale of pliant ethics and the grotesque forces that survive the seething sewers that underscore the city.
Robert Siodmak: Film Noir
May sees a continuation of Siodmak’s Hollywood canon, The Suspect (1944) and Criss-Cross (1949) wonderful examples of his subtlety, while Burt Lancaster’s debut in The Killers is worth watching for the opening scene alone – one of the most memorable in cinema history.
As the 40s wandered towards its end, so did Siodmak’s popularity, his black and whites considered dated in the face of brash Technicolor. The BFI’s celebration concludes with Siodmak’s last film, The Rough with the Smooth (1959), filmed in Great Britain. An English archaeologist leaves his straight laced British fiancée for a German siren in a brilliant exploration of Britain’s sexual revolution.
If you're wondering where to watch classic films in London, the BFI has few rivals. Book tickets or just show up for this brilliant retrospective. Click here to see more BFI upcoming seasons.
|What||Robert Siodmak: Prince of Shadows, BFI|
|Where||BFI Southbank, Belvedere Road, Southbank, London, SE1 8XT | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Waterloo (underground)|
17 Apr 15 – 24 Apr 15, (Seniors Matinee + intro Fri 24th April, 2pm)
|Price||£11.00, concs £8.50 Members pay £1.50 less on any ticket.|
|Website||Click here to book via the BFI website.|