Ungentle screening series

To accompany our current exhibition Ungentle, by Huw Lemmey in collaboration with Onyeka Igwe, this weekly series of screenings will explore the film's varying thematic interests — from the affective atmospheres of British film noir and psychogeographical satire, to the dramatisation of spycraft literature associated with the Cold War era. 

Covering ideas that reflect on the complexities of Britain's secret state, recent histories, and class struggles, this screening series is focused around socio-political fictionalisations of the post-war psyche. Titles include revered classics The Third Man (1949) and The Servant (1963), Patrick Keiller's London (1994) and Robinson in Space (1997), and the original TV adaptation of John le Carre’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1979), starring Alec Guinness.

The Third Man (1949)
Dir. Carol Reed
Saturday 19 November 2022, 2pm

Set in postwar Vienna, Austria, The Third Man stars Joseph Cotten as Holly Martins, a writer of pulp Westerns, who arrives penniless as a guest of his childhood chum Harry Lime (Orson Welles), only to find him dead. Martins develops a conspiracy theory after learning of a ‘third man’ present at the time of Harry's death, running into interference from British officer Maj. Calloway (Trevor Howard) and falling head-over-heels for Harry's grief-stricken lover, Anna (Alida Valli).

The Third Man is the second collaboration between director Carol Reed and author Graham Greene. The film rapidly took on new meanings in the public imagination as the career of Greene, a former wartime intelligence officer, became linked inextricably with the exploits of Harold 'Kim' Philby: a British spy and double agent for the Soviet Union, who was eventually identified as the 'Third Man' involved in the Cambridge Five scandal. 

100 mins

The Servant (1963)
Dir. Joseph Losey
Sunday 20 November 2022, 2pm

The Servant is directed by Joseph Losey and adapted to screenplay by Harold Pinter from the novelette of the same name written by Robin Maugham. Its subject is the English class system and its tensions in swinging sixties London. This class struggle is mainly confined to a single location, a house owned by Tony (James Fox), an eligible bachelor and upper-class naïf who fancies himself a businessman. Into this abode enters the enigmatic Barrett (Dirk Bogarde), eventually employed as Tony’s manservant. However, there is a mysterious side to Barrett, and it gradually becomes clear that although he seems to serve his employer faithfully, he has ulterior motives.

Pinter's menacing, yet skilfully controlled, elliptical dialogue has since been revered for its ability to hint, imply, seduce, and repulse, in precisely the manner that gay men were forced to adopt in 1963, when homosexuality was still a criminal offence, and when representing homosexuality on screen was forbidden.

111 mins

London (1994)
Dir. Patrick Keiller
Saturday 26 November 2022, 2pm

Patrick Keiller’s imaginary portrait of London, through its anonymous narrator voiced by Paul Scofield and his unseen companion Robinson, articulates the meaning of a city through referencing its past. London is a film about the spatialization of a place in decline, and about the roots of that decline in its culture and politics, in the form of a fictional journal of the year 1992.

Followed by two further voyages, Robinson in Space (1997) and Robinson in Ruins (2010), Keiller's unique take on the essay-film format offers scathing reflections on recent histories, enlivened by offbeat humour and wide-ranging literary anecdotes.

82 mins

Robinson in Space (1997)
Dir. Patrick Kieller
Sunday 27 November 2022, 2pm

Robinson in Space is a visual, satirical record of a journey made, by the fictional character Robinson, who sets out with assumptions about the country’s economic failure, but gradually realises that localised poverty and dilapidation are the works of the previous Conservative government.

Almost still photography contrasts with a complex commentary in this companion piece to Keiller’s London. Robinson in Space is a similar study of the look of present-day England in 1995 — among its subjects are sites evoking the by now familiar critique of ‘gentlemanly capitalism’, which sees the UK’s economic weakness as a result of the City of London’s long term neglect of the industrial economy and its manufacturing base.

78 mins

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1979)
Dir. John Irvin
Saturday 3 and Sunday 4 December 2022, 11am–4.30pm

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a seven-part BBC miniseries based on the novel by John le Carre. The series follows the endeavours of taciturn, ageing spymaster George Smiley played by Alec Guinness, a former Deputy Head of the British Secret Intelligence Service who has been in retirement for some time due to his mishandling of a failed mission in Czechoslovakia. However, Smiley finds himself summoned back to the Circus when it transpires that a Soviet infiltrator is at work in the department.

When the novel of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy came out in 1974, revelations exposing the presence of Soviet double agents in Britain were still fresh in public memory — Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean, and Harold ‘Kim’ Philby, later known as members of the Cambridge Five, had been exposed as KGB moles. The adapted TV series, based on the premise of uncovering a Soviet double agent in the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), offers a dramatisation of this period.  

7 episodes, 315 mins

Free. No booking required

Studio Voltaire
1A Nelsons Row
London SW4 7JR

Open Wednesday–Sunday, 10 am–5 pm.

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