Movies, moustaches and how to handle a strong leader crisis


“Life has improved,” the strong leader said. “Life has become more joyous.”

Croydon 2017? Nope, Moscow, 1950.

Those were the words of Josef Stalin who, post-mortem, bestrides the brilliant horror-satire which is the first presentation of the David Lean Cinema’s December programme.

The David Lean, with its schedule under the direction of a group of volunteers, is increasingly managing to secure screenings of new releases. Armando Iannucci’s The Death Of Stalin is only just out, having be released to coincide with the centenary of the October Revolution. Other 2017 releases on offer at Croydon’s arthouse cinema in December are the Andy Serkis-directed Breathe, the brilliant Call Me By Your Name, the seasonal The Man Who Invented Christmas and the all-star blockbuster re-make of Murder On The Orient Express.

With the Clocktower being next door to Croydon Town Hall, some might find The Death Of Stalin somewhat redolent of more local goings-on, six months before local elections. The Guardian described the film as “a sulphurous black comedy about backstairs Kremlin intrigue”. Remind you of anywhere?

“These Soviet dignitaries panic, plot and go in and out of denial: a bizarre, dysfunctional hokey cokey of the mind… All these ageing courtiers and sycophants have suddenly been turned into a bunch of scared and malicious children.” Which, of course, is nothing like anything that might happen in political circles anywhere closer to home.

Like Orient Express, Stalin has an all-star cast. But here, Iannucci appears to succeed somewhat better than the early reviews suggest Kenneth Branagh has done with his take on the Agatha Christie classic. In Orient Express, the Hollywood A-listers – Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Willem Dafoe plus Judi Dench – are almost falling over themselves for the limelight. Branagh’s moustache steals every scene.

Whereas, Stalin, again according to The Guardian reviewer, “is superbly cast, and acted with icy and ruthless force… There are no weak links. Each has a plum role; each squeezes every gorgeous horrible drop.”

  • The David Lean is about more than blockbuster movies, of course. Fulfilling its brief, it is screening the documentary Open Bethlehem on December 6, to be followed by a Q&A with Sara Apps, The Open Bethlehem Campaign’s executive director.
  • Unless otherwise stated, tickets for all screenings are £8. Concessions (Freedom Pass-holders, full-time students, claimants and disabled) £6.50
  • Bookings can be made by clicking here

David Lean Cinema programme for December

All films are at 2.30 and 7.30pm unless stated

2017 UK/Fra 106min. Director: Armando Iannucci
Stars: Steve Buscemi, Jeffrey Tambor, Simon Russell Beale, Michael Palin

For the leaders of the USSR, material comforts are hard to enjoy when every night could be your last, as Stalin signs off the murderous lists compiled by internal security minister Lavrentiy Beria (Beale). When Uncle Joe is struck down by a stroke, Beria sees the absurd deputy leader Malenkov (Tambor) as his ideal puppet, but Nikita Khrushchev (Buscemi) is on manoeuvres too. Iannucci (The Thick of It, Veep) has condensed the events of 1953 into a brilliant, farcical black comedy – a “delicious mockery” (The Telegraph), with a deadly serious edge.

Wed Dec 6 OPEN BETHLEHEM (PG) (7.30pm)
2014 Palestine/UAE/UK/USA 90min (partially subtitled). Director: Leila Sansour

Film director Leila Sansour returns to Bethlehem to make a film about her home town, soon to be encircled by a wall. The film spans seven momentous years in the life of Bethlehem, revealing a city of astonishing beauty and political strife under occupation, and charts the creation of a campaign to compel international action to bring peace to the Middle East. “Open Bethlehem is a fierce and poignant plea against the incarceration of a city” (The Guardian). Followed by a Q&A with Sara Apps, The Open Bethlehem Campaign’s Executive Director.

Thu Dec 7 BREATHE (12A) (11am and 7.30pm)
2017 UK 117min. Director: Andy Serkis
Stars: Andrew Garfield, Claire Foy, Tom Hollander, Hugh Bonneville

The true story of Robin Cavendish (Garfield) who is struck down with polio soon after his marriage to Diana (Foy), who is shortly to give birth. We follow the dramatic attempts of Diana and her brothers to keep her husband alive, enabling him to lead a life worth living, and Robin’s subsequent quest to improve the lives of others. Produced by the son of the real couple, Breathe chronicles “a triumph of joy over adversity” (The Guardian).

Sat Dec 9  THE BOY AND THE BEAST (12A) (2.30pm)
2015 Japan 119min (subtitled). Director: Mamoru Hosoda
Stars: Koji Yakusho, Aoi Miyazaki, Shota Sometani

Young runaway Kyuta slips into a parallel world – a Japan-like civilisation of intelligent beasts, where he becomes the apprentice of the strong but wayward Kumatetsu. As they mature together, Kyuta and his master must both overcome great challenges to fulfil their destinies. Hugely entertaining, this action-packed contrast to Hosada’s previous gem Wolf Children maintains his visual and narrative flair and ability to create deep characters full of human (and animal) emotion. “Excellent… there has not been a film that shifts between reality and fantasy so smoothly since Pan’s Labyrinth” (Sight and Sound).

2017 Ire/Can 104min. Director: Bharat Nalluri
Stars: Dan Stevens, Christopher Plummer, Jonathan Pryce

Bharat Nalluri’s film presents the making of the Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol. Life events and a vivid imagination inspired Dickens to create timeless characters such as Ebenezer Scrooge and Tiny Tim. A fascinating insight into the author’s creative process as he attempts to win back the confidence of his publishers by writing a novel that would eventually breathe new life into an uninspired holiday season. Dan Stevens gives a lively performance as Dickens.

As Dec 12

Thu Dec 14 CALL ME BY YOUR NAME (15) (7.30pm)
2017 It/USA/Bra/Fr 132min (partially subtitled). Director: Luca Guadagnino
Stars: Armie Hammer, Timothée Chalamet, Michael Stuhlbarg, Amira Casar

An American professor brings his family to Lombardy every year – this year, 1983, his son Elio (Chalamet) becomes obsessed with his new assistant Oliver (Hammer), and their relationship develops over the course of the summer. Adapted for the screen by James Ivory, this sun-dappled romance has been universally acclaimed for its script, camerawork, and stunning acting from the entire cast. “A triumphant, heartbreaking tale” (Time Out).

Tue Dec 19 MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (12A) (7.30pm)
2017 USA 114min. Director: Kenneth Branagh
Stars: Kenneth Branagh’s moustache, Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Jonny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer

Based on the Agatha Christie famous detective novel. An opulent trip through Europe rapidly unfolds into a stylish and suspenseful race against time to solve a murder case. Thirteen strangers are stranded on a train and everyone’s a suspect. One man, detective Hercule Poirot, must interrogate the passengers, search for clues and solve the puzzle before the killer strikes again. Kenneth Branagh directs and leads a stellar cast.

Thu Dec 21 (2.30pm) MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (12A) (2.30pm)
As Dec 19 above. *This screening will be subtitled for those with hearing loss.

Thu Dec 21 THE FLORIDA PROJECT (15) (7.30pm)
2017 USA 115min. Director: Sean Baker
Stars: Willem Dafoe, Brooklynn Prince, Bria Vinaite, Valeria Cotto
The Florida Project journeys through the day-to-day life of a wide-eyed, funny and precocious six-year-old girl and her ragtag group of friends. Monee and her rebellious mother Halley live at “The Magic Castle”, a budget motel, overseen by Bobby, the stern-faced but kindly manager. Despite this harsh environment, Monee gets up to mischief and adventure and her summer break is filled with a sense of wonder and possibility while the adults around them struggle with the realities of life. Brooklyn Prince gives an exceptional performance as the young Monee.

Thu Dec 28 TANNA (12A) (2.30pm)
2015 Aus/Vanuatu 104 mins (subtitled). Directors: Martin Butler, Bentley Dean
Stars: Mungau Dain, Marie Wawa, Marceline Rofit
Based on dramatic events that took place on the volcanic South Pacific island of Tanna in 1987, this picture weaves fascinating details of tribal life into its Romeo and Juliet style story of young lovers breaking all the rules and risking everything to be together. Spoken in the native Nauvhal tongue, filmed entirely on location, and with a cast who had neither acted nor seen a film before, this 2016 Academy Award nominee was also praised by the London Film Festival jury: “It’s a rare skill to give a voice to a typically marginalised community that doesn’t condescend or patronise.”

Fri Dec 29 THE BOY AND THE BEAST (12A) (11am)
As Dec 9 above.

Fri Dec 29 THE WAGES OF FEAR (12A) (2.30pm)
1953 Fr/It 152min (subtitled). Director: Henri-Georges Clouzot
Stars: Yves Montand, Charles Vanel, Peter Van Eyck, Vera Clouzot
In a South American country, four shady characters find themselves thrust together on a dangerous job. They are each offered $2,000 to drive two trucks of highly volatile nitro-glycerine to a remote oil field. Tension builds between the men as they inch their way over the treacherous mountain roads, in the knowledge that the slightest jolt could have explosive consequences. This classic thriller from Henri-Georges Clouzot, the “French Hitchcock”, “has no superior in the field of action-suspense” (The Guardian).

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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