Over the past 80 years, the sound of a Merlin engine, humming above Croydon and the rest southern England, has become a reassuring fixture of the summer. In more recent, more benign times, thanking that well-engineered purring sound, and the occasional glimpse of the elegant aero-design, has come as a result of solo display flights.
That, of course, was not always the case, as when in 1940 thousands of young men were in the cockpits of Spitfires, flying in squadrons from bases such as Biggin Hill, RAF Croydon and Kenley, in the Battle of Britain.
The Kenley Revival Project has done much good work in researching, unearthing and preserving the history of the last remaining, complete World War II airfield, and as they come close to the end of their Heritage Lottery Fund project, they have combined with the David Lean Cinema to arrange for a screening of a new documentary, Spitfire, on September 14 – the eve of Battle of Britain Day.
With all tickets just £5 each, this represents an excellent opportunity to see on the David Lean Cinema’s big screen the film, narrated by Charles Dance, which combines stunning aerial footage, digitally re-mastered, archive footage, and the testimony of former Spitfire pilots and crew, as well as coverage of how these magnificent flying machines are kept air-worthy nearly 80 years on.
There’s something of an aeronautical cutting edge theme to the movies at the David Lean Cinema going through to September, too, with the Apollo 11 documentary also being screened, soon after the 50th anniversary of the first Moon landing.
There’s plenty for those who wax romantic about over matters, too, such as Nick Broomfield’s Marianne & Leonard, and Gurinda Chadha’s latest film, Blinded By The Light, which somehow brings Springsteen to Luton.
- Tickets for screenings are £7.50. Concessions (Freedom Pass-holders, full-time students, claimants and disabled) £6; Under-25s are £5.
- Tickets for the screenings listed here go on sale from August 7. Bookings can be made by clicking here
David Lean Cinema programme for August and September
All films are at 2.30 and 7.30pm, unless stated
Tue Aug 27 MARIANNE & LEONARD: WORDS OF LOVE (12A) (7.30pm)
2019 USA 102min. Dir: Nick Broomfield
Features: Marianne Ihlen, Leonard Cohen, Judy Collins
Broomfield skips the journalistic digging that characterised his previous music documentaries (Kurt & Courtney; Biggie and Tupac; Whitney: Can I Be Me) for this tender retelling of the long, complex relationship between poet and songsmith Leonard Cohen and his muse Marianne Ihlen, from idyllic beginnings on the Greek island of Hydra in 1960 to a tear-jerking finale 56 years later. With unseen footage of Cohen in concert and private moments, Marianne & Leonard is, like Cohen’s own work, sad, profound and shamelessly romantic.
Thu Aug 29 ONLY YOU (15)
2018 UK 119min. Dir: Harry Wootliff
Stars: Laia Costa, Josh O’Connor, Peter Wight
Falling in love on New Year’s Eve, Jake and Elena soon move in together and try for a baby. He’s 26, she’s 35, and their struggles to conceive expose differences in how they relate and threaten to break them apart. Successfully portraying the passion, pleasure and pains of a relationship, and enriched by its dance-rock soundtrack and Glasgow setting, Only You‘s greatest asset is a brilliant performance by Costa, as magnetic here as she was in 2015’s Victoria.
Tue Sep 3 MIDSOMMAR (18) (7pm)
2019 USA/Swe 147min (English and Swedish with partial subtitles). Dir: Ari Aster
Stars: Florence Pugh, Will Poulter, Jack Reynor
Aster’s second feature-length film is another study of cults, trauma, and the human psyche. The folk horror begins with a family tragedy, before Dani is begrudgingly invited to join her boyfriend Christian and his friends on holiday to a small commune deep in the vivid forests of Sweden. A series of strange and shocking events unfold as they attend a midsummer celebration that only takes place once every 90 years.
Thu Sep 5 PHOTOGRAPH (15)
2019 Ind/USA 110min (Hindi with subtitles). Dir: Ritesh Batra
Stars: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Sanya Malhotra, Farrukh Jaffar
After a chance meeting, a street photographer and a wealthy tourist begin a will-they won’t-they romance. His indomitable, spirited grandmother adds a comedic touch as she wades in with the best of intentions. There are charming performances from all, with Mumbai itself another star, as the camera pulls us in close to the city’s busy life. This is another beautifully photographed slow burner from the director of 2013’s The Lunchbox.
Tue Sep 10 MAKING NOISE QUIETLY (15) (7.30pm)
2019 UK 95min. Dir: Dominic Dromgoole
Stars: Trystan Gravelle, Pauline McLynn, Deborah Findlay
Acclaimed theatre director Dromgoole has chosen for his screen debut to film a triptych drama that explores the impact of war on ordinary people. The three stories, set in Kent in 1942, Redcar in 1982 and Germany in 1996, feature dialogues that contrast the military world view with the characters’ complex relationships. An interesting and thought-provoking film, stunningly photographed and with excellent performances.
Thu Sep 12 APOLLO 11 (U)
2018 USA 93min. Dir: Todd Douglas Miller
Features: Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins
Crafted from a newly discovered trove of 65mm footage, and more than 11,000 hours of uncatalogued audio recordings, Apollo 11 takes us straight to the heart of the NASA mission to first put men on the moon. Immersed in the perspectives of the astronauts, the team in Mission Control, and the millions of spectators on the ground, we vividly experience those momentous days in 1969 when humankind took a giant leap into the future.
Sat Sep 14 SPITFIRE (PG) (2.30pm)
2018 UK 99min. Dir: David Fairhead, Ant Palmer
The Kenley Revival Project presents the story of this iconic fighter plane. Narrated by Charles Dance, Fairhead and Palmer’s documentary combines stunning aerial footage, digitally re-mastered, archive footage, and the testimony of former Spitfire pilots and crew to describe its crucial part in winning the war in the air in 1940, and how today’s enthusiasts have kept it in the national memory.
All tickets £5.
Tue Sep 17 ANIMALS (15) (7.30pm)
2019 Aus/Ire 109min. Director: Sophie Hyde
Stars: Holliday Grainger, Alia Shawkat, Fra Fee
Female friendship is the focus of Animals. As Dublin pair Laura and Tyler approach their mid-thirties, questions about their wild habits are raised, and Laura finds herself struggling to balance her old life with Tyler and her new life with fiancé Jim. Grainger and Shawkat have an undeniable chemistry that adds to this frank yet funny examination of the reckoning that comes as you grow out of the party lifestyle.
Thu Sep 19 TRANSIT (15)
2018 Ger 101 mins (German with subtitles). Dir: Christian Petzold
Stars: Franz Rogowski, Paula Beer, Godehard Giese
A young Jewish technician impersonates a dead author to flee from Nazi-occupied Paris. While stuck in Marseilles, he encounters – and falls in love with – the dead author’s young wife. Director Christian Petzold takes a Casablanca-style story and imbues it with present-day relevance by modernising aspects of the setting, helped by superb performances from Rogowski and Beer. “An overwhelmingly sad meditation on the repeated moral failures that make up the history of refugees in Europe” (Sight and Sound).
Tue Sep 24 BLINDED BY THE LIGHT (12A) (7.30pm)
2019 UK 117min. Dir: Gurinder Chadha
Stars: Viveik Kalra, Hayley Atwell, Rob Brydon
Based on Sarfraz Manzoor’s memoir, this feelgood comedy-drama juxtaposes the transformative power of music – specifically that of his hero Bruce Springsteen – against a backdrop of the racial and economic tensions in 1980s Luton. Graced by a breakthrough lead performance from Vivek Kalra, it explores similar cultural and generational themes as Chadha’s Bend It Like Beckham, but will also appeal to fans of Danny Boyle’s Yesterday and the oeuvre of Nick Hornby.
Thu Sep 26 ONCE UPON A TIME … IN HOLLYWOOD (18) (2.30 & 7pm)
2019 USA/UK 159min. Dir: Quentin Tarantino
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie
Tarantino’s latest takes us back to late-60s Hollywood and features DiCaprio as a sometime TV star facing up to his own declining powers in an entertainment landscape that’s changing before his eyes. As ever with Quentin, plot is simply a hook on which to hang crackling, salty dialogue, larger-than-life characterisations (including real-life monsters such as Polanski and Manson), postmodern trickiness and a deluge of pop culture references. Brazen, uneven, probably a few minutes too long and, as always, unmissable. Note the early start time of the evening screening of this 2hr 39min film.
*The 2.30pm screening will be subtitled for those with hearing loss
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