Notorious (1946)

Back for its fourth edition, Cinema Rediscovered opens this week with the UK premiere of the beautifully restored Notorious (1946), Alfred Hitchcock’s critically acclaimed film noir. Screening ahead of its BFI release in cinemas across the UK in August, Notorious is the widely adored spy thriller from the master of suspense, infamous for featuring the longest screen kiss — two and a half minutes at a time when Hollywood’s production code restricted it to three seconds. Starring Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman and Claude Rains, Hitchcock’s visual style captures their lives intertwined with romance and suspense during a spy operation in post-war Rio. 

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Une Femme Douce (1969)

The festival’s home, Bristol Unesco City of Film, will host screenings of the latest digital restorations. Rare films come directly from its partner festival Il Cinema Ritrovato’s 33rd edition and will be presented on the big screen at the Watershed venue.

Included in this year’s line-up is the restoration of Robert Bresson’s first colour film Une femme douce (1969), which will premiere on the festival’s closing night. Little seen in the UK, Bresson’s adaptation of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s short story features 17 year-old model Dominique Sanda in the role of Elle – the gentle woman of the title. In dealing with the young woman’s suicide, Bresson’s film examines the bittersweet difficulties of intimate relationships and the multiple emotions that come with them. Other highlights include a programme of screenings by French filmmaker Alice Guy-Blaché, one of the first to direct a narrative fiction film, and Muriel Box, one of the key British female director-screenwriters of the 1950s and 60s.

Here are another five of our picks from the festival’s programme of 40-plus events.

Filmfarsi (2019)

Director: Ehsan Khoshbakht

Filmfarsi (2019)

For the past four years, filmmaker Ehsan Khoshbakht has been unearthing a long lost cinematic history of film stars from the Middle East. In opening a Pandora’s box of Iranian popular films, Khoshbakht unlocked one of the richest film genres recorded on celluloid. Filmfarsi uncovers the cinematic and social history of Iran under the Shah, suppressed since the 1979 revolution. The world premiere of Khoshbakht’s essay film brings back a cinema of passion, horror and melodrama that was led by Iran’s most beloved actors.

For all Mankind (1989)

Director: Al Reinert

For all Mankind (1989)

With a new digital restoration timed to coincide with for the Apollo 11 moon landing’s 50th anniversary, Al Reinert’s 1989 film For all Mankind is an exquisite documentary about humanity’s extraordinary achievement. Journalist-turned-filmmaker Reinert assembled an array of footage held at the NASA archive, which he visited 20 years after the Apollo 11 landing. With a specially commissioned score composed by pioneering ambient musician Brian Eno, the restored film’s UK premiere will be a remarkable celebration of man’s first landing on the moon.

The Passion of Remembrance (1986)

Director: Maureen Blackwood and Isaac Julien

The Passion of Remembrance (1986)

Directed by founding members of the Sankofa Film and Video Collective Maureen Blackwood and Issac Julien, The Passion of Remembrance is Sankofa’s debut feature and the first by a black British woman to be released theatrically in the UK. It’s an intriguing study of black lives in 80s London, framed against the rise of gender politics in the US and UK, and screening as part of a rare programme of Blackwood’s award-winning shorts. 

Also included in the programme are Blackwood’s acclaimed Perfect Image? (1988) and Lift Stories (2005), the latter shot during a workshop run by Abbas Kiarostami. The film programme A Passion for Remembering: The Films of Maureen Blackwood should prove a wonderful introduction to the No Direct Flight season at BFI Southbank this August, which will explore how the digital world has shaped the visual aesthetics of the African Diaspora.

Focus on Moustapha Alassane

Le Retour d’un Aventurier (1966)

Two brand new restorations of Moustapha Alassane’s films, a pioneer of 1960s and 1970s Nigerien cinema, will have their UK premiere as part of a focus on the filmmaker’s work. The programme travels to the UK from Il Cinema Ritrovato’s Cinemalibero section, which this year celebrated the 50th anniversary of FESPACO, one of Africa’s most important film festivals. 

Alassane’s influential films, animations and ethnographies parody how western consumerism doomed Niger’s post-colonial generation and sharply depict the colonialist and authoritarian attitudes towards black Africans. The festival will screen some of his most celebrated works, including his emblematic film Le retour d’un aventurier (1966), his animation (the first in colour to be produced in Africa) Samba le grand (1977) and his stop-motion film, Kokoa (1985). Mohamed Challouf’s documentary Ouaga, capitale du cinéma (2000), also screening at the festival as part of FESPACO’s anniversary, gives a wonderful insight into the importance of the African film festival as a symbol of cultural heritage.

Fruit of Paradise (1970)

Director: Věra Chytilová

Fruit of Paradise (1970)

Czech New Wave pioneer Věra Chytilová’s take on the story of Adam and Eve is an experimental look into Prague’s 1968 Soviet invasion that compromised freedom of speech. A follow-up to her best-known film Daisies (1966), this visually arresting allegory won the Special Jury Prize at the Chicago International Film Festival in 1970, just before the avant-garde filmmaker was banned from filming until 1975. Fruit of Paradise will screen as part of the section Gluttony, Decadence and Resistance in the festival’s programme, whetting your appetite for more socially engaged forms of cinema by the likes of Marco Ferreri, Rachel Maclean and Peter Greenaway.

Full programme available at Cinema Rediscovered