“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life, for there is in London all that life can afford.”
– Samuel Johnson
After a year considering “Paris in French Film,” the Athenæum Film Club crosses the Channel to examine “London in British Film.” We’ll begin our cinematic excursion with kitchen-sink realism and swinging London and continue through to the present-day London of refugees and immigrants. While British film never experienced a movement equivalent to the French nouvelle vague, there’s an incomparable richness and innovation in British cinema, with stories grounded in London’s great urban vitality.
Please note that all meetings of the Film Club will be held virtually on Zoom.
From September 2022 to May 2023, the Athenæum Film Club will meet once each month to discuss British films of distinction that feature London prominently in the story. We’ll begin in the “swinging London” of the 1960’s and 1970’s with films by John Schlesinger and progress through films by Stephen Frears, Neil Jordan, Guy Ritchie, and others up to the present moment. As the capital of the British empire, London has always been a city of immigrants, and stories of immigrant life will feature in our selection. London, like its counterpart Paris, has always been a city steeped in the dramas of romance and crime, and we will touch on those themes as well. We will have a multiple focus as we discuss these films: to follow the stories of life as it is lived by Londoners, to observe how London itself changes over time, and to trace the evolution of British cinematic storytelling.
Film Club participants will have opportunities to discuss their perceptions and reactions to the films. Optional reading material will be identified and shared with participants over the course of the year. Additional films by British (and other) filmmakers focused on London will also be identified as the year progresses.
The “London in British Film” Film Club meets once monthly from September 2022 to May 2023 to discuss the assigned film. This group will meet virtually via Zoom from 5:30-7pm, the first Wednesday of each month unless otherwise indicated.
Film Club members will watch each assigned film independently in advance of each month’s meeting. Members have multiple options for viewing the films: streaming; or borrowing, renting, or purchasing DVDs. Please see the section on “Access to Films.”
Please note that there is a viewing assignment for the first meeting.
Wed, September 7
John Schlesinger, Darling, 1965. 122 minutes. With Julie Christie. Streaming: Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, Vudu, YouTube.
Wed, October 5
Donald Cammell & Nicolas Roeg, Performance, 1970. 101 minutes. With Mick Jagger and James Fox. Streaming: Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, Vudu, YouTube.
Wed, November 2
John Schlesinger, Sunday Bloody Sunday, 1971. 110 minutes. With Glenda Jackson and Peter Finch. Streaming: Amazon Prime Video, Hoopla, Kanopy, Vudu.
Wed, December 7
John Mackenzie, The Long Good Friday, 1979. 114 minutes. With Bob Hoskins and Helen Mirren. Streaming: Criterion Channel, HBO Max.
Wed, January 4
Stephen Frears, My Beautiful Laundrette, 1985. 89 minutes. With Daniel Day-Lewis. Streaming: Amazon Prime Video, Hoopla, Kanopy, Vudu, Apple TV.
Wed, February 1
Neil Jordan, Mona Lisa, 1986. 105 minutes. With Bob Hoskins, Cathy Tyson and Michael Caine. Streaming: Criterion Channel, HBO Max.
Wed, March 1
Mike Newell, Four Weddings and a Funeral, 1994. 117 minutes. With Hugh Grant and Kristin Scott Thomas. Streaming: Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, Vudu, YouTube.
Wed, April 5
Guy Ritchie, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, 1998. 101 minutes. With Jason Statham and Sting. Streaming: Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, Vudu, YouTube.
Wed, May 3
Stephen Frears, Dirty Pretty Things, 2002. 93 minutes. With Chiwetel Ejiofor and Audrey Tautou. Streaming: Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, Vudu, YouTube.
Wed, June 7
Optional group final meeting/celebration
Every film in the schedule should be readily accessible to any member who has access to on-demand video streaming services or to a DVD player.
How you choose to access a film is up to you. Most members will have multiple options available to them, whether they prefer streaming or DVD. Our research indicates that no single source for streaming or DVDs offers every film. If you have a preferred streaming service, be sure to check whether a particular film is offered. N.B.: Some streaming services make a film available for a set period of time, and then withdraw it when they offer other films in rotation. This means that for certain streaming services, a particular film may not be available in the month when the Film Club will discuss it.
If you prefer streaming, it appears (as of this writing) that your best bets overall will be Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, Apple TV, and HBO Max. The Criterion Channel has two films that are not widely accessible (The Long Good Friday and Mona Lisa). The combination of Amazon Prime Video plus Criterion Channel, or Amazon Prime Video plus HBO Max, should provide reliable access to all the films in our schedule.
Hoopla (on-demand video streaming available free with your Athenaeum membership) currently offers two of the films on the schedule (Sunday Bloody Sunday, My Beautiful Laundrette). Athenaeum staff can advise you on accessing Hoopla.
Kanopy is another streaming service with access to films provided free with a library card or with borrowing privileges from a college or university. Kanopy is not accessible through Athenaeum membership. Access to specific films varies by the individual library or educational institution. For example, the Rochambeau branch of the Providence Community Libraries offers two films in the schedule via Kanopy: Sunday Bloody Sunday and My Beautiful Laundrette.
Streaming caveat: you may find (on YouTube and elsewhere) other versions of these films. Be wary of “bootleg” copies that may have been reproduced without authorization. Further, be aware that unauthorized copies may have viruses or other malware. A “free” viewing may end up being very expensive if your computer or phone gets hacked as a result.
If you prefer to watch using DVDs, there are several options. Films may be available on DVD for borrowing from the Athenaeum, the RISD Library, or both. Your local public library may also have some of the films in their collections. These are good options, but with demand from many Film Club members at the same time, you may not be able to watch the film when you prefer. Another option is to rent a DVD from the Netflix affiliate www.dvd.com. Another option is to purchase DVDs, from the usual sources. If you are thinking of purchasing for this film schedule, please look into Criterion Collection’s editions of The Long Good Friday and Mona Lisa. Criterion’s products typically have been technically upgraded and often offer bonus features that are not available in the original DVD releases.
For those interested in further viewing on this theme, here is a selective list of other films, by British and other directors, that feature London prominently in the story. Please check the app JustView to identify streaming sites.
Richard Lester (US), A Hard Day’s Night, 1964. With the Beatles.
Lewis Gilbert, Alfie, 1965. With Michael Caine.
Michelangelo Antonioni (Italy), Blow-Up, 1966. With David Hemmings and Vanessa Redgrave.
Franco Rosso (Italy), Babylon, 1980. With Brinsley Forde.
Neil Jordan (Ireland), The Crying Game, 1992. With Stephen Rea and Forest Whitaker.
Roger Michell, Notting Hill, 1999. With Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts.
Jonathan Glazer, Sexy Beast, 2000. With Ben Kingsley and Ray Winstone.
Guy Ritchie, Snatch, 2000. With Brad Pitt and Jason Statham.
Richard Curtis, Love Actually, 2003. With Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson, Colin Firth, and Emma Thompson.
David Cronenberg (US), Eastern Promises, 2007. With Viggo Mortensen and Naomi Watts.
Mike Leigh, Happy-Go-Lucky, 2008. With Sally Hawkins and Eddie Marsan.
Paul Thomas Anderson (US), Phantom Thread, 2014. With Daniel Day-Lewis.
Athenæum member Steve Coon leads the Film Club as facilitator. In 2021-22, he led the inaugural Film Club program, “Paris in French Film.” Steve earned a Ph.D. from Brown University in Comparative Literature with a focus on 19th and 20th century fiction and poetry. Since 2012, he has led reading groups at the Athenaeum, recently including a series on the subject of love: “French Kisses” and “More French Kisses,” on love in French fiction from the 17th century to the present, and “Love Actually,” on love in modern British fiction. Steve emphasizes that the Film Club is not a “class,” but rather an opportunity for cinephiles of all backgrounds, and for lovers of London, to experience and discuss a set of the best of British cinema.
This group has reached capacity. To be added to a waitlist, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with LONDON FILM as the subject line.
The Athenæum is deeply grateful to our wonderful volunteer leaders. Please note library reading groups are not classes or courses, but rather a way for individuals to discuss readings together, guided by both expert and amateur enthusiasts. Participants should expect discussion-based, not lecture-style meetings.