A Cinema of Their Own: Bloomsbury on Film

To coincide with the Block Museum’s winter exhibition, A Room of Their Own: The Bloomsbury Artists in American Collections, Block Cinema presents a series of Saturday matinees featuring films based on the lives and writings of members of the Bloomsbury group. Selections include Maurice (1987), based on E.M. Forster’s daring tale of forbidden homosexual love in Edwardian England; The War Within: A Portrait of Virginia Woolf (1995), an illuminating documentary about one of Bloomsbury’s central figures; and Carrington (1995), a frank, witty and entertaining look at the life and loves of painter Dora Carrington, including her lifelong relationship with writer Lytton Strachey.

Also included is a program entitled Love Letters and Live Wires which features short works made in the 1930s by well-known avant-garde filmmakers (Len Lye, Norman McClaren, Lotte Reiniger, and others). While not directly related to Bloomsbury, these filmmakers share the Group’s distinct modernist sensibilities and a unique perspective on Britain in the first half of the 20th century.

Carrington

Tuesday, November 16, 2010 2:00 PM
(Christopher Hampton, 1995, UK, color, 35mm, 121 minutes)

Director Christopher Hampton delivers a witty, frank and entertaining portrait of the painter Dora Carrington. Emma Thompson plays the irreverent and talented artist, a woman whose unconventional lifestyle is told through a series of tantalizing vignettes. Though she had many lovers, the love of her life was Bloomsbury writer Lytton Strachey (Jonathan Pryce), who was gay. Hampton’s brilliantly scripted biopic focuses on Carrington and Strachey’s complex relationship, offering a unique portrait of an unorthodox couple and a fascinating depiction of bohemian England around the First World War.

The War Within: A Portrait of Virginia Woolf

Sunday, January 30, 2011 2:00 PM FREE
(John Fuegi and Jo Francis, 1995, UK, color, video, 52 minutes)

This award-winning documentary provides a fascinating glimpse into the complex life and work of one of the central figures of the Bloomsbury Group. Blending eye-opening interviews with those who knew her personally, with insightful, never-before public excerpts from her diaries, love letters and more, John Fuegi and Jo Francis’s film is an artfully constructed and illuminating study of Virginia Woolf. “An extraordinarily moving portrait of one of the giants of twentieth century literature.” – American Film Institute

Maurice

Saturday, February 13, 2010 2:00 PM
(James Ivory, 1987, UK, color, video, 140 minutes)

Adapting one of author E.M. Forster’s most personal works, this Merchant Ivory period drama follows an upper class gay man’s coming of age in Edwardian Britain. Fellow Cambridge students Maurice (James Wilby) and Clive (Hugh Grant) fall in love, but the legal and social ramifications of open homosexuality pressure Clive to renounce his true feelings and marry a socialite (Phoebe Nicholls). Unable to escape his attraction to Clive, Maurice remains a fixture in the couple’s life, and finds new hope for romantic fulfillment with their handsome gamekeeper (Rupert Graves).

Love Letters and Live Wires: Highlights from the GPO Film Unit

Saturday, February 20, 2010 2:00 PM
(Various directors, 1936-39, UK, B/W and color, 35mm, approx. 80 minutes)

Commissioned by Britain’s GPO (General Post Office) Film Unit in the 1930s and recently preserved by the British Film Institute, this collection of amusing and eclectic shorts all focus on the theme of communication (via post or phone) and feature works by well-known documentary and avant-garde filmmakers of the period. While not directly related to Bloomsbury, the films and filmmakers featured in this program share with the Bloomsbury artists and writers a distinct modernist sensibility. From Len Lye’s stunning animated Trade Tattoo (1937) to the poetic postal homage, Night Mail (1936) these eight short works are a delightful discovery.

Program of films:

  • N or NW (Len Lye, 1937) 
  • Love on the Wing (Norman McLaren, 1938) 
  • The Fairy of the Phone (William Coldstream, 1936)
  • The Horsey Mail (Patrick Jackson, 1938)
  • Trade Tattoo (Len Lye, 1937) - A Midsummer Day’s Work (Alberto Cavalcanti, 1939)
  • The Tocher (Lotte Reiniger, 1938) - Night Mail (Harry Watt & Basil Wright, 1936)