Please Note: While normally We screen Movies At Mother’s on the 1st Wednesday of the month, I will be out of town that week in September, so our screening will happen instead on September 9th.
Also, I encourage anyone who is interested in visiting the blog I have been building charting the history of the screenings at Mother’s. We’ve been doing these events for nearly 10 years now and have shown somewhere in the neighborhood of 70 films during that time. The blog currently covers the first three years of Movies At Mother’s, but over the next few months I hope to have the whole history up.
Things To Come (1936)
On Wednesday, September 9th, We begin our science fiction cinema series at Mother’s Velvet Lounge with H.G. Wells’ visionary 1936 prophecy of the century to come, Things to Come, directed by William Cameron Menzies and starring Raymond Massey, Sir Ralph Richardson and Sir Cedric Hardwicke.
Futurist, historian, philosopher and utopianist, H.G. Welles rightfully stands among the most important minds of the 20th century. Along with Jules Verne he holds an indisputable place as a founding father of science fiction and the concepts that he originated remain the foundation of contemporary literature and cinema within that idiom. Tales of invisibility, time travel, genetic mutations and alien invasions all trace their roots directly to Wells’ writing. He even foresaw aerial warfare and the invention of nuclear weapons. From a philosophical standpoint he also contemplated technology’s dual nature and the moral choices that humanity would have to confront between its promise of liberation versus its threat of annihilation.
The Alexander Korda production of Things to Come is the only motion picture in which the venerable author was ever directly involved. While his screenplay often favors characters who represent ideological positions over ones who suggest any sort of inner life, his acute vision of the future cannot help but astound the modern viewer with its poignancy.
From the first frame we understand the nature of his allegory when we are introduced to a city called Everytown, in a country (presumably Britain) on the eve of war. Keep in mind that the film was produced 3 years before Great Britain entered the second world war. Two men, John Cabal (Raymond Massey) and Pippa Passworthy (Edward Chapman) argue the costs and benefits of the world to come and we are witness to a montage of the instruments of warfare from the technology of the previous war to increasingly more advanced weapons. When the great war finally grinds to a stop in 1966, we find ourselves midst the ruins of Everytown, now a feudal territory governed over by Rudolph, a petty warlord known as The Boss (Ralph Richardson). Into this impoverished and plague infested fiefdom enters an older John Cabal, now a futuristic airman representing Wings Over The World (referenced in the titular album by Paul McCartney and Wings), a society of technocrats offering a new life to the citizens of Everytown. A life that poses no small threat to the primacy of The Boss.
William Cameron Menzies was best known as a production designer of some of cinema’s most celebrated films including Gone With The Wind, so it is no surprise that Things to Come is most notable for its design innovations and spectacular visual effects. From the machines of war; to the colossal twin fuselage Basra Bomber delivering salvos of “The Gas Of Peace”; to the gleaming underground Everytown of 2036, the film had a profound effect not only on the future design of cinema, but even of post WW2 urban planning. Menzies, working with set designer Vincent Korda, solicited the talents of an array of Bauhaus schooled artists including none other than László Moholy Nagy (only a small portion of whose work actually never made it to the final cut), while the model work by special effects director Ned Mann’s team laid the foundation of a tradition of exquisite miniatures in British cinema that continues to this day.
The excitement begins at 7:00 when you will enjoy one of the best dinners in town, followed by the screening at 7:30. Hope to see you there!
Mother’s is located at 212 SW Stark.