Les vies exceptionnelle: unusual tales of politics and lives less told at The Courtyard

Exceptional stories is the standout theme of Courtyard’s November film programme, much of these with a healthy dose of political focus. And of course, the return of the ever popular French Film Festival.

Kicking off with insights into the life and stories of fashion’s most influential shoemaker, Manolo: The Boy who made Shoes for Lizards (12A) (1 + 2 Nov) is a candid and comical look at Blahnik, warm-hearted and singularly driven in his passion for footwear. The documentary vein carries on with Pecking Order (PG) (3, 4 + 8 Nov), a diverting investigation into the lives of ‘chuck-fanciers’, Kiwi chicken breeders determined to win at the National Poultry Show. The Reagan Show (PG) (14 + 15 Nov) looks at the showman and US president’s rivalry with Gorbachev.

Political stories are continued in a further four very different titles: The Death of Stalin (15) (24, 27 + 28 Nov) is Armando Iannucci’s follow up to In the Loop, another darkly wicked satire but this time the post-Stalin Soviet government is his target. Unforgiving and laugh-out-loud, this features a star-studded cast including Rupert Friend, Simon Russell-Beale, Jason Isaacs and Andrea Riseborough at the top of their game.

Sally Potter’s The Party (15) (20, 22, 23 Nov, 3, 4, 6 Dec) heads down the caustic satirical route as well, set at a party to celebrate the ministerial success of Kristin Scott Thomas’ character. The objects of Potter’s scrutiny are a set of friends, each with their own secrets and neuroses. In a classic ensemble format, the party falls to pieces in a toe-curling shambles of declarations and reproachments.

Marshall (15) (25, 27, 28 Nov) is an enticing courtroom drama, which looks at one of the early cases of Thurgood Marshall, who was later to become the first African-American Supreme Court justice. Pre WWII, Marshall is sent to conservative Connecticut to defend a black chauffeur against his wealthy socialite employer in a high profile sexual assault and murder trial.

A much more romantic take on a political tale is taken in The Exception (15) (3, 4, 7, 13, 14 Nov) as a German soldier is sent to investigate an exiled German monarch under the watchful eyes of Dutch spies, and unexpectedly discovers love with a maid at the residence.

The highly popular French Film Festival returns to The Courtyard, 20 – 28 November, with a host of favourite classics through to preview titles. For fans of Claude Berri, there’s an opportunity to see Jean de Florette (PG) (20 Nov) followed by sequel Manon des Sources (PG) (27 Nov) on the big screen again. Marie Curie: The Courage of Knowledge (24 + 29 Nov) is a rich biography exploring the life of this Nobel Prize winning leader in science, Un Sac de Billes (A Bag of Marbles) (23 Nov) follows two young, Jewish brothers torn from their families during wartime, Aurore (Fifty Springtimes) (28 Nov) is chancing upon tough times, but an encounter with a lost love brings a newness to her life.

Unusual tales continue with: The Hitch-hiker (12) (4 + 8 Nov), a barely seen claustrophobic thriller from 1953, directed by one of Hollywood’s first female directors, Ida Lupino, in which two friends pick up a sociopath on the run; The Road to Mandalay (15) (7 + 9 Nov), a love story following two illegal immigrants seeking better lives in Bangkok; Loving Vincent (12) (18, 20, 22 Nov), a moving dramatisation of a young man’s investigation into the last days of Van Gogh rendered delightfully in animation in the style of the great impressionist himself; The Glass Castle (12A) (20, 22, 23 Nov), where Oscar-winner Brie Larson depicts Jeannette Wall’s best-selling memoir which chronicles a life of dysfunction at the hands of her alcoholic father and unreliable mother; and The Ballad of Shirley Collins (12A) (27, 28, 29 Nov), an intimate and life-affirming tale of the folk legend’s battle to sing again after a vocal disorder takes her voice away.

The Courtyard continues to programme relaxed screenings once a month for audiences who may appreciate a less formal environment, with cabaret layout seating, where visitors are invited to get up, walk around as needed and be as noisy as they’d like in screenings. These can be enjoyed by anyone, but might be of particular interest to those with autism spectrum disorders. Lego Ninjago (U) will be screened under relaxed conditions – Tue 21 Nov, 1pm for younger children (under 12), Wed 20 Dec, 6pm for young adults.

Family Saturdays film titles for November are The Jungle Bunch (U) (4 Nov) and My Little Pony (PG) (25 Nov). To check out times for all films and to see what else is on, visit courtyard.org.uk/event-type/film and subscribe to our newsletter to get sent film updates.