Sunday, April 13, 2014

April revivals: second half









Hey all, Mike here. Remember when I said I'd only post a late April revival list if I see something worth the time and effort? Well, there are a couple of films worthy of taking the time to see. Thank you to the Museum of the Moving Image in terms of being late in posting something, but thank you for also giving us a few interesting possibilities.
 
I also added a few from the last list as well. Some conflict with each other, but so what? I'm not reposting Grey Gardens on Monday April 28th however. If tickets weren't purchased by April 6th, there's no point in bringing it up now. Besides we have enough options I think, here we go:
 
 
 
THE LAST METRO- Thurs April 17 at 9:40- Film Forum- The conclusion of the Forum's Complete Truffaut retrospective. The last hit of Truffaut's career here in the States, and a film classic as far as France is concerned. Put it this way, the classic status that has been bestowed on say, Raging Bull in the 1980s, France did in the same year/decade with this film (released in the states officially in February 1981). Except they gave it their equivalent of the Oscar for Best Picture, the Cesar, while we honored Ordinary People instead. Hell it didn't even win Best Foreign Language Film. But considering it was up against the likes of Kurosawa's Kagamusha and the eventual winner Moscow Does Not Believe In Tears (a big deal in the arthouse circuit back then), I don't envy the voters having to choose between them.
 
Sorry I'm not more definitive or more decisive in my comments about the film itself, but I still haven't seen it. I tried to see it a few years back, but misunderstandings caused that attempt to fail. Therefore I'll copy and paste how Lincoln Center described the film on their website a few years ago, which is not very different from the way the Film Forum describes it now:
 
Lucas Steiner is a Jew and was compelled to leave the country. His wife Marion (Catherine Deneuve), an actress, directs the theater for him. She tries to keep the theater alive with a new play, and hires Bernard Granger (Gerard Depardieu) for the leading role. But Lucas is actually hiding in the basement. . .


Next is a quote from Vincent Camby when he reviewed it for the Times:

"The film has the form of a more or less conventional melodrama, about a small Parisian theater company during the 1942-44 Nazi occupation, though the film's methods are so systematically unconventional that it becomes a gently comic, romantic meditation on love, loyalty, heroism, and history.  The Last Metro is a melodrama that discreetly refuses to exercise its melodramatic options. It's also a love story that scarcely recognizes its lovers. Though the setting is a legitimate theater, the Theatre Montmartre,it's not an "inside theater" movie. The Last Metro is about a particular time in history. Its Theatre Montmartre is a refuge -- actual in the case of one character, and psychological for the others. The theater provides them survival. The focal point of the film is the Theatre Montmartre's production of the French translation of a Norwegian play, La Disparue (The Woman Who Disappeared)... The content of La Disparue, however, is of no more moment than that of Meet Pamela, the rather awful sounding film that was being produced in the course of Day for Night. The Last Metro is about the manner in which the Theatre Montmartre actors approach their work, their shifting relations with each other,and the way in which each responds to the condition of being "occupied." The Last Metro doesn't dwell on the horrors of Nazi-encouraged, French anti-Semitism, which flourished during the occupation, but it is haunted by those horrors. It takes a little while to catch the tempo of the film, but pay attention. The Last Metro is about lives surrounded by melodrama,being lived with as little outward fuss as possible."
 
 
 
GODZILLA- Fri April 18- Thurs April 24 at 5:15, 7:30 and 9:45- A DCP restoration of the original Godzilla, in time for both its 60th anniversary and the newest remake/reboot with Bryan Cranston. This is the original version, not the version American distributors chopped up and stuck Raymond Burr in. The Burr version is what TCM still screens as late as last month, as opposed to what you would come down to see in April.
 
Just because this started a long chain of crappy monster films, doesn't make this junk. You see consequences to the destruction, a believable romantic subplot, and a more political film then you might think. Yes, a chunk of it looks cheesy and cheap, but in this era and with this being more in violence-with-consequences territory, it looks more endearing than insulting. Combine that with its anti-nuke message, and with a brief scene between boyfriend and girlfriend that American studios couldn't do in the 50s, and no wonder it was cut up here.
 
I'm not sure when exactly I can do this, so I posted the times I'll most likely be available, as well as all seven days its scheduled to play. There's a chance the run could be extended, but the Forum wouldn't tell us until probably April 21st or 22nd:
 
 
 
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS- Wed April 23 at 2 and 7- A digital screening of the Cecil B DeMille classic, specifically the Charlton Heston as Moses version. One of the biggest movies of all time gets a rare screening, as part of AMC's Classic Series. No discount I'm afraid, but a film this big and long doesn't really need it. and I say rare screening because let's face it, as a perennial Easter time broadcast on ABC, who wants to tackle it? This screening, one screening at the Museum of the Moving Image about seven years or so ago, one re-release in the spring of 1984 or 1985, that's about it as far as I can remember.
 
Anyway, the point is I'm ambitious enough, and curious enough to see it. Not curious enough to take up my Easter Sunday to see it, but curious enough to try it a few days/nights after Easter. 
 
Sometimes this film is  interesting because of the filmmaking. Set pieces like Heston saving a slave, the plague that sweeps Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, the formation of the Commandments themselves, and the climax by the golden whatever that is; that's some damn fine, subtle-as-a-brick filmmaking that makes me happy. Sometimes it's interesting thanks to the overacting of the likes of Heston, Yul Brynner, Anne Baxter and Edward G Robinson; it might be over the top, but boy are they committed and it sure ain't boring.
 
Maybe because it plays every year for as long as most of us can remember plus commercials, seeing this feels like work. And because it plays as subtle as a brick every year, it feels like actual work with little enjoyment. Throw in memories of say, Heston acting jokes, or Billy Crystal doing Edward G impressions ("Hey Moses where's your Messiah NOW!") and i'm sure we can have some fun. Ok, I may not sound very reverential to this, but I'm not casually dismissing it either. If you have the 3 hours and 40 minutes to spare and you're up to the challenge, let's do it:

https://www.amctheatres.com/movies/classic-series-the-ten-commandments
   
 
ALTERED STATES- Fri April 25 at 7- Museum of the Moving Image- And now for something completely different, from the Museum's See It Big: Science fiction series. From 1980, grad student William Hurt experiments on himself in an isolation chamber in attempt to understand schizophrenia, causing hallucinations. He stops due to the extreme religious implications to said hallucinations, as well as falling in love with fellow academic Blair Brown. Years later, now a full professor at Harvard with a stale marriage, he decides to resume his experiments, adding untested Mexican hallucinogens. The hallucinations return, alongside some genetic changes . . .  
 
It's borderline amazing that this film ever got made, and then completed. It was Paddy Chayefsky's first screenplay since Network, and he insisted on much control. He clashed with director Arthur Penn, who eventually quit, alongside visual effects man John Dykstra. New director Ken Russell was hired. Yep, batshit crazy director Russell, who didn't mind mixing some comedy with a deadly serious approach to the material. Chayefsky clashed worse with Russell than he did with Penn. It got to the point where Paddy tried to get Russell fired early in filming, but Columbia Pictures (who eventually got tired of the drama and sold their interest to Warner Bros.) said no. Russell banned Paddy from the set, who promptly took his name off the project. The film was all over the place with critics back then (treated somewhat better today), and it barely found any audience. Easier to embrace, or at least sit through, the likes of 9 To 5, Stir Crazy, or even Popeye, than Altered States. 2 minor Oscar nominations, for the Score and Sound, didn't help. Home video and cable audiences embraced the film more, and it kept a certain amount of popularity as along as William Hurt's star continued to rise. As he went from a kind of Thinking Man Sex Symbol, to multiple Oscar nominee, to eventual Oscar winner, Altered States maintained a level of draw. But once Hurt's career faded a bit, after the likes of I Love You To Death and Alice, interest in Altered States faded to the point of being a footnote. Maybe remembered by fans of Mr Skin because of Blair Brown, or as Drew Barrymore's film debut as Hurt and Brown's daughter.
 
But this is a flawed yet interesting film. Always visually interesting, an interesting cast that also includes Charles Haid and Bob Balaban, and a filmmaker like Russell always reveled in more than a little excess. Maybe hard to take it as seriously as it was intended back then; a little more sense of humor that Russell would bring to the likes of say, Lair of the White Worm, might have helped Altered States a bit. But I don't mind a little over the top in my films on occasion, and this is so rarely screened, so why not take a chance on a Friday night?
 
 
 
 
OTHELLO (1952)- Fri April 25- Thurs May 8 at 5:15, 7:30 and 9:45 (no 7:30 on Mondays, no 9:45 at Monday May 5th)- Film Forum- A DCP restoration, playing as part of a series of events celebrating the 450th birthday of Bill Shakespeare. Orson Welles's adaptation of the famous play, whittled down from 3 or so hours to 95 minutes. The difficulties in getting this made and getting this screened are almost legendary. The years it took to complete principal photography, interrupted when Welles was forced to take acting jobs (including The Third Man) to have money to finish. The losing of an actor here and there, and the choice to dub his Desdemona. The years of restoration, and the decades of legal battles between Welles's daughter and others as to which restoration was the true work.
 
All of which is relatively better known than the actual film itself. Possibly the least known among Americans of all the films to ever win the Grand Prize at Cannes, and this includes some foreign films that are obscure to us. Is it any good? I have no idea. Two previous attempts for me to catch this at the Forum and Lincoln Center failed due to sold out screenings. We have two weeks to catch this. Not sure when specifically I can go, so I posted all the dates of the run, though take that any Monday attempts will not be easy. Anyway there's one reason I wouldn't want to do this on Monday, April 28th, and that reason is the next film below the Othello link . . . :
 
 
 
THE LODGER- Sat April 26 at 3- Film Forum- Part of the Forum's series, the Hitchcock 9. Specifically, the nine silent films Alfred Hitchcock directed. All of whom have received digital restorations. All of whom will have live piano accompaniment by Steve Sterner, who did a wonderful job with a screening of Buster Keaton's Seven Chances that I attended a few years back.
 
I've never seen more than clips of any one Hitchcock silent, and now is a good opportunity to see one now, when I can be focused on it, as opposed to distracted at home by other things. And Hitch's first official film, The Lodger, is a good place to start. Ninety minutes long; not the longest cut of the film ever, but as long as what TCM airs now.
 
Based on a popular fictional book of the day that purported to solve the case of Jack the Ripper, there's a serial killer on the loose named The Avenger. Blonde women have been killed left and right. A detective on the case is dating a girl still living at home. Her parents have rented a room to a mysterious lodger, could he be The Avenger? Oh yeah, did I mention she's a blonde?
 
Ok, this isn't Hitch's first film, it's his third, actually his second feature length picture to be precise. But it is Hitch's first suspense film, and when you note that this also contains Hitch's first cameo on a film, then you get the idea this is truly his first Hitchcock film as we would perceive it. Like I wrote earlier, I've never seen it, but I'm game if you are:
 
 
 
THE MAN FROM LARAMIE and THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH- Sat April 26 at 4 (Laramie) and 7 (Earth)- Museum of the Moving Image- A strange double feature for sure, but this is what you can do if you wish to spend a long afternoon/ evening at the Museum of the Moving Image. First, The Man From Laramie, the only film from the Museum's Anthony Mann retrospective that I might have time for. Jimmy Stewart is a stranger looking for answers about gun running to Apaches, something he seems to be taking personally. When he goes to a small, isolated Colorado town for the answers, he instead gets embroiled in an internal family struggle. Kind of a mix between King Lear and The Road to Perdition, where the old patriarch wants to control how his land (or ranch in this case) will be run past his death, but won't promote someone who's almost like his own son over his own biological (and violent) screw-up of a kid. Like with Stewart and Mann's other collaborations, high drama, rising anger (especially from Stewart, usually against type), and vast exterior shots, all rising to a fever pitch.
 
Next is The Man Who Fell To Earth, as part of the Museum's See It Big: Science Fiction retrospective. The original director's cut, in a DCP restoration that has been playing in New York off and on for almost two years now. Nicholas Roeg's sci-fi cult classic from 1976, with David Bowie as an alien. He must get water to his dying planet, so he comes to Earth, poses as a human, and forms a company that serves as a multi-national front, while he builds a return ship. But he doesn't plan on dealing with falling in love or at least in lust, or the enjoyable trappings of wealth, or the U.S. government, and business greed and ruthlessness. Bowie has never been perfectly cast as he was here, with strong support from Rip Torn, Candy Clark, and Buck Henry. If you never saw it, you'll find it interesting. One of those films that doesn't spell everything out for you, so you'll actually have to think a little, God help you (Tee-Hee!). For sure, of its time. Beautiful to look, at times erotically charged, yet tragic and always fascinating:
 
 
 
 
 
Let me know if there's interest. Later all, and Happy Easter.
 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Thanks








Hello all. Mike here giving thanks. Thank you to those of you who've come out to join me in my revival film outings. Whether you came out once or came out multiple times, thanks for coming out to see the following films over the past 12 months:
 
DIAL M FOR MURDER in 3-D- the second time I saw it in a wonderful looking 3-D restoration, which is why I chose not to do it a third time this month when it became available in the Forum's Complete Hitchcock retrospective,
 
HOUSE OF BAMBOO- mixed reaction to it. The Cinemascope photography is never boring, the amusement park rooftop sequence deserves all the attention it can get, and I get what Robert Ryan was trying to do as a possibly gay crime boss (a concept a studio film couldn't articulate back then, even with the Production Code almost over). But my God, Robert Stack is wooden to the point of being petrified,
 
UN FLIC- Jean-Pierre Melville's last film. Even merely passable Melville is better than some other director's best work,
 
BADLANDS- even as I watch and re-watch Malick, and still feel Days of Heaven is his best work, this stands out. Possibly the best debut film for a director ever. At least in the conversation of best debut films NOT named Citizen Kane and The Maltese Falcon,
 
VOYAGE TO ITALY- the forced, unconvincing happy ending aside, very good. Feels like a film that one can appreciate more as the years go by, 
 
SCARECROW- for those who prefer small character pieces, here's a little gem from the 70s, waiting to be discovered. I completely get why this was Gene Hackman's favorite work, and why he was depressed for years when the audiences didn't come,
 
ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, THE RIGHT STUFF, THE SERVANT, ROCKY, RIFFTRAXX LIVE: STARSHIP TROOPERS, ALIENS,
 
THE SWARM- the largest revival group outing of the year for me, and it happened completely by accident. I convinced someone, and he convinced someone, and he convinced someone, and he convinced someone . . . By the time we all met up at IFC Center, we were a party of 12 and made up about 75 percent of the "crowd". All for a gloriously awful movie. To paraphrase one member of our group who would fall asleep every 15 minutes or so for two minutes for almost half the movie, only to wake up to see something horrifyingly stupid/funny: Technically it's competently made with a Jerry Goldsmith score that's far better than it deserves, but the script is God awful. The only thing to make this outing less than perfect, was two of our group that we didn't really know, shushing us after we make a low whisper reaction to whatever atrocity in filmmaking had just occurred. Treating the dialogue from this notoriously awful film from the late 1970s like Holy Scripture is not the way to go. This ain't The Room, folks. I'm looking forward to introducing this hideously fun film to others, 
 
SINGIN IN THE RAIN- If I needed any more confirmation that this is still the best movie musical I've ever seen, yet another screening at the Museum of the Moving Image confirmed it,
 
THE WIZARD OF OZ in IMAX 3-D- the first time I've ever seen this from beginning to end without commercial interruption. What can I say, decades of seeing it on CBS or TNT, but not on TCM or on video. Worth every effort I made to get into Manhattan for this,
 
RUSSIAN ARK- not sure if I'll ever watch this film again, especially on TV. But this experimental, at times artistically dazzling partial look back at Russian history is worth seeing once. Especially if you have some knowledge or interest in Russian history, and if you ever wish to see the Hermitage but don't think you'll ever get to go in person,
 
RED RIVER, DEMON SEED, SANDRA,
 
A DOG'S LIFE: A ROWLF RETROSPECTIVE- technically a revival, even if it was more a compilation of clips, skits, scenes and commercials,
 
FAR FROM HEAVEN- the first time I saw it on the big screen. The Douglas Sirk-like touches throughout the film make a much larger impact on screen than it ever would on TV, regardless of whether you're familiar with Mr. Sirk's work,
 
BOOGIE NIGHTS- I'll never put this above L.A. Confidential as best film of 1997, but it's getting harder to think of any other film that was better that year. Even Kundun, Scorsese's film about the current Dalai Lama when he was young, that I've pushed on people from time to time,
 
THEY LIVE- the better of the two John Carpenter revivals I did at IFC Center last year. More successful in mixing quality B-movie action with still potent social/political satire. And oh that wonderful almost- neverending fight between Roddy Piper and Keith David . . . ,
 
STORIES WE TELL- yes it came out last year, but it was technically a revival by the time I caught it at Lincoln Center,
 
ALL THAT JAZZ- my favorite revival outing of the year, even if meant traveling around during the worst of the Polar Vortex. A group of 6 of us, with three people having never seen it before, and one who saw pieces of it on TV over the course of 25+ years. They might not have agreed with me about All That Jazz being the best film of 1979 (just over Apocalypse Now, but only because of the quality of the end of their respective journeys), but a great time was had by all,
 
RUN AND JUMP- I'm counting it as a revival here. I'm guessing this has received a release somewhere in the U.S., but I don't remember this screening in NYC at any point between when I caught it at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria and when it screened last spring at the Tribeca Film Festival. Ok drama, but frankly nothing more than ok,
 
and SHADOW OF A DOUBT.
 
27 revivals in total. 28 if I count a revival screening of Museum Hours in Astoria, which I won't because I didn't post it prior. Much smaller than the previous number of revivals I caught last year, 43. I expected a lower total once my life got busy from early January thru right now, attempts to catch Casablanca and Cabaret fell apart for different reasons, and if I didn't get sick just before a Fahrenheit 451 screening, plus a bit more concentration on my end with current films as well. But I didn't expect below 30 revivals. Oh well, hope I do better next year.
 
Thank you to all who joined me for these outings I hold dear, whether it was once, a ton of times, or somewhere in between. Special thanks again to Ed for catching the most revivals with me. But I thank you all who did this at least once with me, this number of you  were a lot more than I'm used to. A pleasant surprise. I know some of you look at stuff I post, if you look at all, and think the idea of catching "old movies" is almost an anathema to you. In the era of Netflix and with the occasional selection of mine coming within days or hours of a TCM screening of same, some films can be a hard sell. Never mind having to grapple with the idea that a film made as late as 1997 can now be considered "old". So that some of you are willing to take a chance is very gratifying to me, thank you.

Monday, March 31, 2014

April revivals








Hey, all. Mike here with a list of revivals for the month of April. It's been a long while since I posted a full month of revivals, but the combination of time to write a long-ish list and the way the list actually breaks down allows me to get away with this. If I need to add anything last minute, I'll cough up a new list for the second half of April. In the Meantime, enjoy and consider these options:
 
 

FAHRENHEIT 451- Wed April 2 at 7:30- From the Forum's complete Fran├žois Truffaut retrospective. Sorry that this is the first film from the retrospective I can get to, but time doesn't permit me to do otherwise. The rarely screened Fahrenheit 451, from 1967. Actually I can't say rarely screened anymore, considering this has been shown about 3 times over the past 2 or so years. The adaptation of Ray Bradbury's classic novel, which he said wasn't a book about censorship, but a depiction of a possible future where a society is taken with television. So taken that not only is literature burned, but information is doled out only by image and sound bite (seems like the later has been going on for a while, in and out of politics, but anyway). Oskar Werner is Montag, a fireman whose very job of burning books is questioned; first by a beautiful stranger, and then by himself.
 
Probably the most difficult film in Francois Truffaut's career to make. His only English language film. It took about six years for him to adapt it properly in his mind. Some of the changes he made, like tweaking the ending and not only having the beautiful stranger live beyond the start of the story but to have her and Montag's wife be two sides of the same coin (not dissimilar to Vertigo), work. Having Julie Christie play both roles makes Truffaut look like a genius. The world we see is unique: European looking, not overly futuristic but not alien either. Not too different from the approach taken by the makers of Her when you think about. Nicolas Roeg's cinematography and Bernard Herrmann's score help greatly.
 
Good film, but how good you think it is will depend on how you feel about Werner's lead performance. Oskar went with an approach that Truffaut quipped was like a monkey sniffing a book. Whether you think his performance, which caused actor and director to feud throughout shooting, helps or hurts the film, is up to you. I don't hate his performance, but I'm curious to see what a different approach to Montag would look like. We've been hearing for decades about other directors' attempt to remake this, with Mel Gibson coming the closest allegedly. But any remake will probably be years down the line, so now's a good time to check this out.
 

 
SHANGHAI EXPRESS- Fri April 11 at 8 for free (subject to availability)- MOMA- A free screening of yet another team-up of director Josef von Sternberg and star Marlene Dietrich. Their fourth film together, and my first time posting one of their team-ups. Not something I'm proud of, just a statement of fact and a chance to correct this. And I say a chance because will be released at about 4pm the day of the screening, and they'll go on a first come first served basis. I haven't had a lot of luck getting tickets recently, so I'm hoping this could change here.
 
A romantic adventure/drama from 1932. A train ride on the famous Shanghai Express seems complicated enough, when a British Army doctor meets his ex for the first time in five years. Dietrich plays the ex, now an infamous courtesan. Two proud stubborn people, unwilling to be vulnerable to each other despite their feelings for one another. But these feelings might either subside or rise up , no thanks to a mysterious stranger (Warner Oland, aka the first Charlie Chan) and the threat of Chinese civil war threatening all passengers on the train. Some hard choices will have to be made. Oscar nominations for Picture and von Sternberg for Director, an Oscar for the Cinematography:
 
 
 
THE STORY OF ADELE H.- Sat April 12 at 7:45 (tentative) and 10- Film Forum- Part of the Forum's Truffaut retrospective. A historical romantic drama, from 1975. But don't just leap into this without being prepared, because this particular romantic drama would be about appropriate for couples to watch on Valentine's Day as Blue Valentine, maybe Fatal Attraction.
 
A story , staring in 1863, about author Victor Hugo's daughter, Adele, based on her book/ journal. We see the lengths she'll go to be with the man she loves, a British officer. It might seem romantic, her following him to his station in Nova Scotia.  Ok, she seems a little spoiled and impetuous, but we're used to seeing obstacles and character flaws like these easy to overcome onscreen. Until we realize (if you didn't know going in), that she's actually stalking him. That the love is entirely on her end, and the indifference is entirely on his. We don't have to worry about her doing something rash like rabbit boiling, she's too refined to do something rash like that. The only kind of acts she commits are self-destructive, as she tells anyone who listens how she's his lover, his wife, his everything.
 
Truffaut took about two years off from filmmaking, and came back with this, a project that had been gestating since the late 1960s. With this he wanted to capture single-minded obsession, and filter it through a lens of classic Romance. Hard to capture both, especially when we know madness will overtake our lead. But Truffaut makes us feel both and pulls off one of the few successful single-minded one-sided love stories ever made. Though it wouldn't have worked if actress Isabelle Adjani hadn't entered Truffaut's life. She puts in a fearless performance; stubborn, damaged, passionately in love. Yet it also seems she's fulfilled by all of this; though whether it's because she's found her true love, or she founds her ideal man regardless of his feelings for her, or whether it's just the journey or the chase of this man, is unclear. Perhaps the only clear thing is her need to get away from her father's shadow. 
 
Nominated or winning awards left and right in Europe, with the notable exception of the BAFTA, and the film, screenplay and/or Adjani won critics awards here as well. An Oscar nomination for Best Actress for Adjani, the youngest to ever be nominated in that category. Whether you think she should have beaten out Louise Fletcher for One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, you can see the film now, and decide for yourself:
  
 
 
THE LAST METRO- Thurs April 17 at 9:40- Film Forum- The conclusion of the Forum's Complete Truffaut retrospective. The last hit of Truffaut's career here in the States, and a film classic as far as France is concerned. Put it this way, the classic status that has been bestowed on say, Raging Bull in the 1980s, France did in the same year/decade with this film (released in the states officially in February 1981). Except they gave it their equivalent of the Oscar for Best Picture, the Cesar, while we honored Ordinary People instead. Hell it didn't even win Best Foreign Language Film. But considering it was up against the likes of Kurosawa's Kagamusha and the eventual winner Moscow Does Not Believe In Tears (a big deal in the arthouse circuit back then), I don't envy the voters having to choose between them.
 
Sorry I'm not more definitive or more decisive in my comments about the film itself, but I still haven't seen it. I tried to see it a few years back, but misunderstandings caused that attempt to fail. Therefore I'll copy and paste how Lincoln Center described the film on their website a few years ago, which is not very different from the way the Film Forum describes it now:
 
Lucas Steiner is a Jew and was compelled to leave the country. His wife Marion (Catherine Deneuve), an actress, directs the theater for him. She tries to keep the theater alive with a new play, and hires Bernard Granger (Gerard Depardieu) for the leading role. But Lucas is actually hiding in the basement. . .

Next is a quote from Vincent Camby when he reviewed it for the Times:

"The film has the form of a more or less conventional melodrama, about a small Parisian theater company during the 1942-44 Nazi occupation, though the film's methods are so systematically unconventional that it becomes a gently comic, romantic meditation on love, loyalty, heroism, and history. 
The Last Metro is a melodrama that discreetly refuses to exercise its melodramatic options. It's also a love story that scarcely recognizes its lovers. Though the setting is a legitimate theater, the Theatre Montmartre,it's not an "inside theater" movie. The Last Metro is about a particular
time in history. Its Theatre Montmartre is a refuge -- actual in the case of one character, and psychological for the others. The theater provides them survival.

The focal point of the film is the Theatre Montmartre's production of the French translation of a Norwegian play, La Disparue (The Woman Who Disappeared)... The content of La Disparue, however, is of no more moment than that of Meet Pamela, the rather awful sounding film that was being produced in the course of Day for Night. The Last Metro is about the manner in which the Theatre Montmartre actors approach their work, their shifting relations with each other,and the way in which each responds to the condition of being "occupied." The Last Metro doesn't dwell on the horrors of Nazi-encouraged, French anti-Semitism, which flourished during the occupation, but it is haunted by those horrors. It takes a little while to catch the tempo of the film, but pay attention. The Last Metro is about lives surrounded by melodrama,being lived with as little outward fuss as possible."
 
 
 
GODZILLA- Fri April 18- Thurs April 24 at 5:15, 7:30 and 9:45- A DCP restoration of the original Godzilla, in time for both its 60th anniversary and the newest remake/reboot with Bryan Cranston. This is the original version, not the version American distributors chopped up and stuck Raymond Burr in. The Burr version is what TCM still screens as late as last month, as opposed to what you would come down to see in April.
 
Just because this started a long chain of crappy monster films, doesn't make this junk. You see consequences to the destruction, a believable romantic subplot, and a more political film then you might think. Yes, a chunk of it looks cheesy and cheap, but in this era and with this being more in violence-with-consequences territory, it looks more endearing than insulting. Combine that with its anti-nuke message, and with a brief scene between boyfriend and girlfriend that American studios couldn't do in the 50s, and no wonder it was cut up here.
 
I'm not sure when exactly I can do this, so I posted the times I'll most likely be available, as well as all seven days its scheduled to play. There's a chance the run could be extended, but the Forum wouldn't tell us until probably April 21st or 22nd:
 
 
 
THE LODGER- Sat April 26 at 3- Film Forum- Part of the Forum's series, the Hitchcock 9. Specifically, the nine silent films Alfred Hitchcock directed. All of whom have received digital restorations. All of whom will have live piano accompaniment by Steve Sterner, who did a wonderful job with a screening of Buster Keaton's Seven Chances that I attended a few years back.
 
I've never seen more than clips of any one Hitchcock silent, and now is a good opportunity to see one now, when I can be focused on it, as opposed to distracted at home by other things. And Hitch's first official film, The Lodger, is a good place to start. Ninety minutes long; not the longest cut of the film ever, but as long as what TCM airs now.
 
Based on a popular fictional book of the day that purported to solve the case of Jack the Ripper, there's a serial killer on the loose named The Avenger. Blonde women have been killed left and right. A detective on the case is dating a girl still living at home. Her parents have rented a room to a mysterious lodger, could he be The Avenger? Oh yeah, did I mention she's a blonde?
 
Ok, this isn't Hitch's first film, it's his third, actually his second feature length picture to be precise. But it is Hitch's first suspense film, and when you note that this also contains Hitch's first cameo on a film, then you get the idea this is truly his first Hitchcock film as we would perceive it. Like I wrote earlier, I've never seen it, but I'm game if you are:
 
 
 
OTHELLO (1952)- Fri April 25- Thurs May 8 at 5:15, 7:30 and 9:45 (no 7:30 on Mondays, no 9:45 at Monday May 5th)- Film Forum- A DCP restoration, playing as part of a series of events celebrating the 450th birthday of Bill Shakespeare. Orson Welles's adaptation of the famous play, whittled down from 3 or so hours to 95 minutes. The difficulties in getting this made and getting this screened are almost legendary. The years it took to complete principal photography, interrupted when Welles was forced to take acting jobs (including The Third Man) to have money to finish. The losing of an actor here and there, and the choice to dub his Desdemona. The years of restoration, and the decades of legal battles between Welles's daughter and others as to which restoration was the true work.
 
All of which is relatively better known than the actual film itself. Possibly the least known among Americans of all the films to ever win the Grand Prize at Cannes, and this includes some foreign films that are obscure to us. Is it any good? I have no idea. Two previous attempts for me to catch this at the Forum and Lincoln Center failed due to sold out screenings. We have two weeks to catch this. Not sure when specifically I can go, so I posted all the dates of the run, though take that any Monday attempts will not be easy. Anyway there's one reason I wouldn't want to do this on Monday, April 28th, and that reason is the next film below the Othello link . . . :
 
 
 
GREY GARDENS for 5 dollars (3 for students) with post film Q and A with Albert Maysles- Mon April 28 at 7- Academy Theatre- 111 East 59th Street- A cheap screening of the famous 1975 documentary (released in the U.S. in 76). Playing at the Academy Theater on Lexington Avenue. Yes, by Academy I mean the body that award Oscars. No, Grey Gardens didn't win an Oscar. Hell, it wasn't even nominated! I'm not saying it shouldn't have beaten say, Hollywood On Trial or Harlan County U.S.A. (the eventual winner which I've posted here once or twice before). But to not even get nominated makes me shake my head and wonder what was going on back then. Maybe the Academy agrees with me (there's a first), what with the film being considered one of the classics in documentary filmmaking, and being selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in 2010. Thus an Academy sponsored screening.
 
Directed by Albert and David Maysles, Ellen Hovde, and Muffie Meyer. But the Mayseles brothers are who tend to get the main credit for the project. They were the ones originally interested in telling the story of Lee Radzwill, Jacqueline Onassis's sister. At the time the brothers were interested in telling the story, the two sisters had already spent money to fix the house of their aunt and first cousin, Edith "Big Edie" Ewing Bouvier Beale, and her daughter "Little Edie" Edith Beale. The mother daughter combo living in squalor despite the minimum repairs made, proved more interesting to the Maysles brothers. After a year of negotiating/ gaining the Beales and the other relatives' trust, the four directors began shooting in and around the home. Using a similar Cinema Verite technique used on their previous projects like Salesman and Gimme Shelter, the women told their stories to the cameras, to each other, to the cats and the raccoons, to whoever. Little to no interference, just an attempt to capture of these two eccentrics; decaying, almost completely isolated, yet still breathing.
 
The surviving Maysles brother, Albert, will participate in a Q and A after the film. Online tickets go on sale on Tuesday, April 8th. So this screening will take some planning beforehand; don't bother coming the night of the screening thinking you can just get in: 
 
 
 
 
Let me know if there's interest, later all.

Monday, March 17, 2014

March revivals: second half








Hey all. Mike here with a list of revival screenings for the second half of March. Still limited on my end as to how often I can go, so that's why my list might seem a little small. That and I won't repeat myself with Days of Heaven at the Rubin Museum or Breathless at the Film Forum, when I'm not sure if I can even make the screenings on time.

Looking ahead I see little that I can make or that I have interest in for early April, so I'll cheat a little bit, and post one film from Wednesday April 2nd. No harm no foul as far as I'm concerned. I can always put together a quick list for that time period if I have to. In the meantime, here we go with this list:


SECRET AGENT with or without YOUNG AND INNOCENT- Wed March 19 at 7:15 (Agent) and 9:30 (Young)- Film Forum- More from the Hitchcock retrospective. Two forgotten British films from Hitch, shot between The 39 Steps and The Lady Vanishes. Forgotten to the point that the former film fell into public domain, and the later, well hell, I don't even know the later film.

Let's start with what I do know, Secret Agent, from 1936. A fun little film based on Somerset Maugham's fictionalized exploits as a World War 1 spy. John Gielgud, in a rare film appearance where he looks under 50 for once, plays a novelist/ secret agent posing officially listed as Deceased. That allows him to easily work on his next assignment: to go into Switzerland to kill a hard to identify enemy agent. Once in Switzerland he's aided (or abided?) by a rookie agent posing as his wife (Madeline Carroll- The 39 Steps), and by his counterpoint of unknown ethnicity (Peter Lorre) who's more than a little violent. The whole job might get blown just by the mere presence of a traveling American (Robert Young, almost two decades before Father Knows Best) who won't stop hitting on the woman posing as his wife.

Consider this as a fun little test run for Hitch, a precursor to the likes of The Lady Vanishes, Strangers on a Train and North By Northwest. Featuring the elements of the typical Hot Hitchcock Blonde Female, suave and brainy lead villains, and death and/or plotting of death on a train. Whether you think Gielgud had mastered screen acting here like he had already mastered Shakespeare, I'll let you decide for yourself. But don't worry, the rest of the cast is good, and Peter Lorre pleasantly chews so much scenery, you start to worry for the Alps.
Next is Young and Innocent, from1937. This I'm very mixed about catching, and not because I don't know the film at all. Because while one can see both films for one admission, Secret Agent is only 86 minutes, and one might have to wait 40-45 minutes to see Young and Innocent at 9:30. So unless you're willing to wait or unless the Forum reschedules the 9:30 screening, I'll probably pass. But if you want to see it at 9:30 or at a different time (click the link below to see the other times), I'll copy and paste from the Forum's website since again, this isn't a film I know:

(1937) Derrick de Marney, on the run for a crime he didn’t commit, is aided by the young Nova Pilbeam, but they’re almost trapped by a child’s game of blind man’s buff, with the revelation of the villain a memorable tour de force.  


SHADOW OF A DOUBT- Fri March 21 at 8:15- Film Forum- Part of the Forum's complete Hitchcock retrospective. Shadow of a Doubt, not my favorite Hitchcock of all time, but among his work from the 1940s, I would only put Notorious ahead of this. As wealthy widows keep disappearing, Joseph Cotten's lovable Uncle Charlie visits his niece "Young Charlie" (Teresa Wright) in her very average middle-American town (shot-on-location in Santa Rosa, California), but when someone mentions "The Merry Widow Murderer" . . . 

Often claimed as Hitchcock's own favorite, he must have gotten a big kick out the idea of small town Americana having evil nestled in its bosom, way before David Lynch got similar kicks in Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks. "Authentic Americana" (my quotes) from the screenwriters, Thornton Wilder (Our Town) and Sally Benson (Meet Me In St. Louis). The touches feel believable, which helps contrast with the wolf in sheep's clothing in the form of Uncle Charlie. And as good as Theresa Wright is, I come away admiring Cotten's performance more. Some times pleasant and gentle, sometimes incapable of keeping his hair-trigger emotions in check, with practically every shade in between. Especially his monologue at the dinner table about those wives, those little wives; very reminiscent of the monologue Orson Welles would give to Cotton's character in The Third Man:


FAMILY PLOT with or without THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY- Wed March 26 at 7:30 (Family) and 9:50 (Harry)- More films in a somewhat lighter tone this time, from the Forum's Complete Hitchcock retrospective. First is a DCP restoration of Family Plot, Hitchcock's last film, from 1976. Here we follow two plot threads. One where fake psychic Barbara Harris and fake private eye Bruce Dern start running a scam on an old rich widow, only to legitimately try to help her (for a reward) find a long lost missing relative. This will collide with another plot line concerning master kidnappers William Devane and Karen Black.

Comedic/ caper-ish last team-up of Hitchcock with screenwriter Ernest Lehman (North By Northwest), adapted from Victor Canning's novel. and Hitch's only time he worked with composer John Williams. I won't say Hitch's career ends with a whimper with Family Plot, but that's if you insist on comparing it to Rear Window or Psycho, or even admittedly more repeatable fare, like The Lady Vanishes or The Birds. But think of this as more of a screwball comedy with suspense elements, better than Hitch's lone screwball comedy, Mr. and Mrs. Smith. With a somewhat looser feel, thanks in part to Hitch, for once, allowing his leads to improvise here and there throughout. Basically, in my own words, Here's where the camera will be, here's where it will move, and here's the information I need revealed, after that, go for it.

Double-featured with another DCP restoration, The Trouble with Harry from 1956, which frankly I can take or leave. Basically a story of misunderstandings among decent people in a small New England town, when they keep running into Harry, who is dead. People have different ideas about what to do with this stranger, whether to bury him or just leave him out in the open. A bit of a guilt transference thing going on. But new friendships and more are formed over the course of dealing with Harry, who seems to be more trouble dead than alive.

The film is only notable for two reasons. First, the start of a long working relationship between Hitch and composer Bernard Herrmann, Harry contains Hitch's favorite score from their time together. Second, the film debut of Shirley MacLaine as the only person who knew Harry before his death, and doesn't seem too broken up about the whole thing. Shirley's one of those stories where she was the understudy and was lucky enough to perform when someone to Hollywood, in this case Hal Wallis from Paramount Pictures, was there to see her and eventually sign her to a contract. Sorry, I digressed again.

Look, I don't hate the film. It's a Hitchcock I'm likely to watch more than say, Topaz or I Confess. But it's a late screening and if someone really wanted to stay to see it after Family Plot, I won't squawk. A flop in America on its initial release, yet successful in Europe, especially England and France. Conceived by Hitch as a sort of experiment to see how far he could go with an American audience, in terms of subtlety of humor and releasing a major Hollywood film without a movie star to guide them. So maybe the experiment didn't fail on me and others, maybe the reverse is true. Here's a chance to prove me wrong, if I don't fall asleep from being tired going into both films to begin with:


FRENZY- Thurs March 27 at 9:30- Film Forum- A DCP restoration of the film that concludes the Forum's Complete Hitchcock retrospective. An underrated Hitchcock and one of his last, from 1972. Also, in one sequence, his most brutal in this, his return to shooting in England after over 3 decades. Again, quoting from the Forum's website, their description/sales pitch that hasn't changed in over 9 years. Wow . . .

"Down-on-his-luck ex-RAF man Jon Finch is on the run from accusations of being The Necktie Strangler, in Hitchcock's return to London and to fiendish form, making us identify with the killer, even as he must retrieve evidence from a victim's post-rigor mortis finger. 'Hitchcock's smacking his lips and rubbing his hands and delighting in his
naughtiness.' - Roger Ebert."

Ok, so the Forum doesn't use Roger's quote this time. But I agree that it's underrated. Veers back and forth from grisly murder, to man-on-the-run story, with humorous scenes that are almost out of place with the story. I say almost yet not quite because it shows us how everyday life can play on, even with a serial killer running about. Even the killer has a moment or two of darkly comedic difficulty not unlike what Norman Bates went thru disposing of Marion Crane in Psycho.

If Frenzy is known for anything aside from being Hitch's return to his native soil to work, and for being the last great Hitchcock, or at least the only above-average film Hitch made after The Birds (depending on your feelings about Marnie and Family Plot), it's for the film's first onscreen murder. When we find out who the killer is, and watching said killer commit a rape and murder in accelerated real time. Not something as brutal as the film Irreversible, but probably the most brutal of Hitch's career, as he took full advantage of no Production Code, and a more liberal Ratings system. And yet not unlike his other killers, Hitch gets us to empathize or perhaps understand the Necktie Strangler more than we suspect. We probably felt the same way in Psycho, Notorious, and Shadow of a Doubt, among others. Here you can thank the smart script from Anthony Shaffer (Sleuth) for that as well, though author Arthur La Bern, who wrote the book Frenzy is based on, was openly critical of the script and final cut.

The film did well with reviewers, winning a few scattered critics awards. Overall his best reviewed work since The Birds. It did ok at the box office, nothing special but certainly not a flop. Good Hitchcock for me overall. But no classic, thus it plays at the Forum for only one day/night. But it's the final film in the series, so obviously the Forum wants some attention paid to it. Deserved attention I say.

Not that different than other man on the run Hitchcocks like North by Northwest. Notably however, the violence is played to as far as a R rating would get Hitch (this was initially rated X in Britain back in the pre-Porn days), and the drama is played deadly serious by mostly staged trained British actors, giving us a higher quality of performance than we have gotten from other Hitch films. Not a Who's Who of actors as far as us Americans are concerned (unless you're an Anglophile), but more of a Hey I've seen Him/Her before. Too many to mention since this post is already getting long, but if you watched the likes of say The Omen, Keeping Up Appearances, Upstairs Downstairs, and Doctor Who (original and reboot), then you have an idea of what I mean:


NATIONAL LAMPOON'S ANIMAL HOUSE and GHOSTBUSTERS- Sun March 30 at 2 (Animal) and 4:30 (Ghostbusters)- Museum of the Moving Image- A double feature of two films at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria for one admission. Qualifies under two retrospectives; as part of the Museum's See It Big: Comedies series, and as a hastily put together tribute to the late Harold Ramis. Actually there are three films here, but I have no interest in the third film, the decent Ice Harvest. Not in general, and not as part of the tail end of a double or triple feature.

First, National Lampoon's Animal House. The comedy classic that dominated the summer of 1978 and gave us the gross-out genre, based on the college fraternity experiences of writers Ramis, Douglas Kennedy and Chris Miller, and producer Ivan Reitman. Snobs versus Slobs, as we follow the adventures over the course of a semester of Delta House. Episodic in structure (from stories from the National Lampoon magazine), we follow as the Deltas try their best to avoid studying, while drinking, partying (TOGA! TOGA! TOGA!), having sex, and basically having fun. Especially if it's at the expense of rival Omega House and school head Dean Wormer (seriously Dean, Double Secret Probation?!?).

With Food Fights, a Horse that doesn't like the sound of gunfire, a song that makes you want to JUMP!, nudity, and the knowledge that we will forever know that the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor (used as a rallying cry when the Mets and Pirates are behind in a game.). With just enough satire about the fraternity system and the differences in class in an Ivy League school to keep the film notable, kept at a steady pace by director John Landis, until the outlandish and elaborate parade/revenge sequence at the end.

Yes, even more notable than the casting. With one exception. No, not the young women; all attractive, though only Karen Allen sustained a lengthy career for a variety of reasons I won't detail here. No, not the veterans, like Donald Sutherland and John Vernon as Dean Wormer. No, not most of the young men though some, like Tom Hulce, Peter Riegert, Kevin Bacon and character actor extraordinaire Bruce McGill are among the men who have enjoyed lengthy careers.

No, the one exception is John Belushi, as Bluto Blutarsky. The head slob/ force of nature of Delta House, Belushi didn't need dialogue to pull off the film's biggest laughs. Sometimes it was with a prop, like food, a jar of mustard, or someone else's guitar. And sometimes with a look, like whenever he's near a female (bleachers, the parade, outside their window). Even the dialogue can be brief, like "Sorry" and FOOD FIGHT!". But when he is given something long to say, like the Nazis bomb Pearl Harbor monologue . . .ah yes, we miss him still . . . .   

Followed by Ghostbusters, in a restored DCP projection. I like it, fun not-so-little New York movie, which gave me pleasant throwback memories to childhood. The visual effects don't hold up, it feels longer than it felt back then, and though there are quite a few good supporting performances, the film is held together by Bill Murray. A believable X factor whose unpredictability, even if you know the film by heart, keeps you interested and laughing. Hard to believe what this could have looked like if John Belushi lived to tackle the role, despite my praise of him in the previous Animal House paragraph:




FAHRENHEIT 451- Wed April 2 at 7:30- From the Forum's complete Truffaut retrospective. Sorry that this is the first film from the retrospective I can get to, but time doesn't permit me to do otherwise. The rarely screened Fahrenheit 451, from 1967. Actually I can't say that anymore, considering this has been screened about 3 times over the past 2 or so years. The adaptation of Ray Bradbury's classic novel, which he said wasn't a book about censorship, but a depiction of a possible future where a society is taken with television. So taken that not only is literature burned, but information is doled out only by image and sound bite (seems like the later has been going on for a while, in and out of politics, but anyway). Oskar Werner is Montag, a fireman whose very job of burning books is questioned; first by a beautiful stranger, and then by himself.

Probably the most difficult film in Francois Truffaut's career to make. His only English language film. It took about six years for him to adapt it properly in his mind. Some of the changes he made, like tweaking the ending and not only having the beautiful stranger live beyond the start of the story but to have her and Montag's wife be two sides of the same coin, work. Having Julie Christie play both roles makes Truffaut look like a genius. The world we see is unique: European looking, not overly futuristic but not alien either. Not too different from the approach taken by the makers of Her when you think about. Nicolas Roeg's cinematography and Bernard Herrmann's score help greatly.

Good film, but how good you think it is will depend on how you feel about Werner's lead performance. Oskar went with an approach that Truffaut quipped was like a monkey sniffing a book. Whether you think his performance, which caused actor and director to feud throughout shooting, helps or hurts the film, is up to you. I don't hate his performance, but I'm curious to see what a different approach to Montag would look like. We've been hearing for decades about other directors' attempt to remake this, with Mel Gibson coming the closest allegedly. But any remake will probably be years down the line, so now's a good time to check this out.

http://www.filmforum.org/movies/more/fahrenheit_451



Let me know if there's interest. Later all.