Friday, June 29, 2007

July revivals: first half

Mike here with a long list of revivals for the first half of July. First, did catch Texas Chainsaw Massacre at AMMI. Not as scary as when I first saw it as a teenager. But definitely creepy as all hell from beginning to end. A respectable print; I thought it was occasionally out of focus, but I'm guessing it was the way it was shot. And great, the last section with the family all gathered together, with Grandpa with the hammer, rotting meat and actual skeleton had to be clearly in focus. The best 83,000 film I've ever seen. A superior version of a Grindhouse picture then the recent Grindhouse movie, even though I did like it. There's more then one of those types of films on the list, scattered with others. The first film listed is the one I'd like to catch most, with a few others not far behind. Here we go:

AIRPLANE! and THE BIG LEBOWSKI- Mon July 2 at 6:30 (Airplane) and 8:30 (Lebowski)- MOMA- 53rd st. and 5th Ave- Part of MOMA's retro on comedies. One admission covers both films. Now The Big Lebowski is a film that has a major cult following. But I'm not a member of this cult. I admire and at times, like this Cohen brothers film. But it's hard for me to hate one of their films, unless it's The Hudsucker Proxy. That's easy. But I'm willing to give this a second chance. Especially we see the first film.

Airplane was not a high priority for Paramount. The early reviews were mixed, some were even horrible. It took almost 10 months of release, but by then, it became the biggest sleeper hit from that year. And eventually, a comedy classic, with too many quotable lines and scenes to bring up here. I've taken flack for putting this in my top ten of 1980, while leaving out Ordinary People and some other films all together. It's fluffiness of subject matter, is compensated by superior execution.

LE DOULOS- Tues July 3- Thurs July 12 at 5:30, 7:40 and 9:50- Film Forum- A new 35mm print of this film. Opened June 29, but this is the earliest I can go. Do I know this film? Nope. Never heard of it before. Why am I putting this on the list? Because it was from Jean-Pierre Melville, director of Army of Shadows. After seeing that film, I'll catch anything he has directed. Especially at the Forum. If you read previous lists and such between late December and late February, you know how much I've talked about it. But for the rest of you, I'm cutting and pasting from the Forum's website to give all an idea of what this film is about:

(1962) “One must choose: die... or lie?” The only sound the rapping of his shoes on the concrete pavement as the camera tracks ahead of him down an endless underpass during the opening titles, trench-coated Serge Reggiani (Casque d’Or, Army of Shadows) is back from the slammer — but what to do now, even as Monique Hennessy puts him up and old pal René Lefevre offers to stake him. First things first: there’s a debt to be paid and a piece-of-cake heist to be pulled for operating capital — but why are those darn flics here already? Could there be a squealer? That’s the meaning of doulos in French underworld argot (one who wears a doul — a hat — or stool pigeon). And A-list gangster Jean-Paul Belmondo (magnetic in the second of three straight Melville roles) is a prime candidate for the title — even by the cops, with toothpick-chomping Inspector Jean Desailly (the adulterer of Truffaut’s Soft Skin) providing an eight-minute grilling done in a single, 360° panning take, shot in a room full of reflecting glass (take six, and one of the two shots Melville was most proud of in his entire oeuvre; the other was the opening of Army of Shadows). But then the head-snapping plot twists start coming, even as the bodies start dropping — plus homage to Psycho’s doom-laden drive in the rain and a stoically-telling cameo by Michel Piccoli — with the ironies and ambiguities mounting until the very last minute of the picture, and the question of Belmondo’s guilt up in the air until. . . (Belmondo supposedly didn’t know if he was or wasn’t until he saw the movie.) Based on a série noire pulp, Melville considered this his first true policier (calling his earlier noir Bob Le Flambeur “a comedy of manners!”), melding the themes of friendship, betrayal, and tragedy with a star-powered, suspenseful thriller, done in a subtly rendered, studiously unrealistic atmosphere: the phone booths, subway, bar, sash windows, and inspector’s office are repros of U.S. originals, all underlined by an echt 60s Paul Misraki jazz score. This new 35mm print captures the shadowy b&w of cinematographer Nicolas Hayer (Cocteau’s Orphée, Clouzot’s Le Corbeau) and features an all-new translation and subtitles by Lenny Borger. “This mix of Warner Brothers and Rossellini has a forceful, adolescent lyricism. The action is scored to cool vibraphone doodles, punctuated by the ceremonial display key totems (trenchcoats, cigarettes, revolvers) and interspersed with sudden spasms of violence. Melville was not just a father figure of the French New Wave, he was ascetic warrior priest.” – J. Hoberman, Village Voice.

If it's really good and draws a sizable audience, like Army of Shadows did, then it might be extended or come back later in the year. But for now, we must assume the film will end after July 12. Would hate to miss it.

AIRPLANE!- Thurs July 5 at 8:30- MOMA- But if Monday night isn't doable, Airplane can be caught on this night as well. In all the time I've done these lists, going back to 2001, this film has NEVER played in a revival house before, until this month. I can't stress how much I'd REALLY like to make an effort to catch this.

DEAD OF NIGHT and HOMECOMING- Sat July 7 at 4:30 (Dead) and 6:30 (Homecoming)- AMMI in Astoria- 35th Ave. and 36th St- Continuing the horror film retrospective. 2 films telling a very silimilar story, over thirty years apart, each with thier own political purposes of their day. The first film, I've been very curious about. The following I didn't write. Copied and pasted from another website, back when I was ready to cut and paste it as part of something else to forward to others. But it gave such an interesting anylisis, that I saved for this. Sorry I don't know who wrote it, but if you tell me, I'll be sure to credit the person.

Directed by Bob Clark

Almost a decade before Clark made a mainstream name for himself with "Porky's" and "A Christmas Story," he turned out this rough but wickedly effective indie horror film equating zombism with Vietnam vet trauma. The Brooks family hasn't heard from soldier son Andy for long enough that his father and sister suspect the worst; it's only his devoted mother who keeps the faith with a fervor that borders on madness. Her conviction that her son is alive seems to actually pull him from the grave — he arrives in the dead of night, having hitchhiked to the house, and, given that we witnessed Andy's death in the jungle before the opening credits, it's clear nothing good is in store. Andy's changed — he's monotone, unresponsive and spends most of his time staring at nothing from a rocking chair on the porch. Oh, and he's picked up an addiction — he needs injections of fresh blood to keep himself from rotting. Dread builds over the course of the film, but so does a sense of tragedy; everyone is unable to understand that Andy has been (literally, in his case) to hell, and can only respond with frustration that he's not the same.

It's double featured with Homecoming, directed by Gremlins's Joe Dante, for Showtime's Masters of Horror series. A representative for the current administration wishes on TV that someone's son, who was killed in a war that resembles the Iraqi conflict, could come back to life to explain why he died. The son does indeed come back from the dead, along with every other soldier killed. They've come back for revenge. And to do it the only way they know how. By voting Republicans out of office. Should make an interesting double feature.

RED BEARD and George A. Romero's MARTIN with (maybe) 28 WEEKS LATER- Sun July 8 at 1 (Red Beard), 4:30 (Martin) and 6:30 (Weeks Later) - AMMI in Astoria- An interesting potential double feature; a triple feature if you're insane.

First is Red Beard. Not a horror film and despite being a Kurosawa/ Mifune film, it's not a Samurai film either. A medical drama, starring Mifune as a taskmaster doctor in 19th century Japan, who slowly teaches his arrogant pupil how to become a better doctor, and a better man. The last of the Kurosawa/ Mifune films. Note that the film is 3 hrs, 5 min long. Especially make note of this if you're interested in one of the other films later in the day.

Next is Martin, a George A. Romero film from 1978 (U.S. release). As opposite from Red Beard as you can get. A film most people in general and most horror fans under the age of 32 probably don't even know exists. One part horror, and one part psychological thriller. We meet a lonely, emotionally damaged teenager, who claims to be an 84 year old vampire. So what if he can walk in the sun, remain unaffected by garlic, crosses and holy water, and doesn't even have fangs? Razors work just as well as fangs . . . Over ten years before the Nicolas Cage film Vampire's Kiss, this covers part of the same ground, but supposedly better. Never seen it, except for a few late night clips that got me real interested. Hard to find on video, except on an early 80s tape, and good luck finding the 2000 DVD.

Next is 28 Weeks Later, a sequel to 28 Days Later. Not a revival, but then again, since it's mostly out of New York theaters and with mediocre box office returns, maybe it is time to consider this as a revival now. Not superior to the original, but it has its own effective scares. Plus with a sucker punch attitude to current U.S. foreign policy that rivals anything done by the previously listed Dead of Night and Homecoming. Or anything done by Michael Moore.

Now I can imagine doing two of these films. I've already seen 28 Weeks, so I can only imagine seeing this again with someone chomping at the bit to go. GET IT CHOMPING AT THE BIT?!?! ZOMBIES . . .CHOMPING . . . I suck. Anyway, I could go for 2 films, but all 3? 12:45 to about 8:05? Oh my back . . .

WAIT UNTIL DARK- For free at Bryant Park- Mon July 9 at sunset (Rain date Tues July 10)- 6th ave and 42nd st is but one area enter from- This Audrey Hepburn suspense film is a little dated. But this story of a blind woman being manipulated by three criminals, should play well in Bryant Park. Among the criminals is Alan Arkin, in a performance that verges on, but never crosses over into camp. The final confrontation should be perfect in the park.

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S SEX COMEDY and SMILES OF A SUMMER NIGHT- Wed July 11 at 6 (Sex) and 8 (Smiles)- MOMA- 2 comedies with a similar story; of lovers who come together, split apart, and/or form new relationships with other people in the story, all during a summer night or 2 or 3. The first, a Woody Allen comedy that got steamrolled in the summer of E.T. In the cast are Allen, Tony Roberts, Mary Steenburgen, Jose Ferrer and in her first Allen film, Mia Farrow. I believe she and Allen fell in love while making this film. Ignore the fact that she was nominated for a Razzie award for her performance.

This is double featured with the film that Allen remade/ did a variation on: Ingmar Bergman's Smiles of a Summer Night. Later used as the basis of Sondhiem's A Little Night Music. If you can stand the fact that Send In The Clowns will not be sung, I think you will like this.

LOOK BACK IN ANGER- Sat July 14 at 1:30 and Sun July 15 at 8- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- Part of the Leading the Charge: Woodfall Film Productions and the Revolution in '60s British Cinema retrospective. The success of director Tony Richardson and playwright John Osbourne's play Look Back In Anger, enabled them to create Woodfall Film Productions, a place to prove that you didn't need Hollywood to make affordable films that will find an audience. Their adaptation of the play was the first hit, credited as the start of the Angry Young Man films. Either way, the chance to see Richard Burton at the height of his pre-alcoholism powers should be a draw all by itself.

THE ENTERTAINER- Sat July 14 at 6:30 and Sun July 15 at 3:30- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- Part of the Leading the Charge: Woodfall Film Productions and the Revolution in '60s British Cinema retro. One of Laurence Olivier's most famous non-Shakespearean roles, though it does have those aspects. Playing an over the hill, second rate vaudeville actor, making one last grab at stardom in a falling apart music hall. Not what you would call a happy movie, which might explain the respect, but lack of audience in the U.S. A Best Actor nomination for Olivier. Hell of a supporting cast, with Albert Finney, Alan Bates and Joan Plowright (Olivier's future wife). From director Tony Richardson.

THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY and/or ICHI THE KILLER and/or WOLF CREEK- Sun July 15 at 2 (House), 4 (Ichi) and 6:30 (Wolf)- AMMI in Astoria- 3 different horror films. The first, an Italian flick from 1981 (released in the U.S. in 1984), that's kind of an unrated or hard R variation of The Amityville Horror. This is the original release, not the British version with 2 minutes cut, or the U.S. DVD version with 5 minutes cut, or the first U.S. VHS release, where they mixed up the order of the middle reels!

The second, is an interesting but bizarre Japanese, Hong Kong, South Korean flick from 2001, about a battle between a hitman and a crime boss. The blood flows, limbs fly like tissue paper, and disfigurement, sadomasochism, and psychotic behavior flow almost as much as the blood. 2 hours, 9 min long, but rarely dulll.

The last is an Australian flick where attractive teenager-types, meet one seriously bent middle aged killer. Partly docu-drama, partly Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Drew some attention being the only slasher film released on Christmas Day 2005, with praise from Quentin Tarantino. Then again, Tarantino praised Hostel, and I'm ignoring that film in AMMI's retrospective. Side note: are we surprised that Hostel 2 will only make around a third of its predecessor's box office cume? Are you telling me that seeing Weiner Girl as an adult, topless and hanging upside down, while she's cut open like a spigot is NOT a box office draw?!?!? If that sight can't even make ME pay to see this, then forget it.

Anyway, my preference in what to see is listed in the order they appear, though it should be noted that it may not be easy tracking down the first 2 films on DVD, so this might be your only chance, unless you get real lucky with either IFC or Showtime. I'm sure they'll have another episode of the original Spider-Man animated series at 1pm, but check the Moving Image website to find out more when that weekend draws near.

A FOREIGN AFFAIR and NINOTCHKA- Sun July 15 at 6 (Affair) and 8:15 (Ninotchka)- Symphony Space at The Leonard Nimoy Thalia- Part of the Thalia's series of double features. One starring Greta Garbo, the other starring Marlene Dietrich. The first, A Foreign Affair, stars Dietrich and Jean Arthur (Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, Shane), directed and co-written by Billy Wilder. To quote the plot outline from imdb, "In occupied Berlin, an army captain is torn between an ex-Nazi cafe singer and the U.S. congresswoman investigating her." Wilder had extreme difficulty working with both actresses, quote "I have one dame who's afraid to look at herself in a mirror and another who won't stop looking!" Take a wild guess which ones he meant.

Oscar nominations for Wilder, Charles Brackett and Richard L. Breen for the screenplay, and for the Cinematography. It's a shame that I'm a little indifferent to catching this. Don't get me wrong, if I had no desire whatsoever, it wouldn't be listed. That said, I have slightly less desire to see this than say, the Asian S and M/horror/action/comedy/I don't know what the fuck that is, or the Australian slasher film. Cinephiles could be highly insulted by that statement I imagine.

I have more interest in the second film, Ninotchka. Classic comedy where Greta Garbo as a stern commie woman who falls for decadent capitalist Melvyn Douglas. With Bela Lugosi. Oscar nominations for Picture, Garbo, Story and Screenplay, co-written by Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett.

Let me know if there's interest. A push for Airplane, the Melville film and some of the stuff at the Forum. But catching any of these would be fine. If you don't like some of the horror films listed, some better ones are coming down the pike. Later all.

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