Thursday, September 27, 2007

Sept revivals: the rest of the month

Hey all. Mike here with a short list for the next week. 3 films in all, with 2 repeats. Here we go:

THE 400 BLOWS with ANTOINE AND COLETTE- Film Forum- Sat Sept 29-Mon Oct 1 and Wed Oct 3 at 4:20, 7 and 9:30- Francois Truffaut's classic 1959 film; his first feature-length picture, and one of those first credited for launching New Wave cinema successfully, gets a longer than usual run at the Forum, in a restored 35mm print. Semi-autobiographical we follow Truffaut's most famous character, neglected Antoine Doinel, during his time as petty criminal and in reform school. We learn to sympathize with him, while noting every fault and every mistake that does more damage to his life than it should. Francois's mother was NOT happy with the final result/implications. Of course this includes the classic final 2 minutes, and one of the most memorable final freeze shots in movie history, no hyperbole on my part. Oscar nominated for Original Screenplay. But not for Foreign Film. Black Orpheus was chosen to be France's representative. It won the category, but it's borderline unwatchable as far as I'm concerned.

Despite the implications of the ending (SPOILER ALERT! THE FILM IS ALMOST 50 YEARS OLD. IF YOU LIVE IN A MOVIE BUFF CAVE, THAT'S NOT MY PROBLEM.), Truffaut would bring back the Antoine Doinel character for several sequels. His life gets better in comparison to the first film, but happier? Weeeeeellll . . . . . Anyway, the fist sequel, ANTOINE AND COLETTE from 1962, will be screened after The 400 Blows. Here, Antoine has an adult job, but a girlfriend who may love him as much as he loves her, or maybe not.

Let's see who's interested in this one.

FITZCARRALDO- Sat Sept 29- Mon Oct 1, and Wed Oct 3 at 6:10 and 9:20- IFC Film Center- Playing at the same time as The 400 Blows is the Kinski-Herzog film (in a new 35mm print). Surprise, surprise. The one week only run did well enough to get a second week. This news will either inspire you to want to catch this film before it goes, or it will make you want to stick your head into a bear trap, and pray for sweet sweet death. Both reactions are understandable.

STAR TREK 2: THE WRATH OF KHAN- Sat Sept 29 at Midnight- Landmark Sunshine Cinema- I know it's been done before, but I can't go without mentioning this one. I enjoy it too much and after 25 years, it still works. Don't want to hear from the haters, time is on my side with this one; besides most of the haters haven't even seen it. For those who haven't seen it, or haven't seen in in a long time, or have never seen it on the big screen and can stay up way past midnight, come on, go for it.

Let me know if there's interest. The first October list will come out in a few days, but it will have only one film on it. One I've talked about and waited quite a while for. Later all.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Sept revivals: Part 2

Mike here with the rest of the September list. Running behind so I'll have to break this month's list into three parts. Not much to bring up other than that, so here we go:

THE LANDLORD- Wed Sept 19- Fri Sept 21, Mon Sept 24 and Tues Sept 25 at 7:45 and 10- Lee Grant will introduce the 7:45 show on Wednesday, September 19- Film Forum- A film NOT available on DVD, just out of print VHS, from director Hal Ashby. Not the first standout director from the 1970s (the last Golden Era of film, allegedly) that you would think of, but with credits that include Harold and Maude, Coming Home and Being There, he is one who must be noticed. I am very curious to catch this one, never seen it before. Basically, it seems to be a similar story as the 1991 Joe Pesci flop The Super, though this actually appears to be funny. Lee Grant, nominated for Supporting Actress for this flick (and would win 5 years later for Ashby's later film, Shampoo), introduces the 7:45 screening. If we actually did this one, it will require some advanced planning.

As for anything else about The Landlord, I'll have to cut and paste from the Film Forum's website, since they can sell it a lot better than myself:

“You know what NAACP means, don’t you?” Whiter than white, richer than rich, callower than callow (“I’m 29!”) Beau Bridges tells the camera, on the impeccable lawn of his family compound as the black butler delivers him a drink, that he needs a home of his own — except his dream house is a tenement in the way-before-gentrification Park Slope! Think he’ll get the African-American tenants to move out? Think he can even get them to start paying rent? And bring back those hubcaps! First feature by Hal Ashby is both a time capsule of 70s cinema — direct-to-the-camera dialogue, jagged editing, jarring bursts of music on the soundtrack, echoey on-location sound... and those bellbottoms! — as well as an edgy (before the term was coined), rope-dancing-on-the-razor’s-edge dramedy on race in America, with Bridges’ mom, Oscar-nominated Lee Grant, taking a break from nurse-maiding the Spinal Meningitis Ball to get down on pot likker with Pearl Bailey;Diana Sands painfully making a shocking admission to “Sioux Indian” hubbie Lou Gossett; Robert Klein’s turn in blackface; and the ‘N’ word, but not said by whom, and to whom, you might think. With camerawork by the great Gordon Willis (Klute, All the President’s Men, Annie Hall and all three Godfathers); screenplay by black actor/writer Bill Gunn (Ganja and Hess); and, as the good-natured jerk rich boy (“I’m a bastard!”), a could-pass-for-18 Beau Bridges, who surprisingly was 29 at the time. “An outrageous debut that still feels daring, both stylistically and politically.” – Darren Hughes, Senses of Cinema. “A wondrously wise, sad and hilarious comedy. Leaves an almost eerie tonic effect of truth and laughter, with some of the sharpest, funniest dialogue in a long time.”– The New York Times. “There’s something really great about it, and it’s a film that I’d kind of fallen in love with. There’s something unique about the softness of the colors, about the way you can light things well but they’re not overly sharp and vivid. There’s just something more human about them, a more poetic way of capturing reality.” – Alexander Payne (Sideways, About Schmidt).

A ROOM WITH A VIEW- Thurs Sept 20 at 6- MOMA- Not the first Merchant-Ivory film ever made. And also not the first Merchant-Ivory film to be Oscar nominated, but if you happen to remember The Europeans (just recently released on DVD, though I'm not sure if it's available in R1) or The Bostonians (Vanessa Redgrave's perf holds up, the rest of the film and Christopher Reeves's perf in particular doesn't), then you're a ghost, a freak that I'm not sure I want to know, or James Ivory. And why James Ivory would look at these pages, I have no idea. But just in case, hi James. Don't hate me about that Bostonians crack just now. I'm not that bad, really. Really.

But A Room With A View is the first Merchant-Ivory picture I consider watchable. Oh hell. I blew with James. Forget it, Mr. Ivory. I just can't get anything right. Find another blog.

A delicate romantic comedy (yes, with some dramatic elements) that found it's art house niche in 1986, just as Platoon was beginning to dominate. 3 Oscars including the Screenplay adaptation of E.M. Forster's novel; nominations also for Picture, Director, Supporting Actress Maggie Smith, and Supporting Actor Denholm Elliott. Also featuring notable early performance by Helena Bonham Carter (this and other projects forged the perception of her only as a corset non-modern actress until Fight Club) and Daniel Day-Lewis (how this foppish dolt became Bill the Butcher is a marvel of acting technique), plus a gossipy witch of a woman played by Judi Dench.

FITZCARRALDO- IFC Film Center- W. 3rd on 6th Ave- Fri Sept 22 at 9:20 and Sat Sept 22 at 2:55, 6:10 and 9:20- If you see only one Werner Herzog film this year, let it be Rescue Dawn. It's his most accessible, with a terrific Christian Bale performance. You really get a sense of being a POW with nowhere to escape. It gets the nature beats down man part (a specialty of Werner's) down
better than Castaway, the only film of that kind that most of you readers are aware of.

But if you only see TWO Werner Herzog films this year, let's try to make it both Rescue Dawn AND Fitzcarraldo, from 1982. Klaus Kinski (taking over after both Mick Jagger and Jason Robards quit) plays the title role, a man obsessed with building an opera house in the Peruvian jungle so that Caruso can sing there. Which means of course having to the deal with the Indians, nature, getting a giant boat over a mountain, you know, THE USUAL. As you can tell, or if you already know Herzog and/or Kinski, little about this film would be considered usual. With Claudia Cardinale (Once Upon A Time In The West, The Leopard, The Pink Panther) as his lover.

The film took about three years to make. Obstacles included recasting, the Indians struggling to push the large boat up a mountain so that Herzog could film Kinski and the Indians struggling to push the large boat up the mountain, a plane crash that killed several crew members and some Indians actually burning down the film's campsite because they didn't want the outsiders here anymore. And of course, the non-mellow relationship between Herzog and frequent star/adversary Kinski. Non-mellow to the point that some of the Indians offered to kill Kinski for Herzog (caught on camera in the documentary, My Best Fiend).

But to quote Roger Ebert, 'It may be overlong and meandering, but I wouldn't ever have missed seeing it." I hope you feel the same. The not missing part, I mean. I can't do anything about the rest . . .

THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (1955)- Sat Sept 22 at 3:30- MOMA- One of the better film noirs. Robert Mitchum's best performance as a corrupt preacher willing to kill, as he marries widow Shelley Winters to force her kids to tell him where their late father hid money from a robbery. Any comparisons to Blue Velvet or Twin Peaks, where evil creeps into little America is understandable. It's easy to think of film villains like Darth Vader, Hannibal Lecter and Gollum, or get caught up in a newer one, like Capitán Vidal from Pan's Labyrinth. It's sometimes easy to forget the older villains. I find Mitchum's preacher more insidious than his later turn in the original Cape Fear.

When I saw Do The Right Thing when it first played in theaters, I admired the Radio Raheem monologue about Love and Hate on his hands. Didn't realize it was stolen from Mitchum's character here. The moral: keep watch good films. And also, if we keep giving Spike Lee less credit, the world will be a happier place to live in. Somewhat kidding about that last part.

Initial reaction from 1955 audiences made this film a huge bust. It prompted first-time director/ acting legend Charles Laughton never to direct again. A cult classic today and maybe even more than that. Selected for preservation by the National Film Registry in 1992. if you haven't seen it, let's do it.

THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME and KING KONG (1932)- Mon Sept 24 at 7:15 (Game) and 8:30 (Kong)- MOMA W. 53rd and 5th- A double feature of 2 RKO adventure films from director Ernest B. Schoedsack that also shared some of the same sets and co-stars Robert Armstrong and Fay Wray. First, Game, co-directed with Irving Pichel; an adaptation of Richard Connell's short story, where a rich man lets a ship crash onto a deserted island, so that he could hunt and kill the passengers. A story that has been remade over and over again (I'm sure Connell imagined Ice-T being hunted by Rutger Hauer and F. Murrary Abraham; don't you?!?!?). But see how it was done first.

Since Dangerous Game is only 63 minutes long, I figure we can go see that, and stay for King Kong, co directed with Merian C. Cooper. I know a couple of you saw it with me last Thanksgiving weekend, and that the rest of you know of the classic film. But if you see it on the big screen, you would be amazed how well it holds up. Seeing it in a theater as opposed to TV, made it enough of a difference to me have it go from an OK old movie, to a Top 100 film for me. On both AFI Top 100 lists. Go for it.

This double feature will also be re-screened at MOMA on Sat, Oct 13 starting at 3:15

That's all for now. Will bring up the rest of the month next week. Later all.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Sept revivals: first half

Mike here with a short list of films to catch in the first half of Sept. I'd have put up the list a little sooner, but the combo of my enjoying the U.S. Open and there being a only a number of films in a concentrated number of days, hasn't caused me to rush. This also doesn't pay, but anyway . . .

I did receive an interesting number of reactions from the second half August list. Here was one email reaction about Rope:

"God I love Rope. A. and I were saying that it's definitely one of our fave Hitchcock movies."

Unfortunately, they weren't able to make it that weekend. I caught Rear Window with someone who had already seen Rope with me in January 06, so there was no need to stay.

The same person sent me this email response to Klute:

"[A]nd I can't help but feel that it probably isn't justified", re: the vast reservoir of loathing for Jane Fonda. Really, Mike? Well, let me 'splain it to you. The woman was [is] a traitor to her country. She volunteered be used as a propaganda spokeswoman for the North Vietnamese, traveled to that country in wartime, shot at U.S. warplanes using enemy anti-aircraft guns (smiling and laughing like a hyena, btw), and permitted herself to be photographed doing so. She should have been prosecuted and sent to prison. She wasn't b/c she was Henry Fonda's daughter. The only way to demonstrate my disdain for her is to turn my back on anything she says or does and not contribute a penny of my money to her residuals. So I couldn't care less whether acting-wise she is the second coming of Eleanor Druse; Jane Fonda is simply beyond the pale."

Ok then.

At least those two looked at this and reacted. Better than this phone exchange I had with someone else back in July:

Him: So, what's playing at AMMI?

Me: Did you look at the list?

Him: Is there anything there this Sunday?

Me: Look at the list and I'll let you know ASAP.

Him: Why don't do you just tell me?

Me: Did you even bother to look?

Him: You write so much, I print it out so I have something to read on set.

Me: You don't do that anymore. If you did it since the blog started, do you know how many pages you'd have to print?

Him: So you won't tell me what's playing at AMMI?

Me: Oh c'mon!

Him: Well, Karyn won't be doing The Fantasticks for much longer.

Me: Again with Karyn, Bart?!?!?

Oops, did his name slip? MY BAD! On with the list. Here we go:

SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER- Fri Sept 7 at 8:30 and Sat Sept 8 at 5:30 and 8:30- The Ziegfeld- 141 W. 54th St.- One more weekend to catch the disco classic that made Travolta a movie star. The film's new 35mm print should be fine on the big screen, and the cleaned up sound should play great.And for those of you who know me, it's 5 dollar admission for up to 4 people, thanks to a printout from Clearview Cinemas website. Then again, if you get contact from their website, you get it also. 5 dollars as opposed to 9.

CRUISING- Fri Sept 7 at 9:40, Sat Sept 8 at 2, 7 and 9:40, Mon Sept 10 at 2 and 7:15, Tues Sept 11 at 7 and Thurs Sept 13 at 2, 4:30, 7 and 9:30- Regal E-Walk Stadium 13- 247 W. 42nd St. and 8th Ave.- A brief release of this restored 1980 film, with a cleaned up sound, and digitally projected for at least one week. In short, this is the one Al Pacino film that doesn't have any clips shown whenever his career is honored. From director William Friedkin, Pacino plays an NYPD cop who goes undercover in the world of gay S and M clubs, to find a serial killer who stalks his prey there. And Pacino's character begins to like this world. Don't know how accurate this sub-culture is depicted, but it is a snippet of the past and how gays are viewed and depicted one year before the first AIDS cases were diagnosed in New York. One of Friedkin's police advisors on The French Connection worked on this film, so the police side is probably accurate. If anything, Cruising focuses more on the police reaction to the gay communtiy.

Cruising was heavily protested when it was shot in New York, to the point where gay activist groups tried to have the filming removed from NYC altogether. Then 40 minutes had to be cut in order to get the R rating. The film came out in March 1980, where the protests never let up. The film was trashed by critics, and flopped at the box office. If it lasted more than a month, I'd be stunned. Pacino, upset that Friedkin changed the film from what is in the script to the final product, and stunned by the intense anger of the protestors who never saw the film (but might have read the book), would never speak about the film afterwards. Distributed by United Artists. Wow, with Cruising released early in 1980, and Heaven's Gate released near the end of that year, no wonder Transamerica got out of the movie business.

Found some quotes about the film from IMDB. Don't know the sources, otherwise I'd quote them:

"“The film doesn’t turn away from the sexuality,” says Friedkin, who notes that the Cannes screening will be followed by a theatrical re-release, complete with a new Dolby Digital sound mix, in select U.S. cities this fall. “That means it will still disturb a lot of people on both sides of the issue.”

He does wish, though, that the studio (Warner Bros.) had been able to find some of the 40 minutes of deleted scenes that he was forced to remove from Cruising 26 years ago at the behest of the MPAA, all of which are now feared missing or destroyed.

Skin tones looked a little pale in the night and club sequences, but colors really popped for the most part, in particular, the yellow NYC cabs. Sound, in particular, the separation between the various songs and ambient noises, was excellent."

Now the film's reputation has been getting some rehabilitation, thanks in part to the standing ovation the new print received this year at Cannes (Tarantino was among those applauding). Personally, I have no idea if this film is any good. I've never seen more than a minute of it years ago on cable. As well as the original trailer which is quite effective actually. It could be good, could be crap, or just passable. It will probably look and sound good, but after that, who knows? Any of you adventureous?

THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI- Wed Sept 12 at 7:30- MOMA- Chances are, Lawrence of Arabia is your favorite of David Lean's films. Unless you're a romantic type, then Dr. Zhivago is your favorite. While Lawrence is in my personal top 5, if you tell me Bridge on the River Kwai is your favorite Lean, I can certainly understand it.

A World War 2 drama very loosely based on some true events. A split story of 2 men in a Japanese POW camp. One, an English colonel, the very obsessive model of an English gentleman, who helps the Japanese build a bridge as a symbol of the English spirit. The other, a cynical American who escaped from the camp, and after a brief respite, is forced on a mission to blow up the bridge. William Holden was already an international film star by the time he played the lead American, and Alec Guinness became one as well as the arrogant, deluded, damaged Colonel Nicholson.

9 Academy Award nominations, 8 Oscars, including Picture, Guinness for Actor, Lean for Director and for Screenplay. The film was adapted by Carl Forman and Michael Wilson, both blacklisted writers who received no screen credit. The Oscar went to the man who wrote the original book, Pierre Boulle, despite the fact he only wrote and spoke in French. Forman and Wilson received posthumous Oscars in 1984, and actual credit on the film itself years later. Made it to both AFI Top 100 lists, and in my personal top 100. A film buff's must see.

MEAN STREETS and/or A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH (STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN)- Fri Sept 14 at 6 (Mean) and 8:30 (Stairway)- MOMA- A possible double feature, that can be seen either together for one admission or separately. Personally, I think it's enough of an offbeat double feature to want to catch it, though time constraints may tell me otherwise. A Scorsese picture, followed by a film directed by one of Scorsese's inspirations, Michael Powell.

I brought up the Scorsese-Kietel-De Niro collaboration back in the first half of August, so you'll either see it or you won't at this point. But A Matter of Life and Death (also known as Stairway To Heaven), is something you might not be familiar with. A British film released in the U.S. in 1947, stars David Niven as a RAF pilot who miraculously survives a plane crash. He falls in love with Kim Stanley, an American working with the RAF, who he thought would be the last voice he would ever hear. But the only reason he's still alive, is because an angel in Heaven forgot to collect him. The love affair is cut short when an angel finally comes around to get him. But Niven's character demands an appeal, and has to defend his life in Heavenly court.

Director/Writers Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger split the film with a unique color scheme. Earth is depicted in the brightest Technicolor they could use in 1945/46. While all the scenes in Heaven are in stark black and white. I'm guessing the feelings stirred up by this idea, inspired part of Tony Kushner's vision of heaven and angels in Angels in America. And I'm guessing the idea of proving your life's worth in Heaven inspired part of Albert Brooks's Defending Your Life. Throw in Niven being his very proper British self, and you have a good film here. Mix it in Mean Streets, and you have a good double feature. Catch it seperately, and it's still pretty good.

UNFORGIVEN and LORD OF THE FLIES (1963)- Sat Sept 15 at 2 (Unforgiven) and 5 (Flies)- MOMA- A unique double feature. First, Unforgiven. The last Western large numbers of Americans cared about, and in some ways, put the final nail in the genre's coffin. Don't know if the remake of 3:10 To Yuma can change that. And sorry, Tombstone and HBO's Deadwood doesn't cut it for me.

Anyway, if you don't know Clint Eastwood's classic revisionist Western from 1992, then you're not the kind of person who looks at this site. And if you're not into seeing this film, then either you've just seen this recently, you own it at home, you're the kind of person who needs a lot of "action" in your films, or you have your head up your ass with regards to this genre. I can't help you with these issues, I can only push to see it.

9 Academy Award nominations, including Actor for Eastwood and Original Screenplay. 4 Oscars, including Picture and Director for Eastwood and Supporting Actor for Gene Hackman. Chosen for film preservation in 2004, on both AFI Top 100 lists, and in my personal top 25, possibly even higher.

For the same admission, you can see the original Lord of the Flies. Peter Brook's adaptation of William Golding's book. Shot in black and white, but not necessarily black and white in tone. The idea of a kid doing whatever he wants is not unfamiliar to us. Millions ran to see the light version of this story in Home Alone. Consider this a much more bitter pill to swallow.

Using amateur young actors, Brook successfully tells the story of a group of boys, marooned on an island with no adults. They split into 2 tribes, until baser instincts and survival of the fittest prevail. Ignore the 1990 remake, and ignore the CBS reality show variation (wannabe?) Kid Nation, and go for this. Paired with Unforgiven, a strong double feature.

I back all my choices here. Even if its a risk like Cruising. Let me know. Later all.