Wednesday, June 18, 2008

June revivals: second half

Hey all. Mike here with what to catch in early June. A more eclectic collection than usual. but before that, I went to MOMA on Friday to catch Breathless. Whoever thought that many people would go to see the Richard Gere remake as opposed to the French original, is the very definition of being cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. Anyway, now I knew that on Friday's after 5pm, the museum is free to the public. But I didn't know the films were as well. Boy am I pleasantly surprised. When they come up with something interesting I'll post it. Sorry that I don't consider Todd Haynes' Poison to be one of them. Anyway, here we go:

Charlie Chaplin's MONSIEUR VERDOUX- Wed June 18 and Thurs June 19 at 7 and 9:30- Film Forum- A new 35mm print of a long forgotten Charlie Chaplin comedy. The blackest he ever made. No Little Tramp business here, as he plays a dapper looking man who, after the stock market crash of '29, supports his family by marrying, then killing other women. Exactly the kind of film post WW 2 film audiences were demanding to see . . . Before the film came out, Charlie had the kind of negative publicity that Britney and Lindsey would think there but for the grace of God go us, or whatever their equivalent would be. But being an actual artist with a point of view (along with a strong sexual appetite that leaned toward much younger women to put it kind), seemed to make Chaplin more of a danger. Imagine the way critics have sharpened the knives, ready to rip into M. Night's films now. Then imagine some of these critics feeling they must defend the masses against whatever political statement Chaplin would make with this film. Then consider the only media around are in newspapers, magazines and radio, thus giving these critics some more sway. Throw in other reporters more interested in asking Chaplin about allegedly sleeping with underage girls or being condemned by members of Congress then the film's content.

Monsieur Verdoux was DOA. A major financial flop that was pulled after a month or some. Not everyone hated it. The Times back then gave it a very good review. It was named Best Film by National Board of Review, and Chaplin himself received an Oscar nomination for the Screenplay. A 1964 re-release gave the film some much needed respectability and even an audience. I guess those dealing with the Cold War felt the film to be quite fresh. But except for the rare TV screen, it's been out of sight, out of mind. Now's the time for major re-evaluation.

SPELLBOUND or JAWS- Fri June 20 at 6 for both- MOMA- First come, first served with both these films. You can't do both on this day, you can only get into one. Spellbound is Hitchcock's romantic mystery/thriller. Ingrid Bergman is a psychiatrist who tries to help amnesiac patient Gregory Peck, who thinks he might have killed someone. Of course they fall in love . . . Oscar nominations for Picture, Hitchcock for Director, Michael Chekov (as Bergman's mentor) for Supporting Actor, Cinematography, and Special Effects. An Oscar for the score. It's playing at MOMA as part of a retrospective of Salvador Dali's work. He designed the dream sequence. Fans of his work tend to enjoy this more than the rest of the film. It's not in my top 5 of Hitchcock, but I like it, and wouldn't mind seeing it, especially for free.

Jaws is also playing for free, subject to availability. I talked about it when it played at the Ziegfeld. If you didn't catch this there before and you DON'T take advantage of this, then you're hopeless, or out of town. Though probably both.

BONJOUR TRISTESSE- Wed June 25 at 6 and Thurs June 26 at 8:30- MOMA- An Otto Preminger film I've never seen. David Niven and Jean Seberg play play self-interested father and daughter who vacation on the French Riviera with his girlfriend. An Oedipus attachment develops between parent and daughter, but things get worse when old girlfriend Deborah Kerr comes to visit. Very curious and wouldn't mind trying it.

CLUE- Fri June 27 and Sat June 28 at Midnight- Landmark Sunshine Cinema- The 1985 comedy gets another midnight screening. This has a major cult following in L.A. In NYC, not so much. I don't know why I like the film so much. It has a good begginning, an extremely mixed middle and endings of varying quality. But I like it, no rational reason why. I'd like to catch this, unless you prefer your midnight films darker, in which case, there's always . . .

MAD MAX- Fri June 27 and Sat June 28 at Midnight- IFC Film Center- The 70s Sci-fi retrospective ends with the film that made Mel Gibson an international star and put director George Miller into the big leagues. Note I said international and not U.S. Before films like Titanic and the Lord of the Rings series came along, you see the list of what was the highest grossing films in any country outside of North America, and chances are Star Wars, Mad Max and E.T. were in the top 4. But in America back in 1980 (it was released in most countries in 1979), it came out in a heavily dubbed form. Apparently there was no belief that we could understand all these Australian dialects. And to see this little film as opposed to say, Empire Strikes Back for the second or third time? Forget it. Several re-releases, including one a year after The Road Warrior's success, made no dent here.

One part post-apocalyptic film and one part Death Wish. Not as much action as you might think or remember, but still pretty good on a low budget. Apparently most of Australia can pass for a post- WW3 environment, and director Miller does a lot with a little. And Gibson practically screams Movie Star here. And it's only 93 minutes; helpful for a midnight screening.

YOJIMBO- Sat June 28 at 1, 7:10 and 9:40- Film Forum- Part of the Tatsuya Nakadai retrspective. The only one I have the guts to post at the moment- I've caught High and Low at the Forum and I'm in no hurry to catch it again. Among my favorites. Leone would later rip this off to make A Fistful But for the rest of this Mifune-Kurosawa, I'm cutting and pasting something from a another website that described this. It could have been Film Forum, it could have been AMMI. I don't remember, it was over 2 years ago and I'm tired:

"You can't get ahead in this world unless folks think you're both a cheat and a killer." Met at the entrance to a seemingly deserted village by a stray mutt sauntering past with a severed hand in his jaws, grubby wandering and unemployed samurai Toshiro Mifune, after a suitable double take, realizes a skilled yojimbo (bodyguard) could rake in a few ryo in this town. And after checking out the sake merchant's thugs squaring off against the silk merchant's goon squad, twice as much, if he hires out to both sides. Venice Festival acting prize to Mifune, with Tatsuya Nakadai as the pistol-waving killer."

I would have posted Bride of Frankenstien at Bryant Park for free on Monday June 23, but due to the fire at Universal Studios, I don't know if the print scheduled to come here survived the fire. If it didn't, I don't know if they'll get another print up in time. Either way, there are other choices so I push them instead. Let me know. Later all.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

June revivals: first half

Hey all. Mike here with what to catch in early June. A more eclectic collection than usual. Here we go:

THE PAWNBROKER- Fri June 6 at 6- MOMA- I brought this up back in February during the Film Forum's Sidney Lumet retrospective. It plays again at MOMA. If you haven't seen this well-acted drama starring an Oscar nominated Rod Stieger, now's your chance. Not a happy film, but a good one.

THE PRESIDENT'S ANALYST- Sat June 7, Mon June 9 and Thurs June 13 at 7:30 and 9:40- Film Forum- A mostly forgotten film from 1967 in a new 35mm scope print. One of a number of the inspirations for Austin Powers, yet probably the only American one. It tries to both emulate and mock James Bond films as well. And I'll give the Village Voice credit; the final 10-15 minutes seems to have inspired at least sections of The Matrix trilogy.

James Coburn plays the title role. The stress of this job causes him to have his own breakdown and his own paranoia. Justified, since once he escapes, The FBI and CIA want to kill him, and the KGB and other foreign groups want what he knows. But that's nothing compared to the most powerful group of them all. One who, for those who haven't seen this, I dare not spoil. Though today, one can imagine Microsoft plotting like the film's master group.

A very pointed satire for its day. Attacks on the counter-culture, liberalism, gun control and the civil rights movement are just the tip of the iceberg. Pointed about the fear of citizens being spied on, and their willingness to spy on others. Something that will probably mean more to us now then the audience back then. Pointed enough that the FBI and CIA demanded not to be named in the film. Their names were dubbed over. So pointed that the name of the big evil world-controlling company was removed by NBC on their TV broadcasts, in fear of retaliation. And since most of the technology needed to carry out their evil plan is no longer science fiction, but science fact, oh boy.

From writer/director Theodore J. Flicker; this was his chance to make a big statement on film after years of TV directing (The Andy Griffith Show, I Dream Of Jeannie, The Man From U.N.C.L.E.). After the film's failure (it appealed to the young, but after its big opening weekend, why did Paramount pull it from most of its screens?), it was back to TV for Teddy. He never made another theatrical film, but he did co-create Barney Miller, so it's not a loss for us. I assume most of you don't know this film, but the Forum was good enough to pull this out of cultural mothballs, so I strongly urge you to take advantage.

ZARDOZ- Sat June 7 at Midnight- IFC Film Center- Part of IFC film center's 70s Sci-Fi retrospective. They seem to all be screened upstairs, in a screening room that has quality sound and is kind of small and round. In the lobby, they've got some impressive posters from different countries that would fit this retrospective. It makes me wish that films like Westworld, Logan's Run, even Rollerball, were scheduled to play alongside Mad Max and Sleeper. Right now, they're not. A shame.

Now as for Zardoz. One of my favorite What The Fuck kind of films. I admire its audacity, and I can't believe that anyone in Britain or at Fox thought people would pay to see this in droves. I like that director John Boorman really tried to go out there, but in his most recent DVD commentary about Zardoz, even he can't figure out What The Fuck is happening, or why he chose to do certain scenes the way he did.

I'll attempt the Cliff Notes version here. In post-apocalyptic Britain, Sean Connery plays the leader of a group of tough guys, who stumbles on a highly advanced, Utopian village. It comprises of three types of people: youngish Brits with hot bodies bright minds and snooty attitudes, youngish Brits whose brains don't seem to be working, and babbling old people. Throw in a God named Zardoz, and there's a mystery to be solved. Though why Connery is forced to do this in a long black wig, Fu Manchu-esque mustache and shiny red diaper, I have no idea. I'm serious, it looks like Sean spends more than half the film in a shiny red diaper. With Charlotte Rampling, who's smoking here.

There are parts of the film that I don't want to spoil. There are parts of the film where I think "YOU GOTTA BE SHITTING ME!!!!". Though the ending is cool. You'll either admire it, hate it with a passion, or laugh at it. Don't worry, I've done all three. Let the film experimentation begin.

BREATHLESS (1959)- Fri June 13 at 6- MOMA- I brought this film up back in April during the Film Forum's Goddard retrospective. The only one I was willing to watch, especially after seeing the pretentious Contempt on TCM. For those who haven't seen it, you get a second chance.

2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY- Fri June 13 at Midnight- Landmark Sunshine Cinema- Some of you looking at this have done this film before, and in some cases, more than once. But every time one of my all time top 5 films is shown on a decent screen with at least good sound, I will bring it up. Throw in the odd chance that someone I know has never seen it except on TV and might be curious to experience this classic as it should be . . . I'd feel guilty not bringing this up. This film is ageless despite the title, timeless, and it's still possible to discover something new about it as one gets older. And those who've only seen this on TV; to paraphrase and change Larry Miller's joke to fit here, seeing 2001 on the big screen as opposed to TV, is the difference between shooting a bullet and throwing it.

DR. NO- Mon June 17 at dusk for free at Bryant Park- Park opens at 5- The free films at Bryant Park kicks off with the first Sean Connery Bond film. A bit of a surprising choice to me. I might not have felt that way if I hadn't caught it at the Forum in April. Portions play a bit slow, and the dialogue on the island didn't play well, especially for those of us who saw Goldfinger just before. Now that I think of it, I believe Goldfinger or From Russia With Love would be better films in general, and better crowd pleasers in particular. Must be some kind of rights problem, unles both are over two hours long. The dialogue scenes on the island have not aged well at all.

Still, the fight scenes will appeal in the Park, and when Connery starts acting all cool, or when Ursula Andress rises out of the sea, it should still be fun.

As long as one makes the attempt to catch The President's Analyst, anything else is a bonus as far as I'm concerned. Later all.