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.

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