Friday, September 19, 2008

Sept. revivals: the rest of them

Mike here with the remainder of the September revival list. I couldn't believe I had the chance to catch every film on the last list. That's never happened to me before. Not that I did, mind you. Oliver was so unexpectedly fantastic, it was best to leave after that, then sit through the decent, but as far as I'm concerned, lesser Dickens adaptation in Great Expectations. The Godfather I'll go into later. And then the double feature of Blithe Spirit and Brief Encounters was good. Blithe Spirit was better then I remembered, while Brief Encounter was a little too soap opera for my taste, but still good. While Trevor Howard did a respectable job, he came off a little too earnest. Not as natural as he would be in say, The Third Man, Von Ryan's Express or Father Goose. But at least better then his work in 1981's Windwalker, where he played an Indian chief (Yeah, when I think Indian chief I think TREVOR HOWARD?!?!?!).

Anyway, no trace of soap opera in Celia Johnson's performance. We would probably think of her in the same breath as Streep in this country, if she didn't hate making films and preferred the stage. But at least we have her performance in Brief Encounter. Anyway, here we go:

LAWRENCE OF ARABIA- Sat Sept 20 at 7- Film Forum- Part of the David Lean retrospective. I've seen this before on the Ziegfeld's screen, and the Forum obviously can't compare, screen-wise. But this is one of top 5 all time favorite films. That is TOP 5 all time. Whenever one of my top 5 is available to see, I must post it, no matter if I own it, or how many times I've seen it on screen. The best film on the list; maybe by a little, maybe by a lot, but noticeably better. The intimate moments are treated with as much care and respect as the epic scenes, the script deserves just as much respect as the visuals, and has there been a better leading debut for a star than Peter O'Toole in the title role? Ok, Chaplin and Brando, but I can't think of any better lead debuts in color films.

On both AFI Top 100 lists. 10 Nominations, including Actor for O'Toole, the Screenplay, and Supporting Actor for Omar Sharif (don't get me started on his entrance!). 7 Oscars, including Picture, Score (maybe the best film score ever; not sure, but if you have better choices, let me know), and Director for Lean. If you haven't seen it, the big screen is THE way, there isn't a TV screen big enough to pull this entirely off.

THE GODFATHER PART 2- Sat Sept 20, Sun Sept 21, Thurs Sept 24, and Sat Sept 27 at 8:35- Film Forum- I caught Godfather this past weekend, and the restoration looked, and especially sounded, great. Throw out or ignore the DVDs from early this decade, and go get the new ones that come out in Oct. If you go for this on Netflix, make sure you're renting the 2008 edition, otherwise you'll probably be a little disappointed. The same restoration process has been done to The Godfather Part 2. I remember seeing an old 3 strip Technicolor print at AMMI a few years back. A scratchy print, but the color hues in the Vito Corleone scenes from Ellis Island through Robert de Niro's shooting scene blew me away. Totally different from every other time I've seen it on video or cable. If the quality of that is captured in this restoration, it should rock. It will anyway, but still.

On both AFI Top 100 lists, and in my personal top 35. 11 Oscar nominations, including Actor for Pacino and Supporting Actress for Talia Shire. 6 Oscars, including Picture, Director and Screenplay for Coppola. A Supporting Actor Oscar for De Niro in a career making turn, beating fellow nominated co-stars Lee Strasberg and Michael V. Gazzo. If the above dates don't work, there will be more chances in early October.

THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI- Mon Sept 22 at 1:30 and 4:30- Film Forum- Part of the David Lean retro. The first of the Lean epics. A new 35mm print. Doesn't exactly jive with the real life history in World War 2, but more of a study of madness. The Japanese needs a bridge built. British colonel Nicholson is tortured to force him eventually to lead the prisoners into building the bridge. He agrees to, but is broken down to the point that building the bridge becomes a matter of British pride and strength. Refusing to surrender emotionally, while pushing his own men to the brink to finish construction. Meantime, a burned out American who escaped the POW camp is forced by the Allies into a suicide mission: to go back into the jungle and blow up the bridge.

William Holden was already a name around the world before he turned in a good performance, as a bitter man forced to fulfill his duty. But Alec Guinness became about as big a name, playing the epitome of obsession and madness. 8 Oscar nominations. 7 Oscars, including Picture, Screenplay, Guinness for Actor, Lean for Director, his first. I'm sorry I wasn't able to make it this summer, back when it played at the Holden retro at Lincoln Center. But better late than never.

RYAN'S DAUGHTER- Mon Sept 22 at 7:30- Film Forum- Part of the David Lean retro. A rare screening of a rare Lean flop. Its reputation differs from different people, assuming you know anyone other than me who's even heard of this. Set in World War 1, a bored married Irish woman has an affair with a young English officer. This type of adulterous affair with revolution about to begin, you know something bad will go down. With Sarah Miles in the title role, and actors like Trevor Howard and Leo McKern (Rumpole himself) also in the cast.

Released in 1970, this was not embraced in the era of MASH and Easy Rider. It seemed as though critics like Pauline Kael made it their mission in life to destroy the film and Lean as well. They succeeded in the former and might have succeeded in the later, since Lean worked on very little after that, only completing A Passage To India (which I like, but not enough to put on this list.). I tried to get into on TV, but like Dr. Zhivago, it was difficult to get through on the small screen. I didn't feel Robert Mitchum was miscast as the uptight, quiet husband. He was stretching himself and he did fine.

But I can't help you with the bigger question. Is this too damn slow and old-fashioned? Is this an undiscovered gem, unjustly attacked? A noble failure that is not as bad as 1970 critics said, but not deserving of higher praise? We will have to see for ourselves. A 1980 re-release didn't change matters. Miscasting of the young British officer doesn't help- he had to be dubbed. Recently it's received a reappraisal in Australia, playing in one of its larger houses for 2 years. But that's the only country where this film's fortunes have changed.

4 Oscar nominations, including Sarah Miles for Actress. I'm sorry we don't see much from her on these shores anymore. 2 Oscars, for Cinematography and Supporting Actor for John Mills, who played the village idiot. He's usually sighted as one of the first bits of proof, that the best way to at least get an Oscar nomination, is to play some of retardation. Not entirely accurate, but it's hard to fight a growing myth.

This is the only night and time this plays. Over three hours, plus an overture, intermission, and exit music, so plan ahead before you say yes.

SUMMERTIME- Tues Sept 23 at 7:30 and 9:30- Film Forum- Part of the David Lean retro, and his favorite to shoot. The first film David shot out side the auspices of some British film company, and outside of Britain as well. Adapted from an Arthur Laurents play, and starring the biggest name Lean would ever work with, Katharine Hepburn. She plays a spinster-ish American woman, who's given up on love and tries to have a good time in Venice. She unexpectedly discovers love and becomes a whole new woman, but it isn't to last . . .

Never mind the gorgeous Venice visuals. Lean gets us to feel the love and empathize the way it feels for the first time. And how it feels when it doesn't go right. Oscar nominations for Hepburn for Actress and Lean for Director. I can't believe it's considered a forgotten Lean classic. I mean seriously, most of his black and whites are better remembered than this one? Really? Make up for that and go.

IN THE REALM OF THE SENSES- Sat Sept 27 at Midnight- The Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- Part of the Nagisha Oshima retrospective. A new 35mm print. The kind of film you need to build yourself up for. The kind that one might have to buy tickets for online to insure admittance. If this night and time isn't possible, it will play again in early October. Google and Wicki this for more info, but in the meanwhile, I'll cut and paste what's on the filmlinc website:

The only film invited to the New York Film Festival ever to have been censored (it was stopped by U.S. customs officials but later released and shown after the festival), In the Realm of the Senses has proved so controversial that it’s still effectively banned in Japan. Unhappily, the controversy has made it difficult for people to appreciate what an enormously powerful work of cinema it truly is.

Based on a real incident, the film is set in 1936, when militarism is increasingly taking over every aspect of Japanese life. A hotel maid, Sada Abe, carries on an affair with her employer, Kichizo Ishida. One day, the lovers lock themselves in one of the rooms and push their lovemaking to some new, unknown limit. Oshima captures the startling intensity of the physical contact between his actors, as, gradually, the rest of the world disappears and is replaced by an overwhelming sense of passion.

Oshima had always explored the revolutionary potential of sexuality. Here that theme receives its most sustained, and profound, treatment. Bold, challenging, unforgettable—In the Realm of the Senses is not for the faint-hearted, but not to be missed.

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

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