Wednesday, October 15, 2008

October revivals: second half











Hey, Mike here with a list of what to catch for the remainder of October. Won't be a large list, but whatever.


Attended The Exorcist earlier this month. Damn does this film still work as a scary beast. Takes a while if you expect something slam bang, scare a minute, roller coaster action. But a classic of the genre nevertheless. I'd love to see it on the big screen without comment from time to time, because that's not what I got. I caught this at Chelsea Clearview with their Thursday night intros and part time commentary from Hedda Lettuce. Not that it wasn't funny at times, and I would go back. In fact, two of their October films are on this list, and two Mel Brooks films will be posted when November rolls around.


It's just that I would have liked to have seen this without any commentary, but oh well. Most of the film was played without it. Just a few moments, and that was fine. The most memorable line: when Max von Sydow, just before the exorcism began, warned Jason Miller that the Devil occasionally mixes in the truth in his lies, Hedda chimed in "Oh, just like Sarah Palin". Biggest laugh of the night, and that was saying something. Yeah, you get the idea that Hockey Moms don't play well in Chelsea, what a shock. Anyway, here we go:




PSYCHO (1960)- Thurs Oct 16- at 7 and 9:30 for 7.50- Chelsea Clearview Cinema- A cheap screening of the Hitchcock classic. Familiar to many, but I'm telling you, it's a completely different beast on the big screen as opposed to TV. You're not spending time in your living room, check marking all the familiar aspects of the story. This story sucks you in, lulls you into thinking one way, and then turns it around. You know all this, you wouldn't be looking at this list if you've never heard of Psycho. But this tightly edited story draws you despite what you know. And if you've somehow NEVER seen it, oh boy I'd like to see this with you.


And despite being an unplanned landmark in the horror genre, slasher sub-section, I would argue that this plays more like a suspense thriller then a horror pic. So those that have problems with horror flicks, should be ok with this. Interesting to watch acting-wise, as well. John Gavin's boyfriend performance hasn't aged too well, and Vera Miles's isn't bad, but definitely more then a little annoying. Not as shrill as Julianne Moore's in the remake, but still. Martin Balsam continued his reliable character actor work here, as a more believable ex-cop then Bill Macy in the remake.


There is a reason why this is Janet Leigh's most memorable performance, and it's not because of the shower scene. Go ahead, name another memorable performance of hers. Oops, Touch of Evil, not quite. Being part of the memorable opening scene doesn't qualify as a performance. And Manchurian Candidate doesn't count either. Being the red herring of a story's plot, eh, whatever. Despite Hitchcock's feeling about actor being cattle, Leigh gets to play a truly conflicted person. Decent, wanting more out of life, caught up in temptation, then over her head looking for a way out, which is about when she pulls into the Bates Motel.


But Anthony Perkins' performance feels modern today. Creepy, alive, desperate to open up, yet jittery within his own skin, and with just a little anger threatening to bubble up. Ole' Hitch may not have understood what Perkins was bringing to the table, but Alfred was patient enough to give him free rein. Thanks to the success of this, Tony could never be free of the typecasting.


Oscar nominations for Leigh (her only one), Hitch for Director (his last nomination),

Cinematography and Art Direction. On both AFI Top 100 lists and in my personal top 100. Catch this.



THE SHINING- Fri Oct 17 at midnight- IFC Film Center- This Kubrick film plays again. This time as the start of a series of horror films from the 1980s. More expensive and in a different neighborhood then Chelsea, but also a more comfortable theater. That is all.



THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK- Thurs Oct 23- at 7 and 9:30 for 7.50- Chelsea Clearview Cinema- A cheap screening of one of the summer hits of 87. This film is here purely on affection, not because of highest quality. I've always had fun watching this film, but I won't pretend it was one of the best to come out that year. Supposedly one of the worst book to film adaptations ever; a passing resemblance to John Updike's novel at best. Strange that it seems to be the most successful of all attempts at adapting Updike's story. 2 TV pilot attempts and an award winning musical considered not something enough to bring from the West End to Broadway are the failures. Whether they tried to copy the film, or the book, or tried to do both, who knows. The two points are: you probably know this film and you probably have some kind of smile when you think about it, and you probably never heard of any other non-book version until now. Ok, maybe some of you have heard about The Witches of Breastwick 1 and 2, but enough about soft core films . . .


3 lonely women in a New England town try to conjure up the perfect man for each of them, and end up having the Devil trying to seduce them. Simple enough, and not a lot of need to go further.Cher, Susan Sarandon and Michelle Pfieiffer play the title roles. None of them were at career peaks at this point, but their leading role careers received a major bump here. A most difficult film to shoot. Warner Bros. executives and co-producer Jon Peters browbeat and/or fought director George Miller (in his first Hollywood film after years of Mad Max pictures), to the point that he hasn't worked with many actors ever since. Yes, he made films, but they were the Babe pictures, and Happy Feet; not a lot of Hollywood interference there. Peters was working on this with his partner Peter Guber, but was forced to work directly on Witches, because Spielberg supposedly had him banned from the set of Innerspace. See, they were shooting both films had the same time. Wait I've digressed . . .


One studio executive pushed Cher to the point that she would have punched the exec., if Sarandon hadn't restrained her. Susan had to tell Cher it wouldn't be good to punch out an eight months pregnant woman, no matter what she said! Cher I guess repaid Sarandon by wanting Susan's role, and eventually got it. Susan wasn't told that she was now playing Cher's old role, until they all arrived on location to begin shooting!!! Then Susan nearly gets killed on a stunt that went almost wrong. Not sure if it was near electrocution or falling on a wire gone wrong, but I'll look that up another day. The studio itself wasn't happy with the original ending, and forced shooting of several different endings, until they found one they could stomach.


Jack Nicholson nearly quit twice. Once, when Peters went too far with his rantings at the same meeting where Cher nearly punched out a pregnant Warners exec. A second time, when Peters tried to fire Miller. Jack was pretty much, if he goes, I go, similar to Brando in Superman 2. And it's a good thing for us he didn't. Jack makes this film. Now granted, if some of you feel that The Shining is an example of Jack overacting to the detriment to a film (I disagree), then Eastwick would be an example of barreling through a film, chewing up the scenery, the lights, the props and possibly an actor or two.


But then, how would you play a horny little devil? The film will probably be only a minor blip in a Jack retrospective, but a memorable comic villain he is here. Light, sensitive at some turns, mixing the truth into the lies, like in The Exorcist. It's possible to be truly caring, and not minding to cause pain and suffering at the same time. Mix in an underrated John Williams score (Oscar nominated), and it's fun. That's all, nothing more, and for a cheap price too.



CREEPSHOW- Fri Oct 24 at Midnight- Continuing the 1980s Horror Film retrospective. An anthology combining the talents of writer Stephen King and director George A. Romero. A mixture of original work of King, as well as Stephen adapting 2 of his short stories, almost in the style of an old E.C. horror comic. Mostly done tongue and cheek: like Hal Holbrook dreaming of killing shrill wife Adrienne Barbeau with the help of a monster in a box, or Leslie Nielsen's idea of water torture of a young Ted Danson, and Danson's payback. But this style doesn't undercut any possible creepiness or grossness: like when E.G. Marshall plays a clean freak with a roach problem, or when King himself plays a redneck type who suffers a brutal, personal greenhouse effect. A young Ed Harris, who got one of his early film leads from Romero in Knightriders, is also featured.


A surprise hit in the fall of 1982. No doubt aided in Forest Hills by the fact that someone at the Midway movie theater came up with the bright idea of showing the Creepshow trailer during screenings of E.T.!!! My mother was NOT amused, though my father was. A forgotten horror flick that deserves renewed attention.



LOLA MONTES- Fri Oct 24, Mon Oct 27 and Tues Oct 28- at 7:45 and 10- Film Forum- A new 35mm print. A restored version that was supposedly a hit that this year's Cannes Film Festival, and played at this year's New York Film Festival. Now is this film any good? I have no idea. Originally released in France in 1955, but butchered by producers and/or distributors to the point that you'd think they didn't want to make money off of Max Ophuls' last film. Restored in terms of picture back in 1969, and then restored even further in picture quality for release this year. The original sound mix was also finally restored, and cleaned up.


But again, is this film any good? I don't know. There's not a lot of call to screen Max Ophuls films on cable, so especially one that was the most expensive film in France at that time that flopped at the box office and had mixed reviews of its re-edited form. Ebert says to basically look at this as something shot in the story telling style of Citizen Kane, where in the circus, ringmaster Peter Ustinov tells her story in flashback. Each section of her life told in a different color scheme; from Lola as a girl/young woman in the circus, and affairs with men as varied as Franz Listz and the King of Bavaria. Stars Martine Carol in the title role. No, she hadn't done anything that made an impact on this side of the ocean, with the possible exception of this flick. She was a major sex symbol in France, but the combination of possibly lousy career choices/options, having the audacity to turn 35, an unhappy personal life, and the coming of Bardot, makes this Carol's last role of note. Is she any good? No idea.


From what I read, and seeing the new trailer, every penny is up on that screen, and the restoration seems to have been done with great care. This picture seems built to test a film viewing belief, that if you give me enough interesting visuals and music, I can overlook a lot acting and/or script flaws. This feels like Lola Montes might replace, say, the first Star Trek film, as my go-to example of this.


Maybe being Andrew Sarris' favorite/greatest film of all time might be a good thing. Then again, maybe not. He took a reputation beating when he made that proclamation with Lola Montes. Years later, he changed his mind and gave that designation to The Earrings of Madame De . . . Now I liked The Earrings quite a bit, but best film of all time? Ahhhhhhh, no. So I'm a little leery, but game to try it.



NOSFERATU THE VAMPIRE- Wed Oct 29 and Thurs Oct 30- Times TBA- IFC Film Center- If it's autumn, it must be time for me to post a Werner Herzog-Klaus Kinski film. Here we have the highly atmospheric version of the Dracula story. Only here we have our wacky buddy Klaus, playing the Count more like the Max Shrek silent version (predatory, inhuman, unromantic). This sticks closer to the Bram Stoker original, like what was written above about the Count, as well as avoiding to make any attempt to make Van Helsing or Jonathan Harker (Bruno Ganz- Hitler from Downfall, 24 years earlier) heroic. Shot in Europe, unlike most big budget Dracula stories, include Dracula's castle shot in and around an actual German castle. With Isabelle Adjani as a gorgeous Lucy Harker.


Times have not been listed at this time on the IFC Film Center website. There might be some Midnight screenings listed, but there will be some regular day and evening screenings as well. Will either end its run on Tues Nov 4, Tues Nov 11, or Thurs Nov 13. Also have no idea if this is the 1 hr, 50+ min German version, or the 96 min English version. I'd like to catch this either way.




Whatever I can catch would be great. I don't have an order of preference. Let me know. Later all.



P.S.: No one pressured me to praise the screenings at Chelsea Clearview with Hedda Lettuce. When I became one of the winners of a drawing, they didn't and don't know I write about stuff like this. Then again, 99.9999% of New York, doesn't know about this, but anyway. The point is, a copy of Life and Style magazine, a pass for 2 for something called Peep Show Male ("To see how the other half lives" Hedda told me), and a DVD of Nim's Island, doesn't constitute a bribe.


P.P.S.: I forget where exactly I go the info about the lousy meeting regarding Witches of Eastwick. Either I got it from the book The Devil's Candy by Julie Salmon (my favorite Hollywood book, about the disastrous making of Bonfire of the Vanities), or from Hit & Run by Nancy Griffin & Kim Masters (about producers Jon Peters and Peter Guber), or from both. I don't remember where exactly, so I'll credit both just in case.

1 comment:

Dave said...

Mike,

I think yoiu should use tha tfree pass and see PEEP SHOW MALE. It is a great, new musical comedy playing ot sold-out houses. You'll love it!