Thursday, April 16, 2009

More April revivals

Mike here with more April revivals. Can't list the entire month due to time constraints, but I'll post a few right now. Here we go:

LEON MORIN, PRIEST- Fri Apr 17- Thurs Apr 23 at 7:45 and 10- Film Forum- A new 35mm print. I've written in the past how new I am to the works of French director Jean-Pierre Melville. But after my introduction to Army of Shadows, I've tried to go see more on the big screen whenever I could. So far, it's resulted in my enjoying Le Doulos and Le Cercle Rouge. Now, here's another one. I know nothing about, but it's Melville, so I'm going. Don't know when, which is why I list 7 days and late afternoon and evening times. For the rest, I'll have to cut and paste from the Forum's website:

(1961) “Religion is the opiate of the people,” begins the confession of Communist widow Emmanuelle Riva (Hiroshima, mon amour), provocative just to get some fun in the drab little village where she‘s been relocated during the Occupation. But when her confessor dryly replies “Pas exactement,” she begins a seemingly inexorable turn towards God — or is towards her handsome confessor, Père Jean-Paul Belmondo (in “an erotically charged performance” – BFI)? Fed up with being “an auteur maudit known only to a handful of crazy film buffs,” Jewish atheist Jean-Pierre Melville accepted an offer of real stars and an actual budget to adapt Beatrix Beck’s autobiographical novel, a book he already considered “the most accurate picture I have read of life under the Occupation,” then had to talk an initially reluctant Belmondo — hot from his star-making role in Breathless (in which Melville cameoed) — into taking the title role. Melville created a kind of fresco of the Occupation — play-it-safe baptisms of Communist and Jewish children; awakenings in the night by the sounds of shooting; parades of Alpine-hatted Italian Bersaglieri and marching band Nazis; arguments with pro-Petain and anti-Semitic co-workers; a Jewish colleague getting a shave, name change, and a ticket out; platonic same-sex crushes in a man-less world — but its center is Riva’s confusing, fascinating, tantalizing encounter with God and his servant Belmondo (successfully intellectual, sincere, and ultimately enigmatic in a definitely change-of-pace role), their mutual underplaying making even theological discussions subtly throbbing with emotional undertones. Shot by the great Henri Decaë (The 400 Blows, Elevator to the Gallows, Bob Le Flambeur). b&w; Approx. 115 minutes

WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF- Sat April 18 at 2 and Sun April 19 at 5:30- MOMA- Part of the Mike Nichols retrospective. Among the best of the stage-to-screen transfers ever. I've been waiting a long time for this to play in a revival house. Hell of a first film for director Nichols. Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor (heavier and made up to look far older and tired in a successful attempt to de-glamorize) are George and Martha; bitter middle-aged alcoholics, who in order to keep any semblance of interest in their marriage, tear into each other and the young couple (George Segal, Sandy Dennis) who come to their little party. As the film goes on, the head games get more cruel and vindictive.

Not necessarily a happy film, but with Albee's words, a joy to behold. No matter the attempts to open up the film, the house still feels like a steel cage. Now the attempts to open the film, in particular the diner, doesn't hold as well, but everything else does. Some modern audiences might consider the acting as over the top at times, but I would disagree. I have a weakness/high tolerance to some excess, but it fits the piece.

13 Oscar nominations. Oscars for Taylor for Actress, Dennis for Supporting, Art Direction Costume and Cinematography for a black and white film. Nominations include for Picture, Burton for Actor, Segal for Supporting Actor, Nichols for Director, Editing, and Alex North's very good score. I hope the overture and closing music are played here. Also nominated was Ernest Lehman for his screenplay, despite the fact that the actors hated his version so much, they and Nichols went behind his back and replaced all but 2 lines back to Albee's original.
For me, best film of 1966. Excuse me if I'm not agreeing with the Academy with their choice of A Man For All Seasons. I want to go. let me repeat. I. Want. To. Go.

WORKING GIRL and/or WIT- Sat April 25 at 2 (Girl) and 5 (Wit)- MOMA- Part of the Mike Nichols retro . A pair of "chick" flicks. I put that in quotes because both, if you don't pay attention, fit the label. But the stories and the storytelling rises above the typical cliches.

First, Working Girl. I mean, yeah, the same story was told about a year earlier in the Michael J. Fox film, The Secret of My Success, but this has better dialogue, is more savvier politically, has better direction, a stronger cast, and had Fox pushing it as Oscar bait. Important in terms of inspirational women flicks without having the lead portrayed as either saint, know-it-all, or impervious to pain and heartache.

Melanie Griffith plays a woman either only looked at for sex by men, or as less intelligent based on her unprofessional hair and clothes (this late 80s NOO-YAWK look should get big laughs in the theater at some point.). She goes for a change after being cheated on by slime ball Alec Baldwin, and having her ideas stolen by wolf-in-sheep's-clothing boss Sigourney Weaver. Now not every woman who makes this change ends up with better prospects and Harrison Ford (in a great change of pace, especially in the 80s) for a boyfriend. But it struck enough of a social chord to go from a sleeper to one of the major hits of 1988.

That Griffin was and the crew was able to get through this film is a minor miracle. At the start of shooting, Griffin was still an active alcoholic, according to Julie Salmon's The Devil's Candy, and was almost fired by Nichols. When she gave up drinking, I don't if what she had was the DTs, but she was in jittery shape. Of course her first scene in that state was when she nervously tries to deal with Ford's character the first day they meet in the office building. Yes, I know it wasn't their first scene, shut up. She would also bloat up as well. Cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond, looking for Griffin shot here, for the-then upcoming Bonfire of the Vanities, felt long lenses were used to keep Griffin's bloat from too obvious. So in a way, Melanie, like her character, always had problems and dickheads to deal with. Now her career wouldn't last too much longer, thanks to mostly bad career choices, including the aforementioned Bonfire, and mostly bad plastic surgery. But she, and we, will always have her performance in Working Girl.

Oscar nominations for Picture, Griffin for Actress, Weaver and Joan Cusack for Supporting Actress, and Nichols for Director. The omission for Screenplay is something you might consider a surprise, but I wouldn't have nominated over the scripts for Big, Fish Called Wanda, Bull Durham, Running On Empty or the winner, Rain Man. When Weaver lost to Geena Davis in The Accidental Tourist, it was and is considered one of Oscar's biggest upsets. I'm indifferent, it's not like I bet on it. An Oscar for Carly Simon's song "Let The River Run".

Also, a cast that includes Olympia Dukakis, Oliver Platt, Philip Bosco, Nora Dunn, Rikki Lake, David Duchovny, and Kevin Spacey, who had to learn his part on the car ride over when the previous actor quit without notice. A note if you go and if you haven't seen this for a while, the film starts with a tremendous helicopter shot of the Twin Towers, so know that so you're not taken by surprise.

Next, Wit. An adaptation of Margaret Edson's award winning play that first aired on HBO in 2001. Emma Thompson (who adapted the play with Nichols) plays an English professor, forced to deal mostly alone with terminal ovarian cancer, and the lack of care and respect from most of her health care providers. This film has been/probably still is used, to show students of whatever health care career they're studying, NOT to behave. Though based on a number of imdb posts, that may not be working. In some cases, Thompson's death scene is a great time to start texting! Boy does it suck to get sick in this country . . . Heartbreaking film with a strong performance from Thompson.

If I had the time, I would post one of my favorites, The Graduate. But I can't go out of my way to make special time for this, so I won't. Go to the MOMA website for details.

Will try to post the first few days in May along with the remainder of the month. Let me know about what's up here now. Later all.

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