Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Revivals: the next few weeks.

Mike here, with posting number 100! Wow, didn't think I'd stick with it this long. I'm back with a revival list of what to see over the next two plus weeks. Instead of the usual longish list, I've narrowed it down to what I truly want to catch. And I think catching 3 out of these 4 films is entirely doable. And if we can get to all four? Well, let me list them first. Here we go:

LEON MORIN, PRIEST- Thurs Apr 23 at 7:45 and 10- Film Forum- A new 35mm print. A reminder to catch Melville's WW 2 drama. Go back to what I posted last time, such as it was, because I'm not writing any further. Moving on.

CATCH-22- Mon April 27 and Thurs April 30 at 8- MOMA- Part of the Mike Nichols retrospective. This is what director Nichols and screenwriter Buck Henry cashed their "golden ticket" on, after the mega-success of The Graduate: a big screen studio adaptation of Joseph Heller's classic book.

Beset with production problems (problems with the script, artistic differences that forced recasting, the film going over-budget due to the cost of building a realistic base with mostly working flying bombers) and inevitable comparisons with the book, you might think this was doomed to failure. Despite changes from stage to screen, Heller gave the film thumbs up. And it did find approval from the New York Times type of critics (intellectual types?). But among war films, it was neither as funny nor as successful in capturing the cultural zeitgeist as MASH, nor as embraceable as Patton, and even failed as far as most audiences were concerned in comparison to the Clint Eastwood WW2 action comedy Kelly's Heroes. It wasn't even as popular at that time as The Out-Of-Towners starring Jack Lemmon, who desperately wanted to star in Catch-22 (just not Nichols and Henry's vision of it). That Catch-22 didn't try to be any of these things was apparently irrelevant. It wasn't a financial disaster like say Ishtar, but it was a financial flop and has been mostly dismissed. Maybe the Watchmen of its day, perhaps.

Captain Yossarian is trying to get out of flying more bombing missions during the later half of World War 2. But his superiors just keep raising the number of missions he has to fly before he can be discharged. Figuring he'll never live to see the end of the war, he tries to get out through insanity. But he can't because of Catch-22: basically, if one realizes it's crazy to fly suicide missions and you ask to get out of them, that means you're sane, therefore, you will fly any and all suicide missions. That doesn't stop Yossarian from trying to get out via feigning insanity. He finds Catch-22 doesn't officially exist, but the more people invoke it, the more power it has on all aspects of his life, therefore it exists. Or in simpler terms, Yossarian fights the power, but the power seems stronger than him, and us.
Sounds like fun, doesn't it? Then throw in following a similar non-linear structure as the book, of going back and forth in time, and oh boy. We're ok with that now, with films like Pulp Fiction, Memento and Watchmen, and shows like Lost and Heroes. But back then, apparently not. Tackling what makes a hero, what makes one truly sane, while attacking corrupt power, the idea that everyone dies, among other ideas: oh joy. Throw in the idea that our young Americans in the WW 2 setting should worry more about their own superiors then the enemy, not cool (but we're ok with that today in 24). Now throw into the mix that the audience should think of the still-raging Vietnam War while watching this, no wonder most audiences rejected this.

Strong cast, and I mean strong. Alan Arkin as Yossarian; some fans of the book felt a younger actor should have been cast, but Arkin works the struggle to maintain sanity in an insane environment well. Anthony Perkins as the chaplin. Jon Voight as Milo Mindbender, who will have the Americans make a profit on this war no matter what. Martin Balsam and Buck Henry himself as the COs. Bob Newhart as Major Major. Orson Welles as the insane general. Orson tried to direct this himself, but no go. Plus Martin Sheen, Art Garfunkle, Jack Gilford, Richard Benjamin, Paula Prentiss, Charles Grodin, Norman Fell, Austin Pendleton and Bob Balaban.

Catch-22 is something you might think of afterwards either as an unknown success, or as a noble failure. I can't help you decide which; I can only recommend you to try to catch it yourself.

Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN- Thurs April 30 at 9:30 for 7.50- Chelsea Clearview Cinema- A cheap screening of this art house hit from 2002. From director Alfonso Curaon. Sort of a career reboot for himself, after the English language films A Little Princess and Great Expectations drew no audiences, and before he directed the third Harry Potter film and Children of Men. Co-written with his brother Carols, this is kind of like Summer of 1942, where two young men experience a life and sexual awakening with an older woman. Combined with aspects of the road film, but less fairy tale-like than Summer of 1942. Those who don't follow Spanish-speaking cinema may not know Maribel Verdu except for Pan's Labyrinth, but this combined with Amores Perros served as a good introduction for us to Gael Garcia Bernal. Also, a good introduction for us to Diego Luna, in one of his earliest adult roles, years before Milk. Both Cuaron brothers received an Oscar nomination for their Screenplay.Unless I watch Catch-22 that night instead, I'd be glad to watch this at a cheap price.

EASY RIDER- Fri May 1, Sat May 2, Wed May 6 and Thurs May 7 at 5:40, 7:50 and 9:50- Film Forum- A new 35mm restored print of the Dennis Hopper- Peter Fonda classic. Oscar nominations to the screenplay for Hopper, Fonda & Terry Southern, and to Jack Nicholson for Supporting Actor. In fact, this film took Jack out of Roger Corman films and guest appearances on The Andy Griffith Show, and put him on the A list forever. Now as for anything else about Easy Rider, I'll keep myself from screwing up now. Instead, thanks to imdb, I'll quote from a recent film article from Britain's Total Film magazine and website. Written last month by Chris Hicks, he listed Easy Rider as one of the most influential films ever made. I've cut and pasted the highlights. It may not be the best, but it's simple and that's all I'm asking right now:

Influential, how? The movie brats come of age.

Hippies, LSD, motorbikes: Easy Rider is a cultural landmark. The defining movie of the ’60s. Connecting with the long-haired kids (and earning millions for its trouble), Hopper and Fonda's crotch rocket-fetishing classic ushered in New Hollywood by breathing hip life into the square studio system.“You guys are finished,” Hopper ranted at Oscar-winner George Cukor. “We are in now... It’s our time.”
Money shot: Fonda and Hopper dropping acid in a New Orleans cemetery.

The other part about Easy Rider I will cut and paste is from the Forum's website about the restoration:

According to Grover Crisp (Senior Vice President, Film Restoration) Sony Pictures initially restored Easy Rider in 1999 through a complicated mixture of photochemical techniques and old digital technologies; however, there were many other issues that couldn’t be fully addressed at the time. For this new restoration, Sony began with a 4K scan of the best surviving 35mm film elements; following an extensive digital restoration, with the repair of all torn frames and scratches and the removal of all dirt from the image, a brand new 35mm negative was created, from which new 35mm prints have been struck.

This particular list, I want to catch as much as possible. Let me know ASAP. Later all.

P.S.: Here's a link to the film article from Chris Hicks that I mentioned before. Some films I never heard of, some I've never seen, and more then a few I've posted on lists in the past, as well as future postings, like Dr. Strangelove and Rashomon. Here it is:

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