Wednesday, May 20, 2009

May revivals: second half

Hey all. Mike here with what to see for the rest of May. No time to waste so here we go (don't mind the conflicts, things will sort themselves out):

THE WAGES OF FEAR- Sat May 23 and Sun May 24 at 11am- IFC Film Center- From the director of Diabolique. 4 desperate macho men will get the reward of a ticket out of the hellhole, piss-poor little South American village they're all stuck in. That is, if they're willing to drive trucks filled with nitroglycerin over mountain sides and through jungles, in order to put out a fire at an oil refinery. They also battle each other, with macho posturing just as threatening as the elements. Starring Yves Montand.
Perennially in imdb's annoying top 250. Winner of the Grand Prize at Cannes. Diabolique is director's Henri-Georges Clouzet's best known film, but this is considered his best. I've never seen it, but I've seen the American remake from 1977, Sorcerer, which is underrated (released the same weekend that Star Wars went into wide release, thus forgotten). Would love to catch this, even if I'd need a coffee IV to help me. 11AM and not noon? Cruel, but I'm willing to deal with it with this flick.

PAPILLON- Sat May 23 at 5:45 (Papillon)- the Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- Part of the Steve McQueen retrospective. I like that this McQueen retrospective is happening, it's long overdue. But for me personally, the timing stinks. I've see most of the films don't fit time-wise for me. I don't think I can get people to come see The Towering Inferno on the Sunday afternoon before Memorial Day (if by some miracle I can let me know ASAP), I caught The Great Escape and The Thomas Crown Affair fairly recently so it's too soon, I'm not willing to put my name on catching An Enemy of the People (Yes, McQueen did Ibsen in 1977. Consider this a noble failure.), and not one film here can be seen for 2 for the price of 1. And when I do find that The Magnificent Seven is doable on Saturday afternoon, I find out that it will be shown later that night on PBS' Channel 13. DOH!

Therefore, Papillon is the only film I can catch. A studio print. McQueen's last hit film. Years before The Shawshank Redemption, here was a prison survival film, with escape attempts here. Unlike Shawshank, this did not have universal critical appeal; just look up Ebert's review, though I don't know if he's since revised it. Unlike Shawshank, this actually drew an audience in theaters. Unlike Shawshank, this has since been ignored and is not considered a classic. I'm not saying Papillon is better, but I'm saying this should stop being ignored, and May 23rd is a good time to start.

Based on a true story, though its historical accuracy has been considered dubious. McQueen plays a man wrongly convicted and sentenced to a brutal penal colony. Along with the less macho more 'delicate' man played by Dustin Hoffman, years of abuse, survival and escape attempts are depicted. With McQueen never giving up. Good leads with great chemistry, despite McQueen supposedly annoyed by the existence of Hoffman. Strong film from director Franklin J. Schaffner (Patton, Planet of the Apes) and screenwriters Dalton Trumbo and Lorenzo Semple Jr. Oscar nominated only for Jerry Goldsmith's score. Not as happy as The Sting or American Graffiti, nor did it strike as dark a chord as The Exorcist. But still, give it a shot. Not sure if we're getting the 2 hr 12 minute version, or the 2 hr 30 minute version originally released in theaters. We'll see.

DR. STRANGELOVE- Sat May 23, Sun May 24 and Tues May 26- Thurs May 28 at 3:20, 5:30, 7:40 and 9:50- Film Forum- A new 35 mm restored print playing for a one week run. If you ever bother to put your eyes on this list more than two or three times a year then you know what this film is, and you don't need me to describe this to you. Several of you have seen this in theaters with me before. Some of you have even seen it twice with me before. One of the few dark satires to get it exactly right. Considered one of the best anti-war films ever made. But for those who hate that term (seriously, are you that dumb to refuse to put this into historical context), then consider this an anti-rigidity and anti-stupidity film instead, OK? An excellent mixture of farce and action. And accurate enough in terms of military capability and military speak, that the Air Force demanded answers and questioned Stanley Kubrick.

If you've never seen it with an audience, make time for it. On as many AFI Top 100 lists that it could qualify for. One of the prime examples of Oscar screwing up, when it comes to not giving a film Best Picture. Strangelove is usually Exhibit A, while something like Goodfellas and Raging Bull would be considered Exhibits B and C, respectively. One of my top 5 favorite films ever, and my second favorite Kubrick film, after 2001. And as good a cast as this has, 3 top performances from Peter Sellers . . . , the range this man had is stunning. I dare any of you to find the seams where his performances don't work.

A note that I copy and paste from the Forum's website about the actual restored print that will be shown:

This 35mm print is from a new 4K digitally-created negative (the original neg was destroyed over 40 years ago), made by New York-based restoration specialists Cineric using the best surviving film elements — the result is the sharpest Strangelove you’ve ever seen.

THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE- Tues May 26 at 6:30- the Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- One night only screening of another film from 1973. This one, little seen, rarely shown on cable, and only coming out on DVD for the first time this week, through the Criterion Collection. Which means you can't see it through Blockbuster, only through Netflix. Very similar to The Departed, but without the histrionics or the fake sense of justice. A little slow for that time period I suppose, but in the era of The Sopranos, I guess we can embrace a moody, character-driven crime drama.

Set and shot in and around the South Boston area, depicting what it was at the time, based on the novel by George V. Higgins. Essentially mob-controlled, with police and assigned FBI getting payoffs, while politicians and journalists look the other way. Robert Mitchum plays a low level criminal who's best days are behind him (and everyone knows it, even him?), and who's looking at a third jail sentence that might as well be a life sentence. Trying to avoid prison and feed his family, he decides to try to snitch and make a big score at the same time. Referring to the people around as his Friends is like calling a big guy Tiny, if you remember the second sentence in this paragraph.

Peter Boyle and Richard Jordan lead the cast of character actors that fill out this flick. Never seen all of it, but have liked the parts I have seen. Wouldn't mind catching this at all.

That's all for now. Also included here are a few pics of the post film Q and A with Jonathan Demme at IFC Film Center last week for Swimming To Cambodia. The film was as wonderful as I remembered it, the Q and A was nice, and Demme has the energy and enthusiasm of a man half his age. Not really a cinematic piece, so there was little technical stuff that could actually be brought up. More of a relaxed celebration of Spaulding Gray himself. Later all.

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