Tuesday, June 23, 2009

June revivals: last part

Mike here with what to catch revival-wise for the rest of June. I know I deal with trivial matters here, but sometimes I get annoyed when dealing with this. Tried to catch either 2001 or The Shining two weekends ago at IFC Center, but they were sold out. While it's great that the flicks draw, would it kill them to just write it on paper and tape it to the window, rather than let every chump walk up to the box office and ask? I'm not asking them to install a digital sign, but if the Film Forum can use a pen and paper, why can't they?!?!?!

And speaking of the Forum, I thought I had a chance to win free passes there when I gave the answer to their question of the only Richard Attenborough film shown there in 2008 as The Great Escape. I knew I wasn't the only one who gave that answer, but knew they would draw from all those who wrote The Great Escape. Or so I thought, until they gave the answer as From Which We Serve, from the David Lean retro they did last September. While I forgot that film played there (because I had no interest in it), I knew the the question was flawed. So I wrote and complained, giving them links to their own site from their United Artists retro (Richard Attenborough provides forceful leadership), as well as mine own when I wrote up briefly about the film (it's very good by the way; I'd see it again on the big screen in a heartbeat).

Well, a few days later I got a reply from Jeffrey Cranor, Database Coordinator of the Forum, saying they will apologize in their e-newsletter on Wednesday and have another drawing for those who "correctly answered" The Great Escape. That was a very nice surprise. Now I don't expect to win any Forum drawing, now or ever, but I still feel good about it. Now on with the list. Here we go:

ZULU and/or DR. STRANGELOVE- Wed June 24 at 4:30 (Zulu) and 8 (Strangelove)- MOMA- 2 movies that are part of MOMA's retrospective on British hits of the 60s. One admission for both flicks. The second is a stretch in qualifying, but I'll go into that in a bit.

First, Zulu, one of the best war films ever made. Consider this an early (slightly embellished) variation of Black Hawk Down. Both are true stories, both set up the conflict in the first half-hour or so, and the rest of the film is a brutal, well-edited battle between the sides. Stanley Baker and Michael Caine play the two officers in command of a small British outpost on Jan. 22 1879. Baker's character is an engineer, and not the upper class solider-gentleman Caine's character is. Neither has combat experience. But they must lead their 149 men (about a third were in the infirmary that day), against over 4000 Zulu warriors; who had just massacred over 1500 British soldiers earlier that morning, in the worst massacre the Army had ever suffered up to that point. The rest of the picture depicts the next 12 plus hours as the Zulus attack without relent, while the Brits desperately try to withstand the onslaught.
Despite the vast difference in accents and technology, both in the story and the storytelling, it compares quite favorably to the similar Black Hawk Down. Never are the Zulus depicted as evil savages. We don't get to know them as well as most of the British soldiers and the misguided missionaries, but they are people, and brutal adversaries. Good cast; Baker was the star and co-producer, but Michael Caine became a leading man forever because of this. Narration by Richard Burton. Also, take note of John Barry's very good score, who incorporated actual Zulu chants and songs into his music. Sorry for the awkward timing for this, but its the best I can do.

Next, Dr. Strangelove. Yes, this was directed by an American and it depicts the American military, but because it was filmed at famed Shepperton Studios, it qualifies for this retrospective. Yeah, whatever. Anything that gets one of the funniest films ever made, and one of my all time favorites screened, is fine by me. If you've never seen it on the big screen, now is the time.

10 RILLINGTON PLACE- Fri June 26- Mon June 29 at 7:40 and 9:50 and Tues June 30- Thurs July 2 at 9:50- Film Forum- A 35mm Restoration of a 1971 British film, based on a true story of serial killer John Christie. Stars Richard Attenborough and John Hurt. Never seen it, don't really know it and would really like to. Sorry to say I must be lazy again, and copy and paste from the Forum's website. Hate to do this, but if I knew the film, I'd write something up on my own. But since I want to see it and want others to catch it as well, I do what I must:

An ultra low-key — but all the more menacing — account of the notorious Christie serial murder case; in 1948, Welsh blue collar worker Timothy Evans (John Hurt) and wife Judy Geeson, lodgers upstairs from mousily mild-mannered John Reginald Christie (Attenborough) and wife, already have trouble making ends meet when Geeson discovers she’s in the family way — but ever helpful Attenborough offers a homemade do-it-yourself abortion. The chilling results not only confirmed Christie’s morbid reputation, but ultimately altered the U.K.’s stance on the death penalty.

Filmed in the actual Rillington Place (but at #6, at that time renamed Ruston Close because of the notoriety, and since demolished), Fleischer worked with legendary executioner Albert Pierrepoint as technical adviser. (Because of the Official Secrets Act, no details of the execution were formally known; this would be the first time U.K. audiences would ever have seen a British execution on screen.) 10 Rillington Place also features two tour de force performances; Attenborough, in bald pate make-up, affecting a supremely quiet, unobtrusive manner that renders the brewing of a pot of tea subtly chilling, while Hurt achieves a unique acting coup, making believable a man so gullible and stupid (the real Evans’ IQ was estimated to be 70) as to falsely confess to murdering his own family — without making him a figure of farce.
THE KILLING- Fri June 26 and Sat June 27 at Midnight- IFC Center- More classic Kubrick at midnight. Now, we have The Killing, the first Kubrick film of note. From 1956, Sterling Hayden stars as the leader of a criminal group, brought together to rob a race track. The classic film noir notes are touched on: the likable anti-hero leader, the dumb loser jerked around by the femme fetale, the eccentrics in the gang, the precision of the plan, and the twist of fate that causes things to fall apart. Cited by Premiere, the same website I brought up last week regarding Betty Blue, having one of the best endings in movie history. And for those who can't tolerate Kubrick or can't stand the time, it's only 85 minutes, so you'll get out at a decent time. C'mon, let's do this. Note: if there's no decision made before 10:30, then assume it's sold out. All the Kubricks have been very popular and the odds it will sell out are high.

BIRTH OF A NATION with piano accompaniment- Sat June 27 at 1:15- MOMA-Yeah, you're either going to want to see this or not. The film that D.W. Griffith is best known for. For better (creation of what we think of as film today) or worse (anything involving black people) that is. Two brothers are torn apart, as they join opposite sides of the Civil War. The first half is considered the better part, with battle scenes and mostly successful though melodramatic romance with Lillian Gish. It's the second half, where you have blacks (white actors in black face) either drunkenly running the state legislature, or terrorizing the poor white folk until they have to be saved by the Ku Klux Klan on horseback, that's the tough part to take. Actually, any part where blacks are depicted are not fun to watch; I mean a white guy in blackface playing a Mammy-type? Oy vey.

Yet it was a hit in its day, despite being banned for years in L.A. and Chicago (it didn't play there until 1940). But the label of racist stuck to Griffith. Despite making his next film Intolerance as a response, and re-releasing Birth for decades in slightly edited, shorter versions. But what do you expect when you adapt the book The Clansman, and audiences (even in 1915) take this as though you believe in its story and message, because you gave it life and a metaphorical voice on screen. Griffith as well as Gish, went to their deathbeds denying the film is racist.

Now, if I'm reacting badly to this, why post this as an option to see? Not just the importance of the film, but I figure for myself: if I can handle The Passion of the Christ, Realm of the Senses and Inland Empire, I can handle this. For the record, this print is one minute shorter than the original release, and two minutes longer than the DVD version. But it won't break my heart if I don't catch this Saturday.

THE SECRET POLICEMAN'S BALL and THE SECRET POLICEMAN'S OTHER BALL- Both films for one admission- Sat June 27 starting at 8pm- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- A retrospective of comedy/concert benefit documentaries, all to raise money for Amnesty International. This is the only double feature that I have an interest in catching. And unlike most screenings at the Walter Reade, this one is an actual 2 film/ 1 admission deal.

2 docs, that mix British comedy sketches and British music bands. The first one, The Secret Policeman's Ball from 1979, featured performers such as Pythoners John Cleese (who co-created the benefits) Terry Jones and Michael Palin, and comedian Billy Connolly. But the show is best known in Britain for the work of Peter Cook (at one point doing the impossible, causing Cleese to break up out of character), the mass introduction of Britain to Rowan Atkinson, and the acoustic work of Pete Townsend which supposedly introduced the idea of Unplugged.

This has not been released in theaters, as opposed to The Secret Policeman's Other Ball from 1982. Though this is the original British version, which is 8 minutes longer than the U.S. theatrical release. It has the same comics from the first film, plus Graham Chapman and more Python skits. For musical guests, there was Donovan. And oh yeah, a few rising British performers, like Sting, Phil Collins and Bob Geldof. Supposedly, this gave the future Sir Bob the idea for Live Aid. No great films here, just some fun.

In order of preference, I'd like to catch The Killing, the Wednesday MOMA films, 10 Rillington and the Python docs. Let me know. Later all.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

June revivals: middle of the month

Mike here with what to catch in the middle of June. Some stuff coming that I can't wait for the very last minute for a response, so I have to post now. They'll be a few repeats but they're more reminders than anything else. Here we go:
LE COMBAT DANS L'ILE- Fri June 12- Tues June 17 at 7:40 and 9:50- Film Forum- A new 35mm print of a 1962 French film that gets a New York release for the first time. I brought it up last time, so check the last list for a refresher.

BETTY BLUE: THE DIRECTOR'S CUT- Fri June 12 at 8:10 for at least a week run- Cinema Village- 22 E. 12th St.- From director Jean-Jacques Beinex, whose film Diva, I posted and saw a couple of years ago. When released in the U.S. in 1986, an hour of the film was cut. Cut in part to remove some of the full frontal nudity and semi graphic sex scenes, and cut in part because of Alive Films (the defunct 80s company that backed Kiss of the Spider Woman and Baghdad Cafe) didn't think the three hour version would draw an American audience. While the art house audience did come, and that cut received a Foreign Language Oscar Nomination, the original version was never released here until now. Before the version gets its DVD release, it gets shown starting on Friday.

A romantic drama. A man and woman fall in love. She is a manic depressive who touches the heart of a lonely handyman. She's the most exciting thing to ever happen to him. But as the relationship progresses, her already shaky grasp on reality falls further apart. Beatrice Dalle made her screen debut in the lead role, and became a leading lady in France from that point forward, though her supposed drug problems have hampered her from being bigger. Have only seen parts of the U.S. cut, and would really like to catch this full version.

The film's opening scene also made Premiere.com's list of hottest sex scenes. Here's what I cut and pasted from last year's article from Glenn Kelly:

Even the most hot-to-trot movies generally make the viewer wait before unveiling any erotic action, but not this crazily emotional romance, whose opening shot tracks in on title character Betty (a near-feral Béatrice Dalle) and her amiable paramour Zorg (Jean-Hugues Anglade) whiling away a summer afternoon, rutting like maniacs. Their fierce bond is immediately established... and to this day, even the most disinterested of viewers may wonder whether the two performers were at it for real, such is the verisimilitude of their thrusts and cries.
THE SHINING- Fri June 12 and Sat June 13 at 11:10PM- IFC Center- I guess this was very popular last weekend when it played at midnight last weekend at IFC Center. So it gets a repeat screening, this time at slightly easier hour. If you haven't seen it on the big screen, now is the time.

2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY- Fri June 12 and Sat June 13 at Midnight- IFC Film Center- I've brought up one of my all time favorites before, I brought it up last time, I bring it up again, and will keep bringing it up whenever it plays in a theater I like. If you've never seen it on the big screen ever, go this weekend.

THE STING- Mon June 15 at dusk for free at Bryant Park- Park opens at 5PM- The classic con film, where Paul Newman and Robert Redford try to outfox evil Robert Shaw, kicks off the free Bryant Park film series. I wonder how well the films with heavy dialogue do there. Very mixed at best. But Newman, Redford, and Scott Joplin's music should make it worthwhile. The outings are usually fun, and unless you cover yourself in chicken blood or something sweet, NO MOSQUITOES!

GONE WITH THE WIND for 5 dollars, with an intro from Robert Osbourne, an episode of a Buck Rogers serial and an animated short- Sat June 20 at Noon- Academy Theater at Lighthouse International- 111 E. 59th St. bet. Park and Lex Ave.- A cleaned up print of all I just brought up here. Part of the Best Picture nominees of 1939 retrospective. For 5 dollars, we start out with a chapter of the old Buck Rogers serial starring Buster Crabbe. Then an animated short, presumably from that year. At some point we have our host, TCM's Robert Osbourne, doing an intro, though I don't know when he does it exactly. Then the film, at 12:30. In this case the big hit, the big Oscar winner, the classic, Gone With The Wind.

I've brought it up before, so I won't go into a repeat. But this might be the best chance to see this, if you've never seen it before, or seen it before on the big screen. But for only 5 dollars, if you think you can handle being there from about 11:30- 11:40AM until about 4:30PM, this would be worth it. Crank up the caffeine and let's do it. Call 212 821-9251 or go to http://www.oscars.org/events-exhibitions/venues-ticketing/index.html.

That's all for now. Not sure if they'll be a list for the end of June, otherwise, I'll jump to July when needed. Later all.

Monday, June 01, 2009

June revivals: first half

Mike here with what to catch for the first half of June. Some big films in the history of movies, plus a kid's film and a film I never heard of before. Here we go:

RASHOMON- Thurs June 4, Fri June 5, Sun June 7 and Tues June 9- Thurs June 11 at 6:30, 8:20 and 10:10- Film Forum- A 35mm restored print. The classic Oscar-winning Kurosawa film that many tv shows and a few films like Memento owe a debt toward gets its own run. For the rest, I'll copy and paste what was written by Chris Hicks in his article, the 67 Most Influential Films Ever Made, about this. I used it before last month for Easy Rider, and it speaks better than I:

Influential, how? East comes west.
The West finally woke up to Japanese film when Rashomon won Venice’s Golden Lion (and went on to win an Oscar).
The idea - a rape and murder related through conflicting flashbacks - has been repeatedly ribbed but never bettered.
Money shot: The second flashback, when we realise the camera does lie

WOODSTOCK: THE DIRECTOR'S CUT- Wed June 3 at 7 for 25 dollars with an intro from director Michael Wadleigh and concert producer Michael Lang, with free popcorn and soda, with other guests TBA- the Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- A rare screening of the Oscar winning documentary, just before the famed concert's 40th anniversary. One of the best films of 1970 and if it's not placed among the best docs ever made, it's probably because it's not just a job, it's an adventure for current audiences who are probably intimidated by its running time and own ideas and interpretations as to what Woodstock the concert was. We'll be seeing the 3 hr 48 min director's cut (plus an intermission) that has been around since 1994, as opposed to the 3 hr theatrical release; a cut that Warner Bros. had no faith in. The executive who apparently thought they could always use the prints from this probable flop and use the strips for bookmarks, was probably stunned at its success. This lack of faith from the higher-ups, gave rise to the idea of 2 and 3 panels at varying times (showing different angles or different scenes simultaneously), conceived by the filmmakers, including co-cameraman/co-editor Martin Scorsese. This is practically a clinic in film editing.

And, oh yeah, a clinic in the music of the day. Hendrix, Joplin, The Who, Jefferson Airplane, Joan Baez, Richie Havens, Joe Cocker, CSN, Santana, among others. On the Walter Reade's speakers, this should be NICE.

The film cost 25 dollars to see, though free popcorn and soda are included. So yeah, it's priced more like a free concert than a typical film. There will be an intro from the film's director and one of the concert producer's, and something happening after the film. What exactly has not been announced. A Q and A? Acoustic concert? Your guess is as good as mine. But if you have 4-5 hours to spare, this should be fun.

THE GREAT MUPPET CAPER- Fri June 5 at Midnight- Landmark Sunshine Cinema- Muppet fans, unite! The second of the original Muppet trilogy, the only one that Jim Henson directed, gets a midnight screening. Which usually means, this sells out fast with Muppet fanatics. Not as big a hit as The Muppet Movie, but successful enough for the summer of 1981. See intrepid reporters Kermit Fozzie and Gonzo go to London on a story. See them ignore the advice of John Cleese and stay at the Happiness Hotel with others made of felt and acting like they've got a hand stuck up their asses. See Miss Piggy work for the even haughtier Diana Rigg, and get seduced by Charles Grodin . With cameos from Peter Ustinov, Peter Falk, Jack Warden and Robert Morely

LE COMBAT DANS L'ILE- Fri June 12- Wed June 18 at 7:40 and 9:50- Film Forum- A new 35mm print of a 1962 French film that gets a New York release for the first time. Don't know if it played elsewhere in this country. Therefore, I practically know nothing about. I'm interested, therefore, I'll have to cut and paste from the Forum's website. Sometimes I hate being a hack, but here it is:

(1962) Sure her marriage to rich factory owner’s son Jean-Louis Trintignant has its rough side for Romy Schneider: his frequent absences for unexplained reasons, his frightening outbursts of insane jealousy, and that very creepy friend of his. And what’s that carefully wrapped anti-tank bazooka doing in the hall closet? But there’s that other friend, that warm and friendly, but comfortably virile, artisanal printer Henri Serre (Jim of Jules and Jim). All too little known today, Le combat dans l’île subtly evokes a divided marriage — not unusual in French films — and a divided nation — but not divided as seen in the then-dominant Nouvelle Vague. Political assassinations (the attempts on DeGaulle reached double figures), underground extreme right-wing groups, even international, right-wing fugitives — producer Louis Malle was clearly making a political statement distinct from that of his New Wave confrères. Cavalier’s first major film — he’d been a Malle assistant — exhibits an assurance of tone and pacing that make this a uniquely gripping, where is this going? triangle-drama/thriller, as the camera of Pierre Lhomme (DP of Melville’s Army of Shadows, not to mention the cult classic King of Hearts, among many others — he personally supervised this new print) illuminates striking locations from industrial parks to road diners to Serre’s rural island refuge (you can almost smell the crisp winter air), while providing a surprisingly fresh look at that most-filmed of subjects — particularly during this period — Paris itself, both inside and out. First starring part in French, the language and cinema she would make her own, for Schneider (“the best actress of her generation” – Visconti): this breakthrough performance would be a major leap from the saccharine biopics of her Austrian youth. Trintignant, already a mid-range star at home, would break out internationally later the same year in Dino Risi’s Il Sorpasso, and become world-famous a few years later with A Man and a Woman and Z. Approx. 104 minutes

2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY- Fri June 12 and Sat June 13 at Midnight- IFC Film Center- One of my all time favorites, and my favorite Kubrick is on the big screen again. This time in the very comfortable IFC Center. Some of you have done this before with me, and some of you, more then once. But in a place like this, a smaller screen then the late Lowes Astor Plaza, the Ziegfeld or the Paris, but bigger than the Forum plus a quality sound system, this is too good to ignore. And if you're one of those who have never seen it on the big screen as opposed to watching it on TV, to paraphrase from comedian Larry Miller, "It's the difference between shooting a bullet and throwing it.". Who knows when it will play next at the Ziegfeld, go now.

I like the ones I've heard of. I'll catch the one I've never heard of. Let me know if there's interest, later all