Thursday, July 23, 2009

July revivals: rerun edition





















Mike here with what revivals to catch for the rest of the month, with a caveat. If I posted it on at least one previous list, it goes on this one. If I didn't, it doesn't get a mention. And with some exception and/or update, I'm reposting what I wrote before. I can't spend forever on these lists, so consider this the equivalent of a summer rerun. So here we go:



BIGGER THAN LIFE- Fri July 24 (maybe) and Sat July 25 (more likely, but who knows) at 7:50 and 9:50- Film Forum- Part of the Nicolas Ray retrospective. I hope I can catch this, but I have no damn clue. Social stuff holds up whether I can commit to doing this, but I'm posting this anyway so that it can at least get noticed.

A film I've surprisingly never heard of before its first Film Forum run during the first week of this year. I mean, I know the film's lead James Mason, his co-star Walter Matthau, and the film's director Ray (Rebel Without A Cause). And according to imdb, the average shot length is eleven seconds. But aside from being an inspiration to Godard, I know nothing else. Haven't seen a frame of it. But I'm very curious to try it. The first attempt to catch this didn't work out, so here's another chance for me, and us. NOT available on DVD in this country, and 4 minutes longer then the version occasionally shown on Fox Movie Channel. So this is the only way to see this as originally intended. Okay, because it was shot in Cinemascope, the screen would usually be bigger than any of the Forum's screen, but still. as for anything else, I cut and paste the following from what the Forum website had back in January:


(1956) “God was wrong!” proclaims James Mason — but then he’s in the grip of all-out 50s mediocrity: a too-intellectual, bow-tied grade school teacher, his house festooned with travel posters for places he’s never been to; forced to spend odd afternoons as a cab dispatcher to make ends meet; his job, friends, family, and even himself, self-described as dull. But then there’s bad news and good news: he’s got a rare arterial disease that will probably finish him within a year. The good news? There’s this miracle drug (cortisone) that might just save his life. But there could be some little side effects… Time capsule of the 50s: the d├ęcor, the blocky suits and omnipresent hats for the men, the gowns that wife Barbara Rush tries on during the new Mason’s ill-advised splurge fest, the hat she wears on Sunday, the conformity (everyone in town seems to attend the same church) — an unexpected setting for Mason’s tour de force performance, as he moves from frumpy nice guy to full-blown, drug-induced megalomaniac. Color; Approx. 95 minutes.


JOHNNY GUITAR- Sun July 26 at 1 and 3:20 (maybe), and Mon July 27 at 10- Film Forum- Part of the Nicholas Ray retro. A simple Western, starring Sterling Hayden, Joan Crawford, Ernest Borgnine and Mercedes McCambridge, and directed by Ray, that was successful back in 1954, then went away. Until Francois Truffaut and some gay film buffs got ahold of it. They're the ones reminding us about the hidden lesbian story, the links to the HUAC hearings, and the irony of casting HUAC namer of names Hayden as the possible hero (though we didn't know until recently that he was an actually secret agent of some sort who actually knew at least a little something about Communists). Though no male hero would DARE upstage Joan Crawford by this time!

So is it a simple, entertaining Western? Is it an allegory of the Blacklist and the McCarthy witch hunts? It was written unofficially by black-listed screenwriter Ben Maddow. Is there high entertainment value from the over-the-top perfs of both Crawford (is it me, or does she play most scenes like she were the Queen of England or Cleopatra?) and McCambridge? Both ladies hated each other. They fought constantly, and according to IMDB, Crawford was so mad (and drunk), that once she flung McCambridge's costumes along a stretch of Arizona highway. And is it true that the real story of the film, is that McCambridge's character is actually a closeted lesbian, spurned by Crawford, and now seeking revenge? I would say, yes to all of the above. It works as a Western, the allegory is right there, the lead female perfs have high camp value, and you could say no about the lesbian overtones, but there's enough there to read that into it. But whether the film is actually any good is not something I can help you with. But it sure as shit ain't dull. Worth catching in any case.


GOMMORAH- Tues July 28 at 6:15 and Wed July 29 at 8:20- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- Part of their Toni Servillo: Fire and Ice retrospective. He has a role in the ensemble of this film, which was in my top 10 of 2008 list. Yes, it didn't play here until Feb 2009, but it opened in L.A. in 08 to qualify for the Oscars, which I'm stunned it didn't even get a whiff of. It didn't even come close to getting a Foreign Language nod. Here's another chance to see it, and here's what I wrote on that list:


If you know some that says that mob movies are waste and that nothing more can be said in the genre, Gamorrah is the proof that this person is an idiot. Or Mobbed up. This just recently opened in New York, but since it received a one week release in L.A. to qualify for the Oscars, it counts toward this list and not next year. Dark Italian film based on the book that exposed the dealings of the Camorra crime empire, based around Naples. All elements of honor or coolness from previous mob films, comes off as bullshit next to what's depicted here, an area that God seems to have forgotten. Similar to both Traffic and Traffik (Google it people), in its multi-arcs and semi realist style of telling the story. It's almost as though director Matteo Garrone decided: I can have the speed and style of say, City Of God, but you can't have the editing jump cuts. You must let the camera roll and let the story be told that way. Very Visconti or very Kubrick in its overall final state.

We see different aspects of the organization, but never in any exotic locales. The daily dealing rub outs in what is essentially a ghetto. The payments made to people with jailed gang members. It's different business holdings are brought up; from couture (Scarlett Johansson in a Italian dress is featured: now you know who will profit from this exposure), to profiting off dumping toxic waste (tough if you happened to live near there), to their investment in the re-building at Ground Zero, to the everyday practice of killing an average of one person who steps out of line every three days. We meet individuals, like the 12 year old boy, ignoring his mom to become a new recruit. The dapper man who runs the waste management company, without a care about where he dumps. The older man who gives payments, and thinks he's special because he doesn't kill anyone. The two teenagers who literally don't know what to do with a woman (as we see in a scene in a strip club), but whose idolization of Scarface makes them think they can be just like him. Hey kiddies, Al Pacino isn't a mobster, he's paid to play make-believe. The sweaty gangsters you're trying to rip off don't play at all. And don't bother looking for the police. They're only good for taking dead bodies away.

A few professional actors mixed in with mostly non-actors, kind of like with Gran Torino. You should walk away from this film a little sickened by what you experience. Especially since it's been happening, it's going on while you read this, and nothing will happen to change this, probably in our lifetime. But the mastery of the film making should make you feel this is time well spent. Slowly expanding over the next few weeks as of this writing, so do go.


WHAT'S UP DOC- Thurs July 31 at 7 and 9:30 for 7.50- Chelsea Clearview Cinema- A cheap screening of a somewhat forgotten screwball comedy. The names Barbara Striesand and Ryan O'Neal may annoy the hell out of you, but they are a terrific couple in this 1972 film. Peter Bogdanovich's homage to the screwball comedies of the 30s and 40s fits right along with them. Most of you don't know this film, but this is a good time to start. Complications upon complications upon misunderstandings upon strange accents upon a car chase upon a hysterical courtroom scene. Screenplay by Buck Henry, Robert Benton and David Newman. Great supporting cast includes Madeline Kahn, Austin Pendelton, Kenneth Mars, Michael Murphy, John Hillerman and Randy Quaid. Pre film show by Brini Maxwell.



Let me know. Later all.

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