Tuesday, November 01, 2011

November revivals before Thanksgiving

Hey all. Mike here with a revival list for the first third or so of November. I've looked ahead as far as I could this month, and I'd rather break this month up unevenly. The next list for this month will have a heavy emphasis on the Thanksgiving weekend at Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria. You can look ahead at movingimage.us to see what I mean. It will probably be very small, but that's subject to change.

This current list isn't the biggest list, but it's a list that I can look at and go "Oooh! Oooh! Oooh!'. Not because each and every film is an out-and-out classic. Only 1 is such a classic, and maybe one of these other films is a cult classic and that's being generous. Sometimes it's for the price, sometimes it's something that isn't screened very often around these parts. And a couple I don't know at all and I'm very curious. But I would be very happy to them all. Here we go:

THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (1956) and FAHRENHEIT 451- Thurs Nov 3 at 3:05 (Man), 5:15 (451), 7:20 (Man) and 9:30 (451)- Film Forum- A double feature from the Bernard Herrmann retrospective that are not screened very often, especially the second film. First, The Man Who Knew Too Much, the remake from 1956. The 50s was Hitchcock working at his peak. This film may not be on the level of Rear Window or Vertigo, but its still pretty good. I'll let any ideas about how this might be a depiction of American Foreign Policy (the U.S. is slow bumbling and lumbering, but we eventually get it right), and just use the Forum's brief description from their Hitchcock retrospective back in late 2005. It's brief and I disagree with none of it:

“Que sera, sera — whatever will be, will be,” warbles Doris Day (singing the only hit song from a Hitchcock movie — and an Oscar winner to boot),but little does she know that a Marrakech vacation with hubby James Stewart will lead to kidnapping, murder, and a classically nerve-shredding race with a cymbalist — under composer Bernard Herrmann’s baton — in London’s Albert Hall. This long sequence alone on the big screen is worth the price of admission.
Next, the rarely screened Fahrenheit 451, from 1967. The adaptation of Ray Bradbury's classic novel, which he said wasn't a book about censorship, but a depiction of a possible future where a society is taken with television. So taken that not only is literature burned, but information is doled out only by image and sound bite (seems like the later has been going on for a while, in and out of politics, but anyway). Oskar Werner is Montag, a fireman whose very job of burning books is questioned; first by a beautiful stranger, and then by himself.
Probably the most difficult film in Francois Truffaut's career to make. His only English language film. It took about six years for him to adapt it properly in his mind. Some of the changes he made, like tweaking the ending and not only having the beautiful stranger live beyond the start of the story but to have her and Montag's wife be two sides of the same coin, work. Having Julie Christie play both roles makes Truffaut look like a genius. The world we see is unique: European looking, not overly futuristic but not alien either. Good film, but how good you think it is will depend on how you feel about Werner's lead performance. Oskar went with an approach that Truffaut quipped was like a monkey sniffing a book. Whether you think his performance, which caused actor and director to feud throughout shooting, helps or hurts the film, is up to you. I don't hate his performance, but I'm curious to see what a different approach to Montag would look like. We've been hearing for decades about other directors' attempt to remake this, with Mel Gibson coming the closest allegedly. But this will probably be years down the line, so now's a good time to check this out:

ALL THAT JAZZ for free (subject to ticket availability)- Fri Nov 4 at 7:30- MOMA- Bob Fosse's semi-autobiographical film gets a special screening at IFC Center, so I expect the print to be quite good. Around 1974, Fosse was trying to direct, co-write and choreograph Chicago on Broadway starring his (long separated) wife Gwen Virdon: while trying to balance his relationship with girlfriend Ann Reinking with the other women he slept around with, keep up a relationship with his daughter, and struggle to edit his film Lenny into something at least watchable. All while being a chain smoker and popping Dexedrine like they were candies. Wanna guess how many heart attacks he had, and how close to death he was?

After he got better, and both projects went up, what's a man to do? After he put up the show Dancin', Make all of that into a movie. His friend Shirley MacLaine claims to have given Fosse the idea, he claimed not to remember. Change the names to protect the innocent as well as those he might not have liked, such as Michael Bennett, played in a way by John Lithgow. Made sure he came off as the biggest jerk of all, yet still likable. Bring in some veterans who have been around his world, like Ben Vereen, Leland Palmer (who came out of retirement to play the Gwen Verdontype, then went back into retirement), designer Tony Walton to help with the Art Direction, andReinking to essentially play herself (which she does well, plus dances terrifically). Make the film essentially a flashback from a place that might be in-between life and death, and that might only be happening in the Fosse-like man's imagination, with Jessica Lange as one luscious Angel of Death, and you've got a helluva picture.

Non-original music and newly developed
Fosse choreography shine here. For those who have difficulty with musicals where the singing and dancing come from inorganic places, note the singing and dancing only come from the audition/rehearsal of a musical, one moment performing for Dad, and that imagination place between life and death. The best example was the use of Teddy Pendergrass's On Broadway. In another F.U. to Michael Bennett (allegedly), Fosse whittled down the audition process of ensemble dancers as depicted in A Chorus Line (which crushed Chicago at the Tonys and was still a massive hit when All That Jazz was released) into a mere 3-5 minutes of what Fosse thought was more realistic. It's one of the showstoppers of this film.

That said, we're in for the ride, because we buy Roy Scheider as the Fosse type. According to Razzle Dazzle; unlike Warren Beatty who wanted massive rewrites to fit his tempo, or Jack Nicholson who was more interested in watching the Lakers than talking in depth with Fosse, or Richard Dreyfuss who quit before he was fired during rehearsal,Scheider was more submissive. He was actually willing to learn how to be Fosse from Fosse, not impose a character of his own creation. Might not necessarily be ideal, but film is the director's medium. You might not believeScheiderwas ever a dancer before the last scene, but you do come away believing everything else.

Which brings me to one particular part of All That Jazz. The two top films for me that came out in 1979 are All That Jazz and Apocalypse Now. The difference for me between Apocalypse being very good and All That Jazz being not only the best film of 1979, but also in my personal top 35 ever, is the ending. Apocalypse is one of the best, until we get to see Marlon The World's Fattest Green Beret, and then Coppola's film deflates and suffers (Redux only partially fixes this). But the ending of All That Jazz is a great finale, the build-up leads to a payoff greater than expected. And when it's time for us to go, what could be better than a send-off with singing, dancing lights, spectacle, and everyone we ever became close to giving us a fond farewell. The little details is what Fosse nailed, while Francis had fat Marlon in the jungle.

Not as big a hit as Cabaret, but successful enough. 9 Oscar nominations, including Picture, Fossefor Director and Screenplay, Scheider for Actor and also for Cinematography. 4 Oscars, including Art Direction and Editing. In fact, it one the first 4 awards announced at the 1980 ceremonies. Don't know why they didn't start with a Supporting Category like in other years. But after that, the Kramer vs. Kramer steamroller commenced, and All That Jazz's commercial momentum slowed. It also won Fosse the Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival. One can argue what was the first standout, live action movie musical of the 2000s. Whether you think its Moulin Rouge or Rob Marshall's Chicago. But the last great live action musical before any of them was All That Jazz. The screening will be introduced by Schawn Belston, Senior Vice President of Library and Technical Services at Fox Filmed Entertainment:
VANISHING POINT- Fri Nov 4 at Midnight- IFC Center- The last of IFC Center's films for gearheads, and the only one I had both time and interest in. The possible cult classic on this A Hi-def screening as opposed to 35mm. One of the films that inspired Tarantino to direct his part of Grindhouse (a similar model Dodge Charger is used for the major car chase), gets a rare screening. A cult hit from 1971, Barry Newman agrees to deliver the charger from Colorado to Frisco in less then 15 hours on a bet. Cops and highway patrolmen plot to catch him. Throw in gay hitchhikers, a few naked chicks and a boatload of car chases, and you'll see why Tarantino wanted in part to do Grindhouse:

SELL!SELL! SELL!: THE COMMERCIALS OF JIM HENSON and PLAY TIME- Sat Nov 5 at 1 (Henson) and 3 (Play Time)- Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria- A unique double feature, both can be seen for one admission. First, Sell!Sell!Sell!: The Commercials of Jim Henson, part of the Museum's Jim Henson retrospective. Now the Jim Henson exhibit is showing a few commercials. They include commercials from the 60s, like the "Violent" ones for Wilkins Coffee for D.C. television, or for La Choy with the La Choy dragon. It's what kept Henson and his company afloat per-Sesame Street. Mad Men had Don Draper sneer at an ad campaign that used puppets back in 2008. But these and other Henson commercials, including those with prototypes of Muppets such as Rowlf and Cokkie Monster, will play together at the Museum, with an introduction from Henson Company Archivist Karen Falk.

Next, Play Time, from 1967. A French comedy directed, co-written by, and starring Jacques Tati, as his famous M. Hulot character. If you saw one of this year's Oscar nominees for Animated Film, The Illusionist, based on an unproduced screenplay of Tati's, then you are familiar with the character. Imagine the klutzy M. Hulot going from typical Paris to not just any metropolis, but to an actual Metropolis. As in a place similar to the city from Fritz Lang's Metropolis, but with enough alienation and little use for individuality, that Tom Stoppard and/or Terry Gilliam had to know this film when making Brazil. A mega-flop in its day, but with ever growing appreciation for it as the years have gone by. The film shot in 70mm by Tati, this might be the only time a (restored) 70mm print has been shown in a revival house here:
THE BRIDE WORE BLACK- Mon Nov 7- Thurs Nov 10 at 5:30, 7:45 and 10- Film Forum- A new 35mm print of the last film in the Bernard Herrmann retrospective. Another collaboration between Herrmann and Francois Truffaut. A film that Truffaut was not happy with the end product. He feuded throughout principal photography with his longtime cinematographer, who preferred the style he worked with Goddard as opposed to what Francois wanted to do.. Lead actress Jeanne Moreau took advantage of the chaos and made herself at times a de facto director toward the cast, giving notes to the actors throughout shooting. Truffaut, in this instance, shares two distinctions with Woody Allen, when Woody made Manhattan. First, both directors were unhappy with the final product, and their opinion would never waver over time (Woody went so far as allegedly wanting to destroy Manhattan and a make a new film free of charge, something United Artists said hell no). Second, both films received found an audience upon release. The Bride Wore Black was Truffaut's biggest hit in years upon it's 1968 release.

Have never seen this film. I thought this was about a woman who gets rid of her exes in different ways, but the new trailer of this tells me how wrong I was. Shot in a Hitchcock kind of way, Moreau plays The Bride, who's actually a widow. She seeks revenge on the 5 men who killed her husband on their wedding day. She scratches off names on a list, and gets rid of her targets in different ways. GEE, THIS DOESN'T SOUND LIKE KILL BILL WITHOUT THE KUNG FU, DOES IT?!?!?!? Tarantino claims he never saw Bride Wore Black, but I can't say he's received a ton of defense on this charge. Anyway, I haven't seen it, and I would really like to:

THE FRONT with a post film Q and A with screenwriter Walter Bernstein and critic J. Hoberman- Mon Nov 7 at 6- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- Part of Lincoln Center's series, Hollywood's 'Jew Wave'. The time period where Jewish performers like Woody Allen, Elliot Gould and Barbara Streisand became big names in Hollywood at about the exact same time: the mid 1960s to mid 1970s. Won't have the time for anything with Gould or Streisand, but here's one with Allen. The Front, the first film starring, but not written or directed by Allen. Underrated little gem. He plays a little man who agrees to be a front for blacklisted writers to get their work out there. Directed by Martin Ritt, written by Walter Bernstein and co-starring Zero Mostel and other formerly black listed people. After the screening, Bernstein will do a Q and A with film critic J. Hoberman:

THE BATTLE OF ALGIERS- Tues Nov 8 at 9- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- Part of Lincoln Center's series of films that made a big impact via the New York Film Festival. An excellent film that was studied in the Pentagon as an example of what to expect when invading Iraq. But as you see the film, you might wonder, at what point did those in charge forget what they learned by seeing this?!?!? Oscar nominations for Best Foreign Language Film, Director and Original Screenplay. For the rest, I'll just cut and paste from the Forum's website back on either 2005 or 07, I forget which:

(1965, GILLO PONTECORVO) Algiers, 1957. French paratroopers inch their way through the Casbah to zero in on the hideout of the last rebel still free in the city. Flashback three years earlier, as the Algerian National Liberation Front decides on urban warfare. Thus begin the provocations, assassinations, hair-breadth escapes, and reprisals; and massive, surging crowd scenes unfolding with gripping realism: many of the sequences were shot and edited to the driving prerecorded score by Pontecorvo and Morricone. Winner, Grand Prize, Venice Film Festival:

LENNY- Wed Nov 9 at 4 and Fri Nov 11 at 9- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- Part of Lincoln Center's series, Hollywood's 'Jew Wave'. The time period where some Jewish performers became big names in Hollywood at about the exact same time: the mid 1960s to mid 1970s. Now here's a film from probably the biggest of the male names in this retrospective, Dustin Hoffman. I prsume Linclon Center will use the same studio archive print they used over 2 and a half years ago, but I'm not sure. If you're reading this and you're under the age of thirty five, you've probably never heard of this. In fact, if you're under 60 and you know this film, that probably means you're a film buff, or you're a relative of Fosse, or one of the two leads, Hoffman or Valerie Perrine. Now's the time to correct this by catching one of the best bio-pics ever made. It's easy to dismiss flicks like Ray and Walk The Line as mild entertainments, when you catch a film like this.

Shot in the same faux-documentary style Fosse would later employ in Star 80, and shot in gorgeous black and white by Bruce Surtees (Dirty Harry, The Shootist, Beverly Hills Cop). Hoffman plays stand-up comedian Lenny Bruce, whose style of social commentary and free use of language, that all stand-ups from the 70s to the present take for granted today, handed Bruce into a legal morass he never lived to see end. Just before he left office, former NY Governor Pataki gave Bruce a posthumous pardon for the indecency convictions he got. This also covers Bruce's relationship with his mother (stage mother wannabe), his marriage to a stripper (Perrine, never more beautiful and who never had a better role), and his slow descent into drug addiction. But perhaps because it was directed by Fosse, a pill popper himself at one time if you pay attention to All That Jazz, he still found empathy for Bruce, while showing the damage it did in terms of on-stage performance, and premature death.

Fosse and Hoffman supposedly had a difficult relationship. In one of their early meetings (again, according to the Fosse biography, Razzle Dazzle), Hoffman said he came up with a walk for Lenny Bruce, to which Fosse supposedly replied (I'm partially paraphrasing) "Your last 3 roles were fucking walks!". Not the greatest of starts. But Fosse's desire to get every detail right no matter how many takes, blended perfectly with Hoffman the perfectionist, who always seemed to want one more take to get something small right. The two neuroses fed each other, and we, the audience benefit. An excellent performance from Hoffman that never seems to get the credit it deserves.

Not the big hit Cabaret was, but Lenny managed to find an audience. Oscar nominations helped. 6 nominations in all, for Picture, Fosse for Director, Hoffman for Actor, Perrine for Actress (Lost to Ellen Burstyn, but did win Best Actress for this at Cannes), Cinematography and Screenplay Adaptation. But Lenny ran into the Oscar juggernaut that was The Godfather Part 2, plus there was Chinatown and The Conversation getting a lot of attention. This little film didn't have a shot in hell.

Now in case you haven't noticed, I'm saying, let's go to this:

WEST SIDE STORY- Wed Nov 9 at 7- AMC Empire, AMC Kips Bay 15, College Point Multiplex and other theaters in SF, Miami, NJ, Upstate NY, Columbus, Pittsburgh and elsewhere- A restored 50th Anniversary screening of West Side Story, sponsored by TCM, gets a one night only screening nationwide. I've listed a few of the cities/areas where there will be a screening, but if you go to the fathom events website and click the link on list of participating theaters, you should find one. The film will play on a number of screens in the NYC/LI areas, but I'm only posting the 3 theaters where it's cheaper. For example, Chelsea Clearview Cinema is overpriced at 15 dollars, and the Port Washington Cinema has an even worse price at 18 dollars. Forget that. With the AMC theaters, I'm pretty sure you can use a Silver pass and that should be ok. It worked with Taxi Driver, it should work for this film.

West Side Story, it's on both AFI Top 100 lists, and in my personal Top 100. Number 2 on AFI's recent Best Movie Musical list. It is totally different seeing it on the big screen as opposed to TV. I can't describe it very well, you have to go to know what I mean. Sight and sound makes this more of an experience then just passive viewing like on tv. Is it perfect? No. Some of the slang is just too dated, some of the actors had to be painted Latino (get a good look at George Chakiris and tell me I'm wrong), most of the teenagers are either over 21 or pushing 30, and some had to be dubbed. But mix Leonard Bernstein's music, Stephen Sondheim's songs, Jerome Robbins's choreography and Robert Wise's direction and you have a terrific film. Yes, Robbins is co-director, until his perfectionism resulted in re-shoots and extended shooting, causing the film to go over budget and behind schedule. He was fired 60 percent into shooting and Wise finished it. Stunning use of New York locales and a terrific opening credit sequence and ending. 10 Oscars including Picture and Director. If you've never seen it on the big screen, go with no hesitation:

THE LAST WALTZ for a $7 bar minimum- Fri Nov 11 at 9:30- Rubin Museum of Art- 150 W. 17th bet. 6th and 7th Ave.- Arguably the best concert film ever made. After Taxi Driver, a change of pace for director Martin Scorsese, filming the farewell concert of The Band on Thanksgiving 1976. Mixed with recording sessions that also included working with Emmylou Harris and The Staples. They also had some friends performing with them, including Van Morrison, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Joni Mitchell, Ron Wood, Dr. John, and Ringo Starr. Also includes interviews with members of the Band, days after the concert. Also noteworthy is the cinematography of Michael Chapman, who also did Scorsese's Taxi Driver and Raging Bull. The first concert film to be photographed in 35mm. There might be a presenter for this screening, like there usually is for Friday night screenings at the Rubin. If there is, he or she hasn't been announced yet.

Now, how can you see all this? You can go to the Rubin Museum as early as 6pm, when admission is free. You can check the Museum out, which I highly recommend. You can get a bite to eat on the ground floor area to your left when you enter the Museum, but you can find cheaper food and/or more filling food elsewhere in Union Square. But make sure you get to the bar, order your drink or drinks, and find the person giving the tickets. If you can't find the person, just ask the bartender, he'll know. You get your free ticket, and you can bring your drink(s) to the screening room. It worked out well with a dark film like Dogtooth, it should work even better with a concert film like this:

AUNTIE MAME for 7.50- Thurs Nov 17 at 7 (with Hedda Lettuce) and 9:30 (without Hedda)- Chelsea Clearview Cinema- A cheap screening of the non musical form, of the story of a young orphan boy, who is raised and taught love and tolerance from her beloved Auntie Mame. Cute at times, and I prefer the music and songs, though there's no way in hell do I prefer the 1975 musical version of the film, Mame. Nominated for 6 Oscars, including Picture, Supporting Actress, Editing and Cinematography. This was in 1958/59 when Auntie Mame competed for Best Picture against flicks such as The Defiant Ones, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, and lost to Gigi. The film remembered and admired most by the way, is Vertigo, a flop back then. Go figure.

Anyway, the main reason to catch this is for Rosalind Russell 's Oscar nominated title performance. A career performance as the lovable eccentric, and almost indomitable Auntie. There are very few scenes where she isn't onscreen, and you'll go wherever she and the story will takes us. You can choose either a screening hosted and commented on by Hedda Lettuce, or a screening without:

THE MUPPET MOVIE- Sat Nov 19 at 1- Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria- The Muppet Movie, part of the Jim Henson/Muppets film retrospective, returns for one more weekend of screenings. The first and best of the Muppet films usually gets a late night screening but for once, NOT at midnight. A sleeper hit of the summer of 1979, you might be surprised that it's more than just a kid's flick. You have a road film, with a stealth satire of Hollywood and what one might move too quickly to give up on to make it big. A satire not on the level of say, Sunset Blvd or The Player, but one that registers now that didn't back in grade school when you/we first saw this. Ok, was that too much? Fine, you got fun jokes, both good and groan inducing. You have enjoyable cameos, with Steve Martin, Mel Brooks, Charles Durning, Dom DeLuise, Richard Pryor, Bob Hope and Orson Welles among the cast. You've got practically every Muppet that ever appeared during the run of The Muppet Show. You also got the Oscar nominated song, The Rainbow Connection. What you'll have is fun.

For one admission price, you can before or after the screening, catch an exhibit of Henson's work, puppets, Muppets, drawings, writing, etc. You can also do both the film and the exhibit on Sunday the 20th, but I'm only available for the 19th:

Let me know if there's interest, later all.

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