Wednesday, June 06, 2012

June revivals: first half

Hey all, Mike here with revivals to catch for the first half of June. I'm excited about a lot of films this month. A few of which haven't been on revival screens for quite a while. It's been hard to pick the standouts or the ones worth taking a chance on for this posting, and the next one promises to be equally difficult. Luckily, my schedule difficulties allow me to narrow the listings down somewhat. Now on with the list:

BATTLE ROYALE- IFC Center- Now thru Wed June 13 at 7:20 and 9:50 plus Fri June 8 at 11:35- No surprise, the Japanese hit that's (very) similar to The Hunger Games, has had it's NYC engagement at IFC Center extended. We're talking about an open-ended run here. As for a further description of the film itself, go to my last post where Battle Royale is featured prominently:

FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE- Thurs Jun 7 at 9:45 and Fri June 8 at 9:40- Film Forum- The earliest of the Film Forum's Spaghetti Westerns retrospective that I can do. The second of Sergio Leone's "Man with No Name" series. Because it's far more serious than A Fistful of Dollars, and while dramatic it doesn't have the epic feel like The Good The Bad and The Ugly, For A Few Dollars More seemed to have received a bit of an unwarranted "Bastard Stepchild" reputation. I mean because it doesn't match the other two films, it's been easy to minimize and dismiss this film in the past. But its reputation has improved significantly over the past decade or two, and this is a great opportunity to change your opinion as well.

Clint Eastwood's Man with No Name is after outlaw Gian Maria Volonte (same main villain actor from Fistful, different character) for a lot of bounty money. But he's stymied at every turn by Lee Van Cleef, a significant older and probably smarter fellow bounty hunter with his own past. But they can't succeed unless they team-up. With Klaus Kinski as a very eccentric outlaw (did he play a role any other way?):

DOUBLE INDEMNITY introduced by Steven Katz (Shadow of the Vampire, an episode of From The Earth to the Moon)- Fri June 8 at 9:30 for a 7 dollar bar minimum- The Rubin Museum of Art- A cheap screening of the Billy Wilder film noir that's on both AFI Top 100 lists. For a 7 dollar bar bill (hard to spend any less than 8 though), you can see this at the Rubin Museum of Art. If you get there as early as 5:30, you can check out the entire museum at no additional cost, which I heartily recommend. Screenwriter Steven Katz (Shadow of the Vampire, an episode of From The Earth To The Moon) will introduce the screening. 

Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck are both cool as they plot her husband for the insurance money, but pesky investigator/moral compass Edward G. Robinson keeps getting in the way. I shouldn't be that way; if Eddie G. didn't turn in such a humane performance as basically both the audience's stand-in and the incorruptible everyman (as opposed to MacMurray's fine performance as the corrupted everyman), maybe this film would be slightly less better remembered. That last sentence probably made little grammatical sense, but I have little time, so I'm just moving on. Except that it's not like Eddie G. created the performance out of a vacuum. He had Wilder as a director, and Wilder and Raymond Chandler as screenwriters (the screenwriters detested each other. Reading a little about this makes me think it was karma that Wilder had to deal with Monroe for Some Like It Hot). And let me not forget the source material: James M. Cain's novel, based on actual murder case from the 1920s.

7 Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Wilder for Director, Stanwyck for Actress, and Wilder and Chandler for Screenplay. Surprisingly nothing for MacMurray or Robinson. No wins, since Going My Way was a juggernaut that year. On the short list for the best film noirs ever made. While I can't put this above Laura, which was released the same year as this, I enjoy the dance Wilder and cast do around the Production Code. 

THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY- Sun June 10 at 5:40- Film Forum- Yeah I've posted before, and guess what? I'm posting it again, so there! Part of the Forum's Spaghetti Western retro. The epic of Leone's Man With No Name trilogy; you definitely go on a journey here, aided with Morricone's most famous score, especially the theme. Eastwood's not so nice Good, Lee Van Cleef's evil to the core Bad, and Eli Wallach's not much better Ugly, fight each other, and try to work their way around something called The Civil War, to get their hands on buried gold. Each knows only a portion of the gold's exact location, so for the moment they're dependent, but they're not particularly inclined to share. Probably the best of the Spaghetti Westerns, due in no small part to Wallach's great performance (note that I RARELY use that phrase), the cinematography and Morricone's score.

This is the Reconstructed Italian version (don't worry, the words are still spoken in English). 2 hrs. 55 min. long, including 15 restored min. that Eastwood and Wallach had to go back and re-dub a couple of years ago. The print has been cleaned up, and has a remixed 5.1 Digital Dolby sound. I've done this before, but I need no excuse to go back. In my personal top 100:

SUNSET BLVD. and FIVE GRAVES TO CAIRO- Mon June 11 at 7:30 (Cairo) and 9:30(Sunset)- Film Forum- From the Forum's Erich Von Stroheim retrospective. A double feature of films where Von Stroheim was the actor and Billy Wilder was the co-writer/ director. First, Five Graves To Cairo. A British corporal is the lone solider left behind, as the rest of the retreating Brits avoid Rommel's invading army in Cairo. The solider poses as a waiter in a hotel, as he spys on Rommel. Von Stroheim plays Rommel, and Anne Baxter plays a French maid who aids our hero (the Brit, not Rommel). Oscar nominations for Art Direction, Cinematography and Editing. 5 Graves To Cairo is a Billy Wilder film I've never seen. I can't tell you if it's any good, but if I can learn if it's any good and THEN I get to Sunset Blvd afterwards for 1 admission, I'm completely fine with that.

As for Sunset Blvd, if you look at sites like this for any length of time, then you know this classic and I don't need to take up a lot of time. For those who haven't seen this on the big screen, you now have a chance to catch this. An AFI Top 100 film, 3 Oscars including Best Screenplay, 8 other nominations including Picture, Director for Billy Wilder, Actor for William Holden and Actress for Gloria Swanson. It lost Best Picture to All About Eve, another favorite of mine; please don't ask me to pick one over the other. In my personal top 30. Go, just go:

CHINA 9 LIBERTY 37- Tues Jun 12 at 9:10- Film Forum- The most recent Spaghetti Western in the Forum's retrospective. Possibly the last, from 1978, from director Monte Hellman (Two Lane Blacktop). Warren Oates' character used to work for a railroad company, but has retired to work on his ranch and live with his hot young wife (Jenny Agutter- Walkabout, An American Werewolf in London). The railroad company wants Oates' land to build through, but Oates won't sell. The company gives a gunmen condemned to death a reprieve, if he kills Oates. At the last minute, the gunslinger can't go through with it, but runs off WITH Oates hot wife. Suffice to say, Oates is NOT happy . . . . Don't know the film, but it sounds interesting and I'm curious:

DUCK YOU SUCKER- Wed June 13 at 6:50- Film Forum- More from the Forum's Spaghetti Western retro. Sergio Leone's last Spaghetti Western in fact (officially at least). 2 men in 1913 Mexico, bandit leader Rod Steiger and IRA explosive-expert-on-the-run James Coburn, wearily team-up to steal money from a bank. But plans fall apart, and the two men realize they can only trust each other. Because this is the Mexican Revolution, and any group you can think of from that era try to use and abuse the men for their own purposes. The only way these men can survive with guns and dynamite. Lots and lots of dynamite.

The film received no love, thanks largely to United Artists editing out whole chunks to make it more "accessible". It's never been seen in its original cut in this country. The closest we come is a version missing only 3 minutes with some music cues switched around. But that version has restored luster to the film's reputation, for those who bothered to catch it. The film has other screening dates and times, but this is the only one I can do:   

CHINATOWN and MARATHON MAN- Sun June 17 at 1:30(Chinatown) and 7(Marathon)- Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria- 2 more films from the Museum of the Moving Images' retrospective of great Paramount films from the 1970s. You can choose to see one or the other, or both for one admission, while checking out the museum itself in-between.

First, Chinatown, the last of the great film-noirs. Ok, it's more of a modern or neo-noir. While there would be some very good to excellent modern noirs afterwards (L.A. Confidential, Blue Velvet and Fargo chief among them), none would go the dark paths Roman Polanski's film would travel, not even Lynch's film.  Based on events from the California Water Wars of the 1930s, Jack Nicholson's private eye (the role that made hime  a star forever)is hired by Faye Dunaway to spy on her husband. But nothing is as it seems, and if you don't know the film, I won't spoil it for you here. One of the great period films, one of the great mysteries, and if wasn't for Paramount's own Godfather Part 2, it might have been the best film from that year. An Oscar for Robert Towne's Screenplay; 10 other nominations including Picture, Polanski for Director (who also turns in a memorable performance as a thug), Nicholson for Actor, and Dunaway for Actress. Sorry there was no room for John Huston for Supporting Actor, but boy does he make a memorably repellent villain. On both AFI Top 100 films and in my personal top 100.

Next, Marathon Man, a well done thriller from director John Schlesinger and writer William Goldman (adapting his novel) from 1976. Rogue government agents think one of their own (Roy Scheider) told a secret of some sort to his younger brother (Dustin Hoffman). This draws a Nazi war criminal (Laurence Olivier) out of hiding and into New York to find out what's wrong. Therefore, blood will be spilled. 

If you ever heard the saying "Is it safe" and you know what it means, then you have to be looking forward to Marathon Man, a film that is rarely ever revived. Briefly did for dentists what Jaws did for sharks. Effective thriller with a top notch cast, not just Olivier who received a Supporting Actor Oscar nomination. And also a fine NYC film, with effective location shooting; especially in Central Park and in the Diamond District:  

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