Tuesday, July 30, 2013

August revivals: first half

Hey, Mike here with a revival list for the first half of August. Long list with many that conflict, so pay close attention to the dates and times if you're interested. Here we go:

THE SERVANT- Wed July 31 and Thurs August 1 at 5:20, 7:30 and 9:40- 2 more days/nights to catch this film. Unlike Computer Chess, which has done respectable business, The Servant did even bigger business this weekend at the Forum. Yet the new film has had its run extended, while The Servant has not. So you only have the dates I posted above to see this DCP restoration.

A 50th anniversary screening of the British film classic. I admit I'm not familiar with either this 1963 film or its lead, Dirk Bogarde, aside from scattered performances ranging from A Tale of 2 Cities, to The Night Porter to The Patricia Neal Story as Roald Dahl. But I am familiar with director Joseph Losey (The Big Night, A Doll's House, The Boy with Green Hair), and I'm very familiar with screenwriter Harold Pinter (who adapted this from the Robin Maugham novella). So I have faith that this story, of a too-good-to-be-true butler (Bogarde) comes into the life of a lazy upper class gentleman (James Fox), will be a well-told one. With Sarah Miles and Wendy Craig as the women caught up (or heavily involved) in this story of class and psychological warfare. Whether or not the jazz score by John Dankworth (with vocals by his wife Cleo Laine) still holds up might be debatable. That the black and white cinematography from Douglas Slocombe (Ealing comedies like The Lavender Hill Mob and The Man in the White Suit, the first three Indiana Jones films, plus a slew of other quality credits) is amazing, isn't debatable. The revival trailer that's on the Forum link to The Servant gives ample proof of that.
A very big deal in Britain, with it's multiple BAFTA awards and nominations, and a very high spot in the BFI Top 100 British films. But maybe it's very Englishness has kept ignored here, aside from Anglophiles, fans of TCM, and the New York Film Critics who gave an award for Best Screenplay to Pinter back in 1964. Here's a chance to change that:

Next come two Midnight screenings that conflict if you can only do one night this weekend:
THE GREAT MUPPET CAPER- Fri Aug 2 and Sat Aug 3 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 Robert Morely 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 John Cleese. Enjoy Henson and company's take on a caper film:

TRUE STORIES- Fri Aug 2 and Sat Aug 3 at Midnight-ish-  IFC Center- The IFC Center will, for the next three months, screen films shot in and/or highlighting the state of Texas. Two sets of retrospectives called Lone Star Cinema: Texas On Screen. One slate of obvious classics and near-classics (Bonnie and Clyde, The Outlaw Josey Wales and The Searchers are the only titles announced as of this writing), and one slate for the Midnight Movie audience. Sorry that it's not likely I'll post anything from the first slate since they start at 11AM on weekends; I'd did Lacombe Luicen at that time there and while I did enjoy it, boy was I dragging all morning long. I'm more of a night owl, so if there's a Midnight movie I find interesting and doable, I'll post. True Stories qualifies. It may have the same kind of appeal as Great Muppet Caper, it's worth posting.


MERRY CHRISTMAS, MR. LAWRENCE- Sat Aug 3 at 3:15- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- From Lincoln Center's David Bowie retrospective. Sorry that I'll only be posting both this and one other film of his. But I haven't gotten any interest out of Just A Gigolo (with Kim Novak and Marlene Dietrich!), you can't drag me to Christiane F. for 12 dollars, I don't have time for most of the others including The Hunger (sigh), and for some reason, no Last Temptation of Christ.
So instead, let's pump up a film almost unknown to most of you readers, Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence. I would almost consider this 1983 picture a forgotten film, if most people in this country had ever heard of this to begin with. Sorry that back in Sept. 1983, it wasn't as cool as say, Jaws 3-D. See, that's a film Universal Pictures knew how to promote, not this.

The arrival of a British officer introduces us to a Japanese prison camp in Java, 1942. The man who runs the camp will seem very familiar to those who have seen Letters From Iwo Jima. Because these Allied prisoners have accepted surrender over suicide, they deserve more punishment for this, than for being the enemy. It tells more of a story of East/West differences, and how power and absolute belief can shift during war, then telling a straightforward war story. Expect more atrocities depicted then war action. Also expect a lot more character development as well.

The biggest issue Western critics had was the casting of Bowie as a British commando. Too strange and spacey for his own good. But considering he was playing a burnout who couldn't function, his performance has aged well over the years. And his character's unspoken attraction to the camp commandant, helps give this story an edge, and a different kind of punch. Only available in this country through the Criterion Collection. Take a chance and catch it:

THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH- Sun Aug 4 at 5:45- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- The original director's cut, as a part of Lincoln Center's David Bowie retrospective. Nicholas Roeg's sci-fi cult classic from 1976, with David Bowie as an alien. He must get water to his dying planet, so he comes to Earth, poses as a human, and forms a company that serves as a multi-national front, while he builds a return ship. But he doesn't plan on dealing with falling in love or at least in lust, or the enjoyable trappings of wealth, or the U.S. government, and business greed and ruthlessness. Bowie has never been perfectly cast as he was here, with strong support from Rip Torn, Candy Clark, and Buck Henry. If you never saw it, you'll find it interesting. One of those films that doesn't spell everything out for you, so you'll actually have to think a little, God help you (Tee-Hee!). For sure, of its time. Beautiful to look, at times erotically charged, yet tragic and always fascinating:

Next come three sets of films. One set playing at Lincoln Center, one set from Film Forum and the other set playing at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria. All playing on Saturday August 10th. They all kinda conflict or completely conflict, you can't see all 7 films in one day, but you can mix and match. I won't worry about conflicts, I'll let popular vote decide what I catch: 
YOU'RE A BIG BOY NOW introduced by J. Hoberman and/or COTTON COMES TO HARLEM- Sat Aug 10 at 2 (Boy) and 5 (Cotton)- Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria- A potential double feature from the Museum of the Moving Image's Fun City retrospective: a series of films shot in New York, that throw out political correctness to show at least some level of authenticity of life in the gritty big city. All films released from 1967-75.
First, You're a Big Boy Now, from 1967. A feature-length extension of Francis Ford Coppola's thesis film from a novel by David Benedictus, and the first film to take advantage of the tax breaks Mayor Lindsay offered for location shooting. A young man tries to make in the big city, with parents on his back, a girl he doesn't love all over him, and a woman he does love being as much a wrong fit as you can possibly imagine. The film may have New York written all over it, but the themes are universal. But does the film making carry the day, so to speak? That will be up to you to decide. Though also a bit of Dr. Zhivago in the way that the supporting characters are all far more memorable than the lead himself. With a supporting cast that includes Rip Torn and Geraldine Page (as the parents), Karen Black and Julie Harris (as the mean landlady), good luck breaking out. Though Page received an Oscar nomination for Supporting Actress, if any one performance/ character stands out, it's Elizabeth Hartman as the man-hater. Best known from the Sidney Poitier film A Patch of Blue and finally getting a chance to break away from the mousey stereotype, she played a go-go dancer emotionally scarred by a man in high school, and seems intent on getting revenge with any man who dares to be attracted to her.
The series' guest curator, former film critic for the Village Voice J. Hoberman, will introduce the film.
Next, Cotton Comes To Harlem, Ossie Davis's directorial debut from 1970. Perhaps the earliest form of Blaxplotation film out there, and had the kind of success that inspired that wave of film, but it's probably an unfair label to give this. We start off following two cops, played by comedian Godfrey Cambridge and Blacula's Raymond St. Jacques, who might use the fists a little too often, but aren't dirty. They take note of a popular preacher's "Back To Africa" fundraising cruise, with donations coming from mostly the poor people of his neighborhood. But when a car chase leads to the discovery of $87,000 in cash hidden in a package of raw cotton, things escalate quickly. Possibly more than the two police detectives can handle. But don't worry, it's all in good fun. Aside from the occasional dead body or sequence of violence, Davis keeps the film running at a quick, light pace. With lots of Harlem location shooting.
I remember finding this on TCM late one night and was pleasantly surprised. Now I knew and had seen the late Cambridge in other things, as I did with St. Jacques, even if I remember him best as Blacula. But I find it hard to find others who remember the two leads of Cotton Goes To Harlem. It's not hard to find people who remember two actors who made their debut here: Cleavon Little (as a pickpocket/ junkie), and Redd Foxx (as one of the poor men trying to contribute; his performance caught NBC's attention and eventually got Redd 'Sanford and Son'). Trust me, this film is relatively more light hearted than I'm making it out to be. Certainly more light hearted than most of the official blaxplotation films that got made thanks to the success of Cotton.
You can see each film separately or together, for one admission. And you can check the rest of the museum out as well, either before the films if you get there by 11am-12pm, or in-between, though you may only have 30-40 minutes at best: 

THE BOSTON STRANGLER and/or 3 WOMEN and/or VALLEY OF THE DOLLS- Sat Aug 10 at 4 (Boston), 6:30 (Women) and 9 (Dolls)- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- These three films are from Lincoln Center's best of Twentieth-Century Fox retrospective, named Fasten Your Seatbelts Part 2. They did Part 1 back in the summer of 2011, screening the likes of Patton, Cleopatra, Star!, Vanishing Point and All About Eve (where the name of the retrospective comes from). Those films will not be screened again sorry to say, and no Star Wars either (thanks for nothing Lucas! . . . :) . . .  ).
Anyway, there are more films in the retrospective than the 3 I'm posting for August 10th, and the two I'm posting for Sunday August 11th. And while you can't technically do a double feature of these films on any given day, you can go for Lincoln Center's 3 for twenty dollars package. No, you can't buy two tickets for one film and then one ticket for a second film. It has to be one ticket each for three films to get the deal. You can go online to the filmlinc links I have below, or got the Walter Reade box office directly and buy the package. If you don't want to go for the films I've posted, you follow the filmlinc links to see what I left off (most for time crunch reasons). Sorry I have no time for the likes of say, Butch Cassidy, The Three Faces of Eve, or the director's cut of Last of the Mohicans. But anyway, on to what I posted here:
First, The Boston Strangler from 1968, screened in a studio library 35mm print. Partially shot in a You Are There/ True Crime style, at least the first half. Concentrating on the police investigation of the two waves of attacks, from 1962-1964, where thirteen women were in almost all cases sexually assaulted, and all were killed. The first half uses split screen effects at times, popular here and in The Thomas Crown Affair, and never popular again until the series 24. We mainly follow police detectives Henry Fonda and George Kennedy as they investigate, run into dead ends, false leads, etc. The second half of the film follows Tony Curtis as Albert DeSalvo, as he goes through his day, finds another victim and is captured. The last quarter or so of the film is where it gets the most surreal, as we go into DeSalvo's mind as the police, in the form of Fonda's character, try to elicit a confession.
Again, like with The Right Stuff, facts are changed to give a clearer narrative. A huge hit in its day, and still interesting to watch today. Years of Law and Order makes the first half comfortable for the viewer, as does the ever-steady presence of Fonda. Then the film slowly becomes more surreal, once Curtis comes into the picture. A major change of pace from the light romantic comedies he usually made, Curtis was never better, projecting the everyman working exterior, and slowly unpeeling the nasty interior. And director Richard Fleischer keeps everything spinning and ablely handles the different styles here. From someone who directed the likes of 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea and Fantastic Voyage, he keeps the pulp to a minimum in the dark film he would ever make. At least until the underrated Britsh tru crime drama 10 Rellington Place. Ok, maybe not as dark as say, Soylent Green, but psychologically darker for sure.   

Next, Three Women in a studio library print. Barely a cheery pick-me-up compared to The Boston Strangler. Definitely a 70s film, but one heavily influenced by Bergman's Persona. Lots of obsession and some switching of personalities. Hard to describe a film that had no screenplay, but was completely influenced by some dreams Altman had. Gone are the days when a major director and the head of a major studio (in this case, Alan Ladd Jr. of Fox) could have an exchange possibly resembling something like this:

Altman: Hi, Alan. I just had some dreams, and I'd like you to give me some money to make a movie about them. I promise I won't write a screenplay.
Ladd: Oh. Ok.
Altman: I don't need much.
Ladd: How about 1.5 Million? (the actual estimated budget)
Altman: Great. I've got a plane to catch. Will call you later.
Ladd: Have a good flight. (The situation actually happened, minus this dialogue, according to the book "Easy Riders" by Peter Biskind).

Starring Sissy Spacek and Shelley Duvall. Never seen all of this and I'm very curious.

Finally, The Valley of the Dolls, screened as a DCP restoration. Wow, this is happy-go-lucky compared to the previous two films in this section. Eeeehhh at best, terrible at worst. But at times, gloriously terrible. Barbara Perkins is the hot pure virgin. Patty Duke is the hot nice girl so damaged by Hollywood that every other joke about her character will probably be about either The Patty Duke Show or about Lindsay Lohan. Sharon Tate is the hot actress who can't act, but who has a bad fate in store for her. Throw in a cast that includes Lee Grant, Susan Hayward, Joey Bishop, and a bunch of actors who don't deserve mention but they play weaklings or jerks, mix in good music from Andre Previn and John Williams (Oscar nominated), and tell all of them to play this STRAIGHT?!?!?! Wow, this film is so stupidly full of shit, but oh so wonderfully full of shit.

CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND- Sat Aug 10 at 4 and 7- Film Forum- A new 35mm print of The "Definitive Director's Cut" will be screened; basically a combination of the original 1977 release and the 1980 Special Edition. This film kicks off the Film Forum's four weeks of horror and sci-fi film series.
As opposed to War of the Worlds, here is a Spielberg film with nice aliens. Also one of his best, as well as one of the best ever made. Was a hit in 77, but would have been more popular if that pesky Star Wars wasn't playing around the same time. For those who've never seen it on the big screen, go. It's a different beast all together. Especially the abduction sequence and the last 40 minutes. 8 Oscar nominations, 2 Oscars including one for Cinematography. An AFI Top 100 film and in my personal top 100 as well:
EVIL DEAD 2: DEAD BY DAWN- Sat Aug 10 at 9:40- Film Forum- A special screening of another Evil Dead film from director Sam Raimi and lead Bruce Campbell. Again, this is part of the Forum's Sci-Fi/ Horror film series. But for once, this isn't being screened at Midnight, but at a more reasonable time. Once again, Campbell's hapless Ash deals with demons from the Book of the Dead, in yet another isolated cabin. Beyond that, this is similar to a typical Marx Brothers film, in the sense that there is very little point in bringing up plot points. It's important to emphasize the humor here. Bloody and violent, yes. How could it not be when you fight demons, the possessed corpse of your girlfriend, and in the best sequence of the film, his own double and then his own hand. No tree rape, yet don't discount the violence either. Nevertheless, the funnier and most fun of the three Evil Dead films. Ok, counting the decent remake, four.
LAURA and/or THE GRAPES OF WRATH- Sun Aug 11 at 1 (Laura) and 5:45 (Grapes)- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- 2 restored DCPs, as part of Lincoln Center's best of 20th Century Fox's film vault. Can't see them on the same day for one admission. The best you can do is pay for a 3 for 20 dollar pack and see one or both of these films that way.
First, Laura. A classic film noir, and one of my favorites of the genre. Detective Dana Andrews is obsessed with murder victim Laura, played by Gene Tierney. Among the suspects are outwardly suave Vincent Price and ultra prissy, ultra acidic critic Clifton Webb (Oscar nominated). We see flashbacks from Laura's life that fascinate the detective more. And then . . . . sorry, if you never saw it, I'm not spoiling it. Though do look for a young (ish, kinda) Judith Anderson.

Among the best of the noirs. Not the best, but alongside say, The Maltese Falcon and Sweet Smell of Success, a noir I can see over and over and never get bored. And as long as some people I know don't know it, I'll keep pushing it. Amazing how much sexual tension there were able to get past the Production Code. Perhaps not as bitter as other noirs, but with a high sense of both romance and disappointment.
An Oscar for the Cinematography, additional nominations for director Otto Preminger (a replacement from Rouben Mamoulian; Otto chucked Rouben's old footage, reshot everything and changed the ending- WOW!), Art Direction and the Screenplay (3 writers were nominated, but not Ring Lardner Jr., who did some script doctoring). What I'm surprised wasn't nominated was David Raskin's score, which includes "Laura's Theme", which is hard to forget if you like the film.
Next, The Grapes of Wrath. The second time this summer this film plays in New York. Considering we are far from enjoying prosperous times, it's probably time to revisit this John Ford classic. Recently released ex-con Tom Joad (Henry Fonda) is miraculously reunited with his family. The Oklahoma land has been devastated by the Dust Bowl, Tom's immediate family was evicted from their farm, and Tom joins up with his entire family the night before they have to leave after being evicted. The family moves to California in search of work. They've been warned work is scarce, but they have no choice. They have no money, the family might not make it to California intact, and the camps they visit seem bereft with corrupt sheriffs, unsanitary conditions, and/or a looming threat of violence. But the Joads keep moving forward; almost on blind faith, since there's little around them to give them hope.

We're never going to experience what the average moviegoer experienced when Grapes of Wrath first came out. That sense of You Are There, feeling the Great Depression, we can certainly empathize with. But the feelings of, My God this is how it was, or My God this is how it is, or look how far we overcome, or one thinking back on who didn't survive the ordeal, wow. Arguably John Ford's best. If some of you prefer say one of Ford's films with John Wayne or How Green Was My Valley, I won't argue with you, but I won't agree with you either. With a performance from Fonda that elevated him from leading man to superstar, with the dye of American Icon starting to cast. Oscars for Ford for Director, and Jane Darwell for Supporting Actress as beloved Ma Joad. Nominations for Picture, Fonda for Actor, Screenplay, Editing and Sound. On both AFI Top 100 lists. See it before Spielberg remakes.


FANTASTIC VOYAGE and PLANET OF THE APES (1968)- Sun Aug 12 at 3:20 (Voyage), 5:20 (Apes) and 7:30 (Voyage) and 9:30 (Apes)- Film Forum-  2 DCP restorations from the Forum's Sci-fi/ Horror film retrospective. Two sci-fi films from the 1960s, both from Twentieth Century Fox, and both I guess couldn't be screened at Lincoln Center for their Fox retrospective because the Forum got their mitts on it first. Just a theory. And unlike Lincoln Center, you can see both films for one admission.

First, Fantastic Voyage, from 1966. A scientists who knows how to cause miniaturization, escapes from them evil Commies with the aid of CIA-type agent/ prototype for Jack Bauer Stephen Boyd (Ben-Hur, a forgotten, very good leading man from the Sixties). They survive an attack from some KGB-type of group, but the scientist suffers a blood clot in his head. The only way to save him? Send in the CIA agent and some doctor/ scientist types into an experimental ship, get miniaturized and injected inside the comatose scientist, and fix his injury in one hour before said miniaturization wears off or the scientist dies. So the crew consists of Boyd, folksy Doctor Arthur Kennedy (the suspected assassin?!?!), scientist Raquel Welch (HEY! Who let a WOMAN on board?!?! In such a tight fitting outfit . . . ), the ship's pilot and HEY! WHO LET DONALD PLEASANCE ON BOARD?!?!!? Uh-oh, this can't be good HEY! Watch out for those white blood cells . . .

As you can see, I'm not taking this seriously and neither than you. The film comes off a little hokey at times, but the premise holds, the visuals are at times trippy, and Pleasance is Pleasance, and Raquel is Raquel. Ok, she's not in a fur bikini, but this will do. Oscar nominations for Cinematography, Editing and Sound; Oscars for Art Direction and the Visual Effects.
Next, the original Planet of the Apes. For those of you who lived and where consciously aware in New York at least through the mid 80s, have a memory of Ch. 7's The 4:30 Movie, with that theme and those graphics that were fun but a little dated by 1978. When they did Planet of the Apes week, I was there BA-BY! The first film chopped into 2 edited parts, followed by 3 of the sequels. Now I'm not asking you to see the sequels on your own, and God knows I don't want to get near the Tim Burton remake. I'm just pushing the original. A hit in its day, that a surprising number of critics ripped apart back then. Many of them had to do mea culpas weeks and years after. It means enough these days to be highlighted in the 1968-set season of Mad Men.

3 astronauts land in a strange place, filled with talking apes, and human slaves who are mute. 3 astronauts go down to one. The one being Charlton Heston, who, after going through many trials, begins to kick ass. Until the ending, the kind that makes M. Night seem like a weakling. There, the story told in a nutshell.

Basically, its an enjoyable action/sci-fi/drama with satirical moments. A number of screenwriters contributed to this adaptation to Pierre Boulle's novel, including Rod Serling and Michael Wilson, who previously adapted Boulle's The Bridge on the River Kwai. Wilson is credited with the tribunal scene that was a cross between the Scopes Monkey trial and a Communist witch hunt hearing, the kind that had Wilson blacklisted for years. Serling is credited with the ending, one that Boulle apparently preferred to his own.

With the most unique hero in film history in Heston's Taylor. A man with no hope, no faith, and a complete asshole. And yet, he becomes more naive and more hopeful as the film goes on, while still being an asshole. And he still kicks ass. Not like in the second film, when he blows up the entire planet, but close.

Of course this doesn't work unless you buy the monkey makeup, which didn't work if the cast didn't take fellow cast mate Roddy McDowall's suggestion to add the occasional tic, blink and anything else they could think of, to not rely on just the mask to show character. 2 Oscar nominations, and a special Oscar for the makeup. Granted, this was a year when the ape makeup work for 2001 went completely ignored. I guess because the Academy believed everyone in the Dawn of Man sequences were really apes. Anyway, a fun time for all of us who catch it. I saw a new print back on July 2011, and it plays great. The new DCP should play just as well:

THE TINGLER- Tues Aug 14 at 10:20- Film Forum- A special screening of William Castle's best known film. Castle was a director/ producer who's better known for the gimmicks used to promote or to "enhance" the experience of seeing his films, than the actual films themselves. Ok, Rosemary's Baby is the best known film on his resume, Roman Polanski was hired to direct because Roman was a more talented director, but anyway. Simple story, where scientist Vincent Price discovers a creature that exists in all humans, a creature that lives on fear. He discovers one that is quite big and then it escapes . . .
Supposedly the Forum will re-enact the stunts that were done back when The Tingler was originally released. Not sure what that means exactly, but it includes a few seats wired to give some select viewers a small shock, some people fainting "on cue", and some "nurses" ready to help movie goers, so this might be fun. After all, there's a reason why they say The Tingler is being screened in PSYCHEDELO-RAMA. Actually there is no reason why it would be called that. Just come in and have fun:


Let me take the time to note that I wasn't intending to tear down the new film Computer Chess in any way. I found an interesting, quirky dramedy. A bit reminiscent of Big Bang Theory, but moving away from using pop culture references as a crutch. Though I'm being too hard here as well; Big Bang is a comedy first and foremost (and it does its job well), and it has successfully expanded its characters and small universe well over the years. But Computer Chess captures the feelings of isolation, loneliness and inarticulation well, a daunting feat to pull off onscreen, while doing just enough to successfully capture the comparatively low-tech era of 1980. I recommend it, like I recommend the films I've posted above. Let me know if there's interest, later all.

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