Tuesday, October 01, 2013

October revivals: first half

Hey all, Mike here with a revival list for the first half of October. I wanted a somewhat larger list, but I can barely attempt the films I've posted here, can't go overboard on my end. So let's get on with this list:

MEDEA- Tues Oct 1 at 7- MOMA-  1969's Medea, as part of a retrospective of designer Dante Ferretti's work. A man who brings almost a painterly style to his work, and has success with his collaborations with Pasolini, Fellini, and Scorsese. And while I have no intention to post or attend screenings of Gangs of New York and Shutter Island (liked them both, no repeat viewing necessary), there are a few I'd like to try to get to. But any of these films I'm thinking of may have to be in the second half of October, if at all. I really wanted to try for Fellini's And The Ship Sails On, coming up on Tuesday, October 8 at 7, but it doesn't look likely. If you can make the time for that challenging film, go for it.   

Now, Pier Paolo Pasolini's Medea. Pasolini was a challenging director to put it mildly, and his films are generally not the kind you pull up on Netflix for casual viewing. His version of Medea qualifies. The story of Medea and Jason is re-told here, but not in the way Euripides did. More of a comparison between Medea's "primitive" world and Jason's "civilized" world; where Medea gave up so much to bring herself and the Golden Fleece to Jason and his world, and her revenge when betrayed is brutal. But expect no golden chariots here. Expect a mostly wordless film, relying on cinematography (locations as close to the original story as the filmmakers could get) and an offbeat, non-traditional score to tell the story. Mostly non-actors filing the roles, but take note of Maria Callas in her only film role, as the mute title character. I've never seen it, but the screencaps and youtube videos have made me very curious. Only for the adventurous:


PSYCHO (1960)- Thurs Oct 3 at 9:30 for 7.50- Bow Tie Chelsea Cinemas- A cheap screening of the Hitchcock classic, as part of Chelsea Classic's month of classic horror films. Sorry that I can only do the screening not introduced by Hedda Lettuce; time doesn't permit otherwise on my end.
Honestly, I'm not trying to make a habit of posting Psycho each and every time it comes up. It's that I haven't seen it each time I've posted, and I'm gonna try again when it's playing at a convenient time for me. Which it is here.

Familiar to many, but I'm telling you, it's a completely different beast on the big screen as opposed to TV. You're not spending time in your living room, check marking all the familiar aspects of the story. This story sucks you in, lulls you into thinking one way, and then turns it around. You know all this, you wouldn't be looking at this list if you've never heard of Psycho. But this tightly edited story draws you despite what you know. And if you've somehow NEVER seen it, oh boy I'd like to see this with you.

And despite being an unplanned landmark in the horror genre, slasher sub-section, I would argue that this plays more like a suspense thriller then a horror pic. So those that have problems with horror flicks, should be ok with this. Interesting to watch acting-wise, as well. John Gavin's boyfriend performance hasn't aged too well, and Vera Miles's isn't bad, but definitely more then a little annoying. Not as shrill as Julianne Moore's in the remake, but still. Martin Balsam continued his reliable character actor work here, as a more believable ex-cop then Bill Macy in the remake.

There is a reason why this is Janet Leigh's most memorable performance, and it's not because of the shower scene. Go ahead, name another memorable performance of hers. Oops, Touch of Evil, not quite. Being part of the memorable opening scene doesn't qualify as a performance. And Manchurian Candidate doesn't count either. Being the red herring of a story's plot, eh, whatever. Despite Hitchcock's feeling about actor being cattle, Leigh gets to play a truly conflicted person. Decent, wanting more out of life, caught up in temptation, then over her head looking for a way out, which is about when she pulls into the Bates Motel.

But Anthony Perkins' performance feels modern today. Creepy, alive, desperate to open up, yet jittery within his own skin, and with just a little anger threatening to bubble up. Ole' Hitch may or may not have understood what Perkins was bringing to the table, but Alfred was patient enough to give him free rein. Thanks to the success of this, Tony could never be free of the typecasting. Oscar nominations for Leigh (her only one), Hitch for Director (his last nomination), Cinematography and Art Direction. On both AFI Top 100 lists and in my personal top 100. Catch this. Yes, it's a DVD projection, not a DCP or a new 35mm print. But it's still a big screen presentation, so the speed and economy of the film should still impress:


CABARET introduced by Joel Grey for a $7.00 bar minimum- Fri Oct 4 at 9:30- Rubin Museum of Art- The hit movie musical, one of the last of the standouts of the genre (live action only), gets a cheap-ish screening. A projected screening, with a quality sound system, in a comfortable environment, for a 7 dollar bar minimum. Get the drinks in the bar (doesn't need to have alcohol in it), get you ticket to the side of the bar, and then you're good. 

Tickets are released around 6:45, and because Joel Grey will be introducing the screening, I advise you to get your drink and tickets as early as possible. One ticket per person. The Rubin Museum itself is free to the public at 5:30, so you can check out the place first (highly recommended), then get your drink and ticket, and step out somewhere in the Union Square area for a quick-ish dinner, before coming back for the screening. Or eat first, get your drink and ticket, then check out the museum and finish downstairs at the screening. And remember, you can bring your drink down with, and go back up to get another drink and bring it down with you.

As for Cabaret itself, he spent decades working on the stage, but Bob Fosse only lived long enough to direct 5 films. To some of you who might read this, Fosse might be just the guy involved in Chicago, that mediocre film (not in my opinion) or that musical that casts hacks, soap opera types, singers who can't act, and actors from The Sopranos who can't sing. Fosse was/is much much more. Consider Cabaret as film lesson 1 for this post.

Cabaret, along with Fiddler on the Roof, Grease and All That Jazz, were the only successful musicals of the 1970s. Sorry, I don't consider Saturday Night Fever, Woodstock or The Last Waltz as musicals, and Willy Wonka, Tommy, Phantom of the Paradise and Rocky Horror I consider to be cult films, not bonafide hits. 8 Oscars, in the year of the Godfather. Among the winners were Liza for Actress, Grey in his signature role for Supporting Actor (over CaanDuvall and Pacino for Godfather!), Geoffrey Unsworth (2001, Superman) for Cinematography, and Fosse for Director. This was the year Bob won the Oscar, Tony and Emmy for Best Director, a feat never pulled off before or since.

Number 5 on AFI's recent Top Musical list. I've never seen all of it in one sitting from beginning to end, but would like to. Note that I probably will have to bolt from the film the second the end credits finish, but I still want to catch it.


THE YOUNG GIRLS OF ROCHEFORT- Sun Oct 6 at 2 and 6:20- Film Forum- From the Jacques Demy retrospective, a DCP restoration. I only know one of his films, and kinda know a couple of more. Time doesn't allow me to possibly catch more than a couple of them anyway. 

From 1967 though not released in the U.S. until 68, the story centers on twin sisters who run a ballet school. They're played by Catherine Deneuve and her sister Francoise Dorelac, who died about a year after filming completed. They have dreams about meeting a man, one of whom might come in the form of fellow dancer George Chakiris (Bernardo of West Side Story). Their mother owns a cafe where all the characters eventually meet. She pines for former fiancee Michel Piccoli who, unbeknownst to her, has moved back into town. He meets up with Deneuve, not knowing who her mother is. He offers to help her with her music career, with the aid of his American friend, Gene Kelly.

There are more complications, but what's the point in breaking them down? The film is light, colorful and fluffy, the music is good (lyrics by Demy, music by Michel Legrand), the dancing is as well. An Oscar nomination for its Score. It's not the Umbrellas of Cherbourg, but it will do fine. Light, gentle, very French, fun:

THE SHINING- Thurs Oct 10 at 7 and 9:30 for 7.50- Bow Tie Chelsea Cinemas-  Yet another chance to catch this Kubrick-Nicholson film, as part of Chelsea Classic's month of classic horror films. The 7pm screening will have a mocking intro bit from Hedda Lettuce, the 9:30 without. Either DVD-projected screening is fine by me. I may not have considered posting this at all, if I hadn't seen the disappointing documentary, Room 237. Starts interesting, but let me put it this way; when the theory that the film is actually Stanley Kubrick's secret commentary on the genocide of the American Indian is the most thoughtful, well-reasoned theory in a film full of out-there theories, you know you're in for a long night. You know, Kubrick might be my favorite director, but he wasn't perfect, not at all. Sometimes a continuity error is just a continuity error. Sometimes a weak performance is just a weak performance; I'm referring to Barry Dennen's performance, though I have liked the actor in the past, particularly in Fiddler on the Roof. Sorry, I digressed . . .    

Do I really need to go into the film's story, people? You either know it, or you're a 20 year old who accidentally clicked on this, instead of one of the 1500 Project Runway blogs. Stephen King was not thrilled with the way Stanley Kubrick adapted his novel. And while I don't recall this film being wrecked by critics back in 1980, there was no outpour to proclaim this a classic then, as opposed to now. Nicholson's already mildly eccentric performance at the start before he goes into complete psychosis, was quite different from the book, and in most forms of reality. But I'll stop comparing the book with the film now. Especially when Stephen King got to make his own version of The Shining; that 1997 mini-series was borderline unwatchable. I saw most of it, scattered over 8 years, out of curiosity. Don't do the same. Watch this film instead.

The film has its own creepy build up that pays off well. Jack does psychosis better then most actors around. You may not believe Shelley Duvall could have ever been married to Jack, but you buy her as a mother isolated and at her wits end, only to find inner strength. The best performance in the film was pulled out of child actor Danny Lloyd, protected from knowing this was a scary movie until it was released. Not the best film of that year, or even among horror flicks, but still pretty good.

The only way the 9:30 screening goes off on time, is if it's played in a different screening room. Which is possible, but if the 7pm can be done, fine by me:


RED RIVER (1948)- Fri Oct 11 at 7- Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria- Part of the Howard Hawks retrospective. Red River from 1948, shot in 1946. John Wayne plays an arrogant man, consumed with the idea of starting a cattle ranch in Texas. He leaves the wagon train he initially joined behind, to try to get his ranch off the ground. Nothing distracts him. Not the Mexicans who claim to own the land he wants. Not the Indians that killed everyone in the wagon train, including the woman he loved. Well, not everyone; an orphan boy survived, who Wayne adopts as his own. And Wayne does succeed in his vision of a cattle ranch. But 14 years later, desperation sets in. The Civil War has wiped out most of his customer base, either thru death or poverty. Wayne's only hope is a desperate cattle drive to Missouri, a trip that has little room for error. But with little money to launch the drive, some questionable hires, and the threat of Indian attack, you would think any of those would be the biggest problem. But instead it might be Wayne's attitude. Still arrogant but with years of history that HASN'T proven him wrong to think otherwise. Mix in material desperation and an adopted son, played as a grown up by Montgomery Clift, who won't take it anymore, and something has to give. 

Hawks' best Western as far as I'm concerned, though admittedly Rio Bravo is more fun. Arguably Wayne's best performance, in or out of a Western. Clift capably goes toe-to-toe with him, and a great cast of Western actors (Walter Brennan, Harry Carrey Sr. and Jr., John Ireland and Noah Beery), make for nice color. 2 Oscar nominations, for the script and the editing. Good film all around:


ALIEN- Fri Oct 11, Sat Oct 12 and Sun Oct 13 at Midnight- IFC Center- Yep, I'm posting Alien again, in part because there are still people who haven't experienced it on the big screen, and in part because I need no excuse to catch this on the big screen. This time it's back at IFC Center, where it has enjoyed a respectable number of Midnight movie mavens (off and on) for years.It's playing at Midnight all Columbus Day weekend long, including Sunday night for the ambitious/ having Monday off crowd. 

A DCP screening (I'm guessing it's the recent restoration) of the original 1979 release, as opposed to the "director's cut" from about 10 years ago will be screened. It means we don't get more establishment shots of the soon-to-be claustrophobic ship interiors, more signs of dislike and/or disrespect of Ripley, and the final fates of a few characters. All worked when restored to the film, but not essential to its enjoyment. Especially the extra interiors. I've seen this with several of you before, but that doesn't stop me from posting this again. This film works, better than anything Ridley Scott as ever done. Excellent combo of look, pace and sound all of which as played well before at the Forum with its quality sound system and should do so again. In my personal top 100. C'mon, it's fun. 


RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK- Mon Oct 14 at 2- Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria- And speaking of posting films yet again, I'm doing that now with Raiders of the Lost Ark. I posted it last year twice and caught it twice. First in Bryant Park, where the dialogue was hard to hear at times, but the music came in well, and as long you could see the screen, who cares? Then I posted the restored IMAX screening, and boy did that kick major ass. So I post it again, a special matinee screening at the Museum of the Moving Image on Columbus Day itself. The screen isn't IMAX, but it can expand to an impressive size. This will be a DCP screening; I'm guess it's the digital restoration that's been kicking around for a couple of years now. And as for the film itself, if you don't know the first Indiana Jones film, then what the hell are you doing looking at this? In my personal top 35, on both AFI Top 100 lists, won multiple Oscars, and oh yeah, one of the most fun films ever made. 


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

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