Tuesday, November 26, 2013

November revivals: Thanksgiving weekend edition

Hey all, Mike here with a list of revivals for Thanksgiving weekend. For the record I consider Wednesday, November 27 to be part of that list, so I'll include it. Now granted, something resembling a Nor'easter will hit town, probably as you're reading this. But I'm taking a chance that it will die down to a regular shower after 7pm, so I'll post the revival options for the 27th anyway. Now on with the list: 

SANDRA- Wed Nov 27 at 7:30 and 9:30- Film Forum- A new DCP restoration of Luchino Visconti's 1965 film, released with little impact in the U.S. in 1966. I don't know the film, it seems to have made a bigger impact back in the day in Europe than in America. Claudia Cardinale stars in the title role, returning to Volterra with her American husband to remember her father, a scientist killed in Auschwitz. Sandra has issues with her past, to put it mildly. Especially when it comes to her stepfather, insane mother and her brother. There are secrets that Sandra's husband doesn't know, but they may come to light when Sandra's brother returns, and something funny seems to happen when they meet again . . .
I wouldn't call this a direct adaptation of Mourning Becomes Electra, but Visconti seems to have taken enough of that story to make it his own. Like I said , Sandra doesn't appear to have made much impact here in the States. One possible reason is that the original subtitles were made in Spain during the Franco dictatorship, and that some "queasy" aspects of the story expressed thru dialogue were deleted. But with this 4K Digital Restoration, this should no longer be an issue. Like I also said, I don't know this film, but I liked Visconti's The Leopard and really liked his Rocco and his Brothers, so I'm willing to take a chance here:

THE HOMECOMING- Wed Nov 27 at 9- Elinor Bunin Monroe Film Center at Lincoln Center- Part of Lincoln Center's Harold Pinter retrospective of films that are (extremely dark or melancholy) comedies. And among Pinter plays, you don't get much darker than what I would say was arguably his biggest hit play, The Homecoming. The first I believe of the American Film Theater's adaptations of major plays. In the early and mid 1970s, a number of these came out to varying levels of success and acclaim. I've posted a few in the past, including The Iceman Cometh and A Delicate Balance, and now the first of these adaptations, The Homecoming.
When I've done write-ups in the past regarding All About Eve, I'm usually comparing the verbal attacks as being splashed with acid blood, like those creatures in Aliens. But with The Homecoming, the verbal attacks feel backed by threats of violence, and the pauses (a Pinter staple) can mean even more than some of the words. A working class family filled with two older brothers, one a brutal patriarch the other a bit of a rake, and the patriarch's two sons, one supposedly training to be a boxer while the other appears to be a pimp. The dynamic is shaken up with the return of the third son, a philosophy professor, returning from America with his wife. The wife is left to fend for herself, as each relative comes on to her. But don't think of her as powerless, as she can use words and gestures with just as much force as any single one of them could use violence.
This view of family dysfunction and family values might have been considered bizarre, at times over the top yet always fascinating, might seem a little too realistic today. Or perhaps, like with Network's depiction of TV news and reality TV being outrageous back in 1976 yet fully believable by 2001 at the latest, The Homecoming seems akin to other fictional dysfunctional families on TV and the big screen. Perhaps a bit more English, perhaps more eloquent or more likely to use words like hand grenades or knives, perhaps more willing to use silence as a weapon, but realistic none the less.
The idea was to preserve as much of the original production of The Homecoming on film as possible. The film's director and the play's first director, Sir Peter Hall, alongside screenwriter Pinter, worked to bring us closer inside this decaying house/family, while avoiding as many stage-bound story traps as possible. Bringing in acclaimed stage actor Cyril Cusack as the abusive patriarch, and four actors from the original West End production also helps greatly. Of note, Pinter's then-wife Vivian Merchant as the lone female in the film, and especially Ian Holm as the pimp son. If you think of Holm as merely Bilbo Baggins, you're in for a shock/treat. Yes, he's more violent in Alien. But in terms of a complete character with a near constant tinge of menace, as well as being the only family member who can stand up to the tough patriarch, well there's a reason why Holm's career shot up in England and The Homecoming is it. Overall, the Pinter film out of everything I've posted worth catching the most:
ARMY OF DARKNESS- Wed Nov 27 and (a big maybe for me) Fri Nov 29 and Sat Nov 30 at 12:10AM- IFC Center- Part of IFC Center's series of Zombie movies at Midnight, or Midnight-ish. There were other films in the series prior to this, but either they didn't hold my interest or I had no time for them. There are other films in this retrospective after Army of Darkness, but I doubt I'll post them. No time for Shaun of the Dead, I never heard of Baron Blood but the IFC Center's description of it sounds ghastly to me, and I await the rest of the schedule that runs thru January 25th. Anyway, Army of Darkness plays the entire Thanksgiving weekend; I can do Wednesday night (weather permitting), won't do Thanksgiving night, and the other two nights are maybes but I'll post them anyway.
Now, Army of Darkness. A DCP projection of the original 81 minute theatrical release from 1992, as opposed to the 96 minute director's cut. Director Sam Raimi's second sequel to The Evil Dead, but for those who are not into horror flicks, don't worry. Despite being in a Zombie retrospective, this stays away from most horror scares, and goes more for sword and sorcery, with tongue firmly planted in check. Raimi's presumably favorite leading man, Bruce Campbell, plays his character as possibly the most macho, and possibly the stupidest version of Han Solo you've ever seen. And since this version is only 81 minutes long (to avoid the R rating the director's cut would receive), it doesn't overstay its welcome:
OLDBOY- Starting Fri Nov 29 for a one week run- at 1:15, 4, 6:45 and 9:20- Quad Cinema- Yes, this just played recently at Landmark Sunshine Cinema, but those were Midnight screenings that weren't convenient. These in theory are, so post them I will (how very Yoda of me). I'm not sure exactly which days and times I can do, so I'll just post all the times and not dilly-dally with this. Coming out for a one week only run to coincide with the release two days earlier, of Spike Lee's remake. Don't ask me why that particular release date; based on the very mixed domestic gross of the remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, you would think major studios would avoid unrelentingly grim material on the holiday season. Unless they think it can make impact with the Academy Awards, a la Children of Men. Then again, it is only coming out at 500 or so theaters with no hope of wider expansion in the weeks to follow, so it might be nothing to think about. Anyway, I'll wait a while for word of mouth to decide whether I want to tackle Lee's take on the story, but I know I want to tackle the original.
In the States, the original Oldboy is the definition of a modern day cult film. And I mean a good cult film, not a glorious train wreck like with The Room. A South Korean film from 2003, released in the U.S. in 2005. A businessman has been mysteriously trapped in a hotel room for fifteen years, for a crime he doesn't remember committing. That assumes he committed a crime at all, but I digress. He has no human contact, including from the wife and young daughter he left behind because of the kidnapping. He sends his fifteen years plotting his revenge. He may get that chance when he's released without explanation, just an unnamed male voice mocking him on the phone. But revenge may have to wait when he finds out his wife was murdered and he's been the prime suspect all this time. With the help of a young woman, he tries to find his daughter, his captor, and his wife's murderer. But, to paraphrase Dr. Zaius from Planet of the Apes; don't look for answers, you may not like what you find . . .
With an ending (shot in snowy New Zealand, stop looking for Hobbits) that lets the viewer decide what will happen from there. Also, a popular corridor fight scene in a "private prison", between an almost unending amount of henchmen who are trained to fight and kill, and our hero, who spent almost his captivity shadowboxing, but has never fought or killed prior to this. Generally good reviews from critics in the States, though for every 3 1/2 star or four star review from the likes of Roger Ebert, there would be the equivalent of one or two reviews from the likes of New York Times. Did ok business overseas and not much here. Not exactly perfect art house fare, yet art houses are the only ones that might clamor to screen something from South Korea. But cable and home video sales/rentals have helped developed the cult here. Anyone of us who've seen it, only knows what the film looks like on TV or their computer screen. You've most likely never had a big screen experience of this, but now that can change, even with the windshield-sized screens of the Quad. Ok, I exaggerate about the screen size, but not by much. Comfortable theater though:   
A DOG'S LIFE: A ROWLF RETROSPECTIVE and FAR FROM HEAVEN and/or BOOGIE NIGHTS- Sat Nov 30 at 1(Rowlf), 4 (Heaven), and 7 (Boogie)- Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria- A potential triple feature, all for one admission. It's a long day into night if you want to do this, potentially a 12:30- 9:40 day, at least.
First, A Dog's Life: A Rowlf Retrospective. The first of a per monthly series of stuff from the Jim Henson archives. Now that the Museum of the Moving Image will be able to show off Henson material in a new wing of the museum (all of this supposedly by sometime in 2015), we can look forward to more of these compilations of Henson material as the months and years go by. Starting with a compilation of Rowlf material, the first popular Muppet I believe. Using the 50th anniversary of the Jimmy Dean show as a springboard, we'll see the character in the many different ways he was used. Commercials, industrials, film, and plenty of TV clips. Expect a ton of Muppet Show stuff, and maybe more than just a little bit of Muppet Babies thrown in. But the highlight, in time for the official start of the holiday season, should be Rowlf's appearance on the Jimmy Dean show, singing Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas. Just the right amount of humor and emotion, sentimentality and just a tiny bit of pathos. One of the better TV clips from the era, and it should be a fun clipfest overall.
You can take the kids to see all this at 1PM, and then show them around the museum, do a little of the interactive stuff. But the next two films, part of a brief Julianne Moore retrospective (and the only two I'll have any time for in the series), leave the kids at home.
First, Far From Heaven, from 2002. Todd Haynes' film, doing a variation of a typical Douglas Sirk drama, with a bit of Fassbender alienation (according to Haynes). Set in the 1950s, Moore and Dennis Quaid's characters appear to be the ideal American family. But her marriage starts to go into a downward spiral when she spots her husband kissing another man. Conversion therapy doesn't help, and soon the wife develops feelings (and maybe more) toward her gardener (Dennis Haysbert), a black man which in a 1950s Sirk-esque film, tends to mean trouble for the characters. Usually in the form of violence and social denouncement.
A film that appealed much more to critics than to audiences. It seems like it won for something in every big and small critics' awards society, but that didn't help to generate a large audience, or even one large enough to cover the modest budget and advertising (one campaign to attract filmgoers and another to attract to the Academy). Yes it came away with 4 Oscar nominations; Moore for Actress, Haynes for Screenplay, Edward Lachman's Cinematography (for matching the color scheme of a typical Sirk film and then enhancing and building upon it), and Elmer Bernstein's Score. But in a year where the Academy was initially torn between Chicago and Gangs of New York (while leaving room for The Two Towers and The Pianist), Far From Heaven didn't have a shot. If you didn't see it back in the day or on video or cable, here's your chance.
Finally, Boogie Nights. Honestly, I don't know how much energy I'll have for this. Since I have more of a desire to catch the first two items I posted for this date, Boogie Nights wouldn't start till 7, and it's a little over two and a half hours, I don't know. Plus I caught this last summer at the Rubin Museum. Again, I don't know. Maybe the one hour or so break I'd have in-between Far From Heaven and Boogie Night to grab a snack and coffee might be all I need to get me through the screening. Because once I'm into it and for as long as I'm awake for the very beginning, then I know I'm good for the film, and boy is this film ever good. 
Yeah, it's easy to describe Paul Thomas Anderson's art-house hit as a journey from the fun loving era of 1970s porn on film, to the more streamlined 1980s era of porn on videotape, with more than a little loss of innocence. Even if their non-sexual intercourse skills would have gotten them laughed out of community theater, there's an earnestness, hopefulness and even a little naiveté in the 1970s scenes, that would take a major beating once the 80s come along. But this follows more along the lines of a family you create can mean more than the family you're born into path.This group of porn stars, director, and staff is generally not accepted within their biological families. But to paraphrase the tagline from The Big Chill, in a cold world, you need your friends to keep you warm.  

With a cast that is an embarrassment of riches, boy did Anderson do well for himself in this category. From the actors who were known as leads (Mark Wahlberg, Burt Reynolds), actors would become leads after Boogie Nights (Moore, Don Cheadle, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Thomas Jane), character actors (Luis Guzman, Alfred Molina, Philip Baker Hall, Ricky Jay, Joss Whedon/ Cabin in the Woods fave Tom Lenk), and actors who were working before and after this picture (William H. Macy, John C. Reily, and Graham who at 90 might only be thought of as Roller Girl) Oscar nominations for Anderson for his Screenplay, Moore for Supporting Actress, and Reynolds for Supporting Actor. Supposedly at the time, this wasn't considered a great deal for Burt, being cast in both Bean and this; a film about 70s porn from a director with only an art house flop (the decent Hard Eight) on the resume. He fired his agent shortly before or after filming, don't remember which. After supposedly receiving a big big check from a share of Bean's rather large grosses, and receiving his Oscar nomination for Boogie Nights, it was believed Burt's career was officially revived. After films such as The Crew, Mystery Alaska and Universal Soldier 2 and 3, that idea was put to rest real fast. Not that it should put you off from seeing this, it is his best screen performance after all.
I always liked the film, but seeing it with an audience about over 10 years after I did it the first time, I was blown away. That film puts you on an incredible journey, and if you can handle that not everything ends up sweet and light for everybody, you get one of the best films of 1997. Can't put up above L.A. Confidential or Martin Scorsese's little seen Kundun, but boy is it up there. And if I have the energy for it going in after such a long afternoon, I'll do it again:
Take care, and have a Happy Thankgivukkah. 

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