Monday, February 17, 2014

Revivals: late February edition

Hey all. Mike here with a list of revivals for the later half of February. A small list; only three films, all have been posted on at least one prior list, though I've only caught one of them on the big screen. Not for lack of trying mind you, but I digress. Sorry it's not a larger list. But I haven't had a lot of free time this month, and when I have had a chance to see a movie, it's been all Oscar nominees for this year. Okay, I saw The Lego Movie as well, boy that was fun, but again, I digress. Here we go with the list:

CABARET- Fri Feb 21 at 7- Museum of the Moving Image- A new DCP restoration, as part of the Museum's See It Big series: Musicals edition. He spent decades working on the stage, but Bob Fosse only lived long enough to direct 5 films. To some of you who 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 proof, just as I previously stated All That Jazz as proof last month.

Cabaret, along with Fiddler on the Roof, Grease and All That Jazz, were the only successful musicals of the 1970s, both critically and commercially. Sorry but I don't consider Saturday Night Fever, Woodstock or The Last Waltz as musicals, someone with a better sense of history can tell me how well Jesus Christ Superstar did, 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 Caan, Duvall 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: 

NORTH BY NORTHWEST- Sat Feb 22 at 8:45- Film Forum- The start of the Film Forum's Complete Hitchcock retrospective. Everyone of Hitch's films, including the silent ones, will be screened for at least one day and/or night. I'm sorry I won't be able to post more than a few of them. Partially out of lack of time on some days/nights on my end. Partially because I'm indifferent about posting the likes of say, Spellbound, Family Plot and Stage Fright. And partially because I may have already exhausted the possible people I know coming into the city for the likes of say, Psycho, The Birds or The Wrong Man. Anyway, the film that launches this retrospective is North By Northwest, in a brand new DCP retro. 

The best of all the lightweight Alfred Hitchcock films. No big morals here. Just sit back and relax, as 'everyman' Cary Grant gets confused as a secret agent by sinister forces led by James Mason. He runs from them and runs from the law, for a murder at the United Nations he didn't commit. Of course all this running around doesn't stop Grant from taking time to flirt with mysterious Eva Marie Saint, in some of the most fun innuendo that the remnants of the Production Code would allow. And watch out for not only a crop duster, but Martin Landau and his "woman's intuition".

I use the term everyman loosely when describing Grant as an Everyman. But according to Gene Wilder on his episode of Inside The Actors Studio, that's how Grant described himself during a chance meeting on a cruise ship, where the Northwest homage Silver Streak, was playing. Wilder was pleasantly stunned to here this description, as well as how Grant was nice enough to include Wilder as being on the same level, but I digress.Fun film, with good performances, a snappy though unsubtle Bernard Herrmann score, and featuring one of Saul Bass's best opening credit sequences. Oscar nominations for the great Editing, Art Direction (check out say, the U.N. and Mount Rushmore), and Ernest Lehman's script.

I tried to see this on the big screen multiple times over the past 10 years. I missed my chance about 9 or so years back, when it was screened for several weekends at midnight at the Paris theater. I'm sorry I missed catching it on the Paris's large screen, but I blame a girl named Amanda for that. Then I finally saw a digital projection at the Museum of the Moving Image almost two years ago. A near sell-out, that looked and sounded great. The jokes landed great, and the audience was in hushed, rapt attention thru out the Mount Rushmore finale (except for the bits of humor sprinkled in). The Forum's screen will be more than adequate for this occasion, and the picture and sound should come off well with this new restoration. Their sound system should rock the hell out of Herrmann's score so to speak, one of the few scores I've hummed after a screening days and weeks afterwards.

The film will play for three days two nights on the weekend of February 21st. I can only make the 22nd at 8:45, but click the link this paragraph for other times. And come and/or but earlier because this thing will sell out, or at least be crowded. Especially on the weekend evening screenings and the Sunday morning one as well: 

NEW YORK, NEW YORK- Fri Feb 28 at 7- Museum of the Moving Image- Also from the Museum's See It Big series: Musicals edition. A Martin Scorsese musical that failed with some of the same critics that praised Taxi Driver to the hilt. From 1977, it was up against Star Wars, Smokey and the Bandit, The Deep, to a lesser degree A Bridge Too Far, and Herbie Goes To Monte Carlo, it was DOA at the box office. It has since gained respect in the intervening years, though the amount of respect is arguable.

A mix of MGM-style musicals, with a drama delivered with almost Actors Studio/Method messiness and almost blunt force trauma to the leads. Jimmy Doyle (Robert De Niro), an aspiring saxophonist meets and is at first rejected by singer Francine Evans (Liza Minnelli). They continue to bump into each other, a friendship blossoms, followed by romance, and then marriage. All the while, both struggle to succeed at their craft, which begins to put an unbearable strain on their relationship. Eventually, this weight becomes too heavy to handle, especially when one is more successful than the other.

Scorsese's love for this era (post World War 2 into the 1950s) of music - as well as cinema - is overflowing throughout the picture. Most striking is the brutally realistic depiction of a disintegrating marriage, filmed in a series of long, tense takes. De Niro's studied nuanced take and Minnelli's openly emotional take on their characters do mix well, even though this wasn't a shared opinion at the time. And boy does one have to wait a long while for musical numbers to occur. But when they do, especially with Liza's performance of the title song, look out! (in a good way).

Critics were literally split, between Wow, Ugh, or a noble failure with some great moments and some crap moments. And when I mean Ugh, I mean that this was Scorsese's follow-up to the great Taxi Driver, which was met by some critics with "Oh Hell No. How dare you trap me with such obnoxious people". With no legion of great reviews, the musical being no longer a popular genre, and going up against Star Wars as it began to expand widely, New York New York didn't do well at all. Whether you deem this as an underrated gem or as a noble failure or as an actual good film, you can decide without the heavy expectations of the day. Screened in 35mm and its original 2 hr 35min cut, as opposed to its 1981 re-release with 8 additional minutes or its radically recut 2 hr 15 min version. Decide for yourself:

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

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