Monday, March 31, 2014

April revivals

Hey, all. Mike here with a list of revivals for the month of April. It's been a long while since I posted a full month of revivals, but the combination of time to write a long-ish list and the way the list actually breaks down allows me to get away with this. If I need to add anything last minute, I'll cough up a new list for the second half of April. In the Meantime, enjoy and consider these options:

FAHRENHEIT 451- Wed April 2 at 7:30- From the Forum's complete Fran├žois Truffaut retrospective. Sorry that this is the first film from the retrospective I can get to, but time doesn't permit me to do otherwise. The rarely screened Fahrenheit 451, from 1967. Actually I can't say rarely screened anymore, considering this has been shown about 3 times over the past 2 or so years. The adaptation of Ray Bradbury's classic novel, which he said wasn't a book about censorship, but a depiction of a possible future where a society is taken with television. So taken that not only is literature burned, but information is doled out only by image and sound bite (seems like the later has been going on for a while, in and out of politics, but anyway). Oskar Werner is Montag, a fireman whose very job of burning books is questioned; first by a beautiful stranger, and then by himself.
Probably the most difficult film in Francois Truffaut's career to make. His only English language film. It took about six years for him to adapt it properly in his mind. Some of the changes he made, like tweaking the ending and not only having the beautiful stranger live beyond the start of the story but to have her and Montag's wife be two sides of the same coin (not dissimilar to Vertigo), work. Having Julie Christie play both roles makes Truffaut look like a genius. The world we see is unique: European looking, not overly futuristic but not alien either. Not too different from the approach taken by the makers of Her when you think about. Nicolas Roeg's cinematography and Bernard Herrmann's score help greatly.
Good film, but how good you think it is will depend on how you feel about Werner's lead performance. Oskar went with an approach that Truffaut quipped was like a monkey sniffing a book. Whether you think his performance, which caused actor and director to feud throughout shooting, helps or hurts the film, is up to you. I don't hate his performance, but I'm curious to see what a different approach to Montag would look like. We've been hearing for decades about other directors' attempt to remake this, with Mel Gibson coming the closest allegedly. But any remake will probably be years down the line, so now's a good time to check this out.

SHANGHAI EXPRESS- Fri April 11 at 8 for free (subject to availability)- MOMA- A free screening of yet another team-up of director Josef von Sternberg and star Marlene Dietrich. Their fourth film together, and my first time posting one of their team-ups. Not something I'm proud of, just a statement of fact and a chance to correct this. And I say a chance because will be released at about 4pm the day of the screening, and they'll go on a first come first served basis. I haven't had a lot of luck getting tickets recently, so I'm hoping this could change here.
A romantic adventure/drama from 1932. A train ride on the famous Shanghai Express seems complicated enough, when a British Army doctor meets his ex for the first time in five years. Dietrich plays the ex, now an infamous courtesan. Two proud stubborn people, unwilling to be vulnerable to each other despite their feelings for one another. But these feelings might either subside or rise up , no thanks to a mysterious stranger (Warner Oland, aka the first Charlie Chan) and the threat of Chinese civil war threatening all passengers on the train. Some hard choices will have to be made. Oscar nominations for Picture and von Sternberg for Director, an Oscar for the Cinematography:
THE STORY OF ADELE H.- Sat April 12 at 7:45 (tentative) and 10- Film Forum- Part of the Forum's Truffaut retrospective. A historical romantic drama, from 1975. But don't just leap into this without being prepared, because this particular romantic drama would be about appropriate for couples to watch on Valentine's Day as Blue Valentine, maybe Fatal Attraction.
A story , staring in 1863, about author Victor Hugo's daughter, Adele, based on her book/ journal. We see the lengths she'll go to be with the man she loves, a British officer. It might seem romantic, her following him to his station in Nova Scotia.  Ok, she seems a little spoiled and impetuous, but we're used to seeing obstacles and character flaws like these easy to overcome onscreen. Until we realize (if you didn't know going in), that she's actually stalking him. That the love is entirely on her end, and the indifference is entirely on his. We don't have to worry about her doing something rash like rabbit boiling, she's too refined to do something rash like that. The only kind of acts she commits are self-destructive, as she tells anyone who listens how she's his lover, his wife, his everything.
Truffaut took about two years off from filmmaking, and came back with this, a project that had been gestating since the late 1960s. With this he wanted to capture single-minded obsession, and filter it through a lens of classic Romance. Hard to capture both, especially when we know madness will overtake our lead. But Truffaut makes us feel both and pulls off one of the few successful single-minded one-sided love stories ever made. Though it wouldn't have worked if actress Isabelle Adjani hadn't entered Truffaut's life. She puts in a fearless performance; stubborn, damaged, passionately in love. Yet it also seems she's fulfilled by all of this; though whether it's because she's found her true love, or she founds her ideal man regardless of his feelings for her, or whether it's just the journey or the chase of this man, is unclear. Perhaps the only clear thing is her need to get away from her father's shadow. 
Nominated or winning awards left and right in Europe, with the notable exception of the BAFTA, and the film, screenplay and/or Adjani won critics awards here as well. An Oscar nomination for Best Actress for Adjani, the youngest to ever be nominated in that category. Whether you think she should have beaten out Louise Fletcher for One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, you can see the film now, and decide for yourself:
THE LAST METRO- Thurs April 17 at 9:40- Film Forum- The conclusion of the Forum's Complete Truffaut retrospective. The last hit of Truffaut's career here in the States, and a film classic as far as France is concerned. Put it this way, the classic status that has been bestowed on say, Raging Bull in the 1980s, France did in the same year/decade with this film (released in the states officially in February 1981). Except they gave it their equivalent of the Oscar for Best Picture, the Cesar, while we honored Ordinary People instead. Hell it didn't even win Best Foreign Language Film. But considering it was up against the likes of Kurosawa's Kagamusha and the eventual winner Moscow Does Not Believe In Tears (a big deal in the arthouse circuit back then), I don't envy the voters having to choose between them.
Sorry I'm not more definitive or more decisive in my comments about the film itself, but I still haven't seen it. I tried to see it a few years back, but misunderstandings caused that attempt to fail. Therefore I'll copy and paste how Lincoln Center described the film on their website a few years ago, which is not very different from the way the Film Forum describes it now:
Lucas Steiner is a Jew and was compelled to leave the country. His wife Marion (Catherine Deneuve), an actress, directs the theater for him. She tries to keep the theater alive with a new play, and hires Bernard Granger (Gerard Depardieu) for the leading role. But Lucas is actually hiding in the basement. . .

Next is a quote from Vincent Camby when he reviewed it for the Times:

"The film has the form of a more or less conventional melodrama, about a small Parisian theater company during the 1942-44 Nazi occupation, though the film's methods are so systematically unconventional that it becomes a gently comic, romantic meditation on love, loyalty, heroism, and history. 
The Last Metro is a melodrama that discreetly refuses to exercise its melodramatic options. It's also a love story that scarcely recognizes its lovers. Though the setting is a legitimate theater, the Theatre Montmartre,it's not an "inside theater" movie. The Last Metro is about a particular
time in history. Its Theatre Montmartre is a refuge -- actual in the case of one character, and psychological for the others. The theater provides them survival.

The focal point of the film is the Theatre Montmartre's production of the French translation of a Norwegian play, La Disparue (The Woman Who Disappeared)... The content of La Disparue, however, is of no more moment than that of Meet Pamela, the rather awful sounding film that was being produced in the course of Day for Night. The Last Metro is about the manner in which the Theatre Montmartre actors approach their work, their shifting relations with each other,and the way in which each responds to the condition of being "occupied." The Last Metro doesn't dwell on the horrors of Nazi-encouraged, French anti-Semitism, which flourished during the occupation, but it is haunted by those horrors. It takes a little while to catch the tempo of the film, but pay attention. The Last Metro is about lives surrounded by melodrama,being lived with as little outward fuss as possible."
GODZILLA- Fri April 18- Thurs April 24 at 5:15, 7:30 and 9:45- A DCP restoration of the original Godzilla, in time for both its 60th anniversary and the newest remake/reboot with Bryan Cranston. This is the original version, not the version American distributors chopped up and stuck Raymond Burr in. The Burr version is what TCM still screens as late as last month, as opposed to what you would come down to see in April.
Just because this started a long chain of crappy monster films, doesn't make this junk. You see consequences to the destruction, a believable romantic subplot, and a more political film then you might think. Yes, a chunk of it looks cheesy and cheap, but in this era and with this being more in violence-with-consequences territory, it looks more endearing than insulting. Combine that with its anti-nuke message, and with a brief scene between boyfriend and girlfriend that American studios couldn't do in the 50s, and no wonder it was cut up here.
I'm not sure when exactly I can do this, so I posted the times I'll most likely be available, as well as all seven days its scheduled to play. There's a chance the run could be extended, but the Forum wouldn't tell us until probably April 21st or 22nd:
THE LODGER- Sat April 26 at 3- Film Forum- Part of the Forum's series, the Hitchcock 9. Specifically, the nine silent films Alfred Hitchcock directed. All of whom have received digital restorations. All of whom will have live piano accompaniment by Steve Sterner, who did a wonderful job with a screening of Buster Keaton's Seven Chances that I attended a few years back.
I've never seen more than clips of any one Hitchcock silent, and now is a good opportunity to see one now, when I can be focused on it, as opposed to distracted at home by other things. And Hitch's first official film, The Lodger, is a good place to start. Ninety minutes long; not the longest cut of the film ever, but as long as what TCM airs now.
Based on a popular fictional book of the day that purported to solve the case of Jack the Ripper, there's a serial killer on the loose named The Avenger. Blonde women have been killed left and right. A detective on the case is dating a girl still living at home. Her parents have rented a room to a mysterious lodger, could he be The Avenger? Oh yeah, did I mention she's a blonde?
Ok, this isn't Hitch's first film, it's his third, actually his second feature length picture to be precise. But it is Hitch's first suspense film, and when you note that this also contains Hitch's first cameo on a film, then you get the idea this is truly his first Hitchcock film as we would perceive it. Like I wrote earlier, I've never seen it, but I'm game if you are:
OTHELLO (1952)- Fri April 25- Thurs May 8 at 5:15, 7:30 and 9:45 (no 7:30 on Mondays, no 9:45 at Monday May 5th)- Film Forum- A DCP restoration, playing as part of a series of events celebrating the 450th birthday of Bill Shakespeare. Orson Welles's adaptation of the famous play, whittled down from 3 or so hours to 95 minutes. The difficulties in getting this made and getting this screened are almost legendary. The years it took to complete principal photography, interrupted when Welles was forced to take acting jobs (including The Third Man) to have money to finish. The losing of an actor here and there, and the choice to dub his Desdemona. The years of restoration, and the decades of legal battles between Welles's daughter and others as to which restoration was the true work.
All of which is relatively better known than the actual film itself. Possibly the least known among Americans of all the films to ever win the Grand Prize at Cannes, and this includes some foreign films that are obscure to us. Is it any good? I have no idea. Two previous attempts for me to catch this at the Forum and Lincoln Center failed due to sold out screenings. We have two weeks to catch this. Not sure when specifically I can go, so I posted all the dates of the run, though take that any Monday attempts will not be easy. Anyway there's one reason I wouldn't want to do this on Monday, April 28th, and that reason is the next film below the Othello link . . . :
GREY GARDENS for 5 dollars (3 for students) with post film Q and A with Albert Maysles- Mon April 28 at 7- Academy Theatre- 111 East 59th Street- A cheap screening of the famous 1975 documentary (released in the U.S. in 76). Playing at the Academy Theater on Lexington Avenue. Yes, by Academy I mean the body that award Oscars. No, Grey Gardens didn't win an Oscar. Hell, it wasn't even nominated! I'm not saying it shouldn't have beaten say, Hollywood On Trial or Harlan County U.S.A. (the eventual winner which I've posted here once or twice before). But to not even get nominated makes me shake my head and wonder what was going on back then. Maybe the Academy agrees with me (there's a first), what with the film being considered one of the classics in documentary filmmaking, and being selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in 2010. Thus an Academy sponsored screening.
Directed by Albert and David Maysles, Ellen Hovde, and Muffie Meyer. But the Mayseles brothers are who tend to get the main credit for the project. They were the ones originally interested in telling the story of Lee Radzwill, Jacqueline Onassis's sister. At the time the brothers were interested in telling the story, the two sisters had already spent money to fix the house of their aunt and first cousin, Edith "Big Edie" Ewing Bouvier Beale, and her daughter "Little Edie" Edith Beale. The mother daughter combo living in squalor despite the minimum repairs made, proved more interesting to the Maysles brothers. After a year of negotiating/ gaining the Beales and the other relatives' trust, the four directors began shooting in and around the home. Using a similar Cinema Verite technique used on their previous projects like Salesman and Gimme Shelter, the women told their stories to the cameras, to each other, to the cats and the raccoons, to whoever. Little to no interference, just an attempt to capture of these two eccentrics; decaying, almost completely isolated, yet still breathing.
The surviving Maysles brother, Albert, will participate in a Q and A after the film. Online tickets go on sale on Tuesday, April 8th. So this screening will take some planning beforehand; don't bother coming the night of the screening thinking you can just get in: 
Let me know if there's interest, later all.

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