Sunday, April 13, 2014

April revivals: second half

Hey all, Mike here. Remember when I said I'd only post a late April revival list if I see something worth the time and effort? Well, there are a couple of films worthy of taking the time to see. Thank you to the Museum of the Moving Image in terms of being late in posting something, but thank you for also giving us a few interesting possibilities.
I also added a few from the last list as well. Some conflict with each other, but so what? I'm not reposting Grey Gardens on Monday April 28th however. If tickets weren't purchased by April 6th, there's no point in bringing it up now. Besides we have enough options I think, here we go:
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 TEN COMMANDMENTS- Wed April 23 at 2 and 7- A digital screening of the Cecil B DeMille classic, specifically the Charlton Heston as Moses version. One of the biggest movies of all time gets a rare screening, as part of AMC's Classic Series. No discount I'm afraid, but a film this big and long doesn't really need it. and I say rare screening because let's face it, as a perennial Easter time broadcast on ABC, who wants to tackle it? This screening, one screening at the Museum of the Moving Image about seven years or so ago, one re-release in the spring of 1984 or 1985, that's about it as far as I can remember.
Anyway, the point is I'm ambitious enough, and curious enough to see it. Not curious enough to take up my Easter Sunday to see it, but curious enough to try it a few days/nights after Easter. 
Sometimes this film is  interesting because of the filmmaking. Set pieces like Heston saving a slave, the plague that sweeps Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, the formation of the Commandments themselves, and the climax by the golden whatever that is; that's some damn fine, subtle-as-a-brick filmmaking that makes me happy. Sometimes it's interesting thanks to the overacting of the likes of Heston, Yul Brynner, Anne Baxter and Edward G Robinson; it might be over the top, but boy are they committed and it sure ain't boring.
Maybe because it plays every year for as long as most of us can remember plus commercials, seeing this feels like work. And because it plays as subtle as a brick every year, it feels like actual work with little enjoyment. Throw in memories of say, Heston acting jokes, or Billy Crystal doing Edward G impressions ("Hey Moses where's your Messiah NOW!") and i'm sure we can have some fun. Ok, I may not sound very reverential to this, but I'm not casually dismissing it either. If you have the 3 hours and 40 minutes to spare and you're up to the challenge, let's do it:
ALTERED STATES- Fri April 25 at 7- Museum of the Moving Image- And now for something completely different, from the Museum's See It Big: Science fiction series. From 1980, grad student William Hurt experiments on himself in an isolation chamber in attempt to understand schizophrenia, causing hallucinations. He stops due to the extreme religious implications to said hallucinations, as well as falling in love with fellow academic Blair Brown. Years later, now a full professor at Harvard with a stale marriage, he decides to resume his experiments, adding untested Mexican hallucinogens. The hallucinations return, alongside some genetic changes . . .  
It's borderline amazing that this film ever got made, and then completed. It was Paddy Chayefsky's first screenplay since Network, and he insisted on much control. He clashed with director Arthur Penn, who eventually quit, alongside visual effects man John Dykstra. New director Ken Russell was hired. Yep, batshit crazy director Russell, who didn't mind mixing some comedy with a deadly serious approach to the material. Chayefsky clashed worse with Russell than he did with Penn. It got to the point where Paddy tried to get Russell fired early in filming, but Columbia Pictures (who eventually got tired of the drama and sold their interest to Warner Bros.) said no. Russell banned Paddy from the set, who promptly took his name off the project. The film was all over the place with critics back then (treated somewhat better today), and it barely found any audience. Easier to embrace, or at least sit through, the likes of 9 To 5, Stir Crazy, or even Popeye, than Altered States. 2 minor Oscar nominations, for the Score and Sound, didn't help. Home video and cable audiences embraced the film more, and it kept a certain amount of popularity as along as William Hurt's star continued to rise. As he went from a kind of Thinking Man Sex Symbol, to multiple Oscar nominee, to eventual Oscar winner, Altered States maintained a level of draw. But once Hurt's career faded a bit, after the likes of I Love You To Death and Alice, interest in Altered States faded to the point of being a footnote. Maybe remembered by fans of Mr Skin because of Blair Brown, or as Drew Barrymore's film debut as Hurt and Brown's daughter.
But this is a flawed yet interesting film. Always visually interesting, an interesting cast that also includes Charles Haid and Bob Balaban, and a filmmaker like Russell always reveled in more than a little excess. Maybe hard to take it as seriously as it was intended back then; a little more sense of humor that Russell would bring to the likes of say, Lair of the White Worm, might have helped Altered States a bit. But I don't mind a little over the top in my films on occasion, and this is so rarely screened, so why not take a chance on a Friday night?
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 . . . :
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:
THE MAN FROM LARAMIE and THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH- Sat April 26 at 4 (Laramie) and 7 (Earth)- Museum of the Moving Image- A strange double feature for sure, but this is what you can do if you wish to spend a long afternoon/ evening at the Museum of the Moving Image. First, The Man From Laramie, the only film from the Museum's Anthony Mann retrospective that I might have time for. Jimmy Stewart is a stranger looking for answers about gun running to Apaches, something he seems to be taking personally. When he goes to a small, isolated Colorado town for the answers, he instead gets embroiled in an internal family struggle. Kind of a mix between King Lear and The Road to Perdition, where the old patriarch wants to control how his land (or ranch in this case) will be run past his death, but won't promote someone who's almost like his own son over his own biological (and violent) screw-up of a kid. Like with Stewart and Mann's other collaborations, high drama, rising anger (especially from Stewart, usually against type), and vast exterior shots, all rising to a fever pitch.
Next is The Man Who Fell To Earth, as part of the Museum's See It Big: Science Fiction retrospective. The original director's cut, in a DCP restoration that has been playing in New York off and on for almost two years now. 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:
Let me know if there's interest. Later all, and Happy Easter.

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