Friday, May 30, 2014

Revivals over the next few days

Hi all, Mike here running very late with a mini revival list. I'll be as brief as possible, so here we go:

BILLY LIAR for free- (subject to availability)- Fri May 30 at 4- MOMA- A dramedy from director John Schlesinger (Midnight Cowboy, Day of the Locust). Tom Courtenay plays a Walter Mitty- type, except his vivid daydreams don't shield him very well from job issues (like embezzlement), family issues, and 2 girlfriends. But then he meets his dream girl, played by Julie Christie. Will he choose her over his fantasy life? Sounds like an interesting film:

SORCERER- Sat May 31 at 7 for me, for the rest of you- Fri May 30 and Mon June 2- Thurs June 5 at 7 and 9:45- Film Forum- A 4k DCP restoration, of a film you may never have heard of, even if you were around for its 1977 release. I'm aiming for the Saturday May 31st screening at 7pm. If for some reason it doesn't work for me or especially for you, the other options are posted. Click on the Film Forum link below for the complete schedule of  Sorcerer's week long run for a day and time that might work better for you. 

From director William Friedkin, a remake of The French classic The Wages of Fear (though Friedkin would say otherwise), where desperate men, trapped in a shithole of a village in South America, find that the only way to get enough money to leave, is to drive old dynamite and fragile (and leaking?) nitroglycerin over 200 miles of brutal terrain and degrading bridges and roads. The film itself is split into three parts. First we see how each of the men put themselves in dire straits, like a New Jersey hood (Roy Scheider) running from the Mob after a screw-up, a French embezzler avoiding capture, an Arab terrorist avoiding capture in Jerusalem, an older Nazi still on the run. Next we see the fire in the oil refinery out of control, we see the miserable conditions in the village, and why the aforementioned men need to risk their lives to transport the literally easy-to-explode material across a South American jungle. And for the bulk of the film, we see the journey itself. The journey done on reinforced old trucks, in brutal weather, rickety roads, more than a few robbers, and growing tensions among the men themselves. Never mind the world's weakest rope and wood bridge known to man; featured in the film's centerpiece during a raging storm. No CGI in this scene for sure.

Now how did this tough film filled with anti-heroes do in the box office? Badly. Over budget and requiring two studios (Universal and Paramount) to complete and distribute it, the film with the misleading and inappropriate title arrived and promptly crashed. Critics of the day ripped it, with the notable exceptions of Roger Ebert, Newsweek's Jack Kroll, and the New York Times' Vincent Camby (his review was the more tepid of the three). The box office was brutally bad. Not Heaven's Gate bad, but bad enough. Running into Smokey and the Bandit and Star Wars, Sorcerer got pummeled. The movie business really seemed to change for good that summer, with more escapist fare dominating the box office, and risky serious films like Sorcerer (like Scorsese's New York New York which would come out later that summer)  were shown to be no longer commercially viable for studios. A simplistic view that's not entirely accurate, but that's the lesson that seems to have been drawn and remains the heart of the summer movie business today. 

Sorcerer was figuratively, and at times literally, replaced by Star Wars. Sorcerer was released as Star Wars began to expand. Due to contractual obligations, some theaters had to dump Star Wars to screen Sorcerer, and as the Friedkin film began to tank, most of those theaters couldn't wait to replace the film with something else. That something else was usually Star Wars. So Sorcerer began to disappear, with only the footnote of an Oscar nomination for Sound, which it of course lost to Star Wars. It wasn't pretty much gone completely until 1987, when it was finally released on VHS and Laser Disc. A DVD transfer (that Friedkin has trashed as a poor quality dupe) came out in 1998. And slowly a cult has formed over this film.Modern day reviewers and bloggers have championed the film, alongside Ebert, Quentin Tarantino and Stephen King.

So chances are you don't know this tense film, that has more shades of Treasure of the Sierra Madre than The Wages of Fear. Hell, it takes more elements from Georges Arnaud's original book than the French film Arnaud hated. Shot more as a silent film, where Friedkin pushed for as little dialogue as possible. A good lead performance by Schieder and an eerie, at times unsettling score from the band Tangerine Dream, this is the kind of film you take a chance on:


RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK- Wed June 4 at 7- AMC Empire and Regal Union Square- So what do I do after posting a film that I wrote was killed by summer escapist big-time fare like Star Wars. Post a summer escapist big-time film that would have also killed Sorcerer at the box office if it had a chance. I recognize the hypocrisy, and I can live with that quite easily.

I posted this film again and again, and I do  so again.  I've done Midnight screenings. I did it 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? I did the restored IMAX screening, and boy did that kick major ass. So I post it again. The screen isn't IMAX, but 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 quickly if there's interest. Later all. 

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