Tuesday, July 01, 2014

July revivals: first week

Hey all, Mike here with a revival list for the first week of July. This will include the Fourth of July weekend. A lot of these conflict with each other, but these tend  to sort themselves out. A few of these films extend beyond July 7th, so they could end up on the next list. Let me not waste time since this list is a bit long, so here we go:

KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS- Tues July 1 at 4:40- Film Forum- A DCP restoration. Part of the Alec Guinness retrospective. Kind Hearts and Coronets, from 1949 though released in the U.S. in 1950. Based loosely on a 1907 novel, Guinness plays a young man grieving the loss of his mother. She had married her father, an opera singer, and was disinherited by her powerful family because of it. After the deaths of both parents, and no visible means to move up in society or marry the girl he loves. Guinness sees only one way to advance. By seeking revenge on the family who shunned him, by killing all 7 members of the family that are in the way between poverty and riches. Oh, did I mention Guinness plays the other seven family members, all of different ages and gender? 

So yes, while the new musical A Gentleman's Guide To Love and Murder is a joy and I hope it wins a lot of Tonys, it's far from original. If nothing else, the film plays up the class distinctions more than the musical. Not a complaint, just an observation. At times it's fairly gentle when this black comedy delivers its kicks to the teeth, but any film where the lead lovably tries to kill 7 people isn't completely gentle. But always funny.

Arguably the best comedy Guinness ever made, though there are one or two films later in this retrospective that I'll probably bring up that, if you tell me they're better, I won't argue much. One in particular I wouldn't argue about at all, but that's for later. Before the likes of Peter Sellers, Eddie Murphy,and Mike Myers, you had Guinness playing multiple roles convincingly. You can see the influence directly with Sellers in The Mouse Who Roared as well as, to an extent, Dr. Strangelove. And with this kind of dark tweaking of class, you can see Kind Hearts and similar Guinness comedies influencing the likes of the Goon Squad and Monty Python, which in turn influenced Saturday Night Live, which in turn . . . You get the point, the film is influential and still funny:

A SUMMER'S TALE- Tues July 1- Thurs July 3 at 8 at IFC Center- and Tues July 1- Thurs July 10 at 6:30 and 9 at Lincoln Plaza Cinema- The Eric Rohmer film that is receiving its first U.S. release plays for at least a few more days. I wrote about it on the last list, go there. Have never seen it and I'm curious. If you're patient with dialogue-heavy films shot in long takes, this might be for you. i don't know if this will play beyond July 3rd at IFC Center, but it will play at until at least July 10th at Lincoln Plaza Cinema:  

THE GODFATHER PART 2- Wed July 2 at 2 and 7 (not likely for me) for $8.00- AMC Empire- A DCP restoration at a cheap price. I caught Godfather this past weekend, and the restoration looked, and especially sounded, great. The same restoration process has been done to The Godfather Part 2. I remember seeing an old 3 strip Technicolor print at AMMI a few years back. A scratchy print, but the color hues in the Vito Corleone scenes from Ellis Island through Robert de Niro's shooting scene blew me away. Totally different from every other time I've seen it on video or cable. If the quality of that is captured in this restoration, it should rock. It will anyway, but still. I think I prefer the first Godfather, but that's probably because the passion speaks to me a bit more. But we're talking such a tiny difference between the two and if you've never seen it on the big screen, this is a great chance.

On both AFI Top 100 lists, and in my personal top 35. 11 Oscar nominations, including Actor for Pacino and Supporting Actress for Talia Shire. 6 Oscars, including Picture, Director and Screenplay for Coppola. A Supporting Actor Oscar for De Niro in a career making turn, beating fellow nominated co-stars Lee Strasberg and Michael V. Gazzo:

TUNES OF GLORY- Wed July 2 at 9:45- Film Forum- Of all the films I mentioned to people that are part of the Alec Guinness retrospective, Kind Hearts and Coronets received the most interest. But the movie that received the most passionate interest  was Tunes of Glory. Partially because people have seen Zhivago, Lawrence and River Kwai with me, but still I was surprised about the passionate interest in this.

From 1960, featuring a battle of wills between two men in charge of a Highlander brigade. On the one hand, you have Guinness's Major; from the lower classes, pressed into command during WW 2, with a love for his men but even more love for himself and his ideas of what it is to be a real man. And on the other hand we have John Mills's Colonel: aristocratic third generation solider, smarter than the Major but scarred from his experience as a POW. Both men want the command, both feel they're better than the other. While Guinness's Major thinks he's smarter (he's probably wrong), he is crueler and will get rid of the Colonel by any means necessary.

A very big deal in Britain, where its themes and shortly-after-WW2 setting expressed by the likes of Sir Alec and Sir John resonated greatly with critics and moviegoers. But reaction in the States seems to be less so, especially with filmgoers busily embracing the likes of The Apartment, Elmer Gantry, The Alamo and Inherit The Wind (not to mention Psycho and Sparatcus). Can't say I blame them with those options, except for The Alamo, what the hell people?!?!?! An Oscar nomination only for Screenplay Adaptation and after the 1970s, Tunes of Glory seems to be a film forgotten in these parts. This makes me think this is the film from the Guinness retrospective that needs re-discovery more than any other. So join me in doing that if you're not doing Godfather 2 instead:

KING KONG (1933) for $8.00- Thurs July 3 at 7- Bow Tie Chelsea Cinemas- A cheap screening of the 1933 classic film, with an intro by Hedda Lettuce. Bow Tie Cinemas appears to have chosen to no longer do the 9:30 screenings after the 7pm of the older films. Can't blame them, a good film would only screen to 6-12 people on average. The likes of Laura and Muriel's Wedding might have drawn 15. So the new owners of the Chelsea Cinema seems to be tightening their belts a bit . . . 

The original King Kong, the one where Fay Wray screams her head off. I liked it as a kid, thanks to those endless Kong triple features WOR-TV used to do on Thanksgiving weekend. But I hadn't seen it for almost 2 decades until a few years ago, at a midnight screening at Landmark Sunshine. There, I began to appreciate this film real fast. Moves great, thanks to not being bogged down by back story that the remakes felt were needed. And while I quite like Peter Jackson's version, and I can have some fun with the 1976 version (despite some MASSIVE problems), this is superior if for no better reason then how Kong itself is handled. This is an ape, and no attempt is made to humanize it. It's an ape, and it doesn't have any moral issues about squashing people or flinging them like confetti, and doing this multiple times. One of the best action films ever made. On both AFI top 100 lists, and on my personal top 100 list as well:

A PASSAGE TO INDIA- Thurs July 3 at 7:30- Film Forum- The last film in the Alec Guinness retrospective, and the last team-up of actor Guinness and director David Lean. From 1984, set in the 1920s during the growing Indian Independence against the British Raj. Two English women travel to India to visit the same man. For the older woman (Dame Peggy Ashcroft), that man is her son. For the young woman (Judy Davis in her first film lead outside of Australia), that same man is her fiancee. The two women are close, and they are intrigued and exhilarated by India. The women are interested in knowing more about the country, and far more interested in learning about the people than almost all their upper crust white friends/family/associates. Two natives they get to know is a young doctor and an eccentric Professor (Guinness). But a cave exploring trip to see "the Real India" leaves the young English woman injured and disheveled, and the Indian Doctor arrested and charged with attempted rape. The country becomes divided between those in power backing the alleged victim, and the native population backing the accused.

Felt like a throwback when it was released in December 1984, especially in the same marketplace as Amadeus, The Killing Fields, Beverly Hills Cop, and three American-farmer-in-trouble films released at around the same time. A film that takes full advantage of its locales to bring us to into a world that seems alien to both the main female characters, and to those of us who saw this in the mid 1980s and beyond. But the intimate one on ones are never forsaken, even if the courtroom scenes seem a little Law and Order-like, and about twenty percent of the book was cut out. A few critics complained about not matching the tone of Forster's novel, but I'll trust Lean's judgement of literary material, thank you very much. 

Oscar nominations helped the film gain some business. 11 in total, including Picture Director Screenplay and Editing for Lean, and Davis for Actress. But with only 2 Oscar wins (for Dame Peggy for Supporting Actress and for Maurice Jarre's Score), business dropped. The combination of pan-and-scan home video and cable screenings for over a decade afterwards, and that Passage is not on the level of River Kwai or Lawrence (sorry to Vincent Camby of the Times for disagreeing), has kept this film from being better known. Especially if you're under 40, regardless of whether you read the book or not. Now you can see Lean's last film, and Guinness's last film of note, and judge for yourself: 

WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT?- Thurs July 3- Sat Jul 5 at Midnight for $10- Landmark Sunshine Cinema- Plays for the entire July 4th weekend, including Thursday July 3rd. The big hit of the summer of 1988 where Bob Hoskins is a film-noirish gumshoe, tracking a killer while dealing with all types of people, human and animated. This Disney film is a blast on the big screen, and innovative in its time for the mixing of animation and live action. 4 Oscars, including an award for visual effects that still holds up today, and a special achievement in animation:

JAWS- Thurs July 3- Sat July 5 at Midnight- A DCP screening, and if it's the same DCP I saw at the Film Forum in the summer of 2012, then we're getting a good one. Jaws, a popular film over at IFC Center (file under Yeah: No Kidding), plays once again late at night all July 4th weekend long. On both AFI Top 100 lists, but higher up for me. Also in my personal Top 35 as opposed to just one of one hundred. Don't underestimate the quality of this Spielberg film on the big screen. It's not just another fish film. 3 Oscars including John Williams's memorable score, and a nomination for Best Picture (along with One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Barry Lyndon, Dog Day Afternoon and Nashville; not shabby:

A HARD DAY'S NIGHT- Fri July 4- Thurs July 17 at 12:45, 3, 5:10, 7:30 and 9:45 (Wed July 16 at 7:30 is sold out)- Film Forum- A 50th anniversary digital restoration that will play for two weeks. Not sure what day and time I can do specifically, so I'll just post them all. 

A Hard Day's Night from 1964. The Richard Lester classic that defined Beatlemania, influenced MTV until it became a place for reality shows, made most musicals that told their stories in stodgy ways to become Dead Musicals Walking, and briefly made the Beatles the seeming heir to the Marx Bros in comedy. Ok, Paul is stiffer then a tree in Yellowstone here, but John, Ringo, and especially George, make up for that. And oh yeah, there are few decent songs. All My Loving, And I Love Her, Can't Buy Me Love, the title song, and others. C'mon folks, this film is fun:

2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY- Sat July 5 at 3 and 6:30 and Sun July 6 at 3 - Museum of the Moving Image- Part of the Museum of the Moving Image's See It Big: Science Fiction series,  in what seems to be a July 4th weekend tradition for them. Now there are films that can only be truly appreciated on the big screen. 2001: A Space Odyssey certainly qualifies. One of my all time favorites, and my favorite Kubrick is on the big screen again. I've seen it, I love it, and need no excuse to see Stanley Kubrick's classic. Some of you have done this before with me and some of you, more then once. But this is too good to ignore. Every time one of my all time top 5 films is shown on a decent screen with at least good sound, I will bring it up. Throw in the odd chance that someone I know has never seen it except on TV and might be curious to experience this classic as it should be . . . I'd feel guilty not bringing this up. This film is ageless despite the title, timeless, and it's still possible to discover something new about it as one gets older.

Here's a quote from Neil Degrasse Tyson about one of his favorite sci-fi films: "Perhaps the first film to be all about the discovery of alien intelligence yet not show what it looks like, knowing that our imagination could surely do a better job than Hollywood. In any case, it was a visual orgy of space travel and space exploration that we remain far from achieving, even 13 years after the 33 years-in-the-future it portrayed." 

2001 will be screened all weekend long at the Moving Image. In fact, it will be the only film screening there this Fourth of July-esque weekend. But this will be a rare 70mm screening. I saw the last 70mm screening of this at Lincoln Center, and I'll repost what I thought of the print. I did have complaints, but nothing that would keep me from seeing it again (assuming this is the same print, of course):

"Overall, a quality restoration, but I feel a better job was done with the Hello, Dolly! restoration I saw . . .  (not sure who did the respective restorations). Sound quality was equally superior, but there were noticeable image issues with the 2001 print that didn't crop up with Dolly. In particular the colors red and white were difficult to pull off without some sort of cloudy distortion. Not every time mind, you. No issues with the color red when it came to anything involving Hal, but with the trip at the end. And as for white, there were no issues with say, the space station or the various shuttles.  But anything lit with what appears to white halogen lighting (or the mid-1960s British equivalent), such as the lighting in the station, the moon base meeting room, and especially the French suite environment the Monolith creates, the restoration wasn't that effective. Or the restoration wasn't able to fix all the problems of the original negative, not sure what the reasons are. The colors were more effective overall with the Digital restoration of 2001 that I saw in March. Sound quality was about equal, but I consider the 70mm print superior to the DCP print in one section: The Dawn of Man. For some reason all of it looked completely fake on the DCP, even the leopard and the second unit footage. Not so with the 70mm, the textures of everything, the sets, the matte paintings and the incredible make-up, all looked more realistic. Enough texture to allow one to believe the illusion quickly, without distraction.":

BLAZING SADDLES for free- Mon July 7 at sundown- Bryant Park- A free screening of Mel Brooks' comedy classic, that still works as incisive satire even today. Brooks told the story on Bob Costas' Later about how the Warner Bros. studio heads loved the film when they screened it the morning before it's big test screening. They told Mel how much they loved the flick, but they wanted a few changes. They then proceeded to give him a laundry list of what they wanted cut, of all which Mel just nodded his head and kept saying yes. "The bean farting scene, we want out, the sheriff is a niGONG, we want out, all n-word jokes, out, etc.". And after they were done giving notes and departed, Mel told his assistant "Fuck em. Send the film out as is.". Supposedly at the time, it was the most successful screening Warners ever had for a comedy. Oscar nominations for Madeline Kahn for Supporting Actress, Editing and Brooks' title song. If noting else, it would be better to spend 11 dollars to catch this then full price to catch Brooks' stage version of Young Frankenstein. Don't get me wrong, I was entertained. The cast was enjoyable (no Andrea Martin but I didn't miss her; the understudy was fine). But except for the Puttin' On The Ritz number, the stage version rarely rises above the film. The Producers, it is not. Even Spamalot at times rises above Monty Python and the Holy Grail a lot more than Young Frankenstein does. Anyway, I'd love to catch it if we can. Unless you prefer . . .

HIGH NOON- Mon July 7 at 9:30 IFC Center- Part of IFC Center's series: Time Regained. In honor of Richard Linklater's new film Boyhood. Films that try to honor or manipulate time on screen. Sometimes in decades, and sometimes in real time, like with High Noon. One of the best Westerns, and one of the best films ever made. Told in almost real time, Marshall Gary Cooper has just gotten married to Quaker Grace Kelly, and about to give up being a lawman to be a storekeeper. But before he can go off and start his new life, word comes down that a criminal the Marshall arrested is out of jail on a technicality, and coming to town with his gang, presumably seeking revenge. Thinking it would be better to fight the gang now as a lawman then to be blasted away as a civilian, the Marshall stays in town. Even though his pacifist wife threatens to leave him alone. As a jealous former deputy refuses to help, alongside the escaping judge and the rest of the townspeople. Whether they think it's better to try to appease the returning criminal gang, or if they think the town is better off without such a stern lawman, or whether they're just afraid of dying, they will not help the Marshall. As he awaits the noon train to arrive and with that his fate.

Effective as a Western, as a drama, and as allegory against the House Un-American Activities Committee, or at least the Hollywood community's refusal to stand up to them.. How much credit goes to soon-to-be blacklisted Carl Foreman or to producer Stanley Kramer is still being argued today. But credit them and director Fred Zinnemann with a fine film. A film John Wayne and Howard Hawks despised and made Rio Bravo as a response. Also despised by the likes of gossip columnist Hedda Hopper and Columbia Pictures head Harry Cohn. Some audiences and critics missed the multiple action scenes, shootouts and wide scenic shots they had come to expect from Westerns, and Hitchcock thought Grace Kelly was misused. But audiences came in droves, if for no other reason than the stoic appeal of Cooper as a man alone, nervously and bitterly standing up for himself, for the law, and for people who probably don't deserve his help.

4 Oscars including Cooper for Actor, and for Editing. The editing is notable not only for how the last few minutes were put together, but that the whole real-time aspect was an experiment that surprisingly work, when the rough cut was a near disaster to all involved. Nominations for Picture, Zinnemann for Director and Foreman for Screenplay. Cited alongside the likes of Goodfellas and Dr. Strangelove as films that were gypped out of an Oscar for Best Picture. Given to The Greatest Show on Earth; try to watch it now, I dare you. A favorite of Presidents Eisenhower, Reagan and Clinton. On both AFI Top 100 lists and on my own personal top 100:

ROPE- Mon July 7 at 10:30 and Tues July 8 at 9:15- IFC Center- Part of IFC Center's Time Regained series, screening films that try to honor or manipulate time on screen. Sometimes in decades, and sometimes in real time, like with Rope. A DCP restoration from a few years back, so it looks better than you've ever seen it before. I wouldn't have posted Rope at all if someone didn't express interest in seeing it, and only at night. Since this is the only evening performance of Rope and I have no interest in I Confess (I'd rather sit through Torn Curtain), here's Rope at its only evening time in this retrospective.
Alfred Hitchcock shot this film in a series of 8-minute continuous takes, the maximum amount of film that a camera could hold. Yes, it feels unnatural at times, but the story is compelling enough, so you accept the experiment. The story is a variation of the real life Leopold and Loeb murder. Two men murder a classmate/ friend of theirs, just for the moral superiority of it. They then have a dinner party over his hidden body, which his friend, relatives and fiancee attend. Also in attendance is their former professor, played by Jimmy Stewart. Ruh-roh.

For years I have seen Rope on TV, semi-popular after it's return as part of the Hitchcock 5; films that disappeared for over a decade until Universal Studios were able to re-release them in the early-mid 1980s. Rear Window and Vertigo became instant classics, The Man Who Knew Too Much remake did ok with critics and audiences, The Trouble With Harry, not so well. And Rope was kinda in the middle. The experiment was tolerated by critics (less so as the years went by), the film didn't play well in theaters, but played like gangbusters on home video and syndicated TV broadcasts.
For me, I enjoy it. It's less cinema, more like filmed theater. Like a proto- Dial M For Murder. It's fun, even for the content: 

Let me know if there's interest. Enjoy the 4th, later all.

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