Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Sept revivals: second half

Hey all. Mike here with a revival list for the second half of September. A small list, a list made smaller by the fact that I can't make the special TCM sponsored screenings of Gone With The Wind on Sunday September 28 and Wed October 1 at various locations. I've done the film once before, but the Wednesday screenings are impossible for me to make as is the Sunday night screenings, and the Sunday afternoon screening makes it too close for comfort for me to do other things that night. If you've never see it on the big screen and you have any available time, jump on this chance. But I'll have to let you do the research on your own, now here we go with this list:

ROME OPEN CITY (1946)- Tues Sept 23- Thurs Sept 25 at 7:30 and 9:45- Film Forum- A DCP restoration of Robert Rossellini's film. The film plays thru Thursday Sept 25th, but I'm committed to Tues Sept 23rd, specifically the 7:30 screening. Shot shortly after the Nazi occupation of France was over in a documentary style, we follow Resistance members. One in particular, the leader, is trying to escape a pursuing Gestapo. Won the Grand Prize at Cannes, an Oscar nomination for its Screenplay. All this despite being banned in several countries (including West Germany, go figure) and having 15 minutes removed in America (don't worry, we're getting the original cut here). With Anna Magnani, who was only known for comedy, but became popular worldwide with this film. Basically this is the introduction of Italian Neorealisim to the world at large. Not the first film of its kind, but the one that took off worldwide:

DR STRANGELOVE (1964)- Wed Sept 24 at 7 for 8 dollars- AMC Empire- The classic film gets a cheap DCP screening, possibly the 4k DCP that has screened elsewhere. Now as for Dr. Strangelove, if you ever bother to put your eyes on this list more than two or three times a year then you know what this film is, and you don't need me to describe this to you. Several of you have seen this in theaters with me before. Some of you have even seen it twice with me before. One of the few dark satires to get it exactly right. Just the everyday story of an insane general, who sends out his bomber unit to attack Russia. Considered one of the best anti-war films ever made. But for those who hate that term (seriously, are you that dumb to refuse to put this into historical context), then consider this an anti-rigidity and anti-stupidity film instead, OK? An excellent mixture of farce and action. And accurate enough in terms of military capability and military speak, that the Air Force demanded answers and questioned Stanley Kubrick.

If you've never seen it with an audience, make time for it. On as many AFI Top 100 lists that it could qualify for. One of the prime examples of Oscar screwing up, when it comes to not giving a film Best Picture. Strangelove is usually Exhibit A, while something like Goodfellas and Raging Bull would be considered Exhibits B and C, respectively. One of my top 5 favorite films ever, and my second favorite Kubrick film, after 2001. And as good a cast as this has, 3 top performances from Peter Sellers . . . , the range this man had is stunning. I dare any of you to find the seams where his performances don't work. Though some of you may prefer George C. Scott's performance; forced out of his comfort zone by Kubrick to get progressively more over-the-top, and is funny as hell:

GHOSTBUSTERS (1984)- Wed Sept 24 at 9:30 and Thurs Sept 25 at 6:40- Regal Union Square Stadium 14- Hey lookahere, Ghostbusters is still playing in Union Square. Not what I would describe as miraculous, but somewhat surprising. Not sure if it play beyond the 25th, any addition playdates won't be published until sometime between the evening of the 23rd and the evening of the 24th. If there is an extension, I would be interested, but we'll see if that occurs:

A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE (1951)- Fri Sept 25 at 5:30 and 8 (introduced by writer John Lahr) and Sat Sept 26 at 12:30, 5:30 and 8- Film Forum- This film kicks off the Forum's Tennessee Williams retrospective. Films that were either adapted from Williams' work (regardless of whether Tennessee had anything to do with the film or not), or based on an original screenplay of his. Actually Williams only has two produced original screenplays to his name, the hard to sit through The Loss of a Teardrop (not in the retrospective) and Baby Doll (the next film on this list). The rest are adaptations of varying quality, and the Forum starts with the vest of the bunch, A Streetcar Named Desire.

The best of the Williams adaptations. I won't focus on the story here. But Auntie Mame came to mind when I started to think about writing this post. I saw the film at a revival screening in Chelsea a few years ago. While I did like Auntie Mame, my first impression was that this was little more than a recorded play. Two standout performances were preserved for posterity, but little more than that, barely a movie at all. Now you might think it's not fair to compare a comedy with a heavy drama, and hey, director Elia Kazan also used some cast members from the original production of his play as well. But Kazan and Williams (plus co-screenwriter Oscar Saul) were successful in both expanding and shrinking the world compared to the stage version. Small bits of New Orleans exteriors mixed with a household set, whose walls Kazan incrementally brought in to emphasize Blanche DuBois's growing claustrophobia and growing mental instability. It also helps to have one of the greatest game-changing performances in the history of recorded acting in Marlon Brando's Stanley. 

But while it's a shame there are few living today who can let us know how good Jessica Tandy's Blanche was on stage, the producers's insistence on having Vivian Leigh star as Blanche gave us some hauntingly special. Perhaps the most underrated of lead female performances in film; I know this sounds strange considering how long this film/play has been with us. But the attention, both by the typical viewer and pop culture's collective memory, is usual attached to both Brando (and his "STTEELLLLAAAA!"). But he had to have someone to work off of, and besides this is more Blanche's story. A Steel Magnolia worn down to the nub, desperate for one more chance, but not strong enough to withstand a Stanley Kowlaski.

Oscars for Art Direction, Leigh for Actress, Kim Stanley as Stella for Supporting Actress, and Karl Malden for Supporting Actor,making Streetcar the first film to win 3 Oscars for its acting. Nominations for Picturs, Brando for Acting (losing to Bogart for The African Queen), Kazan for Director, Williams for Screenplay, Cinematography, Sound, Costume Design and for Alex North's sensitive, character driven Score (rare in its day). On both AFI Top 100 lists. Writer John Lahr, author of the new biography Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh, will introduce the Friday 8PM screening and sign copies of his book afterwards. If you prefer not to deal with the potential crowd, Street car will also screen on Saturday the 26th, though I'm not sure which screening I can do: 

BABY DOLL (1956)- Mon Sept 28 at 8 introduced by Carroll Baker- Film Forum-  Part of the Tennessee Williams on screen retrospective. If this isn't agreed upon and planned out within minutes of you reading this, the chance of getting in will be minimal. An original screenplay from Williams, and directed by Elia Kazan. Carroll Baker plays the title role, as a 19 year old child bride, who refuses to give in to husband Karl Malden's "demands". She ends caught in the middle, as her virginity becomes a prize, between Malden, and an angry Mexican business rival (Eli Wallach in his film debut) who tries to take revenge, by taking Baby Doll. Funnier then you might expect, but as well acted, written and directed as you might think from all the names I mentioned here.

Controversial back in the mid 50s for the subject matter (in the 1950s? Gee, you THINK?!?!?!). Condemned by the Legion of Decency, this arm of the Catholic Church tried to organize a nationwide boycott. Cardinal Spellman in St. Patrick's Cathedral condemned the film during mass, telling Catholics to not see Baby Doll "under pain of sin". A surprising indirect ally was Time Magazine, who called the film the dirtiest American picture ever legally screened. The boycott didn't completely work. The backlash eventually killed the Catholics out of giving films the Production Code seal of approval; a step that would eventually lead to the ratings system and board we have today. But it did kill any chance Baby Doll ever had to be profitable. The boycott succeeded to the point that over 50 years later, this film is still criminally under seen. You might have heard of this film, but you have to be an ardent buff to anything about this film. For the record, a bit on the tame side, and far from pornographic.

Baker will introduce the screening, unknown if she'll do a Q and A . Tickets on sale via credit card on the forum's website, with a small number tickets to be sold once the box office opens on Monday afternoon. If we do this, mucho planning needs to be done.

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

No comments: