Thursday, February 12, 2015

February revivals

Hey all, Mike here with a revival list for the rest of the month. Let's keep it brief:

THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (1955)- Sun Feb 15 at 5:10, 7:05 and 9- Film Forum- A DCP restoration from the Forum's Charles Laughton retrospective. And I'm afraid the only one I would have any time for, especially since I've already seen Witness For the Prosecution and Ruggles of Red Gap. 

The original Night of the Hunter, one of the better film noirs. Yep, I'll just keep posting this until I catch a screening somewhere. Robert Mitchum's best performance as a corrupt preacher willing to kill, as he marries widow Shelley Winters to force her kids to tell him where their late father hid money from a robbery. Any comparisons to Blue Velvet or Twin Peaks, where evil creeps into little America is understandable. It's easy to think of film villains like Darth Vader, Hannibal Lecter and Gollum, or get caught up in a newer one, like Capitán Vidal from Pan's Labyrinth. It's sometimes easy to forget the older villains. I find Mitchum's preacher more insidious than his later turn in the original Cape Fear.

When I saw Do The Right Thing when it first played in theaters, I admired the Radio Raheem monologue about Love and Hate on his hands. Didn't realize it was stolen from Mitchum's character here. The moral: keep watching good films. And also, if we keep giving Spike Lee less credit, the world will be a happier place to live in. Somewhat kidding about that last part.

Initial reaction from 1955 audiences made this film a huge bust. It prompted first-time director/ acting legend Charles Laughton never to direct again. A cult classic today and maybe even more than that. Selected for preservation by the National Film Registry in 1992. if you haven't seen it, let's do it.

ZARDOZ (1974)- Sun Feb 15 at 9:45- Film Forum- From the Forum's John Boorman retrospective. Zardoz, one of my favorite What The Fuck kind of films. I admire its audacity, and I can't believe that anyone in Britain or at Fox thought people would pay to see this in droves. I like that director John Boorman really tried to go out there, but in his most recent DVD commentary about Zardoz, even he can't figure out What The Fuck is happening, or why he chose to do certain scenes the way he did.
I'll attempt the Cliff Notes version here. In post-apocalyptic Britain, Sean Connery plays the leader of a group of tough guys, who stumbles on a highly advanced, Utopian village. It comprises of three types of people: youngish Brits with hot bodies bright minds and snooty attitudes, youngish Brits whose brains don't seem to be working, and babbling old people. Throw in a God named Zardoz, and there's a mystery to be solved. Though why Connery is forced to do this in a long black wig, Fu Manchu-esque mustache and shiny red diaper, I have no idea. I'm serious, it looks like Sean spends more than half the film in a shiny red diaper. With Charlotte Rampling, who's smoking here.

There are parts of the film that I don't want to spoil. There are parts of the film where I think "YOU GOTTA BE SHITTING ME!!!!". Though the ending is cool. You'll either admire it, hate it with a passion, or laugh at it. Don't worry, I've done all three. Let the film experimentation begin

BLUE VELVET (1986)- Sun Feb 15 at 12:10AM- IFC Center- A special Sunday midnight screening, thanks to this weekend containing President's Day. In my top 5 ever, possibly higher. I saw Blue Velvet when it was released back in 1986. Ok, 1987, thanks to critical acclaim. I was WAY too young to get all of what was going on, but what I did get was disturbing, fascinating, and told me that movies could be very different from Star Wars or The Wizard of Oz, or Casablanca. Now yes, the journey depicted here is somewhat similar to Dorothy's journey through Oz (intentional). But this precursor to Twin Peaks is it's own world. The shock factor may not be nearly the same for you compared to what 1986/87 audiences endured, but the story, the performances and Angelo Baldalamenti's beautiful score has endured.

What Shadow of a Doubt pushed in terms of evil in a small town Americana, Blue Velvet cranked to 11 and turned it on its (severed) ear. A very 50s town, with a very 50s kinda young man (Kyle MacLachlan) dealing with the kind of dark crisis a 50s era hero isn't obviously equipped to handle. Not without help, love and support that is. But oh what a dark journey to get to that point . . . This mystery/neo-noir/romantic drama got Lynch a Best Director nomination, and brought both his and MacLachlan's career back from the dead. Isabella Rossellini established herself as an actress once and for all, and Dennis Hopper became a working character actor forever, in a career performance. Also drew major controversy in its day for its, let's just say, sexual connotations, and what was required of Rossellini in her role. I believe it was Ebert who called this film the most vile thing he had ever seen (or something along those lines) and Rosselini attacked him (verbally) in response. A bit of a Rorschach test, this hauntingly beautiful film is. Decide for yourself.

MANHATTAN (1979)- Fri Feb 20 at 7- Museum of the Moving Image- From the Museum's Gordon Willis retrospective, covering the best of the late Cinematographer's work. Manhattan, one of those films that should be seen on and can only be truly embraced on the big screen. It would be very hard for Arguably Woody Allen's best film. On the short list with Allen's Annie Hall, Hannah and her Sisters, and Crimes and Misdemeanors. He wanted to make a film where he wanted to captured what he thought of as life in Manhattan, late 1970s. Put into the filter of one of his favorite films, Jean Renoir's The Rules of The Game. Allegedly, at some point after post production was completed, Allen was so unhappy with the final product, he offered to make a new film for free if United Artists either shelved or destroyed Manhattan. UA execs, happy with what they received, politely declined. Despite the praise and acclaim, Allen felt/feels he got away with one in this case. It may not be a typical life in New York circa late 1970s, but worth catching.

Hell of a cast. Diane Keaton, Micheal Murphy, Meryl Streep and Allen were the better known actors; Mark-Linn Baker, Karen Allen and Six Feet Under's Frances Conroy in smaller roles. 2 Oscar nominations for the Screenplay (written by Allen and Marshall Brickman), and Mariel Hemingway for Supporting Actress. I hope as the relationship between Allen's and Hemingway's characters develops, all cries of "Soon-Yi" are held to a dull roar.

What it wasn't nominated for, which still stuns me, is the late Gordon Willis's stunning black and white Cinematography. Hard to say who should have been dropped from the category, considering the excellent work done in Apocalypse Now (the winner), All That Jazz, 1941 and The Black Hole. Wait, I know, drop Néstor Almendros for his work in Kramer vs. Kramer. But wait, he worked on Terrence Malick's Days of Heaven. DAMNIT!!! Anyway, a must see on the big screen.

ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN (1976)- Fri Feb 27 at 7- Museum of the Moving Image- From the Museum's Gordon Willis retrospective. Alan J. Pakula's classic film depicting the slow but steady investigation of the Watergate break-ins by Washington Post reporters Bob Woodard and Carl Bernstein. Difficult to make when the most of the answers and the climax were known by billions, and hard to make visually interesting inside the Post offices. A leap of faith by Lead actor/ uncredited producer Robert Redford that the audience would be willing to stick with following the story (or the money) with Woodward (Redford) and Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) But I'll be darned if the filmmakers didn't find a way. Emphasize the danger, the impossible-to-believe aspects of a bungled burglary, the success the cover-up seemed to have for at least a portion of the film, make the reporter's environment as realistic and true to life as possible, especially in the case of the finely duplicated Post offices. And above all, make sure you don't show the reporters succeeding, but stuck in an almost unending struggle to find the truth, with only the audience's knowledge of history and a typewritten montage to provide relief. Basically, shoot it like a paranoid thriller; the kind that were popular in the 70s and not well known today, unless you saw Captain America: The Winter Solider.

Oscar nominations for Picture, Pakula for Director, Jane Alexander for Supporting Actress, and Editing. Oscars for Jason Robards for Supporting Actor, William Goldman for Adapted Screenplay, Sound and Art Direction. It might have won more, but that was the year of Network, Taxi Driver and Rocky. On the second AFI Top 100 list. This almost never gets a revival screening, so take advantage of this opportunity:

Let me know if there's interest. Later all.

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