Sunday, March 15, 2015

March revivals: second half

Hey all. Mike here with a list of revivals for the second half of March. Again, because life is getting a bit in the way, we have another small list. And this list has films all in one location: the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria. I didn't intend to do that, but we have 3 films here that are too good to ignore. We'll start off with a film I've waited a long while to become available on a list like this:

THE APARTMENT (1960) introduced by Matthew Weiner- Fri Mar 20 at 9:15- Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria- Part of the Museum's retrospective of films and TV series that influenced Matthew Weiner, either in his own life, or in the creation and/or development of his hit series Mad Men. Now before this screening, Weiner will do a discussion/ Q and A about the series and himself, with clips from the series. This event is sold out, though you might be able to get standby tickets on the evening of. But tickets for the screening of Billy Wilder's The Apartment, with an introduction from Weiner, are available and should still be on the afternoon of the 20th.
If North By Northwest was one of the films to heavily influence the pilot of Mad Men, The Apartment is another. The other two, Joan Crawford's The Best of Everything and Glenn Ford's Dear Heart, will screen at the Museum in April. But sticking with The Apartment, to quote Mr. Weiner:
I had seen this for the first time in film school and was bowled over by the dynamic writing and the passive nature of its hero, Jack Lemmon’s C.C. Baxter. It is definitely a story of its times, firmly rooted in a Manhattan where seemingly regular men behave unscrupulously, and it completely engaged my imagination as a representation of office and sexual politics at the time. It blends humor and pathos effortlessly. −Matthew Weiner
In this dramedy, from 1960, Jack Lemmon's character is near the bottom of the totem pole, in a big insurance company in New York. One way to get ahead is to allow his mid-level managers to use his apartment for extramarital affairs. It gets him both a promotion and the attention of the big boss, played by Fred MacMurray. This leads to even further use of his apartment, and problems with the woman he has a crush on, played by Shirley MacClaine.
A big hit in its day, a classic today. Praised by many critics, but attacked by a few for its seemingly caviler displays of adultery in the workplace, with all these very proper people. Maybe the amoral attitudes of our "hero" Lemmon upset some people, but it provided a respectable template for Weiner and his world of Mad Men.
10 Oscar nominations, including Lemmon for Actor and MacClaine for Actress. 5 Oscars, including Picture, Wilder for Director, Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond for Screenplay, and Editing. On both AFI top 100 lists, though not as well remembered or beloved as another classic released that year, Psycho. Whoa, what nerves did The Apartment hit that it isn't as beloved as a film about a disturbed young man who stabs a woman to death in the shower. Hmm, interesting . . . :

VERTIGO (1958) and/or BLUE VELVET (1986)- Sun March 22 at 4 (Vertigo) and 7 (Velvet)- Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria. A potential double feature of two films that influenced Matthew Weiner, the creator/showrunner of Mad Men. The first film was influence starting in the hiatus between Seasons 1 and 2, while the second film was a major influence on Weiner himself back in college. One admission gets you into both films, along with a chance to check out the Museum itself, including the new Mad Men exhibit.
First, Vertigo. A revival screening of the Hitchcock classic isn't a rarity. That we're getting a presentation of it in an original IB 35mm print is highly unusual. Meaning while we may not get the highest quality digital presentation, we 're probably getting a well preserved reel of the film that's probably closer to it s original color and presentation than any of the post-1980s restoration efforts.
As for the film itself, a tragic romance with poor guy Jimmy Stewart, going down the emotional Rabbit Hole of Doom as he falls for Kim Novack, and tries not to literally fall due to his vertigo. The story of obsessive love that has never been done better than this. Not on the big screen anyway.
A film that was ignored at best and derided at worst in its initial release, but attained instant classic status upon its 1984 re-release. a near permanent fixture on most AFI Top 100 lists. In some recent film articles listing best movies, Vertigo has made the leap to 1st or 2nd. Not quite sure about that, but on my own Top 40 for sure.

Now again, note that I haven't written much at all about the story itself. To paraphrase Martin Scorsese when he wrote about Vertigo, not only is Vertigo required viewing, it also requires a Personal Response. Your life experiences will determine how you will take it. I'm guessing anyone who looks at my lists has seen Vertigo before. Therefore, you jumped past following the plot and can get to the heart (figuratively and literally) of the story and how it connects with you.
Now as for how Matthew Weiner was influenced by Vertigo, to quote Mr. Weiner:
Released to negative reviews, it now ranks for many as the greatest film ever made. I had not seen it before the show began, but finally caught it on a break after the first season. I was overwhelmed with its beauty, mystery, and obsessive detail. I remember watching the camera dolly-in on Kim Novak’s hair and thinking, “this is exactly what we are trying to do.” Vertigo feels like you are watching someone else’s dream. −Matthew Weiner
Next, Blue Velvet.   a darker variation of Shadow of a Doubt, with more than a little Wizard of Oz, in its way. In my top 5 ever, possibly higher. 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. This mystery/neo-noir/romantic drama got David Lynch a Best Director nomination, and brought both his and Kyle 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).Rosselini attacked him in response (verbally attacked I meant). A bit of a Rorschach test, this hauntingly beautiful film is. Decide for yourself.
Now as for the film's influence on Matthew Weiner, to quote Mr. Weiner one last time:
Remarkably original for its time, this film had an impact on my generation that can’t be underestimated. I saw it as I was finishing college and applied to film school soon after. Indefinable in genre, Blue Velvet moves from murder mystery to film noir to black comedy to coming-of-age story, almost from scene to scene. With stylistic richness and psychological complexity, it celebrates the horror of the mundane and is filled with reference to a kitschy and ironic “’50s” milieu. This incredible observation informed much of the 1980s and became an inspiration for the series and its attempt to equally revise our mythical perception of the period. :

Let me know if there's interest, Take care.

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