Thursday, May 14, 2015

May revivals: this weekend

Hi, Mike here. Normally I would have a list for the second half of May. But since I don't know what my life will be like around Memorial Day weekend, I'll post some revival options for the next few days. Here we go:

WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION (1957) for 10 dollars- Thurs May 14 at 7- Bow Tie Chelsea Cinemas- A cheap screening of a film I really enjoy. I told some of you when i had my CED collection in the mid 80's, there were films i would watch in heavy or semi-heavy rotation. This film from director Billy Wilder, was one of the later. I saw a revival screening of this 5 years ago, and it holds up quite well. A screening hosted by Hedda Lettuce.

Ailing attorney Sir Wilfrid Robarts (Charles Laughton-Oscar nominated) has been advised by his doctors to retire. When he's asked to take the case of murder suspect Leonard Vole (Tyrone Power, in his last completed film role), who stood to gain financially from the victim's death, his interest is piqued. But the case becomes even more of an uphill battle when the defendant's supposedly loving wife Christine (Marlene Dietrich) decides to testify as a witness for the prosecution. Wilder expanded Agatha Christie's play, creating the role of Robarts' housekeeper Miss Plimsoll (played by Laughton's wife Elsa Lanchester-Oscar nominated), whose back-and-forth with her employer provides a funny counterpoint to the film's melodrama. Also nominated for Picture and Director for Wilder. If you've never seen it, now would be a good time:

SAMURAI REBELLION (1967)- Fri May 15 at 7- Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria- Part of the Takemitsu retro. Another Toshiro Mifune samurai film, but not directed by Kurosawa. Mifune is stuck with his Lordship's mistress. She falls in love with his son, and they have a child. But now his Lordship wants her back, now. Yeah, Mifune's not taking this well, and out comes the sword. Featuring another confrontation with Tatsuya Nakadai, who fought each other in the climaxes of Yojimbo and Sanjuro. Never seen it, but sounds interesting:

AFTER HOURS (1985)- Fri May 15 and Sat May 16 at 12:05AM- IFC Center- Part of IFC's retrospective, where they let their staff members pick a film for Midnight. A midnight(ish) screening of Martin Scorsese's sleeper hit from 1985, that seems to have been unfairly forgotten. A change of pace (a dark comedy) and a minor career comeback for Scorsese, after the his emotional breakdown after "The King of Comedy", the film being shunned at the box office despite good reviews, and the money problems that forced a major delay in "Last Temptation of Christ".

A New York City yuppie (Griffin Dunne) has a 'very strange night' when he goes out on a late-night date with a woman he just meets, which turns into a nightmare when he's trapped in an unfamiliar neighborhood (Soho) and has one mishap after another in his quest to get home. Dunne is ably supported in the comic mishaps with a strong roster of performers (Rosanna Arquette, Teri Garr, Cheech and Chong, Linda Fiorentino, John Heard, Catherine O'Hara, Will Patton, Bronson Pinchot, etc.):

JOHNNY GUITAR (1954)- Sat May 16 at 4:45 and Tues May 19 at 7- Anthology Film Archives- 32 Second Ave- A simple Western, starring Sterling Hayden, Joan Crawford, Ernest Borgnine and Mercedes McCambridge, and directed by Ray, that was successful back in 1954, then went away. Until Francois Truffaut and some gay film buffs got ahold of it. They're the ones reminding us about the hidden lesbian story, the links to the HUAC hearings, and the irony of casting HUAC namer of names Hayden as the possible hero (though we didn't know until recently that he was an actually secret agent of some sort who actually knew at least a little something about Communists). Though no male hero would DARE upstage Joan Crawford by this time!

So is it a simple, entertaining Western? Is it an allegory of the Blacklist and the McCarthy witch hunts? It was written unofficially by black-listed screenwriter Ben Maddow. Is there high entertainment value from the over-the-top perfs of both Crawford (is it me, or does she play most scenes like she were the Queen of England or Cleopatra?) and McCambridge? Both ladies hated each other. They fought constantly, and according to IMDB, Crawford was so mad (and drunk), that once she flung McCambridge's costumes along a stretch of Arizona highway. And is it true that the real story of the film, is that McCambridge's character is actually a closeted lesbian, spurned by Crawford, and now seeking revenge? I would say, yes to all of the above. It works as a Western, the allegory is right there, the lead female perfs have high camp value, and you could say no about the lesbian overtones, but there's enough there to read that into it. But whether the film is actually good or great is not something I can help you with. But it sure as shit ain't dull. Worth catching in any case:

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

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