Monday, November 02, 2015

November revivals: first half

Hey all. Mike here, back with a list of November revivals covering the first half of the month. I wasn't expecting a large list, but I couldn't these options now. Here we go:

DIAL M FOR MURDER (1954) in digital 3-D- Tues Nov 3 at 9:15- Film Forum- Dial M For Murder returns to the Forum in digital 3-D. Part of the Forum's retrospective of 1950s films that were screened in 3-D back in its day, have received a digital restoration and will be shown in digital 3-D. Anyway, Dial M was a big success in terms of both presentation and box office drawing for the Film Forum back in October 2012, and again in 2014. Not the the original 2 strip 2 projector version that the Forum has screened off and on for years, but a digital 3-D version (you know, like Avatar?). You now have another chance to see it for yourself as it kinda was intended, on the big screen. 

A Hitchcock classic, that may not have strayed all that successfully from its stage roots, but is still quite good. Ray Milland finds out his wife, Grace Kelly, is cheating on him and is getting ready to dump him. Seeing his wealthy lifestyle about to be taken away from him, he plots his wife's murder. Complications ensue, etc. . . . Cool performances from Milland, Kelly, and character actor John Williams, reprising his Tony winning role as the dogged Chief Inspector. Talkier then usual from a Hitchcock film. I'd argue it's about as talky as Hitchcock and Kelly's other 1954 film together, Rear Window. Window had a better script, with sly insights and a somewhat better realized film. Dial M is a more straight forward, ably executed mystery, with a great scene involving Kelly and a large shiny pair of scissors.

Now at about this time, 3-D was enjoying about the same kind of popularity it's having at the moment. You had studio heads pushing to have films made in 3-D, but unlike now, where pressure can be applied to have films that were never shot in 3-D converted (Clash of the Titans, The Last Airbender), the pressure in the 50s had to be applied in pre-production. So while Hitch was forced to shoot it in 3-D he must have said something along the lines of "Screw them", and did as little as possible in terms of 3-D. Playing a little with perspective, a few low angles, some objects blocking some actors, not much. That's why I wrote in the first paragraph in terms of "as it was kinda intended". Hitch basically looked at 3-D as a fad, shot in 2-D and 3-D simultaneously, and just tried to make a good film, which he did. The 3-D version was released first but didn't play too long, followed by the 2-D classic version. It was re-released in 3-D in 1980 (I thought it was 81, but imdb disagrees), but in a flat version that wasn't popular, and different from how it was screened back in 1954.

For about 20 years off and on, the Forum has screened the original 3-D print, scratches hair and dirt off and on throughout the print, according to friends who attended the more recent screenings, until last October when the digital copy premiered. Boy does this film look different in 3-D. And no, I'm not being a joker here. Hitchcock's use of perspective makes Dial M a somewhat different, somewhat better film. Not so much with the scissors scene, but when Alfred wanted us to pay attention a prop more than the others, or a picture on a wall, or an actor's expression, like inspector Williams does his first interrogation scene; watch how Milland's reactions tend to stand out a little more than if you watch on TCM or a regular DVD. If you missed the chance to see this the first time, don't blow it again.

SHAMPOO (1975)- Mon Nov 9 at 7:15- MOMA- A 4k restoration Would like to see this. In this send-up of the sexually freewheeling '60s from famed 70's maverick director Hal Ashby, Warren Beatty stars as hair stylist George Roundy. The action takes place in 1968, with Richard Nixon about to win the presidency. In addition to making his clients look and feel fabulous, George is busy having affairs with three women, all of whom are in some way connected to the rich older man, Lester Carr, from whom George is trying to get money to open his own salon. And his escapades with those women -Lester's wife, Felicia (Lee Grant), Lester's mistress, Jackie Shawn (Julie Christie) and the daughter of Lester and Felicia, Lorna (Carrie Fisher- pre-Star Wars) -- in addition to his relationship with his girlfriend, Jill (Goldie Hawn) . . . All of them except for Jill are at an election night party where the lifestyle of the stylist may finally prove to be too much.
Basically, a modernized version of the classic restoration comedy The Country Wife with a major critique of the free love lifestyle as well late 60's politics. An Oscar for Grant for Supporting Actress, Nominations for Warden for Supporting Actor, Art Direction and Screenplay, written by Beatty and 'Chinatown' scribe Robert Towne:

SPARTACUS (1960)- Mon Nov 9 and Thurs Nov 12 at 8- Film Forum- A 4K restoration. The Starz version has its cult following and is quite an underrated series. But this film version has its virtues. Starring Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier, Tony Curtis, Jean Simmons, Charles Laughton, Herbert Lom and Peter Ustinov. Kubrick replaced Anthony Mann at the beginning of production on this spectacular epic about a Roman slave revolt, based on Howard Fast's thinly veiled McCarthy-era allegory, and scripted by blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo. Oscars for Ustinov, Art Direction, Costume Design and Cinematography (of which Kubrick actually did all the work, but the union man Russell Metty received the actual award!). A bit slow, even by Kubrick standards, but worth the time. This is the 3 hr restored version, which includes the scene where Olivier attempts to seduce  Curtis while they bathe together. Originally edited out due to pressure from the Production Code and the Legion of Decency, it was restored with Anthony Hopkins dubbing in Olivier's voice (he died a few years earlier):

FANTASIA (1940)- Tues Nov 10 at 7- Kew Gardens Cinema- 81-05 Lefferts Blvd- For people who live in Queens, here's a rare revival screening someplace other than the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria. A digital restoration, in time for its 75th anniversary. A documentary (short) about the making of Fantasia and its history will precede the screening. I know I've posted it this summer, but for a screening relatively close to home, I'll post again.

On the first AFI Top 100 film. 2 Honorary Oscars for its then revolutionary combination of music and animation. A flop in its day, a hit and a classic since then. I really want to see this. I saw it on Radio City Music Hall's former 70mm screen and it blew me away. While this won't be a 70mm screening, the Museum's screen can get pretty large and their sound system is pretty darn good. I hate it when I take grief from people, just because I've said that if you give me great visuals and interesting music, I can overlook quite a number of a film's flaws. But a film like this? Bring the kids. Bring the kids-at-heart. 

Now for the rest, I'll quote from the Walter Reade website back in 2006 I believe: "Go and see it, if you're in the business. You can learn more from seeing 'The Dance of the Hours' by Walt Disney than from spending a year glumly staring at the television screen," wrote director Michael Powell (The Red Shoes, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp) in his autobiography. "Oh that the rest of Hollywood were only like Walt!" For generations now, kids and adults have plunked down their hard-earned dollars to see Fantasia, and emerged a little over two hours later with their minds blown. Vulgar? For sure, and proudly so. This kind of myth-making always is. You could throw almost any adjective at the film and it would be absorbed into its vast mythic territory. One little addendum to Powell's assessment. It's Walt, assisted by a small army of animators. Here are a few names: Bill Tytla, Norman Ferguson, Ollie Johnston, Ward Kimball, Eric Larson, Joshua Meador, Fred Moore, Art Babbitt and Wolfgang Reitherman. Not to mention a few composers: Bach, Dukas, Tchaikovsky, Ponichelli, Stravinsky, Beethoven, Mussorgsky, and Schubert.":

CARNIVAL OF SOULS (1962 original theatrical release)- Thurs Nov 12 at 8- MOMA- Part of MOMA's Film restoration series. A restoration of the 1962 cult classic. Specifically a 35mm restoration of the 78 minute theatrical release (as opposed to the 84 minute Director's Cut), from the original camera negative provided by the Academy Film Archive. Inventive indie film from director Herk Harvey, about a young woman who miraculously survives a car accident, only to wander into a mysterious carnival. If you don't know the film, I won't spoil it for you. But the story isn't that important here; if you know The Twilight Zone, you have an idea where the film is going early on. It's about surreal imagery, creepy atmosphere, even a little Bergman-esque psychodrama:      

AMARCORD (1973/74) with outtakes for free (first come first served)- introduced by Gian Luca Farinelli- Fri Nov 13 at 7:30- Part of MOMA's Film restoration series. A digital restoration of Fellini's 1973 film (released officially in the US in 75), his biggest hit. Originally shot in the same 3 strip Technicolor style of previous films such as Singin In The Rain and The Godfather Part 2. I use these two films as previous examples of restored films shown at the Forum. While Rain's new print was on the muted side compared to the vivid 3 strip print, Godfather 2's was suppose to look terrific. Which way will Amarcord's restoration will turn out? If it's like the restoration screened at the Forum a few years ago, it will look good. Tickets will be available for free on a first come first served basis at 3:30 on the 13th. 

Gian Luca Farinelli, the director of the Italian lab in charge of Amacord's digital restoration, will introduce the film. The introduction will also include ten minutes of silent outakes from Amarcord, put together by director Giuseppe Tornatore (Cinema Paradiso, Malena). 

The film itself is heavy on visual vignettes, as opposed to a linear story. Amarcord, essentially meaning I remember, is a semi-autobiographical tale of one year in the life of a small Italian town, similar to the one Fellini grew up in. The autobiographical part Fellini had denied, but did say there were similarities, whatever that means. Ending specifically in April 1933, which tells us this is a slice of life tale, which would change forever just a few years after the film's end. Unlike Rules of The Game, where a similar change in this world wasn't entirely apparent during the making of it, this feeling can't help but be there off and on throughout Amarcord. Though easy to forget at times for such a visual heavy film.

Won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film in 75, nominated in 76 for Director for Fellini and Screenplay for Fellini and Tonio Guerra. But NOT for Cinematography by Giuseppe Rotunno (The Leopard), who was involved in the restoration. I'm not saying it should have beaten Barry Lyndon, and I wouldn't drop The Day of The Locust or Cuckoo's Nest for sure. But I guess it was hard for American Cinematographers doing the nominating to not vote for the respected James Wong Howe (Funny Lady) or Robert Surtees (The Hindenburg). I'm not sure how estactic I'd feel if I saw the Fellini flick on TV. But on the big screen, it's a revelation:

JOHNNY GUITAR (1954)- Fri Nov 13 at 8 (introduced by Charles Busch) and 10:15 plus Mon Nov 16, Wed Nov 18 and Thurs Nov 19 at 8 and 10:05- Film Forum- A new 4k digital restoration 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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