Wednesday, May 04, 2016

May revivals: first week

Hey all, Mike here and I'm back. I didn't expect to be gone as long as I've been. I expected to post plenty from the Sam Peckinpah retrospective at Lincoln Center, but I didn't come close to having the time to post many of the films I was thinking of. I'm lucky I got to see Dustin Hoffman in Straw Dogs (better than I remembered, but still brutal and uncomfortable). But when the only current films I got to see were Deadpool (decent but if I was 13-17 it would have been AWESOME!!!), Remember (decent, Christopher Plummer was terrific), and Francofonia (I fought to stay awake for the first 30-40 minutes), then you know I'm behind. But life got in the way after the Oscars, and simple pleasures like revival screenings like this fell by the wayside. But now things have lightened up considerably, and I can start posting and attending these screenings again. Here we go, with a list for the first week or so of May:

PURPLE RAIN (1984)- Wed May 4 at AMC Empire at 5:10 and 8:05,  Wed May 4 at AMC Loews 34th St at 4:20 7 and 9:40,  AMC Loews 19th Street East at 5:15 8 and 9:30- plus  Wed May 4 at AMC Fresh Meadows at 4 and 7:45- plus Wed May 4 and Thurs May 5 at 8- plus Fri May 6 at 11:20 at IFC Center- Unfortunately while I was away, Prince passed away. I'm not sure if I could jump up and call him the best musical entertainers ever. I admittedly lost interest in his music after Diamonds and Pearls came out. But I feel he hit a home run with his album, Purple Rain. As far as I'm concerned, any list of great Rock and Roll albums that doesn't have Purple Rain in its Top 5, is a list that deserves being ignored and its compilers shunned.

Purple Rain the album has aged badly at all. Purple Rain the film, well, not so much. But it has some of the greatest rock music ever, so the film has been screened at varying theaters, commercial or non-profit, since Prince's death. AMC theaters has gone so far as to playing the film digitally in a number of its screens for 6 days, sorry I'm just getting to it now. Different locations in Manhattan, plus Fresh Meadows in Queens. 1 independent cinema, Main Street Cinemas, will also show it at night Those outside of NYC, AMC is showing the film in about 150plus other screens, so I'm sure you can find it if you're interested.

For the record, IFC Center is also showing stuff with Prince in it. I'm posting their late night (but NOT Midnight) screening, but I can only do Friday night. But since their retrospective includes Under The Cherry Moon and Graffiti Bridge, I'll just pretend that retrospective doesn't exist. Now if they somehow got a hold of the rarely screened concert film Sign O The Times, I would jump on that one like you wouldn't believe. But I'm not counting on that.   

Now as for Purple Rain the film, I'll repost what I wrote the last time I listed it:

"Pauline Kael once said in the late 60's that the time then was ripe to create more musicals with the present (then) rock stars like Janis Joplin. That's what made the musicals of the 30s, 40s and 50s successful: they were populated with the top recording artists of the day (Doris Day, Rosemary Clooney, Crosby et. al.). That's what the studios could do: setup a musical with one or many of today's contemporary recording artists."

I think that fits in the case of Once, where you had recording artists doing their songs. And it certainly applies to Prince with this film. Can't imagine a good actor from that period pulling off these kind of songs, no matter who wrote them. Not the greatest film ever made, and not what you call great acting by Prince. But with performances of songs like "When Doves Cry", "Let's Go Crazy" and the title track, the sleeper hit of the summer of 1984 literally rocks whenever the music comes up. Watch how Prince went from successful rock act to icon status. Granted, he would later throw it away with crap like "Under The Cherry Moon" and "Graffiti Bridge", change his name to a symbol with no real meaning, and basically become strange to the point of uninteresting. But watching and listening to him here, anything seemed possible back then. Prince did win an Oscar for music, in a category that no longer exists.

SINGIN' IN THE RAIN (1952) for ten dollars- either Thurs May 5 at 7 at Chelsea Bow Tie Cinemas- or Fri May 6 at 9:30 at the Rubin Museum of Art (introduced by Gerard Alessandrini)- A cheap-ish screening of the classic musical, Singin' In The Rain. But you have your choice of venue; you can either see it as Bow Tie Chelsea Cinemas where it will be introduced by Hedda Lettuce, or you can go to the Rubin Museum where it will be introduced by Gerard Alessandrini, the creator of Forbidden Broadway. Both venues will sell out. The Chelsea screening will probably sell out within 45 minutes of the screening, while the Rubin screening will sell out anywhere from 4 hours to 1 day beforehand.  

Now onto the film itself. When Singin in the Rain came out, it was successful, but ignored. Yes it was nominated for it's score, and the only actor nominated from this was not Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds or Donald O'Connor, but Jean Hagen as the funny, bitch-on-wheels diva. But it was dismissed as fluff, and people moved on. People in 1952 wanted to go on and on about Ivanhoe, John Huston's Moulin Rouge, Son Of Paleface, and the Oscar winner for Best Picture, The Greatest Show On Earth (considered by some to be the biggest mistake the Academy ever made in that category). But when people ever bring up quality films released in the U.S. back in 1952, it's High Noon, Rashomon, Singin' In The Rain, and that's it. OK, maybe The Quiet Man, but you'd have to be Irish and drunk to do that.

THE SEDUCTION OF JOE TYNAN (1979) with a post film Q and A with director Jerry Schatzberg by writer Michael Schulman- Thurs May 5th at 7:30- IFC Center- Part of IFC Center's mini-Meryl Streep retrospective. I'm mildly surprised there hasn't been a bigger one recently, but beggars can't be choosers. The second of three films in the series where Michael Schulman, author of the new Streep biography  "Her Again, Becoming Meryl Streep" discusses early roles of Ms Streep from the 1970s.

Sorry I missed the first film in the series, but here we go with the second, The Seduction of Joe Tynan, from 1979. Alan Alda wrote and stars in the title role, as a young rising Senator, and enjoying a wave of positive press, with sycophants of a staff enjoying the ride with him. He (seems to) loves his wife (Barbara Harris) and family, but seems to love his growing power and position more. And as he gears up for a battle regarding a Supreme Court nominee, in comes assistance in the form of young lawyer Streep; whose mind, youth, sense of self, and looks, all serve as an aphrodisiac to Senator Tynan. But what will be the repercussions for having this affair, if any?

Released in the summer of 1979, reviews were respectable, it did decent business at the box office, and received some more attention on video and TV for most of the 80s, as Streep's name and reputation grew. But by some point in the late 80s and continuing thru the present day, The Seduction of Joe Tynan has essentially been forgotten. Next to the other two Streep films from 1979, Manhattan and Kramer vs Kramer, this is a minor film. It has been over 15 years since I've seen this film, and while I remember liking it the several times I've seen it, I can't say I've made an attempt to get Universal Studios's slapped together DVD, or watch it on one of its rare cable screenings.

As I remember it, it's best to think of this as an early version of Aaron Sorkin's The West Wing, with a few colorful characters, a mixed bag view of politics and a good cast of actors. Alda is an increasingly less likeable variation of Bartlett. You get good supporting turns from Rip Torn as a hedonistic powerful Senator, and Melyvn Douglas as an increasingly senile Senator mentor of Tynan's . But the women stand out more. You have Barbara Harris (in one of her last screen roles) as Tynan's wife; dealing with emotional issues, job stresses, holding her family together, and a husband who's away more often than not, and resenting much of it over time. When she finds out about the affair, ka-boom.

But the attention for the screening will be Streep. As a smart, ambitious, young lawyer, unhappily married, and making a professional connection with Senator Tynan. When the connection becomes personal, then comfortable, then difficult to sustain, you can read it all on Streep's face. Apparently she went into the film on some kind of emotional auto-pilot, mourning the loss of her partner, John Cazale. Streep credited Alda for getting her to open up more, get her comfortable on touching upon certain emotions and a working level of intimacy, and that this helped move forward in the short term to the roles she would tackle next, including Kramer vs Kramer. More about this I'm sure will be brought up on the screening's post-film Q and A, when author Schulman interviews director Jerry Schatzberg. If you want to go, get your tix before 6:30 and get in the theater before 7:15, because screenings at IFC with Q and As will fill up:

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

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