Friday, July 22, 2016

July revivals

Hey all. Mike here with a revival list for the rest of July. Sorry I didn't have any revival screenings for most of this month. but a combination of schedule issues and some meh choices didn't inspire me to write a list. Actually, there were a couple of revivals that I was interested in, and I caught one: Sam Peckinpah's Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia. Very much a Grindhouse film, and as long as you're ok with that going in, you'll like the film. And even if you don't, there was a terrific lead performance by Warren Oates to savor. And based on the conversations Oates's character had with the title head, I have to think Robert Zemeckis had this film in mind while working on Cast Away. Very little difference between Oates and Garcia's head, and Tom Hanks and Wilson. Overall, I understand why it would be on a list of 1001 movies to see before you die. Maybe not in the top 1001 all time, but certainly different enough to pay attention. Now on with the list:

THE SICILIAN CLAN (1969/70)-  Sat July 23 at 8:50- Film Forum- From the Forum's Les Durs: 3 French Tough Guys retrospective. Honoring the work of character acting/ tough guy leading Frenchmen Jean Gabin, Lino Ventura, and Jean-Paul Belmondo. Some of the films in this retrospective are those I've done at least once at the Forum (Le Doulos, Breathless, Army of Shadows, Grand Illusion), so I won't post them here. Maybe another time, but not this month. But here's one that fits my schedule: The Sicilian Clan, from 1969, released in the U.S. in 1970.  Sorry to say this is the English dubbed version, but beggars can't be choosers. Now I'm afraid I don't know the film, so I'll have post the Forum's description of the film for better clarity:

(1969, Henri Verneuil) Three great tough guys: after fiery killer Alain Delon memorably escapes from the slammer, it’s time to team up with gang boss Gabin to heist a plane-load of jewels. But there’s cop Lino Ventura to contend with. English-language version. 35mm. Approx. 121 mins.

PLANET OF THE APES (1968)- Sun July 24 (Preferred)  at 7 and Wed July 27 (if need be for me) at 2- AMC Empire 25 and Bow Tie Chelsea Cinemas -  A special digital restoration, sponsored by TCM. The screening will be introduced by Ben Mankiewicz, who will have an "interview" with Dr Zaius about the effect of the movie. So to speak, just enjoy the tongue and cheek aspect.

Now as for the original Planet of the Apes, for those of you who lived and where consciously aware in New York at least through the mid 80s, have a memory of Ch. 7's The 4:30 Movie, with that theme and those graphics that were fun but a little dated by 1978. When they did Planet of the Apes week, I was there BA-BY! The first film chopped into 2 edited parts, followed by 3 of the sequels. Now I'm not asking you to see the sequels on your own, and God knows I don't want to get near the Tim Burton remake. I'm just pushing the original. A hit in its day, that a surprising number of critics ripped apart back then. Many of them had to do mea culpas weeks and years after. It means enough these days to be highlighted in the 1968-set season of Mad Men.

3 astronauts land in a strange place, filled with talking apes, and human slaves who are mute. 3 astronauts go down to one. The one being Charlton Heston, who, after going through many trials, begins to kick ass. Until the ending, the kind that makes M. Night seem like a weakling. There, the story told in a nutshell.

Basically, its an enjoyable action/sci-fi/drama with satirical moments. A number of screenwriters contributed to this adaptation to Pierre Boulle's novel, including Rod Serling and Michael Wilson, who previously adapted Boulle's The Bridge on the River Kwai. Wilson is credited with the tribunal scene that was a cross between the Scopes Monkey trial and a Communist witch hunt hearing, the kind that had Wilson blacklisted for years. Serling is credited with the ending, one that Boulle apparently preferred to his own.

With the most unique hero in film history in Heston's Taylor. A man with no hope, no faith, and a complete asshole. And yet, he becomes more naive and more hopeful as the film goes on, while still being an asshole. And he still kicks ass. Not like in the second film, when he blows up the entire planet, but close.

Of course this doesn't work unless you buy the monkey makeup, which didn't work if the cast didn't take fellow cast mate Roddy McDowall's suggestion to add the occasional tic, blink and anything else they could think of, to not rely on just the mask to show character. 2 Oscar nominations, and a special Oscar for the makeup. Granted, this was a year when the ape makeup work for 2001 went completely ignored. I guess because the Academy believed everyone in the Dawn of Man sequences were really apes. Anyway, a fun time for all of us who catch it. I saw a new print back on July 2011, and it plays great. The new DCP should play just as well:

LITTLE BIG MAN (1970)- Tues July 26 at 6:45 and 9:30- Metrograph- Part of the Metrograph's series of films, Native to America, featuring films depicting Native American life. A favorite "forgotten" Dustin Hoffman film from 1970. A Western Comedy-Drama that mixes Fable, History, and even a bit of political activism. Hoffman plays a 110 year old man (under impressive make-up from Dick Smith who did the makeup work on The Exorcist and The Godfather), who looks back on his life. How he went back and forth as a young boy and man, from the world of the Indians to the world of the white man in the old West. Meeting characters as varied as Wild Bill Hickok and General Custer. Maybe there's a bit of legend in his tale, but it's his tale and he's gonna tell it his way.

Terrific script and lead performance from Hoffman who is in the Guinness Book of Records for playing the largest age span of a character (17-121). With good support from, among others, Faye Dunaway (a favor after Penn's Bonnie & Clyde made her a star?), Martin Balsam and Richard Mulligan (chewing the scenery, countryside and possibly the horses, as Custer). But the supporting performance you'll probably leave the film remembering most, is Oscar-nominated Chief Dan George, as the tribal chief who adopts the orphan boy who grows up to be Hoffman. Many scenes in Little Big Man take place among the tribe, and it's probably the most humane, well rounded depiction of Native Americans ever on film. Definitely better than say, the typical John Wayne Western or even Dances With Wolves. And that humanity is important, since it needs to effect you so that the attacks by the Army. Any similarities between the Vietnam War and the Army-Indian battles are intentional, even though the scenes at times, matched up with government records of the encounters. An artistic/political decision supposedly made by Penn and screenwriter Calder Willingham (The Graduate, Paths of Glory), that didn't thrill the novelist who originally conceived Little Big Man, Thomas Berger.

Maybe Little Big Man is a little too long and meandering. But it's an interesting journey, that I prefer to think of as eccentric as opposed to weird. Essentially forgotten today, and just because it's a Western, it's ripe for re-discovery.

LE DEUXIEME SOUFFLE (SECOND BREATH) (1966)- Thurs July 28 at 7- Film Forum- Part of the Forum's "Les Durs" 3 Tough French Guys retrospective. A 35mm print imported from France specifically for this series. Directed by Jean-Pierre Melville. If you know, or paid cursory attention to these lists, you know how much I'm a fan of Melville's work. It started from Army of Shadows and grown from there. Le Doulos and Le Circe Rouge were obviously very good, the same goes for Bob Le Flambeur. Melville's change of pace, Leon Morin, Priest, was a pleasant surprise. Even merely ok Melville (Un Flic), is a cut above quite a number of films. So the chance to see this Melville film I don't know, is an opportunity I'm jumping on. And since I don't know this film, I'll have to rely on the old cut-and-paste method, and rely on the Forum's description:

(1966) En route to the border after a successful prison break, Lino Ventura (Army of Shadows, Elevator To The Gallows) takes time for an electrifying highway robbery, but then finds, after ruthless cop Paul Meurisse has turned him into an unwitting informer, that reputation is worth more than life. In French, with English subtitles. Approx. 150 mins. 

2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968)- Fri July 29 at 7- Museum of the Moving Image- The start of the return of 70mm screenings at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria. Very similar to the 70mm retrospective that Lincoln Center held during the holiday season of 2012, and the successful 70mm retrospective the Museum had last summerAfter the success of such revival screenings as Hello, Dolly! and The Sound of Music, as well as renewed interest in the format thanks to Christopher Nolan's Interstellar and P.T. Anderson's The Master, the Museum of the Moving Image will screen this special retrospective. While the format has been around since the creation of film itself, it wasn't until the mid-1950s when this became popular for event movies. Consider 70mm as the grandfather of IMAX, which also makes use of 70mm film cameras by the way (the films not shot digitally that is). If you've been to the Ziegfeld, the late Loews Astor Plaza or the Paris theater in Manhattan, then you know what the format looks like in a non-revival house. But unless you've done a previous 70mm revival screening with me, or you saw The Master at the Ziegfeld and/or Interstellar at the Ziegfeld or in a 70mm IMAX screening, or The Hateful Eight at one of the 100 70mm screens this past winter, you probably haven't seen a 70mm film. Especially if you're under the age of 21.

Popularity waned in the 1970s, and the format wasn't used for a while, except horizontally in IMAX cameras. By the time I read how the original 70mm print of Star Trek: The Motion Picture was chopped up and pieces were individually sold, I figured the format was as dead as the Betamax. But directors like Anderson, Nolan, and Martin Scorsese still champion the format, and curiosity and changing technologies has fueled renewed interest 70mm. Much like IMAX, 70mm was reserved for event films, and some of those very event films will be screened at the Museum. I've posted a couple of these films on this blog over the years. But most of these films haven't been screened since the early 80s.

Now almost everything screened in this retrospective also screened at Lincoln Center back in 2012, but not every film from the 2012 retrospective will screen here. Either because the 70mm screening of Sound of Music has been screened before at the Museum this year (and probably again next February), they won't settle for any kind of print (no thanks to a grainy My Fair Lady print with Swedish subtitles) , or they're going with most mainstream choices. I admired Lincoln Center's choices of Khartoum and Ryan's Daughter, but Lord Jim? Interesting . . . I won't post all the films from this retrospective. Partially because I'm splitting up their list into several parts to fit mine so there would be no point listing everything now, and partially because I have neither the time to do The Master and Interstellar, nor the burning desire to see Brainstorm. i saw Natalie Wood's last film recently on TCM, and it hasn't held up compared to when I saw it over twenty five years ago.

Now as for 2001, I have nothing new to say about. It's one of my favorites, I've seen it multiple times over the years and I'm willing to go again, it's a great film, if you've never seen it on the big screen, see it once, that's it. What I will do is reprint part of what I wrote regarding this 70mm restoration back in January 2013:

Overall, a quality restoration, but I feel a better job was done with the Hello, Dolly! restoration I saw this past summer (not sure who did the respective restorations). Sound quality was equally superior, but there were noticeable image issues with the 2001 print that didn't crop up with Dolly. In particular the colors red and white were difficult to pull off without some sort of cloudy distortion. Not every time mind, you. No issues with the color red when it came to anything involving Hal, but with the trip at the end. And as for white, there were no issues with say, the space station or the various shuttles.  But anything lit with what appears to white halogen lighting (or the mid-1960s British equivalent), such as the lighting in the station, the moon base meeting room, and especially the French suite environment the Monolith creates, the restoration wasn't that effective. Or the restoration wasn't able to fix all the problems of the original negative, not sure what the reasons are. The colors were more effective overall with the Digital restoration of 2001 that I saw in March. Sound quality was about equal, but I consider the 70mm print superior to the DCP print in one section: The Dawn of Man. For some reason all of it looked completely fake on the DCP, even the leopard and the second unit footage. Not so with the 70mm, the textures of everything, the sets, the matte paintings and the incredible make-up, all looked more realistic. Enough texture to allow one to believe the illusion quickly, without distraction.

POLTERGEIST (1982)- Sat July 30 at 9- Metrograph- Part of the Metrograph's series of films that have questionably received a PG rating. This one certainly qualifies. A little over the top in its last half hour, but still quite effective. Just enough humor to set you up for more scares. Cited as one of the reasons for the creation of the PG-13 rating. Directed by Texas Chainsaw Massacre's Tobe Hooper, though how much of the film was made by Hooper and how much was made by producer/co-writer Steven Spielberg still seems to be a topic for conjecture. Though there's nothing as creepy here, as when a clip was used for DirectTV's series of commercials. My first thought: "This commercial is freaking me out. They're using the little dead girl to sell DirectTV. You have to be kidding!". 3 Oscar nominations, including the visual effects and Jerry Goldsmith's score

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