Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Blogging is hard. It's difficult to keep up when there's not much to report. Yesterday, there was a press screening for stuff for "Scanners", which used to be The New York Video Festival, but can't report on it since i wasn't invited. I've been bumped off the press list for the Film Society of Lincoln Center. (Hey, in some years, i was the ONLY person who went to the press screenings for the Video Festival, and now they don't even invite me?) And they were showing Bill Jones's piece (ok, i've seen it, but i'd like to see it projected) and a new piece by (of all people) Julia Heyward.

But stayed home and watched "The Fan"! Finally! It was on Fox Movie Channel, and it really is a curiosity. In an inverted way, it proves directorial authority. To wit: it's one of the most leaden and strangely humorless movies ever made, proving that Otto Preminger doesn't exactly have a light touch. There's a lot of mordant wit in many of his thrillers, esepcially "Laura" and "Bunny Lake Is Missing", but when he tries for an outright comedy... it's better not to think about it. "The Fan" is a disaster! (Not too much better are "Royal Scandal" and "The Moon Is Blue".)

I also wound up staying up late and watching "Somebody Up There Likes Me" on TCM, part of a whole evening's tribute to Paul Newman. The casting is cuckoo: Pier Angeli (who is Italian) is playing Rocky's Jewish wife, while Paul Newman (who is Jewish) is playing Rocky Graziano. But that's ok. It's hard to remember that Pier Angeli was the first of the Italian actresses to come over after World War II (Alida Valli also came over, but her Italian heritage was elided - the Selznick people tried to cast her as some sort of European "exotic"). There was a lot of brouhaha about this, paving the way for the mid-50s triumph of Anna Magnani and then the late-50s onslaught of Sophia Loren, Gina Lollobrigida, and Silvana Mangano. Pier Angeli's first Amerian movie was "Teresa" where she played an Italian war bride for MGM (it was the fourth of Fred Zinnemann's post-war problem dramas, the others being "Act of Violence", "The Search" and "The Men") . But it came in 1951, and that was the same year that MGM got another European gamine, Leslie Caron in "An American in Paris". "Somebody Up There Likes Me" would mark a brief renaissance in Pier Angeli's career, but by that point as well, her life had spun out of control and her mother (one of the most notoroious "stage mothers" of all time) had managed to get Pier's twin sister, Marisa Pavan, into the movies as well... and Marisa would be Oscar-nominated (Best Supporting Actress) for "The Rose Tattoo".

It's always hard to remember the hype that surrounds a movie in its time, how "big" someone can be for one brief moment. In 1965, the most inescapable actress around was Julie Christie, not only was "Darling" critically acclaimed, but "Doctor Zhivago" was one of the biggest hits of the year. So in one year, she united both the art house audience and the mass audience. It's hard to explain this to people....

Just because that kind of rabid popularity may not last, doesn't mean it didn't exist. (And Julie Christie is an example of someone who actually - very actively - sought to minimizze her popularity, she chose projects which she felt would be artistically challenging, such as working with Truffaut on "Fahrenheit 451" and doing "Far From the Madding Crowd".)

But it was fun to watch "The Fan". Just because it was so bad!


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