Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Has it really been a week since i've written anything on this blog? What have i been doing?

Well: last week, on Wednesday, July 16, i did go to the Drawing Center where there was a panel discussion on "direct cinema" with panelists including Tony Conrad, Jennifer Reeves, Andrew Lampert (archivist at Anthology Film Archives) and Joao Ribas, the curator of The Drawing centre who organized the show. Also Andrew Lampert screened (they set up a 16mm projector) some films, including the first section of Storm De Hirsch's "The Color of Ritual, The Color of Thought", Robert Breer's "Eyewash" and parts of Harry Smith's "Early Abstractions". The panel itself was hilarious, because Tony Conrad couldn't help it, he kept pontificating in that early-1970s conceptual-minimal-structural mindset that he exemplifies, and i thought it was so funny, it was just like one of my theater pieces. Anyway, it was so crowded that people were standing outside, but among the people there i talked to: Richard Kostelanetz, Marjorie Gamso, Grahame Weinbren, Thomas Beard and Ed Halter, Stephanie Grey, Bill Brand and Katy Martin. It was one of those events.

Thursday, July 17, and i went to the screenintg of Ed Radtke's "The Speed of Life" at the Asian-American Film Festival. I thought the film was fine. He really has a talent for registering the inchoate feelings of adolescent and post-adolescent boys. He showed this in his previous film, "The Dream Catcher" (not to be confused with the horror film of the same name). Ed has been evolving a particular way of working: he uses mostly nonprofessionals and works with them over a period of time, and there's some sort of outline which provides the story. There seems to be improvisation and a collaborative process. I know that Ed started working on "The Speed of Life" almost immediately following "The Dream Catcher" (which had a run at the Walter Reade Theater when Genevieve Villaflor was trying to do that series of week-long runs of selected indie films; another film was Katherine Dieckmann's movie which starred Henry Thomas; the Film Society of Lincoln Center stopped that program, but now MoMA is doing the same thing, giving week-long runs to selected films, like Isaac Julien's "Derek").

On Friday, i got the screeners from TLA; Larry and i immediately watched "Wrangler: Anatomy of an Icon" (of course), and we found it rather scrappily put together, but irresistibly entertaining. How could it not be? John Stillman was always a child of show business, and his aim in life (even when he invented the persona of Jack Wrangler) has always been to entertain.

On Channel 13's "Reel New York" film series, there were four shorts, the first of which was Jeff Scher's "L'Eau Life", which was another very bright, colorful animation, and lovely; then there was a dramatic short "Meet Me In Berlin" which was a little protracted (it was 20 minutes, and the story was such that there was an obvious punchline, and you started to count the minutes until it got there), then a short documentary "William Klein: Out of Necessity", an interesting interview with Klein getting to speak about a number of issues (including his political beliefs and how that got him into trouble), and Michael Blackwood's "Broadway Express", a delightful black-and-white short showing the A subway line during what seems to be a day and a night in the late 1950s. With "The Exiles", it was a reminder of the eloquence of black-and-white imagery, the city-symphony, in-the-street beauty of 16mm location shooting.

The weekend was rather uneventful. I did watch "Operation Madball", a 1957 service comedy starring Jack Lemmon, Ernie Kovacs, Mickey Rooney, and Dick York. It's part of the deal that TCM has made: they're now showing a lot of stuff on lease from Columbia. This one was directed by Richard Quine. Later that evening, TCM showed "You Can't Run Away From It", a musical remake of "It Happened One Night" with Jack Lemmon and June Allyson, directed by Dick Powell. Unfortunately, the movie was shown in a pan-and-scan print.

On Monday, i got a package from England, my friend Mike sent me a number of DVDs... and i watched "Home Before Dark" (the 1958 Warners melo starring Jean Simmons, which i'd NEVER seen; Mervyn LeRoy not the nimblest of directors, as was proven by "A Majority of One", but Jean Simmons really is phenomenal in the movie, which is otherwise very unevenly acted, with some people, who are usually reliable, such as Rhonda Fleming and Mabel Albertson, being hideously one-dimensional and flat, but Jean Simmons does amazing work, and she stays on target), "The Sailor From Gibraltar" (which i've seen before, it wasn't as bad as i remembered, but it still wasn't good, but there are wonderful things in it, such as Jeanne Moreau, Vanessa Redgrave, and the cinematography of Raoul Coutard and the music of Antoine Duhamel), and the Harold Prince "Something for Everyone" (he only wishes). Still i didn't remember that the son in "Something for Everyone" was played by Anthony Higgins, and he certainly was beautiful as a young man. (I'd seen this once at the Thalia, and remember that it seemed to be trying so hard to be sophisticated; watching it at home, the effort really showed.)

Tuesdays, TCM's Star of the Month is Rosalind Russell, and i watched (in succession) "Night Must Fall" (very effective), "The Velvet Touch" (which i had never seen from the beginning; now that i've seen the whole thing... it's still arch and Russell is not really good, she's trying too hard for a grand-dame style that's phoney on her... but she produced the film, so obviously the director had no way of toning her down), "Tell It to the Judge" (strained screwball zaniness and by 1949 Russell and Robert Cummings were getting too old for this type of nonsense) and "A Woman of Distinction" (in 1950, Russell was nearing the end of her career-woman comedies, but this one still had some dash to it).

Today, went to the screening of Clouzot's "La Verite": i saw this decades ago, but in some dubbed version that played all over (a lot of Bardot's movies were big successes in the US in dubbed versions). So i wanted to see the real thing. Well.... i have to say that Clouzot remains a real craftsman, and the construction of the movie is solid, and the courtroom scenes are excellent. The opening in the women's prison is marvellous: the shadows of the bars, the claustrophobia... all excellent.

But Bardot...! As with Louis Malle's "Vie Privee" (made the year after "La Verite"), Bardot is playing (essentially) herself, and she's such an inept actress she can't do it! I had to stop laughing, because whenever she went into one of the serious dramatic moments, her tinny affectlessness made it all seem so ridiculous that she kept turning the damned movie into a satire. (I also had to stop laughing because i was the only person laughing at the screening!) Certainly, i've seen her in "Contempt" (where Godard did make her beautiful), in "Vie Privee", in "Viva Maria"... she has a small part in Rene Clair's "Les Grandes Maneouvres" and i've seen several of the Vadim films ("And God Created Woman", "Warrior's Rest"). She's hopeless as a dramatic actress, but she can be fun as a comedienne.

Also watched (on the Sundance Channel) the Canadian film "Everything's Going Green", which was written by Douglas Coupland. It's strange when a writer is famous for inventing a phrase ("Generation X"), but the movie was one of those cozy-quaint Canadian jobs. (I missed the one press screening i had been invited to last year, but these films do have a tendency to turn up on various cable stations.)

Also saw: "Quiet City". Very charming, very slight, a nice little indie film that is one of the more effective of the mumblecore movies i've seen. However, have to say that i still think "4-Eyed Monsters" is the best of the mumblecore bunch, at least, it remains the most inventive. But "Quiet City" has a quiet and observant charm.

Plus two more of the TLA screeners: "3 Day Weekend" and "Dog Tags". Both were sincere, but showed talent, but will write more when i see the rest of the TLA program.


Post a Comment

<< Home