Saturday, April 22, 2017
It’s also clear that the festival itself is continually evolving as it has to, a reminder that it began way back in 2010 almost at the moment when studios were about to make 35mm prints sparse to favor digital projection. While two Cinerama presentations were on the program down the street at the Cinerama Dome this year, certainly the big news of the festival was that the recent renovation of the American Cinematheque’s Egyptian Theater which included retrofitting the projection booth to screen the famously combustible and unstable nitrate film stock with director Alexander Payne in particular given credit for the idea to get what was called 'a massive undertaking' to finally happen. Although there was a special Cinematheque showing of a nitrate print of CASABLANCA last November, this was the first time the format really got a spotlight in the huge theater and to display how these prints themselves really are works of art as it was described. Availability of certain titles is an ongoing issue for the festival and it’s not like there are DCPs available for every film let alone 35mm prints but no matter how important some of the digital screenings are, like this year's restoration of PANIQUE, I still wish there could be one more house equipped for film again at the festival to make it that much more special. At times it’s the 35mm prints shown in the nooks of the smaller theaters where the real flavor of the festival can sometimes be found; maybe because of the big titles and classic oldies that gets shown there the main Chinese Theater (now officially the “TCL Chinese IMAX” but please don’t make me call it that) winds up having the most tourist oriented flavor during the festival and it’s sadly not equipped to run 35mm anymore regardless.
One of the places that does screen 35mm is the infamous theater #4 up in the Chinese 6, always the smallest theater used by the festival only seating 178, and which has become its own sort of clubhouse in recent years due to how it would automatically fill up for certain noir and pre-code titles. After reaching a breaking point last year due to how fast the 1933 pre-code DOUBLE HARNESS filled up almost instantly for both showings certain changes have clearly been made to the decisions of what gets shown in theater #4 and some of them have clearly been moved down the street to the Egyptian meaning the private members vibe went away but it’s hard to complain about actually getting into see certain films. Although, that said, the crowds didn’t always show up regardless of where they were and I honestly felt a few pangs of sadness when my friend Marya, aka @oldfilmsflicker, tweeted from a relatively empty theater #4 while waiting to see King Vidor’s STREET SCENE (and here’s her own review of that film) which under other circumstances I might have tried to get to myself. It can sometimes feel a little strange to be off at the Egyptian away from the main action which admittedly doesn’t make any sense but it worked for the best and hearing from people who were spending most if not all of certain days in the Egyptian gave the place its own vibe and without shutting so many people out turning it into an all-new alternate track of the festival, the heart and soul of glistening black & white and occasionally stunning color.
Mr. Peel will return in Vol. 2 of the 2017 TCM Classic Film Festival report.
Wednesday, April 12, 2017
BULWORTH by this point, not to mention certain other films and now we have to explain who Warren Beatty is to people of a certain age. But, in the end, we have the film. RULES DON’T APPLY is lots of things. It’s goofy, it’s befuddling, occasionally genuinely affecting and a little all over the place. Even people who’ve confessed to me that they love the film also admit they know it’s kind of a mess. And along those lines maybe it’s completely unfettered Warren Beatty. Instead of the grand final statement that maybe we were expecting it’s a film that doesn’t seem worried at all about impressing anyone and is perfectly content to amuse itself, in no rush to get to the point and without a care in the world. So while not without problems it also feels pure and about as personal a film released by a major studio these days as you can imagine.
Tuesday, March 28, 2017
THE LONG GOODBYE courtesy Vilmos Zsigmond zooming in and out of the frame there’s a harshness to the look of SPLIT courtesy DP Paul Lohmann (who also shot NASHVILLE for Altman; later credits include HIGH ANXIETY, TIME AFTER TIME and MOMMIE DEAREST), a scorched out mid-70s L.A. setting, the stoner vibe of the earlier film turning into a harsher cigarette smoke hanging in the air and everyone seems hungover through the entire film, just waiting for the next drink, the next nicotine high, the next roll of the dice. I’d almost want to live in this film if it wasn’t for all that cigarette smoke but I know Altman wouldn’t want to make it easy for me. MASH it ends when they’re thrust apart by greater forces, in THE LONG GOODBYE the pairing is destroyed by selfishness and in CALIFORNIA SPLIT it ends because it has to. There’s no way to keep going, much as we want that feeling of these guys singing “Rufus Rastus Johnson Brown” to go on forever. You may never be complete, but sometimes all you can do is spin the wheel and who the fuck knows. So please, Criterion or somebody, figure out those music rights and give us the whole thing on Blu. Until that happens, we may need someone to screen this film at least twice a year so we can get our fix. Because we need to be able to remember those people, the ones who have shouted “Fuck you!” at us the loudest. In some ways, being able to remember them is the only way to keep trying.
Sunday, March 5, 2017
THE MASTER was really looking into the faces Tarantino it’s all about those faces and the hatred behind them. KILL BILL: THE WHOLE BLOODY AFFAIR Blu that we’ve all stopped holding our breath for. But what’s a Tarantino mythology without footage being withheld from us, after all. THE THING and one from EXORCIST II: THE HERETIC in there—the brief use of HERETIC music is appreciated because that score is all-holy but it’s the tracks from THE THING which make the most sense here, almost becoming part of the text itself coming from another film set in the remote cold with Kurt Russell, another film where you can’t trust who you’re trapped with, making THE HATEFUL EIGHT in part a prolonged examination of that film from an alternate genre perspective or maybe just the western that John Carpenter never made. Like other Carpenter films it’s a story mostly set in one place trying to keep out a greater force only in this case it’s not just the blizzard (referred to as a ‘white hell’ which itself brings to mind THE WHITE HELL OF PITZ PALU, referenced in INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS—movie titles are part of the Tarantinoverse before movies are even invented) but the world itself with all the hatred and racism imaginable.