Vol. 1 of this report, he was racing down Hollywood Blvd to the Egyptian with a few of the most interesting (if not always successful) titles of the TCM Classic Film Festival still in front of him…
version more than a few as well. The screening was introduced by Academy preservationist Heather Linville and Academy Film Archive director Mike Pogorzelski who went into detail on the restoration which went far beyond just cleaning up the look of the film, revealing that to make multiple negatives for foreign releases the general foreign version was essentially an alternate version—the U.S. release had used the best takes of each scene and the foreign version which required a complete different negative had to use other, lesser takes so not only did the film look inferior due to dupey public domain transfers, the takes in the film itself were inferior whether for reasons of performance or even camerawork and that has been the version widely seen through the years, something which has now been rectified. Directed by Lewis Milestone, THE FRONT PAGE ’31 may not be as breezy or charged as HIS GIRL FRIDAY but very few films are and as a direct adaptation of the play comes off as a fully realized world. It’s not so much a star vehicle and since the importance of even the side characters feels that much greater it gives the material a depth that I’ve never felt in any of the later adaptations. For the first time in all my years being familiar with the material I felt like I’d really been given a look at the newspaper world of Chicago in the 20s by people who’d been there and I look forward to further viewings alongside HIS GIRL FRIDAY in the future to compare.
I may have lingered a little too long in Club TCM talking to people which means by the time I got back over to the Chinese 6 to see DETECTIVE STORY, also with a Lee Grant appearance before the film, it had already filled up (Lee Grant and I were apparently destined to never meet at this festival). So instead of trying to race over to the Egyptian for WHAT’S UP DOC? which I’ve seen at least ten times already, I went with HELL IS FOR HEROES, even though Bob Newhart had canceled, even though no one else I knew was in there. But hey, it was Don Siegel and I’d never seen it, this was going to be a good use of my time no matter what.
Instead of feeling a slight letdown I went off to the closing night party, to say goodbye to certain people and try to avoid admitting that this was all ending just a little while longer. The total count for me at this year's festival was 14 films and there could have been more but there’s no way to see everything just as there’s no way not to have a tinge of regret of what you missed, with LAURA and THE LANDLORD and the midnight shows and those other talks in Club TCM and who knows what else. The frenzy at the TCM Classic Film Festival as you try to get from one film to the next isn’t just about nostalgia. It’s that undeniable ephemeral quality you get from those gorgeous nitrate prints, it’s the buzz of being in a packed house of people who are just as thrilled to be there as you are. It’s about how much these films are still alive and vibrant, how much they can mean and the thrill of discovering one of them for the first time. Anyway, it’s now several weeks later. The excitement surrounding the festival has calmed down. But in my head part of me is still back there with the people I spent so much time with in that oasis in the middle of Hollywood away from the rest of the world, excited for all the films we were seeing whether comedy or otherwise and it takes some time for that rush to die down even as I look forward to next year. Maybe it never really does. Hopefully it never will.
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.