Pan’s Labyrinth, playing Sunday the 18th on Sundance.
Among the newly featured films this week: two very different but very good thrillers in Se7en on Monday and The Crying Game on Wednesday, both on IFC; some classic sci-fi in The Thing from Another World on Thursday; zany comedy Airplane! on Friday; underrated Hitchcock film Strangers on a Train on Saturday; and a bunch of stuff on Sunday, from classic silent comedy Steamboat Bill Jr. to visionary contemporary fantasy Pan’s Labyrinth. And a lot of great repeats, from French crime (Bob le flambeur repeating throughout the week on Sundance) and Golden Age musicals (On the Town and Singin’ in the Rain) to Italian neo-surrealism (Nights of Cabiria, and yes, I made up that term, it’s not a real thing) and mind-bending Lynch masterpieces (INLAND EMPIRE).
Monday, April 12
9:45pm – IFC – Secretary
Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader – making sado-masochism fun since 2002! But seriously, this was Maggie’s breakout role, and it’s still probably her best, as a damaged young woman whose only outlet is pain. And despite the subject, Secretary is somehow one of the sweetest and most tender romances of recent years.
2002 USA. Director: Steven Shainberg. Starring:James Spader, Maggie Gyllenhaal.
10:00pm – Sundance – Bob le flambeur
Jean-Pierre Melville’s noirish crime film about an aging gambler/thief who takes on one last job – knocking over a casino. Melville was the master of French crime films, and an important figure leading up to the New Wave – Godard name-checks this film in Breathless, mentioning Bob le flambeur (Bob the Gambler) as an associate of Michel’s.
1956 France. Director: Jean-Pierre Melville. Starring: Roger Duchesne, Isabelle Corey, Gérard Buhr, Daniel Gauchy.
(repeats at 3:00am and 7:45am on the 13th, and 8:15am and 5:30pm on the 17th)
11:45pm – IFC – Se7en
A taut and dark film, as you might expect from David Fincher, of a pair of homicide detectives hunting a serial killer who uses the Seven Deadly Sins as a template for his murders, seeing himself as a righteous justice-dealer against those who indulge in these particular sins. Good performances all around as well as the intricate script and solid direction take Se7en a notch above the average serial killer thriller.
1995 USA. Director: David Fincher. Starring: Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kevin Spacey.
Tuesday, April 13
6:00am – TCM – On the Town
Sailors on leave Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, and Jules Munshin hit New York City, spending the day sightseeing and searching for Kelly’s dream girl Vera-Ellen, meanwhile picking up Betty Garrett and Ann Miller for the other boys. Not much plot here, but enough to precipitate some of the best song and dance numbers on film. Also one of the first musicals shot on location.
1949 USA. Directors: Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly. Starring: Gene Kelly, Vera-Ellen, Frank Sinatra, Betty Garrett, Ann Miller, Jules Munshin, Alice Pearce.
7:45am – TCM – Royal Wedding
This isn’t one of the all-time great Fred Astaire musicals, but it’s quite charming in its small way, and has the distinction of including the Fred’s “dancing on the ceiling” extravaganza, as well as a few surprisingly competent dance numbers from Fred and not-dancer Jane Powell. Oh, and Fred’s love interest is Sarah Churchill, Winston Churchill’s daughter, which is interesting (Powell plays his sister).
1951 USA. Director: Stanley Donen. Starring: Fred Astaire, Jane Powell, Sarah Churchill, Peter Lawford.
12:30pm – TCM – Singin’ in the Rain
Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly team up for what is now usually considered one of the greatest musicals of all time. Inspired by songs written by MGM producer Arthur Freed at the beginning the sound era, Singin’ in the Rain takes that seismic shift in film history for its setting, focusing on heartthrob screen couple Don Lockwood (Kelly) and Lina Lamont (the hilarious Jean Hagen) as the transition into sound – problem being that Lamont’s voice, like many actual silent screen stars, doesn’t fit her onscreen persona. Hollywood’s often best when it turns on its own foibles, and this is no exception.
1952 USA. Directors: Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly. Starring: Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, Donald O’Connor, Jean Hagen.
10:30pm – Sundance – The Death of Mr. Lazarescu
One of the major films in Romania’s current cinematic resurgence – emphasis on realism, slow pacing, and in this case, the failures of the Romanian health care system, which shunts poor Mr. Lazarescu around from hospital to hospital as he gets sicker and sicker. I wasn’t as captivated by this as I was by 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days by a longshot, but if you’re interested in Romanian film, you oughta see it. If you didn’t like 4 Months, though, you almost certainly won’t like this. ;)
2005 Romania. Director: Cristi Puiu. Starring: Ion Fiscuteanu, Doru Ana, Monica Barladeanu, Doru Boguta.
(repeats at 4:25am on the 14th)
Wednesday, April 14
8:00pm – IFC – The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
Any half-decent film about three drag queens driving a bus through the Australian outback in outlandish costumes (and sometimes lipsynching to opera while sitting in an enormous shoe strapped on top of the bus) pretty much has to be fabulous, and this one is. Hugo Weaving is the one with the secret former marriage and son, Terence Stamp the aging one who tends to be somewhat bitter but can also be the consummate lady, and Guy Pearce is the flamboyant youth. As they move through the Outback toward their next proposed gig as lipsynching dancers, they run into mechanical difficulties, bigotry, and interpersonal conflicts that get into more thoughtful territory than you might expect.
1994 Australia. Director: Stephan Elliott. Starring: Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce, Terence Stamp, Rebel Penfold-Russell.
(repeats at 3:00am)
12:00M – IFC – The Crying Game
British soldier Forest Whitaker is captured by an IRA cell, and one of the IRA members (Stephen Rea), against his better judgement, befriends him. Later, Rea leaves the cell and makes his way to London to find Whitaker’s lover and ends up getting involved with her under an assumed identity. There’s an additional twist that you likely know if you play any film trivia at all, but the rest of the film is a solid exploration of terrorist guilt with director Neil Jordan’s characteristic angst.
1992 UK. Director: Neil Jordan. Starring: Stephen Rea, Forest Whitaker, Miranda Richardson, Jaye Davidson.
Thursday, April 15
6:05am – Sundance – Nights of Cabiria
Nights of Cabiria, one of the films Federico Fellini made during his sorta-neo-realist phase, casts Masina as a woman of the night, following her around almost non-committally, yet with a lot of care and heart. And Masina is simply amazing in everything she does – not classically beautiful, but somehow incredibly engaging for every second she’s onscreen.
1957 Italy. Director: Federico Fellini. Starring: Giulietta Masina, François Périer, Franca Marzi.
(repeats at 12:15pm)
7:50am – IFC – Hero
Jet Li is the titular hero in this Zhang Yimou film, arguably the best of Yimou’s period action-on-wires films (though I’m partial to House of Flying Daggers myself). The story unfolds in flashback as Li explains to a warlord how he eliminated three would-be assassins (who happen to be three of Hong Kong cinema’s biggest stars, incidentally) – but all may not be precisely how it seems.
2002 China. Director: Zhang Yimou. Starring: Jet Li, Zhang Ziyi, Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung.
(repeats at 4:45pm)
9:30am – TCM – The Thing From Another World
An team of scientists in the arctic discover an ice-bound spacecraft, but when they bring the dead pilot back to their station, they discover he’s carrying a bloodthirsty alien parasite. Through credited to Christian Nyby, the film is at least partially directed by Howard Hawks (who produced). Also, this is one of the very few situations where I think the remake (John Carpenter’s The Thing) is actually better than the original. But this one is still worth watching, especially if you’re into 1950s sci-fi/horror.
1951 USA. Director: Christian Nyby. Starring: Margaret Sheridan, Kenneth Tobey, Robert Cornthwaite, James Arness.
Friday, April 16
8:00am – IFC – Howl’s Moving Castle
Hayao Miyazaki has been a leader in the world of kid-friendly anime films for several years now, and while many would point to Spirited Away as his best film, I actually enjoyed Howl’s Moving Castle the most of all his films. Japanese animation takes some getting used to, but Miyazaki’s films are well worth it, and serve as a wonderful antidote to the current stagnation going on in American animation (always excepting Pixar).
2004 Japan. Director: Hayao Miyazaki. Starring (dubbed voices): Christian Bale, Emily Mortimer, Jean Simmons, Lauren Bacall
(repeats at 1:05pm)
11:15pm – TCM – Airplane!
The classic Abrahams/Zucker spoof of 1970s disaster and airplane crash movies has the all the crew and passengers fall ill, leaving a former war pilot who’s now terrified of flying the only one who can land the plane safely. But the plot pales in comparison to the random collection of wacky characters and the script full of snappy one-liners – lines that have been repeated in and out of context ad nauseum since the film’s release.
1980 USA. Director: Jim Abrahams, David & Jerry Zucker. Starring: Robert Hays, Julie Haggerty, Leslie Nielsen, Lloyd Bridges, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Peter Graves, Robert Stack.
Saturday, April 17
6:30am – IFC – A Fish Called Wanda
It’s not a Monty Python picture, but with John Cleese and Michael Palin on board as participants in a zany crime story, along with ambiguous-relationshiped Jamie Lee Curtis and Kevin Kline, it has some of the same absurd charm.
1988 USA/UK. Director: Charles Crichton. Starring: John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline, Michael Palin, Maria Aitken, Tom Georgeson.
(repeats at 11:45am and 5:05pm)
10:15am – IFC – Sleeper
One of Woody Allen’s early films, and a rare attempt at science fiction on his part, has meek Miles Monroe cryogenically frozen only to wake in a totalitarian future as part of a radical movement to overthrow the government. A rather different film for Woody, but still with his signature anxious wit and awkwardness.
1973 USA. Director: Woody Allen. Starring: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, John Beck, Mary Gregory.
(repeats at 5:00am on the 18th)
8:00pm – TCM – Strangers on a Train
Guy Haines is a tennis star all set to marry into a posh, loving family, if it weren’t for that pesky and annoying wife he’s already got – a problem that fellow train-passenger Bruno has a solution for: all Guy has to do is kill Bruno’s troublesome father and Bruno will take care of Guy’s wife. This criss-cross setup begins one of Hitchcock’s best films, full of memorable shots and set-pieces, not to mention one of the most mesmerizingly psychotic performances in all of cinema in Robert Walker’s portrayal of Bruno.
1951 USA. Director: Alfred Hitchcock. Starring: Farley Granger, Robert Walker, Ruth Roman, Patricia Hitchcock, Leo G. Carroll, Laura Elliott.
10:00pm – Sundance – INLAND EMPIRE
David Lynch’s latest magnum opus, which pretty much can’t be understood by any use of normal narrative logic. However, it works thematically and emotionally as well as any movie I’ve seen ever. Stories weave in and out of each other, characters merge and separate, the plot you thought you had a hold of becomes elusive and it’s essentially impossible to tell what’s real. But if you let yourself go to it, you’re in for a special treat. You know those 3D images that you can only see by throwing your eyes out of focus? Do that with your mind in order to “see” INLAND EMPIRE.
2006 USA. Director: David Lynch. Starring: Laura Dern, Justin Theroux, Jeremy Irons, Jan Hencz, Karolina Gruszka, Grace Zabriski
Sunday, April 18
8:00pm – TCM – A Star is Born (1937)
This is not the better-known Judy Garland version, but the non-musical version featuring Janet Gaynor in one of her last roles. Gaynor’s not well remembered now, but she won the very first Academy Award for Best Actress back in 1928, and she holds this story of a hopeful ingenue married to a has-been actor together. I still love Judy’s version better (because I can’t get enough of her singing “The Man That Got Away”), but this one is well worth watching as well.
1937 USA. Director: William A. Wellman. Starring: Janet Gaynor, Fredric March, Adolphe Menjou, May Robson.
10:00am – TCM – You Were Never Lovelier
Fred Astaire once called Rita Hayworth his favorite dancing partner; truth be told, it may be because he had a little crush on her or something (and who could blame him), because she’s not, as a dancer, up to par with many of his other costars – but she is very charming and lovely in both this and their other pairing, You’ll Never Get Rich. Neither are great films, but both are quite enjoyable, and You Were Never Lovelier usually gets the edge in reputation.
1941 USA. Director: William A. Seiter. Starring: Fred Astaire, Rita Hayworth, Adolphe Menjou.
12:00N – TCM – Some Like It Hot
After musicians Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon unwittingly witness the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, they have to escape the mob by impersonating women and joining an all-girls band. The fact that Marilyn Monroe is the band’s lead singer doesn’t help them stay undercover. Easily one of the greatest comedies ever put on film.
1959 USA. Director: Billy Wilder. Starring: Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, Joe E. Brown, George Raft.
2:15pm – TCM – The Palm Beach Story
Similar in tone but less consistent than The Lady Eve, this Preston Sturges film follows bickering couple Joel McCrea and Claudette Colbert as she leaves him to gold dig for a richer man. He follows her, pretending to be her brother, and they get all entangled with a wealthy brother and sister. The ending is a weak bit of trickery, but there are enough moments of hilarity to make it worth watching.
1942 USA. Director: Preston Sturges. Starring: Claudette Colbert, Joel McCrea, Rudy Vallee, Mary Astor.
10:00pm – Sundance – Pan’s Labyrinth
One of my absolute favorite films of the past decade (or ever, really), an absolutely beautiful and terrifying fantasy that juxtaposes the gruesome horrors of the Spanish Civil War with an equally horrifying fantasy world that provides, if not escape, at least some measure of importance and control to the film’s young heroine. Guillermo Del Toro solidified my view of him as a visionary filmmaker with this film, and it still stands to me as a testament to what fantasy can and should do.
2006 Spain/Mexico. Director: Guillermo Del Toro. Starring: Ivana Baquero, Sergi López, Meribel Verdú, Doug Jones.
12:00M – TCM – Steamboat Bill, Jr.
One of Buster Keaton’s best-loved films; Keaton is a city boy from Boston who goes to visit his estranged father, a steamboat captain who tries to train Keaton in the ways of the river while holding off a competing shipowner (Keaton doesn’t help matters by wanting to date the rival’s daughter). Everything comes to a head in an amazing extended set-piece with Keaton attempting to rescue his father from being arrested – during a hurricane.
1928 USA. Director: Charles Reisner. Starring: Buster Keaton, Ernest Torrence, Tom McGuire, Marion Byron.