Private Lives, playing on TCM on Friday
Almost a manageable number of films this week – only three or four per day, with nothing particularly of note on Sunday at all. Well, okay, maybe that’s not actually manageable unless you’re retired or something. Whatever. A lot of those are repeats, but we do have some good newly featured ones, too. Like 1975’s Oscar sweeper One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest on Tuesday. And the above-pictured Private Lives, which is a treat if you like early 1930s comedies, and the Lena Horne-featuring Cabin in the Sky on Friday. Also just, as a heads-up, Sundance is playing several films throughout the week that I haven’t seen (so am thus not including because I find it difficult to write about things I haven’t seen), but I’m interested in checking out myself, including Jindabyne, Chalk, War Dance, Man on Wire, and Intacto, so check out Sundance‘s schedule for yourself on those. Hopefully they’ll pop up in future editions of the column. And if anyone wants to speak up for those or anything else playing that I’ve left off, feel free to do so in the comments.
Monday, May 17
9:45am – IFC – Manhattan
In one of Woody Allen’s best films, he’s a neurotic intellectual New Yorker (surprise!) caught between his ex-wife Meryl Streep, his teenage mistress Mariel Hemingway, and Diane Keaton, who just might be his match. Black and white cinematography, a great script, and a Gershwin soundtrack combine to create near perfection.
1979 USA. Director: Woody Allen. Starring: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Meryl Streep, Mariel Hemingway, Alan Alda.
(repeats at 2:45pm)
5:55pm – IFC – Annie Hall
Often considered Woody Allen’s transition film from “funny Woody” to “serious Woody,” Annie Hall is both funny, thoughtful, and fantastic. One of the best scripts ever written, a lot of warmth as well as paranoid cynicism, and a career-making role for Diane Keaton (not to mention fashion-making).
1977 USA. Director: Woody Allen. Starring: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Tony Roberts, Carol Kane.
Tuesday, May 18
6:00am – TCM – Gold Diggers of 1933
The story’s nothing to get excited about (and in fact, the subplot that takes over the main plot wears out its welcome fairly quickly), but the strong Depression-era songs, kaleidoscopic choreography from Busby Berkeley, and spunky supporting work from Ginger Rogers pretty much make up for it.
1933 USA. Director: Mervyn LeRoy. Starring: Joan Blondell, Warren William, Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell, Aline MacMahon, Ginger Rogers, Guy Kibbee.
8:00am – TCM – Gold Diggers of 1935
This movie is not even as good as Gold Diggers of 1933 (to which it is unrelated in plot), but it does have one thing that makes it eminently worth watching – the epic “Lullaby of Broadway” number that closes the show, with a full story-within-a-dance playing out through three verses of the song. It is possibly the most definitive number of 1930s backstage musicals.
1935 USA. Director: Busby Berkeley. Starring: Dick Powell, Joan Blondell, Gloria Stuart, Alice Brady.
8:00am – IFC – The New World
Terrence Malick may not make many films, but the ones he does make, wow. Superficially the story of John Smith and Pocahontas, The New World is really something that transcends mere narrative – this is poetry on film. Every scene, every shot has a rhythm and an ethereal that belies the familiarity of the story we know. I expected to dislike this film when I saw it, quite honestly. It ended up moving me in ways I didn’t know cinema could.
2005 USA. Director: Terrence Malick. Starring: Colin Farrell, Q’orianka Kilcher, Christian Bale, Christopher Plummer.
(repeats at 2:05pm)
10:00pm – TCM – One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Criminal Jack Nicholson gets put into a psychiatric hospital to see if maybe he’s crazy, and he ends up shaking the place up a bunch, especially the extremely strict by-the-book Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher). I like this film but I’m not as big a fan as a lot of people; but if you’re a fan of Nicholson, he’s never better than here.
1975 USA. Director: Milos Forman. Starring: Jack Nicholson, Louise Fletcher, Brad Dourif.
Wednesday, May 19
7:00am – IFC – Primer
Welcome to sci-fi at its most cerebral. You know how most science-dependent films include a non-science-type character so there’s an excuse to explain all the science to audience? Yeah, this film doesn’t have that character, so no one ever explains quite how the time travel device at the center of the film works. Or even that it is, actually, a time-travel device. This is the sci-fi version of getting thrown into the deep end when you can’t swim. Without floaties.
2004 USA. Director: Shane Carruth. Starring: Shane Carruth, David Sullivan, Casey Gooden, Anand Upadhyaya, Carrie Crawford.
(repeats at 1:00pm)
2:30am (20th) – Sundance – 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days
This unflinching Romanian film remains one of the most powerful things I’ve seen in the last several years. Set in the mid-1980s, it builds a thriller-like story of a woman trying to help her friend obtain a dangerous illegal abortion – yet it’s a thriller so deliberate that its very slowness and lack of movement becomes a major source of tension. When the camera does move, it has an almost physical force. I can hardly describe how blown away I am by this film…tough to watch, but incredibly worth it.
2007 Romania. Director: Cristian Mungiu. Starring: Anamaria Marinca, Laura Vasiliu, Vlad Ivanov, Alexandru Potocean.
4:25am (20th) – Sundance – That Obscure Object of Desire
Luis Buñuel, ever one to come up with outlandish conceits, here directs two women playing the same role. The result is trippy and mesmerizing.
1977 France/Spain. Director: Luis Buñuel. Starring: Fernandy Rey, Carole Bouquet, Ángela Molina.
Thursday, May 20
10:00am – TCM – Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Frank Capra puts on his idealist hat to tell the story of Jefferson Smith (James Stewart), an inexperienced young man appointed as a junior senator because the corrupt senior senator thinks he’ll be easy to control. But Smith doesn’t toe the party line, instead launching a filibuster for what he believes in. Wonderful comedienne Jean Arthur is the journalist who initially encourages Smith so she can get a great story from his seemingly inevitable downfall, but soon joins his cause.
1939 USA. Director: Frank Capra. Starring: James Stewart, Jean Arthur, Claude Rains, Eugene Pallette, Thomas Mitchell.
4:00pm – TCM – The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
Three of the greatest names in westerns – John Ford, John Wayne, and James Stewart – teamed up to make this film just as the classical western was fading out of popularity. Perhaps fittingly, then, it’s a film about western myth and the transition from outlaw gunslingers to government rule, a transition aided in one town at least by the man who shot outlaw Liberty Valance.
1962 USA. Director: John Ford. Starring: John Wayne, James Stewart, Vera Miles, Lee Marvin, Edmond O’Brien.
6:15pm – TCM – The Man From Laramie
One of several westerns that James Stewart and Anthony Mann made together, and this one is one of the most solid; in this one, Stewart is a wagon train leader who gets pulled into a territorial feud against his will when one side torches his wagons. These westerns begin to show the dark side of the west, where the hero is only a hero because it’s expedient for him, or because he has some personal gain to get out of it.
1955 USA. Director: Anthony Mann. Starring: James Stewart, Arthur Kennedy, Donald Crisp, Cathy O’Donnell.
Friday, May 21
6:45am – IFC – Hannah and Her Sisters
Though I love Manhattan and Annie Hall to bits, I throw my vote for best Woody Allen movie ever to Hannah and Her Sisters. It has all the elements Allen is known for – neurotic characters, infidelity, a tendency to philosophize randomly, New York City, dysfunctional family dynamics, acerbic wit – and blends them together much more cogently and evenly than most of his films do.
1986 USA. Director: Woody Allen. Starring: Barbara Hershey, Mia Farrow, Carrie Fisher, Michael Caine, Dianne Wiest, Woody Allen.
(repeats at 1:15pm)
7:15am – Sundance – Ran
Akira Kurosawa’s inspired transposition of King Lear into medieval Japan, mixing Shakespeare and Japanese Noh theatre tradition like nobody’s business.
1985 Japan. Director: Akira Kurosawa. Starring: Tatsuya Nakadai, Akira Terao, Jinpachi Nezu, Daisuke Ryu.
(repeats at 1:20pm)
8:35am – IFC – Away from Her
A very strong directing debut film from actress Sarah Polley, about an older woman (Julie Christie) suffering from Alzheimer’s and her husband’s difficulty in dealing with essentially the loss of his wife as she has more and more difficulty remembering their life together. It’s a lovely, heartbreaking film, bolstered by great understated performances.
2006 Canada. Director: Sarah Polley. Starring: Julie Christie, Gordon Pinsent, Olympia Dukakis, Stacey LaBerge.
(repeats at 3:05pm)
9:30am – TCM – Private Lives
A sparkling battle-of-the-sexes comedy from the witty pen of Noel Coward. Norma Shearer and Robert Montgomery play a divorced couple recently remarried to other people – until they end up honeymooning in adjoining suites and can’t manage to stay away from each other. It’s deliciously pre-code in dialogue and innuendo. It is pretty clearly early in the sound era, though, which tends to make some of it come across a little shrill.
1931 USA. Director: Sidney Franklin. Starring: Norma Shearer, Robert Montgomery, Reginald Denny, Una Merkel.
9:30pm – TCM – Cabin in the Sky
In honor of Lena Horne’s passing last week, TCM is playing three of her films. This is the only one I’ve seen, but it’s the middle of the three if you’re interested in checking out the others. This is also Vincente Minnelli’s first directorial effort, a musical fantasy about the battle over a man’s soul. If you happen to check out the post I just did on Row Three about the Out of Circulation Cartoon program at the TCM Festival, you’ll find a lot of the same stereotypes and storyline here as you will in those cartoons, but it does have stylish direction and some great musical moments from Ethel Waters, Horne, Louis Armstrong, and others.
1943 USA. Director: Vincente Minnelli. Starring: Ethel Waters, Eddie “Rochester” Anderson, Lena Horne, Louis Armstrong, Rex Ingram.
Saturday, May 22
8:45am – IFC – Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story
Lawrence Sterne’s 1769 proto-postmodern novel The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy has long been considered unfilmable. So what does director Michael Winterbottom do? He makes a film about the difficulty of filming Tristram Shandy. Winterbottom’s film is something of an experiment, but it’s a delightful one, showing the behind-the-scenes antics of production as well as highlighting the circularity and self-defeating narrative of Sterne’s novel in the film-within-the-film.
2005 UK. Director: Michael Winterbottom. Starring: Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon, Keeley Hawes, Shirley Henderson, Jeremy Northam.
(repeats at 1:45pm)
4:15pm – TCM – Tarzan, The Ape Man
Get your pre-code action right here, as swimming champion Johnny Weissmuller brings Tarzan to life and Maureen O’Sullivan teaches him the ways of the human world as Jane. Generally, the sequel Tarzan and His Mate is considered the best of the series, but hey. Gotta start somewhere.
1932 USA. Director: W.S. Van Dyke. Starring: Johnny Weissmuller, Maureen O’Sullivan.
8:00pm – TCM – The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Charles Laughton plays the put-upon hunchback Quasimodo, a young Maureen O’Hara the lovely Esmerelda in one of the best film versions of Victor Hugo’s classic of gothic romanticism.
1939 USA. Director: William Dieterle. Starring: Charles Laughton, Maureen O’Hara, Cedric Hardwicke, Thomas Mitchell, Edmond O’Brien.
8:00pm – IFC – Blow Out
Sound man John Travolta is recording sound samples one night, and may have accidentally recorded a murder occurring. As he tries to investigate, he’s drawn into a dangerous conspiracy. Inspired to some degree by Antonioni’s photography-based Blow-Up, but this is definitely DePalma’s film all the way.
1981 USA. Director: Brian DePalma. Starring: John Travolta, Nancy Allen, John Lithgow, Dennis Franz.
(repeats at 1:30am on the 23rd)
Sunday, May 23
Catch-up day, apparently!