What’s showing this week off the beaten path? The classic, the cult and the weird (actually not much of the latter two this week). For those willing to grab the exhilarating chance of the one-off screening, here are some recommendations for the week to come.
Monday 2 at 7.30: Good Will Hunting (1997)
Although it brought Matt Damon and Ben Affleck to prominence, is directed by the often over-arch Gus van Sant, and has Robin Williams in a role perilously close to Dead Poets Society, it’s a movie that one can’t help but like. Van Sant has occasionally been brilliant, and that’s what he is here, directing with perfect discretion. The boys wrote a beautiful script and Damon’s Will is completely convincing and bristling with integrity; Williams is at his restrained best, Mini Driver is actually quite winning, and it’s raised a notch by the unconventional use of Elliot Smith’s terrific songs. Just great.
Friday 30 at 7.30: Patton (1969)
I’ve never seen it, but I’m intrigued by a Coppola script (written in his twenties) about such a forceful personality, personified by the George C. Scott – frequently capable of greatness – and apparently successful in its aim to satisfy both the hawks and the doves. Plus it’s in glorious 70mm!
Wednesday 4 at 8.00: Raging Bull (1980)
Scorsese at the total height of his power, when he still retained the youthful intensity of Mean Streets and Taxi Driver, but expanded his reach with complete confidence in an epic boxing movie (great genre!) It’s just as much de Niro’s film, and he’s not been as exciting since either. With complete cinematic mastery (and a well-judged respect for its antecedents) it’s majestic in black and white and the explosive fight scenes – physical and emotional – are quite overwhelming on the big screen.
Monday 2 at 7.30: Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
Another nigh-on perfect film, from script to casting to performance to direction to camera-work to editing, to production design, to music etc etc. Everything works so well to conjure period, humanity and legend. Beatty and Dunaway really show their chops whilst remaining great stars, with stellar support from Michael J. Pollard, Gene Hackman et al, and director Arthur Penn wears his nouvelle vague influences very well. The glamour and excitement that it has in spades are balanced perfectly by the melancholy dustbowl setting and a sad sense of desperation.
Sunday 1 at 6.00, Monday 2, Tuesday 3 at 8.00: High Noon (1952)
Classic for a reason. Gary Cooper exudes dignity as the sheriff in thrall to his duty and meeting the gangsters off the high noon train, doing the right thing even while abandoned by the townsfolk and his luminous bride (Grace Kelly).
Friday 30 at 7.30: The Long Goodbye (1973)
Elliot Gould wanders round LA as Philip Marlow, updated by Altman and screenwriter Leigh Brackett, scribe to late Hawks. It has the loose-limbed style of their westerns, mixed with uneasy 70s paranoia. Marlowe is fairly unrecognizable, of course, but he’s still a lone knight with his personal code. There’s a haunting song that recurs effectively, and Sterling Hayden is desperately tragic as an alcoholic writer living on the beach. It’s a film that succeeds through the dreamy atmosphere it conjures (that’s not a blink away from a nightmare). Plus Marlowe has a cat, which is always nice.
Saturday 31 at 1.00: They Drive By Night (1940)
Truck-driving movies are few and far between, but are usually good, and this is one of the best, with Ida Lupino as a crazy lady and George Raft and Humphrey Bogart driving the trucks. As usual Raoul Walsh’s direction packs a punch, and it’s a rather overlooked noir classic.
Saturday 31 at 9.00 (gates 7.30): The Party (1968)
Peter Sellers plays an Indian, bumbling through a painfully hip and exclusive Hollywood party. It’s sub-Tati and borderline racist, but Sellers was so skilled that it has its moments.
Friday 30 at midnight: Blade Runner (1982)
I wonder which version of this will be showing. I think the last dvd collector’s suitcase had five or so. I like the ones that end with the lift-door closing best, because that really sums up what a bleak film it is. Even non-science fiction fans should see this; it kicks the ass off everything else in the humans/androids-philosophical-puzzler genre and the depiction of the future is a lesson in how to do it.
Thursday 29 at 8.00: Eat the Document (1972)
I’m really psyched about this. Dylan made it himself. On tour with the Band. In 1966 when he went electric. And he won’t let anyone see it all. Or ABC won’t (they commissioned it). Either way it’s exquisitely hard to find, but as an adjunct to the Skirball Centre’s current Dylan exhibition, here it is out of the blue. As my date for tonight said: “suh-weet”.
Tuesday 3 at 1.30: Jailhouse Rock (1957)
Also attached to the Dylan exhibition is this. I wonder why? Still it’s pretty good, Elvis is after all the king, and best of all it’s free!
Saturday 31 at 4.00: Simon of the Desert (1965)
A short afternoon film by Bunuel (45 minutes or so) introducing a mini season, Imagining Christ. In fact, Bunuel’s imagining Simon Stylites, sat on top of a pole for endless years and plagued by the temptations of the devil and the idiocy of humankind. Probably as theologically baffling for believers as non-believers, but it has lots of vintage Bunuel stuff and it’s very funny. This is paired with:
Saturday 31 at 7.30: Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979)
which is careful *not* to be taken for a re-imagining of Christ, and therefore gets away with being even more jaw-droppingly irreverent. If you’ve not seen it, why not? It’s uproarious.
Sunday 1 at 4.00: Jesus Of Montreal (1989)
This takes the whole imagining Christ thing far more seriously, in the tale of an actor taking the lead in a passion play becoming too enmeshed in his role. Lothaire Bluteau is mesmerizing in the part.
Over at the Hammer, the UCLA archive continues Jimmy Stewart’s centenary with a pair of half-miss-able double bills. On Saturday, the endlessly-rewarding masterpiece that is Vertigo is paired with the failed experiment Rope (1948), rather grating and horribly stagey (it was shot in ten minute – ie film-reel-long – takes). Then Sunday’s bill kicks off with the dull Call Northside 777 (1948) in which even Jimmy can’t help but be over-earnest as a reporter digging into a ten-year old murder case to free wrongly-imprisoned Richard Conte. Far better is John Ford’s quasi-elegiac The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance in which we’re told that in the west, “if the legend becomes fact, print the legend” and it’s terrifically complex in terms of his oeuvre and his by-this-time mournful attitude for the impossible past he had created in so many films before. Jimmy Stewart, now a senator, relates how he came to be the title character, but the title’s ambiguity and the sour note it strikes are all the more effective for being almost entirely repressed, though bubbling under the surface.