- Fri 8 at 7.30: Marty (1955) – Ernest Borgnine in person!
- Sat 9 at 7.30: The Dirty Dozen (1967) / Emperor of the North (1973)
It’s an Ernest Borgnine fest at the Aero. Until his later years, he was usually ornery and malicious, and great at it, but in Marty, one of his best films, he plays a sweet sadsack of a Brooklyn butcher, fat and ugly and resigned to never finding love. It was a TV play by Paddy Chayevsky and starred Rod Steiger a couple of years before; I always felt a bit sorry or Steiger he didn’t get to do the big screen version, but it’s hard to imagine him carrying off with such conviction the unassuming humility of a regular schmo that blossoms into tentative hope the way Borgnine does. Along with the script, it’s Borgnine’s movie, and it’s great (and the only winner of both Best Picture Oscar and the Palme d’Or at Cannes).
If that sounds all a bit soft-soap for you, Borgnine’s back on tough-nosed form as the ultra-bullish General in Robert Aldrich’s The Dirty Dozen, and in another of his best roles, again for the always-reliable Aldrich, in Emperor of the North. Here he plays a railroad bull, locked in eternal, semi-mythological battle with king of the hobos Lee Marvin. Both completely unapologetic man-movie romps and terrific fun.
- Wed 13 at 8.00: Network (1976)
Peter Finch won a posthumous Best Actor Oscar for this, as a newsman who goes nuts on air, and threatens to kill himself at the end of the week during live broadcast. Of course this is good for ratings; Finch’s Howard Beale is so crazy he starts to sound sane and becomes a prophet of the airways, telling it how it is, and soon everyone’s leaning out of their window yelling his catchphrase “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore”. Finch is great, Faye Dunaway provides excellent support and it’s another terrific script from Paddy Chayevsky (even if he did pinch that line from Kerouac).
Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theatre:
- Fri 8 at 7.30: Wanda (1970)
Rarely screened and unjustly neglected, this is the sole film from Elia Kazan’s wife, Barbara Loden. She plays Wanda, disaffected almost to the point of being comatose, who quits her husband and kids and wanders, aimlessly, through the desolate America of the early seventies, half-heartedly hooking up with men, suffering their abuse, botching a bank job, and going nowhere. It’s as bleakly existentialist as the more celebrated Five Easy Pieces, Two-Lane Blacktop et al, and as stark and mysterious as Chantal Ackerman’s Jeanne Dielman whilst somehow symbolising just as effectively the plight of the directionless everywoman. Grim and cheerless, but utterly compelling, it’s a masterpiece of independent cinema, American, male, female or otherwise.
- Tue 12 at 7.30: Eraserhead (1977) – in tribute to Peter Ivers
David Lynch’s debut is remarkable for many reasons, sheer creepiness (even by his standards) foremost amongst them, but what is being celebrated here is the overwhelming electronic/industrial score, and specifically the song “In Heaven” written by Lynch in collaboration with the late Peter Ivers. It’s a slightly tenuous tribute, but the terrific photography, the frightening mutant baby, the horrible chicken and the weird things that go on with the radiator – not to mention that thundering score – have to be seen on the big screen to be fully appreciated.
- Sat 9 at 9.40: Solid Gold Cadillac (1956)
Richard Quine was not a very good director, but for some reason he’s got a season at LACMA. This isn’t even a particularly great film, but it’s worth watching for the wonderful Judy Holliday, who died of cancer at age 43 with only a handful of films to her credit. She usually plays an airhead with the sort of left-handed smarts that mean she can’t be written of as a mere airhead; here she takes on big business, causing delightful chaos at the stockholders’ meetings of the giant corporation in which she owns ten shares and standing up for the little guy. The directors think the way to shut her up is to give her a boondoggle job, but that only makes matters worse, when she starts writing to all the other small shareholders.. Holliday was simply one of the best comedians ever to have worked in films, and each of her few performances is to be treasured.
- Fri 8 at 7.30, Sat 9 at 3.15, 7.30: Marty (1955)
An unfortunate clash with the Aero’s programme, as presumably even busy Ernest Borgnine can’t be in two places at once. Oh well.
- Tue 12 at 1.30: The Searchers (1956) – free!
Best western ever? Perhaps. Certainly best free western this week and in any case a truly great movie about revenge, race, family, society and America. Plus John Wayne playing a bad guy (sort of). It gets better, and richer, every time you watch it.
UCLA at the Hammer:
- Sat 9 at 7.30: Outtakes from Night of the Hunter (1955)
Beware! This is not actually a screening of the excellent Night of the Hunter, but a showing of rushes and outtakes. No lost footage, just a record of Charles Laughton at work on his only directorial effort. This sort of thing can be a bit trying (have you seen the programme of footage from Eisenstein’s Mexican movie?) but it’s a rare and possibly fascinating chance to see the rough material from which a classic was created.
- Sun 10 at 7.00: Bill Douglas Trilogy – My Childhood (1972) / My Ain Folk (1973) / My Way Home (1978)
Another rare screening – Douglas’s autobiographical trilogy about growing up in an impoverished Scottish mining village in the 1940s. Bleak and depressing, contemplatively shot in black and white with (largely) non-professional actors, watch them and marvel at how the grim realities of everyday life and lived experience can be transformed into something so beautiful and moving – yes, it’s art.