Arclight Hollywood:

It doesn’t matter so much that Ridley Scott has come up with 500 different versions of his movie, because it’s good enough to bear infinitely repeated viewings. The future looks like someone’s actual present for once, and the photography and set design alone make it a classic. Rutger Hauer’s star-making turn as leader of the replicants renegades is a highlight, Harrison Ford has never been better and even Sean Young is pretty good – one of the tweaks in the “final cut” is softening the tone of her voice, as well as actually reshooting one action scene (crashing through a series of glass doors, one of the female replicants was clearly a stunt man). Essential viewing, especially in the luxury of the Arclight.

Cinefamily: at the Silent Movie Theatre:

This is Fritz Lang’s silent two-part adaptation of the same twelfth century epic poem that inspired Wagner and Tolkein. Far from the futurism of Metropolis and The Woman In The Moon, but revelling in the same sense of the fantastical found in his silent thrillers, Lang brings his architectural eye and steely fatalism to bear on the tragic story of Siegfried and Kreimhild and their treasure, the number one saga of Gothic legend. There’s dragons and dwarves and magic, and remarkable special effects (see picture!); it’s basically a great adventure yarn, raised to the appropriate level of myth by monumental, dynamic and just plain exciting film-making.

Cinespia: at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery:

  • Sat 6 at 8.30 (doors at 7.00): Duck Soup (1933)

The last cemetary screening of the summer, and a fab way to go. The Marx Brothers made some duds, but they made some greats too, and none better than Duck Soup. Groucho is Rufus T. Firefly, wisecracking cigar-wagging dictator of the small bankrupt country of Freedonia. He ends up at war with neighboring Sylvania over a wealthy dowager, but it’s remarkable the plot gets that far amidst all the zany business. There’s crackling dialogue and a total disregard for anything approaching respectibility, plus it’s the one where Groucho and Harpo do their justly famous mirror routine.

The Egyptian:

Gabin so perfectly embodied a particular type of rough/tender French masculinity, that his status as towering idol of his national cinema is eternal. Here’s four pretty varied vehicles for him, all but Grisbi rather rare. He’s old in The Sicilian Clan, letting young turks Alain Delon and Lino Ventura do most of the gangster work in a decent enough French thriller. Moontide is one of only two films Gabin made in America, co-starring with the great Ida Lupino in an atmospheric dock-front thriller by Archie Mayo. The first three weeks were in fact shot by Fritz Lang, but angry with Darryl Zanuck he got himself thrown out by stirring up trouble with Gabin who was with Marlene Dietrich at the time, an old flame of Lang’s (and quite a lot of other people’s, so I am not sure what the fuss was about).

House on the Waterfront is another docks-set thriller, this time in Marseilles. The house in question is a rowdy sailors’ tavern/bistro/brothel; there’s some bother over a hard-boiled dame and dastardly smugglers to contend with, but it’s extreme rarity may have something do with the fact it’s not really all that good. Touchez pas au grisbi on the other hand, is one of several masterpieces by the underrated Jacques Becker. Gabin’s an old gangster again, ready to enjoy retirement with the proceeds from his final job (”grisbi” means “loot”), but the life won’t let him go. Becker’s best films – Casque d’or (1952), Le Trou (1959)are deceptively simple but, their economy and apparently frivolous moments clearly reveal the deepest emotions expressed in the smallest of ways, in this instance on the subjects of professionalism, friendship and honour. There’s a beautiful scene where Gabin and his old pal dine and go to bed in a secret hideout apartment like an old married couple at home; a splendid night time climax on a deserted road, light by car headlights; and small parts for thuggish, virile young Lino Ventura and an almost unrecognisable 25 year-old Jeanne Moreau.

The Nuart:

This is not a recommendation but a warning. This is totally being sold as a classy French sex drama, dark and adult, concocted by an old master. In a sense that’s true, but director Claude Chabrol is going through the motions. Ludivine Sagnier – not even as sexy as usual – is a weathergirl allowing herself to be romanced alternately between an ageing writer and a young foppish electronics fortune heir. She chooses between them; the other is not happy. All this is an excuse for Chabrol to show how: a) respectable bourgeois artists are likely to be amoral narcissists b) foolish rich kids are obnoxious c) young girls without much smarts will be led up the garden path d) the French middle-classes are driven solely by self-interest and e) that he can make a movie in his sleep. Which he may as well have done for how unengaging and rote this is, even down to the quintessentially French move of skipping to the magical world of the theatre for a redundantly literal finale. A good example of how even with a veneer of cynicism, polite and tasteful film-making cannot be saved from tipping over into banal tripe.

The Skirball:

Actor Malcolm MacDowell’s stage performace of memories of great late British film-maker Lindsay Anderson. Anderson was a firebrand critic in the fifties, spearheaded the laregly documentary Free inema movement, progenitor of the “kitchen sink” cycle of features, of which Anderson’s This Sporting Life (1963) was one of the best. He went on to make a dispiritingly small number of features, most of them overflowing with bile at the deplorable state of the the British nation. MacDowell starred in his finest, If… (1968) which takes a machine gun to the idyllic world of the private boarding school, and in the wonderful picaresque O Lucky Man! (1973); and they remained friends for life. With a certain amount of luvviness, MacDowell recounts stories of and reminisces about Anderson, a passionate cinefile, a corruscating critic and a proud thorn in the side of the establishment who died in 1994 leaving a gaping hole in the fabric of the British Arts.

And so we end with another stone classic: John Huston’s compendium of gangster set-ups, from building the gang to planning and executing the job, and then negotiating the heat and the double-crosses that follow. Sterling Hayden steals the movie as the “hooligan”, hired for his brawn, but smarter than most of the other dumbasses in that he knows what he wants, and that’s just to get enough dough to get out of the crummy city, go home and ressurrect his pa’s farm. I love Sterling Hayden, and he is at his very best here, exuding weariness of a world where everyone’s out to chisel you, and having a sense of honour looks like it makes you a mug. Jean Hagen is great as his whiny girlfriend; as is Sam Jaffe as the brains, a gentlemanly old dude just out of stir with a slightly distasteful  thing for young girls; and Marc Lawrence sweats up a storm as the weasely club-owner middleman. I’ve never really liked Louis Calhoun much as the crooked lawyer who puts up the money, but his oily mien is after all just right for the role, and he’s excellently supported by both the steel-eyed Brad Dexter and by his, ahem, “niece”, played in a couple of decent little scenes by none other than Marilyn Monroe.

images: wikipedia, wikipedia, answers, butterfly prod, TO