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Archive for July 26th, 2010

Here are 17 ticket stubs saved from the Anthony Mann Film Festival at the Film Forum. Theatre policy is to print only the name of the first film of double or triple features. Only the very first double feature is missing (Naked Spur/Winchester 73) but pictures of that initial visit have already been displayed at the site.

 by Sam Juliano

     For the longest time, Anthony Mann was pigeon-holed as a genre director by the elitists, who saw him as little more than a reliably hard-working studio slave.  ‘Nothing original in style to impart’ was the general regard at a time when critics took film craftsmanship for granted, and preferred to study the emerging pantheon of film ‘visionaries’ who in the 50’s  played by their own rules.  These newcomers hoped to forge their own aesthetic, thereby challenging the traditional underpinnings of narrative cinema and studio intrusion, and they included the likes of Nicholas Ray, Samuel Fuller, Douglas Sirk and Otto Preminger.  Critics of the time, therefore chose to focus on the directors they saw as authentic auteurs, leaving Mann as respected but uninspiring.  Yet, Mann’s prolific output was was more versatile than any other director in the American cinema with the exception of Hawks. (William Wellman arguably rivals Mann in this department with his widely varied pre-Code work)  Mann produced top-drawer films in four genres: the western, film noir, war, and the epic, while in three others, the musical, the costume drama and the literary adaptation, he produced flawed but largely impressive works.  And during his three-decade career, Mann directed no less than a half dozen masterpieces, with about the same number pushing close.

     Manhattan’s film classic mecca, the Film Forum, recently staged a comprehensive 32 film Anthony Mann retrospective over three weeks, which included nearly every significant film in the auteur’s catalogue, except  Railroaded, Serenade, and Strangers in the Night, three competently made but minor works, two of which haven’t yet made it to DVD.  The Film Forum line-up included a single “triple feature” offered on the fourth day, and a bevy of double features, for a single admission price, while the longer epics, El Cid and The Fall of the Roman Empire and the Korean War opus, Men in War were screened by themselves.  Beautiful 35 millimeter prints were used for all the films, and only an extremely scratchy print for The Fall of the Roman Empire seemed remotely sub-par.  (more…)

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One of the cinema’s most treasured moments: Chaplin’s ‘City Lights’

by Sam Juliano

The monumental 2000’s film countdown ended last Tuesday with the annointment of Love Exposure as the #1 film of the new millenium.  This ended an exhaustive two year examination of the history of the cinema by Allan Fish (and WitD voters) that will officially end with the polling announcement by Voting Tabulator Extraordinaire Angelo A. D’Arminio Jr., that will reveal what films the voters have favored.  Allan’s accomplishment was unparallelled in the blogosphere, as it went far beyond mere listings, but included a top-drawer review for every single choice dating back to the the Best of the 1930’s poll that launched this amazing venture.  Obviously this totals well over 400 reviews.   Luckily for WitD readers, Mr. Fish will be on board for quite some time into the future, as he has already posted the first of his extensive series on Japanese cinema that has escaped the radar.  The subject of his first review, Yoshida’s Akitsu Springs, is wholly extraordinary, as I can personally attest to after a Thursday afternoon viewing in my home.  Writer Bob Clark wrote what was surely the most exhaustive review of Inception yet seen, and Jim Clark’s lengthy essay on Malick’s The New World was a home run.  The site will now operate as a melting pot that will contain an assortment of eviews and features from most of teh staff members, until the official start of the horror poll in about four weeks, with Jamie Uhler, Troy Olson and Kevin Olson in charge.

Over at Goodfellas, our pal Dave Hicks continues to march toward the conclusion of his popular ‘Director’s Series,’ which will finish on Thursday, July 29th, when his ‘favorite director’ will be announced.  Hicks’s work, his choices and his comment sections have all been thrilling to all.  Adam Zanzie’s exciting blogothon on John Huston will commence this coming week with many promising to contribute.

Here in the Manhattan area, another fantastic film festival has recently commenced at the IFC Film Center on Sixth Avenue, where 20 films by Yasujiro Ozu are being screened every weekend until late November.  As Ozu is one of my four favorite filmmakers ever, I plan to attend all 18 remaining films, which includes virtually all the masterpieces.  I regret missing the first two, An Inn in Tokyo and The Only Son, though of course I’ve seen both (and every one of the other 18) on DVDs over the years.  The latter film in fact has just recently been released in a two-film Criterion set with There Was a Father, which I just picked up in the Criterion Barnes and Noble 50% off sale.  One film will run on Saturday and Sunday morning at 11:00 A.M. and 12:30 P.M. for the fill duration of the festival on the state-of-the-art IFC screens in full 35 mm splendor.  With Chaplin going full speed, and the William Castle, Astaire & Rogers and “The Heist” film fests upcoming, I wouldn’t be off-line to get a full-time hotel room near the Film Forum for the coming months!  Ha!

This week, I watched three recently-released films and two festival features on the big screen as well as two films by 79 year-old Japanese director Yoshishige Yoshida, sent to me on to me from Allan on pristine DVRs from Japanes source prints.  Akitsu Springs, a Sirksian overblown love story/melodrama is set at the end of World War two and is negotiated with ravishing widescreen color cinematography and one of the greatest and most memorable of all Japanese film scores.  Allan’s exceptional review of course, appeared on the site on Friday.

Here’s the listing:

Restrepo  *** 1/2   (Thursday night)  Montclair Claridge Cinemas

Cyrus    ** 1/2    (Wednesday night)  Edgewater Multiplex

Life During Wartime   ** (Saturday night) IFC Film Center

What Did the Lady Forget?  ****  (Sunday morning)  IFC Ozu Fest

City Lights  *****   (Sunday afternoon)   Film Forum  Chaplin Festival

Restrepo’s interest in the down moments in a soldier’s overseas tours are what mainly fascinate in this intriguing documentary, that isn’t always interesting or enlightening, but is most of the time.  Cyrus features an obnoxious titel character and some overplayed themes.  With none of the three leads appealling this cliched drama fizzles.  I got to see Todd Solondz in an after-film Q & A at the IFC Film Center with two of his actors -including the young boy – but he’s not a particularly fecund, nor personable chap.  The session got waylaid by one questioner who told Solondz, who is Jewish that he was degrading Jews.   While I don’t think this was true, I found the film redundant, mean-spirited and lacking any further insights from his previous ‘pedaphile’ film, Happiness.  A few laughs but not much more.

Seeing City Lights with the family was something I’ll always cherish (now the Chaplin festival goes in full force this coming weeks after 10 days given to The Circus and City Lights)  and it was great to make my first appearance at the Ozu Festival at the IFC, for the third of what will be 20 films.  I’ve seen them all before on DVD, but the festival experience is always definitive.  What Did the Lady Forget? in an engaging early Ozu about familial discipline and growing up with domestic deceptions.

I finally completed my report on the Mann Festival and it’s posted above this diary today. (more…)

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