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Archive for the ‘Sam’s Retrospectives’ Category

Screen cap from 'War Witch', best film at Tribeca

by Sam Juliano

Tribeca 2012 is over, but for some the memories will be deep.  The nine day festival, originally founded by the actor Robert DeNiro and Jane Rosenthal, was created as a panacea for the tragedy brought upon downtown Manhattan after the twin towers fell.  At a time of emotional scars, the idea was to widen the cultural options for New Yorkers who desperately needed to re-focus.  Originally the Tribeca Film Festival was expected to absorb the overflow from the prestigious New York Film Festival, and serve more as a second-tier forum for new filmmakers to gain some much-needed public exposure for work that would be hard-pressed to gain theatrical release.  With the ultimate goal the revival of downtown Manhattan’s economy after the devastation wrought by the terror attacks, Tribeca has evolved into one of the world’s most respected annual film events, one that generates millions and serves as a springboard for up and coming talents in the film community.

The 2012 event, highlighted by screenings of Jaws on an outdoor screen after music and dancing, and the premiere of The Avengers, offered 89 narrative and documentary features and nine extensive collections of short films, most screened three or four times during the nine-day run of the event.  Some of these are screened on the festival’s final Sunday if they win awards from the Tribeca jury or the audiences.  Several sessions of ‘Tribeca Talks’  with distinguished artists and directors are worked into the schedule as well, and cover a wide range of subjects connected to the film industry.

Native New Yorkers, and visitors in for the festival quickly needed to negotiate the festival’s main venues, anchored by six screens in the Chelsea Cinemas on 23rd Street, a convenient, centrally-located multiplex in the heart of Chelsea.  The two screen SVA Theatre, also on 23rd Street, is barely a three minute walk from the Chelsea Cinemas.  The AMC Village East 7 on 3rd Avenue and the BMCC Tribeca PAC near the World Trade Center featured some of the festival’s more prestigious screenings, a good number of which were sold out.  One could successfully negotiate the daily screenings by understanding the subway system or by knowing where to park your car.  Otherwise, walking in the nice Spring weather was an attractive option for many.  As expected we took full advantage of our Saturday night kitchen, The Dish, which is just three blocks from the Chelsea Cinemas on 8th Avenue.  ‘Lucky Burgers’ next door to the multiplex offered 10% off to Tribeca badge holders. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

At $8 a pop to cross the Hudson River into Manhattan, the financial “overhead” to take in the 23 Day “Pre-Code” Film Festival at Manhattan’s premiere revival house was as substantial as the time needed to make the daily trek, often during rush hour.  As a “member” the ticket price is $7.00, but at least 60% or so of the time my wife Lucille was gratefully with me.  And on one occasion (for the double feature of King Kong and Tarzan and His Mate), my three sons were in tow.  From July 18th till August 11th time stopped for me, as I basically revolved my schedule around the inevitable appearance at the Film Forum on Houston Street in a concerted effort to complete a film course in American cinema’s richest and most elusive period.  While the itinerary included a number of popular films that have been viewed many times over the years, there were some rarities that almost never surface in some of the overlap festivals at the Film Forum and at other houses.  In any case, the pre-code festival brought more pleasure and surprises than any other previous venture at the Houston Street theatre.  For four weeks it ran concurrent with the glorious Buster Keaton Festival, which ran every Monday from May 23 till August 8, another venue I attended in its entirety with Lucille and the three boys.  While a fair number of the 50 films offered have made their way to VHS, laserdisc and DVD through MGM, Warner Archives and on popular “Forbidden Hollywood sets,” (not to mention exposure on TCM) an equal number are only attainable on DVDR bootlegs and sold on collector-to-collector basis through the likes of e bay, iffoer and other such sites.  Many of the titles unavailable as yet on DVD were likely headed for future “Forbidden Hollywood” sets, as there are another couple of dozen titles (including a number of William Wellmans and several Roy del Ruths) that were released on VHS in the Forbidden Hollywood strain) but Warners pulled the plug on all future volumes in 2008 in response to the economic climate.  Others remain in public domain limbo (The Story of Temple Drake, Call Her Savage, Me and My Gal, etc.) a fact that has do doubt discouraged the larger studios from investing considerable expense at the fear of others stealing their work and using it for themselves.  In more cases there are other rights issues which prevent the films from showing anywhere but on television broadcast or in cinematic revival houses like the Film Forum. (more…)

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Here are all 10 ticket stubs saved from the Chaplin Festival. As always, the Film Forum only lists the "first" titles of the regular double features that are offered.

by Sam Juliano

     He is in my carefully considered opinion the greatest versatile genius the cinema has ever produced, and on a list of my favorites may well rank as my top choice, (depending on what day of the week I am asked the question. Ingmar Bergman is the one who seems to alternate with him, but both Yasujiro Ozu and Robert Bresson and even Carl Dreyer are with them at the pinnacle) No film artist has engaged me as thoroughly, no comic has made me laugh as much, no humanist has brought more tears, no technical genius -not even Keaton- has caused me to marvel just how much acrobatic brilliance can come from a single person. He was the consumate genius, writing and directing his films, serving as the main star, and to boot, writing his own music, some of which includes some of the finest compositions of the century. Michael Jackson’s favorite ‘song’ of all time is “Smile” from Modern Times, and the overwhelming poignancy of the music he wrote for the final flower girl scene in City Lights (his greatest film across the board) is the perfect embodiment of theme expressed in music. His physical agility, his astute understanding of the human condition, and his uncanny sense of timing all are part of this Shakespeare of film, the single man who set the standard that has not subsequently been equalled.  If by now the name of Charles Spencer Chaplin has not been figured, well then the reader is from another planet. (more…)

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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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