Cassavetes at NW Film Center!!

26 03 2009

 

There have only been a handful of film directors who have been commemorated by the United States Postal Service:  D.W. Griffith, Charlie Chaplain, Alfred Hitchcock, Orson Welles and John Cassavetes.  What all these directors have in common is that they changed the visual language of film.  stampDid I just hear you say, “Who is John Cassavetes?”  John Cassavetes is considered the father of independent cinema.  He started as an actor and unhappy with how manipulative and canned the experience of watching a film was, decided to make films his way.  What was his way?  Well, he didn’t really have a way because he had no formal training.  All he knew was that he wanted to see film made about people, real people, who communicated as messily as we all do in our everyday lives.  Where Godard talked about the limitations of language, Cassavetes’ characters lived the limitation of language.  Cassavetes also once said that he had a one track mind and the only topic that really interested him was LOVE.  Not the romantic idea of love, but the real love that requires work and struggling, the love that makes you feel very much alive.  

Cassavetes also loved his actors.  He would often shoot over half a million feet of film, sometimes yelling directions at his cast in the middle of the scene so their performance was always spontaneous.  The characters his actors played were passionate, desperate and trying their best to be good.  His characters drink and fight and sing and laugh and cry and never give up.  Cassavetes’ films don’t have a beginning or an end because life of course is a constant.  

A Cassavetes film is as close to a life experience as you can get.  For that reason, you may not like it.  If you approach a Cassavetes film wanting it to be something familiar or with any kind of expectations, you will hate his films…and the truth is, he probably would love if you hated his films because that would mean that he made you feel and that feeling may stick with you for the next decade of your life.  That’s what he wants because he hated entertainment and distraction.  A Cassavetes film will make you FEEL.  A Cassavetes film may even make you grow.

cassavetes

A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE

SATURDAY NIGHT ONLY AT 7PM AT THE WHITSELL AUDITORIUM (934 SW Salmon St.), is his greatest achievement, A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE (1974) starring Gena Rowlands (Cassavetes’ wife) and Peter Falk.  The film was nominated for two Academy Awards for Best Actress and Best Director and was selected for preservation in the U.S. National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and was one of the very first films selected for national preservation.

woman_under_the_influence

John Cassavetes’ devastating drama details the emotional breakdown of a suburban housewife and her family’s struggle to save her from herself. Starring Peter Falk and Gena Rowlands (in two of the most harrowing screen performances of the 1970s) as a married couple deeply in love yet unable to express that love in terms the other can understand, the film is an uncompromising portrait of domestic turmoil. The NW Film Center is proud to present one of the benchmark films of American independent cinema—a heroic document from a true maverick director.

Mabel and Nick

LISTEN…you don’t need to see any other film this month if you only see A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE.  It’s one of those rare life changing films.  I’m not promising that you’ll like the impact it makes on you, but it will definitely make you feel something and after all, isn’t that what life is about?

There is so much more that could be said about this film and Cassavetes himself, but I think my input is pointless.  Just see the film and if you want, I’d be happy to discuss the film or the director with you personally.

A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE PLAYS SATURDAY NIGHT ONLY, 7PM AT THE WHITSELL AUDITORIUM.  And just to prove a point about the significance of this film, it’s the only film I’m going to mention this week.  Go read the paper if you want to see what else is playing.

 

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HOLY CRAP! WHAT A WEEK OF FILM! Mar. 19th – 26th

19 03 2009

This is such a great week of cinema for Portland and I am insanely excited so let’s get crackin’!

THE BLACK HOLE

Tomorrow night (THURSDAY) is your last chance to see on the big screen a 35mm film print of Disney’s THE BLACK HOLE (Gary Nelson, U.S., 1979) starring Maximilian Schell, Anthony Perkins, Robert Forster, Joseph Bottoms, Yvette Mimieux, Ernest Borgnine and the voices of Roddy McDowall (who plays robot V.I.N.CENT, which stands for Vital Information Necessary CENTralized) and Slim Pickins (who plays robot Bob).  THE BLACK HOLE was the most expensive Disney film made at the time at $20 million for production and $6 million for advertising and though not well received by critics, the film was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Cinematography and Best Visual Effects.  This was also the first PG film produced by Disney (all prior films were rated G) due to the film’s mild language and scenes of murder (Perkins gets eviscerated by the evil robot, Maximilian) as Disney was experimenting with more adult-oriented films.  I think it is also the only Disney film made where everyone in the film dies at the end.

Actually, I’d like to emphasize that what this film is interested in exploring is death.  This is a Disney science fiction film that explores the ideas of death, hell, purgatory and heaven.  John Barry’s score is heavy like a requiem mass, the predominant colors in the film are black and blood red, and the film not only shows a brutal murder, but a cold and calculated space funeral.  The film is scary not because of the violence, but because it’s not only unafraid of death, but it also welcomes it.  Fascinating.

Trailer for THE BLACK HOLE

THE BLACK HOLE plays Thursday night only at The Bagdad.

MEAN STREETS

Also Thursday night ONLY is Martin Scorsese’s personal masterpiece, MEAN STREETS (M.S., U.S., 1973) starring Robert DeNiro and Harvey Keitel.  Based in part on his own experiences in the darker corners of New York’s Little Italy, MEAN STREETS is Martin Scorsese’s parable of a man attempting to reconcile his violent lifestyle with an irresolute Catholic faith. Harvey Keitel portrays Charlie, a well-meaning, small-time hood whose conflicted nature is slowly beginning to jeopardize both his work and his private life. Robert De Niro turns in a startling performance as Johnny Boy, Charlie’s arguably psychopathic friend, whose quick temper and unpaid debts quickly become menacing liabilities. A powerful character-driven film, Scorsese’s Italian-American rock-infused classic is one of the definitive films of the decade.

For me the reason this film is great is because it is full of passion; passion for the Italian American experience, the passion (and theatrics) of Catholicism, and more than anything, the passion for cinema.  CINEMA.  

Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian writes, “The movie’s blazing energy is still astounding; the vérité street-scenes are terrific and Scorsese’s pioneering use of popular music is genuinely thrilling.”

David Kehr of Chicago Reader writes, “The acting and editing have such an original, tumultuous force that the picture is completely gripping.”

An original 1973 review in Variety wrote, “Scorsese is exceptionally good at guiding his largely unknown cast (!) to near-flawless recreations of types. Outstanding in this regard is De Niro.”

BBC writes, “The Godfather made the mob glamorous. Mean Streets made it real. Martin Scorsese’s ferocious, grimy 1973 classic is just as good as Francis Ford Coppola’s masterpiece, but it shows us criminal life lower down the food chain.”

Vincent Canby of New York Times writes, “No matter how bleak the milieu, no matter how heartbreaking the narrative, some films are so thoroughly, beautifully realized they have a kind of tonic effect that has no relation to the subject matter.”

Kevin Thomas of Los Angeles Times writes, “Its greatness lies in its leanness, with nary a word, a move, a gesture that’s nonessential.”

And lastly, Roger Ebert writes, “In countless ways, right down to the detail of modern TV crime shows, Mean Streets is one of the source points of modern movies.”

little marty scorsese signs his name

Aside from his student film project, Who’s That Knocking at My Door, this was Scorsese’s first feature film of his own design. Director John Cassavetes famously told Scorsese after he completed an exploitation film for Roger Corman to make films he wanted to make, about things he knew. MEAN STREETS was based on actual events Scorsese saw almost regularly while growing up in Little Italy.

The screenplay for the movie initially began as a continuation of the characters in Who’s That Knocking. Scorsese changed the title from Season of the Witch to MEAN STREETS a reference to Raymond Chandler’s essay, The Simple Art of Murder where he writes, “But down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid.”  Scorsese sent the script to Corman, who agreed to back the film if all the characters were black. Scorsese was anxious to make the film so he considered this option, but actress Verna Bloom arranged a meeting with potential financial backer, Jonathan Taplin, who was the road manager for the musical group, The Band (Scorsese later went on to direct the documentary about The Band’s last show, The Last Waltz).  Taplin liked the script and was willing to raise the $300,000 budget that Scorsese wanted if Corman promised, in writing, to distribute the film. According to Scorsese, the first draft focused on the religious conflict within Charlie and how it affected his worldview. Along with fellow writer Mardik Martin, Scorsese wrote the whole script while driving around Little Italy in Scorsese’s car. They would find a spot in the neighborhood to park and begin writing, all the while immersed in the sights, and sounds of what would eventually appear on-screen.

Once the financing was in place, Scorsese began to recruit his cast. De Niro had met the director in 1972 and liked what he had seen in his first film.  De Niro was impressed with how the film had so accurately captured life in Little Italy, De Niro had grown up in a similar area, Hell’s Kitchen. Scorsese offered the actor four different roles, but he could not decide which one he wanted to portray. After another actor dropped out of the project, Scorsese cast Keitel in the pivotal role of Charlie. Keitel was also responsible for convincing De Niro to play Johnny Boy.  

The film was very well received by the critics in general. Some even hailing it as one of the best original American films of all time. Pauline Kael being the most enthusiastic of them all calling it “a true original, and a triumph of personal filmmaking” and “dizzyingly sensual”.  Other critics like Dave Kehr of the Chicago Reader said “the acting and editing have such original, tumultuous force that the picture is completely gripping”.

Given his bad experience directing The Godfather, and after seeing MEAN STREETS, Coppolla chose Scorsese to direct the sequel. The opposition of film executives convinced Coppola to direct the film himself.  

Because of the honesty, violence and low budget nature of MEAN STREETS, it did not receive the attention of the Academy, but this film lives on as one of the greatest films about the Italian American experience ever made.

Trailer for MEAN STREETS

YOU HAVE ONLY ONE NIGHT TO SEE MEAN STREETS.  And that night is TOMORROW, THURSDAY, MARCH 19TH at 7PM at The Whitsell Auditorium.  Don’t be a mook and miss out!  What’s a mook?

NETWORK

On Saturday night ONLY at The Whitsell Auditorium is the prescient and still contemporary NETWORK (Sidney Lumet, U.S., 1976) starring Faye Dunaway, William Holden, Peter Finch, Robert Duvall and Ned Beatty.  NETWORK follows the story of jaded news anchorman Howard Beale (Peter Finch), who, upon learning that he’s to be fired after years in the business, takes advantage of a live broadcast to announce his own on-air suicide. When the ratings unexpectedly soar and Beale is transformed into a modern-day prophet, the network bosses that once sought the end of his otherwise unremarkable career now find themselves urging him into the glare of the media spotlight. Working from Paddy Chayefsky’s screenplay, Lumet crafts an unrelenting satire of a media and public that symbiotically feed off spectacle. 

NETWORK won four Academy Awards for Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Acress and Best Screenplay.  Actor Peter Finch was the only actor to have ever won in the Best Actor category posthumously before Heath Ledger’s recent win for playing a cartoon character in a comic book movie.  NETWORK was nominated for ten Oscars in total and the ONLY film to have been nominated in all four acting categories.

Trailer for NETWORK

If you have never seen NETWORK, FUCKING SEE IT.  It plays Saturday ONLY at The Whitsell Auditorium at 7pm.  GO!

Andrzej Wajda Retrospective

Oh fuck Andrzej Wajda.  He has no sense of humor and he’s STILL making films about World War II. Get over it.  The truth is The Polish Library Building Association in Portland, which is sponsoring this retrospective, is offering cash prizes to people who attend these films.  Wanna know why?  Because they’re fuckin’ tedious!  

FZ

I rarely ever promote video projected stuff, especially when there’s a cover charge, but this is a guilty pleasure so bear with me.  FRANK ZAPPA AND THE MOTHERS OF INVENTION play live for Swedish TV in 1973 followed by the original MOI playing in 1968.  Show is at The Clinton St. Theater FRIDAY NIGHT ONLY at 9:45pm.  

Here’s a preview…just imagine this on a big screen.

FZ and MOI play Montana in Stockholm, Sweden

This rare screening is this FRIDAY ONLY at 9:45pm at The Clinton Street.

BTW, the Clinton Street (AND The Mission Theater & Pub) will be showing pulp fiction which wasn’t that great to begin with and is terribly dated by now, so ignore it.

TEXAS CHAINSAW DOUBLE FEATURE!!!

(UPDATE) This double feature will be 35mm film prints!

Have you ever seen THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (Tobe Hooper, U.S., 1974)?  No?  Well, now is the time to break your cherry.  The film was made on a budget of $140,000 and made nearly $31 million in the U.S., but banned in the U.K. and Australia.  TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, despite its reputation as a scary movie, was made tongue-in-cheek.  In fact director, Tobe Hooper, had hoped that the MPAA would give the film a PG rating as the film barely has any on screen violence.  It is mostly suggested through atmosphere and the ear shattering sound of that dreaded chainsaw.

As a kid, I remember driving by the local drive-ins and seeing scenes of this film floating on a firmament of stars like a distant nightmare.  It was beautiful.  

Trailer for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

 

Now how about the truly bizarre TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE II (Tobe Hooper, U.S., 1986) starring Dennis Hopper!?!  The sequel is over the top and highly stylized and features effects from makeup maestro, Tom Savini!  This film was made to be a black comedy because Hooper was disappointed that audiences didn’t fully understand the humor of the first film.  Because the film is so outrageous, the MPAA gave it an X rating, prompting the filmmakers to release it as unrated.  The film was banned in three countries.

The screenplay for the sequel was written by L.M. Kit Carson who also wrote the breakthrough Cinéma vérité masterpiece, David Holzman’s Diary and the Wim Wenders’ classic, Paris, Texas.

To view TRAILER, CLICK HERE.

The truth is this is a double feature made in heaven.  You really could not ask for a better late night double feature.  Seriously.  As long as The Bagdad is playing 35mm film prints for both, we shall all be having one of the best times ever this weekend.

THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE I & II play this Saturday, March 21st starting at 10pm and Sunday at 9pm at The Bagdad.  This is gonna be great!

NIGHT OF THE COMET

Alright, so maybe for some of you, Texas Chainsaw is simply a bit much but you’re still in the mood for a bit of tongue-in-cheek B-movie fun.  Well, what if there was a film that combined the charm of Valley Girl with the zombies of Night of the Living Dead?  NIGHT OF THE COMET (Thom Eberhardt, U.S., 1984) is the perfect hybrid of Eighties teen and monster movies!

When a comet hits Earth, nearly everyone is outside to witness the spectacle and celebrate its arrival. Unfortunately, the comet possesses deadly rays that turn all the onlookers to dust. However, teenager Regina and her valley girl sister Samantha survive, having been indoors when the comet struck. But the world has become a dangerous place, populated by monstrous zombies, created by the comet’s rays. The girls try to escape the creatures and find safety. They seek refuge at a radio station, having been lured there by a (taped) radio transmission. There they meet Hector, another survivor. Meanwhile, scientists from an underground compound find they’ve been affected by the comet, and need the blood of healthy humans to create a vaccine. They kidnap Samantha to use her for their cure, forcing Regina and Hector to set out and save her — for the sisters are Earth’s only hope for re-populating the planet…

Vincent Canby of The New York Times writes, “A good-natured, end-of- the-world B-movie, written and directed by  a new filmmaker whose sense of humor augments rather than upstages the mechanics of the melodrama.”

Variety writes, “A successful pastiche of numerous science fiction films, executed with an entertaining, tongue-in-cheek flair.”

Just watch the trailer.  It’s so adorable (That ESPECIALLY means you, SKYE!!!)

Trailer for NIGHT OF THE COMET

NIGHT OF THE COMET starts Friday for one week at Laurelhurst Theater.  Showtimes at 9:45pm daily.

SNAKE IN EAGLE’S SHADOW

Good God, will the fun NEVER END!?!

Tuesday, March 24th at The Hollywood Theatre for ONE NIGHT ONLY, the martial arts classic, SNAKE IN EAGLE’S SHADOW (Woo-ping Yuen, Hong Kong, 1978) starring Jackie Chan!!!  Listen, there is a good reason why Jackie Chan became a superstar and this film demonstrates why.  He is charming, hilarious and is beautiful to see in action, as much as Bruce Lee.  Director Woo-ping himself has gained international stardom as the action choreographer for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, The Matrix and Kill Bill, so if you liked any of these other crappy movies, this film KICKS ASS!!!

Trailer for SNAKE IN EAGLE’S SHADOW

SNAKE IN EAGLE’S SHADOW plays one night only, Tuesday March 24th at 7:45pm.  Preceeded by vintage trailers!!!

Also…Soderbergh’s film CHE is moving from Cinema 21 to The Hollywood Theatre starting Friday.  If you haven’t seen it, be sure to take advantage of it while you can.  It is in limited run and totally worth seeing, despite the fact that it’s four and a half hours!

KLUTE

Next Thursday, March 26th at 7pm at The Whitsell Auditorium is KLUTE (Alan J. Pakula, U.S., 1971) starring Donald Sutherland and Jane Fonda.  Featuring harsh, gritty cinematography by Gordon Willis (THE GODFATHER), KLUTE adopts the structure of a 1940s film noir to tell the tale of John Klute (Donald Sutherland), a small-town detective who finds himself in the Big Apple to investigate the murder of a close friend. Upon his arrival, his only tangible lead is working girl and aspiring actress Bree Daniels (Jane Fonda), whose gentlemen callers enable her to maintain her independence and free will. But as Klute’s investigation progresses and he inadvertently puts her life in danger, emotion defies the logic of life’s choices.

KLUTE was nominated for two Academy Awards and won one for Fonda’s snot dripping performance.

Trailer for KLUTE

KLUTE plays next Thursday at 7pm at The Whitsell Auditorium.  

AH LIBERTY! BEN RIVERS RETROSPECTIVE

You may remember from previous PDXFilm entries that I wrote a rather impassioned appreciation for Portland’s microcinema, Cinema Project.  Their Spring season of programming begins next week and it’s incredible.  THIS SECTION IS FOR THE TRUE CINEPHILE.

March 25th and 26th, Cinema Project presents British filmmaker and programmer Ben Rivers for two nights of screenings of his much acclaimed 16mm films.  In 1996, Ben co-founded and since co-managed/programmed Brighton Cinematheque, renowned for screening a unique program of film from its earliest days through to the latest artist’s film and video.  A young and highly prolific filmmaker, Rivers films are beautifully shot and hand-processed documents.  An intimacy and appreciation for his subjects is protected by limited revelations and sparse soundtracks.  The films are landscapes, current, common histories odes to the freedom fighters that would have, in the past, come in ballad form.  A sense of freedom runs throughout his films, suggesting any rural setting where safety does not trump the joy of smashing around.  

Ben Rivers

BEN RIVERS WILL BE IN ATTENDENCE.

All films presented in 16mm film prints. Please check out his website HERE.

DUPLICITY

Lastly, in first run theaters opening Friday, writer Tony Gilroy gives us his second directorial effort (his first being Michael Clayton), DUPLICITY (Tony Gilroy, U.S./Germany) starring Julia Roberts, Clive Owen, Tom Wilkinson and Paul Giamatti.  Other films penned by Gilroy have been Dolores Clairborne, Extreme Measures, The Devil’s Advocate, Proof of Life, the Bourne trilogy and of course, Michael Clayton.  

Trailer for DUPLICITY

My instinct tells me this would be a perfect double feature with NETWORK which plays Saturday.  So maybe think about it.

 

So that’s all the new and repertory cinema this week!!!  But don’t forget there’s also GOMORRAH and CHE at The Hollywood Theatre, REVOLUTIONARY ROAD, MILK, SYNECDOCHE, NY, WENDY & LUCY, RACHEL GETTING MARRIED and LET THE RIGHT ONE IN at The Laurelhurst Theater and in first run theaters, WALTZ WITH BASHIR, THE CLASS, (and now I’m going to promote two films at a theater I always try to never mention) and two great indie films shot on video, MEDICINE FOR MELANCHOLY and FROZEN RIVER playing at The Living Room Theatres, which does NOT show film prints, only DVDs.  However, since the films were shot on video to begin with, it doesn’t really make a difference if you watch them from a DVD.  If you’re unfamiliar with these titles, MEDICINE FOR MELANCHOLY (Barry Jenkins, U.S.) was nominated for the Someone to Watch Award at this year’s Independent Spirit Awards and FROZEN RIVER (Courtney Hunt, U.S.) was nominated for seven Independent Spirit Awards and nominated for two Oscars.

Phew.  I’m pooped.  Hope I see you at one of these screenings this week. 

NEXT WEEK: Paris, Blues starring Paul Newman, films by Bob Fosse, Terrence Malick, Bob Rafelson and JOHN CASSAVETES (Keep next Saturday open for that one)!!!

 

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RIP NATASHA RICHARDSON

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 





Films in PDX: Mar. 12 – Mar. 19

12 03 2009

ATTENTION ANYONE UNDER 26 YEARS OF AGE…please skip the first entry concerning the new milquetoast Soderbergh film and READ “Declarations of Independence”.  YOU ARE REQUIRED TO ATTEND ALL FILMS MENTIONED.

CHE: Director Steven Soderbergh in Attendance!

March 13th and 14th, Steven Soderbergh will be in attendence for a Q&A for his latest film, CHE, starring Benicio Del Toro as the enigmatic Che Guevara.  This is a “roadshow” edition of the film and will not be present with titles or credits.  Instead, program notes will be provided.  The film is 263 minutes with an intermission and tickets can be purchased in advance BY CLICKING HERE.

che

 

Another reason to attend the screening is because Soderbergh shot CHE with the now infamous RED camera, which doesn’t shoot film nor video but rather 4k files to a hard drive (4k resolution is four times greater than the highest high-definition video resolution).  There have been a handful of other films which have used the RED camera, but this will demonstrate exactly what this new technology can do.  Last winter, I was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time and saw some of the 4k footage projected from a 4k projector and the image is as silky as new skin.  What will be shown at Cinema 21 will be a film print and so there will be nominal film grain in the structure of the print which is not naturally inherent in RED footage.  If nothing else, CHE is a film which is part of the RED camera revolution.  For the fetishist, Part One of CHE was shot on both Super 16mm and Part Two is RED footage only.

CHE opened in its full four hour duration at Cannes 2008 to very luke warm reviews, so go with the right expectations.  Personally, every single Soderbergh film I’ve seen post sex, lies and videotape has bored me to tears.  CHE plays at Cinema 21 for one week only, starting this Friday.  

HD Trailer for CHE

 

DECLARATIONS OF INDEPENDENCE: 1970’S CLASSICS CONTINUES!!!

…Now I realize that over the course of the weekly publishing of PDXFilm maybe only 100 people read this thing, but FOR THE LOVE OF CINEMA, please please please please please tell everyone you know under the age of 26 that they must attend ALL of the DECLARATIONS OF INDEPENDENCE series at the NW Film Center starting tomorrow (Thursday, March 11th).  The reason there are an overabundance of filmmakers in America is because anyone over the age of thirty has been inspired by the films of the Seventies.  It’s true that there has been great cinema in every decade prior to the Seventies, but if you want to see the best of the best, you only need to look at this decade.  Truly.  I only wish this was a series that ran all year around because there are many omitted from this short list.  Still, it’s a very fine list all the same.

ALSO…I’d like to remind you that PSU students get into the NW Film Center FOR FREE with a valid student I.D.!

First up,  tomorrow night only, Jack Nicholson in a film by the director of Harold & Maude, THE LAST DETAIL (Hal Ashby, U.S., 1973).  With an unconventional script by Robert Towne, screenwriter for Polanski’s Chinatown, and understated performances by Nicholson and Randy Quaid, Ashby’s singular directorial whimsy THE LAST DETAIL is an exemplar of the free-form cinematic aesthetic of the Seventies. Billy “Bad Ass” Budduskey (Nicholson) and Mule Mulhall (Otis Young) are two Navy men given a week to escort a young prisoner (Randy Quaid) from Virginia to a naval penitentiary in Maine. Intending to conclude their business quickly and spend the rest of their time partying, the two men instead become enamored of the young prisoner and decide to include him in their ribald revelry.

Vincent Canby of New York Times writes, “The Last Detail is one superbly funny, uproariously intelligent performance…which is so effectively surrounded by profound bleakness that it seems to be a new kind of anti-comedy.”

Variety says, “Salty, bawdy, hilarious and very touching.”  

Nicholson reportedly turned down a part in The Sting to appear in this film, which was written by his good friend Towne.  The studio objected to the number of curse words in the script; the first seven minutes, there were 342 ‘fucks’.  The head of Columbia asked Towne to reduce the number of curse words to which the writer responded, “This is the way people talk when they’re powerless to act; they bitch”. He refused to change a word and Nicholson backed him up, but the project stalled for eighteen months because the cast, director and writer refused to co-operate with the studio.  

During pre-production, director, Hal Ashby, was busted for possession of  marijuana while scouting locations in Canada.  This almost changed the studio’s mind about backing the project but the director’s drug bust was not widely reported and Nicholson remained fiercely loyal to him, which was a deciding factor. The great cinematographer, Haskell Wexler, was supposed to shoot the film but he could not get a union card for an East Coast production so Ashby promoted his camera operator, Michael Chapman, to director of photography who later went on to shoot Taxi Driver and Raging Bull for Martin Scorsese.

The film’s release was delayed for six months while Columbia fought over the profanity issue again.  The producer persuaded the studio to submit THE LAST DETAIL to the Cannes and after Nicholson won Best Actor, it shamed the studio into releasing the film. Columbia previewed the film in San Francisco and it was a huge success.  They finally released it in December 1973 just in time for Academy consideration. It did well and then the studio pulled the film after only a week with the notion that it would be re-released right before The Academy Awards.  The film went on to be nominated for two Golden Globes and three Academy Awards for Best Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor.  

last_detail

THE LAST DETAIL plays one night only, March 12th at 7pm at The Whitsell Auditorium. DON’T MISS IT!

 

This Saturday, one of the best political films of the Seventies, Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford star in ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN (Alan J. Pakula, U.S., 1976).  Watergate forever changed the way politics, politicians, and the power of the press were regarded. Adapting the book written by Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, Pakula employs the aesthetic and pacing of a taut thriller to unravel the conspiracy-laden burglary and its mysteries. Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman portray the two young, story-hungry reporters that navigate a labyrinthine web of lies and cover-ups.  The book was adapted into screenplay form by the great William Goldman, who wrote Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (for which he won an Academy Award), The Hot Rock, Marathon Man and The Princess Bride, for which Goldman won another Academy Award for his adaptation of the Woodward & Bernstein book.

all-the-presidents-men-quad

Because the Washington Post denied the production from shooting in their offices, Pakula, Redford and the production designer took great lengths to build and dress the newsroom set by filling it with 200 desks at $500 a piece from the company that sold desks to The Post in 1971 and even created replicas of phone books of that time which were no longer in existence.  The production managed to procure a brick from the main lobby of The Post which they used to duplicate in fiberglass for their set.  

ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN was nominated for eight Academy Awards including Best Director and Best Picture, winning for Best Art Direction, Best Supporting Actor (Jason Robards) and Best Sound.  

Trailer for ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN

ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN plays one night only, Saturday, March 14th at 7pm!  DO NOT MISS IT!!!!!

 

NOW FOR THE BIG ONE.  Not only one of the best films of the decade, but also the ultimate in CINEMACOOL.

MEAN STREETS (Martin Scorsese, U.S., 1973) starring Robert DeNiro, Harvey Keitel.

Based in part on his own experiences in the darker corners of New York’s Little Italy, MEAN STREETS is Martin Scorsese’s parable of a man attempting to reconcile his violent lifestyle with an irresolute Catholic faith. Harvey Keitel portrays Charlie, a well-meaning, small-time hood whose conflicted nature is slowly beginning to jeopardize both his work and his private life. Robert De Niro turns in a startling performance as Johnny Boy, Charlie’s arguably psychopathic friend, whose quick temper and unpaid debts quickly become menacing liabilities. A powerful character-driven film, Scorsese’s Italian-American rock-infused classic is one of the definitive films of the decade.  Lou Reed even wrote a song about MEAN STREETS!

mean-streets

Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian writes, “The movie’s blazing energy is still astounding; the vérité street-scenes are terrific and Scorsese’s pioneering use of popular music is genuinely thrilling.”

David Kehr of Chicago Reader writes, “The acting and editing have such an original, tumultuous force that the picture is completely gripping.”

An original 1973 review in Variety wrote, “Scorsese is exceptionally good at guiding his largely unknown cast (!) to near-flawless recreations of types. Outstanding in this regard is De Niro.”

BBC writes, “The Godfather made the mob glamorous. Mean Streets made it real. Martin Scorsese’s ferocious, grimy 1973 classic is just as good as Francis Ford Coppola’s masterpiece, but it shows us criminal life lower down the food chain.”

Vincent Canby of New York Times writes, “No matter how bleak the milieu, no matter how heartbreaking the narrative, some films are so thoroughly, beautifully realized they have a kind of tonic effect that has no relation to the subject matter.”

Kevin Thomas of Los Angeles Times writes, “Its greatness lies in its leanness, with nary a word, a move, a gesture that’s nonessential.”

And lastly, Roger Ebert writes, “In countless ways, right down to the detail of modern TV crime shows, Mean Streets is one of the source points of modern movies.”

 

Aside from his student film project, Who’s That Knocking at My Door, this was Scorsese’s first feature film of his own design. Director John Cassavetes famously told Scorsese after he completed an exploitation film for Roger Corman to make films he wanted to make, about things he knew. MEAN STREETS was based on actual events Scorsese saw almost regularly while growing up in Little Italy.

The screenplay for the movie initially began as a continuation of the characters in Who’s That Knocking. Scorsese changed the title from Season of the Witch to MEAN STREETS a reference to Raymond Chandler’s essay, The Simple Art of Murder where he writes, “But down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid.”  Scorsese sent the script to Corman, who agreed to back the film if all the characters were black. Scorsese was anxious to make the film so he considered this option, but actress Verna Bloom arranged a meeting with potential financial backer, Jonathan Taplin, who was the road manager for the musical group, The Band (Scorsese later went on to direct the documentary about The Band’s last show, The Last Waltz).  Taplin liked the script and was willing to raise the $300,000 budget that Scorsese wanted if Corman promised, in writing, to distribute the film. According to Scorsese, the first draft focused on the religious conflict within Charlie and how it affected his worldview. Along with fellow writer Mardik Martin, Scorsese wrote the whole script while driving around Little Italy in Scorsese’s car. They would find a spot in the neighborhood to park and begin writing, all the while immersed in the sights, and sounds of what would eventually appear on-screen.

Once the financing was in place, Scorsese began to recruit his cast. De Niro had met the director in 1972 and liked what he had seen in his first film.  De Niro was impressed with how the film had so accurately captured life in Little Italy, De Niro had grown up in a similar area, Hell’s Kitchen. Scorsese offered the actor four different roles, but he could not decide which one he wanted to portray. After another actor dropped out of the project, Scorsese cast Keitel in the pivotal role of Charlie. Keitel was also responsible for convincing De Niro to play Johnny Boy.  

The film was very well received by the critics in general. Some even hailing it as one of the best original American films of all time. Pauline Kael being the most enthusiastic of them all calling it “a true original, and a triumph of personal filmmaking” and “dizzyingly sensual”.  Other critics like Dave Kehr of the Chicago Reader said “the acting and editing have such original, tumultuous force that the picture is completely gripping”.

Given his bad experience directing The Godfather, and after seeing MEAN STREETS, Coppolla chose Scorsese to direct the sequel. The opposition of film executives convinced Coppola to direct the film himself.  

Because of the honesty, violence and low budget nature of MEAN STREETS, it did not receive the attention of the Academy, but this film lives on as one of the greatest films about the Italian American experience ever made.

Trailer for MEAN STREETS

YOU HAVE ONLY ONE NIGHT TO SEE MEAN STREETS.  And that night is a week from now, THURSDAY, MARCH 19TH at 7PM at The Whitsell Auditorium.  Don’t be a mook and miss out!  What’s a mook?

 

There’s more great film to come in this series at The NW Film Center!  So STAY TUNED!

Andrzej Wajda Retrospective Continues

Also at The NW Film Center, the Wajda retrospective continues with the conclusion of his “War Trilogy” with his most critically acclaimed classic, ASHES AND DIAMONDS (Poland, 1958), a true landmark of postwar European cinema. With a screenplay by Jerzy Andrzejewski, based on his novel, the film is set on the last day of the war and the first day of peace, when a young Home Army soldier is assigned to assassinate a Communist official. More important than the political nuances of a Poland poised between past and future are the moral dilemmas faced by individuals in a time of transition, always treated with great humanity by Wajda. Zbigniew Cybulski’s way-cool performance—complete with dark shades, match cocked between his teeth and easy banter with the ladies—earned him the title “the James Dean of Poland.” 

ashes

 

ASHES AND DIAMONDS plays one night only this Friday, March 13th at 7pm at The Whitsell Auditorium.  PSU students FREE with student ID!

 

There’s lots of other really exciting cinema happening around town, but these are the best of the repertory programming in Portland.  There are three new documentaries playing at The Hollywood, plus the Scorsese sanctioned GOMORRAH (Matteo Garrone, Italy), so check out the website for The Hollywood Theatre.

The Laurelhurst continues with their lineup of great 2nd run films for only THREE BUCKS, so check out the website for The Hollywood Theater as well!

And in first run don’t forget to see WALTZ WITH BASHIR (Ari Folman, Israel), and THE CLASS (Laurent Cantet, France).  

 

And lastly…just another reminder that in a partnership with IFC Films and The Criterion Collection, gatekeepers to the Janus Films catalog, the website for theauteurs.com is featuring SIX FREE foreign films which all won Best Foreign Film upon their release.  

picture-1

The films are LA STRADA (Federico Fellini, Italy, 1954), one of my personal favorites CLOSELY WATCHED TRAINS (Jiri Menzel, Cz., 1966), BLACK ORPHEUS (Marcel Camus, Brazil, 1959), the hilarious film MON ONCLE (Jacques Tati, France, 1958), THE SHOP ON MAIN STREET (Ján Kadár & Elmar Klos, Cz., 1965) and well…you can see the following this weekend at the Fifth Avenue Cinema so I’m hesitant to mention the last one, THE VIRGIN SPRING.

To watch these films FOR FREE, click here!

 

 

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Films in PDX: Mar. 6 – Mar. 12

5 03 2009

THE FILMS OF ANDRZEJ WAJDA

In 2000, at age seventy-four, Andrzej Wajda was presented with an honorary Academy Award for his contribution to cinema; yet the man who has been called the most influential Polish filmmaker of all time, and the father of the Polish Film School, is little known here in the United States. The marrow of Wajda’s life and art was forged by his experiences growing up in Poland during and after World War II. This dark period in his life has sustained fifty-eight years of cinematic inquiry, from his first three features (“THE WAR TRILOGY”), which examine Polish life under Nazi occupation and Soviet domination, to his most recent work, the Polish Oscar submission, Katyn (2007), a deeply personal chronicle of the murder of thousands of Polish prisoners of war, including Wajda’s own father. “The good Lord gave the director two eyes—one to look into the camera, the other to be alert to everything that is going on around him.”—Andrzej Wajda.

Wajda

Filmmaker Andrzej Wajda

Wajda’s first feature, A GENERATION (Poland, 1955) launched one of the most durable careers in world cinema. Barely out of film school, Wajda demonstrated a remarkable mastery of the medium: he vividly captured the 1942 Warsaw milieu in which he’d fought as a teenager against the Nazis; introduced the legendary Zbigniew Cybulski and another young film student, Roman Polanski; made a startling break with the traditional theatricality of Polish screen acting; and created what would become part one of his classic war trilogy. The film contrasts official reports of wartime heroics with cruel reality, an interesting foreshadowing (though from a very different perspective) of Wajda’s rendition of living with a lie in his latest film, Katyn.

poster-1-generation-wajda-criterion-bitrate

 

An unforgettably vivid depiction of the last days of the 1944 Warsaw uprising against the German Nazis, KANAL (Poland, 1957) was co-awarded (with Bergman’s The Seventh Seal) a special jury prize at the Cannes Film Festival, establishing Wajda as a major new international film talent. His second film—and the second part of his war trilogy—features a rich mosaic of meticulously combined narratives, following a band of surviving Polish Home Army soldiers that takes to the sewers to avoid capture. Unable to refer to the fact that the Soviet Army was waiting just across the river while the Germans wiped out the non-Communist resistance, Wajda portrayed the insurgents with unaccustomed sympathy. Five years after this riveting excursion into the “underneath” of history, the Polish Communist Party announced that there was no place for films like Wajda’s in Polish cinema. “Sensational filmmaking meets existential masterpiece.”—J. Hoberman, The Village Voice.

Kanal

A GENERATION plays at The Northwest Film Center Friday, March 6th at 7PM ONLY.  

KANAL plays at The Northwest Film Center March 8th at 7PM ONLY.

Don’t miss this rare chance to see the first two films of Wajda’s War Trilogy on the big screen!  And for the completists, the last of the trilogy plays next Friday.

 

DECLARATIONS OF INDEPENDENCE: 1970’S CLASSICS

Now this is my kind of programming!  The Northwest Film Center is playing ten great films from one of the finest decades of American cinema, with films by John Cassavetes, Martin Scorsese, Hal Ashby, Sidney Lumet, Bob Fosse, Terrence Malick and many more!!!

A decade most remembered for the advent of the blockbuster, the 1970s also spawned a rich legacy of smaller films that have remained influential for generations of filmmakers. In an era when the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal created enormous distrust of authority, independently minded producers, writers and directors focused inward, examining the personal and social forces at play. Casting off Hollywood’s usual entertainment conventions in favor of gritty and contemplative meditations, these films remain as resonant today as they were three decades ago.

 

The Last Picture Show

The Declarations of Independence series starts modestly with THE LAST PICTURE SHOW (Peter Bogdanovich, U.S., 1971) starring Jeff Bridges, Timothy Bottoms, and Cybill Shepherd, in his breakout film, a masterful depiction of the interwoven lives of the inhabitants of a small Texas town in the 1950s. While telling the story of two best friends struggling to cope with new adulthood. THE LAST PICTURE SHOW simultaneously creates a subtle meditation on themes of loneliness, loss, and isolation while also being a sober elegy to the neighborhood cinema houses. Co-stars Ellen Burstyn and Cloris Leachman, who both earned Oscars for their bravura performances. 

THE LAST PICTURE SHOW plays one night only, SATURDAY, March 7th at 7pm! 

 

last_detail

 

The series continues with a lesser celebrated film by the director of Harold & Maude, THE LAST DETAIL (Hal Ashby, U.S., 1973).  With an unconventional script by Robert Towne (screenwriter for Chinatown), and understated performances by Jack Nicholson and Randy Quaid, Ashby’s singular directorial whimsy THE LAST DETAIL is an exemplar of the free-form cinematic aesthetic of the Seventies. Billy “Bad Ass” Budduskey (Nicholson) and Mule Mulhall (Otis Young) are two Navy men given a week to escort a young prisoner (Randy Quaid) from Virginia to a naval penitentiary in Maine. Intending to conclude their business quickly and spend the rest of their time partying, the two men instead become enamored of the young prisoner and decide to include him in their ribald revelry.

THE LAST DETAIL plays one night only, next Thursday, March 12th at 7PM!

 

SAMURAI REBELLION

Starting Friday at The Clinton Street Theater, the classic Toshiro Mifune samurai film, SAMURAI REBELLION (Masaki Kobayashi, Japan, 1967).  

Trailer for SAMURAI REBELLION

 Set in 18th-century Japan, during the reign of the Tokugawa Shogunate, SAMURAI REBELLION stars Toshirô Mifune as Isaburo Sasahara, swordsman and official at the court of Lord Matsudaira (Tatsuo Matsumura). Ichi (Yôko Tsukasa), a mistress of the lord, has been banished for striking her master for taking a new mistress.  Mifune is tremendous as the proud Isaburo in Kobayashi’s exposure of the innate injustice of Japan’s feudal society. The film’s severe, formal beauty is complemented by Takemitsu’s score, which draws on the colorful sounds of traditional Japanese instruments.  SAMURAI REBELLION is one of the best of its genre.

samurai_rebellion

SAMURAI REBELLION starts Friday at The Clinton Street Theater.  Tuesday nights are always only FOUR BUCKS!  Check website for showtimes.

 

REPO MAN

Laurelhurst is continuing their month of cult programming with REPO MAN (Alex Cox, U.S., 1984) starring Emilio Estevez.  I don’t have much to add about this one; either you already love it or you haven’t seen it.  Now is your chance to see it on the big screen!

Trailer for REPO MAN

REPO MAN starts Friday at the Laurelhurst Theater and plays nightly at 9:45pm.  Tickets are only THREE BUCKS!

 

Two Special Premieres!

The first is presented by The Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (PICA) and Film Action Oregon with the west coast premiere of OUR CITY OF DREAMS (Chiara Clemente, U.S.) at the Hollywood Theatre on Friday, March 6, 2009 at 7:30pm, followed by a reception with the director and the film’s music composer Thomas Lauderdale of Pink Martini.  

An ode to New York City, OUR CITY OF DREAMS  documents the lives and works of five New York-based female artists over the course of two years – from graffiti artist Swoon’s first solo exhibition at Deitch Projects in New York to Ghada Amer’s return to her Egyptian homeland, from Kiki Smith’s traveling retrospective and Marina Abramovic’s weeklong series of performances at the Guggenheim Museum in New York to 80-year-old artist/activist Nancy Spero’s preparations of a new piece for the 2007 Venice Biennale.

For more information, check out the website HERE.  Tickets are $12.

 

The second premiere occurs next week, but you may need to buy tickets now!

March 13th and 14th, Steven Soderbergh will be in attendence for a Q&A for his latest film, CHE, starring Benicio Del Toro as the enigmatic Che Guevara.  This is a “roadshow” edition of the film and will not be present with titles or credits.  Instead, program notes will be provided.  The film is 263 minutes with an intermission and tickets can be purchased in advance BY CLICKING HERE.

che

 

Another reason to attend the screening is because Soderbergh shot CHE with the now infamous RED camera, which doesn’t shoot film nor video but rather 4k files to a hard drive (4k resolution is four times greater than the highest high-definition video resolution).  There have been a handful of other films which have used the RED camera, but this will demonstrate exactly what this new technology can do.  Last winter, I was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time and saw some of the 4k footage projected from a 4k projector and the image is as silky as new skin.  What will be shown at Cinema 21 will be a film print and so there will be nominal film grain in the structure of the print which is not naturally inherent in RED footage.  If nothing else, CHE is a film which is part of the RED camera revolution.  For the fetishist, Part One of CHE was shot on both Super 16mm and Part Two is RED footage only.

CHE opened in its full four hour duration at Cannes 2008 to very luke warm reviews, so go with the right expectations.  Personally, every single Soderbergh film I’ve seen post sex, lies and videotape has bored me to tears.  CHE plays at Cinema 21 for one week only, starting this Friday.  

HD Trailer for CHE

 

And lastly…just a reminder that in a partnership with IFC Films and The Criterion Collection, gatekeepers to the Janus Films catalog, the website for theauteurs.com is featuring SIX FREE foreign films which all won Best Foreign Film upon their release.  

picture-1

The films are LA STRADA (Federico Fellini, Italy, 1954), one of my personal favorites CLOSELY WATCHED TRAINS (Jiri Menzel, Cz., 1966), BLACK ORPHEUS (Marcel Camus, Brazil, 1959), the hilarious film MON ONCLE (Jacques Tati, France, 1958), THE SHOP ON MAIN STREET (Ján Kadár & Elmar Klos, Cz., 1965) and well…you can see the following this weekend at the Fifth Avenue Cinema so I’m hesitant to mention the last one, THE VIRGIN SPRING.

To watch these films FOR FREE, click here!


tenzispdxfilm