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.



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



…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.  


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.


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.  


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!


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 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 is featuring SIX FREE foreign films which all won Best Foreign Film upon their release.  


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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