Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Five years ago when I started working at Seattle's Metro Cinemas (famously named "one of Landmark's least charming theatres" by the Stranger) I didn't know shit about film. Frankly after reading posts by others on sites like this one, I realize that I still don't know shit about film. But I'm learning. For me there has been no finer crash course for this wild world of cinema than the repertory program I co-host, co-curate and co-ddle, Metro Classics.
The most obvious elements I have gleaned since starting the series are the titles, stars and entire genres that I have fallen in love with, which without Metro Classics I probably wouldn't have sought out. The Red Shoes, Ginger Rogers and Westerns jump immediately to mind. Beyond that I have also been forced to look at film from several alternate angles, separate from being a giddy audience member, which I luckily also manage to remain. How can we create an exciting calendar that manages to balance offbeat, rarely seen features (my beloved Pennies From Heaven) with surefire moneymakers (the equally awesome Forbidden Planet) to keep the show afloat? How can we weave these titles into an interesting theme that brings about new dimensions to the films and manages to put the season into some sort of perspective? How do we keep the idea of presenting repertory films exciting and fresh in a city with no shortage of revival houses (plus the greatest video store in the world)? These challenges, though vexing at times, are what keep me engaged and energetic about this two-bit enterprise when we're six weeks deep and I'm at work on my day off, spouting inane trivia questions to elderly couples who have no idea what the hell I'm talking about.
A lot of my biases and preconceptions about how repertory should be run have also been thrown into question since starting the series. When we first got up and running I was one of the most vocal proponents for running as many titles as possible on 35mm. That just seemed like the biggest no-brainer. But beginning with the difference I noticed between the Searchers print we ran, which had so many splices in it that the iconic final shot was severely truncated, and the digital version we ran for the staff at midnight, I started singing a different tune. My jaw was on the floor with that digital screening. The colors were popping, the soundtrack was slamming, Monument Valley never looked so damn good.
My disillusionment with 35mm has only grown since. On two occasions we have actually had to acquire a digital replacement at the last minute because the prints we were shipped were in too poor condition to run. Unless it's something that gets played all the time or they just happened to strike a new print for an upcoming DVD release, the films are generally beaten-up, scratched and faded. For the most part studios no longer pay any attention to their archive division, if in fact they still have one. In the last year alone we have noticed a significant decrease in even the availability of prints. We always specify when we propose a calendar "35mm when available". It's telling that this go-around we only managed one out of nine when last year we had seven.
Most repertory theatres don't have a choice on what format they can run, but we've been very lucky to have a fancy Sony 4k digital projector at our disposal. I defy anyone to make the case for running 35 after they've seen something on Blu-Ray pumping out of those twin lamps (or any of the other higher end models that have been released over the last several years.)
Trust me, I understand the knee-jerk reaction of wanting to experience something you can't get at home if you're shelling out $10 to see a film that could arrive in your mailbox. That's why we try and make our screenings more of a heightened experience with giveaways, the aforementioned trivia, and the side-splitting antics of Sean and me. We're like Laurel and Hardy. We're fans of film and we just want to share these ideas and artistic achievements with people. Curating for me is like making a mixtape, it's very idiosyncratic but when done correctly can add a new layer to a universal work you already love.
If you're in Seattle anytime between now and forever, stop by the Metro and say hello.
Monday, July 27, 2009
by Ryland Walker Knight
—We deal in reversals here; we battle for the light.
You've probably heard of Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule by now. Likewise, you've probably seen the "quiz" Dennis put together this summer. Some people asked me whether I was going to answer these questions. I thought I wasn't going to, as these quizzes always take far too long, even though they can be fun, for a nut like me. But this evening, prompted further, I went ahead and killed time (procrastinated) with this bit of silly. Hope you dig it.
1) Second-favorite Stanley Kubrick film. Barry Lyndon behind 2001, though that can reverse depending on what I've seen last.
2) Most significant/important/interesting trend in movies over the past decade, for good or evil. You can probably guess that I'll say the digital trending: for the image, for history, for preservation (perhaps this is misguided), for expression, for democracy, for hifalutin theory, for grainy purple skylines.
3) Bronco Billy (Clint Eastwood) or Buffalo Bill Cody (Paul Newman)? Newman.
4) Best Film of 1949. Hmn, lots of goodies, including Ozu and Reed and Ophuls and Ford. I'm tempted to say Late Spring but, well, my heart and soul belong to Tati: Jour de fête.
5) Joseph Tura (Jack Benny) or Oscar Jaffe (John Barrymore)? Guess I'll say Barrymore.
6) Has the hand-held shaky-cam directorial style become a visual cliché? Far too often, duh.
7) What was the first foreign-language film you ever saw? Maybe Yojimbo.
8) Charlie Chan (Warner Oland) or Mr. Moto (Peter Lorre)? Lorre all the way.
9) Favorite World War II drama (1950-1970). My favorite movie ever would qualify if you stretched that parenthetical to include 1998, but in that window, I'd wager Resnais's Hiroshima lament is pretty tough to beat.
10) Favorite animal movie star. If it isn't Balthazar or Babe or Baby, then it's got to be Mr. Smith.
11) Who or whatever is to blame, name an irresponsible moment in cinema. The film critic's ego. Or, most film criticism at that. (Although, the flip of that is that we all take this niche world too seriously, too.) The movies? Hell, they're a damned irresponsible lot the whole of them, which is why I love'm. It's nice to indulge this life.
12) Best Film of 1969. Andrei Rublev of course.
13) Name the last movie you saw theatrically, and also on DVD or Blu-ray. Theatrically, Harry Potter 6; DVD, A Matter of Life and Death; "otherwise", Duelle.
14) Second-favorite Robert Altman film. Probably The Long Goodbye behind that Western with Julie Christie.
15) What is your favorite independent outlet for reading about movies, either online or in print? I'm biased, like anybody, with too many friends online to choose from, so I'll draw straws and, arbitrarily, pick Andy Rector.
16) Who wins? Angela Mao or Meiko Kaji? (Thanks, Peter!) ...
17) Mona Lisa Vito (Marisa Tomei) or Olive Neal (Jennifer Tilly)? Tomei
18) Favorite movie that features a carnival setting or sequence. I almost want to ape Sean and say Sunrise—though the Hitchcock and the Minelli sure are spectacular—but what if I just said Speed Racer? Could that work?
19) Best use of high-definition video on the big screen to date. Tough to call, but my prejudices would point to Miami Vice of course.
20) Favorite movie that is equal parts genre film and a deconstruction or consideration of that same genre. Wait: isn't that every movie? Aren't the best ones just not even about that but, instead, synthesize the self-reflexive nature of the medium into their stories? Aren't you forced to ask that of every film? To get as Cavell as possible, I'll vote for The Awful Truth.
21) Best Film of 1979. Stalker over Alien though Manhattan still holds a special, sentimental spot.
22) Most realistic and/or sincere depiction of small-town life in the movies. I can't speak to any veracity, but I sure do love The Miracle of Morgan's Creek.
23) Best horror movie creature (non-giant division). Alien, duh.
24) Second-favorite Francis Ford Coppola film. The Conversation behind The Godfather.
25) Name a one-off movie that could have produced a franchise you would have wanted to see. I'm feeling the Master and Commander love, but what if Dennis Hopper had played Ripley for a decade?
26) Favorite sequence from a Brian De Palma film. The end of The Fury, easy.
27) Favorite moment in three-strip Technicolor. Pfffff. Um, Powell and Pressbuger.
28) Favorite Alan Smithee film. (Thanks, Peter!) ...
29) Crash Davis (Kevin Costner) or Morris Buttermaker (Walter Matthau)? Crash.
30) Best post-Crimes and Misdemeanors Woody Allen film. Sweet and Lowdown.
31) Best Film of 1999. Beau Travail over Sicilia! by a finale.
32) Favorite movie tag line. "Family isn't a word, it's a sentence." [The Royal Tenenbaums]
33) Favorite B-movie western. Can't say I know many, to be honest, but if 40 Guns counts, count me in.
34) Overall, the author best served by movie adaptations of her or his work. There are several ways to answer this question. Arthur Symons solely for Desplechin's Esther Kahn, which may be the best movie of the 2000s (or close to).
35) Susan Vance (Katharine Hepburn) or Irene Bullock (Carole Lombard)? Oofda. Susan Vance.
36) Favorite musical cameo in a non-musical movie. When "Nighshift" comes on in 35 Rhums.
37) Bruno (the character, if you haven’t seen the movie, or the film, if you have): subversive satire or purveyor of stereotyping? Abstain
38) Five film folks, living or deceased, you would love to meet. (Thanks, Rick!) (1) Terrence Malick // (2) Cary Grant // (3) Irene Dunne // (4) Mathieu Amalric // (5) Preston Sturges
—This lady, too, I guess.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
by Ryland Walker Knight
- A Matter of Life and Death [Powell & Pressburger, 1946] Gorgeous fantasy in delicious technicolor, weird-to-great propaganda. Nivens' charm is unending and the Cardiff-lensed images pool light in otherworldly ways, as you'd expect. The loveliest P&P theme is the beauty of the imagination—though it can spell peril, too, with actual consequence.
- The International [Tom Tykwer, 2009] Like everybody else, I dug the Guggenheim roundelay, and the cynicism. The pathos can't cut it, but it's conceptually perfect, as most Tykwer movies are, and, although it's not exactly tautologically fun, the redundancy is almost a non-issue when thinking "story" or "screenplay." Ignatiy wrote some smart notes and I'll push it further: it's about half a movie. Wish I'd seen it theatrically. —Tosser comparison: I prefer Bourne 3.
- Duelle [Jacques Rivette, 1976] Those aren't women, they're goddesses. Amazingly sexy, and fun, everything coils and weaves; it's a circulatory system coursing—and you can see the veins. Also, of course, we sing: Lubtchansky. For serious. More soon, I hope, after Noroit.
- Charade [Stanley Donen, 1963] Tons of fun. I wrote that bit for Mike, yes, but also for Arne.
- Love Affair [Leo McCarey, 1939] Irene Dunne is amazing, the movie's a little daft, but the chemistry between my favorite wife and Mr Boyer is just fabulous—even if the DVD looked lousy.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
by Ryland Walker Knight
[Charade plays Wednesday, August 5th, at Seattle's Metro Theatre to kick off this summer season of Liars, Thieves and Cheats, which you can read more about both here at home and over at the Metro Classics Blog proper.]
Confection at every angle, Charade is a blast. It hops around Paris, and different sets of violence, playing with all our ideas about movie stars and how we identify them (and identify with them) without getting boring or even haughty, though Hepburn sure does try. It's not much in cinematic terms, just pragmatic mostly, but this is a film about charisma; thus, its stars shine and all move well. Every mark is hit, every note struck, every twist signaled, every swoon chimed.
The best joke in the picture may be, simply, a mustache, but there's plenty of fun in how much fun Audrey Hepburn has with herself—she's forever complaining of hunger, ordering food and not eating, or then diving in all elbows to cope. But she stays thin. She's a movie star. Just like Cary Grant stays charming, always, even when we think he may be wrong. Grant, in 1963, proves just as nimble and canny as ever, eager to play any game he's put into by Hepburn or the other goons hanging around town, each with little sense of humor and less imagination. He wins through ingenuity, no doubt, and a fear of the serious. Though he doesn't throw matches at women, he's cruel, shrewd; but he gets results and he gets girls batty. There's a lesson there, I'm sure. Something about enjoying pursuit and holding all the cards—or the thrill of juggling. Grant, before all, was a vaudeville tumbler.
Another possibility: Fall seven times, get up eight? Whatever the case, Charade also pokes fun at names and knowing, at what a name might mean, and how little we know the ones we think we love. There's no reason to it, of course, you just choose. Finding the best option (what's a solution?) may be altogether easy: just look around you. The devil, they say, is in the details. Sometimes truth, too. If you get lucky, you pull the right switch and everything falls into place.
—Somebody has to have seen it!
by Ryland Walker Knight
What began in giddy anticipation as Michael Mann's Public Enemies fast approached through June, with talk of something like a symposium, turned out to be that series of set dispatches by Ignatiy Vishnevetsky (one, two, three) and this: a subsequent, massive e-mail exchange between Ignatiy, Kasman and yours very truly. The movie's moment may be past in blog-time but that doesn't stop us from throwing our belated lot in with the crowd of almost equal parts praise and derision. For one thing, for us, it's one of the real highlights of the summer. For another, who says we need to be so timely? In any case, we know this thing is long, but we do hope you like it, and try to read it all. Or, I really do, if only because I know Danny took a lot of time to cobble together these broad range missives. And to think that we could still miss talking about so much.
For my money—big shocker here—Manohla wrote the best review of the weeklies. And to re-link, here's the Log's post and Martha's enthusiasms.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
by Ryland Walker Knight
Sean Gilman brings us news of the brand, spanking new Metro Classics Calendar over at the brand, spanking new Metro Classics Blog. This season's series has all kinds of goodies, and the new blog already has a good primer on its inspiration. If you remember, we did a kind of internet interview a little while back for the previous calendar, which you can read here. I'll save more extensive table setting to Mikey, who will probably pop up here before too long with his own kind of preview. For now, here's the place mats. Of the new line-up I'd most like to see F For Fake projected, but, as the case is, I'll have you know that I'm gonna ladle out some thoughts on the series opener, Charade, just as soon as I can grab some images I like.
Monday, July 20, 2009
Sunday, July 19, 2009
by Ryland Walker Knight
—Scale me, mount of shale; here, that's how
- In A Lonely Place [Nick Ray, 1950] # More vicarious stuff, as I'm missing something grand again. I like how Steve described Bogie: "Mean X-rated expressions." Read Glenn and Hoberman, too, if you have yet to.
- Celine and Julie go boating [Jacques Rivette, 1974] # Because I can. Because those girls are good to dream about. Because it's FUN.
- Kings and Queen [Arnaud Desplechin, 2005] # Cuz a got a lovely note about it, I watched the last half hour. Then I skipped back to Amalric's dance before bed to wash the loneliness from my head-mouth. Listen: Marly Marl.
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince [David Yates, 2009] Oh, my. What a waste, as usual, of all that talent (surrounding and guiding our boy in the middle); alternately, of all that money; further, of space (re: the kids). More here.
- US Go Home [Claire Denis, 1994] # Trying to decipher the opening monologue sans soustitres.
- Esther Kahn [Arnaud Desplechin, 2000] # For an ongoing project.
- The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance [John Ford, 1962] # Looking for law talk, in skim mode.
- Cadillac Records [Darnell Jackson, 2008] # Watched with the grandma, on her behalf, though I never thought I would sit through it again. It's still hack cinema, through and through, from screenplay to execution, but Jeffrey Wright is a pleasure and so are all of those songs.
- Scarface [Howard Hawks, 1932] # Grimey, angry, ugly. A real treat. Muni is sick, gross. She's all elbows, perfect in her lust.
- US Go Home [Claire Denis, 1994] # Greg's dance, and some other points of interest.
- The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance [John Ford, 1962] # Still one of my favorites, and it keeps getting richer as I keep getting older.
Monday, July 13, 2009
Sunday, July 12, 2009
by Ryland Walker Knight
—It's been too hot to go outside.
- The Big Sleep [Howard Hawks, 1946] # A classy picture, a funny picture. The shamus protagonist makes perfect sense for Hawks. Something to chew on: Bacall's a dime, no doubt, but Vickers (the lil sister) has sass for days, and that kills me.
- Gentlemen Prefer Blondes [Howard Hawks, 1953] # Finished on my computer, and thoroughly enjoyed. As deep as Marilyn's eyebrows are active—and lively, too. Again, about the forms of intelligence we are keen to, which, here, is made clear by way of talking about "keen on"...
- Beyond A Reasonable Doubt [Fritz Lang, 1956] Pitiless and spare, drained of sentiment but full of life, despite Lang's will to the conceptual (as Rivette argues), this one can be read in the flames of the car wreck: we're pawns, owned by the world and at its mercy; we're elements among many bustling and bursting. Weird way to start a day.
- Gentlemen Prefer Blondes [Howard Hawks, 1953] Just twenty minutes, then the disc messed up. Gave up, wrote other things.
- Monkey Business [Howard Hawks, 1952] The old married couple version (inversion?) of Bringing Up Baby, and maybe even smarter. Proof Ginger Rogers still had it, and that Grant can do almost anything when it comes to physical humor. Also, Hawks is, like, the best.
- L'intrus [Claire Denis, 2005] # For Cuy; watch freeNIKES! soon.
- La Frontiere de l'aube [Philippe Garrel, 2007] Not quite as frightening as the Robson, but just as down. I never want to fall (away from the world) like that. But, of course, Lubtchansky makes nightmares look like dreams. So serious.
- The Seventh Victim [Mark Robson, 1943] Death looms, provides an out. Bizarre that this got made, and just plain bizarre. Don't know how much I "agree" with it, but I sure did enjoy its wacky frights of darkness.
- US Go Home [Claire Denis, 1994] # (a few minutes here and there) Youth is a dance. Or it should be.
- Nenette et Boni [Claire Denis, 1996] Finally, yes. (My apologies, MK.) As I noted, this picture "makes me miss smells. Stinks, even. Also, my sister." Love the way Greg dances in the pizza van.
- My Favorite Wife [Garson Kanin, 1940] # Irene Dunne sure is something, as is Grant, as ever, and I sure did laugh a lot, but it's pretty damned goofy. Way goofier and slapdash than The Awful Truth. Watched this on youtube, FYI.
- Stalker [Andrei Tarkovsky, 1979] # Another greatest movie ever made. Vicarious applies to me, sure, but it applies to these three dudes, too, don't you think?
Tuesday, July 07, 2009
by Ryland Walker Knight
It came to my attention late last night that my videos hosted at imeem were gone. Thus, in my distrust of youtube and love of design, I uploaded this to Vimeo, where I have a profile, and where I hope to add the rest of the videos found through this label link, as their uploading limits allow, in the coming weeks. Also, this is a good reminder to finish the few I have half-formed and to really motivate me to get cracking on other essay-ish projects. Until then, click that link above, or go visit my youtube channel, to see previous FF missives. Don't forget Andrei, either.
A day later, another is up: Sing seeing, sing, starring Daniel Coffeen (and Felix).
Monday, July 06, 2009
by Ryland Walker Knight
Tomorrow marks the start of this cycle's Tarkovsky retro at the Walter Reade. Unlike plenty of other earlier passions, his work teaches me more with each viewing, so for that reason alone (among many) I'm sorry to miss the series. But, as I trust there is always another program around some bend I cannot see yet, I'm mostly happy for my friends who will be able to fall into some of the zones of light that doyen made shine. While I've seen the first three masterpieces—Andrei Rublev, Solaris, and (my favorite) Mirror—projected, the latter trio (trilogy?) remain in my brain via bad DVDs I bought ages ago; I yearn to feel them bigger and louder. However, despite the fact that I would fight to see them all, I cannot say that I recommend too many all at once, back to back to back. Luckily, there's only seven features to contend with, which makes the mountain more of a hill. Still, it's not blueberry hill, though it's not hamburger either. No, think debris.
If I had to choose one to see during this little run, I'd pick Stalker because it's probably the best of the lot, and because it's probably the worst of the DVDs I own. I can only imagine the lulls of that grass and the echos of that sandbox work more magic at their largest. Then again, it can only be stunning, like a pin-me-down kind, to endure the passion of light near the close of Nostalgia from the fourth row of the Reade. Ditto the flames of the final offering. Go feel'm for me.
Sunday, July 05, 2009
by Ryland Walker Knight
[I hope to make this a weekly feature, for me as much as for you, since it seems I'm able to watch a lot more over here, and I'd like to track my thought a little better than simply within my moleskins since, in theory, among other things, the internet is forever. And I don't want to use Twitter for this for some reason. I must say: watching all these, that is being this indulgent, has been super fun.]
- Laura [Otto Preminger, 1944] Knotty and endlessly interpretable. One of those movies you can tell straight away is sure to be a classic. Also, the whodunit is hardly a hard puzzle, and that is hilariously on point.
- Christmas in July [Preston Sturges, 1940] # Kind of perfect, and surprisingly pictorial for Sturges. Really appreciate both how prol-trumpeting and how brisk the picture winds up: luck is swift, and stretches beyond class; in fact, it may even leaves class behind. Perfect for the 4th.
- Ishtar [Elaine May, 1987] Really doesn't deserve the bad rap. Elaine May is smarter than most movie people, especially the brand of comedy coming out of Ho'wood now. All her pictures are about the world, not just bedrooms.
- Ma Vie Sexuelle... [Arnaud Desplechin, 1996] # (scattered twenty minutes) For fun, but chiefly for an image.
- Daisy Kenyon [Otto Preminger, 1947] This made me sad. Dana Andrews is good, and Joan is something else, but Henry Fonda is spectacular. Also, I hate phones, too.
- Public Enemies [Michael Mann, 2009] # Second time was better. More soon elsewhere.
- Esther Kahn [Arnaud Desplechin, 2000] # (twenty more minutes) For an ongoing project.
- Holiday [George Cukor, 1938] # Oh, I want that life. Cary Grant, man, is undoubtedly the best.
- Transformers 2: Rise of the Fallen [Michael Bay, 2009] I said plenty, if not too much over here.
- Marnie [Alfred Hitchcock, 1964] # (scattered hour or so) Was interrupted a lot. Its formal rigor still amazes me.
- Rebecca [Alfred Hitchcock, 1940] # Too long, too talky. Still, some great stuff, as ever, but Selznick's fingers are felt too much.
- Bonjour Tristesse [Otto Preminger, 1958] Simply fabulous. So wobbly and ironic. Nivens is too, too good for his own (the movie's) good. And Seberg... why hello.
- The Passionate Friends [David Lean, 1949] Better than Brief Encounter. Yup, I said it. I mean, come on, this one has Claude Rains. Perfect for early AM grogginess and transitional sadness.
- Esther Kahn [Arnaud Desplechin, 2000] # (maybe twenty minutes) For an ongoing project.
- A New Leaf [Elaine May, 1971] # One of the great films, I'm fairly certain. Why can't there be more black as hell comedies? I'd like to write more about this one, and about comedy in general, and why the best ones organize money in complicated ways.