As a youth I often ventured to the Midnite Movies at a (somewhat) nearby theater, the Park in West Caldwell, NJ. I saw many a strange and wonderful film there until the place mysteriously burned to the ground. Was the neighborhood fed up with hordes of hippie types exiting at 2AM, trailing clouds of marijuana smoke, walking across manicured lawns, crashing through bushes. Who knows. But here is a trailer for one of the Midnite Movies I saw there, a hallucinatory animated feature called Fantastic Planet. See it if you can, hopefully surrounded by love children in an old movie palace, the acrid fumes of cannabis wafting by.
I just watched 3 short films made by modern masters of Italian Cinema. Click the magic link here and you too will be able to check them out. They are all great! The first one I watched Il Premio(The Award) was directed by the great Maestro Ermanno Olmi, check out The Tree Of Wooden Clogs, a masterpiece. Olmi’s short is wonderfully acted and directed a little jewel of a film, and very moving in an idealistic youthful way. That’s kind of the point, these three films are all designed to present a positive spin on life, in particular life in Italy. They are designed to encourage and give positive reinforcement to Italian youth, a wonderful raison d’etre. And they all succeed in different ways.
The second film I watched was a beautiful piece of Cinema Artifice, a psychological sleight of hand that worked brilliantly. It’s calledStella, directed by Gabrele Salvatores .The lead actress is incredible, she has a face that evokes so much, is so deep, you can get lost staring in to her eyes. My favorite performance of all the films.
The third film is a gem as well, La Partita Lenta (The Slow Game)directed by Paolo Sorrentino, beautiful in it’s ambiguity, in the unspoken emotions transmitted in the looks of it’s characters. And beautifully photographed in glorious Black and White. Bravo! Bravo to all three filmmakers and Bravo to Intesa Sanpaolo for making this happen. All countries should pursue creative ways of inspiring their young citizens, they are the future.
Last night I went to another screening, part of the 11th Film Noir Festival at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood USA. One of the films shown was Deadline U.S.A., the directorial debut of Richard Brooks, who shot to fame soon after with his mega hit Blackboard Jungle. Brooks had been a newspaperman and the veracity his experience brings into play is eye-opening. The scene at the paper are great, especially the scenes in the printing room, these were the days when the paper was printed on giant machines directly downstairs from the reporters desks. A lot of important action takes places right there in front of, over and in the enormous presses. It’s also a very timely piece as the subplot has to do with the selling and closing of a vital newspaper something we are being subjected to on a daily basis across our country, probably across the world. Eddie Mueller (programmer of the Noir Fest) spoke before the screening. He said his father was a newspaperman and this was his favorite film. Then he asked how many people in the audience were in the newspaper game, I would say about half of the crowd raised their hands, this film is beloved by journalists and I can see why. It’s really about the power of the press, about the principles of journalism that inspires a young person to pursue a career in that hallowed field. And never have I seen the ideals of reporting better illustrated, a sensational story of a nude blonde, wearing only a mink coat is fished out of a river, one paper plays it up in true tabloid style, Humphrey Bogart’s paper “The Day” reports it unsensationally.
Bogart plays editor Ed Hutcheson, a tough, obsessed genius newspaperman, unafraid to take on the biggest gangster in town, uncompromising, a beautiful performance. The supporting cast is loaded with great character actors, Kim Hunter as Bogie’s ex-wife, Ed Begley, Jim Backus, Paul Stewart, you’ll see a gallery of faces that you recognize from many films. But the real stand out for me was the dialogue, some of the best, funniest, on the money verbiage I’ve heard in any film. Brooks really knew what he was talking about or should I say writing about.
Brooks on the Right
Michael Cimino was a friend of Richard Brooks and he told me a story about him once. It seems Brooks had just come to Hollywood and he got a gig writing something for Orson Welles. Welles was making Jane Eyre at the time over at Samuel Goldwyn Studios in Hollywood ( across the street from the Formosa Bar) Brooks lived nearby and one night as he was typing feverishly in his apartment, he heard someone yelling his name. He looked out the window and there was Welles, in full Jane Eyre makeup, driving a horse and buggy from the film, out in the street in front of Brooks apartment. ” Brooks, where are my pages! I want my pages!” Welles shouted, urging the young writer to hurry up and finish his assignment. Welles had just taken off from the set still in character, driving a horse and buggy he drove in the film out the gate and down the streets of Hollywood to check up on his writer. Those were the days! But see Deadline U.S.A. if you can, it’s not out on DVD but somebody at Fox should take note and release this wonderful film for the world to enjoy and treasure.
Welles in the Buggy with Joan Fontaine
Wow! Two great unknown (to me) noirs at the 11th annual Film Noir Festival at the American Cinematheque (Egyptian Theater Branch). First up Alias Nick Beal a supernatural Noir Morality play that features a career best performance by Ray Milland and is cited by it’s director ( John Farrow, dad of Mia) as his best film! It is great, beautifully art directed and shot with a great Franz Waxman score, a terrific Audrey Totter turning in a wonderful portrayal as a washed up actress, now semi-hustler bar crawling, drink stealing lush, fighting other chicks in waterfront dives. Seduced by devilish Ray Milland in a part (to quote Eddie Mueller) he was born to play. This movie is rife with an ahead of it’s time savagery especially as directed at Audrey Totter! There is a scene of Milland coaching her for a romantic encounter with Good Guy Thomas Mitchell that has to be seen to be believed, it’s that good! Fog, waterfront dives, a Salvador Dali inspired apartment, all add up to an eerie ,unsettling atmosphere that works like gangbusters. Check this one out.
The second half of the double bill was the 75 minute
Fly By Night. This B movie has a 1930’s serial plot, involving spies, an insane asylum, a mad scientist, mistaken identity, a super weapon that the spies are after, etc. But it is so funny in such a natural unforced way, it rises way above the subject matter. Richard Carlson was never better and Nancy Kelly is super, a beautiful funny performance. Robert Siodmak’s talent is evident from the first frame to the last, this movie oozes a charm and sophistication that will seduce anyone and make them a fan. There is a car stunt, where the two on the run protagonists drive a car in reverse off a car carrier truck as it’s barreling down a highway ,it rocks! Also the finale involving the scientist and chief spy had the audience cheering. And kudos to the programmers for putting this fast paced funny film as the second half of a double bill,it made what could have been a long night extremely enjoyable.
Here’s a preview of one of tonight’s films screening at the Egyptian theater in Hollywood as part of the 11th annual Film Noir Fest, it’s from Alias Nick Beale directed by John Farrow.
It screens with a rarity directed by super noir sytlist Robert Siodmak, called Fly By Night. Check out this article on the maestro Siodmak, Here.