Thursday, August 27, 2009

Out of the Past - Into the Now ~ Jeff Bailey is a Baseball Player

You know you are a die-hard classic film fan, when movie references follow you around in real life. Carlos and I went to a Pawtucket Red Sox game on Sunday and their Left Fielder just happened to be named Jeff Bailey. Out of the Past (1947) anyone?!

Things have been hectic lately, hope to return to real blogging soon.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Arrangement (1969) @ the Harvard Film Archive

Ever since I've known Kevin, I've been bugging him to watch Elia Kazan's The Arrangement (1969). We both missed watching the film before Kevin's Kazan lecture in November of '07, but finally I pulled the DVD out of the Netflix sleeve and sat down to watch this strange and alluring film a month later. Fast forward to August of 2009 and Kevin still hadn't seen it. I had to make right that severe wrong.

As part of the Harvard Film Archive's salute to Elia Kazan, they showed The Arrangement (1969) on Monday evening. I dragged Kevin (he was willing) to go see it. The print was in poor quality, very grainy and scratchy. However, it was still a treat to watch this film on the big screen.

I have written about this film in the past and I highly recommend you read my original post. I was quite impressed with myself when I read the post recently. Here is a quote I pulled from it:

"Based on his own novel, The Arrangement (1969) is a lesser-known Elia Kazan classic. Its a film that contemporary film afficianados might enjoy because of its chaotic, psychadelic, A.D.D. type of cinematography. Shots come at all sorts of strange and interesting angles and any remotely chronological timeline is thrown askew by patches of memory flashbacks. Watching this film felt new, fresh and invigorating in a way older films don't usually.."

In watching the film a second time, I find that those 4 really trippy scenes that I pointed out in my original post are still my favorites. During the movie, I kept poking Kevin in the arm to make sure he was alert to them.

1) Kirk Douglas hallucinating, holding grapes over the pool.
2) Kirk Douglas hallucinating while flying an airplane.
3) Beach sequence camera trick, with torn photographs.
4) Kirk Douglas hallucinating, his naked manic self in bed with his past self fully-clothed.

Visually this movie is quite delicious and I found many things to savor. The film is also really quite a head-trip and parts of it can leave you feeling confused. What's amazing is that it really delves into the main character's mania by showing you his hallucinations as he experiences them and also by the use of experimental cinematography. Finding yourself in the midst of the character's mental anguish makes you really sympathize with him.

In the end, I had a ball and Kevin seemed to enjoy the film. I was happy we got to share it together.

Here are a couple pictures of Kevin and I at the HFA. Until next time...

Friday, August 14, 2009

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Wild River (1960) @ the Harvard Film Archive and the Walking Ethnic Stereotype

Lee Remick as Carol: You're getting awful human, Chuck.
Montgomery Clift as Chuck: I've always been human.

The Harvard Film Archive in Cambridge, MA is featuring Elia Kazan films this month. Knowing that I was a big Kazan fan (and classic film buff in general), Carlos gave me a clipped article from the Boston Globe about the series and suggested that we go see the film Wild River (1960) in particular. Wild River has yet to be released on home video (in the US) and it's distribution is very limited. The HFA just received a new print of the film and was showing the print to the public for the first time. It was an exclusive chance to see a lesser-known Kazan film and I was excited to partake in the experience.

The 15-minute lecture that preceded the movie was very informative and I learned a lot about the movie. Kazan wrote the screenplay for this film and considered it one of his favorites of all the films he directed. He was meticulous, writing 6 versions of the script and insisting that the film be shot on location in Tennessee. At first he had intended Marlon Brando to star as Chuck Glover, but Brando was otherwise occupied and reluctant to do the film. From what I understood from Kevin's lecture, Brando wasn't terribly fond of Kazan. The lead role went to Montgomery Clift, who was in his post-accident, alcohol-infused phase. He stayed sober throughout most of the movie, which I guess was a good thing. Kazan had a soft spot for Lee Remick, to whom he gave her first screen role in A Face in the Crowd (1957), and he gave her the role of Carol. Of the cast, the highlight for sure is Jo Van Fleet. The 46-year old actress played the 80-something matriarch Ella Garth.

Wild River is about the tumultous Tenessee River which floods in the Fall, taking down houses, flooding land and killing the townsfolk. Ella Garth, owns an island situated in the middle of the River. With Autumn approaching, the floods threaten to take over her land but she is determined to stay put. The goverment wants her off that lands so they can harvest the flood for the dam. The Tennessee Valley Authority sends Chuck Glover (Montgomery Clift) over to Garth's island to convince her to leave. It's not quite so easy a job but he's determined. Glover falls in love with Carol (Lee Remick) a sad widow who lives on the island with her grandmother. Glover helps Carol find hope again. The film touches upon a lot of subjects and has a lot of interesting themes. The Great Depression and FDR's New Deal goverment are at the backdrop of the story. The creation of dams and how they affect Americans and the American landscape was an interesting theme. There is the racial divide between the white and black townsfolk as well as the divide between authority and the lay people. For what is a pretty quiet film, it has a lot to say.

I very much enjoyed Fleet's performance as Ella Garth. She had some great monologues and dialogue in general and delivered all her words with great conviction. Remick was great as widow Carol. You see her character transform during the movie. I also think there is a realness that is quite unique to Remick and she really fits into this movie quite well. Montgomery Clift however was not the best actor for this film. In the post-accident phase of his career, his performances seem quite emotionless as his face was always so frozen. I know this wasn't his fault, but it's difficult to watch an actor or actress who can't emote.


I was really excited for this film and on a whim decided to dress up for the occassion. I hadn't worn my new 1960's style blue wiggle dress out yet so I decided to wear it to the movie. I wore my hair curly; half-tied up and half-loose. I put on my gold-colored sandals, my big gold, red and white earrings and my white Mod-style sunglasses. I was feeling very stylish and confident until I got to the theater. The HFA is a very stuffy, collegiate theater and I looked terribly out of place. Also, being Hispanic, I can't really carry the vintage look very well. While I tried to go 1960's, I ended up looking like a walking Hispanic stereotype. Here I was, curly haired with my Spanish bangs showing, a tight dress, and humongoid earrings. All I needed was to smack some gum and ask "Why you so stupid, stupid?" and the look would have been complete. I felt so out of place and I wondered if anyone thought that maybe I had gotten lost and ended up at the wrong theater. I was just waiting for someone to ask me what the hell I was doing there, so I could declare "Wait! I do belong here and I have the blog to prove it!" The community of classic film enthusiasts is predominantly white, so sometimes I feel like I stick out like a sore thumb. But it could also just me being terribly self-conscious as I am wont to be. This didn't really sour my experience but it did get me thinking. And next time I go to the HFA, I'll try to dress a bit more casually.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Rebel Without a Cause (1955) @ the Park

On Thursday, I went to go see Rebel Without a Cause (1955) outdoors on the big(ish) screen. The film was screened at Nathan Tufts Park in Somerville, MA and it was part of the town's SomerMovie Fest where they show different films at different parks each Thursdy during the summer. The only classic film they were showing was this one and I invited my friend Kevin to come join me. Kevin's a huge fan of the film and has written about it for me as a guest post (check it out here). My friend Jeanine surprised me by coming along too. She saw that I had posted about it on Facebook and wrote to me about attending the screening. I hardly ever get to see her and really wanted to pick her brain about classic films, as she is a film buff like me. So it was great to have two good friends to see the film with.

Thursday just happened to have perfect weather. The evening was warm, not humid, the sky was clear and it didn't rain. We also weren't swarmed by mosquitos so it was easily just to relax and watch the film.

Here I am with my Rebel Without a Cause T-Shirt that I got from H&M. I'm not sure what the protocol about wearing a movie's design on a T-Shirt to the actual screening. Maybe it's taboo, like going to a rock concert and wearing that band's T-shirt. Kevin poked fun at me, but I wasn't about to wear my Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961) or my Don't Bother to Knock (1952) T-Shirts to this screening. I thought it was great that I had the attire to suit the occasion. (So take that Kevin!)

Here are Jeanine and Kevin posing for me just as the opening credits are starting on the screen. The show is about to begin...

I snapped this picture of Natalie Wood for Sarah over at Cinema Splendor. Not the greatest shot, but I guess it's the thought that counts.

As the night progressed and the sky grew darker, the screen really lit up in the park. It was quite a treat to see a film outdoors like this. There were about 60 or so people in the park. Many folks had chairs, blankets, towels, etc. A lot of couples were snuggling in the dark, which made me wish that Carlos was there. Groups of people came prepared with drinks, snacks and dinner.

The experience was quite magical. My only complaint was the audience reaction to some scenes. Several people thought dramatic points were funny and laughed at the expense of the film. Jeanine and I looked at each other several times and asked what people were laughing at. It saddens me that these people don't have the capacity to appreciate a film like Rebel Without a Cause at it's full glory and chose to poke fun at things they don't understand. Oh well, it's their loss.

It was great to watch this film after having not seen it in so many years. After the film had ended, Jeanine pointed out the use of garments in the film which I thought was interesting. I hope she'll consider writing a post about it for me! If not, I'll take a crack at it later.

Have any of you seen an outdoor screening of a film? If so, what was your experience? I'd love to hear from you.

And a special Happy Birthday to Nicole from Classic Hollywood Nerd. She turns 20 today. Feliz Cumpleano Nicole!

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