Showing posts with label Elia Kazan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Elia Kazan. Show all posts

Monday, April 17, 2017

America America (1963) with Stathis Giallelis #TCMFF

Alicia Malone and Stathis Giallelis TCM Classic Film Festival
Alicia Malone and Stathis Gialellis at the TCM Classic Film Festival

"I am a Greek by blood, a Turk by birth, and an American because my uncle made a journey." 
Elia Kazan

What's a more American story than one of immigration? America America (1963), Elia Kazan's three hour epic was the most personal of all of his films. Inspired by his family's emigration from Turkey to America, Kazan adapted his autobiographical novel to screen. America America tells the story of Stavros, a young Greek man living in Turkey when Greeks and Armenians were suffering under Turkish oppression. He sets out for America with the intention of bringing his family there one by one. But his journey is filled with many obstacles that test his will and determination. Shot on location in Istanbul, Turkey and parts of Greece, it stars a young unknown Greek actor Stathis Giallelis in a part of a lifetime.

When the opportunity arose to watch America America at the 2017 TCM Classic Film Festival I could not turn it down. Given our current political climate this film is now more relevant than ever. The UCLA TV & Film Archive provided a beautiful print and Filmstruck host Alicia Malone was on hand to interview the movie's star Stathis Giallelis before the screening.

Malone started the conversation by noting that America America is about an epic journey and that Giallelis had his own epic journey to get the title role of Stavros.  The main character is in every scene in the film and carries the movie on his shoulders. It was no small feat and Giallelis needed to convince Kazan he was right for the part.

Elia Kazan and Stathis Giallelis America America (1963)
Elia Kazan and Stathis Giallelis on the set of America America (1963)

Giallelis remembered the audition process as being "a long journey." He auditioned for Kazan who responded with a letter telling him that he had to learn English. Giallelis met with producer Charles H. McGuire and while things seemed to be moving forward Kazan wasn't ready to commit. Determined to impress him, Giallelis enlisted his friend Vassillis Vassilikos, author of the novel Z, to write letters in English to Kazan on his behalf. They sent letters back and forth and Kazan finally replied saying that there was a visa waiting for him at the American Embassy. An invitation? Not quite. Giallelis remembers, "but he didn't send me any money and I had no money so I borrowed some money from my uncle, from some friends and I got the cheapest ticket to come to America. And I didn't tell him I was coming to America."

When Giallelis arrived he surprised Kazan in New York City. Kazan gave him fifty dollars to find a room in the city to stay in. Still not fluent in English, Giallelis told the audience that he tried gesturing to a taxi driver what he wanted and tried to pay him with the fifty dollars but had no luck. Finally Giallelis got settled. He was assigned an English tutor and Kazan and Giallelis meet with each other every day. Just when things were starting to progress Kazan introduces Giallelis to a French actor who was also a candidate for the part of Stavros. This didn't stop Giallelis who kept trying for the role. He remembers, "[Kazan] was very elusive about who was going to get the part. He gave me a red book and it was the script. He says to me read this... One day he came up to me and said the French actor went back to France."

Over the years Kazan changed his story of how he cast Giallelis, who joked that the older Kazan got the more the story changed.

Alicia Malone and Stathis Giallelis TCM Classic Film Festival
Alicia Malone in conversation with Stathis Giallelis

Malone went on to say, "you must have had incredible determination to get that role and that of course mirrors your character. Such grit and hope and optimism. How would you say this film sums up the immigrant spirit?"

Giallelis replied, "you have to give up everything. Mine looked like an easy journey. All of us are from somewhere. Our grandfathers, our fathers they came here."

For Kazan, this message was everything and it's so beautifully and harrowingly expressed in his film. Malone asked Giallelis if he got a sense of how special the film was to Kazan while they were on set. Giallelis replied, "yes many times. Sometimes after a scene he'd be hiding on the set. Sometimes you would see him crying. It was very emotional for him."

Kazan would communicate with his actors what he wanted but wasn't very demonstrative. Giallelis remembered, "he would say "I want you to give me this emotion for the scene" [but] he would never show you how to get it... He always knew about his actors. He knew about our lives and what moves us. And sometimes ... you would let him use his knowledge because it would help you as a performer. That was his secret."

The set of America America was a small one and Giallelis remembers there being a lot of camaraderie and love among the group.  Kazan remained friends with Giallelis up until Kazan died in 2003. Giallelis also became good friends with America America cinematographer Haskell Wexler. On Wexler Giallelis said, "he was my best friend.. Every two years we'd come and stay with him for a while. Haskell was a very special man. Not only a great talent and fantastic cinematographer but he was also a great human being. His political views were very hopeful for everybody. And sometimes people thought he was too far to the left. He was a man who always fought for justice. For justice for the under dog. He was always fighting." Giallelis shared with us a funny story of how Wexler was shooting some test footage to see how Giallelis' face would photograph and asked him to shave his mustache. He directed Giallelis to the wrong bathroom. When he opened the door a gang of Italian women started screaming and chased him out of there.

Stathis Giallelis America America (1963)
Stathis Giallelis in America America (1963)

After America America, Stathis Giallelis went on to make a smattering of films. He was in The Eavesdropper (1966) by legendary Argentine director Leopoldo Torre Nilsson and producer Paul Heller. He then made a couple of political films and the war movie Cast a Giant Shadow (1966) with Kirk Douglas, Yul Brynner and John Wayne. He worked with Jules Dassin on The Rehearsal (1974) and remembered it being "another great experience because [Dassin] was very much like Kazan." Giallelis didn't say why he gave up acting but I imagine it was difficult to eclipse the work he did on America America.

Giallelis left us with one last tidbit before the screening began. Malone asked him what the audience should be looking out for when they watch the film. He pointed to his favorite scene when his character Stavros is on a boat on his way to America. He contemplates the tough journey that brought him there and says when he arrives at his destination that he will be washed clean again.

Out of all of the films I saw at the 2017 TCM Classic Film Festival, this was the one I was the most excited about. I wish it had been a packed house but the film was in a tricky time slot and a three hour drama will have steep competition from shorter, lighter fare. However I hope everyone who did attend was as moved by the film as I was. I had seen the film before and reviewed it some years ago but hadn't revisited since then. When I saw it announced on the TCMFF schedule and that Stathis Giallelis would be in attendance I made it a priority to go. The film blew me away for new and different reasons than it had the first time. If you didn't get a chance to attend this screening or if you've never seen the film before, make it a point to watch America America. You won't regret it.

Raquel Stecher and Stathis Giallelis, TCM Classic Film Festival

I had the honor of meeting and briefly interviewing Stathis Giallelis. Stay tuned for my TCMFF Red Carpet coverage coming soon.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

The winners of the America America (1963) Giveaway...

... as chosen by are...

On the Waterfront (Special Edition)Entry # 5 

Thomas' favorite Elia Kazan film is On The Waterfront (1954). His great grandfather brought the family over from Norway after having lots of luck playing poker in America!

Splendor in the GrassEntry #12
Kate Gabrielle of Scathingly Brilliant

Kate's favorite Elia Kazan film is Splendor in the Grass (1961). Kate has an eclectic mix of Latvian, Romanian, Welsh, Irish and Hungarian coursing through her veins!

A Face in the CrowdEntry #20
Becky of many blogs including Classic Film and TV Cafe

Becky's favorite Elia Kazan film is A Face in the Crowd (1957). Becky's face goes mysteriously green every St. Patrick's Day. Perhaps not so mysterious because her family came over to the US from Ireland in the mid-1800s. From Scotland too!

Congrats to the winners! Please e-mail me at Quellelove at gmail dot com with your information so I can send off your prize. Thanks to everyone who participated in this giveaway! I loved reading all the entries.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

America, America (1963)

When you give someone a glimmer of hope, they will do anything to make that hope a reality.

Inspired by the uncle who brought the Kazan family from Turkey to the United States, America, America (1963) is Elia Kazan's tribute not only to his family but to all of those other families who have left their beloved homeland with the hope of achieving prosperity in America. If you are first-generation or even second-generation American, you may be familiar with your own family's story of how they came to live in the U.S. The national identity of so many immigrants were ingrained in them that the only thing that could drive them away from their homeland was extreme desperation as a result of being in dire circumstances. Both of my parents are immigrants who became naturalized citizens of the United States. My dad is from Portugal and moved to America during the JFK administration. He grew up in a seaside town and at a very young age would sew fishing nets for local fisherman as a way to help his family make ends meet. My dad has seen war and poverty and he was once penniless and homeless on the streets of Amsterdam. He came to America knowing that here he could make something of himself. All he needed to do was work hard and have lots of determination and he could make his dreams come true. My mother is from the Dominican Republic and she was born into the dictatorship of Trujillo. That country had seen so much strife during the dictatorship and after Trujillo's assassination. My mother has seen people killed in the streets, knew how to make do with very little and had to forego school and hide in her home (oftentimes under her bed for days at a time) during US military occupation of the DR when she was 14 years old. She came to America when she married my father and both of them provided me with a life they weren't able to have in their respective countries. So watching America, America (1963) was very important for me. It reminded me of the struggle that my parents went through and made me appreciate the basic human need for happiness and prosperity.

America, America stars Stathis Giallelis as Stavros Topouzoglou, a young Greek man living in late 19th century Turkey during the Ottoman Empire. Turkey was going through a tumultuous time with Turkish soldiers oppressing Armenian and Greek citizens of the country. Stavros hears about the opportunities of America; a land in which he and his family can be safe and can make a new and happy life for themselves. Determined to make it to America and to bring his family with him, Stavros sets off to Constantinople in hopes of getting a job and earning the 130 Turkish Pounds he needs to pay for a working class ticket on a US bound vessel. Stavros tries to earn the money honestly but all the brutal obstacles he faces wear him down. What's a young man to do when his only hope seems unattainable, when his one dream is at stake and the future of his family rests on his success?

Elia Kazan took a lot of chances with this film. Here is what The Elia Kazan Collection boxed set book says about Kazan's casting of Giallelis: 

Kazan often employed inexperience locals as film extras, and some even had small speaking parts in his prior films. But Kazan took this strategy to a new extreme in America, America, casting a complete novice in the lead role of Stavros. Stathis Giallelis was discovered by Kazan in the Athens office of a Greek film producer/director - sweeping the floor. Giallelis not only lacked acting experience, he required tutoring in English. Despite this tremendous risk by Kazan, Giallelis delivered an acclaimed performance. After considering established actors in both Europe and the United States, Kzana entrusted his most personal and precious work to an absolute newcomer, because Kazan saw the story of his family and the hardship of the immigrant's journey in Giallelis.

This film isn't for everyone but I encourage you to watch it anyways. It was difficult for me to watch because of Stavros' struggle and how it lasted nearly 3 hours on screen yet I know that the real story lasted years. I don't think many film enthusiasts have given America, America enough credit for it's gripping portrayal of immigrant struggle as well as the genius behind the casting, direction and cinematography. Watch it. I hope you won't regret it.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Elia Kazan Collection: Selected by Martin Scorsese

(watch me present the boxed set in this newest vlog!)

A Letter to Elia (2010) - Scorsese documentary
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945)
Boomerang (1947)
Gentleman's Agreement (1947)
Pinky (1949
A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
Viva Zapata! (1952)
Man on a Tightrope (1953)
East of Eden (1955)
America America (1963)

Full Disclosure: I received this boxed set as a birthday present from my beau Carlos. <3 xoxo

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A [Love] Letter to Elia and Panic in the Streets (1950) at the Brattle

Last Tuesday, Kevin and I got to see the Martin Scorsese documentary, A Letter to Elia, at the Brattle followed by a screening of Kazan's Panic in the Streets (1950). I really wanted to write this post last week but I didn't have a chance. I especially wanted to write about it before PBS showed the documentary (last night), but alas life got in the way. If you didn't get a chance to see the documentary last night, no worries. It'll be available in the super ultra mega sexy Elia Kazan Collection that's coming out in November (which I will plonk down hard cash for). And I'm sure PBS will show the documentary again.

In A Letter to Elia, Martin Scorsese delivers a beautiful and touching tribute to Kazan, the director who inspired him and whose work moved him. Scorsese and Kazan became close friends towards the end of Kazan's life. Scorsese made sure that he was by his side when Kazan was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Oscar award at the 1999 Academy Awards. If you remember that ceremony, Kazan got a lot of grief from people in the audience who were still not too happy about his involvement in the HUAC and for ratting out other communists. At this point in the documentary, I got a bit teary eyed. The fact that Scorsese stood by Kazan's side and gave him a big embrace publicly supporting his controversial friend moved me. I really believe that this documentary should have been called A Love Letter to Elia because that is what it was: a love letter directed by Scorsese for Kazan.

Scorsese's love for Kazan and his work goes back far into Scorsese's childhood. As a teenage, he followed Kazan's East of Eden (1955) from cinema to cinema. Scorsese takes the audience through one scene in which the James Dean character visits his mother at a brothel. Having seen this film some time ago, I didn't remember the scene, or even the film, as anything special but when Scorsese broke down the complex layers of the scene, the lighting, the cinematography, the acting, the significance to the plot, all elements that a director would choreograph with his crew, it made East of Eden seem nothing short of genius!

Scorsese's passion for East of Eden made me wonder about what it meant to be a fan of a single film. I mean truly a fan. Then I thought of the films that I "follow". There is Metropolis (1927) which I have seen in various versions, at the HFA, at the Coolidge Corner Theater, at home, on my computer and soon I'll be seeing it again and this time with live musical accompaniment. It's a film I want to keep watching over and over and over again. Then there is Out of the Past (1947). The reason I'm a classic film fan. The inspiration for this blog. The main source of my love for Robert Mitchum. The most confusing yet enchanting film I've ever seen. I've counted the number of cigarettes in the movie, I gave the main character a profile, I've shared it with friends, I've kept it to myself, it's the foundation upon which I build my love for movies.

What I enjoyed about the documentary what that this was Scorsese's personal perspective on the life and work of Elia Kazan. Because this little blog of mine, is all about the personal perspective so I really love it when people share their own. We get to see Kazan through Scorsese's eyes. And because Scorsese had such admiration for the man, we start to develop some admiration for him too. It was fitting that I went to see this with my good friend Kevin who just happens to be a Kazan expert. He gave a lecture about Kazan back in 2007, which I attended and prepared for by doing a marathon of Kazan film viewings. And even though I met Kevin during his Film Noir class, it was really after the Kazan lecture when we started to bond and become friends.

The documentary was followed by a screening of Panic in the Streets (1950), one of my favorite noirs. Keeping in mind some of what Scorsese said about Kazan in the documentary, I paid close attention to details in the film that I could possibly attribute to Kazan. The pacing, the camera angles, the set-up of the shots, the choreography of the final chase scene, etc. Something I noticed in this viewing that I hadn't in past ones, was how the gigantic Jack Palance was positioned over very small and diminutive characters. The contrast exemplified his character's power and the level of control he exerted over everyone around him. Everyone looks up to him, not because he's a good person but because he physically and symbolically towers over them.

I learned recently was that Panic in the Streets is now in the public domain. Which means you can watch the entire film on your computer thanks to Internet Archive. But between you and me, this film, and any other Kazan classic, begs to be seen on the big screen. It's the way Scorsese fell in love with Kazan films and it's really the best way to watch any classic movie.

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...

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, February 23, 2009

Boxed Set Reviews: The Natalie Wood Collection

The Natalie Wood Collection is your one opportunity to own a solid piece of the ethereal star's legacy. It's a must-have for any Natalie Wood fan or anyone who collects prize box sets. The box set design is gorgeous with alternating colors of lavendar, white and purple and promotional images of Natalie Wood from Sex and the Single Girl. Each of the 6 films comes in it's own full-sized keepcase. Four of the films are new to DVD and Gypsy and Splendor in the Grass are remastered editions. You can purchase Sex and the Single Girl and Splendor in the Grass separately but all the other films are exclusive to the box set.

And now comes my confession. I am not a Natalie Wood fan. Like Frank with Doris Day, I am apathetic to Natalie Wood. I do now have a greater appreciation for The Face. I was really hoping that this box set could win me over, but in the end, I just enjoyed the movies more so than the actress.

Mini Reviews

Bomber B-52 (1957) - Karl Malden stars as airforce worker Chuck Brennan who has a gripe against Colonel Herlihy (Efrem Zimbalist Jr.) and will do anything to break up Herlihy's romance with his daughter Lois (Natalie Wood), even if it means leaving the job he loves so dearly.

Thoughts - This is Karl Malden's movie and Natalie Wood just looks nice in her outfits. The flight dramas with the B-52s are excellent and suspenseful. Slow start but makes up for it quickly. My favorite film in the box set by far. The aerial cinematography is stunning.

Gypsy (1962) - Story about a stage mother whose passion for show business overshadows the needs and wants of her two daughters and her fiancee. Based on the early life of burlesque dancer Gypsy Rose Lee.

Thoughts - Rosalind Russell carries the movie as the loony stage mom and she outshines both Karl Malden and Natalie Wood. The vaudeville and burlesque musical numbers are all top-notch. The film is beautifully remastered and the colors really pop! Visually stunning.

Cash McCall (1960) - A light-hearted corporate drama about greedy Cash McCall (James Garner) who buys companies only to dismantle them and make a profit out of the loss. He goes soft when Lory Austen (Natalie Wood) comes into his life. When the opportunity to by the Austen Plastics company arises, he jumps on the chance to win Lory back after a bad beginning to their romance.

Thoughts - I enjoyed this film. It's got a lot of flaws, especially the anti-climactic ending and Natalie Wood's matronly hair style. Yet it's stylish, light, fun and interesting. If you are a fan of Executive Suite or even Mad Men, you'll enjoy this film.

Splendor in the Grass (1961) - A coming-of-age story circa 1920s about Deanie (Natalie Wood) a young high school teen who is dating the captain of the football team and most popular boy in school Bud (Warren Beatty). They both must supress their lustful desires to align themselves with society's mores. Bud goes elsewhere to relieve himself and Deanie goes crazy.

Thoughts - This is an excellent study in gender roles and sexuality. Sexual repression and the treatment of sexual expression as viewed amongst both sexes demonstrates the unfairness of double-standards. An Elia Kazan classic! See my previous post about this film

Sex and the Single Girl (1964) - Self-help book fictionalized into a story of sex psychologist Helen Brown (Natalie Wood) who falls for tabloid reporter Bob Weston (Tony Curtis). He is planning an expose on her and to do so pretends he is his friend Frank Brodercik (Henry Fonda) who has significant marital problems with wife Sylvia (Lauren Bacall).

Thoughts - I was disappointed in the movie. It could have been a lot better. It was slow-paced, bizarre and silly to the point of confusing. Maybe this will grow on me, but for now I think Pillow Talk (1959) seems like a much better movie with a similar conceit.

Inside Daisy Clover (1965) - 15-year old Daisy Clover (Natalie Wood) is a foul-mouthed, scrappy tomboy living in poverty. Her talent for singing finds her in the seedy show business of 1935's movie industry. As she gains fame, her life falls apart. She leans on leading man Wade Lewis/Lewis Wade (Robert Redford), who is as equally as disturbed as her.

Thoughts - This film salvaged Natalie Wood for me. She does a superb job as a disturbed teenager and the melt-down scene in the studio is beautiful. This film is not nostalgic for the 1930's, rather it's a look at the movie business of the past in an avant-garde way that only a good mid-1960s film could accomplish!

Purchasing Links
(Stimulate that economy with a nice fat juicy purchase)

Please make sure you go to Sarah's Cinema Splendor blog. She is the ultimate Natalie Wood fan and will surely be posting a review of this box set soon. Watch that space!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

On the Waterfront (1954): Mother and Daughter Reaction

My mother and I watched Elia Kazan's On the Waterfront (1954) recently and I think our reaction to the film, as spoken to each other when the film ended, pretty much sums up our experience.

Mom: "Wow!"

Me: "Wow! Eso fue una buena pelicula!!!" (Wow! That was a great movie!)

Mom: "Raquel! Yo ni me dormi!!!" (Raquel! I didn't even fall asleep!)

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Arrangement (1969)

As the DVD sat snug in its Netflix sleeve, I was reluctant to take the extra step and to put The Arrangement (1969) into my DVD player. Approaching a movie you know nothing about is almost like going on a blind date, there is that internal conflict of either seeking security and safety and not going through with it, in case the experience would turn out to be traumatic, or taking a risk hoping that this time things might work out in your favor. In this case, what I thought might be a strange, weird '60s film that I wouldn't enjoy, would turn out to be a strange, weird '60s film that I did enjoy.

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 my patches of memory flashbacks. Watching this film felt new, fresh and invigorating in a way older films don't usually.

The story is about an ad executive, played by the ever superb Kirk Douglas, who suffers a major mid-life meltdown. He is torn between the life he leads, with his idyllic wife, played by Deborah Kerr, and his current job and the life he wants to lead, as a bohemian free-spirit with his lover, played by Faye Dunaway. The viewer is trapped in his mind, which is terribly chaotic making for amazing sequences.

I don't know how else to intrigue people enough to watch this film. So instead of rambling on and on about its merits, I'll simply leave you with a few crazy shots that I enjoyed in hopes that they might pique your interest.

1) Kirk Douglas hallucinating by the pool with a bunch of grapes which he dangles over the water's surface. In his imagination, the mythic Faye Dunaway emerges from the water to take a bite.

2) Kirk Douglas, again hallucinating, but this time flying an airplane over the city. The scene to which my mother reacted by saying "Ay yay yay! El loco va en un avion!" (Ay yay yay! The crazy guy is flying an airplane!)

3) After Deborah Kerr, tears up the naughty pictures she finds of Douglas and Dunaway at the beach, a neat camera trick shows live action in the scraps of the pictures left behind.

4) Kirk Douglas, hallucinating, (does he do anything else?). But this time its Kirk Douglas dressed as an ad executive, in bed with Kirk Douglas, in the buff as they both smoke cigars!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Elia Kazan Lecture 11/29/07

What I learned at the Elia Kazan lecture...

1) Controversial figure throughout most of his life, many people refused to stand or applaud when he received his Honorary Oscar for Lifetime Achievement at the 1999 Academy Awards.

2) He revealed the name of 8 known Communists to the HUAC. 3 of which were friends of his and who gave him permission to name them.

3) He was part of the Communist party for 2 years but left as he didn't like the secrecy or the propaganda involved.

4) Marlon Brando was reluctant to work with him after the HUAC controversy.

5) As a director, Elia Kazan was known for filming on location instead of in a studio, for very long takes, encouraging actors to use props, exploring intimacy and emotional distance between characters, and helping actors from the Actor's Studio get their start in films (Andy Griffith, Carroll Baker, etc).

6) Modeled the father character in East of Eden (1955) more after his own father than John Steinbeck's version in the original novel.

7) He shared Marilyn Monroe as a girlfriend with Arthur Miller, who went on to be Monroe's last husband (tee hee!).

8) Did not work well with established film stars Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy on the set of Sea of Grass. They clashed artistically.

9) He was influenced by filmmaker Orson Welles.

10) Nicknamed "Gadget" or "Gadge", a name he would resent throughout his life.

11) Watch A Face in the Crowd (1957) . On pain of death. (Just kidding!)

Thanks Kevin!

(Just a Baby Doll (1956) shot I liked. Enjoy!)

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