Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Los Aires Dificiles: Missed Opportunity


Los Aires Dif/<>ciles
Saturday, June 17, 7:20 PM
Pacific Place Cinema
Sunday, June 18, 1:30 PM
Pacific Place Cinema

Los Aires Dificiles, based on a novel by Almudena Grandes, takes on some interesting ideas, characters and narrative structures then, unfortunately, settles for reducing these fascinating elements into a soap opera with a lot of intense sex scenes. The film starts out promisingly. Juan, the protagonist, sees a car accident while driving his orphaned niece and developmentally disabled brother, Alfonso, to their new home on the spectacular Spanish coast. The accident triggers memories of the girl, Charo that he loved and lost to his older brother, Damian. As his present day affair with his new housekeeper heats up, the film reveals in a series of flashbacks that after years of marriage to his brother, Charo initiated an on again off again affair with Juan that only ended when she died in a car accident.

There was a lot of potentially interesting territory to explore- Juan's relationship with Charo beyond the sex, his relationship with his brother Damian and why his brother married Charo, the relationship between Damian and partner in the police, Panrico, Juan's relationship with his mysterious neighbor, Sara- all of which is glossed over. Instead the script concentrated on his one-dimensional relationship with his housemaid and the guy who was stalking her. There's also the "mystery" behind his brother's death which again comes down to a plot device- is Juan responsible for his brother Damian's death? The more interesting question would be why is Panrico so convinced that Juan killed Damian and, if he did kill him, why?

Monday, June 12, 2006

Well, Hello, Dolly!

Director Gene Kelly, Producer Ernest Lehman, Star Barbara Streisand

Hello, Dolly!
Monday, June 12, 6:30 PM
Harvard Exit
Reception at the DAR, 5:00 PM

Despite being a 20th Century Fox production, Hello, Dolly! is a wonderful throwback to the great MGM musicals. Gene Kelly who was starred in and wound up co-directing films at the great studio directed it. The director of photography, associate producer, choreographer, the costumer designer and the set designer had all worked at MGM. The film shows it. Shooting in Todd-AO and De Luxe Color add to the lavishness of its look.

In this enchanting musical farce Dolly Levi, matchmaker, played by Barbara Streisand, aids a pair of young couples in their romantic pursuits while attending to her own ambition of landing the successful (and cantankerous) hay and feed merchant Horace Vandergelder played by Walter Matthau. Producer and writer, Ernest Lehman, actually improved the script from the book of the original stage version, filling out the characters and tying up loose ends.

At the time, controversy did surround the casting of Barbara Streisand in the lead role. One, Carol Channing had created the role brilliantly on stage and some felt she should play it. Two, Barbara Streisand was too young for the part. Channing, while astounding on the stage, especially as Dolly, has never come across well on film. Her performance style and personality simply do not work on the big screen. And while, Streisand was too young her voice and performance are first rate and the audience forgets their age objection within the first few moments. Plus, she had believable chemistry with co-star Walter Matthau which not a lot of women do. Glenda Jackson and Sophia Loren come to mind. He needs a diva and Streisand delivers.
The supporting cast includes Michael Cawford and Tommy Tune who both went onto greater things. Also in the cast and a stand alone reason to see the film is Louis Armstrong's brief role. His guest appearance is worth the price of admission.
This classic will be screening tonight, hosted by Seattle gourmand and restaurateur Tom Douglas and will be preceded by a reception across the street at the DAR starting at 5:00.

Thursday, June 8, 2006

The Gold Rush Redux

Saturday June 10, 11:00am The Egyptian

This review is for the 1942 re-release version of The Gold Rush.


What a disappointment! For the 1942 release of this film, Chaplin trimmed 14 minutes out of the film, added a new score, and replaced the original intertitles with his own voiced over narration which sounds like Uncle Charlie telling a fairytale. The print was then processed at the wrong speed causing some of the action to look sped up (for more on silent film speeds see //www.cinemaweb.com/silentfilm/bookshelf/18_kb_2.htm). The result? A masterpiece reduced to a charming and funny children's film. This version may have been an appropriate, but still not the better choice, for inclusion in the films4families programming at SIFF. However, after the care shown in selecting the other silent film prints for the archival programming, it is a letdown. The benefit of having the Chaplin written score did not outweigh the above-mentioned drawbacks to the re-release print.
Bottom line, if you have children I can recommend taking them. However, if you want to see why The Gold Rush is a masterpiece rent the Warner Brother's Chaplin Collection and watch the original version which is on the second disc. Chaplin fans might want to see the re-release at SIFF to do their own comparison.

Wednesday, June 7, 2006

Archival Screenings

The Gold Rush
Wednesday, June 07, 7:00 PM
Neptune Theatre
Saturday, June 10, 11:00 AM
Egyptian Theatre

Distant Journey
Saturday, June 10, 1:30 PM
Harvard Exit

The Man Who Cheated Himself
Sunday, June 11, 1:30 PM
Egyptian Theatre

The Window
Sunday, June 11, 4:00 PM
Egyptian Theatre

Hello, Dolly!
Monday, June 12, 6:30 PM
Harvard Exit

The Unknown with Portastatic
Showing: Friday, June 16, 9:00 PM
Theater: The Moore

For me this year the highlight of SIFF has been the Archival Presentations. There are still some left to see, and I encourage you to get to them. Renting a classic movie and watching it at home is no substitute for seeing it with an audience on the big screen. The films you will experience the biggest difference with at a theater screening are the silent films that feature a live score. There is one more screening with live accompaniment left, Todd Browning's macabre masterpiece The Unknown starring Lon Chaney. Chaney plays an armless carnival knife thrower (he uses his feet!) in love with Joan Crawford. The film lives up to the premise. Music will be provided by lo-fi indie-rock ensemble Portastatic. Another motivation for attending the remaining Archival Presentations is that three of the films, Distant Journey, The Man Who Cheated Himself, and The Window are not readily available for rental or purchase in the U.S.

Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Brothers of the Head

Friday, June 09, 9:15 PM
Pacific Place Cinema

Saturday, June 10, 11:00 AM
Pacific Place Cinema

You'd think a film about conjoined twins plucked out of obscurity by a pop music impresario who find fame as punk rockers would be interesting. It's not. This mockumentary for the large part drags along at an uneven pace in an irritatingly familiar indie film style and is full of rock-n-roll movie cliches. The best parts were the "interviews" with Ken Russell and the faked footage from his bio-pic about the twins. Too bad he didn't direct this film.

Call of Cthulhu

This is the best film adaptation of an H. P. Lovercraft story that I've ever seen. The director, Andrew Leman, made two major decisions that ultimately made the film so effective. One, he chose to use the original narrative technique of the story- several first person accounts of events- giving it a shifting point of view. Secondly, he chose to make the film as a film would have been made in the period that the story takes place, the mid-1920s. This means the film is silent, shoot in black and white, and both the art direction, (expressionistic) and the style of acting are contemporary to the setting. He also employed special effects contemporary to the time- I thoroughly enjoyed his use of stop-motion animation for the monster at the end. My only complaint was that the film was shot digitally instead of on film which undercut its otherwise perfect look. I believe that the decision not to use film was financial rather than artistic.