It wouldn't be a real Vancouver summer for movie-lovers without the Cinematheque's Film Noir series, and lo, it has returned, with a usual mixture of tried and true favourites, including a couple of films that tend to appear on my list of favourite noirs: Gun Crazy, Criss Cross, and In a Lonely Place (yes, basis for that Smithereens song, and one of the saddest noirs ever), a couple of historically important films that I've seen but don't have much to say about (like Kiss Me Deadly, which will forever to me be a footnote in my fandom for Repo Man) and a nice sampling of "deep cuts" that I've never seen, like City That Never Sleeps and The Glass Key, based on a terrific Dashiell Hammett novel (one of the few vintage crime novels I've read twice, and one of the sources for the plot in Miller's Crossing, which mix-and-matches a few Hammett texts in a way that I'm sure they would consider homage, but has always seemed - tho' I like the film a lot - to be borderline plagiarism).
The one that I have never seen that really stands out for me is He Ran All the Way, for a few reasons that have nothing to do with the story itself (which does sound compelling): because, first off, I'm kind of fascinated by young Shelley Winters (who I grew up watching play cranky "broads" in movies like The Poseidon Adventure, The Tenant, Bloody Mama, or Kubrick's Lolita - which seems the turning point between her sex-bomb years and her later mode. Unaware of her early career, I used to find her kind of gross, to be honest, since these characters were often kind of vulgar and none-too-bright. then realized at some point that in fact, that grossness was something she was performing, and suddenly found myself feeling deep respect for her. She went from this, back when she was hanging around with Marilyn Monroe:
To this, in what has become my favourite of her "broad" roles, The Poseidon Adventure:
...And kept working well past her "best-by" date in a system that didn't have much use for real actresses, except as eye candy. Truth is, I still find something kind of nails-on-a-chalkboardish about her later roles (she's just so frumpy and unpleasant, in films like Polanski's The Tenant, for example) but I realize now that she's TRYING to get under your skin there...
Even more of a reason I'm keen on He Ran All the Way: I haven't seen many John Garfield movies, and never this one, though that morphs into another issue that, in fact, cineastes out there can help me with; I am convinced that I have heard reference to He Ran All the Way in some other film, or some other film-related place, like an interview with a director I respect... but I have no idea where. Did a character in a Martin Scorsese film talk about it? That seems like it could be the case; maybe the Harvey Keitel character in Who's That Knocking At My Door, since he's a film buff? That would be pleasing, because the late Bertrand Tavernier, when I interviewed him about the blu-ray release of Death Watch, likened Keitel to Garfield:
find him very moving, very interesting--totally immature. I love that quality
in Harvey. And from the beginning, the moment when he entered the restaurant, when
I met him, I said, “this is Roddy!” Especially when he was smiling. And I had
seen many of his films, post-Taxi Driver, and
in many films he was always tense, never smiling. Sometimes very effectively, like in Fingers, which was a very underrated
film. But he was never loosening up,
something he could do; he also
could express the immaturity of the character, the guilt. I told
him, “you remind me of John Garfield.” He had a kind of Garfieldian quality.
...All of which is enough to make me interested to see Garfield's final performance, as is the blacklisting of various people involved in this film (co-written by Dalton Trumbo, who was the subject of a pretty good movie himself a few years ago) but like I say, I've had a "pin" in my memory about this particular film for a long time, long enough to have forgotten where it came from. I should go see it, for sure, but it probably won't help me recall WHY I think I should go see it. Help me scratch my niggling itch!
There's also a return to open for the Vancity Theatre - now and in the future to be called the VIFF Centre, also now boasting a new "studio theatre" on the side. They have a few films that I am very excited to see. I will be seeing Gunda alone, sadly. I described it to Erika, who doesn't resonate with black and white so much, and who is not actually a cinema lover, per se - she likes movies, but, like, that amazing opening sequence of Bela Tarr's The Turin Horse did nothing for her but give her a point of reference to tell me what not to play her in the future ("Is it like the movie about the guy walking the horse up the hill?" ...we didn't even finish it, only got as far as the potato-eating scene, which is to my mind the greatest potato scene in film history, but... you know, I can't entirely blame her; either your scopophilia kicks in and you are compelled beyond reason by such images, or it doesn't and you aren't).
To me, though, Gunda sounds amazing: a gorgeously-photographed black and white Norwegian documentary about the life of a pig.
I haven't seen Quentin Dupieux's Mandibles, but I have seen his telekinetic killer tire movie, Rubber, and that film, if you've missed it, is both insane and very fun to watch. On the strength of that film alone - which I am sure Erika would also enjoy, note - I'd be game to see another Dupieux. Then I read the description from the VIFF website:The gig couldn’t be more straightforward: Manu is to hotwire a car, pick up a briefcase, deliver it straight away, absolutely no peeking, no diversions, discretion guaranteed. Inviting his best bud Jean-Gab to come along for the ride is not in the remit. But then, who could have foreseen what would turn up in the trunk of the yellow wrecker he chooses at random…? A housefly the size of a dog. Naturally, the two friends are bemused. There must be real money here, if they can only figure it out. Jean-Gab has an idea: tape up its wings, earn its trust, and train it to pull a bank robbery…
Um, what? A giant fly robbing a bank? Um... okay. Not quite sure how Dupieux comes up with his ideas. It feels like they could have begun as one sentence or phrase (which also applies to "telekinetic killer tire"). You get the sense with some of the more outlandish films out there, like Kevin Smith's idiotic but unforgettable Tusk, the film's premise emerges from a contest between very stoned friends to see who can come up with the most batshit ideas for movies; what's remarkable is not that drug-fond filmmakers might have such conversations, but that they actually follow through on the ideas that arise in them when they're sober. In any event - whatever Dupieux's inspirations or intent - Mandibles sounds like a must-see to me. (The title surely is a riff on Jaws, eh?).
There's lots else to see at the Vancity, coming up - also Annette, a rock opera made with the deep involvement of the Sparks brothers. Sparks - coming soon to Vancouver, and subject of a well-regarded recent documentary - is a cult band I respect but haven't done justice; I do love their song and video for "I Predict." Have not yet heard their soundtrack to Annette (listening to this one song as I type). Bears looking into!
I'm also very keen to catch La Piscine, an erotic French thriller starring Romy Schneider, whom I loved so much it the aforementioned Death Watch. Udo Kier fans will want, meanwhile, to check out Swan Song. I've missed both these cinemas (and the cinema itself) a great deal, and am excited by the prospect of seeing all of these films in a cinema. The opportunity may not last long, here, so...