Review: Spring

“You saw me all fucked up and I am still here.” So says Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci) to his Italian girlfriend, Louise (Nadia Hilker), after discovering that her ‘little secret’ is well outside his comfort zone. It is this moment, well into the film when Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson’s Spring becomes something special. This is not the sweet notion that Evan, a nice California guy drifting through Italy while escaping a number of problems at home, is willing to make a serious commitment to a preternaturally attractive girl after only a few weeks in a foreign country. No, it is the staggering human trait that we can get acclimatized to the strangest things so incredibly fast if we are willing to accept and roll with the punches. For better or worse.

Set mainly in a tiny Italian village of Polignano a Mare, the platonic ideal of picturesque European exoticism, there is a wonderful shot of Evan arriving as an eager tourist. The camera, gliding in slow motion, follows his sight line as he walks through the town taking in the sort of panorama of a post card come to life: Old men playing chess, church bells ringing, sunlight bathing the 1000 year old cobble stones all briefly capture his gaze until the camera swishes past the woman in the red dress. Panning back to Evan, he does almost a twirl, drunk on the possibilities of being rootless in Europe for the first time. As with the character, so is the film.

Evan decides to stay and finds himself employment on a local farm that is run by a nattily dressed, jauntily capped widower. The widower is played by character actor Francesco Carnelutti who looks alarmingly like Italy’s Christopher Plummer and confirms something about the directing duo’s debut Resolution: That they have a knack for casting interesting faces to occupy the periphery and set tone. The town, as small as it is, offers many opportunities to keep running into Louise and a kind of courtship ensues between the naive Yank and the worldly European.

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TIFF 2014 Review: Spring

 


“You saw me all fucked up and I am still here.” So says Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci) to his Italian girlfriend, Louise (Nadia Hilker), after discovering that her ‘little secret’ is well outside his comfort zone. It is this moment, well into the film when Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson’s Spring becomes something special. This is not the sweet notion that Evan, a nice California guy drifting through Italy while escaping a number of problems at home, is willing to make a serious commitment to a preternaturally attractive girl after only a few weeks in a foreign country. No, it is the staggering human trait that we can get acclimatized to the strangest things so incredibly fast if we are willing to accept and roll with the punches. For better or worse.

Set mainly in a tiny Italian village of Polignano a Mare, the platonic ideal of picturesque European exoticism, there is a wonderful shot of Evan arriving as an eager tourist. The camera, gliding in slow motion, follows his sight line as he walks through the town taking in the sort of panorama of a post card come to life: Old men playing chess, church bells ringing, sunlight bathing the 1000 year old cobble stones all briefly capture his gaze until the camera swishes past the woman in the red dress. Panning back to Evan, he does almost a twirl, drunk on the possibilities of being rootless in Europe for the first time. As with the character, so is the film.

Evan decides to stay and finds himself employment on a local farm that is run by a nattily dressed, jauntily capped widower. The widower is played by character actor Francesco Carnelutti who looks alarmingly like Italy’s Christopher Plummer and confirms something about the directing duo’s debut Resolution: That they have a knack for casting interesting faces to occupy the periphery and set tone. The town, as small as it is, offers many opportunities to keep running into Louise and a kind of courtship ensues between the naive Yank and the worldly European.

Not in a hurry to get anywhere, Spring indulges itself in a Linklater kind of vibe and allows for the pair to alternate between charming banter and sex. Religion, pop-mythology and language are avenues of youthful self-exploration, individually and as budding couple. But the camera seems to be always stalking them rather than passively following them. There are suggestions that we are in a horror film, looming overhead drone shots, close-ups of insects writhing in the dirt – the world being both intimate and unfathomable – are cut between the Before Sunrise evening walks and cafe stops.

And Louise occasionally eats a cat or a bunny or a tourist keep increasingly graphic body horror transformations in check. Yes, there is that. By merging two wildly disparate types, the seductive monster film with the budding travel romance, Spring creates a something fresh, intimate and icky (seductive but baggage-laden) that overcomes the familiarity of either genre for the most part. When Louise muses that she only knows 50% of her self, there are several meanings attached to the phrase that the film is inclined to explore both obliquely and explicitly, albeit mostly from the male point of view. The widowed farmer might have some connection, maybe. Maybe not. The filmmaking here is reserved enough to allow for you to draw any tangential or historical connections, while it focuses on the central relationship and other special effects.

After a single viewing I am inclined to believe the Evan and Louise’s relationship built here is not going to last, a looming volcano in the background visibly suggests I am correct. It is refreshing to see life and the future embraced with the romance of cinema tamped down only slightly with the wisdom that everything is ephemeral, even the Old World.

Trailer: Linklater’s Before Midnight

Richard Linklater continues the romantic adventures and travails of Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke with Before Midnight. The third entry in the series find them a bonafide couple, with two little girls in Greece. And all the stresses of age, parenting, regrets, etc. challenge the notion of perpetual romance. I love the idea of these ‘delayed’ sequels (see also the middle chapter, After Sunset) which allow us to see the progress of these two characters as they (and we) make our way through life. They’ve also had a nice mix of the practical, the romantic and a sense of humour about things; what more do you need from life? To find out where the couple stands in their parenting years, and for that matter, who is the “mayor of Crazytown” you’ll have to watch the trailer below.

Film on TV: January 17-23

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Black Narcissus, playing Sunday on TCM.

Keep an eye out this week for gung-ho adventure Gunga Din on Tuesday, acclaimed Angry Young Man drama This Sporting Life on Wednesday, Tony Jaa’s martial arts extravaganza The Protector and first-class homage Murder by Death on Thursday, class gangster flick Scarface on Friday, and most of all, Powell & Pressburger masterpiece Black Narcissus on Sunday. Sundance also has the full Red Riding trilogy late Thursday/early Friday, which is nice to see after they’ve just had the first one playing periodically for a few weeks. Also, if you’re into silent comedy, check out TCM’s tribute to the Hal Roach studios on Wednesday, starting with a bunch of Charley Chase shorts – I’ve seen a few of these, and they’re definitely worthwhile.

Monday, January 17

8:15am – IFC – Before Sunrise
Before Sunrise may be little more than an extended conversation between two people (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy) who meet on a train in Europe and decide to spend all night talking and walking the streets of Vienna, I fell in love with it at first sight. Linklater has a way of making movies where nothing happens seem vibrant and fascinating, and call me a romantic if you wish, but this is my favorite of everything he’s done.
1995 USA. Director: Richard Linklater. Starring: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy.
Must See
(repeats at 3:15pm)

1:15pm – TCM – The Defiant Ones
Convicts Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier escape, but are chained together and must learn to work with each other to evade the authorities. Made in 1958, just a few years into the Civil Rights Movement, it probably falls squarely into the message picture arena, but sometimes those are needed.
1958 USA. Director: Stanley Kramer. Starring: Tony Curtis, Sidney Poitier, Theodore Bikel.

3:00pm – TCM – Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner
Interracial marriage may not be quite the hot topic now that it was in 1967 (although if you check some parts of the American South, you might be surprised), but at the time, Katharine Houghton bringing home Sidney Poitier to meet her parents Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy (in his last film) was the height of socially conscious filmmaking.
1967 USA. Director: Stanley Kramer. Starring: Spencer Tracy, Sidney Poitier, Katharine Hepburn, Katharine Houghton, Cecil Kellaway.

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Film on TV: January 10-16

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Carlos, playing on Sundance on Saturday.

Not a lot of really notable new things to mention this week, though I did pick out a few things that I haven’t featured before. Get your 1940s melodrama on with Now, Voyager, playing on Monday, and check out both of Luise Rainer’s back-to-back Oscar winning roles in The Good Earth and The Great Zigefeld on Wednesday; To Die For, featuring a great early role for Nicole Kidman, is on Friday, and you can catch two epic-length revolutionary films in Che and Carlos on Fridy and Saturday.

Monday, January 10

10:30am – TCM – Now, Voyager
A fine example of a 1940s two-hanky melodrama, with Bette Davis a frumpy, repressed woman who finds herself with therapy and then falls for a married man. Davis holds it together and Paul Henreid acquits himself well in the role that brought him to prominence and had women across America swooning at his dual-cigarette-lighting move.
1942 USA. Director: Irving Rapper. Starring: Bette Davis, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, Gladys Cooper.
Newly Featured!

6:00pm – TCM – Rebel Without a Cause
Nicholas Ray’s best-known movie (though not, I’d argue, his best), likely because it’s one of James Dean’s three films. Dean is a rebellious teen, hanging out with the wrong crowd, whose parents don’t understand him. It all seems a little overwrought these days, but there’s an intensity to Dean and the film that manages to make it still relatable.
1955 USA. Director: Nicholas Ray. Starring: James Dean, Natalie Wood, Sal Mineo.

8:25pm – Sundance – The Darjeeling Limited
Not perhaps my favorite Wes Anderson film, but that’s not really that much of a negative statement for one of my favorite directors. Certainly the central image of the train is a fitting one for his flat, widescreen visual style, and the Indian setting allows for great use of color, so if nothing else, it looks freaking gorgeous.
2007 USA. Director: Wes Anderson. Starring: Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman, Angelica Huston.
(repeat at 2:05am and 10:45am on the 11th, 6:25pm on the 15th, and 7:20am on the 16th)

11:35pm – IFC – The Ladykillers
This film, usually considered one of the Coen Bros’ few misfires, has been coming up in comments a bit recently, thanks to discussions of their current release True Grit, also a remake of a classic film. It’s also one of the few Coen films I haven’t seen.
2004 USA. Director: Joel & Ethan Coen. Starring: Tom Hanks, Marlon Wayans, Irma P. Hall.

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Film on TV: January 3-9

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The Producers, playing on TCM on Sunday

I threw in some stuff on Sundance this week, including Mammoth and Summer Hours (both on Monday) that I haven’t seen but have heard good things about, so I’m hoping I get to check those out. Also note that IFC is playing the Coen Bros. version of The Ladykillers late Wednesday/early Thursday, while TCM has the original version Thursday night – rather apropos given recent conversations about the Coens and remakes. There are a few other newly featured things scattered throughout, the most notable being Mel Brooks’ hilarious send-up of the business of Broadway in The Producers (the original version) and Martin Scorsese’s biopic of Howard Hughes, The Aviator.

Monday, January 3

6:30am – Sundance – Mammoth
A favorite among a few Row Three writers, though not unanimously, this film from Swedish director Lukas Moodysson gives a three-faceted look at the modern world, contrasting an American businessman, his family, their Filipino maid, and her family.
2009 Sweden. Director: Lukas Moodysson. Starring: Gael Garcia Bernal, Michelle Williams, Marife Necesito.
Newly Featured!
(repeats at 12:30pm)

8:40am – Sundance – Grizzly Man
Werner Herzog’s fascination with the duality of nature’s beauty and destructiveness continues into documentary, as he brings the story of grizzly researcher Timothy Treadwell to the screen.
2005 USA. Director: Werner Herzog.
(repeats at 2:40pm)

10:40am – Sundance – No One Knows About Persian Cats
A pair of Iranian rock musicians, unable to perform their music publicly because the government won’t give them a permit, try to put together a final underground gig to raise money to escape the country – it’s based on the actual story of the two people playing the musicians, so there’s an intriguing intersection of reality and fiction.
2009 Iran. Director: Bahman Ghobadi. Starring: Negar Shaghaghi, Ashkan Koshanejad, Hamed Behdad.
(repeats at 4:@5pm)

6:15pm – Sundance – Summer Hours
In what sounds like a very beautiful and meditative film, Olivier Assayas explores a French family as the matriarch prepares for her own passing and then the actions of her family after she does. It got the Criterion treatment almost immediately upon release, which is enough for me to get excited on its own, but I’ve also heard really good things about it.
2008 France. Director: Olivier Assayas. Starring: Juliette Binoche, Charles Berling, Jérémie Renier.
Newly Featured!
(repeats at 5:40am on the 4th, and 9:25am on the 8th)

8:00pm – IFC – Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Easily one of the most absurd, random, hilarious, and quotable comedies of all time. A more hapless bunch of Round Table knights couldn’t be found, and Monty Python has never been better than they are here.
1975 UK. Directors: Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones. Starring: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Michael Palin, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones.
Must See
(repeats at 1:30am on the 4th)

9:30pm -TCM – Morocco
My knowledge of the Josef von Sternberg-Marlene Dietrich cycle of films is woefully slight, but the one I have seen (The Blue Angel) was pretty impressive, so itís an oversight I intend to fix at some point. Dietrich here takes a leap of androgyny with her tuxedo-clad cabaret numbers, while an extremely young Gary Cooper is along for the ride as a Legionnaire.
1930 USA. Director: Josef von Sternberg. Starring: Marlene Dietrich, Gary Cooper, Adolphe Menjou.

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Film on TV: October 25-31

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Strait-Jacket, playing Saturday on TCM.

With TCM already filling every Friday night this month with Hammer horror, I wondered what they were going to save for Halloween itself, but I shouldn’t have worried. What they’ve got all weekend (Friday-Sunday) is a treasure trove of 1930s-1950s horror – everything from early Technicolor horror like Doctor X and The Mystery of the Wax Museum to Val Lewton to Hammer’s Frankenstein films on Friday to a whole raft of William Castle films throughout most of Saturday, another round of Lewton late Saturday early Sunday, then most of Sunday devoted to Roger Corman and Vincent Price. I didn’t single out all of these films, mostly only the ones I’ve – but suffice it to say that if you’re a fan of this style of horror, just keep your TV tuned to TCM all weekend and you’ll be more than happy.

Monday, October 25

6:30am – TCM – Black Orpheus
This reimagining of the Orpheus/Eurydice myth set amidst the Rio de Janeiro Carnival won an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.
1959 Brazil/France. Director: Marcel Camus. Starring: Breno Mello, Marpessa Dawn, Marcel Camus, Léa Garcia, Lourdes de Oliveira.

8:30am – TCM – Summertime
I haven’t seen this David Lean drama, but Kurt and rot were talking about it in some comments recently, and made me more interested in it than I ever have been before. So maybe I’ll check it out.
1955 USA/UK. Director: David Lean. Starring: Katharine Hepburn, Rosanno Brazzi.
Newly Featured!

12:45pm – IFC – Pan’s Labyrinth
One of my absolute favorite films of the past decade (or ever, really), an absolutely beautiful and terrifying fantasy that juxtaposes the gruesome horrors of the Spanish Civil War with an equally horrifying fantasy world that provides, if not escape, at least some measure of importance and control to the film’s young heroine. Guillermo Del Toro solidified my view of him as a visionary filmmaker with this film, and it still stands to me as a testament to what fantasy can and should do.
2006 Spain/Mexico. Director: Guillermo Del Toro. Starring: Ivana Baquero, Sergi López, Meribel Verdú, Doug Jones.
Must See

2:15pm – TCM – One Two Three
Billy Wilder directs James Cagney in fast-talking near mania as a Coca-Cola manager in Berlin tasked with keeping tabs on the boss’s daughter. This comedy moves at breakneck speed, showcasing Wilder and screenwriting partner I.A.L. Diamond’s genius for dialogue. Not as memorable as many of Wilder’s others, perhaps, but a hidden gem.
1961 USA. Director: Billy Wilder. Starring: James Cagney, Pamela Tiffin, Arlene Francis, Horst Buchholz.

4:15pm – TCM – Roman Holiday
Audrey Hepburn’s first lead role, and the one that immediately catapulted her into stardom. She’s a princess who runs away to try out being normal, and spends an adventurous day exploring Rome with incognito journalist Gregory Peck. Pretty much delightful right the way through.
1953 USA. Director: William Wyler. Starring: Gregory Peck, Audrey Hepburn, Eddie Albert.

11:30pm – TCM – Mickey One
This is not a particularly great film, but it is interesting as a pre-Bonnie and Clyde collaboration between Arthur Penn and Warren Beatty, where they’re trying to do some of the same things in terms of bringing European style to an American story. It’s not nearly as successful as Bonnie and Clyde, but it does have its moments.
1965 USA. Director: Arthur Penn. Starring: Warren Beatty, Alexandra Stewart, Hurd Hatfield, Franchot Tone.

3:15am (26th) – TCM – 42nd Street
By 1933 when 42nd Street came out, the Hollywood musical had already died. So excited by the musical possibilities that sound brought in 1927, Hollywood pumped out terrible musical after terrible musical until everyone was sick of them. 42nd Street almost single-handedly turned the tide and remains one of the all-time classic backstage musicals. It may look a little creaky by later standards, but there’s a vitality and freshness to it that can’t be beat.
1932 USA. Director: Lloyd Bacon. Starring: Warner Baxter, Ruby Keeler, George Brent, Bebe Daniels, Dick Powell, Ginger Rogers, Una Merkel.

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Film on TV: October 18-24

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The Wicker Man, playing on Thursday on IFC.

Fantastic week this week for repeats – seriously, tons of amazing films are playing this week, so check those out for any you may have missed. Especially note the Ealing Studios triple feature TCM has on Saturday night, and the early European vampire films they’re playing late Sunday night – hard to find a better double feature than Nosferatu and Vampyr. Among newly featured stuff, we’ve got a trio of them on TCM tonight, including Cameron Crowe’s rock nostalgia trip Almost Famous, which I think hit a couple of our Best of Decade lists last year. IFC has the original The Wicker Man on Thursday, a film I haven’t seen but probably should at some point, and the 2005 Dardenne film L’enfant on Sunday.

Monday, October 18th

4:00pm – TCM – The Heiress
Olivia de Havilland won her second Oscar for her role as the title character in this adaptation of Henry James’ Washington Square, a woman forbidden from love with a young suitor because her controlling father fears the suitor is only a fortune hunter.
1949 USA. Director: William Wyler. Starring: Olivia de Havilland, Montgomery Clift, Ralph Richardson, Miriam Hopkins.

8:00pm – TCM – Oliver!
One of the last of the big 1960s production-number-filled musicals, based on Dickens’ story of Oliver Twist. Like most of the big 1960s musicals, I tend to think it’s a bit overproduced, but it still has a lot of great moments and catchy songs making it a fun time (though a surprisingly brutal one in a couple of scenes).
1968 UK. Director: Carol Reed. Starring: Ron Moody, Mark Lester, Oliver Reed, Shani Wallis, Jack Wild.
Newly Featured!

10:45pm – TCM – The Black Stallion
I wouldn’t dare to guess how many times I saw this movie as a horse-crazy kid, but I would dare argue that its central section with its almost total lack of dialogue as Alec and The Black get to know each other while shipwrecked on a deserted island is still among my favorite sections in any family movie. The bombast of the beginning and ending always exhausted me in comparison.
1979 USA. Director: Kelly Reno, Mickey Rooney, Teri Garr, Hoyt Axton.
Newly Featured!

1:00am (19th) – TCM – Almost Famous
Cameron Crowe turns his semi-autobiographical lens on rock stars, groupies, and rock journalists in one of the greatest combinations of road movie, coming of age movie, and music film ever made. Tender and nostalgic, but not oversentimentalized, with an exhuberance that betrays Crowe’s own background with this music.
2000 USA. Director: Cameron Crowe. Starring: Patrick Fugit, Kate Hudson, Billy Crudup, Frances McDormand.
Newly Featured!

3:15am (19th) – TCM – The Lady from Shanghai
Most of Welles’ films, no matter the genre, feel a little noirish in mood, but The Lady from Shanghai is the real thing, complete with fatalistic hero who gets dragged into a murder plot by a femme fatale (Rita Hayworth). And noir set-pieces don’t get much better than the chase sequence set in a bewildering hall of mirrors.
1948 USA. Director: Orson Welles. Starring: Orson Welles, Rita Hayworth.

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Film on TV: October 11-17

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The Mummy, playing on TCM on Friday. I freaking love this pulp poster style.

There is a bunch of new stuff this week to go along with a good mix of previously featured films. Don’t miss Bergman’s Smiles of a Summer Night on Wednesday, one of his more delightful and accessible films, then Thursday TCM has a bunch of what I’ll call second-tier Hitchcock films, but second-tier Hitchcock is still pretty damn good. Also on Thursday, check out The Claim on IFC – I talk a lot about bad Milla Jovovich films (because I enjoy even the bad ones), but this one is actually good. TCM continues their series of Hammer horror films on Friday with four Mummy films, then carries us through Saturday and Sunday with early Dietrich-von Sternberg collaboration The Blue Angel, the 1960 version of The Time Machine, the silent version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and caps it off with Infernal Affairs, the Hong Kong film remade in 2006 as The Departed. Lots of variety, and of course lots of repeats that are well worth watching or rewatching.

Monday, October 11

6:00am – IFC – Before Sunrise
Before Sunrise may be little more than an extended conversation between two people (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy) who meet on a train in Europe and decide to spend all night talking and walking the streets of Vienna, I fell in love with it at first sight. Linklater has a way of making movies where nothing happens seem vibrant and fascinating, and call me a romantic if you wish, but this is my favorite of everything he’s done.
1995 USA. Director: Richard Linklater. Starring: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy.
Must See
(repeats at 11:25am)

8:00pm – TCM – The Big Sleep
One of the greatest detective/mysteries/films noir ever made. Humphrey Bogart is the definite hard-boiled detective, Lauren Bacall is the potential love interest/femme fatale. Don’t try to follow the story; whodunit is far less important than crackling dialogue and dry humor. Watch out for future Oscar-winner Dorothy Malone (Written on the Wind) in the small but extremely memorable part of the bookshop girl.
1946 USA. Director: Howard Hawks. Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Martha Vickers, Elisha Cook Jr., Dorothy Malone.
Must See

10:00pm – TCM – His Girl Friday
This is a remake of the 1931 film The Front Page about newspaper buddies who go after a major story – Howard Hawks takes it to a whole new level by turning one of the men into a woman, and setting reporters Rosalind Russell and Cary Grant as a former couple, now divorced who can’t seem to stay apart, either personally or professionally. The dialogue is a stroke of genius, as well, overlapping in a maelstrom of words that’s overwhelming and delightful all at the same time. I call this one of the greatest American films ever made.
1940 USA. Director: Howard Hawks. Starring: Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, Ralph Bellamy.
Must See

12:00M – IFC – Shadow of the Vampire
What if actor Max Schreck, who played the vampire in F.W. Murnau’s 1922 Nosferatu, actually WAS a vampire and kept eating various members of the cast and crew? That’s the premise set forth by this slight but entertaining film, with John Malkovich as Murnau and Willem Dafoe as the eccentric Schreck.
2000 USA. Director: E. Elias Merhige. Starring: John Malkovich, Willem Dafoe, Cary Elwes, Catherine McCormack.

2:00am (12th) – TCM – Hail the Conquering Hero
After being discharged from the Army as 4F, Eddie Bracken is pressured into pretending to be a war hero by a group of marines when he returns to his small home town; as things escalate in his honor, he tries to set things straight, but can’t get anyone to listen. This is one of Preston Sturges’ best-known absurd comedies, and he has quite an impressive string of absurd comedies, so that’s saying a lot.
1944 USA. Director: Preston Sturges. Starring Eddie Bracken, Ella Raines, William Demarest, Franklin Pangborn, Raymond Walburn.

4:00am (12th) – TCM – The Palm Beach Story
Similar in tone but less consistent than The Lady Eve, this Preston Sturges film follows bickering couple Joel McCrea and Claudette Colbert as she leaves him to gold dig for a richer man. He follows her, pretending to be her brother, and they get all entangled with a wealthy brother and sister. The ending is a weak bit of trickery, but there are enough moments of hilarity to make it worth watching.
1942 USA. Director: Preston Sturges. Starring: Claudette Colbert, Joel McCrea, Rudy Vallee, Mary Astor.

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Film on TV: September 27-October 3

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Badlands, playing on TCM on Saturday

Not a lot of newly featured ones this week, but a lot of good stuff nonetheless. TCM kicks off October with a set of Hammer Dracula films on Friday night, then has a really nice quintuple feature of “young lovers on the run” films on Saturday, hitting everything Bonnie & Clyde and Badlands to Gun Crazy, They Live By Night, and Boxcar Bertha. It’s such a cool set of films I wish I’d thought of it for the Row Three Rep series! Also enjoy a look back at the Coen Brothers’s debut feature Blood Simple on Sunday.

Monday, September 27

6:00am – IFC – I Heart Huckabees
Not too many films take philosophy as their base, but this one basically does, following a man (Jason Schwartzman) plagued by coincidence who hires a couple of existentialists to figure out what’s going on.
2004 USA. Director: David O. Russell. Starring: Jason Schwartzman, Isabelle Huppert, Dustin Hoffman, Naomi Watts, Mark Wahlberg, Lily Tomlin, Jude Law.

8:05am – IFC – Crimes and Misdemeanors
When Martin Landau’s long-time mistress threatens to expose their affair unless he marries her, he’s faced with the decision to let her ruin his life and career or have her murdered. In a tangentially and thematically-related story, Woody Allen is a documentary filmmaker forced into making a profile of a successful TV producer rather than the socially-conscious films he wants to make. One of Allen’s most thoughtful and philosophically astute films – there are few answers here, but the questions will stay in your mind forever.
1989 USA. Director: Woody Allen. Starring: Woody Allen, Alan Alda, Martin Landau, Anjelica Huston, Claire Bloom, Joanna Gleason.
Must See
(repeats at 1:35pm)

6:45pm – IFC – Thank You for Smoking
Jason Reitman’s breakout film was also one of my favorites of 2005 – sure, it’s a bit slight and isn’t perfect, but its story of a hotshot PR guy working for cigarette companies struck just the right note of cynical and absurd humor. The really high-quality cast doesn’t hurt either, with everybody, no matter how small their role, making a memorable impression.
2005 USA. Director: Jason Reitman. Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Katie Holmes, Rob Lowe, Maria Bello, David Koechner, J.K. Simmons, Adam Brody, Sam Elliott.
(repeats at 1:45am on the 28th)

12:00M – IFC – Requiem for a Dream
Darren Aronofsky’s breakthrough film (Pi remains a cult favorite) follows a quartet of people as their lives spiral out of control due to drug addiction.
2000 USA. Director: Darren Aronofsky. Starring: Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly, Marlon Wayans.

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Film on TV: July 19-25

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Shaft, playing late Saturday/early Sunday on TCM

A lot of repeats this week, but also a few notable newly featured ones, including Werner Herzog’s documentary Grizzly Man on Monday, David Lean’s definitive version of Oliver Twist on Thursday, quintessential blaxploitation film Shaft late Saturday night, and a pair of Oscar-winning foreign films in Black Orpheus and Two Women on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

Monday, July 19

8:00am – IFC – Howl’s Moving Castle
Hayao Miyazaki has been a leader in the world of kid-friendly anime films for several years now, and while many would point to Spirited Away as his best film, I actually enjoyed Howl’s Moving Castle the most of all his films. Japanese animation takes some getting used to, but Miyazaki’s films are well worth it, and serve as a wonderful antidote to the current stagnation going on in American animation (always excepting Pixar).
2004 Japan. Director: Hayao Miyazaki. Starring (dubbed voices): Christian Bale, Emily Mortimer, Jean Simmons, Lauren Bacall
(repeats at 3:05pm)

10:05am – IFC – Hero
Jet Li is the titular hero in this Zhang Yimou film, arguably the best of Yimou’s period action-on-wires films (though I’m partial to House of Flying Daggers myself). The story unfolds in flashback as Li explains to a warlord how he eliminated three would-be assassins (who happen to be three of Hong Kong cinema’s biggest stars, incidentally) – but all may not be precisely how it seems.
2002 China. Director: Zhang Yimou. Starring: Jet Li, Zhang Ziyi, Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung.
(repeats at 5:15pm)

3:30pm – TCM – 2001: A Space Odyssey
The benchmark for intellectual science fiction, Kubrick’s probable masterpiece is a mindbending ride through a mysteriously alien-driven evolution, with plenty of time for man vs. machine conflict, beautiful space ballet, and gorgeous cinematography.
1968 USA. Director: Stanley Kubrick. Starring: Keir Dullea, Douglas Rain, Gary Lockwood, William Sylvester.
Must See

8:00pm – Sundance – Grizzly Man
Werner Herzog’s fascination with the duality of nature’s beauty and destructiveness continues into documentary, as he brings the story of grizzly researcher Timothy Treadwell to the screen.
2005 USA. Director: Werner Herzog.
Newly Featured!
(repeats at 8:15am and 3:20pm on the 24th)

4:45am (20th) – TCM – On the Beach
After nuclear war, most of humanity is destroyed; a small outpost in Australia survives, but not for long. See David’s longer take here;.
1959 USA. Director: Stanley Kramer. Starring: Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire.

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