The 12 Movie Meme, started by Lazy Eye Theatre, was created in honor of the New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles. Each person “tagged” by Lazy Eye Theatre was asked to come up with 6 fantasy double bills, and then tag five friends to do the same. I was tagged by Christian Divine at the fabulous Oh My Blog. Since I actually did book a rep house back in my theater-booking days, I welcomed the chance to throw together some of my favorite films with varied themes. Here they be…
MONDAY-TUESDAY Foreign Romantic Angst
LOVERS OF THE ARCTIC CIRCLE (1998)
THE PRINCESS AND THE WARRIOR (2000)
WEDNESDAY-THURSDAY Widescreen Val Guest
HELL IS A CITY (1960)
THE DAY THE EARTH CAUGHT FIRE (1961)
FRIDAY-SATURDAY Creative Editing-Playing With Time
POINT BLANK (1967)
SEANCE ON A WET AFTERNOON (1964)
BLACK NARCISSUS (1947)
THE AGE OF INNOCENCE (1993)
And finally, my self-serving irresistible double bill that I hope to one day see:
THURSDAY-FRIDAY Contemporary Horror Films About Children
THE PLAGUE: WRITERS & DIRECTOR’S CUT (2006)
THE ORPHANAGE (2007)
LOVERS & PRINCESS: Spanish director Julio Medem’s engrossing, fairy-tale like romance, LOVERS OF THE ARCTIC CIRCLE, about palindromes, fate, deep love and otherworldly attraction, is both light-hearted and deeply moving. Not to mention exquisitely shot and performed. The two leads are as engaging to watch (both as adults and as pubescent teens) as they are mysteriously bound to one another.
I’ve always thought LOVERS a good companion piece to Tom Tykwer’s follow-up to RUN LOLA RUN, THE PRINCESS AND THE WARRIOR. Despite a somewhat misleading title, this German romance does have a fable-like quality that captures the essence of two people inexplicably drawn to one another. Franka Potente is mesmerizing and complex as our institutionally-raised heroine, and Benno Furman is the perfect mix of brooding angst and inescapable heroism. Both films mix romance with a great urban sense of adventure.
HELL & DAY: Val Guest’s Hammer Film Production, HELL IS A CITY, is, to me, one of the great British Noirs of the 50’s and 60’s. Stanley Baker’s Manchester detective is quintessentially cool and quietly tormented. The film has some of the best black and white photography and 2.35:1 compositions ever.
It seems only fitting to follow this film with another Guest widescreen treat, THE DAY THE EARTH CAUGHT FIRE. While not exactly the science fiction film its title suggests, DAY is a terrific character study that takes a deep look at world politics, journalism and humanity’s desire to continually push the boundaries of our own survival. Riveting and frightening in many ways, the film also boasts great performances by Leo McKern, Janet Monro and Edward Judd, as well as Michael Caine’s first onscreen appearance (more recognizable by voice than face). Beautifully directed, DAY is a gem from England’s cinematic past.
PETULIA & BLANK: These films are outstanding lessons in the supreme power of editing. How a story unfolds can and will completely change our experience of that story. Both Richard Lester’s PETULIA and John Boorman’s POINT BLANK move back and forth in time creating emotional collages that both challenge and thrill. PETULIA captures the confusion of two generations clashing and intermingling and showcases startling performances by George C. Scott and Julie Christie, as well as Shirley Knight in a knock-out supporting role. The film also gives us a rare glimpse into San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury scene at its Summer of Love peak.
POINT BLANK may be Lee Marvin at his coolest. Whether a Marvin fan or not, it’s hard not to get swept up in Boorman’s noirish world of rich characters played by the likes of Carroll O’Connor, Keenan Wynn, John Vernon and the always lust-worthy Angie Dickenson. It’s betrayal and payback at its most brutal and inspired. And like PETULIA, BLANK keeps you on your toes as the story shifts back and forth in time with startling results. The editing of both image and sound is, in my opinion, unmatched to this day.
SEANCE & SEANCE: Both films were adapted from Mark McShane’s novel and, though obviously taken from the same source, these two films seen back to back are the perfect illustration of how different two adaptations can be. SEANCE ON A WET AFTERNOON, adapted and directed by Bryan Forbes, is a riveting film held tightly together by the captivating performances of both Kim Stanley and Richard Attenborough (I dare you to take your eyes off either of them), and Forbes’ mesmerizing, leisurely pace.
Director Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s SEANCE continues the director’s exploration of all things supernatural. It’s a haunting tale that, like so many of K. Kurosawa’s films, is something more felt than understood. It is not a world of logic, but a world of mood and tone, of impending dread, of something deep within the gut. Kurosawa’s SEANCE takes far more liberties with the source material than Forbes did, but the underlying structure remains and it’s a testament to the unique creativity of these two filmmakers that they could make films so similar, and yet so completely different.
BLACK & AGE: Michael Powell’s masterpiece BLACK NARCISSUS is one of my favorite films of all time. Defying genre, BLACK takes us deep into the repressed hearts and souls of a group of nuns attempting to start a nunnery atop the Himalayas. Though shot entirely on a backlot, the film easily persuades you it was shot on location. It is one of the most unusual, engaging, beautiful, intriguing, operatic films you will ever see. Part drama, part thriller, part travelogue. Deborah Kerr’s portrayal of a woman come face-to-face with everything she has struggled so intensely to avoid is poignant, painful, joyful and easily among her best work in what was a long and illustrious career. And Jack Cardiff’s stunning technicolor cinematography is the veritable icing on the cake.
Martin Scorsese’s THE AGE OF INNOCENCE is considered by its director to be one of his most “violent” films. Though not a spec of blood is shed, the emotional and social violence that takes place within this repressed society –with its damaging and restrictive rules and mores– is stunningly represented in this Scorsese film I rate as one of his all-time best and, in many ways, most brutal.
PLAGUE & ORPHANAGE: Yes, I couldn’t resist adding my own unreleased Writers & Director’s Cut of THE PLAGUE to this list. Ever since viewing Juan Antonio Bayona’s haunting, beautiful and deeply frightening Spanish film THE ORPHANAGE, I’ve wanted to see these two movies play the New Beverly together. Both films have children at their cores and both have a distinct point of view as to how the worlds of adults and children coexist and, quite often, clash. Both films also beg the question, who or what is the real monster here? While THE PLAGUE: WRITERS & DIRECTOR’S CUT has not seen the theatrical light of day as yet (go here for more on that), THE ORPHANAGE is available and, maybe one day if all goes as planned, this double bill will happen. And when it does, I’ll see you there.