Posted by R. Emmet Sweeney on June 21, 2016
Summer has officially arrived, along with the mounting pressure to enjoy it before it passes. The filmmaker who most deeply investigated the contradictions of the sweaty months is Eric Rohmer, whose summer films contain placid surfaces rippled by violent speech. His characters are surrounded by beauty and inevitably beset by anxieties of how their time there is being wasted, ticking away. Since I have no summer getaway planned, I have chosen instead to get away with Rohmer, by viewing his summer-set films, and writing about them throughout the season. My guide will be the door stopping Eric Rohmer: A Biography (Columbia University Press), by Antoine Baecque and Noël Herpe (newly translated by Steven Rendall and Lisa Neal). First up is La Collectionneuse (1967), part of his series of Six Moral Tales, a chronicle of a poisoned vacation near Saint-Tropez. Two men attempt to subsume themselves in nature, but instead resort to their true selves when a young woman joins the house, whereupon they descend to macho posing and bickering.
Posted by R. Emmet Sweeney on June 14, 2016
I marked the arrival of summer by watching one of Delmer Daves’ grandly romantic teen melodramas, Rome Adventure (1962). It is earnestly sweet travelogue about a 21-year-old ex-librarian who seeks her independence in Italy and falls for blonde bombshell Troy Donahue. Like the other films Daves made with Donahue (A Summer Place, Parrish, Susan Slade), Rome Adventure is disarmingly frank about the desires of its randy young characters. Instead it revels in the unstable beauty of these kids and their still-forming moralities. Rome Adventure pairs teen idol Donahue with the plucky, world-weary Suzanne Pleshette, an immensely likable personality to follow for the two-hours of the film’s Roman tour. Much of the film’s pleasures derive from simply walking around Rome with two-good looking kids while admiring Charles Lawton’s Technicolor cinematography. Since I won’t be making any European vacations myself this summer, Rome Adventure will have to do.
Posted by Greg Ferrara on June 5, 2016
Today on TCM, the 1982 comedy My Favorite Year airs and it marked Peter O’Toole’s twentieth year as a star. His stardom began with his breakout role in Lawrence of Arabia in 1962 and continued, with some ups and downs, for the next 50 plus years. He even has a movie out in 2016, three years after his death. It’s The Whole World at Our Feet and obviously whatever part he has in it was filmed some time ago. His career, on the whole, probably has many more duds than hits and his selection wasn’t always the best. There were long dry spells in his career, enough that his starring role in The Stunt Man, released in 1980, was considered a comeback for him, even though he’d been nominated for Best Actor just eight years prior for The Ruling Class. The problem was, after The Ruling Class, he appeared in one flop after another. Still, there’s no doubt that O’Toole left this life a legend and also little doubt that his eventual status as a legend was probably cemented right out of the starting gate with that breakout role as Lawrence. For many others, the path has not been so clear.
Posted by R. Emmet Sweeney on May 31, 2016
In June of 1967, Thomas Leonhard’s children disappeared. They vanished along with his ex-wife and her new husband. A year later Leonhard would learn that they were given new identities as part of the FBI’s Witness Protection Program. A cement mason in Buffalo, New York, Leonhard spent the next eight years in State and Federal courts trying to win the right to see his two kids. This remarkable story became the subject of Leslie Waller’s true crime novel Hide in Plain Sight, which James Caan would adapt for his directorial debut in 1980. Caan wanted the film to be a “cinema verite kind of thing”, so he shot the film on location in Buffalo, with most of the film unfurling as a low-key docudrama, sticking to the everyday details of Leonhard’s life. United Artists considered it too arty and a money loser, so it did not receive the full support of the studio, despite largely positive critical notices. It has been available on DVD from Warner Archive for a few years, but what led me to Hide in Plain Sight was the Buffalo News’ list of the top ten films shot in Western New York. Buffalo is my hometown, and it hasn’t had much luck on the silver screen, aside from Vincent Gallo’s idiosyncratic Buffalo ’66 and some turn-of-the-century Edison shorts (I am partial to A Trip Around the Pan-American Exposition (1901)). Locals have always been most proud of The Natural (and its use of Parkside Candy Shop), but for me, Hide in Plain Sight presents a more complete view of the city, from the bars to the factories to the zoo.
Posted by Susan Doll on May 30, 2016
On Saturday, June 4, TCM pays tribute to actor Roy Scheider by showcasing three of his films, The French Connection, The Seven Ups, and 2010. Scheider’s greatest success came during the Film School Generation, an era when directors sought new levels of realism, experimented with form and content, and cast ordinary-looking method actors instead of conventionally handsome movie stars. With his thin body, angular face, and broken nose (the result of an early flirtation with boxing), Scheider exhibited the everyman quality directors preferred.
I did not fully appreciate Scheider until I began showing movies from the 1970s and 1980s in my film studies classes. As I watched some of his best performances over and over, I became a fan. Though I respect all the talented actors from the Film School Generation, I believe Scheider is the era’s best chameleon in that he was completely absorbed into his roles. Pacino seems too showy; De Niro too iconic; Hoffman too calculated; Hackman too physically unappealing. As my personal contribution to TCM’s tribute, I offer ten facts that I did not know about Roy Scheider, which I hope inspires an appreciation of his talents and contributions.
Posted by Greg Ferrara on May 20, 2016
A few months ago, I wrote a piece here on some of my favorite ensembles of supporting players where the leads were far from my favorite thing. I focused on how with certain movies, the main story didn’t grab me but the great supporting cast did. Well, as I wrote that I already had in mind a piece on my favorite casts, period, the ones in which I love pretty much every lead and supporting player in the enterprise. Still, I didn’t think about it far beyond that original post until coming upon a movie on the schedule today and everything came flooding back in. The movie is The Wild Bunch and it’s one of my favorite movies, the kind that becomes a favorite from the moment you see it and remains so through multiple viewings down the road. And one of the reasons it’s such a favorite is that cast. One of the best casts ever assembled.
Posted by R. Emmet Sweeney on May 17, 2016
Secrets of the French Police is an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink oddity that flings together police procedurals, adventure serials, and a horror villain with hypno-murder powers. Never settling into one genre for more than a few scenes, it’s totally incoherent and bizarrely entertaining, as it absorbs influences from the famous French Inspector Bertillon to Dracula and The Mystery of the Wax Museum. This RKO programmer from 1932 is now on DVD as part of the Warner Archive’s Forbidden Hollywood Volume 10, and is recommended for those with attention deficit disorder.
Posted by R. Emmet Sweeney on May 10, 2016
After viewing Too Late For Tears (1949), I would advise all couples against accepting cash-stuffed valises of mysterious origin. Sure, it would be nice to be raised up out of your dead-end middle-class marriage, but there is the whole issue of the money’s origin, and the pile-up of bodies that keeping the cash may entail. Too Late For Tears is a vicious little film noir with a flinty, sociopathic performance by Lizabeth Scott, but it had been in public domain purgatory for decades, circulating in muddy transfers under its re-release title Killer Bait. The Film Noir Foundation has lobbied for its restoration for years, and with the help of a Hollywood Foreign Press grant, the UCLA Film and Television Archive was able to reconstruct the film from a 35mm nitrate French dupe negative, a 35mm acetate re-issue print, and a 16mm acetate. The result can be seen in a superb new Blu-ray from Flicker Alley, complete with Alan K. Rode audio commentary and a highly informative essay by Brian Light. [...MORE]
Posted by R. Emmet Sweeney on May 3, 2016
The light comedy The Man and the Moment (1929) was considered lost until a dupe negative was recently discovered at Cineteca Italiana di Milano. This part-talkie from First National Pictures was restored in 2K by Warner Bros. at L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory in Bologna, and was released on Warner Archive DVD last month. A charming proto-screwball comedy, it’s about a marriage of convenience between a rich playboy and an impetuous adventuress that ends up destroying planes, boats and nightclub aquariums. Made during the transition to sound, it exemplifies the stereotype of that era’s stiff, static line readings. It has snap and vigor in the silent sequences, and grinds to a halt for dialogue. This is not aided by leading man Rod la Rocque, who is a debonair charmer in the silent sequences and a wooden statue during dialogue. His co-star Billie Love is more of a natural, and she waltzes away with the film.
Posted by Kimberly Lindbergs on April 29, 2016
Sophia Loren is getting the red carpet treatment on Turner Classic Movies tonight (April 28). If you tune in at 8 PM EST/ 5 PM PST you can catch the multi-talented Italian actress in a live interview with her youngest son (Eduardo Ponti) that was recorded during her appearance at the TCM Classic Film Festival in 2015. The interview is followed by a number of her films including the short Human Voice (2014) and four full-length features: Marriage, Italian Style (1964), Arabesque (1966), The Priest’s Wife (1970) and More Than a Miracle (1967).
Her most recent starring role is in a commercial for Dolce & Gabana’s new fragrance, ‘Dolce Rosa Excelsa.’ The ad was shot by Academy Award-winning director Giuseppe Tornatore (Cinema Paradiso; 1988, A Pure Formality; 1994, The Legend of 1900; 1998, etc.) and features a score by Maestro Ennio Morricone. In this extravagant three-minute production (currently streaming on Youtube) Sophia Loren plays the matriarch of a large family that is restoring a luxurious Sicilian estate. It’s a charming commercial and while watching I was reminded that Loren had appeared in another perfume advertising campaign during the 1980s for Coty’s ‘Sophia’ fragrance, which was named after the actress. This got me thinking and my curiosity sent me on a quest. I decided to try and track down as many movie star scents as I could and what I discovered genuinely surprised me. What follows is a select pictorial of perfumes made famous by the actors who inspired, promoted and occasionally played a part in creating them.
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