Posted by Susan Doll on December 5, 2011
On a cold, blustery Chicago afternoon, I was safely tucked in the back row of a theater watching Vertigo as it was intended to be seen—on the big screen in 35mm with a theater full of movie buffs, cinephiles, and Hitchcock fans. The rich, saturated colors of the new print were a treat after seeing so many contemporary films shot in the drab, flat, burnished colors of digital cinematography. The film was followed by a commentary and discussion led by mystery writer Sara Paretsky and psychologist James W. Anderson, a professor at Northwestern University. Watching Vertigo on the big screen helped me notice details that had eluded me on previous viewings, while comments by Paretsky and Anderson offered a different point of view on the film. I also learned a great deal from the insightful observations of the audience members.
Posted by Kimberly Lindbergs on August 25, 2011
Sir Sean Connery is celebrating his 81st birthday today and I thought it would be a great time to share my appreciation for his terrific performance in Basil Dearden’s entertaining thriller, WOMAN OF STRAW (1964). The handsome Scottish actor with a deep gravely voice and piercing dark eyes has appeared in more than 65 films during his long career but WOMAN OF STRAW is one of the few films where Connery was given the opportunity to shed his good guy image and portray a ruthless villain.
Posted by Kimberly Lindbergs on June 2, 2011
Anthony Perkins is one of my favorite actors so I was thrilled when I recently got the opportunity to see Alan Rudolph’s 1978 film REMEMBER MY NAME. In the movie Perkins plays a man being stalked by his former wife (Geraldine Chaplin) but his low-key performance is just one of the elements that made REMEMBER MY NAME such a memorable viewing experience. I was predisposed to like Alan Rudolph’s neo-noir but his film surprised me in ways that I hadn’t expected and made me gain a new appreciation for the director’s work.
Rudolph forgoes simplistic plot devices and a clear narrative structure in REMEMBER MY NAME to explore the mind of Emily (Geraldine Page) who has recently been released from jail and has decided to track down her ex-husband (Perkins) and his new wife (Perkin’s real-life wife, Berry Berenson) in an attempt to frighten them. When she’s not terrorizing the couple, Emily tries to fit into conventional society by getting herself a new wardrobe, a new hairstyle and a new job but these superficial attempts at living mask untapped passions and a seething bitterness that have laid dormant for years. Emily is not a happy woman and she aggressively dismisses anyone that gets in her way while seeking revenge on the one person who she believes has made her life a living hell. That person is Neil, her ex-husband, who is surprisingly sympathetic at first. I’ve always been impressed with the ways in which Anthony Perkins can make the most despicable characters seem benign and in REMEMBER MY NAME he does an exceptional job of making us think that Neil is a considerate and caring man who is deeply concerned for the safety of his family. But his benevolent behavior masks a troubled past full of dark secrets and lies that never fully reveal themselves to the audience. The film also features brief but memorable performances from Jeff Goldblum, Alfre Woodard and in particular Moses Gunn, as the considerate manager of the halfway house that Emily is forced to live in after leaving prison.
Posted by Kimberly Lindbergs on April 14, 2011
Jennifer’s gone missing. She was supposed to be looking after her uncle’s sprawling estate, which appears to have been abandoned since the Great Depression, but no one has seen her in weeks. Did she run off with an unknown lover? Did she swindle an undisclosed sum of money from her previous boss and head to Mexico on a cruise ship? Or was Jennifer murdered by a mysterious killer and buried somewhere on the property? These are the questions that will plague Agnes Langly (Ida Lupino) after she’s hired to replace the missing woman as the new caretaker in Joel Newton’s low-key thriller simply titled JENNIFER (1953).
Posted by Kimberly Lindbergs on March 3, 2011
Are human beings inherently cruel or do we learn cruelty by example? Does our genetic makeup dictate our personalities at birth or are we shaped by numerous circumstances including our environments and upbringing? To borrow the title of a current popular song, are we “born this way” or are we more complex creatures than our personal DNA map might suggest? The nature vs. nurture debate has been going on for centuries and many films have attempted to tackle it head on. One of the best examples of this is Peter Brooks’ extraordinary film adaptation of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies (1963), which argues that people are savages at heart and in the right circumstances we’re all likely to turn on one another. Another film, which I recently had the opportunity to watch, champions the other side of the argument. John Mackenzie’s haunting film adaptation of Giles Cooper’s radio play UNMAN, WITTERING AND ZIGO (1971) questions the example set by Lord of the Flies and suggests that we’re taught savage behaviors, which could manifest in acts of violence.
Posted by keelsetter on January 30, 2011
Last week I saw 20 films in five days at Sundance. With just over 200 films listed in the index, that means I barely covered 10% of the slate. Documentaries are a Sundance forté, so it’s not surprising that almost half of the films I screened fall into this category. Similarly, as most docs these days never get transferred to film that accounts for why about half of all my screenings were digital projections. Happily, despite many rumblings by industry pundits regarding the eminent death of 35mm film, most of the narrative features were still on celluloid. Huzzah! READ MORE
Posted by Kimberly Lindbergs on January 20, 2011
My movie viewing experiences have been rather disappointing lately. I’ve spent a lot of time catching up with the critical and box office successes of 2010 and many of them have left me scratching my head and wondering what I’m missing. But it isn’t just new films that have led to disappointment and lots of wasted hours in recent weeks. I also made the mistake of ordering a couple of duds from the Warner Archive Collection, which was really frustrating. As much as I appreciate Warner and other studios making many of their older films available on DVD-R I can’t possibly afford to buy everything I want to see and I prefer to rent a film before purchasing it so I can decide if it’s worth owning. Most of the films I’m interested in buying are obscure titles so there’s very little critical information available about them. To make matters worse, the viewer ratings on the Warner Archive site tend to be extremely favorable and every film seems to receive four or five star reviews. I don’t particularly like writing about films I dislike but in this case I feel like I’m doing a public service by warning potential buyers to be weary of THEY ONLY KILL THEIR MASTERS (1972).
I’ve been curious about THEY ONLY KILL THEIR MASTERS for years mainly due to its catchy title and subject matter. I also love a good mystery and the movie’s original poster art grabbed my attention. The film’s plot centers around the murder of a beautiful and mysterious woman in a small California coastal town. It’s assumed that she was killed by her dog, a Doberman Pinscher, that was found hovering over her dead body. Naturally there aren’t a lot of suspects in a town with such a small population but the local sheriff (James Garner) takes his time looking for clues and interviewing potential witnesses. Throughout the course of the film a few red herrings are tossed around without much forethought until the whole thing comes to an unimaginative end.
Posted by Kimberly Lindbergs on January 13, 2011
Like many film fans, I was disappointed to learn that Anne Francis had passed away on January 2 due to complications from pancreatic cancer. She was 80 years old at the time and is fondly remembered for her roles in movies like Susan Slept Here (Frank Tashlin; 1954), Blackboard Jungle (Richard Brooks; 1955), Bad Day at Black Rock (John Sturges; 1955) and the science fiction classic Forbidden Planet (Fred M. Wilcox; 1956). She also appeared in many popular television shows including The Twilight Zone (1960-63), The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (1963-65) and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (1964). And won an Emmy for her starring role in Honey West (1965-66).
The beautiful and athletic actress always seemed to have a sparkle in her eye and the tiny mole that accented her winning smile gave her a distinct look that was hard to forget. She wasn’t your typical blond bombshell. Anne Francis was a brainy and tough broad who could obviously take care of herself and I admired her apparent confidence as well as her sense of humor.
Posted by keelsetter on October 24, 2010
A nice 35mm print of Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom (1960) is making the theatrical rounds thanks to Rialto Pictures. (Its next three screening engagements are in Boulder, Chicago, and Charlottesville.) Peeping Tom has interesting similarities to Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. Both were released the same year and feature seemingly shy and timid protagonists with murderous issues. More importantly, both films show venerated directors working at the peak of their powers and delivering an artistic tour-de-force on that core subject that weds an audience to any film: voyeurism. There are also some very important differences. Psycho was shot in black-and-white with a budget of under one million dollars and reaped profits that skyrocketed to a worldwide gross beyond the $50 million mark. Peeping Tom had a similar production budget, but was shot in Powell’s preferred color-saturated medium of Technicolor and was a financial disaster. Even worse, it dealt Powell’s career a crippling blow. Both have now long been studied and revered as masterpieces, so what went wrong for Peeping Tom? READ MORE
Posted by keelsetter on July 11, 2010
I recently got back from extended travels to face a backlog of queries from Colorado friends and neighbors regarding the belated start of my 16mm backyard cinema program. Using FaceBook I asked if people had a preference for either Preston Sturges, Richard Fleischer, or Billy Wilder. The latter got a big shout-out, and then I promptly ignored all feedback (not to mention my own question) and, instead, screened William Friedkin’s The French Connection (1971). One viewer asked me “Why The French Connection?” I was tempted to simply answer “Why not? It’s my party, and I’ll peel rubber if I want to.” But the longer response was the one I employed when introducing the film to the first audience of my summer film program. It went something like this: READ MORE
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