Tuesday, October 22, 2013

OCTOBER CHILLS: DON'T LOOK NOW (1973)


I envy anyone who's yet to watch Don't Look Now.  Even as a film that's only gained acclaim over the years since its 1973 release, it's still an under-the-radar classic waiting to be discovered by many of the most voracious film fans, despite recently being declared the best British film of all time by Time Out London.  Directed by the great Nicholas Roeg, whose 1971 film Walkabout is in my personal top ten, Don't Look Now tells the story of Laura and John Baxter (winningly portrayed by Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland), a couple still processing the drowning death of their daughter, Christine (Sharon Williams).



Based on a short story by Daphne Du Maurier, whose other works had previously been adapted by Alfred Hitchcock for Rebecca, Jamaica Inn, and The Birds, Roeg's treatment of the supernatural, manifested as psychic visions experienced by John and the questionable predictions of a clairvoyant blind woman (Hilary Mason), is a brilliant ploy to distract from the film's central theme; at its core, Don't Look Now is about primal, insurmountable grief from which there is no chance of recovery.



From the magnificently brutal opening where we witness Christine's drowning to the wicked irony of the film's denouement, the whole of the film is spent observing how tragedy has altered John, Laura, and their connection to each other.  Roeg's patented intercutting of time and space constructs a present where, though physically in Venice, John's emotional and mental states are frozen in the moment when his daughter perished back in England.  But even the current timeline offers no respite, as John begins seeing what could be visions of his daughter and wife against the waterlogged vistas of this iconic Italian backdrop. 



Don't Look Now is a challenging and ambitious vision of what horror films can achieve if the locus of terror is placed internally within the characters.  Nothing against films where the threat comes from without, but Roeg's map of the unspeakable is more finely illustrated than those of even the most prolific and revered craftsmen (and women) of the genre.  If you've never seen Don't Look Now, it's time.  Everyone else, why not give it another go?  It's a damn fine film, more than worthy of another look.























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Friday, October 4, 2013

OCTOBER CHILLS: THE INNOCENTS (1961)


'Tis the season, so expect at least a few posts on The Rain Falls Down on Portlandtown during October to focus on horror (and/or just plain spooky) movies.  That being said, I wanted to start things off with a bang by highlighting a film from my personal top-ten.  Pauline Kael called Jack Clayton's 1961 gothic horror masterpiece The Innocents, "the best ghost movie I've ever seen."  Despite disagreeing with Kael on a few of her more controversial opinions (her vocal distaste for Hitchcock and Shoah being the most glaring examples), we're absolutely cine-buddies when it comes to the creepy atmospherics on offer in The Innocents.



One could certainly quibble with Pauline over the matter of whether or not Clayton's adaptation of Henry James' "The Turn of the Screw" is, in fact, a ghost story at all: Deborah Kerr's governess character, Miss Giddens, is arguably the most sinister thing going on in the film, given her determination to "love people and help them...even if they refuse my help...even if it hurts them sometimes."  Indeed, much of the pleasure of watching The Innocents boils down to the question of whether Miss Giddens supernatural encounters are real or imagined.



With two damaged, young children under her care, Kerr's unreliable sense of the objective steers the film towards a terrifying close, where no viewer can truly know whether the children (and Giddens) are being haunted by the spirits of their former governess and her lover or by Miss Giddens' stringently orthodox notions about morality and humanity's failure to rise to it.  As the college film professor who turned me on to The Innocents noted, there are strong clues present during the opening title sequence, just listen to the trembling prayer being offered up by Giddens.



In addition the central conundrum of the film, The Innocents sports crisply composed black and white compositions by the great English cinematographer Freddie Francis (Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, The Elephant Man), biting dialogue script doctored by none other than Truman Capote, and two of the creepiest child actors (Martin Stephens and Pamela Franklin) ever to have graced the silver screen.  All of which falls under the direction of Jack Clayton, whose later work on Something Wicked This Way Comes spooked an entire generation of Disney fans.



Out of the entire pack of older films that I'll be posting about this month in this "October Chills" series, The Innocents is by far the best of the bunch. 

Highly recommended viewing!










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Thursday, October 3, 2013

BOWIE IN TIGHTS: LABYRINTH AT THE 99W DRIVE-IN


Some time back, I mentioned Portland's perennial love for a very short list of films, many of which have the name Jim Henson attached to them.  I'm not even going to pretend to understand.  While I definitely had my time in the sun with Mr. Henson, I've been out of short pants for a few decades now and don't find myself returning all that often to his oeuvre, though that's likely to change as my kiddo piles on the years.

Okay, full disclosure: not a day goes by without an Elmo clip being leveraged in exchange for tooth brushing, but I digress.




For those of you who enjoy marinating in childhood nostalgia, there's something to celebrate as the 99W Drive-in in Newberg welcomes back Henson's 1986 film Labyrinth, an extended experiment in puppets, musical fantasy, and David Bowie in very tight (or is it magical?) pants.  Sure, there's a fall chill in the air and the 99W isn't exactly a short drive from PDX, but bring a blanket, Portland, and you'll be rewarded for your efforts with a 35mm screening of your 3rd or 4th favorite film that doesn't star Seth Rogen or Paul Rudd, okay?  And, since the drive-in recently succeeded in their campaign to digitally upgrade their operation, this is pretty close to your final chance to see a film projected on actual film at a local outdoor theater.




As is the gold standard for drive-ins, admission to the 99W gets you a double scoop of film entertainment.  This week's second feature is We're the Millers, which currently holds a not-so-fresh score of 48% on a certain "tomatometer".  But, hey...Labyrinth!






Labyrinth plays in a double feature with We're the Millers on Friday, October 4th through Sunday, October 6th at the 99W Drive-in.  More info available here.

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Thursday, September 26, 2013

PBS' AMERICAN CINEMA EMBRACES THE DARK SIDE: THE FILM NOIR EPISODE IS ON YOUTUBE


Yeah, I spent an unreasonable amount of my weekend peering up at The Hollywood Theatre's screen during Noir City Portland.  Do I regret it at all?  Of course not; if I have any regrets, it's that I missed 3 of the 8 features, but sometimes a guy has things he's gotta do, y'know.  Even so, those other priorities haven't kept me from spending a good deal of time thinking about and craving more noir and film noir related highs.  For instance, after skipping out on the third feature on Saturday night, I still ended up streaming Gun Crazy at home on the Warner Archive Instant service.  


DEADLY IS THE FEMALE aka GUN CRAZY


I was also pleased to stumble across the film noir episode of the fairly great 1995 PBS series American Cinema on YouTube.  I hadn't viewed the series since it first aired on public television, so it was great to take another look at a series that, at the time of its release, had a strong influence in reinforcing my obsession with old films.

Anyone with even a mild interest in noir should get a kick out of the episode (introduced by series host John Lithgow).  So here it is, narrated by one of my all-time favorite noir actors, Mr. Richard Widmark (Pickup on South Street, Panic in the Streets, Kiss of Death, & Night and the City), and featuring great insights by Martin Scorsese, Kathryn Bigelow, Paul Schrader, and many of the writers, actors, and directors responsible for some of the greatest entries in the genre:
 



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THE GOLDEN COACH & LE NOTTI BIANCHE: HANGING OUT WITH RENOIR AND VISCONTI THIS WEEKEND



A couple of great films are coming to my workplace this weekend.  Luchino Visconti's fatalistically romantic 1957 adaptation of Dostoevsky's "White Nights," Le Notti Bianche is Marcello Mastroianni's first outing as a leading man playing opposite Maria Schell.  Also on tap, Jean Renoir's The Golden Coach has Anna Magnani playing an actress with three men actively vying for her favor.  The latter film will be screened on 35mm.














Le Notti Bianche (White Nights) screens Friday, September 27th and Sunday, September 29th at the NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium (in the Portland Art Museum).  Click here for more info.

The Golden Coach screens at the NW Film Center.  Click here for more info.


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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

SING-A-LONG WITH CAPTAIN VON TRAPP AT CINEMA 21


You can't get much more iconic than Julie Andrews spinning through Austrian hills in Robert Wise's The Sound of Music.  Well, beginning Thursday, Cinema 21's going to give you a chance to try your hardest to outsing the old girl when Sing-A-Long Sound of Music returns to Portland.  Whether you bring a group of friends or decide to caterwaul with a bunch of strangers, the event promises you the rare opportunity to be loud at the movies without getting tossed out of the theater on your head. 





Here's a glimpse at the release for the event:

The hit, interactive, musical phenomenon, SING-A-LONG SOUND OF MUSIC, returns to Portland for 7 full performances at Cinema 21 September 26 - October 6, 2013! Having started in the UK back in 1999, the Sing-a-Long Sound of Music show has now become a worldwide hit, playing to packed houses across the globe with over 10,000 performances in 11 different countries! It’s even filled the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles – 7 times! 

For those of you not yet converted, Sing-a-Long Sound of Music is a screening of the classic Julie Andrews film musical in glorious, full-screen technicolor, complete with subtitles so that the whole audience can sing along! The fun-filled show starts with a vocal warm-up led by the evening’s host, who also takes the audience through their complimentary "magic moments pack," containing various props to be used at strategic points throughout the film. Then there is the famous fancy-dress competition in which everyone who has come in costume is invited onto the stage to show off their fantastic tailoring skills. And the more venues we play, the more elaborate the costumes get. Previous entries have included: nuns of both genders (including a pregnant nun!), girls (and boys!) in white dresses with blue satin sashes, a lonely Goatherd, a man in a gold lycra catsuit (Ray a Drop of Golden Sun!), a gazebo and more! 

Get out your wimples and warm woolen mittens, put on your white dresses with blue satin sashes, cut up those chintz curtains and get your vocal cords warmed up because the city is alive with SING-A-LONG SOUND OF MUSIC! SING-A-LONG SOUND OF MUSIC is a fun, joyful, interactive event that makes an ideal girls' night or a unique family outing!








Sing-A-Long Sound of Music runs  Thursday, September 26th through Sunday, September 29th, plus Saturday, October 5th through Sunday, October 6th at the Cinema 21.  More info available here.

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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

GRINDHOUSE TRAILER EXTRAVAGANZA DROPS TONIGHT AT THE HOLLYWOOD THEATRE


They say hindsight is 50/50, but what if the rearview was violent and trashy instead?  Put yer movie watchin' goggles on, 'cause you're going to need 'em tonight at The Hollywood Theatre where Dan Halsted is serving up a bloody, sexy b-movie trailer stew fashioned out of some of the best Grindhouse trailers of the 70s and 80s.  The lineup is unannounced, but expect to be blown away by what's on hand.

Anyone who's been to one of Halsted's trailer parties and/or Grindhouse Film Fest screenings can testify that the man's got excellent curatorial skills when it comes to genre cinema programming.  So you really don't want to miss tonight's show, okay?  Want a taste of what to expect?  Here's a few Grindhouse trailers to get you in the mood:






















Here's what the Grindhouse Film Fest release has to say about tonight's proceedings:

Climb aboard the exploitation starship as we travel to the outer reaches of cinematic insanity! In the 1970s and 80's, distributors trying to creatively sell strange movies in oversaturated markets unwittingly created some of the most mind-blowing pieces of cinema to ever be burned into celluloid. 

This is a lineup of the best of these movie previews, presented on 35mm. All the wildest scenes, strangest taglines, and oddball promotional gimmicks crammed into two minute cinematic rollercoaster rides. We'll see Italian horror, blaxploitation, sexploitation, hicksploitation, kung fu insanity, revenge films and so much more. Buckle up and wear a neck brace.


Grindhouse Trailer Spectacular - Greatest Hits happens  Tuesday, September 24th at 7:30p.m. at the Hollywood Theatre.  More info available here.

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Sunday, September 22, 2013

CINEMA PROJECT TURNS 10, LOOKS BACK BEFORE MOVING FORWARD

Anyone who's glanced at this blog more than a few times knows that I have a big ol' soft spot in my heart for Cinema Project.  While they're not the only ones in town putting together incredible programs of experimental film (don't worry, EFF Portland, I love you, too), CP has kept their public exhibitions of outré cinema going for longer than most anyone would ever have expected possible.  You think it's difficult for indie and non-profit cinemas to turn a buck nowadays?  How's about a tight little crew of curators/film lovers without a permanent exhibition space and an exclusive focus on non-commercial works of art?  Needless to say, these folks are doing it for love, not money.





Which is why it's so fantastically inspiring that the organization is launching their 10th season this Saturday.  To celebrate their "tin" anniversary, CP is using their first screening of the fall to throw themselves a birthday party with a "best of" film presentation culled from the first 10 years of Cinema Project.





Here's what the good folks at the Project have to say about Saturday night's events:

Over the past ten years Cinema Project has organized and presented more than 100 unique film and video programs and only in rare instances do we ever show the same thing twice. The beginning of a ten-year anniversary, however, seems like a good time to break the rules and break into our own program archive. The first of two “best of” screenings (to be continued in Spring 2014), this program brings together a fun and unlikely mix of work that demonstrates the variety, breadth, and unique curatorial vision that Cinema Project is known for. Each past and present collective member has selected a favorite short film or video that he or she thinks deserves a second look, or that speaks anew to current political and cultural landscapes and personal outlooks. Older, newer, black-and-white, color, sound, silent, representational, abstract, psychedelic, poetic, diaristic, heavy, light: each is a skilled and personal production close to the artist who made it. This is the type of work we champion. 

At 10pm join us downstairs at the VFW Hall for a post-screening party and fall fundraiser kick-off, with DJs Cuica and Calle Danger, snacks, drinks, and sparkling conversation. Bring your dancing shoes!



Here's what's on tap for that evening:

Undefeated by Kevin Jerome Everson 
[US, 2008, video, b&w, sound, 1.5 min.] 

Associations by John Smith 
[US, 1975, 16mm, color, sound, 7 min.] 

 a-b-city by Brigitte Buhler and Dieter Hormel 
[West Germany, 1985, S8 transferred to video, color, sound, 8 min.] 

RE:THE_OPERATION by Paul Chan 
[US, 2002, Digital Video, color, sound, 26 min.] 

Nocturne by Phil Solomon 
[US, 1980/1989, 16mm, color, silent, 10 min.] 

Portrait, Tea Time, and Red Curtain by Helga Fanderl 
[Germany, 1992-2009, S8 blown up to 16mm, 18fps, color, silent, 7 min.] 

Offon by Scott Barlett 
[US, 1968, 16mm, color, sound, 10 min.] 

Ninety-Three by Kevin Jerome Everson 
[US, 2008, video, b&w, silent, 3 min.]

They had me at the inclusion Phil Solomon's Nocturne.  Need convincing?  How's about a look at another one of Solomon's films, PSALM III: "NIGHT OF THE MEEK" to wet your whistle before Saturday arrives.  It lives here.



Cinema Project celebrates their 10th year of existence on Saturday, September 28th at the VFW Hall (825 SE Mill St.).  More info available here.


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Saturday, September 21, 2013

NOIR CITY ON THE NEW MARQUEE


Not much to say here, but, damn, doesn't Noir City look amazing on The Hollywood Theatre's newly restored marquee?  Anyone who came out to Friday's festivities already knows what a blast this mini-festival has been so far.  Host Eddie Muller presented beautiful 35mm prints of two obscure gems (Try and Get Me! & Sleep, My Love) to the enthusiastic crowd while offering up illuminating and entertaining pre-show banter before each film.




If you missed out last night, there's still plenty of Noir City Portland magic to take part in beginning today with the 1949 version of The Great Gatsby, followed by an additional two, rarely-screened films (Repeat Performance & The Come On).  And tomorrow brings yet another opportunity for a triple feature.  Anyone else planning on spending their weekend at Noir City?



Noir City Portland runs Friday, September 20th through Sunday, September 22nd at the Hollywood Theatre.  More info available here.


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Thursday, September 19, 2013

NOIR CITY COMES TO PDX (W/ AUTHOR/FOUNDER EDDIE MULLER IN TOW!)


Portlanders are in for one hell of a treat this oh, so rainy weekend.  San Francisco's Noir City is headed to town for a special, weekend long festival of obscure thrillers from the 40s and 50s, none of which have ever been available on dvd.  Best of all, this Noir City Portland event will be MC'ed by none other than N.C. founder Eddie Muller, author of "Dark City," "Tab Hunter Confidential," and many other film-obsessed tomes. 

Here's a few excerpts from the Hollywood Theatre's release:

The Hollywood Theatre is proud to present Noir City Portland!  Friday September 20 through the Sunday the 22nd, the full lineup of titles boasts the Film Noir Foundation’s latest preservation efforts, Try and Get Me! (1951), and High Tide (1947), along with an impeccable selection of vintage noir titles including Alias Nick Beal (1949), Street of Chance (1942), The Come On (1956), and more!  Hosted by the Czar of Noir himself, Eddie Muller, Noir City Portland will present these films on beautiful 35mm prints!  None of these films are available on DVD, so don’t miss this incredibly rare opportunity. 


Here's a little bit about the films, most of which are obscure enough to not even have trailer available online!  All synopses are sourced from AllMovie:
 

TRY AND GET ME aka THE SOUND OF FURY (dir. Cy Endfield, 1950):

The Sound of Fury is better known by its general release title, Try and Get Me. Based on Jo Pagano's novel The Condemned, the film recreates a dismal chapter in American history. In 1933, the otherwise peace-loving citizens of San Jose, CA, were stirred up by blind hatred into forming a mob and lynching two accused kidnappers (this same incident was fictionalized in the 1935 Fritz Lang film Fury). Frank Lovejoy and Lloyd Bridges play a couple of down-and-outers who kidnap a wealthy youngster in hopes of getting a huge ransom. Things go terribly wrong.









SLEEP, MY LOVE (dir. Douglas Sirk, 1948):

This noir mystery thriller was produced by Mary Pickford and her husband Buddy Rogers, and directed by Douglas Sirk. Claudette Colbert stars as Alison Courtland, a wealthy New York socialite who awakens on a Boston-bound train with no memory of how she got there. A kindly older woman, Mrs. Tomlinson (Queenie Smith) helps Alison call her husband Richard (Don Ameche), who informs her that she disappeared after threatening his life. While traveling back to New York, Alison meets Bruce Elcott (Robert Cummings), who is immediately smitten with her.






THE GREAT GATSBY (dir. Elliott Nugent, 1949):

This second film version of F. Scott Fitzgerald's definitive jazz-age novel The Great Gatsby stars Alan Ladd in the title role. Jay Gatsby, formerly Jake Gatz, is a successful bootlegger with aspirations of being accepted in the highest social circles of Long Island. Once he's done this, Gatsby devotes his time to winning back the love of his former lady friend Daisy (Betty Field), now married to boorish "old-money" millionaire Tom Buchanan (Barry Sullivan). Gatsby's obsession with rekindling old flames results in disillusionment and, ultimately, tragedy. Sidelines observer Nick Carraway, the narrator of the original Fitzgerald novel, is expertly played by MacDonald Carey, while Shelley Winters makes an excellent impression as Buchanan's slatternly mistress Myrtle Wilson. Cast as Myrtle's dour optometrist husband is Howard Da Silva, who essayed a minor role in the 1974 remake of Great Gatsby. That 1974 version has unfortunately kept the 1949 Gatsby from being released to television.









REPEAT PERFORMANCE (dir. Alfred L. Werker, 1947):

On New Year's Eve, Joan Leslie runs desperately out of a penthouse apartment and into the Times Square crowd. She has reason to flee--she has just shot and killed her husband. Through a freakish wrinkle in time, Leslie is transported back to the last New Year's and is allowed to relive the past year all over again. This time she is forearmed with the knowledge of the murder and does everything she can to avoid the deed--a task made difficult by such antagonists as her nasty husband and her emotionally disturbed brother (Richard Basehart, in his film debut). Events lead inexorably to the murder...but will she do it this time? Cleverly assembled, and with a more expensive cast and budget than was usual for pinchpenny Eagle-Lion studios, Repeat Performance is a brisk and absorbing semi-fantasy. It was remade for television as Turn Back the Clock (89), with the original film's star Joan Leslie in a brief cameo role.










THE COME ON (dir. Russell Birdwell, 1956):

In this convoluted thriller a manipulative woman gets entangled in her own web of deceit. The story is set in Mexico, where an unlucky wanderer has come to fish. There he falls for a woman that he spied on the beach. She begs the drifter to murder her domineering husband.






ALIAS NICK BEAL aka CONTACT MAN (dir. John Farrow, 1949):

This modern-day "Faust" variation benefits from a superb cast. Thomas Mitchell plays Joseph Foster, an honest judge who wants to become governor. Blocked by corrupt political forces, Foster would practically have to make a deal with the Devil to reach his goal. Enter Nick Beal (Ray Milland), a diabolically handsome gent with a slick line of patter and a smooth, infallible method of getting things done. Failing to recognize his benefactor's true identity (after all, Nick has no horns or cloven hooves) Foster agrees to the deal when Nick assures him that the end result is for the good of the people.









 STREET OF CHANCE (dir. Jack Hively, 1942):

Based on Cornell Woolrich's novel The Black Curtain (later dramatized several times on the radio series Suspense), Street of Chance top-bills Burgess Meredith as an amnesia victim. He awakens in the middle of the street, with nary a clue of who he is or what he's done. Meredith comes to learn that his past year of darkness has been a crowded one--and that he might be a murderer! Louise Platt plays Meredith's wife, but it's total stranger Claire Trevor who seems most interested in probing Meredith's past. Street of Chance is worth spending 74 minutes with, even though the true identity of the killer becomes obvious halfway through.






HIGH TIDE (dir. John Reinhardt, 1947):

In this mystery, set within the newspaper industry, a detective is hired to protect the editor who believes that someone is out to kill him. 




Noir City Portland runs Friday, September 20th through Sunday, September 22nd at the Hollywood Theatre.  More info available here.


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ALL IS BRIGHT: THIS AIN'T NO BROMANCE


It's a rough world out there.  And returning after a long absence is a difficult proposition.  How appropriate is it that Phil Morrison's less than prompt follow-up to his 2005 indie hit Junebug concerns itself with a man attempting to find his bearings, both familial and internal, after having his life interrupted by a long stay in prison?  In many ways, Dennis (Paul Giamatti), the protagonist of All is Bright suffers under far less steep expectations than Morrison does here.  No one expects anything from Dennis; in fact, his wife, Therese (Amy Landecker), has completely written him off, telling their young daughter that he died, rather than bothering with the messy truth about his incarceration.




The film picks up shortly after Dennis is released from prison.  What's his first move?  He returns to his rural, French-Canadian home where he's swiftly informed both Therese's lie and her involvement with Dennis' former best friend and partner-in-crime Rene (Paul Rudd), who Therese plans to marry once Rene's wife grants him a divorce.  With nowhere else to go, Dennis tracks down his romantic rival at a local bar, tries to beat him up, and (naturally?) ends up joining his Rene in an annual trek down to New York City to set up a seasonal Christmas tree selling business.  Yeah, this IS a Christmas movie...bet you never saw that coming.



If the plot sounds convoluted, rest assured, this film, like Junebug, doesn't grind too heavily on plot mechanics.  Instead, Morrison and screenwriter Melissa James Gibson treat these characters as people, albeit ones that sometime stray into situations just a smidge over the line separating the real from circumstances of a cartoonish nature.  When All is Bright sticks with its primary motif of two losers holding a predictably bad hand, it's at its best, resembling at times a modern update on a flavor of male camaraderie rarely portrayed in film since Elaine May's Mikey and Nicky (a bromance, this is, thankfully, not).  But, on the few occasions when the script pushes Dennis and Rene to act like people trapped in an indie comedy, the film stumbles, drops focus, and feels oddly flat.

All is Bright is unlikely to enjoy the same strong word of mouth leading to a slow-building success that Junebug did.  It's just not a film designed to register with a broad audience.  The characters aren't that likeable, nor is the action all that identifiable.  But it is a movie that deserves a chance from fans of quietly observant, character-driven cinema because, for each slight misstep that it contains, there's a charming counterpoint hidden just around the corner. 






All is Bright is currently available for viewing on VOD platforms such as Amazon Instant Video & iTunes.  The film opens theatrically in October.


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Sunday, July 7, 2013

ROBERTO ROSSELLINI'S THE SOLITUDE TRILOGY aka WHAT I'M UP TO TODAY


Roberto Rossellini's The Solitude Trilogy has been screening over at my workplace all weekend.  Today marks the only time during the run that all three films, Stromboli, Europa '51, & Voyage to Italy will be shown in a single day.  I'm going to try to make it through all of 'em, though, if recent history has proven anything, I probably will give up before the day is done.  Extra incentive to stay at least through the 2nd film: Europa '51 is rarely screened theatrically; in fact, it's a rare 16mm print borrowed from a private collector that's being projected today.

The following film synopses are lifted directly from the NW Film Center's listings:

Stromboli:



The film where Rossellini fatefully met Ingrid Bergman, STROMBOLI—like their later VOYAGE TO ITALY—is a semi-autobiographical portrait of its star’s stranger-in-a-strange-land predicament. Bergman plays a Lithuanian war refugee who marries a fisherman on the remote Sicilian island of Stromboli in order to escape an internment camp. Moving from the environmental reality that characterized his earlier neo-realist films to a psychological realism foreshadowing Antonioni’s L’AVENTURRA (1960), Rossellini’s film contrasts the island’s desolate, volcanic landscapes with its leading lady’s emotional turmoil. The barren, sulfurous rock proves a formidable and unpredictable rival for Bergman’s ferocious will. “An intensely moving exploration of sainthood and spirituality.”—Martin Scorsese. (107 mins.)





Europa '51:




The second collaboration between Rossellini and Bergman chronicles the life of a wealthy American woman living in Rome who is thrown into turmoil when her young son commits suicide over what he perceived to be her lack of affection for him. The woman’s grief leads her to the realization that she has been living a shallow, bourgeois existence and propels her to change her ways. As if on a spiritual quest, she begins devoting her life to helping the less fortunate—a sick prostitute, an unwed mother with numerous children, and a young boy—all of which disturbs her husband in tragic reaction. While the film has been viewed as Rossellini’s vision of the state of the world in all its confusion, many also read it as an exploration of Ingrid Bergman’s personal struggle. (113 mins.)






Voyage to Italy (aka Journey to Italy):




A reserved British couple (Ingrid Bergman and George Sanders) take a break from the chaos of London and retreat to the rugged landscape of Naples, only to find that outside of the structure of their everyday lives, the tedium of their marriage begins to emerge. Under the glistening surface of its minimal plot, Rossellini’s film amasses subtle details and small moments that build towards one of postwar cinema’s most enigmatically poignant conclusions. Again, Rossellini’s use of the environment as a relevant character is a precursor to Antonioni’s bleak industrial landscapes, serving as a link between neo-realism and the subjective, psychological cinema of the 1960s. (97 mins.)





The Solitude Trilogy: Stromboli, Europa '51 & Voyage to Italy screens at the NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium (in the Portland Art Museum).  Click here for more info.



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