Suicide Squad is the next major film in which ne’er-do-wells are unambiguously presented as the heroes. They’re “bad” but you’re on their team, you identify with them, you want to them to succeed, you’ll feel bad if they don’t. The best of the genre, top of my head, in this order: The Wild Bunch, Bonnie and Clyde, Heat, One-Eyed Jacks, The Professionals, The Dirty Dozen, The Outfit, Tom Horn, etc. I’m not talking about intriguing, charismatic bad guys (Tom Cruise‘s “Vincent” in Collateral, Denzel Washington‘s dirty detective in Training Day) or half-flawed good guys but outside-the-law characters presented as the most compelling moral characters in the realm of the film.
I have to leave for the Salle Bunuel for the 10:30 pm One-Eyed Jacks screening but first I have to at least post my tweets about Olivier Assayas‘ Personal Shopper, which broke around 40 minutes ago. The mostly Paris-based ghost story starring Kristen Stewart as (I know this sounds strange) a combination personal shopper and clairvoyant. which broke around 90 minutes go. More of a spooker than a “horror film,” but absolutely fresh and world-class in that realm. On par with Robert Wise‘s The Haunting, and I don’t care if every Tom, Dick and Harry agrees with me or not. (My flat-mate didn’t care for it.) This is a knockout, trust me.
An instinct told me to duck this morning’s Bruno Damont film. A critic friend tells me my instinct was correct. My first task of the day is the Deadline party around 3:30 pm, and then, God help me, a 7 pm screening of Maren Ade‘s 162-minute Toni Erdmann, which appears to be a riff on Boudu Saved From Drowning/Down and Out in Beverly Hills. I’m not saying I won’t attend tomorrow morning’s screening of Steven Spielberg‘s The BFG. I’m saying that barring some astonishing realignment or reconfiguration of creative instincts on Spielberg’s part, my inclination — no offense, no surprise — is to find ways to dismiss this film. A family-friendly creation like this can play here…promotion, whatever…but it’s not a Cannes film. It soils the atmosphere.
The opening weekend of the 2016 Cannes Film Festival looks a teeny bit soft, and yet the first two nights (Wednesday, 5.11 and Thursday, 5.12) seem to promise some degree of intrigue. How can you go all that wrong with Woody Allen‘s Cafe Society, Jodie Foster‘s non-competitive Money Monster (which, by the way, a friend said he “really liked…the ‘system is rigged, Wall Street is corrupt’ theme plus the [narrative of the] Jack O’Connell character is tailor made for Trump and Sanders messaging”) and Christi Puiu‘s SieraNevada? The Romanian-made family reunion drama will likely prove the strongest of the three.
But the Friday thru Sunday fare…I don’t know, man, but so far I’m not sensing great currents of snapping, zapping electrical energy from Park Chan Wook‘s The Handmaiden, Bruno Dumont‘s Slack Bay, Ken Loach‘s I, Daniel Blake, Maren Ade‘s Toni Erdmann and Andrea Arnold‘s American Honey, among others.
I’m not very interested in seeing the weekend’s two big non-competitive attractions — Steven Spielberg‘s The BFG on Saturday (which I’m not firmly committed to blowing off but I just might) and Shane Black‘s The Nice Guys on Sunday. I won’t skip the latter but I’m kind of half-dreading what will almost certainly be a wallow in formulaic ’70s rowdyism with Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe.
The spirit of submission and acquiesence lives in a Home Theatre Forum thread about the restored One-Eyed Jacks. Some of the commenters seem to recognize that the decision by Universal and the Film Foundation to slice off the tops and bottoms of Marlon Brando and Charles Lang‘s 1961 classic in order to render a 1.85 aspect ratio wasn’t necessary, and yet their attitude is more or less “whatever…we don’t mind!” A couple of commenters seem to believe that my opposition to this decision is based upon delusion or ignorance. In fact they’re the ones wearing blinders.
Let’s try again. One-Eyed Jacks was shot in the “flexible and compatible” VistaVision process and therefore could have easily been cropped at 1.66, 1.75 or 1.78. But no. In order to conform to a currently meaningless and completely political, consensus-driven suggestion contained in a Paramount memo back in the late ’50s (or whenever) that Jacks should be projected at 1.85, Uni/FF decided to follow suit.
This is not a tragedy — Jacks will look beautiful at almost any a.r. — but it’s certainly cause for lamenting. As I noted on 4.26, archivist Bob Furmanek is probably a chief culprit in this affair. By submitting and endorsing the Paramount suggestion, he relieved Uni/FF of any creative responsibility in determining the aspect ratio of the One-Eyed Jacks Bluray.
Six days ago I reported that the forthcoming Cannes Film Festival screening of a digitally restored version of Marlon Brando‘s One-Eyed Jacks would offer a mixed blessing. While the vivid, wider-than-ever VistaVsion images will surely look beautiful, the aspect ratio presentation will not be within HE’s favored 1.66:1 aspect ratio, nor 1.75:1 or even 1.78:1, but within the dreaded 1.85:1 — a cleavering of the film’s original VistaVision capturings of 1.5:1.
Is this a tragedy? No, but it’s a damn shame — in my view a rash slicing of a significant portion of Charles Lang‘s cinematography, which could have at least been cropped at 1.75:1 or 1.78:1. If you ask me whacking this 1961 Western down to 1.85:1 is damn near unforgivable.
A day after this post appeared on 4.20 HE nemesis Bob Furmanek, who has repeatedly urged DVD/Bluray distributors to crop non-Scope films shot in the mid ’50s to early ’60s at 1.85:1, posted the following in the comment thread: “We were consulted by the Film Foundation and provided documents on this film to insure presentation in the correct aspect ratio”, which Furmanek maintained was 1.85:1 because Paramount recommended this a.r. in a way-back-when message to exhibitors.
This despite the studio having admitted in the same statement [see above] that VistaVision is “flexible and compatible, and [can] be played in any aspect ratio from 1.33:1 to 2.0:1.”
I don’t know where the 1.33 option came from as basic VistaVision photography captures images at 1.5, but Universal and The Film Foundation certainly could have gone with a 1.66, 1.75 or 1.78 aspect ratio.
Apart from the bittersweet, mixed-emotions debut of the One-Eyed Jacks restoration, Cannes Classics will also present the following next month:
Bertrand Tavernier‘s Voyage a travers le cinema français (2016, 195 mins., France). Likelihood of HE attendance: Zero. Who better to deliver “an act of gratitude” for the blessings of French cinema from the 1930s to the present than Tavernier, who’s been around since forever and knows everything and everyone? But I’m not devoting over three hours to this during an already demanding, time-crunched schedule. How about an early-bird screening in Paris, Bertrand? I’ll be there from 5.6 through 5.10.
Cinema Masterclass on William Friedkin: The director of The French Connection, The Exorcist, Killer Joe, The Boys in the Band, Deal of the Century, Cruising and To Live and Die in L.A. will sit down with Michel Ciment on Wednesday, 5.18. Friedkin will also introduce a “restored surprise” film at the Salle Bunuel as well as Sorcerer (’77) at the Cinema de la Plage. Likelihood of HE attendance: Almost zero. I’ve listened to Friedkin talk about everything under the sun at various venues for a good 25 years now. Due respect but doubtful.
Restored version of Frederick Wiseman‘s Hospital (1969, 94 mins., USA). Likelihood of HE attendance: Zero.
Michele Russo‘s The Family Whistle (2016, 65 mins., Italy) — Fawning doc about the Coppola family — their arrival in the U.S., their links with their native Italy and their relationship to music. With Francis Coppola and Talia Shire in attendance. Likelihood of HE attendance: Low but maybe.
Eryk Rocha‘s Cinema Novo (2016, 90 mins., Brazil) — A political/poetic movie essay on a wave of probing, cutting-edge films that came out of Brazil in the ’60s and ’70s. HE anecdote: I sat down for a dinner with Cinema Novo figurehead Carlos Diegues at the Spring Street Bar & Grill sometime around ’79; Fabiano Canosa was also there. My impression at the time was that Diegues was a dead ringer for Phil Foster. Likelihood of HE attendance: Zero.
A partial rundown for the 7th annual Turner Classic Movies Film Festival (4.28 to 5.1) was unveiled today. I always look for first-time-ever screenings of recently restored films that haven’t hit Bluray or streaming, but somehow seeing a 25th anniversary restored version of John Singleton‘s Boyz in The Hood doesn’t exactly tingle the blood. I was also hoping for a screening of the nearly-completed restoration of Marlon Brando‘s One-Eyed Jacks, but that’s not in the cards.
For me the only announced festival attraction that excites so far is a special presentation of Jack Cardiff and Mike Todd, Jr.‘s Scent of Mystery (a.k.a. Holiday in Spain), which will be presented at the Cinerama Dome in “Smell-O-Vision.”
What could have motivated the highly respected Jack Cardiff to direct this thing? (Besides money, I mean.) The costars are a remarkably young-looking Denholm Elliott (he was 37 during filming) and a bloated Peter Lorre. A foxy, bikini-wearing Diana Dors has a marginal role. Elizabeth Taylor (i.e., widow of the deceased Mike Todd, Sr. and therefore the producer’s mother-in-law) isn’t in the trailer, but she makes an uncredited cameo appearance.
Wiki page summary: “Scent of Mystery was developed specifically with Smell-O-Vision in mind. Although Scent was not the first film to be accompanied by aromas, it was the most technologically advanced. Todd, son of the late Mike Todd, engaged in such hyperbole as ‘I hope it’s the kind of picture they call a scentsation!’ He also got help from newspaper columnists such as Earl Wilson, who lauded the system, saying Smell-O-Vision ‘can produce anything from skunk to perfume, and remove it instantly.’ New York Times writer Richard Nason believed it might be a major advance in filmmaking. As such, expectations were high.
“Scent opened in three specially equipped theaters in February, 1960 — in New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago. Unfortunately, the mechanism did not work properly. According to Variety, aromas were released with a distracting hissing noise and audience members in the balcony complained that the scents reached them several seconds after the action was shown on the screen. In other parts of the theater, the odors were too faint, causing audience members to sniff loudly in an attempt to catch the scent.
In anticipation of Universal Home Video and the Film Foundation’s forthcoming Bluray of Marlon Brando’s One-Eyed Jacks (’61), which will probably street between early summer and early fall**, here are two images — one from a lobby card, another a publicity still — of a tragic ending that was filmed but discarded. I’m speaking of the death of Luisa (Pina Pellicer) from a bullet fired by a wounded Dad Longworth (Karl Malden) after being drilled twice in the back by Brando’s Rio. In the 141-minute release version Longworth fires at Rio and Luisa as they ride out of town after a gunfight, but he misses. In the much longer but long-ago-destroyed Brando cut Luisa catches a bullet and dies. It’s odd that photos of a death scene that wasn’t meant to seen were printed, but here’s the evidence.
Under Marlon Brando‘s direction, filming on One-Eyed Jacks began at the end of 1958 and lasted until…I don’t know when but apparently until sometime in the late spring or early summer of ’59. Six months of shooting. A thousand takes. Almost 200 miles of shot film. A revolving door of personnel, including Rod Serling, Sam Peckinpah and Stanley Kubrick — all cut loose before the cameras rolled. And a budget that swelled from $1.8 million to $6 million. Alleged Brando quote: “If you wrote a book about what’s been happening on this movie, you could make $1,000,000.” Brando began performing his starring role in Sidney Lumet‘s The Fugitive Kind sometime in the late summer of ’59, allowing Lumet to assemble it in time for a 4.14.60 debut. Editing on One-Eyed Jacks wasn’t completed until the fall of 1960. Brando’s original cut was five hours long — what a tragedy that all that surplus footage was destroyed! Paramount eventually seized the film and recut it to 141 minutes. “Now it’s a good picture for [Paramount],” Brando reportedly said upon its 3.30.61 release, “but it’s not the picture I made…now the characters in the film are black and white, not gray and human as I planned them.”
Here’s an open-letter proposal addressed to the Academy, Quentin Tarantino‘s New Beverly Cinema and the programmers of the American Cinematheque’s Egyptian and Aero theatres to devote seven days to the glorious 1.66:1 aspect ratio. They don’t have to call it the Hollywood Elsewhere 1.66:1 Celebration Festival, but seriously…who else has stood up for 1.66:1 like I have? Who else has gone mano e mano with 1.85 fascists (Bob Furmanek, Pete Apruzzese) whenever a new Bluray of a 1950s or early ’60s comes out with a 1.78 or 1.85 aspect ratio? Who else has pleaded with Universal Home Video for a 1.66:1 aspect ratio for the forthcoming One-Eyed Jacks Bluray?
The idea would be to schedule this festival sometime in the dog days of August. It’ll create a lingering impression, a kind of stamp upon the bicoastal film culture. People need to be reminded that once there was a realm called 1.66, and that it was one of the most visually gratifying rectangles in the history of 20th Century cinema. Think of it — nothing but 1.66 films back to back for five or seven days straight! Plus a chance to correct previous Bluray mis-croppings (i.e., The Manchurian Candidate and A Hard Day’s Night Blurays presented at 1.75 but easily croppable at 1.66).
The following should be included: (1) Alfred Hitchcock‘s Psycho (easily croppable at 1.66 despite Universal Home Video’s decision to issue the Bluray in a “rape” aspect ratio of 1.78); (2) Roman Polanski‘s Repulsion; (3) Francois Truffaut‘s The Last Metro; (4) Wim Wenders‘ The American Friend; (5) Merchant-Ivory‘s A Room With A View; (6) Elia Kazan‘s On The Waterfront; (7) the first three James Bond films — Dr. No, From Russia With Love and Goldfinger; (8) Wong Kar Wai‘s Chungking Express; (9) Otto Preminger‘s Anatomy of a Murder (Criterion Bluray presented this 1959 pic within a 1.85 “rape” aspect ratio); (9) John Frankenheimer‘s The Manchurian Candidate, Seven Days in May and The Train; (10) Stanley Kubrick‘s Lolita, Dr. Strangelove, Barry Lyndon; (11) John Schlesinger‘s Sunday Bloody Sunday; (11) Clive Donner‘s What’s New, Pussycat?; and (12) Guy Hamilton‘s The Devil’s Disciple.
Back in the 20th Century people used to ask actors for autographs instead of cell-phone selfies. Eccentric as it may sound, fans would actually carry around autograph books for this purpose. It’s been suggested that now and then hardcore fans would ask for more than just a signature — they would ask the celebrity to write a quote he/she is famous for uttering in a film. If you ran into Gloria Swanson, let’s say, you would ask her to write “I am big…it’s the pictures that got small.” If you ran into William Holden you’d ask him to write “if they move, kill ’em.” Or so goes the legend.
Today Daily Beast contributor Tom Teodorczuk posted an interview with 45 Years costar Tom Courtenay, and about halfway through Courtenay mentions that he was recently approached by an autograph hunter asking him to sign a piece of paper underneath the words “the personal life is dead” — one of the utterances of Strelnikov, his character in Dr. Zhivago. Courtenay tells Teodorczuk that the quote is “a load of bollocks,” but did he oblige?