Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Candlewood Isle Film Fest continues the Third Saturday of Every Month with homemade dinner and a movie at the Clubhouse.

Last night, we saw The 1962 Manchurian Candidate, which varied our pattern in previous months of viewing collaborations between directors and their spouses. 

Les Diaboliques stars Vera Gibson-Amado, Henri Clouzot’s wife.

Under Capricorn is scripted by Alma Reville, Alfred Hitchcock’s wife.

Meet Me in St. Louis stars Judy Garland, Vincent Minelli’s wife.

The Great Gatsby should have starred Ali McGraw, producer Robert Evens’ wife, had she not run off with Steve McQueen... Instead it starred Mia Farrow, the former wife of Don't Drink the Water playwright Woody Allen.

Rachel Rachel stars Joanne Woodward, Paul Newman’s wife.

Here are my notes on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, a book enhanced by a 1974 movie, of which I watched at least 70%.  It runs 2 and a half hours, in 4 reels, flat and red, 1:3 to 1, well-cropped, in 16mm perhaps to run during airplane flights across the Atlantic.

It is first and foremost a Robert Evens golden age of Paramount production (1968 through 1976). Ali McGraw, his wife, was to play Daisy until she left him for Steve McQueen.

Francis Ford Coppola already wrote the script, then directed the Godfather I and II, the Conversation, and Finiah’s Rainbow, while Robert Evens held onto the script.

Nelson Riddle adapted the music.
Ralph Laren worked Way Too Hard for the credit he received but it is his movie, too. 

I read the book in high school.  I saw the opera at the MET.  I held the prettily packaged soundtrack to this 1970’s movie in my hands.  That’s the extent of my patchy Gatsby appreciation, until Monica ordered an Ebay print as my Christmas present.

An impeccable cast for the delivery of content consists of Sam Waterson, Bruce Dern, Karen Black, Mia Farrow and Robert Redford (5’8”). 

Its British Director also made The Innocents.”

Gatsby is a purist.  Everyone together is not worth one of him.
There’s a problematic issue, never hit and run.

The Robert Evens bloodbaths are somehow always more violent and upsetting than anything depicted today.  First there is the lingeing over the details of warmth, beauty and luxury (He wants us to smell the pasta.).  

There’s another transgressive moment, too, where Karen Black puts her bloodied hands into her mouth after putting them through a shattered window. 

The languorous pace is heavy with poetic Fitzgerald crafted words.  The text rewards thought and attention with illuminating life experience. 

Rachel Rachel is Paul Newman’s wife’s movie.  Our version is in 16mm Technicolor (from Films Incorporated).  By the time it arrived I forgot why it was initially interesting, because Fairfield County area provided its location.  People who attended the screening remembered its production and knew members of the cast. 

It introduces the exceptional range of Joanne Woodward, in a production directed by her husband.  His next collaboration with her was only as producer.  It’s They Might Be Giants, a Sherlock Holmes windmill of a movie with a memorable supermarket scene near the end, which is currently missing.  Ms. Woodward plays Watson to George C. Scott’s Holmes.  

It was this production's connection to They Might Be Giants that sold me.  

This movie has a lovely conclusion.  Why further impose upon the hospitality of the buyer? When Ms. Woodward leaves her childhood home she takes along her mother.  The change is gonna do them good.  ..  

The April 18th, 2015 Candlewood Isle Film Fest featured pizza made from scratch, the 16mm condensed digest of The Spider Woman with Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce and Gail Sondergaard  and, for the feature, The Manchurian Candidate, delivered in the form of a one-gigabyte mp4 file.

The modern television screen that rendered the file refreshes so rapidly (60 times a second) that it made the 24 frame film movement look as smooth as a live video broadcast.  Do you remember when movie theaters were mostly projecting darkness, between which our eyes had to carry one image to the next?  This persistence of memory theory has been debunked, but I still think that traditional film projectors display mostly darkness between the flashes of transparencies… Our eyes are just not sensitive enough to read the flickering. 

Frank Sinatra’s two foiled presidential assassination movies are The Manchurian Candidate and Suddenly. 

My impression gleaned from wikipedia research is that he didn’t buy up these movies and suppress them, it’s simply that the movies weren’t that popular and weren’t remembered until 25 years later.   It turns out, that the New York Film Festival returned Manchurian Candidate to the screens in 1988, when I originally saw it. 

To paraphrase my second favorite moment, it is:  They will pay.   I asked for a trained assassin and never imagined they would give me you.  (Ms. Lansbury’s actual concluding line: “… when I take power, they will be pulled down and ground into dirt for what they did to you. And what they did in so contemptuously under-estimating me.”)

And the other great scene is in the pressroom when a shouting match opens between the drunken senator and a defense department head, while the news cameras run (and while Frank is acting as a publicity manager?)  The overlap of TV coverage caught within the larger movie frame seems groundbreaking.   

Laurence Harvey, a man from Lithuania, with a Chinese manservant who looks strangely like

The author, Richard Condon, also wrote Prizzi’s Honor. He’s a great storyteller with a rampant imagination.

I also saw John Frankenheimer’s Seconds and The Island of Brando as Dr. Moreau.  I like his Moreau movie, with Brando’s Eleanor Roosevelt routine… Moreau’s Horrors!  This version from 1996 added dictatorial implants.  All the mutating population needs to do to revolt is to pull them out.  According to L. Ron Hubbard we should do the same. 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

I entered the world of Les Liaisons Dangereuse last night through a preview performance of the Palm Beach Dramaworks production.  Elizabeth West Versalie, playwright/lyricist of Convertible and member of the South Florida Theater League, also attended.
What is amazing to me is my total lack of sympathy for this play, which took 3 hours to deliver.  I'm sure my low level irritation arises because the subject matter cuts so close to home regarding my own work, in which audiences are challenged to find anything that concerns them.
Somehow after three hours I am at a loss to find character development in the figures parading about.    Their sincerity or lack of it seems arbitrary.  Somewhere buried in them are feelings, and the lead fellow's drive to not take no for an answer is somehow a show of strength and ingenuity, useless though it may be.  The playwright's waste of eloquent speech to resurrect the novel, giving costumed actors the opportunity to pretend and prey upon lower realms from a godlike precipice, is completely inconsequential.  Perhaps it lays a foundation for the French Revolution, but the main question after seeing what you'd be overthrowing is, why bother?  Ok, there's more to consider....   Perhaps this griping goes to the merit of classical french theater, the only names coming to mind being Voltaire and Moliere, which is vaguely satirical.  I remember being also annoyed by The Miser and The Hypochondriac (is that Tartuffe?).  I suppose I've grown to love the Bernstein Wilbur modern day derivative of Voltaire's Candide.  I may grow to love Christopher Hampton's Play, too.  

Thursday, January 01, 2015

The Candlewood Isle Film Fest continued last Saturday night with a holiday dinner party screening of Meet Me in St. Louis,” a 1944 movie that introduced the Blane & Martin song “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” 

During dinner we projected a 16mm kinescope TV broadcast print of the 6th installment of “The Judy Garland Show” (1962), which included memorable commercials of odd products of the time (Wondra Flour, Winston Cigarettes, Head & Shoulders Shampoo). 

The show featured June Allyson and Steve Lawrence, as well as sidekick Jerry van Dyck.  We focused our eyes on the screen when Ms. Garland began her solo finale, her “informed” heart throbbing version of a rousing Jeanette McDonald song called “San Francisco.”  Triumphant as the credits ran, she contentedly rolled about the stage ending in a fetal position.  

Then we projected the Blue Strip Technicolor transparencies of Meet Me in St. Louis, a print from Rochester New York, perhaps from the George Eastman House, purchased from The Cure Thrift Shop on East 12th Street for $5. 

The movie commemorates the transformation of St. Louis’s marshland into fairgrounds for the 1905 World’s Fair. Its episodes cover a year of holidays in the lives of a St. Louis family threatened with a move to New York.  Its screenplay drew from a collection of stories Sally Benson wrote for the New Yorker magazine as a series called 5135 Kensington Street.   Ms. Benson’s varied credits include screenwriting Shadow of a Doubt, Viva Las Vegas and The Singing Nun.

By 1944 Vincent Minelli, had left set designing for Radio City Music Hall and had already directed for MGM the black and white musical “Cabin in the Sky.”  He had a way of creating an intimate family atmosphere in his movies.  Another highlight for me is his Shirley MacLaine bar scene in Some Came Running.  

The Three strip Technicolor printing process used for Meet Me In St. Louis, developed by MIT scientists in 1918, was still precious in the 1940s, so the studio indulged Mr. Minelli’s attention to color detail while allowing him to direct this film.   The color palette is intoxicating.

To photograph in Technicolor, Red Green and Blue filters cover the exposure of three strips of black and white film.  The three films are imbibed into one strip of film, such as the strip we ran through the projector on Saturday. 

The blue strip on our print suggests that the print itself was from the 1940’s when it was necessary to conserve on silver for the war. For some reason this adds to the softness of the high color saturation, giving viewers a blue rather than black base.   

The no-place-like-home warmth of the film becomes satirical against such highlights as the anarchy in the streets bonfire of the Halloween segment,

This is the movie where a bonfire burns brightly in the background as Margaret O’Brien, playing a 5-year-old child, bravely goes forward toward the home of a cat killer and throws flour in his face.  As she runs away the house-dog laps it off the floor.  Throwing furniture into the street fire she yells, “I’m the most horrible.”  Ms. O’Brien demonstrates her range to me in the Secret Garden (1949) where she and another boy engage in a yelling match and I think she wins.  The camera crew must have stood back and let that happen.  She’s a pretty great actor.  . She’s still alive, by the way.  

It was such fun having dinner with the movie that we plan to charge $10 and serve dinner and drinks at all future screenings, which are the third Saturday of the month.