The Shine Box attended several NYC screenings this year with guest appearances by artists and critics hailing from the sometimes rapturous, sometimes intolerably geeked-out world of repertory filmdom. . . .
Film Forum hosted "An Evening w/ Sidney Lumet," where the director conversed with folksy and erudite film historian Foster Hirsch. Several career highlight clips were played, and Sidney, though a bit canned with his answers, is infectiously respectable, a belabored artist of magnanimous NYC street pedigree. Check The Verdict and Serpico and most gladly The Wiz.
At Walter Reade Theater (Lincoln Center these days very much resembling a leftover setpiece from The Wiz) Crispin Glover introduced both the crowdpleasing Americana artifact The Orkly Kid and the Southern California late-80s schtickedelic road parable Rubin and Ed. Crispin did his routine Q&A afterwards, for which The Shine Box had already sat once before, at IFC, after Crispin's mesmerizingly disarming "Big Slide Show." Except for Crispin's tale of what really happened at his infamous Letterman appearance, which he told circuitously but lucidly unskinned (after some dweeb in the audience asked about it), the Q&A was a longwinded exercise.
At Film Forum, The Shine Box was privileged to have screened King Kong on its 75th birthday, with an audience that included 30 members of the picturesque and homely Sons Of Kong Club, riotously applauding Kong's both tropical and metropolitan victory. It was as if seeing this masterwork for the first time - indeed the first time projected on the big screen.
At BAM played The Driver, part of a Walter Hill retrospective, a gritty LA action car-chase flick as if an homage to post-apocalyptic Paris, with some brief commentary by charmingly wizened film exegete Elliot Stein.
Andrew Sarris and Molly Haskell introduced Cluny Brown at Walter Reade, part of the Jennifer Jones series, the First Couple of film criticism, prolific veterans of New York's trade in Ideas. The hearts of all men at least once in their lives fall for a girl like Cluny, but rarely does a man ever see it come about as dashing as Charles Boyer.
BAM served up an Elliot Gould series, and The Shine Box made it to the Jules Feiffer 60s socio-caper Little Murders, followed by a Q&A with star Gould casually conducted by ex-Sun scrivener and A-Bones axman Bruce Bennett. The Shine Box accompanied to the screening legendary table tennis champion and ping-pong hustler Marty Reisman, who knew Elliot, and after the movie, at the reception, amidst the small flurry of Gouldists, these two arch-radicalists struck a dialogue in which The Shine Box happened upon participation. Marty had always told the story of a poker game that went on for years in some stogie-nosher's apartment in the Upper West Side in the late 60s, and that among the errant players were Walter Matthau and Elliot Gould. On the steps outside BAM Gould was humbly asked about the adventure. Marty provided the details, but Gould's memory was reluctant. "I was never good at poker," he said. "Because you have to bluff, and as an actor I can't lie. . ." And we all watch Elliot Gould movies because we all want Elliot Gould. In Little Murders we get Elliot, an artsy depressed mook processed into a pre-war high-rise sniper along with the rest of New York City's figurative population; plus Donald Sutherland as an East Village Plastic Inevitable minister, and Judge Lou Jacobi enunciating his Lower East Side immigrant story as if the riot act.
In the classically vast Ziegfeld Theater screened Four Nights With Anna, part of the New York Film Festival, with the movie's director appearing for the Q&A, imposing and rakish artist/lumberjack Jerzy Skolimowski. A love story between two rape victims set in the cold gray 21st century outlands of Poland, a lyric story epic in scope and not a scene or time scheme misplaced or without effect. Afterwards, Jerzy spoke no different from the way he had made his movie move. Before Four Nights played Pal/Secam, a short film introduced by its creator, Dmitry Povolotsky. A sort of 1980s Russian Superbad: horny well-meaning teen invites the dark elements of experience in pursuit of his lady, and suddenly his mom's living room is filled with creepy Moscow bums watching amateur porno. We know our hero is desperate – we first meet him in the bathroom humping the tub drain – and we are fighting for him and his infatuation with his Bollywood glam disco video (not so unlike the same coming-of-age conceit evinced by Slumdog Millionaire).
Also part of the NYFF, at Walter Reade, Guy DeBord's Situationalist metalogue In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni, with a post-screening panel discussion: culture-wrangler Greil Marcus, the most acutely and revealingly spoken of the evening; moviemaker Oliver Assayas, impressionistic and exponential but in person not the devious chic greasemonkey who composed Boarding Gate; and Jean-Pierre Gorin, who bombastically excused himself twice during the discourse to leave the stage and go to the men's room, in which room The Shine Box had crossed paths with Jean-Pierre only moments before the discussion began. Jean-Pierre provided the evening's panel with the alienated flair and aggravation of the Artist (a former collaborator with Go-Go-Godard), and the man, ostensibly, had eaten bad Chinese food earlier that evening. In girum imus purports to give narrative life to the personal demons of civilization's zealous dweller. Battle scenes from old movies, docu panning shots of the cityscape, the manner in which one invents and destroys and re-invents their human environment. The age old problem of the middle-class taking over sacred districts when social prosperity renders the bohemian life an arm of Luxury's frankenstein.
Film Forum welcomed silver beard and thin bluejeans boho Les Blank, to introduce his Gap-Toothed Women and Garlic Is As Good As Ten Mothers, and Les told the story of the the films' origins in the way he makes his movies, a peculiar, intangible logic that follows objects and people in the real world and is wry and gainful of the audience's trust. The Gap Toothed Women are as revealing of themselves as is the pontificator in the giant garlic costume.
Later that night, director Charlie Ahearn hosted Wild Styles with a lauded appearance by Fab Five Freddy, and an intro screening of Ahearn's 2005 Bongo Barbershop, where a young Tanzanian dude busting Swahili rhymes faces off with an old school NYC freestyler, both sitting in barber chairs in a "Bronx tonsorial parlor," a cinematic event of itself, and in the New York tradition of lyric modes bygone, since riffed off, where the true rousters of the art these days are working in a microcosmic storefront under an elevated subway in the outer boroughs.
An ice cold Saturday at the New Times Square New Times Tower found the American Museum of the Moving Image hosting Jerry Lewis interviewed by louche Peter Bogdanovich, and a schpiel by Jerry on the old Times Square it was. Jerry lashed out against re-excising the canned tale of he and Dean's etiology, but Jerry annunciated the spirit of just what it was like in show business at the top of 20th Century famedom as no other has ever known it but "Elvis, Sinatra & The Beatles" - except for the fact that the footage feed never ever captured it as did only the bristling crowds in line outside the Capitol Theater . . . the Hacker's Club of taxi drivers faring nightly their own microeconomy carting wowed post-audiences back to Bloomfield, NJ; Jerry Lewis doing impressions of Swedes doing impressions of Jerry Lewis; the cocky self-lambasting! All in all, a perfect short story of the wayward theater industry's surrealistic touchstone.
For one week Film Forum ran Mishima: A Life In Four Chapters, with two nights capped by a visit from writer/director Paul Schrader. The biopic to end all biopics in the 20th Century from where the 21st has yet to pick up. The self-destruction of the Artist is lusciously staged by elegantly edited nouvelles in and out of the writer's present, past and fiction. Schrader spoke with alacrity after the movie, nary a superfluous remark, about its making and his approach to its operatic suicidal themes. It would seem that a movie "based on a true story" should never be made otherwise. I'm Not There tried it last year but smothered itself with capriciousness. Mishima is as if carved by the sword which the man thrusts upon himself. . . harking the language of Bergdorf Goodman's best window artisanship.
.... and though it could not properly be defined as a "screening," The Shine Box had twosie balcony box seats for Liza's At The Palace, and Liza cried up from the red velvet abyss ecstatic renditions of the songbook - the frowzy resounding big band blams, the charming slapstick regarding Liza's lost footlight maneuvering, and the lady's voice still bounding back from that night's starblaze. The crowd, fitfully hysterical, included Mayor Bloomberg, whom Liza introduced before launching a one o' a kind "New York, New York."