The Great TCMFF 2017 Revue: Day 2
April 12, 2017
Welcome to my recap of the first full day of TCMFF 2017 programming! To read my rundown of day 1, please click here.
Day 2: Friday 4/7
It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963)
Fest surprise #1 of the day. In my TCMFF 2017 preview, I noted that my first choice for this slot was Beyond the Mouse, featuring rare works from Walt Disney collaborator Ub Iwerks, and my second preference was the pre-Code Rafter Romance (1933). Well, I threw both of those ideas out the window and instead trekked over to the Cinerama Dome for It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, the movie the Cinerama Dome was literally built for, which is pretty awesome. Part of my reasoning had to do with the special guests, and part had to do with the fact that I knew I could mosey on up to the Dome 5 minutes before the screening and have no trouble getting in. Since IAMMMMW is approximately 20 hours long, I opted not to stay for the film, even though it would have certainly been an experience to behold in that theater. For me, the true selling point - other than the extra 15 minutes I got to sleep in - was Ben Burtt and Craig Barron's presentation beforehand, as I rarely miss their fest appearances.
Oscar winners Ben Burtt and Craig Barron at the end of their IAMMMMW presentation at TCMFF. (Picture by Kim Luperi)
As Burtt and Barron are sound effect and visual effect wizards, respectfully, I figured the duo would discuss the Cinerama process, but rather they focused on the "unsung heroes" of the movie - the stunt men (and woman), the puppets, the matte paintings, etc. - and used archival materials, production stills and hilarious home movie footage to take us behind the scenes. As usual, they were a hit, and I will definitely cover their discussion here at a (much) later date. (I'm also thinking of jumping on the pin bandwagon and creating Burtt and Barron fan club badges of honor for next year's fest, if anyone would be interested...)
Beat the Devil (1953)
2 for 2 today so far in the upset department! Beat the Devil was also my backup for this block, slated behind Ernst Lubitsch's One Hour with You (1932). As I've mentioned previously, most of the time I granted precedence to special guests, which is how script supervisor Angela Allen won out over the pre-Code. And I'm quite glad she did, because from that moment forward, I made it my mission to befriend, or at least say hello to, Angela, cause she's an adorably badass British lady who must have a million and one stories to tell. (Spoiler alert: After I saw her every day at the fest, mission finally accomplished.) I'll share more from her intro soon. Unexpected bonus: Though I'd seen Beat the Devil before, I've never experienced a complete movie transformation quite like this. That is, in watching the picture years ago, alone, I found it very unusual and the characters/relationships odd (looking at you, Jennifer Jones). While those sentiments still stand, I never thought to label the movie a comedy or a spoof...until the TCMFF screening, that is. So thank you, audience, for flicking on the lightbulb and illuminating what I somehow completely missed - writer/director John Huston and co-writer Truman Capote's clear intent in crafting a flamboyantly bizarre, riotous picture. (And I don't think I'll ever be able to fully grasp the same effect again unless I get to see it in a theater.)
Humphrey Bogart and Jennifer Jones in Beat the Devil. What an unconventional, unbelievable pairing.
Panique (1946)...or Not
Sometimes, I display the extraordinary ability of falling asleep during movies at any time of day (this aptitude unfortunately doesn't extend to planes or anywhere sensible like that). So even though it was my first cinematic outing of the day, I felt myself growing a tad tired during Beat the Devil. I knew the odds weren't in my favor for an English-subtitled French noir - even though it was only 1:30pm - so as much as I wanted to stay for Panique, I actually ghosted right before the intro began and opted for some afternoon sustenance instead - and a head start on So This is Paris. In my mind, I re-play this situation as a noble one, in which I gave up my spot to someone who would appreciate the film more fully/alertly than I would have, as the theater was either sold out or extremely close to doing so. (But really, I was just tired and hungry.)
So This is Paris (1926)
In keeping with my amazing capability of dozing off during movies, I must admit that the first time I watched So This is Paris it was tough-going; silent films present a particular problem for me, even when they are accompanied by live music (which they generally are when theatrically screened). As TCMFF basically gifted me with an encore of such a rarity, I knew heavy eyelids were not an option this time around. A semi-nutritious lunch (with a veggie cameo) and sips of nitro cold brew coffee helped; I figured the "nitro" - whatever that means - would basically give me superpowers, right? Anyway, if you haven't seen So This is Paris and are ever presented the opportunity to do so, please jump on that. Ernst Lubitsch's flapper era comedy is a joy from start to finish, topped with wit, charm and joie de vivre, to boot! I've used this phrase before but have no shame in sharing it again, because I think it's true: the famous chaotic dance montage is the cinematic equivalent of chugging champagne, as it delivers an instant dizzying shot of energy that I don't think I've ever experienced before. And the four main actors fit their roles to a 'T,' particularly George Beranger who nails every. single. facial. expression.
Please enjoy this mini gallery of So This is Paris posters. I think these capture the film's spirit magnificently. (I also would like to own one or all of them, if possible...and get an apartment or house large enough to designate one room solely for these beauties.)
I've found Swedish posters, such as this one, are generally my favorite.
The Great Nickelodeon Show
This was one of the toughest slots to choose from. Many people I knew were jaunting off to Red-Headed Woman (1932), a fact I was slightly jealous over (you can read why here), but TCMFF's special presentations in the past, such as The Return of the Dream Machine and Amazing Film Discoveries with Serge Bromberg, have usually turned into fest highlights for me. As with So This is Paris, I figured this rare re-creation would be a tough show to get in to, but neither were. (I think for this block, the competition was just a bit too tough.) Anyway, I believe this was the first time TCMFF incorporated live performances into the fest - or at least, the first time I can recall - as five performers recreated an evening at the local Nickelodeon, circa the early 1900s. One man played the piano, another delivered dramatic recitations (including coverage of President McKinley's assassination), others sang popular/rather outrageous songs - assumingly of the day - and prompted the audience to sing-a-long, and perhaps most stunningly, a man performed an anti-magic trick...where he hammered a 4 inch nail into his face. That's not fake news; it was actually a real thing that happened, and I was slightly squeamish the whole time. These little skits were intermixed with shorts from the 1900s and early 1910s, like Lois Weber's Suspense (1913), which still has me on the edge of my seat every single time I see it. For the most part, the proceedings were light and comedic, though I'm not sure how authentic the songs, recitations and acts were (if they know for certain they were performed in nickelodeons, for instance); regardless, it was quite an amusing and engaging evening - bravo to all involved! I probably sound like a broken record by now, but expect to hear more about this 'performance'... sometime this year.
Those Redheads from Seattle (1953)
Occasionally, on a whim I'll join the red-headed club for a few months, and since I missed Red-Headed Woman, I had to make up for the oversight somehow. No, really, this was a tough time slot too! While I would have loved seeing Laura (1944) on nitrate, or laugh along with Carole Lombard and John Barrymore in Twentieth Century (1934), or finally watch Cat People (1942), which I've been urged to see in a theater for years, I selected a film in a genre I usually never choose at TCMFF - musicals - because 1. this is a rarity and 2. it's in 3D!
This promo photo from Those Redheads from Seattle is neither in 3D nor color, but you get the point. The Bell Sisters (the two on the right) were surprise guests at the screening, though they opted just to wave from the audience.
I was rather stunned at how well the 3D looked, too. It's been a while since I've seen a 3D picture from the 50s, but I always remember the technology being used sparingly and not throughout the whole picture. Well, it seems I was either wrong about that, or the 3D here was way ahead of its time, because from the first scene, the action genuinely popped in a way I don't remember...and made me slightly dizzy until I got used to it! Though overall the Western-Klondike musical extravaganza felt a tad outlandish, I could come up with a thousand worse ways to spend a Friday night; at least Those Redheads from Seattle regaled me.
We've reached the halfway point! Stay tuned for coverage from TCMFF day 3 tomorrow. And to catch up with day 1, click here.