The Great TCMFF 2017 Revue: Day 3
April 13, 2017
Day 3: Saturday 4/8
This is Cinerama (1952)
Cinerama: 2, Kim: 0.5. Another morning, another trip to the Cinerama Dome. Whereas the Dome was built for It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963), This is Cinerama was also a landmark: it was the very first Cinerama film produced. So I couldn't miss it - well, I actually could miss part of it, and I did. Given that this screening started an hour later than the rest of the block, and the Dome is about a mile away from the main venues, I knew I'd have to slip out early. And while I was supremely happy to have another chance to experience the Cinerama process in all its original glory (in this case: 7 sound channels, 3 35mm projectors and 4 projectionists), I was also lucky that the movie makes it incredibly convenient to skip out prematurely...because there's really no story. That's fully intentional, as it seems This is Cinerama was created solely as a vehicle to show off the new process and dazzle the heck out of audiences. The method sure worked, and during the first half we were treated to a thrilling simulator-style roller coaster ride, a tour of the Venice canals, a dance in Spain and much more. If I understand the technical specs correctly (hahaha), apparently Cinerama is closer to our natural vision, and even given widescreen and more recent cinematic formats, it was rather rewarding knowing I was witnessing more than I usually have the chance to; in non-technical 2017 terms, it was analogous to the panoramic setting on a camera come to life.
A miniature replica of the Cinerama theater. (Picture by Kim Luperi)
David and Lisa (1962)
My pal Danny and his lovely wife Aubrey let me bum a ride in their uber back over to the multiplex, as they left This is Cinerama early too. My destination was David and Lisa, which turned out to be my only screening in the famed theater 4, the smallest of the venues (capacity: 177). With star Keir Dullea in attendance, I figured this would be a tough one to make my way in to, but I was wrong; in fact, I had no trouble getting in. I always seek out the festival titles that I've never heard of (in past years these have included 1944's On Approval, 1929's Why Be Good? and 1964's One Potato, Two Potato), and for the most part, these pictures have become favorites of mine. I also have a soft spot for 1960s indie cinema, which surely includes David and Lisa. Dullea and producer Paul Heller discussed the indie shoot more in depth before the picture ran, and I'll definitely share their story at a later time (are you spotting a trend here?). That being said, this stirring, at times jarring portrait of two young people dealing with mental and emotional problems was far ahead of its time. Like One Potato, Two Potato, David and Lisa focused its attention on a subject that was rarely discussed or touched upon in the 1960s, and it did so in an emotional, delicate and perceptive manner. I know many attendees were strongly moved by David and Lisa, and though the picture didn't affect me as greatly, I found it very touching.
The Jerk (1979)...or Just Carl Reiner
The format for this particular selection deviated from the norm: there was a book signing before the conversation with Carl Reiner, and then the movie played. So while I really wanted to catch the intro and then head over to Lee Grant's conversation in Club TCM (slated from 3-4pm), I didn't even make it past the IMAX's front doors until 3:30, and Reiner's Q&A stretched past 4 (which I'm not complaining about, by the way). Reiner has been a guest at previous festivals, but I've never had the chance to see him in person, so I figured now was the time to make up for that oversight! Though it was a bit tough to hear from my seat on the far left, it was crystal clear that Reiner still possesses a sharp wit and humor - at age 95! Oh, and he's got two books coming out this year too. No big deal. (You know the drill by now; I'll cover Reiner's discussion with TCM host Ben Mankiewicz at a later date.)
Carl Reiner with Ben Mankiewicz in the TCL's IMAX theater. Though my seat may not have been ideal for listening purposes, I got pretty decent photos! (Picture by Kim Luperi)
Hollywood Home Movies
I've seen several 'series' of Hollywood Home Movies, both at TCMFF and the Academy, and they are always wonderful; it's a real treat to watch classic movie stars unwind and relax outside the studio setting. I only caught part of this program, which contained behind the scenes color footage from the making of The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938); Alfred Hitchcock and family putting on a humorous, endearing silent comedy in their own backyard in the early 1930s; and selections from Billy Gilbert's collection, which included a mini fashion show featuring Fay McKenzie, Gilbert's sister-in-law. Fay, who made her film debut 99 years ago (at 10 weeks old), was on stage to help narrate the proceedings, which was pretty nifty.
King of Hearts (1966)
Sorry, Irene Dunne. I tried to make it to one of the two Dunne comedies screening at the fest, but I failed on both counts (1936's Theodora Goes Wild was up against this movie.) Once again, a special guest won out; in this case, it was Geneviève Bujold. I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I haven't seen King of Hearts before, let alone even heard of it, despite the fact that this picture was apparently a film class staple in the 80s and 90s (which, in my defense, is a bit before my schooling time); however, I figure you can't go wrong with a premise that centers upon a young Scottish solider tasked with locating and diffusing a bomb in a small town whose inhabitants have already evacuated...and have been replaced by patients from a nearby mental asylum, who form a sort of community and world all their own.
Geneviève Bujold looked like she was about 16 in King of Hearts, but I think she was really 23.
The film radiates a wondrous mix of satire, whimsy and the surreal, and though its message has a definite dark angle to it, as a whole I found the piece quite charming and quirky, which is just the brand of comedy I'm drawn too. Sadly, I didn't get a chance to record Bujold's Q&A prior to the screening, but she professed a genuine appreciation for TCM in celebrating the classics and even in contributing to her film knowledge.
Black Narcissus (1947)
Man, I am bad at taking advice sometimes. I've wanted to see Preston Struges' dark comedy Unfaithfully Yours (1948) for quite a while, and a reader even strongly suggested I make it a priority on my Saturday schedule in a comment on my preview post. PLUS, prior to Saturday night's screening, Unfaithfully Yours had even been announced as a TBA selection on Sunday, which was rather odd since the film hadn't even played yet. Was TCM/the universe trying to tell me something? Probably, but I didn't end up making it to either screening, and for that, I am truly sorry. The reason? Everyone and their mother (and father, sister, brother, aunt...) were gushing how gorgeous/haunting/stunning the nitrate print of Black Narcissus was. Heck, in his intro, Academy Film Archive Director Mike Pogorzelski even admitted that this was one of the most gorgeous prints he's ever seen, nitrate or not. (Side note: Pogorzelski is also responsible for one of my favorite quotes from the fest, calling nitrate the "bad boy" of film stocks due to its flammability.) Anyway, for a film that is famous for its Technicolor cinematography, it was certainly a pleasure gazing at Black Narcissus in all its shimmery nitrate glory. Though I generally discern nitrate's qualities less in color pictures, a few frames of Black Narcissus were absolutely breathtaking, the below being one of them.
Jack Cardiff's cinematography no doubt boosted this scene considerably.
I'll dive further into this film's dazzling cinematography and discuss how the nitrate enhanced select scenes in my nitrate recap post, which I'll hopefully get to within the next month.
Exhausted yet? I know I am. Tomorrow I wrap my TCMFF 2017 revue with an article highlighting the fest's final day...and then it's on to the red carpet next week!