Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Pleasantville - Memorial Day Weekend 2007

I can't speak for you guys, but I have to say that I had a very pleasant holiday weekend.

My definition of "pleasant" and your definition may not be one in the same thing, but I say that having a good time with friends and enjoying great movies is a pleasant thing to me. And doing so in great locations with terrific weather, now that's pleasant. I'm not saying the weekend was awesome, because it wasn't like I got paid to do all this or anything, but I'll take pleasant over boring and predictable any day of the week.

I started out the weekend with a 3:30 screening of DAY OF THE LOCUST at Lincoln Center, part of a mini John Schlesinger retrospective being held on Friday and Saturday. I caught some of this film on TV over 20 years ago and remembered that it ended with a huge fire, but other than that it was all pretty much new to me and I'm happy to say that the film is still a powerful piece of work. There seems to be something about British directors turning their lens on Los Angeles that works in its own unique way and with LOCUST it seems like Schlesinger is able to bring us that "true Hollywood story" part that probably no American director could have properly picked up on. An American director would simply show us that there's beauty and ugliness, but Schlesinger shows us the beauty in the ugliness, that these characters, for all of their faults, are driven (no matter how falsely) by their dreams, which give them soul, and it's a heartbreaking picture in the end. Great cast, too, lead by a never-better Karen Black and William Atherton (who was supposed to be at the screening, but bowed out), along with an excellent Billy Barty and Jackie Earle Haley.

Afterwards, I called a friend about some temporary plans to meet for drinks downtown, which turned out to be a lot bigger than anticipated. I was told that my friend Scooter was holding things up due to a trip to the Apple Store uptown; as it turns out, I was only a 15-minute walk to the store, so I agreed to meet him there and we would zip down on the subway. Walking across Central Park South on a beautiful early summer's day, it was a joy to see so many people just out enjoying themselves and the start of the summer season. Memorial Day is supposed to be one of those weekends where most New Yorkers skip town and the tourist take over (it's also Fleet Week), but it seemed like it was a real mixture of the two and it helped put a smile on my face, meaning that summer really, truly was here. We got downtown and the group had grown to about eight people in all, with two more, my friends Marc and Jen, celebrating their fourth wedding anniversary, meeting us at the bar downtown. This, of course, led to a dinner at a downtown Japanese restaurant and I ended up getting home a heck of a lot later than planned, but not minding at all.

The plan for Saturday was to zip down to Philly's International House for a double feature screening of Jodorowsky's EL TOPO and THE HOLY MOUNTAIN, both on the new 35mm prints that began making the rounds last fall. I was going to meet Marc and Jen there, too, Marc being a Philly native and Jen having designed the poster for the event and both being longtime Jodorowsky fans. This was my first time seeing either (I stayed away from the numerous bootlegs and import DVDs because of the lackluster transfers) and was pleased to see that the new prints were just jaw-droppingly good. I enjoyed both films quite a bit, HOLY MOUNTAIN more than EL TOPO, but I couldn't tell you what they're really about because it's all a matter of your own personal interpretation. But I've got to say that the overall design of THE HOLY MOUNTAIN is so stunning that I feel like I've got to see it again just to soak it all in properly. One funny moment during the screening was when a thunderstorm erupted outside during EL TOPO, but I actually thought it was just Jodorowsky fucking with the soundtrack! Imagine my surprise to discover it really did rain, proving that the film was already doing a stellar job playing its tricks on me. And another plus was an unexpected phone call from a friend of mine in L.A. just as EL TOPO was letting out; I hadn't heard from this person in several weeks, so it was great just to catch up a bit before the start of HOLY MOUNTAIN. We also spoke for a bit after that film, though I had to cut the call short in order to drive Marc and Jen home. But it's always good to hear from friends when you least expect to (and this person knows she's always welcome to call), all of which added to the night's (and weekend's) pleasantries.

Sunday seemingly started on a down note, with both my cable and Internet out because of work that my cable company was doing in the neighborhood the previous afternoon. The cable company informed me that they might not get someone there until Thursday, then said they could do it later that afternoon between 3 and 6pm. Knowing this could screw up my evening's plans to see BARRY LYNDON at Lincoln Center with Scooter and his girlfriend, I still said yes and decided that I could get my errands done before being stuck waiting at home. Just as I was about to go out running I got a call from the cable guy, who, as it turns out, was outside my place. As the cable guy worked his magic, my landlady (who lives right next to me) and our next door neighbor had it out in a big fight right in the middle of the street. The whole thing started the other day due to the matter of dog dropping in the neighborhood and escalated with some very nasty name calling, but because the weekend was so damn pleasant, their differences were settled just in time for my cable to get fixed and me to go on my run, do my laundry, and then hit Other Music in downtown NYC before getting to Lincoln Center. And that's exactly what happened.

Having ordered my ticket online the day before (I'm no ijut), I arrived at Lincoln Center to find Scooter waiting in the standby line since the show was completely sold out (they managed to squeeze in at the last minute). This should tell you how often BARRY LYNDON screens in NYC, especially in a new-ish print (it's from 2001) taken from the interpositive and hosted by co-star/Kubrick associate Leon Vitali. LYNDON is not my favorite Kubrick film, but I'd only seen it once before and you're going to watch it again to re-evaluate it, this is the way to do it. And BARRY LYNDON does grow on you, especially as it progresses, and as a piece of filmmaking it is, of course, breathtakingly beautiful throughout. But this time out I couldn't help but pay attention to the excellent performance of Ryan O'Neal in the title role. O'Neal is a pretty underrated actor who gave some smart and funny performances throughout his career, but this was something else all together, a complete character from beginning to end and if Kubrick was the composer and conductor, O'Neal was the instrument for whom the piece was written. SPOILER The scene where he breaks down as he tries to tell his dying son a story is probably the most overwhelmingly emotional scene in the entire Kubrick filmography and it's really O'Neal's moment to shine. END SPOILER Vitali gave a good talk where he re-iterated that Kubrick was a much more improvisational filmmaker than his reputation suggests and I'm glad I got to see it again in such a prime viewing environment.

In a "from the sublime to the ridiculous" kind of manner, Monday could only be spent watching some of the new Godzilla/Toho DVDs coming out in the next few weeks on Marc's home theater. We checked out GHIDORAH, THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER, which didn't age quite that well but is a more than passable time-killer (after, it has Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan and King Ghidorah in it), and FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD, starring the one and only Nick Adams, which is actually a more interesting picture. Produced as an attempt to make more horror-themed product, FRANKENSTEIN is a bit more gruesome than usual and slightly more adult (if you can call it that), but it's a fun and bizarre little picture that easily held my attention. And I've got to say that the FX work is consistently good on this one, with some beautifully detailed model work that makes it look like they had a bit more money to spend (after all, they could afford Nick Adams). FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD is a weird picture, but weird in the best way and is certainly worth a look for you kaiju fans out there.

The afternoon was wrapped by a nice rooftop BBQ and then zipping on home with no traffic to answer the e-mails that piled up in my absence (OK, maybe not piled up, but what was there was worth answering) and then I konked the hell out and reluctantly headed back to work the following morning. The whole weekend was kind of like that Ice Cube song "It Was a Good Day", except for the part about getting my jimmy whacked, which is probably why the weekend was merely pleasant and not amazing or anything. But there's always next weekend.

1 comment:

schnittman said...

BARRY LYNDON.

I am a complete Kubrick freak, even to the point of claiming to like EYES WIDE SHUT (no, I did, I really did like it -- the first time I saw it). And Kubrick did have a genius at being able to work with completely crappy actors (Keir Dullea? honestly!!).

But Ryan O'Neal and Marisa Berenson just absolutely put me to sleep when I first saw it and that film remains, to this day, the only Kubrick film I've seen only once.