Friday, April 06, 2007

173. The Friday Club 3: Easter Eggs

This week--and it's odd that for last week's Friday Club I completely ignored the facts of Passover and Easter; another missed opportunity--I'm going to try to find some Easter eggs, little hidden gems amid the clutter of my Netflix Queue. With a nod to the week before.

Monday The Return (2003)
A Russian film about a man who suddenly arrives at his home after a twelve-year absence. Dave Kehr of The New York Times uses the word "mysticism" and makes a comparison to Andrei Tarkovsky. If he's right, this might be a good pick for Easter Monday--but done in slo-mo; no mystery disciple racing to the empty tomb here--and perhaps not a joyful return.

Tuesday The Silent Partner (1978)
My favorite Elliot Gould movie--and yes, I'm not forgetting M*A*S*H--and one of the best movies featuring a shopping mall. This is a Club entry that I have seen--and thanks, Mike, for introducing it to me--but it has been long enough--a decade, maybe?--since I've seen it, so it deserves a return. Tense and sometimes ugly, funny and thrilling. An early screenwriting credit for Curtis Hanson; L.A. Confidential does have a parent, it seems. (And the Internet Movie Database informs me he was also a screenwriter for The Dunwich Horror (1970); talk about your "colour out of space"!)

Wednesday Macbeth (1971)
I've been promising myself for a long time to watch Polanski's version of what was throughout high school and college my favorite Shakespeare play after King Lear. I used to imagine a film version of Macbeth in which he was a kind of Larry Talbot, a victim of forces inflicted on him, a werewolf whose full moon was power; from what I know about the movie, Polanski also knows that here be monsters. And I'm afraid I'm also intrigued by the fact that this is the first film he made after Sharon Tate was murdered, an event which must have "hovered through the foul and filthy air" of the production.

Thursday Contempt (1963)
This is on my extremely long list of "important" films I have yet to watch. And I can't tell you how pleased I am that the list is so extensive. I relish those magical moments when I can introduce someone to movies as "obviously" great as Casablanca or On the Waterfront. I am amazed they haven't seen the movies, but deeply pleased I can be the first one to watch it with them. So, although my premier viewing of a movie like Contempt often occurs alone--my wife sometimes joins me, but I suspect Jean-Luc Godard may be too much of a chore for her--I am happy to see it for the first time in the midst of a life already cluttered with movies, so that it can join so many companions in my head. Besides, Fritz Lang, Brigitte Bardot and Jack Palance are all in Godard's "inside movies" movie; so join the Club, you alienating little nouvelle vague, you.

Friday The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926)
I have a vague memory of watching a Lotte Reiniger animation on the old Night Flight program back in the golden days of nationwide cable TV, in 1980 or so--when the possibility of many channels implied access to many programs; I forgot all they really wanted was more room for crummy commercials. I'm looking forward to Reiniger's cut-out version of German Expressionism, in which the narrative is straightforward--Arabian Nights tales--but the method of transmittal--black silhouettes--evokes blissful Otherness. The true heart of the cinema is in the obscure and the fleeting, the efforts of mechanisms to force us to gaze, and I think The Adventures of Prince Achmed will give us a chance to try.

Saturday No Good Deed (2002)
Director Bob Raphelson, whose '70s-'80s lights seemed in some danger of fading, might be on to something with this one, based on a Dashiell Hammett story and starring Samuel L. Jackson--who has occasionally exasperated me (like spending too much time on a snake-filled plane), but more often satisfies, especially in his willingness to play creeps with actual personalities (as good as he is in Pulp Fiction, I think he's even better in Jackie Brown)--and Milla Jovovich, for whom all I can usually muster is a heartfelt albeit adolescent woof! I'm keeping my fingers crossed the two of them give us something to bark about.

Sunday 2005 Academy Award Short Films Collection
I've seen the 2004 disk, and am encouraged this will continue. I recall that in the late '70s PBS ran a series that showed Academy Award-nominated short films, and I'm sure that's where I saw That's Me (1963), nominated for Best Live-Action Short. It was Alan Arkin's first credited screen appearance, a monologue in which he sits in Central Park, holding a guitar and talking about his life; I think his character is Puerto Rican. I'm glad that newer films are rising out of the ever-increasing obscurity suffered by those that live on only in memory; maybe someone some day will release them all, the cartoons and the vignettes, the experiments and doodles.

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