Friday, April 13, 2007

177. The Friday Club 4: All That Heaven Allows

This week is particularly random; I'm tempted to work up themes for the Club--feel free to make suggestions--but when I was a kid my Mom would make us throw out the grab-bags we got at Halloween--rat poison and razor-blades, you know--so I've always felt there was something exciting about the unmatched and unforeseen. Just remember, boys and girls: You eat at your own risk.

Monday Lustre (2005)
A man wanders NYC post-9/11. A "fictional documentary"? I don't know; but I am more than willing to watch this in memoriam Victor Argo, as much a New York institution as the Brooklyn Bridge: over the river and straight into the gut.

Tuesday The Legend of 1900 (1998)
Let's get a quick confession out of the way: I have yet to watch Giuseppe Tornatore's Cinema Paradiso (1988, I was surprised to see). I'll admit to an odd hesitation; until now, my best-beloved Italian view of movie-going is in Fellini's Amarcord (1973), with its heady combination of Hollywood star-gazing and adolescent lust. I'll get around to watching Cinema Paradiso one day; in the meantime, there's The Legend of 1900, which concerns a man (Tim Roth) who spends his entire life aboard a cruise ship. A hybrid of Being There (1979) and Fellini's own And the Ship Sails On (1983). Maybe.

Wednesday The Gleaners and I (2000)
I've seen only one Agnes Varda movie--Cleo from 5 to 7 (1961), perhaps my favorite French film about a woman (Amelie fans may howl their protests)--and I've read she has made a number of documentaries. This one is about modern French "gleaners," people who are authorized by law to gather fruit from already-harvested orchards in the country and dumpster-dive in the city. And I have the impression that it is also autobiographical--or self-reflective--as Varda also sees herself as a gleaner. My faithful readers will not be surprised that I'm attracted to the act of discovering oneself while exploring something else.

Thursday One from the Heart (1982)
I've seen this Francis Ford Coppola--you need to write out the whole name; there's at least two of them now--movie once, I think on cable, soon after its brief theatrical run. Many people don't care for it; but it has a great cast--Teri Garr, Frederic Forrest, Raul Julia, and the one and only Nastassia Kinski (Tess was the first movie I took my then-fiancee to see--oh, OK: the first movie we saw together)--and Tom Waits songs--with Crystle Gayle--and that whole business about it being shot on a sound stage while Coppola ensconced himself in a high (for the early '80s)-tech Command Center from which he delivered electronic edicts. So--famous last words--what's not to like?

Friday The Story of G.I. Joe (1945)
Ernie Pyle is one of my minor heroes, and he is played by Burgess Meredith. Almost 'nuff said: Robert Mitchum's in it, too. I almost would like this one for Sunday--it has that pot roast and mashed potatoes feeling, at least from here--but, as you'll see, I've saved even heavier fare for that day.

Saturday Crank (2006)
Lighten up, it's Saturday night. I like D.O.A., I like Speed, and Jason Statham is cool and crazy, daddio. As Nick (Nick Dennis) the mechanic, considering a sports car, exults in Kiss Me Deadly (1955), "Zoom! POW!!"

Sunday Heaven's Gate (1980)
A group of us rented this in grad school, pitching in so that it would cost us only a dime each to see it--and one of us (Are you out there, Karen?) sat patiently through the whole thing, then, as soon as it was over, shot up and bolted out the door. Enough, it seemed, was enough. (At least that's how my wife and I remember it.) While leisurely (he admitted, albeit in gross understatement), I will never concede that this is a bad movie, in large part because it isn't. But it's infamy also marks its significance in film history: the moment when filmgoers began to act like studio execs. Most (OK, not all) of the jeering directed at Michael Cimino's film resulted from its "excessive" cost, not its merit simply as a movie--one that, by the way, has many moments of stunning clarity and grace that still resonate, at least in my mind. Again, one of the ugly side-effects of consumer criticism is the urge on the part of the audience to dwell on the Biz, the dirt dished by entertainment media, and the tendency toward judging a film based on what others say about it. To quote Daffy Duck, "Now that's just plain silly."

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