Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Reversal Of Fortune (1990)

Screen capture from Warner Home Video DVD edition of REVERSAL OF FORTUNE, published 2001.
WHO: Jeremy Irons won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in this.

WHAT: I have not seen this film, directed by Barbet Schroeder, who started his career in in the trenches of the French New Wave, producing some of Eric Rohmer's and Jacques Rivette's greatest films before building a very unusual career as a director in his own right. It was shot by cinematographer Luciano Tovoli, who in addition to frequently working with Schroeder, had shot films for Michaelangelo Antonioni (including The Passenger) and Dario Argento (including Suspiria). But it's Irons who is most associated with Reversal of Fortune, turning the notorious Danish defendant in a tabloid-ready attempted murder trial Claus von Bülow into one of his career-defining roles.  Edward Copeland writes: "Irons' perfect mimicry of the Danish aristocrat is but a small portion of his outstanding performance that infuses Claus with a jet-black sense of humor about his plight."

WHERE/WHEN: Screens 7:30 tonight at the Kabuki's House 1, as part of the San Francisco International Film Festival.

WHY: Only last week, the San Francisco International Film Festival announced it was giving its Peter J. Owens Award for screen acting to Jeremy Irons. It's becoming something of a tradition for SFIFF to lock up this particular award well after the rest of the festival is announced. Last year's Harrison Ford selection and 2011's Terence Stamp tribute were both late announcements. I don't know if this tradition is because actors are increasingly wary of committing to attend events like this weeks in advance of them, or because the festival likes the publicity bump a celebrity can bring to be timed apart from the full program announcement. At any rate, the events themselves are said not to suffer. I heard the Stamp interview in particular was one of the best in recent memory, and if I only hadn't locked my schedule in place to make sure I could see Georgian filmmaker Otar Iosseliani in person, I'd have surely been there that year.

Tonight I'm tempted to go as well, though I'd probably be more tempted if the festival were showing Dead Ringers, an Irons-showcase masterpiece I sometimes cite as the best film I never want to see again, simply because it's so overpoweringly dark. But if it played in 35mm with Irons (or its director David Cronenberg, or perhaps other players involved) in person near me, I couldn't resist. I hear Reversal of Fortune is excellent as well, though; it's pedigree is certainly strong enough as you can see from my "WHAT" paragraph (which didn't even mention Glenn Close, who is also supposed to be great in it).

Though it was mentioned, along with this award, as a "To Be Announced" festival event during the April 1st press conference, the SFIFF's annual State of the Cinema address is nowhere to be seen, which is a disappointment. These events have been frequently wonderful food for thought; I'm particularly remembering Walter Murch's and Tilda Swinton's fondly. Last year's by Steven Soderbergh is a hard act to follow, but I would love to see the festival choose an archivist to present her or his thoughts on the current state of movies someday soon. Perhaps it will have to be next year.

HOW: Reversal of Fortune screens from a 35mm print, proving it's still possible to run reels onto one of the Kabuki's eight screens, even if it's now a rare occasion. The last time I attended such a screening was at last year's festival when The Insider was shown as part of a tribute to screenwriter Eric Roth, to an embarrassingly sparse crowd. It was beautiful.

OTHER SFIFF OPTIONS: Day 7 at the festival is your last chance to catch two films I wrote a bit about earlier this week: Stray Dogs and Bright Mirror, the latter being part of a shorts program that's been getting a lot of acclaim from experimental film scenesters.

NON-SFIFF OPTION: Tonight and tomorrow a Fred MacMurray/Barbara Stanwyck double-bill of Remember the Night and There's Always Tomorrow screens as part of the Stanford Theatre's all-35mm Stanwyck series, which has only three more weeks in it and is worth heading down to Palo Alto for. The lobby's display of original documents concerning the most famous MacMurray/Stanwyck pairing Double Indemnity is an absolute must for anyone who appreciates that seminal film.

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