Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Lucy Laird's Two Eyes

Since my own two eyes were not nearly enough to see and evaluate all the repertory/revival film screenings here on Frisco Bay, I'm honored to present local filmgoers' lists of the year's favorites. An index of participants is found here.

The following list comes from writer and projectionist Lucy Laird, who blogs on and off at Lucible:

M. Hulot's Holiday (Jacques Tati, 1953), @Smith Rafael Film Center
Having somehow never seen this particular Tati, I ended up viewing it several times over the course of just a few days: once in the audience at the PFA and about three more times projecting it at the Smith Rafael Film Center. Like the saltwater taffy that oozes but is always rescued before it hits the sand, this film is a perfectly choreographed confection, and to project it with perfectly timed changeovers made me feel like I got to dance with M. Hulot, if only briefly.
Traffic (Tati, 1971), @YBCA
Nice set-up: getting stuck in a rain-drenched traffic jam on the way to this screening. And everyone in the audience got to sport their raincoats and umbrellas, if not any Hulot-ian pipes.

2/5: The Leopard Man (Jacques Tourneur, 1943), @PFA
If only the back alleys of Berkeley could look this magnificently menacing when the panther comes down from the hills to hunt...

2/28: Sid's Cinema: A Tribute to Amateur Filmmaker Sid Laverents (1963-85), @PFA, introduced by Ross Lipman and Melinda Stone
Ross and Melinda's stories about hanging out with Sid enlivened an already mind-blowing afternoon of selections from his wacky oeuvre.
5/28: Follow Thru (Lloyd Corrigan, Laurence Schwab, 1930), @Stanford Theatre
A sublimely silly tale of apple-cheeked young golfers in love, featuring a jaw-dropping devil-girl dance number that really does the 2-strip Technicolor justice: I almost couldn't believe my eyes.

7/30: The Boston Strangler (Richard Fleischer, 1968), @PFA
With widescreen, split-screens, and hysterical montages of desperate cops sifting through all the perverts on file to find their granny strangler, this installment in Steve Seid's Criminal Minds series left me reeling and unexpectedly disturbed by Tony Curtis's sinister side.

8/22: Endless Love (Franco Zeffirelli, 1981), Film on Film Foundation @PFA
Full disclosure: I did not see this at the public screening, but got a chance to view the print when Carl Martin (Film on Film Foundation Executive Director) test-projected it. Its Sirkian power, glowing interior cinematography, and cast of beautiful young things—Brooke, of course, but also James (Spader) and Tom (Cruise)—could only have benefited from one thing: a houseful of fellow audience members to savor it all with.

10/9: The Sensitive '70's: Empathetic Self-Help and Social-Problem films from the Disco Decade, Film on Film Foundation @Oddball,
On a rare escape-from-the-projection-booth Saturday night, I gobbled down FoFF's delicious baked goods and one of their periodic cinematic benders culled from the Oddball archives. What was most startling about these films were the faces of '70s adolescence unfiltered, in all their pimpled, combed-over, underplucked glory (Francesca Baby and The Drug Scene, in particular), before the aesthetically (and otherwise) sanitizing forces of the 1980s and '90s set in.

(Will Oldham in Old Joy)

(River of Grass)

11/11-12, Ode, Old Joy and River of Grass (Kelly Reichardt, 1999, 2006, 1993) with Reichardt in person @PFA
My favorite American director right now, Kelly Reichardt, appeared at the PFA to present her films. I was charmed, though not surprised, to find her modest and funny and smart. I was surprised, charmed, and vindicated to find that she helped fund her good works through bad; she edited a season of America's Next Top Model, my one reality-TV guilty-pleasure. Now I just have to figure out which season so I can comb through it for hints of Reichardt's quiet genius.

12/3: Vampyr (Carl Th. Dreyer, 1931), @PFA
Another one I saw from the projection booth (launching the electronic subtitles this time); I can't say that the somewhat battered print didn't dampen the experience (as well as the fact that I wasn't sitting in the audience and absorbing the communal mood), but this Dreyer dreamscape thoroughly unsettles, one uncanny scene after another. An early sound film with the sound made all the eerier in its echo and minimalism, it also features shadow tricks (upside down and backwards) that are the essence of cinema itself. For the people who attended the Voices of Light/Passion of Joan of Arc extravaganza at the Paramount the night before, Vampyr was probably a nice Dreyer hair-of-the-dog hangover remedy.

12/10: Point Break (Kathryn Bigelow, 1991), 20th anniversary screening, Midnites for Maniacs' Push It to the Limit! triple bill, Castro Theatre
Jesse Hawthorne Ficks is fighting the good fight with his Midnites for Maniacs—and one of my new year's resolutions is to attend more of them—because his neo-sincerity-ism extends to print quality: if it isn't the nicest, newest 35mm print available, then the faded and pink last-ones-on-earth he hunts down are sincerely explained and treasured all the more. The print of Point Break wasn't perfect (though far from bad), but I was stunned by the widescreen, sun-baked, heavy-grained hugeness of it on the Castro's screen, elevating Keanu Reeves and (sniff) Patrick Swayze to god-like levels. And I don't know anything about surfing, but those CGI-less scenes were pretty rad. All the more poignant because I saw this on the big screen as a teenager, when it first came out, and probably marveled about some of the same things. Oh, it was also fun to be reminded that Bigelow was always pretty good at depicting the performance of masculinity.

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