Saturday, May 14, 2011

Miriam Goldwyn Montag Still Wakes Up Dreaming

Has it really been over a week since the San Francisco International Film Festival ended? It still reverberates in my cinephiliac bones, and I'm still reading the articles being posted about it. A handful: Adam Nayman, Ryland Walker Knight, Kimbery Lindbergs, Alejandro Adams, and Fernando F. Croce all wrote excellent, often provocative wrap-ups of their festival experiences. Will I have time to write one of my own? Who knows; I'm already getting caught up in post-festival activities. On that note I'll unbury this pre-festival piece, which is growing quickly outdated but still provides a sense of the current screening scene. On the other hand, I've got a bit of the "burden" relieved by my friend Miriam Goldwyn Montag, who has been catching films playing the Roxie's current series of noir delights. Here's the first of her previews, covering films playing this weekend:

The Spiritualist has an alternate title, The Amazing Mr. X. A third title would be even more apt: Mr. Alton Goes to Town. Cinematographer John Alton was said to have been given free rein here and the results range from beyond sublime to just this side of ridiculous. The moonlight beach scene which opens the film is stunning enough to linger in the memory longer than some of the plot's hairpin twists. None of the performers in this film have ever been so luscious before or since; Turhan Bey's turbaned smoothie is almost alluring. When the reliable Cathy O'Donnell finds herself newly and intoxicatingly in love, Alton puts an actual twinkle in her eye and bathes her in a silvery glow. Try not to swoon, that's a dare! The Spiritualist is the perfect meeting of artist and material. The strange worlds of the spiritual con artist and the cinematographer both rely on tricks of shadow and light in a darkened room full of dreamers.

Sunday`s co-feature is The Night has a Thousand Eyes, a spooky tale of strange powers and dark motives. You can prime your pump for the supernatural with Saturday`s Ministry of Fear, Fritz Lang`s tense gem based on the Graham Greene novel. Ray Milland, freshly sprung from the laughing academy, enters a web of treachery over a crystal ball at a garden fete. These fortune telling phonies aren't fleecing widows, they're playing the longest con of them all. Personally, I never trust anyone who picks at dessert.

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