Friday, August 16, 2013

Tenebrae (1982)

WHO: Dario Argento directed this, and Goblin provided the musical soundtrack.

WHAT: I haven't seen this one before, so I'll leave the description to Argento biographer James Gracey:
Now recognised as a slyly reflexive and deconstructive commentary on not only Argento's own body of work but also the conventions of the Italian giallo, Tenebrae has experienced a critical reappraisal because of its underlying theme of the effects of violent entertainment on audiences. The twisted tale of an American mystery thriller novelist who becomes caught up in a slew of sadistic murders, seemingly inspired by his latest book, Tenebrae marked Argento's return to the giallo after a successful detour into the supernatural gothic horror of Suspiria (1977) and Inferno (1980).
WHERE/WHEN: Screens tonight only at the Roxie at 11:45 (or is it 11:59, as presenter Jesse Hawthorne Ficks indicates?).

WHY: If you've been making sure to attend all the Castro Theatre's theatrical screenings of Argento features over the past year, you've seen Phenonema, Deep Red and Suspiria. It's a far better 12-month stretch for seeing his horror movies in the company of other fans than this town has seen in a while. It's as if it's all to get San Francisco amped up to see Goblin perform on its first U.S. tour ever, on October 20th at the Warfield (previously the show was expected to be at the Regency Ballroom but the Market Street former movie palace is more spacious.) Certain other cities are getting a live cinema event in which the band plays in front of a screen showing one of these classic Argento movies. I'm not disappointed that here we'll be having separate experiences, spreading the Goblin joy out over a longer period of time.

Tonight's screening is the opening of a new chapter in the history of stalwart Frisco Bay screening series MiDNiTES FOR MANiACS, which has brought outre and underappreciated fare to San Francisco cinemas for over a decade now, starting out at the 4-Star (which opens Johnnie To's Drug War for a week today, by the way) and moving over to the Castro in 2005 and has been screening almost monthly there (and occasionally at the Roxie or other venues) ever since. The triple-bills thematically curated by Ficks have grown increasingly diffused over the years, as the difficulty of securing 35mm prints to show has grown ever-more staggering. But the loosening connectivity has also been a benefit to getting wider exposure to the lesser-known titles programmed; if a theatre full of Predator and The Thing fans can have their minds blown by My Life as a Dog or if Kickboxer can work as a chaser to Bring It On and Hairspray, it's MiDNiTES audiences who'll be able to experience it.

I call tonight's screening a new chapter because at last month's showing of Josie and the Pussycats, Velvet Goldmine and Wild in the Streets Ficks announced that the latter would be the final MiDNiTES FOR MANiACS midnight show at the Castro. No more than a couple hundred audience members had stuck around to see the last of these three films about rock-and-roll celebrity power, and keeping the 1400-seat theatre running and it's staff on the clock may not be worth it after the witching hour when there aren't more seats filled. Especially when there's an alternative! Tonight's MiDNiTES FOR MANiACS bill with be split between two venues; Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Evil Dead 2 will play back-to-back at the Castro Theatre at 7:00 and 9:30, and then Tenebrae will screen just a ten-to-fifteen-minute walk away at the Roxie just before midnight. You've heard of a "pub crawl"? This is a cinema crawl, and the presentation of a ticket stub from the Castro double-bill will get you into the Roxie for the Argento film for only an additional $5.

It will be interesting to see how many people take advantage of this dual-venue triple-bill, and how many stick to just one or the other. I for one feel like I've seen the Spielberg and Raimi films enough times for a while but am interested in finally checking out the Argento. Others may be more interested in the better-known films at the Castro than the relative obscurity at the Roxie. I wonder if Ficks is waiting to see how tonight's crawl works out before announcing the details of his next event, expected to happen on September 20 with unrevealed films and venues involved.

HOW: Tenebrae screens via a 35mm print. So does The Evil Dead 2, but Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is currently only available for digital screenings, and will show on DCP.

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