Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Fortune Cookie (1966)

WHO: Billy Wilder co-wrote, directed and produced this.

WHAT: This comedy about an injured football player and a crooked lawyer was the first of the dozen films pairing Jack Lemmon and Walter Mathau. I have never seen it, but am intrigued by an insurance-fraud comedy made by the writer/director of what might be the greatest drama about that subject ever made: Double Indemnity.

WHERE/WHEN: Today only at the Castro at 4:35 and 9:15.

WHY: It's no secret that I prefer to see pretty much any film in the format for which it was intended, which means 35mm prints of any major release made before I was born (and for the most part after it as well). If I had a 35mm projector and access to prints myself, I'll admit that I might sometimes prefer to see certain films (especially English-dialogue dramas with a nonetheless high "camp factor") in private, and, as I've written before, that tuning out inappropriate audience reactions is simply part of the deal when going to see a 35mm print of, to pick another film featuring Walter Matthau, Bigger Than Life in a cinema. And it's definitely worth it when the mise-en-scène is as exquisite and as medium-specific as it is in a Nick Ray masterpiece.

But that's a difficult argument to make and can perhaps boil down to personal preference. What's not hard to convince people of is the benefit to seeing great comedies on the big screen in the company of strangers. Laughter is contagious, and can even cue you to catch a joke you might have missed if watching in a solitary state. I don't know if The Fortune Cookie is a great comedy, but I'm planning to find out tonight. It's on a double-bill with another Wilder comedy, one that I haven't seen in maybe twenty years; I'm excited to check it out with a Castro crowd even though I'm sad I seemingly missed all my chances to see it on 35mm (it screens on DCP, as it will at the Pacific Film Archive in a couple months.

More comedies coming to the Castro include A Night at the Opera and Duck Soup tomorrow, Singin' in the Rain on New Year's Eve and Breakfast at Tiffany's New Year's Day, and MiDNiTES FOR MANiACS pairings of Valley Girl and Raising Arizona January 3rd and Clue and another screwball comedy TBA February 21st. The San Francisco Silent Film Festival hosts five Charlie Chaplin films with live musical accompaniment January 11th, and the annual SF Sketchfest line-up includes talent-studded screenings of the In-Laws, Top Secret, and other more recent comedies as part of its comedy-on-film component in early 2014. And tucked into the theatre's January program (which will be available in print at the venue by Tuesday) is another comedy I've never seen: Mike Nichols' The Fortune starring Jack Nicholson (on a double-bill with the not-so-funny Chinatown). I don't know if there's any connection between the two films other than the shared word in their titles.

HOW: The Fortune Cookie screens on 35mm, and Some Like It Hot on DCP.

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