Archives for June 2015

The Third Man (1949), RESTORED

My film story, The Third Man was never written to be read but only to be seen … For me it is impossible to write a film play without first writing a story.

– Graham Greene, Preface to The Third Man novella

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Over the years, I have had the occasion to reference The Third Man on this blog. I am sure one could imply that I am a fan, but let me more clearly and officially go on record and declare:

I. FREAKING. LOVE. THIS. MOVIE.

From the moment I heard that haunting zither, I was transfixed by the tale of American pulp writer Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten) and his search to unravel the mystery surrounding the circumstances of friend Harry Lime’s (Orson Welles) recent death in post-war Vienna.

I think the thing I love lost about The Third Man is how in sync my own journey through the film is with that of our primary character, Martins. As the story develops and it becomes more and more apparent that things are not what they seem, the audience, along with Martins, is left wondering what lies around the corner and encouraged to find out the exact truth.

Aided by a wonderful featured cast (that includes Trevor Howard and Alida Valli) and stunning, visually-striking black and white cinematography (courtesy of Robert Krasker), this is a film I can watch over and over again and never tire of.

ThirdManBut, as the title of this post suggests, I am not simply writing here to wax poetic about The Third Man. I wanted to use this opportunity to bring to my readers’ attention that, thanks to UK-based Deluxe Restoration, in association with distributors Rialto Pictures and on behalf of Studiocanal, we now have an all-new, first ever 4K digital restoration of this classic coming to cinemas nationwide starting tomorrow (June 26th).

Regarding my thoughts on this undertaking. As much as I have seen The Third Man, this is the first time I ever saw it on the big screen. And in watching it, was clear, that the film has been “cleaned up” considerably, as one would expect. But beyond that, I don’t have a basis (i.e. a 35mm projection viewing experience) to compare it to; I look to my fellow readers who have had this privilege to comment below if they notice anything. While I know this may be of interest to many, for me, it doesn’t matter in the end. Simply having the opportunity to catch director Carol Reed’s masterpiece projected in a movie theater is more than worth the price of admission.

I have mentioned a few times the general excitement and glee I derive from screening classic films as they were crafted to be displayed. So I repeat – go see The Third Man, be it your first or fiftieth time. Check the listings to find a screening in your area;  if you are local to the greater New York City area, be sure to head down to Film Forum, where you can see The Third Man tomorrow and on through July 9th.

 

Random Thoughts on Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

Full disclosure: I have a very vague recollection of the original, Mel Gibson-headlined films in this series so my perspective on how the film looks and feels may not be entirely on point. Because let’s face it – when the original films came out (in 1979, 1981, and 1985, respectively), I was technically way too young to have either seen them or better yet actually understand exactly what they were about.  But I had, in fact, seen them, thanks to a rad dad who enjoyed sharing his cinematic experiences with his impressionable children. Maybe I should have rewatched in anticipation of seeing Mad Max: Fury Road but alas, I did not.

My, how times have changed – a little bit older and wiser (I hope), I went into the cinema with a better understanding of the world I was about to inhabit. And, at the end of the day, what a horribly wonderful world it is.

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This latest chapter in director/co-writer/producer George Miller’s Mad Max saga, Mad Max: Fury Road starts with Max (played by Tom Hardy) on the run; the from what/whom is made pretty clear from the outset.

What can I say about this cultish corner of post-apocalyptic Australia*, really? It isn’t pleasant, that much I can tell you, especially if as in Max’s case, you are designated a ‘blood bag’ for one of the Immortan Joe’s (head dude, played by Hugh Keays-Byrne) army, or if you are an attractive woman of childbearing age.

Enter Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), who by all accounts is one of the best supply runners this community has; she is headed off on the road to collect gasoline but it becomes apparent that something is a bit amiss. Shortly after Furiosa’s departure, Joe realizes that his aforementioned “prized breeders/wives” have gone missing (I think you can guess by whom). Upon this realization, Joe sends his league of henchmen out on the road to reclaim what he feels is his. Our friend Max fits into the story because as a blood bag, he is the source of nourishment for one of the men in pursuit, Nux (Nicholas Hoult).

The film then proceeds to take us on one epic, action-packed and unrelenting road trip.

Fury Road is rather light on dialogue but heavy of flying-off-the-screen action set pieces (perfectly suited for 3D projection – though I chose to see it in standard 2D); either way you see this, it was a genre lover’s paradise.

Now to get a little heavy – I am a little reticent at this point to discuss at any great length the heavily reported topic of Fury Road’s feminist bona fides, because several others have spoken eloquently in this regard. I will say that for myself, I had no preconception or expectation of what to expect when I entered the film. However, as the narrative progressed, it became more and more clear to me that this was the story of the women and matriarchy, with Max as an actively participating bystander. It was an exciting, welcomed breath of fresh air. However, for a few members of the audience at my screening, this was not the case, as they exited the film early on. Why? Only they know, I suppose.

So to return to an earlier point in this post, did I derive more or less enjoyment by not seeing the first three films again? My answer: not really. Although part of a larger franchise, I do not think the earlier films are necessarily required “pre-” viewing. That said, after seeing Fury Road, maybe a re-visitation of the earlier films at some point in the future is in order.

But as a standalone, Mad Max: Fury Road, even now, a month later, continues to resonate with me and is easily one of my favorite films of 2015 thus far.

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 *Production note: although set in Australia, Mad Max: Fury Road was in fact shot in the expanse of the Namibian desert.

Hometown Movie Palaces

First off, my apologies for not posting recently. The work-life balance has been a bit askew meaning that I have not had the leisure or pleasure of waxing poetic about my latest and greatest thoughts about the world of cinema.

But enough of that. I am glad to return with a bit of Friday nostalgia, inspired by:

  1. My recent screening of the 4K restoration of The Third Man (more on that in a separate post) and
  2. My participation in the free course inspired by the TCM’s Summer of Darkness, which showcases the thrilling cinematic movement/genre known as film noir.

I am taken back momentarily to how these films were exhibited to audiences of their time – movie palaces and movie theaters.

Often built by studios, whether big or small, these buildings were opulent pieces of architecture, often designed and styled in the fashion of the day, including, art deco and a generic Hollywood-defined “oriental style.”

For years growing up near Gramatan Avenue (part of the commercial district of my hometown of Mount Vernon, NY), we would frequently walk by a sad, dilapidated edifice that for my part, felt haunted by echoes of the past. I always referred to it as “the RKO Theatre.” A quick internet search, revealed a little more about the history, including the formal name, RKO Proctor Theater).

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Proctor Theatre, interior. Mount Vernon, NY (Photo source: Architecture and Building, Volume 46)

Proctor Theatre, exterior. Mount Vernon, NY. Photo source: Architecture and Building, Volume 46

Proctor Theatre, exterior. Mount Vernon, NY. Source: Architecture and Building, Volume 46

Here is a link to a couple of additional interior shots from the same source.

Now to think about, this all makes sense to me now because right across the street there was named “Proctor’s Pharmacy,” a concern that is still in operation.

Shout out and many thanks to one of my recent favorite internet resources – Cinema Treasures – for their comprehensive database of all manner of building in the United States was/is dedicated to the exhibition of film. It was in this archive that I was not only able to find information about my abandoned, beloved neighborhood theater above, but where I also “discovered” several other theaters in Mount Vernon that were lost to time (hint: the hyperlink will tell you a little more about the theater and location; also be sure to check out user comments – very informative):

Embassy Theatre (no photo)

Biltmore Theater

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Photo source: Cinema Treasures

Loew’s Mount Vernon Theatre

Loew's Mount Vernon (Source: Cinema Treasures)

Loew’s Mount Vernon – sign visible in the upper right corner (Source: Cinema Treasures)

Parkway Theatre (no photo) I had forgotten I knew about this one. Also on Gramatan Avenue (a little further up in the Fleetwood section of Mount Vernon). A very faint, distant memory recalls me (again) walking by this theater and seeing a poster for the release of The Elephant Man. Interesting fact about this location’s fate – it now houses a funeral home.

Do you have a hometown/local/now long gone, forgotten building you remember fondly as a place where you would enjoy watching films? Share below.