Wednesday, May 24, 2017

CASABLANCA at 75, Let the Celebrations Continue



Casablanca - winner of Best Picture, Best Director (Michael Curtiz) and Best Screenplay (Julius and Philip Epstein and Howard Koch) Oscars and possibly the film from Hollywood’s golden era that has aged better than any other “as time goes by” - turns 75 this year. Casablanca was honored at the 8th annual TCM Classic Film Festival in April with a screening on the final night of the event at the TCL Chinese Theatre, that opulent icon of glamorous days gone by that is just now celebrating its 90th year.

This was an ideal way to close out TCMFF 2017; there is no movie that better qualifies as classic than Casablanca, and there is no movie palace still operating with more Hollywood history than the Chinese. The theater (always Grauman’s to me) remains resplendent with old-school glamour even as it has undergone modernization to include digital IMAX capacity. I have no doubt that the 931 other people who shared the screening with me that evening had anything less than a sublime experience.

And now, thanks to the San Francisco Symphony, comes another chance to celebrate Casablanca at 75 in a unique and exceptional setting. On Friday night, June 2, and Saturday night, June 3, the symphony will screen Casablanca onstage as the orchestra performs Max Steiner’s unforgettable score live.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Underseen & Underrated: "Unfaithfully Yours" (1948), from the Madcap Mind of Preston Sturges



Preston Sturges’s final remarkable comedy, the deliriously dark Unfaithfully Yours (1948), screened twice at this year’s TCM Classic Film Festival, on April 7 and April 9. That it screened a second time speaks to the impact of this lesser known Struges jewel the first time it was shown; many of the screening slots on the festival’s final day are held open for repeat showings of “smaller” films that proved to be especially popular on their first run.

Presenting Unfaithfully Yours on April 9 was “Czar of Noir” and host of TCM’s Noir Alley, Eddie Muller. He spoke of his reaction when TCM’s festival programmers told him that the overall theme for the 2017 event would be “Make ‘Em Laugh” and that “Dark Comedies” would be a sub-category. Assuming the obvious, he replied, “You’ll be showing Unfaithfully Yours then, right?”

Thursday, May 4, 2017

PANIQUE (PANIC), a Timely French Noir from Julien Duvivier



 
During Turner Classic Movies’ 8th annual film festival in April, more than 75 films were shown over the event’s four day run. All films screened were classics and almost all of them appealed to me. But there were two that I was determined to see: The Powell/Pressburger tour de force Black Narcissus (1947), presented on nitrate-based film stock, and the less well known newly restored French film noir, Panique (1946), from director Julien Duvivier (1896 – 1967).