After a quiet day indoors, I went to see a movie at an art-house cinema where the clientele, mostly in their later years, were anxious and perturbed, snipping at each other for better seats, unhappy with the lack of air conditioning as well as the tight quarters, leaving my neighbor and I both to wonder aloud why we had left our apartments in the first place, even if the film was fine, which it was, German and provoking, as was the bar later on, except that the clientele was perturbed there too, drunk maybe being more accurate a phrase, anxious for the next round or just be less alone……while the bartender loudly repeated his story of getting so sick of a woman who wouldn’t stop playing George Michael songs on the jukebox, so sick of listening to George Michael songs that he not only didn’t care that George Michael had just died, but more than that, he would rather listen to absolutely anything else, even The Chipmunks’ Christmas Don’t Be Late, than another one of George Michael’s fucking songs, and told her if she didn’t like it, there were two doors and to use one of them, all to the delight of his patrons,all of whom wanted another drink, anything not to have to go home because there was no one there. Or maybe that was all me.
We went to see Singin’ in the Rain this morning at Film Forum and found the theatre packed with film-buff kids and parents alike – including Ethan Hawke and Philip Seymour Hoffman. We asked if this was a special event, a benefit perhaps, but it was just a screening for which we had just squeezed in. We settled into our second-row seats and cricked our necks for the opening short, a 1935 cartoon by Max Fleischer, Dancing on the Moon.I wondered what it was that made a 1952 musical such a draw in 2013. The song and dance is certainly something to marvel at – even if I wasn’t that fond of musicals – especially Donald O’Connor’s Make ’em Laugh and Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds’ amorous You Were Meant For Me. It is also a surprisingly thoughtful film, a tongue-in-cheek expose of the artifice of the stars and executives of the Hollywood system – ironically mirroring the behind-the-scenes story of Singin’ in the Rain itself. But most of all, the essence of the experience is in the underlying theme of integrity, celebrated in such wide-eyed innocence, where Hollywood stars drink milk at 1:30 in the morning, friends are always loyal and the worst of crimes is singing (and dancing) in the rain. And, yes, it is hard to find things like this these days. I guess that’s what sells out a theater on a cold Sunday morning in 2013, especially to such a hip crowd.
Film Forum’s current program New Yawk New Wave showcases director-centered New York films in the 1950s-70s, including D.A. Pennebaker’s 1 P.M. The genesis of the piece, as Pennebaker explained in his comments before the screening, arose from Jean-Luc Godard’s belief that the United States was on the brink of revolution. Pennebaker, esteemed for his work on Dont Look Back, Monterey Pop, Ziggy Stardust and the Spider from Mars as well as The War Room, didn’t share Godard’s belief but saw an opportunity for something to unfold. The film centers on Godard directing various people in 10-minute unedited sequences, including political activist Tom Hayden, Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver, actor Rip Torn, The Jefferson Airplane in a rooftop performance, that identify the unnatural order of filmmaking and narrative construction. As heavy-handed and off the mark as Godard might have been about America’s revolution, this is a great film for filmmakers. It is a genuine attempt to merge form and content and also features many candid, almost heart-warming moments of Godard on camera.
A screening of Maidstone followed 1 P.M. Pennebaker confessed in his pre-screening comments that this film (directed by Norman Mailer) had bored him in the end…that is of course until the infamous scene in which Rip Torn attacks Mailer with a hammer. It takes a long time to get there, but we have Pennebaker to thank in the end for never letting go of the trigger.