Sunday, May 09, 2010

MY TCM CLASSIC FILM FESTIVAL JOURNAL: Now Playing at THE HOUSE NEXT DOOR


UPDATED 5/11/2010 11:48 a.m.

UPDATED YET AGAIN 5/11/2010 5:19 p.m.

UPDATED YET AGAIN 5/12/2010 4:33 p.m.




The entries here at SLIFR have been a little skimpier than usual since April 22, the principal reason being that I obtained press credentials to cover the Turner Classic Movies Film Festival, which took over Hollywood for four days from April 22 to April 25, and have spent most of my free time since the festival closed writing furiously, happily about it. Just not for SLIFR. I only managed to make it into the media corps through the good graces of Keith Uhlich, editor of The House Next Door, who responded with a resounding yes when I asked if he'd be interested in me writing something about the festival for the widely read blog; and Ed Gonzalez, editor at Slant magazine where THND shines as the magazine's official blog, who was kind enough to write a letter of assignment for me to send to the folks handling publicity for the festival. The only instruction I received from Keith was that he didn't want it to be a dry account of the movies I saw-- Keith wanted my perspective not only on the movies but also, since it was the first real film festival I'd ever attended, on the experience of being there. We communicated occasionally during the festival-- my text messages to Keith could usually be boiled down to some variation of "Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!"-- and when the process of writing about it all finally got under way he never once suggested I was going too long. He kept saying that he wanted an in-depth, thorough account, and by all measures-- his and mine-- that's what I finally delivered to him late this past week. The writing was very pleasurable, though it seemed to take an ungodly amount of time, time which had to be sandwiched in between longer-than-usual work hours and lots of family time. I had lots of notes, and there was no danger of the details fading too quickly, but still I wanted to get something together as fast as I could. Even so, it still took a week and a half after the festival, usually working between 10:00 pm and 6:00 a.m. whenever I could (including work nights), but I got it done, and again, Keith never balked at the length when he had it in hand.


And now it's ready for you to read. Click right on over to The House Next Door and get a taste of what being part of this Hollywood community of classic film lovers was really like. The comments column will be open at the House, of course, but I'd love it if you checked in here and let me and the SLIFR readership know your thoughts as well.

When Robert Osborne revealed, just before the screening of the newly restored Metropolis (which opens this week in New York and Los Angeles in the version we saw, with those recently discovered 25 minutes added) that there would indeed be a 2011 TCM Classic Film Festival, the crowd roared its approval and I began thinking of ways to talk Keith into turning me loose again next year. For certainly I would not have had this extraordinary experience without his support and encouragement. But for now, feel free to dive back in with me (I'm excited to read it again myself after Keith's editing) and follow the trail of crumbs I left through some of the big-ticket shows as well as some of the less high-profile screenings, which were, as I'm sure is often the case, where the most unexpected of jewels got their chance to shine. To have my first film festival be one that was entirely not about grabbing swag, being seen, scoping out the hottest tickets to the hottest new titles, or trying to second-guess the market life of said hot titles when they finally get purchased and distribution is secured, was a real treat. Everyone at the TCM Classic Film Festival seemed to be there not for reasons of status or attitude or scrambling for position in the business, but for a simple love of the movies, and of classic movies in particular. It was an event infused with excitement that certainly had a veneer of nostalgia but was also profoundly about what seeing the classics in their proper environs is like, and what those classics can teach us about how to see and appreciate films from all countries and periods of history. It was an event that had a once-in-a-lifetime frisson, and I'm so glad its success has insured that once-in-a-lifetime will come around at least one more time, not to mention the possibility of this weekend in April becoming the cornerstone of a grand new film festival tradition all about the fabled and fantastic history of Hollywood itself.



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UPDATE: Some interesting reaction to the piece from Vadim Rizov at IFC.com. An interesting discussion is developing in the comments thread as well.

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UPDATE: Old pal Michael Guillen, yet another associate from the early days of my blogging adventure here at SLIFR, has posted a series of commentary and transcripts of on-stage interviews that took place during the TCM Classic Film Festivals on his excellent blog The Evening Class. Click on the links for accounts of conversations between Robert Osborne and Ileana Douglas and Casey LaLonde which immediately preceded the screening of A Woman's Face (1941); Anjelica and Danny Huston which introduced the screening of their father John's masterpiece The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948); and finally Eli Wallach, who so wonderfully prefaced the screening of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966).

I'm so glad Michael was there to record these conversations and make them available to us all, particularly the Eli Wallach interview, the only one of these three I was able to attend myself. It's great to have all the commentary this fine actor offered transcribed in such detail. It just pains me to know that Michael was not only at the TCM Film Festival, but in the very same auditorium at the same time I was, and yet we were each unaware of the presence of the other. Michael, I have already begun preparing for (that is, eagerly anticipating) next year's festival, and we will definitely meet then if not before! Thanks so much for these great posts!

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UPDATE: More from Mr. Guillen-- Luise Rainer and Douglas Trumbull. If we're lucky, more to come!

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9 comments:

Kevin Deany said...

That was a marvelous write-up of the Fesitval. It sounds great, and I wish I could have been there.

Curious to know if you got a reaction from the woman sitting next to you who had never seen "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly." Did she like it?

Dennis Cozzalio said...

She did! It was amusing to see her covering her face throughout, especially when Tuco takes his licking at the hands of Angel Eyes and the thug sergeant in the prison camp, because she had told me before the screening that her favorite movie was GoodFellas. How much more nasty is that movie than GBU? But as she made her way out she told me that she really liked it a lot, and also that she was glad to see that I was obviously so happy in having seen it again. I guess my grins were showing!

Kevin Deany said...

That's great. I'm so glad she liked it. Thanks again, Dennis.

Chris said...

Dennis - one aspect of the festival I was hoping to read your description of is missing. What was the audience response to the "forbidden" cartoons? Laughter? Cheering? Hissing? Booing? All of the above? I assume the audience was mostly white ...

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Chris, I'd say the audience at the Out of Circulation cartoons screening leaned in the Caucasian direction (as did the festival, probably, though I haven't seen any actual figures), but I did notice several African-Americans in the audience as well. Bogle's talk beforehand did much to contextualize the presentation, and as I said in the piece I think it also tended to defuse any inclination toward excessive guffawing or the kind of laughter that's usually intended to indicate to anyone within earshot that one's level of sophistication is one of irony or plain ol' disapproval.

What Bogle did that I thought was kind of important was indicate that, as least as far as he was concerned, it was okay to look at these pieces strictly as works of animation, that is, whether they worked as examples of the form in terms of craft and entertainment (especially for audiences of the time) separate from our assumed disapproval of what the cartoons might be saying. Yet there was never any indication that to laugh at the imagery was to allow oneself off the hook for any personal bigotry that one might harbor quietly or express outwardly. It's what made the 86-minute program worthwhile, I think, because it rather forced the audience to decide for themselves whether the kind of self-imposed censorship under which these cartoons currently reside is ultimately better or worse for facing the subject of race in 2010.

So, yeah, no hissing or booing. A lot of groaning. Some laughter. No cheering that I can recall. And a lot of respectful applause for the insight Bogle brought to the table. I'm sorry that I didn't think to include a picture of the audience's reaction in the original piece, but I'm glad you asked, because it was an important part of the experience.

Don Mancini said...

A truly epic piece, Dennis! As Peet commented at THND, you're a true humanist critic -- not just because you gave away your hot dog, but also because of the way you engage with the films, and with your fellow moviegoers. Your utter (and utterly rare) lack of cynicism is as valuable as your remarkable critical acumen. And I was thrilled to share the northwesterly part of your adventure.

Sinaphile said...

GREAT piece, Dennis!! So glad that I could read about all the stuff that I missed, although it's a mixed blessing cuz I'm so *jealous* as so much of it seems to have been so restoration oriented and I REALLY would've loved to hear all the stuff from the people from the Museum. And I am really bummed about missing Temple Drake now, too. But...there's always next year! And Good, Bad & the Ugly totally changed my life. I'm so glad to have this piece to refer to so I can remember all the wonderful stuff from the Eli Wallach Q&A! Bravo, sir!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the kind words, Dennis; much appreciated. Two bits of info: the MoMA lady who introduced TEMPLE DRAKE is Katie Trainor, whom I've known for almost 20 years and is one of the best. Also, the 11 banned cartoons refers solely to those made BY Warner Bros.; the subsequently-acquired MGM library also contains a number of "race" cartoons that are similarly off limits, including a pair of Tom & Jerrys and the various Bosko adventures.

Mike Schlesinger

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