Friday, May 04, 2018


I’m back. The 2018 TCM Classic Film Festival is in the rearview mirror, and I have emerged, awash in Visine and sated with the PB&J and deviled ham sandwiches (not together, of course) I packed for myself to avoid the high cost of eating at Hollywood & Highland over four days, with a report on some of what I saw. Here’s a morsel:

Another writer-director who was himself, like Fuller, at the forefront of a particularly important moment in the history of American independent film, John Sayles, used his time introducing Park Row to eloquently characterize the film, in one of the overall best, most informed, beautifully delivered speaker presentations I've ever seen at TCMFF, as “Citizen Kane printed on butcher paper.” You could almost hear Fuller chuckle with approval.

The film then blasted out of the gate before its own opening credits with words meant to evoke the 120-point boldface type of the era's most grave, life-and-death headlines, imposed over a crawl of newspaper banners: “THESE ARE THE NAMES OF 1,772 DAILY NEWSPAPERS IN THE UNITED STATES. ONE OF THE IS THE PAPER YOU READ. ALL OF THEM ARE THE STARS OF THIS STORY.” Then a brief pause while the banners continued to roll, followed in even bigger typeface by a legend which crawled up along with the background to fill the frame: 

Fuller, of course, could have had no idea in 1952 the chill those words would deliver to audiences almost 70 years later, but their insistence, their implied defiance, along with Fuller's conviction and pulp power as a director, ensured that Park Row would emerge from a festival filled with delights and landmarks from the past as perhaps that festival's most urgent ambassador to the future. On the same Saturday night as Michelle Wolf's controversial appearance at the White House Correspondents Dinner, where she was roundly criticized by multiple members of the D.C. press for speaking truth to power in a manner completely unfamiliar to them, I'm exceedingly glad that the director's wife, Christa Fuller, was in the TCMFF auditorium to see for herself just how well the movie was received by modern eyes and ears, how vital its undercurrent of journalistic vigilance remains.”

You can read the whole piece where it lives, at Slant magazine’s blog The House Next Door, the excellent online arts collective that has, through the generosity of editor Ed Gonzalez, sponsored each of my visits to this terrific, and exhausting, film festival. I’ve been lucky enough to attend all nine TCMFFs so far, and I can’t wait to see what will be on tap for the 10th anniversary. Thanks, Ed and Slant for the significant upgrade in my classic movie education and for the honor of writing for your magazine.


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