“Gigi” closes out our Minnelli Series at the Heights

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Our series Beauty is Everything: Vincente Minnelli closes Thursday night at the Heights Theater with a screening of the 1958 Oscar winner for Best Picture, Gigi.

Review by Trylon volunteer Geoffrey Steuven.

Alternately remembered as a late, great MGM musical and one of the worst films to ever win the Best Picture Oscar, Gigi, our further evidence of Vincente Minnelli at play in the land of the auteurs, currently finds itself at both its highest and lowest ebb in the public imagination. The low ebb confounds me, though it probably has something to do with the movie’s general lack of self-awareness, this quality being an essential component for delivering musicals to audiences in the 21st century. Said lack extends with dire misfortune, they say, to the movie’s opening number, “Thank Heaven for Little Girls.” Except not really. It’s a lively tune, charmingly sung by Maurice Chevalier!

But if you’re looking for a winking approach, you’ll have been better served by every other Minnelli musical at the Heights this month (save Meet Me in St. Louis, maybe, which has Judy Garland singing “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” to melt any undue resistance). Gigi is certainly the least “cool” of the bunch, but before you flip that and call it “stuffy,” citing the fact that every song in the movie is sung by actors in positions of sitting and standing, please note the sophisticated performances and cinematography that attend all this sitting and standing. Particularly lovely is “I Remember It Well,” during which a golden sunset lights the serene and nostalgic faces of the film’s oldest lovers, Chevalier and Hermione Gingold, who sit and then sit some more while remembering and misremembering the details of their tryst. It’s the way they sit.

The movie’s other pair of lovers is Gigi and Gaston, played with youthful discontent by Leslie Caron and Louis Jourdan, but seemingly destined for a similar kind of weary satisfaction. Gigi, as in the Colette novella on which the movie is based, is a courtesan-in-training, and most of the movie’s perceived problems stem from the fact that a work of literature has been scrubbed for the sake of the censors and mass entertainment, even as aspects of the novella’s plot and characterization stick out in the ensuing product, untamable. Gigi and Gaston’s age difference, for example. You might find yourself resistant or even hostile to their love affair but conclude that, as an excuse for Minnelli’s deft touch and visual splendor, it passes code.

Or you might feel something. The high ebb of Gigi’s current reception finds its voice in Julia Holter’s Loud City Song, a wonderful album from last year with many overt references to the movie. These occur in the way Holter inhabits the voice of Gigi and excavates new, almost undeserved layers of feeling in the film’s central romance, or, more generally, in the way the music’s elaborate instrumentation and studio effects express something akin to Minnellian mise en scene. Meanwhile, the lyrical strategies suggest Frank O’Hara and perhaps do the most work to make Gigi cool again, by opening it up to the wider world of 1950s metropolitan expression.

It’s almost a cinematic achievement. Holter represents a hope for the return of the MGM musical, immediately dashed by her rarity. She’s not a movie director, but her project requires a similar kind of passion and command of a broad range of material. The vacancy of a less remarkable era has a certain advantage; the death of the musical and the grand entertainment makes room for an album like Loud City Song.

What could interest Holter in the story of a girl who hates love and a man who hates routine (hence, both longing for the impermanent and undefined), bound to come together by mutually steadying each other for the society they can’t take alone? When she sings about love, she produces a similar sentiment. On “This Is A True Heart,” she is Gigi: “Let’s not insist on “love.” We’re just alive.” In a broader sense, Gigi is a musical with no dancing, this more than made up for by the movie’s bold choreographic gestures—climactically, Gaston’s reversal by the fountain at night, his pointing cane (a moment of clarity, as his loud city song plays). Holter makes music heavy with movement, with many climactic moments but few expected rhythms or openings for dancing.

Back to Gigi: I could go on, but what’s needed for enjoyment, clearly, is not extensive analysis, but rather deactivation of certain areas of the brain (we’ll label these “modern sensibility”) via careful conditioning. Please note the sign as you enter the Heights: “This theater forbids condescending and/or uncomfortable laughter.”

Geoffrey Stueven remembers romantic scenes from his life in Minneapolis, but not very well. He writes about music at The Big Takeover and might have stolen a few words from his Julia Holter review.

Gigi screens Thursday night at 7:30 at the Heights Theater. Purchase tickets here.

Jarmusch’s “Down by Law” is Cheap Whiskey on the Big Screen

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The Trylon’s Jim Jarmusch: No Answers Provided series continues with one of our absolute favorites, Down by Law.

Review by Trylon Volunteer Michelle Baroody.

When Down by Law was released in 1986, Roger Ebert wrote that this “is a movie about cheap whiskey and black coffee, all-night drunks and lost jobs.” While these beverages and occupations rarely make an appearance in the film, they capture its essence—and perhaps the effect of the Jarmuschian film more generally. Down by Law looks amazing. It feels like a series of black and white photographs, as it is pulled together through lovely long takes with a motionless camera; its low-angled and off-centered shots are beautifully composed to capture the heat of each room and the discontent of each character. Cheap whiskey served best on 35mm on the big screen.

Down by Law is an artful take on the buddy genre, written and directed by Jim Jarmusch, and bearing all the marks of his aesthetic and mood. The film’s slow and stylized build-up leads to a barely planned, yet successful jail break, where three previously unacquainted men—who are not particularly fond of one another—casually discuss their escape after meeting in a jail cell in Orleans Parish Prison.

Shot mostly in New Orleans, the film begins with a tracking shot of the city, cruising through blocks of two-story buildings with iconic French Quarter balconies to the tune of Tom Waits’ “Jockey Full of Bourbon.” We learn in the first few minutes that two of the men are on the outs with their ladies, and in their vulnerable states, they apathetically make lousy decisions that land them in the clink. Zack, played by Tom Waits is a radio jockey who makes bad career moves, and Jack, played by John Lurie, is a pimp who seems more than disenchanted with his profession. The third, Roberto (or Bob), an Italian immigrant played by Roberto Benigni, is a loud and excitable addition to their cell who speaks in clichés about ice cream and friendship. Zack and Jack are unimpressed with “Bob” until they learn that he may be the only one of them in jail for the crime he committed. The men form an indifferent bond, one that leads them on a trek through the bayou to an Italian restaurant on a dirt road, where they enjoy some pasta and decent night’s rest. The end quite literally brings the men to a stunning shot of “two roads diverged in a wood,” as poetry becomes the reality of their new lives and their new wardrobes (“The Road Not Taken,” Robert Frost).

Michelle Baroody is from Chicago, currently in Minneapolis, a graduate student, and the coordinator of the TC Arab film fest. She is quite fond of geriatric cats, coconut oil, and the newspaper.

Down by Law screens Monday and Tuesday at 7:00 & 9:00 at the Trylon microcinema. Purchase tickets here.

Drop in on Jarmusch’s Acid Western “Dead Man” at the Trylon

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The Trylon’s Jim Jarmusch: No Answers Provided continues this week, with his masterful acid western, Dead Man.

Review by Trylon volunteer Caty Rent.

Every Night & every Morn
Some to Misery are Born.
Every Morn & every Night
Some are Born to sweet delight.
–William Blake, Augeries of Innocence

Dead Man is Jim Jarmusch’s cameo studded, somewhat comical, and modern approach to the Western. Filmed in black and white with a soundtrack by Neil Young, this film is a powerful portrayal of a lost soul on the path to a final resting place. Crisp and slowly paced fade outs are a continuing delicacy throughout this feature, as well as the frequent thunderclap of gunshot that can break up the dirge-like pace.

Johnny Depp plays the main character, William Blake, a mealy-eyed everyday man that follows a Kafka-esque Wild West experience with the ghost of death looming over him. In the beginning, Blake is an unassuming accountant from Lake Erie decked out in a plaid suit with a bowtie. With his round little spectacles and John Bull Topper hat, Blake patiently sits on a train at the beginning of the film. The long side shots coming from outside train are just plain beautiful. Blake passes the time by staring, sleeping, reading, and even playing solitare. He’s heading for the end of the line, the town of Machine. He has a new job at Dickinson’s Metal Works.

The first words in the film are spoken around the five minute mark. It is the coal stained Train Fireman played by Crispin Glover with whom Blake has his first conversation. The Fireman is shown Blake’s letter of employment, to which he (Glover) replies, “I wouldn’t trust no words written down on no paper.” The Fireman also suggests that Blake is just as likely to find his own grave.

When Blake finds Dickinson’s Metal Works, he discovers, much to his dismay, that the job was given to someone else. He insists on speaking with Mr. Dickinson, and enters his office. Robert Mitchum plays John Dickinson, in the last role of his life. Dickinson is a gruff and mean (but respected) man who owns most of the town. He tells Blake, “The only job you’re gonna get here is pushing up daisies from a pine box.”

Down on his luck, Blake spends the last of his money on a bottle of alcohol and sits on the stoop outside the bar to drink it. While he is deciding his next move, a woman named Thel Russell (Mili Avital) gets thrown out of the bar and called a whore. She lays in the mud, despondent, surrounded by paper flowers she peddles for almost no money. Blake awkwardly stares at her until he thinks to get up and help her. He offers his flask and they find their way back to her place.

Later, another man, Thel’s lover, barges in the door while they’re in bed. The stranger tries to kill Blake, but Russell covers him with her body and is shot and killed. Blake shoots at the stranger several times and finally hits him, but not before getting shot himself–the bullet has hit him near the heart. Blake is able to get up, flee through the window, and steal the stranger’s horse.

Blake wakens to find a burly Native American man, named Nobody (Gary Farmer), attempting to extract the metal from around his heart. After hearing Blake’s name, Nobody becomes the helpful guide and leads Blake on a spiritual quest because Nobody thinks our hero is William Blake the poet, painter, and now killer of white men. Nobody is charismatic, eccentric and was abandoned as a child. He is such an intriguing character for Jarmusch that he is also in Ghost Dog: The Way Of The Samurai.

Dickinson hires the three most ruthless killers he can find to hunt down Blake. It turns out that the stranger he shot was Charlie Dickinson, the powerful man’s youngest son. Blake is also accused of the murder of Charlie’s finance, Thel Russell. Dickinson made it clear he doesn’t care if Blake is dead or alive, but he wants the horse.

Dead Man continues with Blake as a wanted criminal, an outlaw who merely found himself in poor circumstances. Blake is slowly dying of his gunshot wound along with lack of food and water. He breaks out of his awkward, quiet self and transforms into a confident killer looking for answers and a place to finally rest. Before he kills a white man, he will ask innocently, “do you know my poetry?”

Caty Rent pretty much lives coffee and is obsessed with the Batman.

Dead Man screens at the Trylon Monday and Tuesday night at 7:00 & 9:15. Purchase tickets here.

Come to the Trylon to Celebrate the Work of Harold Ramis

pic_giant_020212_BThe Trylon is celebrating the work of comedian/writer/director Harold Ramis this weekend with two of his funniest movies–Stripes and Groundhog Day.

Review by Trylon regular Aaron Vehling.

There’s a point in Harold Ramis’ 1993 film Groundhog Day when arrogant Pittsburgh weatherman Phil Connors (Bill Murray) posits that the omniscience and omnipotence of God is a gift of his age: “He’s just been around so long he knows everything.”

Connors is potentially thousands of days into what seems like an infinite loop of Feb. 2, and during that time he has learned new things about himself and the world around him. He knows exactly when a waitress will drop her dishes on the floor of a restaurant, what his television news colleagues will say at the table and pretty much how everything else will shake out in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Connors knows all.

The way things are going, it’s no stretch to consider that perhaps Connors has become a deity; at least of this particular town. Perhaps this misanthropic meteorologist, stuck on-assignment in a town he despises among people he can’t stand, is locked in purgatory. There’s another possibility: Like Siddhartha Gautama who became Buddha, he’s going through a process to toward enlightenment.

During his journey, Connors kills himself, robs, steals, messes around with women and treats people like dirt. The only consequence is that his days repeat. Death only means he wakes up again on the same day, as if nothing ever happened.

Connors faces the temptation of easy money, sex and power. He uses the repeating days to glean information that will help him get into the pants of Rita Hanson (Andie MacDowell), his producer and love interest who is essentially his opposite. Although the Buddha didn’t give in along his own path, Connors tries on the hedonism with only the space-time continuum to keep him in check.

At some point along the way, though, Connors finds that no amount of women or money gleaned through illicit means is worth living that same day on repeat. So he decides to try something different and embark on an effort to do good will.

Connors is given the opportunity, or maybe he creates it himself somehow, to achieve a level of interconnectedness and cosmic understanding that evades those of us on the linear timeline. Those who encounter him are in awe of the compassionate, laidback and intelligent man who seemingly knows everyone and has scores of useful talents. He is purified.

Groundhog Day, like Kingpin and Wild Things, stands in the Bill Murray canon as that period of the 90s just before Murray reaches his own enlightenment (at least in his career). The latter two aren’t starring roles, but they all represent Murray wringing out most of the remnants of simple comic fare in exchange for something more — whether that something more is tragic, ridiculous or malicious.

Rushmore would soon follow, kicking off Murray’s becoming who and what we know him as today — “Bill Murray,” the dramatic actor with comedic talent and not the comedy actor serving as a tourist in dramatic fare. This is the man who starred in Lost in Translation and Broken Flowers.  Murray graduated from Ramis comedies, whether those the late comic genius wrote or directed, like Ghostbusters, Stripes and Caddyshack, and moved onward. Perhaps Murray realized that after doing the same sort of films it was time to get out of his own cycle.

Aaron Vehling is a former journalist and current communications professional who loves the music of Johnny Jewel and the films of Lars von Trier. Though he’s from Longfellow, Minneapolis, he now lives in Harlem, New York, on the same block as the mansion fromThe Royal Tenenbaums.

The Harold Ramis weekend screens at the Trylon, with Stripes on Friday at 7:00, Saturday at 9:00, Sunday at 7:00–purchase tickets here; Groundhog Day screens Friday at 9:00, Saturday at 7:00, Sunday at 5:00–purchase tickets here.

 

Jackie Chan Rumbles in the Bronx at the Trylon

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Our Jackie Chan Adventures series closes with the eponymous action star’s first American vehicle, Rumble in the Bronx.

Review by Trylon volunteer Thorn Chen.

Almost immediately as he gets to the Bronx, Ma Hon Keung (Jackie Chan) gets on the bad side of neighborhood motorcycle thugs and its head Tony (Marc Akerstream), who leads his followers in a go-cart. Jackie beats up some gang members for roughing up a grocery store, and things go south from there. The fact that he runs off with the gang leader’s girlfriend Nancy (Françoise Yip) does not help matters.

The neighborhood bickering—and near lethal fights between Jackie and the gang—gets overshadowed when Angelo, whose nose Jackie broke in the first fight, gets everyone accidentally mixed up in a multimillion dollar diamond heist and a criminal syndicate whose thugs wear suits, ride around in Lincoln town cars, and impersonate FBI agents. Jackie’s new girlfriend and her wheelchair-bound little brother are taken hostage, and Jackie finds himself in an epic hovercraft chase in order to get the bad guys and rescue the hostages.

That’s about all there is in terms of plot. As with most films starring Jackie Chan, Rumble in the Bronx is thin on narrative, for which it compensates with well-choreographed (and ridiculous) fight sequences, complete with the requisite props.

Jackie is, in fact, helpless without his props. Cornered in a dead end of an alleyway by the biker gang, he is almost killed as the gangsters bat empty liquor bottles his way (literally, with a baseball bat). When he goes after the gang in a used appliance store, he is golden: refrigerators, TVs, ladders, and hanging lamps all become his allies and accessories. Not to mention, the props make the brawls interesting. And there are a lot of brawls, in the typical Bronx locales—a supermarket, a parking garage, graffiti-filled alleyways, a boathouse, a beach.

Rumble was the first of Jackie’s films to break into the U.S. market, and this significant fact shows in its narrative geography. Title credits pasted over a plane flying against the sunset cuts to the airport, where Jackie gets a ride from his uncle. On their way across the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan (taking a very inefficient route from JFK airport to the Bronx), Jackie marvels at the downtown Manhattan skyline; his uncle says, “This is Manhattan. I could only dream of having a market here… my market is in the Bronx.”

Hence the film’s stand in the inter-borough rivalry, where Jackie puts aside his differences with the biker thugs from the Bronx in order to fight the suit-and-tie mafia, with its leader “White Tiger,” obviously more at home in Manhattan. After all, Jackie Chan and Kung Fu cinema fit in better with the racially diverse biker gangs of the Bronx than the town car driving diamond dealers. All this doesn’t prevent gems of moralizing dialogue, like when Jackie tells the gang (after he has beaten them up): “don’t you know you’re the scum of society?”

Thorn Chen is from New York, now in Minneapolis pursuing a PhD at the U, where he studies Chinese cinema, reads continental philosophy, and scrounges for funds to support his coffee addiction. 

Rumble in the Bronx screens Monday and Tuesday at 7:00 & 9:00. Purchase tickets here.

Go West with Keaton, Cows, Rats and People this weekend

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The Trylon’s celebrated 5th Anniversary Silent Film Festival has been a rousing success, and it closes this weekend with the man who started it all: Buster Keaton. Five years ago we presented a month of sold-out Keaton shows to inaugurate the Trylon, and we’ve been going strong ever since. Come enjoy Go West, Keaton’s western masterpiece, with live accompaniment by Rats and People MN. This a hilarious send up of a genre that, by 1925, was already in need of a good ribbing!

Review by Trylon regular Ben Schmidt.

No spoilers here, I refuse to tell you why or how Buster Keaton goes West. But soon after he does so the following occurs:

Unexpectedly, our hero ends up on a cattle ranch, a fish out of water. Hes poor. Hungry. Trying to fit in.

While out trying to help the other workers, a cow limps past him. He approaches it cautiously, still not used to this place, or its people, or these animals. Mustering a bit of courage, he pats her head. At rest, or in his company, she seems content.

So he grabs her bum leg and sees a rock has lodged in her hoof. He removes it, making it a point to show her the cause of her pain before dropping it to the ground. All better now.

A second passes. Keaton glances down at their feet, at this rock that now rests on the ground. No. That wont do. As cow looks on, he snatches up the rock up and digs a small hole. Then quickly buries it as best as hes able, ensuring no harm will come to her ever again.

Its disarmingly thoughtful, and so damned sweet, and just one of the many reasons I was so taken with this film. Id never witnessed Keatons wonderful attention to detail and timing, but I now understand why this film from 1924 remains fresh and funny.

For neophytes like myself, its testament to Keatons talent as actor and director, and to his alarmingly wonderful attention to detail and timing.

No wonder this film from 1924 remains so funny and engaging.

Though tiny keychain-gunplay never hurts either…

Ben Schmidt is a writer: strong of beard, smooth of voice.

Go West screens Friday and Saturday at 7:00 and 9:30; Sunday at 5:00 and 7:30. Purchase tickets here.

Jackie Chan’s Amazing “Drunken Master” at the Trylon

chan-drunken-masterOur wonderful Jackie Chan Adventures series continues with what some consider his greatest movie, The Legend of Drunken Master!

Review by Trylon regular Ben Schmidt.

The Legend of Drunken Master is exactly five things:

1. Its the best kung fu movie ever made.

2. Its so damned good, it transcends its own genre, being one of the best films ever made, period. (Doubts? Know my mother and Time magazine both back me up here.)

3. Its Jackie Chans Citizen Kane (Yuen Woo-ping being Chans Herman J. Mankiewicz).

4. Its the story of how you never knew how much you wanted to see a man with a spear fight a man with a sword underneath a train, until you see exactly that. And you realize its the BEST thing. And THEN you realize that fight took place while our Drunken Legend was sober. Who knows what hes capable of when he starts to drink. (And he then very quickly starts to drink.)

5. Its showing at the Trylon!

 What more do you need to know? An amazing film. Not to be missed.

Ben Schmidt is a writer: strong of beard, smooth of voice.

The Legend of Drunken Master screens Monday and Tuesday at the Trylon at 7:00 & 9:00. Purchase tickets here.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zFQ9bqGq5Po

 

Jackie Chan’s Weird Bird, “Project A” at the Trylon

SM2-GH186-Project-A-Part-II-S01The Trylon’s Jackie Chan Adventures continues with the crazy historical epic Project A.

Review by Trylon regular Ben Schmidt.

Project A is a weird bird. But any bird that allows Jackie Chan, Samo Hung, and Yuen Biao to sing together is worth watching, this film being no exception. They three are a type of Voltron–each strong of their own accord, but most phenomenal together.

Do approach this screening with a patient mind, as Project A takes a while to sort itself out. In the beginning, Chan’s humorless stint in sailor suit comes across as distant and odd. It feels like work. Things happen. People argue. Boats explode, though not very well. Even the first fight scene, a bar brawl, feels uninspired.

But hang in there, dear friend. Once you reach the hand-grenade tomfoolery, know that Project A does relax and begin to have fun–as will you. And as the movie finds its footing, you’ll begin to appreciate its unsung stars. Yes, as always, Jackie Chan orchestrates ridiculous stunts, one that allegedly almost killed him. (When you see the landing, you’ll know which.) But, dear sweet Lord, do you feel the thankless work of his stunt team as they are kicked, chucked and hurtled about from one scene to the next? Though it’s often cringe-worthy, the choreography is a refreshingly earnest display of talent and discipline.

Thankfully, the brute physicality on display is balanced with Chan’s now trademark humor and playfulness. It’s far from a one-note production. Ultimately, these people are busting their bottoms to entertain you, and their effort shines, with no fancy editing or special effects to hide behind.

That being said, I shall say it again, Project A is a weird bird. This is a film that harbors both a light-hearted and surprising bicycle chase, and quite suddenly knives go plunging into the chest and legs of unfortunate pirates (which is followed by the funniest line in the movie). But this weird is good weird. Most films struggle to have any personality at all, let alone one as funky and unrefined as Project A’s. Well worth enjoying in the cool, comforting darkness of the Trylon.

SUPER PROJECT A BONUS CHALLENGE: When the time comes, try figuring out who supplies the English voice of pirate leader Lo Sam Pau. Don’t ruin it for yourself beforehand (put down the Google.) The casting decision was another odd, wonderful part of Project A. I loved it. And later, I was genuinely delighted to discover who it was.

Like the film itself, a mad little bit of genius.

Ben Schmidt is a writer: strong of beard, smooth of voice.

Project A screens at the Trylon Monday and Tuesday at 7:00 & 9:00. Purchase tickets here.

Coppola’s “Conversation” this weekend at the Trylon

The ConversationOur Hackman in the Seventies series closes with what is arguably the man’s greatest film, Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation.

Review by Aaron Vehling.

In Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation, Gene Hackman’s Harry Caul is renowned for his unparalleled ability for audio surveillance, and for the blood on his hands as a result of his services. His latest case, the focus of the film, starts out as a fairly straightforward success story that culminates into a subtle but psychotic game of “Telephone.” The National Security Administration should take note.

The film was released in 1974, which was not only the same year Coppola released the second Godfather but also the year Richard Nixon resigned from the office. The nation had weathered a lot of trauma in the previous decade, and Nixon’s leaving office because of Watergate solidified a widespread mistrust in institutions.

The government had a relationship with its people along the lines of “do what I say and not what I do.” Caul is essentially a personification of this. He is the a master of his trade, establishing increasingly complex ways of listening in on people despite the technical limitations of the day. He cares nothing for the privacy of others, but protects his privacy with a ferocity.

Caul barely connects with people, even his staffer Stan (John Cazale), who knows him the best, doesn’t really know him at all. Caul sleeps with women, whom think they are his girlfriends. Although if they ever ask him any questions neither of them are getting lucky that night. He doesn’t like talking about himself, won’t use a home phone and keeps his doors triple-locked.

This is Caul’s way of dealing with his guilt. A previous wiretap job resulted in the death of three people, a fact fellow surveillance folk remind him of on occasion. Wracked with guilt, the deeply Catholic Caul creates a world around him in which he can fein a lack of responsibility while staying in the business. As he says, he’s not responsible for what his clients do with their tapes.

This is where Coppola’s writing and directing take a masterful turn. When Caul produces perfectly clear recordings of a conversation between a man and a woman (Cindy Williams and Frederic Forrest), he becomes concerned about the meaning of the conversation. He does not have any context, but he hears a series of buzz phrases that trigger his memory of the three he indirectly killed.

Among them is “He’d kill us if he had the chance.” It’s a refrain that echoes in his brain and convinces him that either his client, The Director (Robert Duvall) or The Director’s assistant, Martin (Harrison Ford, with ankle intact), is keen on killing the couple.

Caul’s guilt causes him to endure painful nightmares. He looks at Cindy Williams through a mist and tells her, “I’m not afraid of death, but I am afraid of murder.” Eventually, The Director’s men begin to follow him, invading his privacy and turning the “bugger” into the “bugged.”

Suddenly Caul’s existence — as an empty vessel for other people’s information — consists of his running around like nothing is safe anymore. Any sense of stability he had is lost and eventually he tears his whole world apart, smashing the prim and proper edifices all around him. It all happens under a deliberate, careful and often quiet pacing that Coppola crafts in a fashion that primarily went away since quick edits became custom.

The Conversation was nominated for three Academy Awards, losing best picture to The Godfather Part II, a rather insane scenario that only further secured Coppola’s role as a leading member of the New Hollywood movement. Five years later he would create Apocalypse Now, a movie that would ensure that no matter how improperly he approached filmmaking in the decades to come, Coppola was a master at his craft and was seated at the forefront of turning the political mistakes of the 1960s and 1970s into artful and horrifying films.

Aaron Vehling is a journalist and musician who loves the music of Johnny Jewel and New Order and the films of David Lynch and Lars von Trier. Though he’s from Longfellow, Minneapolis, he now lives in Harlem, New York, on the same block as the mansion from The Royal Tenenbaums.

The Conversation screens Friday and Saturday at 7:00 and 9:15, Sunday at 5:00 and 7:15. Purchase tickets here.

 

Hackman’s “Lost” Masterpiece, Scarecrow

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Our wonderful Gene Hackman in the Seventies series continues with what is arguably the least known of Hackman’s great films, Scarecrow. There is no reason whatsoever for this little masterpiece to have fallen through the cracks. Released in 1973, after Hackman had won his Oscar for The French Connection, and made between Al Pacino’s star turns in the Godfather movies, the film won the grand prize at the Cannes Film Festival to boot. The movie is gritty, funny, heartbreaking, fitting in perfectly with the 70s aesthetic of grimly realistic films highlighting great performances.

Scarecrow is not without its faults–it is a weird, rambling film, and one of those pictures that simply never sits all that well with audiences. But today it’s forgotten, in my opinion, because it examines, with great respect for its characters, the meaning of friendship and poverty. Honestly, I can’t think of the last time there was a great American movie about being poor, and friendship doesn’t sell tickets, I guess.

Of all the films in the Hackman series, I seriously urge you to see this one. Hackman is simply amazing here, and Pacino is the perfect foil. There are so many brilliant scenes between these two actors, on the road, in bars, at a dinner table, in jail–too many to count. And the opening shot of Scarecrow might just be one of the top five in all of cinema history, if not the best.

Scarecrow screens Friday and Saturday at 7:00 and 9:15, Sunday at 5:00 and 7:15. Purchase tickets here.