Get to know “The Women” at the Heights Thursday night!

Annex - Crawford, Joan (Women, The)_NRFPT_02The Trylon and Heights Theater’s fabulous series, 1939: Hollywood’s Zenith, continues with George Cukor’s classic, The Women.

Review by Trylon volunteer Maria Gomez.

I come from a world where a woman’s gotta come out on top….or it’s just too darn bad.” –Miriam Aarons

Men have long been trying to understand the workings of the female mind, and it seems that women have been fighting to be understood and recognized as strong, independent, self-sufficient beings for just as long. But are we not beings who still ache for the love of another to support us in our endeavors? George Cukor’s 1939 classic, appropriately titled The Women, tackles this very conundrum like no other film before or since.

Centering on a high-society group of New York women, The Women tells the story of how seemingly happily married socialite Mary Haines becomes the talk of the town when her husband steps out with another woman. Soon after being publicly humiliated and shamelessly gossiped about by her friends, Mary soon finds that all the women are finding themselves betrayed by their lovers.

Now the real fun begins! How will she go on? Will she dump that no good, two-timing so-and-so or will she swallow her famous pride and take him back?

What is even more intriguing about this film is the amazingly stellar all-female cast. Heading the bill is Norma Shearer as Mary, followed by Rosalind Russell as her scheming cousin Sylvia Fowler, Paulette Goddard as Mary’s scrappy gal-pal Miriam, Joan Fontaine as Mary’s confidante Peggy, Mary Boland as the love-struck Countess de Lave, and Joan Crawford as the reigning mistress Crystal Allen. Legend has it that even all the animals used in the film were all-female.

You would imagine a certain level of cattiness may have been an ongoing issue on the set, considering all this estrogen floating around, and you would be right. According to Rosalind Russell’s autobiography, she stated that she called in ‘sick’ to the set every day until Norma Shearer and Joan Crawford agreed to share top billing. Joan Crawford and Norma Shearer were said to also have some tension between them on-set but no more than what you would expect from a pair of Hollywood divas.

Filled with witty one-liners, The Women gives us a peek into the social consciousness of women at the time, and what was expected of them. The film also tackles some controversial issues that were just starting to become common place in the film industry at that time–divorce, extramarital affairs, and child custody weren’t discussed in mixed company. The film also addresses not only being single but, as a woman, being limited within your financial means and still having to rely on a man to survive.

Serious contemporary social issues aside, The Women is jam-packed with back-stabbing cousins, two-timing husbands, cat fights in the mud, totally bizarre aerobic work-outs, crazy outfits, an amazing cast, outrageous dialogue, and a well-executed plot for revenge!  The Women has it all… except men, of course.

Maria Gomez was born and raised in Minneapolis and currently resides in St Paul. She likes animals, gardening, paranormal thrillers, and camping on Madeline Island. 

The Heights Theater screens The Women on Thursday night at 7:30. Purchase tickets here.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dZV0k77ih8Q

 

American Jesus Screens Monday and Tuesday at the Trylon

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American Jesus review by Trylon volunteer David Berglund.

There is likely no more essential subject of study in a pursuit to understand American culture than Christianity.  It is undeniable that the person of Jesus defines America – not because he holds the nation’s allegiance, but because no matter your worldview or theology, it remains inescapable to be defined by your view of him in some way.  Even the most secular of Americans cannot avoid confronting and interacting with Christianity, as its influence is not only apparent in the many church buildings that pepper our landscape, but because its teachings have impacted the social and political lives of all citizens.

With American Jesus, filmmaker Aram Garriga examines how Christianity has shaped our nation and how Christian faith and practice has been shaped by broader cultural shifts. It is revealing, for example, that with the rise of prosperity and consumerism in Reagan’s America, the methods of Christian proselytism largely shifted from local communities and interpersonal charity to slick, sensory appeals.  This shift reveals that where once Christianity created culture, it now quite often becomes subservient to it. Why, for instance, would there ever be a need for Bibleman, the Christian superhero, or Christoga, a Christ-centric yoga video? The answer is that in America, Christians many times are more concerned with fighting a battle for cultural relevance than knowing and sharing faith in the person of Jesus. While the film points to some Christians who are actively creating interesting works of art and honestly processing their faith, it rightly asserts that such figures find themselves with no real audience – too Christian for the art world, and too progressive or uncertain for the Christian world.

This Christian finds this disconcerting, as a polarized culture war leaves little actual room for Jesus. Indeed, for a film titled American Jesus, there is surprisingly little mentioned of him.  While there is attention given to Christ’s more humble servants, it is the loudest and most forceful pushers of Christendom and their opponents that are given the film’s weight.  This, of course, is fitting, as these are the voices that are likewise most noticeable in the culture at large.

Ultimately, however, it is the many shapes and shades of American Christianity in the film that both serve to make the film consistently interesting and somewhat disjointed.  As there is so much variance in the Christian practice and theology presented in the film, its ultimate lament of culture war seems misaligned with the faithful and seemingly genuine voices of faith in the film that do not fit this warrior part so neatly. Nevertheless, American Jesus is interesting, engaging, and important. It commendably addresses a topic of great societal relevance that is rarely discussed without animus and calls us to enter a conversation with patience, thoughtfulness, and respect.  To that, it is hard not to simply say, “Amen.”

David Berglund is a proud Longfellow resident and ardent cinema junkie who previously wrote on film with his wife, Chelsea Berglund, on their Movie Matrimony blog.

American Jesus screens Monday and Tuesday at 7:00 & 8:45. Purchase tickets here.

Dig the Underrated “French Connection II” at the Trylon!

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Our Gene Hackman in the Seventies series continues with what might be his most unheralded role, as angry cop turned heroin addict in French Connection II. This sequel is outstanding, though difficult to endure. Don’t miss it!

Review by Trylon volunteer Michelle Baroody.

Released in 1975, French Connection II was directed by John Frankenheimer, the filmmaker behind The Manchurian Candidate (1962), Ronin (1998), and Black Sunday (1977—perhaps the most relevant to our Twin Cities interests after winning the bid for the 2018 Super Bowl—it’s the one where foreign terrorists attempt to shoot poison darts into the game from a blimp). As for Part 2 in the Hackman series, a poster from the film’s release boasts, “The French Connection was only the beginning. THIS IS THE CLIMAX.” And with a somewhat slower momentum toward said climax, French Connection II portrays the determined return of a partner-less Popeye (Hackman of course), still in pursuit of the heroin-smuggling, Alain Charnier (Fernando Rey), the “Frog One” who got away at the end of Friedkin’s “beginning.”

French Connection II begins with the same shot as the original, with an expansive view of Marseilles and a quick zoom into its shipyard. Popeye arrives by cab to the scene; it’s April Fool’s Day in France, which is apparently a time for taping paper fish on unsuspecting backs, bums, and cabs. However, this year the ruffians in town have succeeded in tricking the entire police force into searching through cases of dead fish for smuggled drugs and the chaotic scene further confuses an already discombobulated Doyle. Encountering a sea of untranslated French and fish guts, the New York City cop crosses the border without knowing much about the language or customs of the Frenchman he seeks.

Sent on assignment to work with the Marseilles police force, Popeye’s insubordination and wry commentary are back with a vengeance, as it appears that his distaste for authority is not diminished by air travel. In fact, the sequel uses this as an occasion to amp up its nationalist cause. Popeye arrives in the country with a suitcase full of smuggled Hershey bars and a poorly concealed weapon, critiquing the lesser quality of French chocolate, security, and politics, a sentiment that is reinforced by his claim “I’d rather be a lamppost in New York, than the president of France.” He mocks French speakers for not knowing English and snarls at French women for not understanding his advances. Out of his element both socially and professionally, Popeye insists on working alone.

However, the film (and Popeye’s European vacation with it) takes an unexpected turn, as the narcotics officer gets distracted by a young volley ball player and becomes a hostage addicted to that stuff they put in canned soup. After a detox full of xenophobic slurs, the film ends with a “Frog”-style shoot out and a healthy amount of chase scenes involving both public and private transportation. The final sequences build to a climactic finish, where Popeye’s point of view dictates the shots and sounds captured by the camera, leading to another abrupt ending, but this time with some narrative closure.

Where French Connection II really outdoes the original is in the details of the character—we are taken deeper into the mind and temperament of Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle and the result is a psychological thriller worthy of the big screen!

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.

The Trylon is screening French Connection II Friday and Saturday at 7:00 & 9:15, Sunday at 5:00 & 7:15. Purchase tickets here.

Dig the French Connection at the Trylon

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Our Gene Hackman in the Seventies series opens with perhaps his most iconic role, as angry cop “Popeye” Doyle in William Friedkin’s The French Connection, for which our man won his first Oscar (and which inspired the name of the fried chicken franchise!)

Review by Trylon volunteer Michelle Baroody.

The two things you’re sure to learn from watching The French Connection: 1) Never let a cop borrow your car; and 2) Never pay for Paul Newman when Gene Hackman is on deck!

Kicking off the series Gene Hackman in the Seventies is the classic 1971 thriller The French Connection, directed by William Friedkin, who is best known for this film and The Exorcist (1973). While there are no possessed girls or rotating heads in this gritty American crime drama, there is plenty of belligerence, brawn, and border crossing to go around.

The film opens in the port city Marseilles, where a French detective eats a sandwich and trails a drug kingpin, Alain “Frog One” Charnier (played by Spanish actor Fernando Rey). However, in the first five minutes of action, this unnamed detective loses his life and his baguette to an unknown assassin.

The French Connection quickly moves to Brooklyn where we encounter narcotics officer Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle (Hackman), who dons a Santa suit and joins his partner, Buddy “Cloudy” Russo (Roy Scheider), in chasing down a young, petty drug dealer. We learn quickly that Popeye is an intuitive, sleep-deprived, aggressive, and racist cop in New York City, fond of casual sex and cocktails, whose “brilliant hunches” might lead to several dead officers or the solution to NYC’s drug problem. It is from such a hunch that the film gets its name, as Popeye and Cloudy stumble upon storeowner Sal Boca (Tony Lo Bianco) and his wife Angie (Arlene Farber), an Italian American couple with unsavory French associates.

Perhaps the real “French Connection” is in this movie’s style. Heavily influenced by the French New Wave of the 50s and 60s, director Friedkin uses choppy editing, urban settings, and hand-held cameras together with an abrupt ending to give the film a kind of rough-and-tumble realism. Shot on location in New York and based on the real lives of two New York City cops in the 70s (who each play minor roles in the film), The French Connection is not to be missed. Hackman’s Oscar-winning performance and a 35mm print of the film are sure to fill your desires for spectacular zooms, fake blood, eerie music, car chases, and good old-fashioned police work.

And stay tuned for Part 2 next week!

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.

The Trylon is screening The French Connection Friday and Saturday at 7:00 & 9:15, Sunday at 5:00 & 7:15. Purchase tickets here.

“THE WIZARD OF OZ” Mesmerizes Young and Old all these years later

©Jay Blakesberg/Retna LTD.

The Trylon and Heights Theater’s 1939: Hollywood’s Zenith series continues with perhaps the most iconic American musical ever made: The Wizard of Oz.

Review by Trylon regular Ben Schmidt.

Oz.

The great and powerful film most of us have fond memories of watching…on television. But even on the tube, The Wizard of Oz bursts with magic and charm.

Case in point: summers ago I was staying with an uncle, moving dirt from his backyard to his front yard (a simple tasked I managed to not be very good at). He and I were at the video store one night, looking for something to bring home and watch with the family. While going back and forth about this option or that, I learned that his daughters (ages five and seven at the time) had never seen Oz. That night, they finally did.

Oh, and how pissed they were when it began. All through dinner I’d amped them up–an incredible world, wonderful songs, trees that whip apples at your head. But the opening credit sequence, in black and white of all things, had them feeling duped.

“Just wait,” I said.

And to their credit, they did. Grumpy and bored, they settled in. But I noticed as the tornado began to bear down on Dorothy’s farm, they sat up a bit. And having landed, as Dorothy stepped out from her home into the Technicolor glory of Oz, they were… absolutely… still. From that moment, they were completely taken with it.

The Wizard of Oz is special, able to completely transcend the small screen we all watched it on that evening.

Better to have seen it on TV than never at all. But now here is a chance to see the Wizard in at the beautiful Heights Theatre this Thursday.

The great and powerful deserves nothing less.

The Wizard of Oz screens at the Heights Theater Thursday night at 7:30. Purchase tickets here.

Lawrence of Arabia Closes out our Guinness Centennial

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We close out our wonderful Alec Guinness Centennial with the David Lean epic Lawrence of Arabia. This nearly four hour masterpiece is like digesting a great novel in one evening–you emerge from the theater shaken, a bit overwhelmed, maybe a tiny bit starstruck, and better for the experience. Add to that the fact that this may be the last time Lawrence is screened on 35mm, like, ever. You can’t beat this for a brilliant summer night’s diversion. Besides, what else are you going to watch? X-Men?

This is the movie that made Peter O’Toole a star, and it seemed to weigh heavily on him the rest of his career. Guinness, for his part, plays Prince Faisal, the King of Syria and Iraq. Supposedly, Guinness did such a great job that many people mistook him for the real Faisal while visiting the set. He also claimed to have learned his accent from co-star Omar Sharif.

Lawrence of Arabia also holds the record for being the longest film ever to win Best Picture. Don’t miss this rare epic screening!

Lawrence of Arabia screens at the Trylon Friday and Saturday at 7:00, Sunday at 5:00 (please note ONE SHOW PER DAY.) Purchase tickets here.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RQA_ldX0VI0

Another 1939 Masterpiece: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

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The Trylon and Heights Theater’s 1939: Hollywood’s Zenith series begins at the Heights on Thursday night, with Frank Capra’s acclaimed Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington review by Trylon regular Ben Schmidt.

In roughly a month, Michael Bay’s new Transformers movie will flicker to life in theaters across America. In its latest trailer, we’re teased with a scene in which a large robot (man) rides into battle atop another, larger robot (dinosaur). Honestly now, shouldn’t that be the whole bit? Faced with the breathy promise of fire-breathing theropod robotic locomotion, most of us are either all in or all out.

Point being, for those who aren’t eagerly awaiting Bay’s latest installment of constant motion and àla carte idealism, I prescribe its polar opposite, Frank Capra’s Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

This is the perfect time to (re)visit a film whose arresting power comes to stand in the complete absence of motion. Where the strength of a young senator’s idealism is pushed to the limits, as he must filibuster, refusing to yield the floor of the Senate in order to defend both his honor and his ideals.

So iconic is Stewart’s performance in these filibuster scenes, it’s easy to overlook the rest of the film entirely. Snippets from Smith’s third act are often featured in awards shows and are easily accessible online. Because really, who can make the time?

Why, you can.

On Thursday evening, choose to sit in witness of Mr. Smith as if perched high up in the Senate gallery, cringing as the deck is stacked again and again against the titular hero of this film.

And at the end of it all, when Jefferson Smith has all but been crushed, marvel as Capra stubbornly refuses to send in the cavalry, dino or otherwise, to save the day.

For of the two directors, Capra is certainly bolder than Bay, believing that our job as citizens is to cling dearly to that which is most good and true. And by doing so, we give truth the power to remain standing, even when our legs have given way.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington screens Thursday night at 7:30 at the Heights Theater. Purchase tickets here.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sm9qaEJ3MBc

Kind Hearts and Coronets is Murder Most Funny

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The Trylon’s celebrated Alec Guinness Centennial continues with our final Ealing Studios comedy, Kind Hearts and Coronets.

Review by Trylon volunteer David Berglund.

In a few short weeks, the Tony Awards will take place at Radio City Music Hall. More likely than not, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, nominated for a leading 10 awards, will take home a haul, including Best Musical. While I was lucky enough to see this very entertaining production on a recent trip to New York, I could not help but find myself comparing it to another work that shares its source material (Roy Horniman’s 1907 novel Israel Rank: the Autobiography of a Criminal). That work is, of course, the classic Ealing comedy Kind Hearts and Coronets, a personal favorite of mine, and, as far as I am concerned, a bona fide masterpiece.

Both works share the ludicrous and ingenious plot of a discarded distant heir to nobility systematically knocking off his eccentric and pompous relatives to attain status, but it is Kind Hearts that ultimately proves to be the more daring and impressive work. Where Guide thrives on its witty wordplay, physical comedy, and an energetic, Gilbert and Sullivan-esque score, Hearts does something far more interesting – it allows its sociopathic protagonist to wholly have the stage and control the film’s tone and perspective, largely by way of ever-present, carefully crafted voiceover.

One would think that this would be an unpleasant experience, but by drawing outcast Louis Mazzini (played with a deliciously dry sensibility by Dennis Price) as a witty, affable, and meticulously reasoned fellow whose pragmatism simply supersedes a moral code, the film allows viewers to simultaneously hold sympathy for him and comfortably denounce his murderous actions. By allowing Mazzini to present himself as a gentleman of sincere intent, the film pulls off a daring trick in creating an antihero who is both quite thoroughly entertaining while being wholly condemnable. It is a tightrope that director Roger Hamer walks with absolute perfection, mirroring Louis’s studied words with equally carefully crafted compositions.

All of this is aided by the presence of the shape shifting Alec Guinness, who plays all eight of the doomed heirs standing between Louis and his goal. What is most impressive about Guinness’s performances are that they are all distinct and amusing, but never distracting. It is clear that Guinness is not concerned with stealing the show, but rather with providing the film with a subtle quirkiness and continuity. To put it another way, his presence throughout the film adds uniformity to the object of Mazzini’s vengeance and furthers the idea that the family shares an ugliness that is simply begging to be eradicated. While Mazzini’s vengeful tactics are clearly unjustified, we nevertheless cannot help but wish for justice to be served and feel a twinge of excitement with him as his victims fall. Thus, by filling the story with a cast full of entertaining and despicable scoundrels, the film once again expertly walks a fine line in making murder equal parts deplorable and enjoyable. Needless to say, it is a one of a kind cinematic experience.

David Berglund is a proud Longfellow resident and ardent cinema junkie who previously wrote on film with his wife, Chelsea Berglund, on their Movie Matrimony blog.

Kind Hearts and Coronets screens Monday and Tuesday at 7:00 & 9:00 at the Trylon. Purchase tickets here.

“Family Plot” Points: The Best Reasons to See a Maligned Hitchcock Film

936full-family-plot-posterThe Sixth Annual Hitchcock Festival closes with the Master’s final film, Family Plot. Don’t miss this rare screening!

Family Plot review by Trylon volunteer Greg Hunter.

Imagine a film of hazy California afternoons. A film in which a stretch of sun-bleached coast is as fine a backdrop for violence as any back alley. Our guide at this time, in this place, is an unserious take on the existential detective—a man who can barely guide himself sometimes. Inhabiting this character is an actor perfectly suited to Hollywood’s iconoclastic seventies. Our director, surveying the scene, finds poetry in confusion.

The film, of course, is Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye. But Alfred Hitchcock’s Family Plot meets a couple of these criteria, too. Unlike The Long Goodbye, Family Plot is screening at the Riverview this Monday.

Family Plot found Hitchcock returning to the United States after his final shoot in England (for 1972’s  Frenzy)—and perhaps trying to apprehend the change in the air. The movie features Bruce Dern as a Californian cab driver who, along with his fake-psychic girlfriend (Barbara Harris), stumbles into a criminal conspiracy. Dern’s wonderfully named George Lumley is more a figure of fun than most of Hitchcock’s leads, and the film as a whole plays as a not-wholly-successful caper—a transitional work for which there is no next step. The piece that follows is not a work of contrarianism, not an essay suggesting that Family Plot isn’t one of Hitchcock’s weaker movies. Family Plot is one of Hitchcock’s weaker movies. But no one needs a spirit of adventure in order to attend a really good Hitchcock film. So here are incentives for the adventurous.

Hitch on the Verge: Family Plot is not quite the Hitchcockian equivalent of the Quincy punk episode, but the movie does find the director navigating some cultural shifts. It’s not just a movie Hitchcock made in the seventies—it’s Hitchcock making a seventies movie. Hitchcock had told California stories before, but unlike Vertigo, Family Plot was produced after The Long Goodbye (1973) and Chinatown (1974), films that established the state as the decade’s destination for noir. Hitchcock’s final film is more cumbersome than those Altman and Polanski works, but it has an interesting sort of interpretability: a viewer can watch Family Plot and wonder if Hitchcock is trying to run with the dogs, or if he’s reacting against the works of his younger peers by creating something a little quainter.

Weirdo Heroes: Maybe the most seventies thing about Family Plot is Hitchcock’s casting of Bruce Dern as his lead. Dern’s an affable goober in the film, as opposed to one of the psychotics or neurotics he has also played. He’s also, on a more basic level, odder looking than previous Hitchcock leading men. Give Hitchcock credit here: if he had begun to see a world or a culture he didn’t recognize, he at least cast his final film according to his impressions of that world. Bolder still: Barbara Harris in the place of Hitchcock’s typical leading lady.

Not only was Barbara Harris older than many of her predecessors at the time of filming—around forty—she also performs the role of Blanche the fake psychic with little of the rigidity that Hitchcock often demanded from female actors. In fact, Blanche seems kind of stoned most of the time. It might be a stretch to say that, with Harris, Hitchcock intended to capture the zeitgeist—to depict, with Harris, a new cultural fuzziness. Even so, the onscreen result is Hitchcock (not the best at gender relations) introducing a new type of female character at the eleventh hour of his career (and one who’s more adept at navigating a criminal conspiracy than she first appears).

Weirder Villains: Barbara Harris is at once more grounded and cartoonier than earlier Hitchcock blondes. But the film’s antagonists are stranger still, and, at least on a visual level, some of Hitchcock’s most memorable baddies. As the thieving Arthur Adamson, William Devane looks like Alfred E. Newman grown up and gone to seed, with skeevy mannerisms to match. His scenes occasionally play as if they’re anticipating the type of villainy that flourished on ’80s primetime action shows rather than maintaining the tradition established by Robert Walker and Joseph Cotton, but even that suits the film’s relatively-low-stakes vibe. Meanwhile, the scenes in which Adamson’s accomplice (Karen Black) disguises herself to retrieve a payday play as if they’ve been spliced in from a different film entirely. Decked out in huge polygonal sunglasses and a wide-brimmed black hat, Black’s character Fran is halfway to being a giallo-film character, a costuming choice that—in a movie full of discordant details—rings out powerfully.

Fodder for the John Williams Completist: Even if you think that John Williams, say, crapped all over the final third of Lincoln, he still wrote some of the most memorable scores in the history of motion pictures. Family Plot arrived in theaters not long after the success of Jaws, and about one year before Star Wars, and people who know more about the composing of music than I do could probably go crazy examining the shared DNA in these different pieces. Talk about a transitional work!

Sexy Closure: Many Hitchcock fans consider Family Plot the closing entry in trilogy of films about theft and sex (in particular, the allure of criminal activity). To Catch a Thief, Marnie, and Family Plot weren’t released one after the other, but together they form a spiritual arc. Even if Family Plot is not as revolutionary a work as that of Robert Altman or his contemporaries, watched in the context of Hitchcock’s filmography, it underscores how weird popular film managed to get for a while.

Finally, This Scene: In all its frantic charm:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=11aF_pdrivU

Greg Hunter (gregjhunter.tumblr.com) is a writer-editor from Minneapolis. His work has appeared in The RumpusThe Comics JournalThe Official Catalog of the Library of Potential Literature, and elsewhere. He concept-tweets in obscurity as @Dialogue_Log.

Family Plot screens Monday night at the Riverview Theater at 7:00. Purchase tickets here.

 

 

Guinness’ Insane “Horse’s Mouth” this weekend at the Trylon!

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Our brilliant Alec Guinness Centennial continues with what is probably the man’s most underrated comedy, The Horse’s Mouth, for which he received an Oscar nomination for his screenplay (but not his acting, which is a crime.) Don’t miss this rare 35mm screening!

The Horse’s Mouth review by Trylon volunteer Patrick Vehling.

A few years ago I came across a well-to-do looking gentlemen in Loring Park, a neighborhood in Minneapolis, struggling to push a shopping cart full of LaserDiscs from his car to his apartment. Having never witnessed such an amazing and bizarre sight, I approached him cautiously as I casually wiped the drool from my lips. Hesitatingly, he explained his idea of selling them while my eyes peered through the find–a find consisting mainly of discs from the Criterion Collection, a company dedicated to restoring and releasing some of the world’s best arthouse film. With that, I promptly turned into my seventeen-year-old self chomping at the bit for fresh ideas in movie expression.

One of these titles was The Horse’s Mouth (1958), a picture I had never heard of at the time. The odd thing about the sleeve is that the only picture on the back makes Alec Guinness appear to be a very poor farmer, which is the only concept I had about the film since I didn’t read the synopsis;  there’s something seemingly curious these days about going into a film with no prior knowledge since it’s so easy to get information, view trailers, and most likely watch the entire film for free on the Internet, which makes finding gems all the more satisfying.

It’s no wonder that Alec Guinness was nominated for an Academy Award for the script, an adaptation of a novel by the same title, because from the moment the first line is spoken to the last, this script is hilarious and wonderful. Arthur Ibbetson, the cinematographer, chose to shoot the film in Technicolor, a film process notable for its elaborate and extremely saturated color, a format usually reserved for major Hollywood epics and highly staged dramas.

He most likely chose this process to showcase the wonderful paintings done by Jimson (Guinness) in the film. I found that this process revealed a layer of the film that most critics feel was left out of the film adaptation from the 1944 novel: social and political themes. One look at the drab and dreary browns of the London streets and skyline, the casual working class faces covered in dirt, and the rising smokestacks spewing black smoke is an indirect look at the social spectrum of late 50s post-war England, a landscape that continued up until the 70s when the massive government-funded mostly feces-brown housing complexes were built to house the booming population (most of which have since been torn down and replaced with condos).

At its core, The Horse’s Mouth is about the struggle that being an artist entails. The man I briefly encountered pushing the cart full of films was a classical music composer, selling films that helped craft his growth in music. This film is a wonderful gem full of pathos, sardonic wit, light-hearted comedy, simple moments of happiness, and sadness. This is all weaved together to solidify the idea that an artist should never give up on their talents, should continue to express themselves with ideas that define them, the consequences be damned.

Patrick Vehling was raised in Minneapolis, weaned by Kurosawa, Tarkovsky and Herzog, interested in travel, linguistics, coffee, whiskey and sometimes has been known to make a film on Super 8.

The Horse’s Mouth screens Friday and Saturday at 7:00 & 9:00; Sunday at 5:00 & 7:00. Purchase tickets here.