The Outsider Classic “Rebel Without A Cause” at the Heights

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Our Nicholas Ray series, Inside the Outsider, comes to a close with what is unquestionably his masterpiece, Rebel Without A Cause, screening Thursday night at the Heights Theater.

Rebel Without A Cause review by Trylon volunteer Caty Rent.

Rebel Without A Cause is without a doubt one of the most iconic films of all time. The entire sequence of events in the film takes place within 24 hours, from three in the morning until three in the morning the next day. But this is one of those days that seems more like a week.

First showing on the silver screen in 1955, Rebel’s misfortune is that the star of the picture, James Dean, never saw the movie as he was killed in a car crash–ironic, considering that one of the main characters in this one dies similarly. Dean was bigger than life in this role and in death became the very definition of cool.

Dean plays Jim Stark, a confused, sincere, and distraught teenager that had been moving around to different towns/schools with his family. Stark is lying drunk in the street in the opening scene, he’s watching a wind-up monkey toy. He’s taken into custody by the police.

All of the most prominent main characters appear in the beginning at the police station. First enters Judy, played by Natalie Wood. She was out on the streets late at night and was picked up by the police. She is just as confused as Stark, her daddy issues and pent up aggression really give this character more depth than some of the other teenagers shown in the film. She is wearing lipstick and accidentally leaves her mirror in the chair, which Stark picks up. He gives it back to her later in the picture saying, “Do you want to see a monkey?”

Next in line at the police station is John “Plato” Crawford, played by Sal Mineo. A brooding, nervous, and withdrawn boy, he doesn’t have much of a family outside of a nanny. His mother leaves for long periods of time and his father has left for good. He was brought in the station because he stole a gun that belonged to his mother and shot some puppies that night on his birthday. When Stark sees Plato, he offers him his jacket because he looks cold. This already represents something important to Plato, even though he doesn’t take the offer at this time. Towards the end of the film, Plato does accept a jacket from Stark under the condition that he can keep it.

Lastly, the family arrives to the station. Stark’s mother (Ann Doran), father (Jim Backus… also the voice of the cartoon character Mr. Magoo, and perhaps most famous as Thurston Howell III on Gilligan’s Island) and grandmother (Virginia Brissac) had been at a party. It is very apparent at this point that there are some serious family issues that seem to be continually swept under the rug. Stark has a strained relationship with his family, he sees his father verbally battered down by his mother and grandmother. He wants his father to stand up to them, but the father is bending for everyone, trying to fill any gaps with money.

The morning sees Stark on his first day at a new high school. He is nervous and discovers that Judy is his neighbor. They talk for a little while, and she casually remarks, “life is crushing in on me.” They seem to share a certain amount of confusion and angst. He asks her if she wants a ride and she answers that she rides with “the Kids,” which are a crew of juvenile delinquents headed by Buzz (Corey Allen) whom Judy is dating.

Buzz and the Kids appear again at the class field trip to the Planetarium. They are entertaining themselves with shenanigans and Stark attempts to join in by making a mooing noise while the bull constellation is above them. The Kids call him, “cute,” and ” a comedian.” The presentation takes a dark turn and the orator says, “Destroyed as we began in a burst of gas and fire.” Directly after the performance, Stark finds Plato hiding under the chairs and helps him up. Plato remarks, “What does he know about man alone?”

Outside of the Planetarium, the Kids are waiting for Stark by his car. Chicken noises are made and although Stark didn’t want any trouble, this confrontations ends in a knife fight with Buzz. Stark ends up winning and is invited to partake in a “Chickie Run.” Wanting to be accepted, he agrees. It is to take place at Millertown Bluff later that same evening.

Stark lives by his morals and follows a code of honor. He sticks up for the underdog and discovers real love. He stands up for what he believes to be right, even if it doesn’t seem to be the popular opinion. Jim Stark is one of the best on-screen characters, he’s charismatic, truthful, but distraught at the same time. It’s hard to look at someone in a white tee shirt drinking milk out of a glass jar without thinking of this quintessential James Dean.

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

Rebel Without A Cause screens Thursday night at 7:30 at the Heights Theater. Purchase tickets here.

Guinness is “The Man in the White Suit” tonight at the Trylon

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Our celebrated Alec Guinness Centennial continues tonight with a wonderful screening of the Ealing Studio’s comedy The Man in the White Suit. This creature was nimbly directed by the woefully underrated Alexander Mackendrick–who did Sweet Smell of Success, Whiskey Galore!, The Ladykillers (screening May 19 & 20 at the Trylon) and The Maggie (among others.) With this one, those are five masterpieces (yes, masterpieces) that would be the crown jewel in virtually any director’s quiver. David Lean didn’t make as many great movies, and that guy’s got enough Oscars to break a camel’s back.

If you fixate on telling great stories without a ton of flair, using your camera to celebrate the magnificent performances and not call attention to yourself, you tend to miss out on Oscar glory. Mackendrick is, in a sense, the Scottish Howard Hawks, his movies filled with great scenes, economical “small” pictures that simply work, and work to utter perfection. Don’t miss this one.

The Man in the White Suit screens Tuesday night at 7:00 & 9:00. Purchase tickets here.

Nicholas Ray’s Rarely Seen “Hot Blood” at the Trylon

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Hot Blood review by Trylon theater manager Nikki Weispfenning.

Our Nicholas Ray retrospective is almost over, and what have we seen? Lynching! Police brutality! Murder during wartime! Before we get back to the serious problems of the juvenile delinquents in Rebel Without A Cause (screening at the Heights on May 8), let us take a moment to enjoy the lighthearted respite provided by Hot Blood.

Initially titled No ReturnHot Blood was intended to be a study of the Gypsy subculture in New York City – a movie based in the realities of a marginalized ethnic groups with customs and rituals that were foreign to most Americans at the time. Nicholas Ray’s ex-wife Jean Evans was researching a book about the Gypsy community on the Lower East Side, and based upon her research, Ray (with the aid of a young screenwriter, Walter Newman) wrote a film treatment in 1951 – a serious drama with a dark ending.

The film that Nicholas Ray actually made in 1955 was far removed from his original concept. Instead of a gritty movie about a real ethnic minority, Hot Blood became a quasi-musical, replete with dancing, elaborate sets, and garish costumes. And although most people involved with the production have spoken disparagingly of Hot Blood, the movie is very charming. Jane Russell is radiant here –  a Hollywood star in top form, easily stealing scenes from the male leads. The dance numbers are dynamite! Color saturates the screen! Hot Blood is not the movie that Ray set out to make, but it is a lot of fun.

And if you don’t believe me, here is a quote from Francois Truffaut: “Ray gives us his cause for living with this intelligent, devil-may-care film, bursting with health and life.”

Nikki Weispfenning lives in South Minneapolis with a handsome cartoonist, two black cats she met in suburban Virginia, and a very large puppy. She enjoys trashy detective fiction, river roads late at night, and obsolete technology.

Hot Blood is screening Monday and Tuesday at 7:00 and 8:45. Purchase tickets here.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gv-XZAoUxNA

Hitchcock’s Suspicion Will Teach You Everything You Needed to Know About Love

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The Sixth Annual Hitchcock Film Festival continues at the Heights Theater with a wonderful 35mm screening of Suspicion, regarded by some to be the master’s finest (and starring the intense Joan Fontaine, and a very strange Cary Grant.)

Suspicion review by Aaron Vehling.

Dear Aaron:

I’m getting married to this seemingly great guy in a couple weeks, but I’m not entirely sure he is who he claims to be. I haven’t met any of his family and he sometimes gives confusing and conflicting answers to simple questions about where he is, who he was with and what he was doing. I love him a lot, and let’s just say I’m not one of those people who has much luck in the dating world. So I figure this is my one shot at true happiness. I’m afraid to talk to him about it. I’m not sure what to do.

-My Lips Are Sealed

 

Lips,

Your question reminds me of someone who was in a similar situation, but she ended up marrying the guy and it all became a mess. To avoid the emotional turmoil that wealthy Briton Lina McLaidlaw (Joan Fontaine) suffers in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1941 psychological thriller Suspicion, when she marries ne’erdowell Johnnie Aysgarth (Cary Grant), here are some tips for you but also others who are similarly situated:

1. Don’t stay out of the dating pool for too long. It’s like going too long without caffeine or food. At some point you lose your ability and/or will to make informed decisions, and before you know it you’re at some shoddy gas station gulping down crusty, burnt coffee and inhaling radioactive hot dogs filled with starch-polymer “cheese product.” You didn’t even see the healthier, better-tasting options across the street or next door. Experiencing a decent number of people, even if goes nowhere, ensures you never have to feel like you have only “one shot.”

This is especially important if that one-shot man or woman serves up nothing but lies and maybe is just with you for your money.

2. No one is ever entirely who they say they are, especially when you first start dating. We all kick-start our marketing initiatives at first to keep things going, highlighting our positive traits — good looks, financial stability, reliability, encyclopedic knowledge of disparate facts and witticisms, perhaps — and burying the negative — little to no money, unemployment, gambling addictions and a thirst for blood. In most cases this stuff consists of little white lies, but every now and then you get a situation where it seems the day after the wedding that perhaps your spouse was full of it all along. You thought he was a rich, charming man from a good family and it turns out he has no money and gets by on a series of escalating lies and financial fraud schemes that are coming to a tipping point of jail time or worse. If only you had stayed away from the gas-station hot dogs.

3. Communication is key. You can save yourself sleepless nights and anxiety-induced stomach aches, and stave off long periods of awkward silent treatments, if you just tell your partner what’s on your mind. For example, if you were to ask your husband if he killed his friend Beaky (Nigel Bruce) while they were in Paris, perhaps he would tell you that he didn’t and it was all a misunderstanding. Perhaps that life insurance policy he took out on you, coupled with your knowledge of his felonious tendencies, won’t induce him to kill you, too. But you will never know what the truth is if you sit silently like a 1940s British aristocrat, aghast when you find out he has been asking your murder-mystery author neighbor about undetectable poisons. I mean, maybe all of this is just some curiosity he has. Maybe he just like’s murder mysteries?

3b. A corollary of this is the big “money talk.” Before signing that marriage license, make sure that your future spouse doesn’t have a history of embezzlement, gambling and other forms of financial tomfoolery stuffed underneath his tool chest of charms. Suss out if he is one of those types who trades on his good looks and artificially created status to further along a seemingly preternatural ability to be involved in a series of escalating situations that will culminate in something horrible happening, like death (maybe yours).

To learn all of tips for avoiding unhealthy surprises after the Big Day, I would recommend seeing Suspicion, one of Hitchcock’s great films. It is the first of four collaborations between the famed British director and Grant (also British). It would be followed by Notorious, To Catch A Thief and North By Northwest. Grant shines as the debonair and dashing hot-mess Johnnie and Fontaine puts in a performance as Lina that earned her an Oscar for Best Actress, the only such honor for a performance in a Hitchcock film.

Suspicion mines the familiar Hitchcock concepts of anxiety, fear, mistrust and lust (albeit with moral code limits), but there is more of an informal quality about it when compared to his more famous films from the late 40s and 50s. It is a dress-rehearsal for the degree of analysis to which Hitchcock would later subject his characters and audiences.

In future American films he would dig deeper into the dark, rotting psyches of humankind (see Vertigo and Rear Window), but in Suspicion there is a sense of levity that keeps the fatality question-at-hand from becoming too serious. For this reason, it might be a good starting point for those who are not yet ready for Psycho or the others listed above.

But while it might be less serious than other Hitchcock films, there are still those perennial questions about human relationships that come up. You still want to know who exactly Johnnie really is and what exactly it is he is lying about in relation to that trip to Paris. We are not only curious on Lina’s behalf, but on the behalf of all of those like letter-writer “Lips.” We all want to know: Just who is this person we’ve let into our lives? Just whom did I really marry?

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 from The Royal Tenenbaums.

Suspicion screens Thursday evening at 7:30 at the Heights Theater. Purchase tickets here.

“Psycho” opens our 6th Minneapolis Hitchcock Festival

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Is there a better way to open our Sixth Annual Minneapolis, Minnesota Alfred Hitchcock Film Festival at the Riverview Theater than with Psycho? Probably not.

Psycho review by Trylon volunteer Caty Rent.

Psycho was based on a novel by pulp novelist Robert Bloch. The novel was loosely inspired by Wisconsin serial killer Ed Gein, who, it might be argued, also inspired Buffalo Bill in the Silence of the Lambs. Psycho is regarded as one of the most quintessential Hitchcock films, and it deserves all the acclaim and recognition that it has been receiving for over fifty years. The sparse amount of characters and small areas of plot development unfold into sheer terror by the end.

When it first debuted in 1960, there was a Special Presentation Policy that declared Psycho should be viewed from the very beginning. Bold signs proclaimed, “No one, but no one, will be admitted in the theatre after the start of the performance!” The showtimes were listed exactly to the minute. Long lines circling America’s theaters and smash box office numbers proved these tactics worthwhile.

Shot with a low budget in black and white, Psycho at first  feels a little more like the television series, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, probably because much of the crew for Psycho also worked on the show. Hitchcock felt comfortable working with them and they weren’t as expensive as some of the crews he had worked with in the past.

Janet Leigh plays Marion Crane, a woman who is trapped in one of the moral dilemmas of most career girls for the time. Crane has a man she’d like to marry but can’t afford to. She has an opportunity to steal a large sum of money from her employer and doesn’t resist the temptation–instead, Marion takes the cash and heads for her boyfriend.

Eventually Crane finds herself driving in heavy rain and needs to find a place for the night. She finds a little spot far removed from the main highway. Even though it is the setting for most of the film, the Bates Motel almost seems like a character itself. Twelve cabins, twelve vacancies. Norman Bates, played masterfully by Anthony Perkins, is the astute, peculiar, and charming manager of Bates Motel.

Crane and Bates have a pretty long conversation, within it we find out that Norman enjoys to do taxidermy on birds and that he was raised alone by his Mother since he was five. One of Norman’s lines specifically stands out: “We’re all in our private traps, clamped in them, and none of us can ever get out. We scratch and claw, but only at the air; only at each other and for all of it we never budge an inch.” During the chat, it is apparent that Crane has changed her mind and wants to return the stolen money.

They abruptly part ways and Crane decides to take a shower. Although gory for the time, her shocking murder was still mostly left to the viewer’s imagination. The full naked body or brutality is never really shown, which is one of the Hitchcock devices; some things are much more shocking when left unseen. The shower scene from Psycho is one of the parts that everyone seems to remember. Fun fact, the fake blood used was actually just chocolate. It worked better for a nice contrast with the black and white film.

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

Psycho, opening the Sixth Annual Hitchcock Film Festival, screens only once, at 7:00 at the Riverview Theater. Purchase tickets here.

Big Trouble and Buckaroo: The Greatest Weekend In Twin Cities Cinema History

big_trouble_in_little_china_02There can be no question: this weekend’s pairing of John Carpenter’s Big Trouble in Little China with W. D. Richter’s The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai: Across the 8th Dimension is, literally and hyperbolically, the single greatest film event in the history of Minnesota. Do not miss either of these under any circumstances.

Review of Big Trouble in Little China by Aaron Vehling.

When John Carpenter and Kurt Russell came together to make films in the 80s and 90s, audiences would witness either a campy, genuine classic, like Escape from New York, or a campy car crash from which they could not remove their gaze. Big Trouble in Little China, falls in that second category. It’s a bizarre and cheesy martial arts fantasy film, but one you have to watch because it is a whole lot of fun.

There is an onslaught of martial arts gangs and hideous creatures polluting the streets of San Francisco’s Chinatown. There are exploits of practitioners of Chinese black magic and even some ostensible human trafficking–a 2,000 year old quasi-corporeal sorcerer steals a guy’s fiancee because he has to marry a green-eyed woman so he can become flesh again. But also in the air is a tale that contemplates the responsibility of power, the enduring influence of obsession and the redemptive quality of teamwork in the face of adversity.

Gluing all that together is some of the best dialogue this side of Shane Black.

Kurt Russell, playing the plebeian protagonist Jack Burton, waxes poetically into a CB radio in his  semi truck like someone’s drunk uncle at Thanksgiving: “Just remember what ol’ Jack Burton does when the earth quakes, and the poison arrows fall from the sky, and the pillars of Heaven shake. Yeah, Jack Burton just looks that big ol’ storm right square in the eye and he says, ‘Give me your best shot, pal. I can take it.’”

The antagonist in this flick, the sorcerer Lo Pan (Minneapolis-born James Hong), often disguises himself as a withered old man when he isn’t walking through walls, expelling electrical pulses and kidnapping women to turn them into hookers. He appears to have his hand in some good old-fashioned political corruption, too. I mean, he must: His vast subterranean lair underneath Chinatown seems to have escaped the attention of the city’s public works department. What happens if they have to televise the water mains? What if those annoying pencil-pushers in the transit department decide to expand the Muni?

Jack is just as puzzled as we are: “All I know is, this Lo Pan character comes out of thin air in the middle of a goddamn alley while his buddies are flying around on wires cutting everybody to shreds, and he just stands there waiting for me to drive my truck straight through him with light coming out of his mouth!”

The only reason Jack was even pulled into this mess was because he won a bet. He and Wang Chi (Dennis Dun) are long-time pals (read: gambling buddies) who seem to engage in all-night benders with some other working-class dudes in Chinatown whenever Jack comes to town to make deliveries. Wang can’t pay him right away, but asks Jack to drive him to the airport to pick up his fiancee Miao Yin (Penthouse Pet Suzee Pai) coming in from China. Then he’ll pay him.

The problem is that when they get to the airport, Jack tries to be a hero. Lo Pan’s nasty Chinese gang tries to kidnap a woman to sell into sex slavery, but Jack intervenes. So they take Miao instead. Jack and Wang go after them, and end up in some back-alley funeral procession in Chinatown, where they get in the middle of an epic (and beautifully choreographed) battle between two rival gangs. Jack then hits Lo Pan with his semi, which only serves to make Lo Pan angry.

Jack’s truck is stolen and so starts the mystical adventure that will take Jack and Wang into the often glitzy underbelly of Chinatown, where they will encounter about 1,000 black belts, a hideous type of Sasquatch creature and a floating shit monster with scores of eyes, among other things. Joining them are Gracie (Kim Cattrall in green contacts), the friend of the original woman the gang wanted to kidnap, and a Chinese gang that practices good magic, including the amiable sorcerer Egg Shen (Victor Wong). Their adventure will culminate in amazing displays of cosmic comeuppance, desecration of sacred imagery and a rather sinister blend of misogyny and violations of state and federal labor laws.

Big Trouble bombed and was mostly panned when it hit theatres in 1986, but has in the last 28 years become a crucial part of the Carpenter catalogue. Russell, Hong, Dun and Wong all play the film for what it is, mainly a featherweight piece of enjoyment that never takes itself too seriously.

Russell certainly helps Carpenter with that. He has proven over the years he can excel in comedies. Big Trouble is playful, sure, but it’s also a blatant satire of the tropes in martial arts films, action films in general and the atmosphere of Ronald Reagan’s “Morning In America.” It is cheesy, ludicrous and brilliant all the same, just like America. Or, as Wang put it as he drank a magic potion (probably amphetamines) just before he and the crew set forth for the final battle, “Here’s to the Army and Navy and the battles they have won; here’s to America’s colors, the colors that never run.”

And here’s to Carpenter, that influential auteur who proves that art does not have to be a pained contemplation of the darkness inherent in humankind. Sometimes the audience just wants to have fun.

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 from The Royal Tenenbaums.

Big Trouble in Little China screens Friday at 7:00, Saturday at 9:00, and Sunday at 7:00. Purchase tickets here. The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai screens Friday at 9:00, Saturday at 7:00, and Sunday at 5:00. Purchase tickets here.

 

Chris Grap Defends the Indefensible

image002Imagine, if you will, the bastard child of the Defenders and Trash Film Debauchery and, well, honestly, if you can imagine that you’re beyond help. However, that’s what you’re gonna get Wednesday night, when Theaters at Mall of America programmer Chris Grap gets grilled on his choice by TFD’s Theresa Kay. What insane movie is it going to be? YOU’LL HAVE TO ATTEND TO FIND OUT!

Mr. Grap, according to his own bio, can trace everything in his professional career back to the night he first saw “Chopping Mall.” It’s safe to say b-movies got him where he is today. He has worked on over 50 features ranging from big budget to no budget, and he currently works in business development at Mall of America and programs content for Theatres at Mall of America with his movie nerd friends (perhaps most notably the incredible Trailer Trash series.) Half of Wednesday’s Defenders proceeds will go to Chris’s charity: Minnesota Pit Bull Rescue.

The Defenders: Chris Grap (hosted by Theresa Kay) will screen Wednesday, and Wednesday only, at 7:00. Purchase tickets here.

 

Nick Ray’s Outsider Noir “On Dangerous Ground” at the Trylon

tumblr_md7afyxsz01qd88ijo1_1280The underrated On Dangerous Ground continues our Nicholas Ray: Inside the Outsider series this month.

Here we see one Jim Wilson, a Los Angeles police detective who has taken the word “embittered” and made it his personal philosophy–when we first see him here, he is in his apartment, alone, cleaning his weapon, his face locked in a rictus of ill will toward his fellow man. Ray loved showing how interior space reflects a person’s inner self–compare this desolate apartment, with its crucifix and its tarnished boxing trophies, with James Mason’s home that is wallpapered with maps  in Bigger Than Life, or Joan Crawford’s saloon partially built of rock in Johnny Guitar. Ryan’s detective lacks human warmth, warped as he is by the “scum” of the city, one of whom he nearly beats to death, lamenting out loud, “I always make you punks talk! Why do you make me do it?”

As critic David Thomson observed of Ryan’s Jim Wilson: “[A] tall man always having to look down, but as if some burden weighed on his spine.”

Wilson is forced to take a break from working in L.A., handed an assignment out in the California mountains, to help the local force hunt down the killer of a young girl. And here we see yet another man warped by circumstances, Ward Bond’s Walter Brent, the father of the murdered girl. But redemption comes in the form of the blind Mary Malden (Ida Lupino), who is connected closely with the case.

Ray’s tormented heroes go through such incredible emotional turmoil that it helps that the director usually gives us an (earned) happy ending leavened with life’s bitterness. On Dangerous Ground presents one of Robert Ryan’s finest performances, allowing him to dive deep into his (too often exposed) dark half, while also allowing us to witness the kindness within as well. At once a brutal noir, On Dangerous Ground is also a brilliant examination of personal redemption.

On Dangerous Ground screens Monday and Tuesday night at 7:00 & 8:45. Purchase tickets here.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cU-B-krF3QU

Nick Ray’s Insane Western “Johnny Guitar” at the Trylon!

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Johnny Guitar review by Trylon volunteer Geoffrey Stueven.

This month we’re celebrating director Nicholas Ray as an outsider, and his 1954 Western Johnny Guitar gives us a title character who looks, at least in the opening minutes, like a worthy stand-in for the director. There goes Johnny (Sterling Hayden) on his horse, fresh from Albuquerqu (no “e”), drifting across a rocky outcrop of Nowhere, N.M., ignoring a stagecoach robbery, a guitar strapped to his back where a rifle should be. But soon he arrives at the saloon owned by Joan Crawford’s Vienna and backstory unfurls with the weight and velocity of a classic noir. When Johnny and Vienna talk about their romantic past and exchange a series of supposes (“What do you suppose would happen if this man came back?” Johnny asks, referring to himself—I fully expect him to tear off a mask and reveal Fred MacMurray or Humphrey Bogart), all this makes us wonder briefly if Ray isn’t just giving us a noir dressed up as a Western. But, no, the point here is that even in the lawless, empty West, no one stays an outsider for long, or even arrives as one.

A mob, still working its way up to Ox-Bow Incident levels of hysteria, shows up at Vienna’s, making accusations concerning that earlier stagecoach robbery, and Johnny enters a situation he naively thought he could avoid. What follows is a magnificent, complicated, and very long interior scene that takes in a huge number of characters and gradually exits them, revealing their alignments and setting up conflicts, line by line and gesture by gesture. The way Johnny, still an unknown quantity, embeds himself in the scene by catching a falling shot glass is only the most potent example of Ray’s subtle handling of the material. Imagine this scene reshot by Sergio Leone and that shot glass might fall for minutes, but the weight of every movement and word, in Ray’s hands, registers no less.

Upon Johnny’s announcement of himself, we learn he has an itchy trigger finger but he’s traded his gun for a guitar, i.e., the safer distance of art? And if he knew what becomes of cowboys by the time Kirk Douglas makes one final, tragic pass through Albuquerque in 1962’s masterful Lonely Are the Brave, he’d keep his peace, his art. But sadly he’s got history, specifically with Vienna, who, if I didn’t already mention it, is played by the awesome Joan Crawford in an amazing sequence of brightly colored outfits.

She’s the misplaced star of this movie, whose weirdly inappropriate title heightens rather than hides its real subject and interest: the way an actual outsider (a woman) might exert influence in a hostile world. Vienna would prefer not to divulge this lurid history (“we exchanged confidences”; “luck had nothing to do with it”), and the movie remains fairly pessimistic on the subject of women and power, even as it features, with a total absence of the camp appeal I vaguely remember it containing, two astonishing and fearsome performances by women: Crawford and, as her arch nemesis Emma, the delightfully cruel Mercedes McCambridge. You see, there’s only room for one, if even. It’s a dispiriting message, one that causes Vienna to intone, to Johnny, “It must be a great comfort to you to be a man.” Yes, and at the end Peggy Lee will sing “Johnny Guitar (Love Theme)”.

Geoffrey Stueven recently returned from Albuquerque to his troubled Minneapolis backstory. He writes about music at The Big Takeover and enjoys a good movie from time to time.

Johnny Guitar screens Monday and Tuesday at 7:00 & 9:15. Purchase tickets here.

Zoë Tamerlis is devastating in the explosive Ms. 45

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Review by Trylon volunteer Patrick Vehling.

Drafthouse Films, the company responsible for the theatrical and DVD/Blu-Ray distribution of Abel Ferrara’s Ms. 45,  is one amongst many such studios that are part of a massive resurgence of amazing HD remasters, usually from the original camera negatives. Drafthouse has taken great care in creating a spectacular presentation of popular and otherwise lost cult cinema classics – Ms. 45 is no exception.

Zoë Tamerlis (Lund), then 17, plays Thala, a mute garment worker who is sexually assaulted twice, and turns from victim to avenger. It is this perfectly subtle performance by Tamerlis that makes Ms. 45 such a devastating and haunting film; we witness Thala relive the assault early on as she attempts to remove her clothing to take a bath, but is physically and mentally repulsed at the idea.

The next day we see a dramatic shift in her appearance, as she wears tighter clothing and a pulled back ponytail, carrying herself in a more confident manner before seeking revenge. Thala’s revenge is more than vengeance against her rapists, however–it is revenge against societal views on women. Unfortunately, Tamerlis, after only acting in a handful of films died at 37 in Paris due to heart issues from an increasing cocaine addiction.

Nicholas St. John, screenwriter for Ms. 45, wrote twelve films, ten of which were for Abel Ferrara before they had a falling out around the mid 90s–or rather, St. John parted ways from Ferrara for religious reasons. St. John’s exit from film was foreshadowed in many of his scripts, most of which were riddled with religious, specifically Catholic, symbolism and ideals. In Ms. 45 we see the meek, virginal Thala put on a nun’s habit while wearing thick makeup and bright red lipstick – a sort of reflection on St. John’s constant struggle between following God and doing violence towards yourself and others.

Ferrara’s film is a grand, violent exploration of human character and life in gritty New York City in the early 80s, a film highly recommended for those in need of experiencing a revenge tale with a bit more reality than Tarantino’s Kill Bill.  Ms. 45 is a powerful lashing out against modern politicians’ absurd obsession with rape culture.

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.

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