TCMFF - Part 1

April 29, 2016

I'm at the TCM Film Festival! In my hotel room listening to music and writing a blog post while everyone is watching movies but... I'm here! haha!

I arrived Tuesday afternoon (three days ago??? how is that possible?!) and kind of just took it easy for the first two days. There was some eating, some shopping, some realizing that my clothes and shoes were all too uncomfortable,  so then more shopping...

One of the first tourist stops was, of course, the Chinese theater where I got to see the handprints and footprints of some of my favorite people. I visited last time I was here as well, but I think it's the kind of thing that never, ever gets old. And this time I found Marcello Mastroianni, who had somehow eluded me during my 2014 visit. I love Marcello! I love typing the name Marcello! Marcello!

Yesterday I had the pleasure of participating in a walking tour of Hollywood Forever cemetery. Morbid Curiosity is my middle name, so this was right up my alley. The tour guide, Karie, was beyond amazing and told so many fascinating stories that I'd never heard before! A lot of tour guides do it because it's their job, Karie does it because it's her passion and that made the tour particularly enjoyable. And I finally got to see Rudolph Valentino's grave -- I was a little gaga for him in high school so my inner 15 year old was [internally, trying to look totally cool and collected on the outside while definitely choking back a few tears] geeking out quite a bit.

Then we trekked up to the Hollyhock House, a home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright around 1920, and did some shopping in Los Angeles. Then we watched the red carpet arrivals for the TCMFF red carpet. I got to see the backs of a lot of awesome people (Carl Bernstein, Alec Baldwin, and Gina Lollobrigida to name a few) but my heart dropped out of my body and hasn't been seen since Anna Karina made her arrival in one of her signature hats, with her trademark black hair and bangs. I'm still in disbelief that she was standing in the same street as me, I can't even begin to fathom how I'll handle seeing her right in front of me on stage tomorrow night. My stomach legitimately just flipped in my stomach when I typed that. I'm out of control.

One of my favorite parts of my 2014 trip was visiting Larry Edmunds book store on Hollywood Blvd. They have an insane amount of movie books, and maybe even more exciting is their collection of 8x10s. Last time I was shocked by how many of my relatively obscure requests were met with a manila folder bursting with relevant photos. I came with a list this time (namely Alain Delon, Emmanuelle Riva, Monica Vitti, Truffaut and Maurice Ronet) and didn't have quite as much luck (apparently other girls buy a lot of Alain Delon pictures as well -- I can't even imagine WHY) but I still walked away with, I think,  at least 10 photos including the most perfect portrait of Monica Vitti. I'll need to scan it and post it when I get home. She's everything I aspire to be.

Last night I saw my first (and only, so far) film of the festival - Los tallos amargos, a rare Argentinian film noir that was recently restored. Film noir isn't my favorite genre but, as anyone who knows me probably already guessed, it's not in English so I was immediately on board. It was really well done, although slightly over-dramatic which resulted in some unnecessary laughter from the audience. I expected more of TCMFF attendees, but hopefully it was a freak occurrence and the rest of the movies will be shown more respect. Anyway, I thought the movie was great and the ending was superb! Is there anything as satisfying as a totally, completely, 100% perfect ending?

I better go hop in the shower if I want to be in line for The Way We Were soon. I need to get a good seat for this one (last night I was one of the last people to be seated and ended up watching Los tallos amargos from the front row, with my neck crooked at such an angle that I'm surprised my spinal cord didn't go numb)

Really my only complaint so far is that I totally forgot that nobody else eats during this thing. I mean, snacks and stuff, yes, but meals? no. At least not once the movies are going. It makes me feel like I'm a bad movie fan or something, but it's tough being the only person at the festival who needs a real dinner to survive. I feel like TCMFF is actually kind of like practice for the apocalypse. Everyone around me could survive anything, making do without food or water for days while they plot out a plan to get movie projectors to work in a world without electricity. Meanwhile I'd be chewing on a stray banana peel laying in the street murmuring "food... water... food..." until I lost consciousness and then promptly died after missing one single meal.

TCMFF 2016 printable schedule + my top picks

April 11, 2016

The 2016 TCM Film Festival schedule was released today! Like everyone else, I found it practically impossible to print without all of the text becoming so tiny you couldn't make it out, so I broke it up into four PDF files that should be much easier to read. You can download them all here:

Page 1
Page 2
Page 3
Page 4

I'll have a more concrete idea of what movies I'll be seeing after I compare schedules with my friends, but right now these are the films that I'm most excited about:

- Band of Outsiders: This is an absolute, definite, 100% must for me, even if my friends don't attend. There's nothing in the schedule that interests me in the 3 hours preceding the screening so I am planning on grabbing a snack and plopping myself in line for 180 minutes. Anna Karina will actually also be attending a screening of Band of Outsiders at the Film Forum in NYC in May and I already bought tickets for that, too.

- Cinema Paradiso: I'm so excited about this one! I think it's the best movie for people who love movies. And Salvatore Cascio will be there! He's all grown up now, but his has to be my favorite performance by a child in any movie EVER.

- The Manchurian Candidate: I'm a little bummed that this is scheduled against three other movies that I'd like to see, but you can't beat a Frank Sinatra film at the Chinese Theater introduced by Angela Lansbury (and with Alec Baldwin -- be still my 30 Rock loving heart!)

- Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back: Ronald Colman's face on the big screen. Enough said.

- 6 Hours to Live: I hadn't even heard of this one until I saw the schedule but it sounds so ridiculous and fantastic! Part of the agony of deciding what movies to see and which ones to skip comes from deciding to gamble with a new-to-me movie or choosing to see a beloved favorite on the big screen. I really want to try to include a lot more new-to-me movies at this festival than I usually would.

- Brief Encounter: This has been one of my favorites for ages. I was actually planning on seeing it as part of the Noel Coward series at The Film Forum this summer but I'm going to opt to see it at the festival instead.

Since I've mentioned it twice now, I should add -- if you're in the NY area and are unable to attend the TCM Film Festival, definitely take a look at some of The Film Forum's offerings this summer. They just released their May - August schedule and it knocked my socks off! I'm going to miss a bunch of French films while I'm in Paris in July (oh, irony!) but other than that I think I'll be taking a train into the city at least once a week, if possible.

Beyond the Cover blogathon: Jules and Jim (Part 1)

April 10, 2016

For the Beyond the Cover blogathon, I decided to read Jules and Jim by Henri-Pierre Roché. Unfortunately, like pretty much everything in my entire life, I was very well-intentioned but planned very poorly. As of this post, I only managed to finish the book's introduction by François Truffaut and the first few pages of the story. So, in an effort to still get a post up in time for the blogathon, I decided to break this up into two parts. Today I will be covering Truffaut's relationship with the book and its author. My second post will be a more detailed review of the book and how it stacks up against its cinematic counterpart.

François Truffaut happened upon the book in 1955 while perusing second-hand books at Le Palais Royal in Paris. The title "Jules et Jim" initially caught his attention, but upon reading on the back of the book that this was the debut novel from a 76 year old author he was especially intrigued: "What can a first novel written by a septuagenarian be like?"

By the first page, Truffaut had already "[fallen] in love" with Roche's writing. And this admiration is evident in the fact that Truffaut's film opens with a voice-over lifted practically word-for-word from the book:

A few months after reading Jules and Jim, Truffaut mentioned the novel in a review of The Naked Dawn, writing "One of the most beautiful modern novels I know is Jules et Jim by Henri-Pierre Roché, which gives us the lifetime of two friends and their companion in common, who love each other tenderly and with almost no clashes, thanks to a new and aesthetic moral ethic which is constantly under review. The Naked Dawn is the first film to give me the impression that a cinematographic Jules et Jim is possible."

Roché saw the review and responded, striking up a correspondence that would last until Roché's death in 1959. Before Truffaut had even begun work on his first movie, The 400 Blows, he mentioned in one of his letters that he would love to make a film version of Jules and Jim, and Roché approved of the idea -- they planned for Truffaut to eventually write the treatment & Roché the dialogue.

Unfortunately, Roché passed away before they had a chance to begin working on a script. But in the days before his death, he did get to see, and approve of, Truffaut's choice of actress for the role of his heroine, Kate (referred to as "Kathe" in Roché's letter and changed to "Catherine" in the film.) In his last letter to Truffaut he writes, "Dear young friend, your wonderful letter! ... Many thanks for the photos of Jeanne Moreau. I like her. I am happy that she likes Kathe! I hope to meet her some day, yes, come and see me when you like, I'll wait for you." Truffaut received the letter on April 5, 1959. Roché passed away four days later.

Truffaut began work on the film in 1961, but he was haunted and restless -- feeling guilty that he had put off the project for so long that Roché was no longer there to oversee production and constantly turning to the book for guidance, he "often found [himself] pushing the screenplay to one side and opening [his] copy of the novel again, making a note of several splendid phrases to 'preserve intact' and integrate into the soundtrack of the film."

Despite all of the praise and accolades Truffaut received when the film was finally released in 1962, he was still wracked with guilt, writing, "Henri-Pierre Roché was no longer there to harvest the fruits of his tree, and that was beginning to torment me. I was convinced that I was too young to make with the camera what Roché had drawn with his [pen.] The exact thing which I had most admired on reading the book was the fifty years of retirement between the living of the events and the author's narration of them... I was less than thirty years old when I made Jules et Jim, and I had forced myself to make not a young film, but quite the opposite -- an old man's film, and I wasn't sure I'd pulled it off!"

Writing this introduction in 1980, almost 20 years after the making of the film, it's clear that Truffaut's relationship with the author, and the sadness attached to making the movie after Roché had died, had plagued him for most of his life.

I can't speak to the authenticity of Truffaut's adaptation, since I have yet to finish the book, but from their correspondence it would seem to me that although Roché died without ever getting the chance to see his characters come to life on screen, he must have left this world thinking that if the movie version ever came to pass, it would be in good hands with Truffaut. And based on Truffaut's devotion to the author and his sensitivity to making sure that his film truly captured everything that he loved about the book, I have no doubt that all of his torment was for nought.

Le Choc {The Apartment}

March 18, 2016

Last night I watched Le Choc and there were so many great apartments/sets that I knew I had to take screenshots for the Apartment series on Silents & Talkies. For some reason I was laboring under the delusion that this had been a pretty in-depth, ongoing series, when in reality I did a whopping total of two Apartment posts back in 2009. Oops.

So I'm officially bringing this sad little series back to life today, and I plan on finally doing posts on the other apartments I mentioned at the end of my post on Sunday in New York. I also have a work-in-progress list of apartments I'd like to live in on Letterboxd right here (the title is supposed to be a clever nod to the movie The Apartment but I don't think it really worked very well...?) Eventually I'd like to do posts on all of the movies on that list, complete with screenshots.

Ok, let's get to Le Choc! This is a French crime film from 1982. Alain Delon plays an assassin who faces some dangerous setbacks when he attempts to retire from the business. Catherine Deneuve is the Hitchcock-heroine who gets inadvertently pulled into his perilous world. First of all, I enjoyed the HECK out of this movie. It's not necessarily the best movie ever made, it's not even Alain Delon's best crime film. But it was fun and suspenseful, with some fantastic dark comedy sprinkled here and there. It's violent, but in a very Alain Delon way -- casual and cool. Hypothetically, if I had to be killed by an assassin, I'd want those sad icy eyes to be the last thing I see.

In general the 1980's are my least favorite decade as far as fashion, decor, and hair styles are concerned. Alain Delon (and Catherine Deneuve, at one point) wears the most godawful pair of yellow tinted sunglasses in this film, but for the most part the decor and style here seems to be the most timeless that the 80's had to offer. Delon's wardrobe consists mostly of plain sweaters with slim-cut cords and a crisp navy pea coat. And he has an apartment to match his classically cool vibe. With the exception of a raw-sienna-heavy color palette and some slightly-too-puffy 80's furniture, this bachelor pad is pretty epic.

Like almost every other movie apartment I fall in love with, this has a nice split level thing going on. There's a geometric staircase that overlooks the rest of the living area. I love how there are inset lighted shelves for displaying pottery. This is basically the complete opposite of the apartment inhabited by Delon's more famous assassin character, Jef Costello from Le Samourai (although I actually love that sparse little room as well.)

My absolute favorite part of this apartment is the circular seating area, with a built-in circular bookshelf above it. Add to that the round coffee table, round light hanging overhead, and the carpet with circles radiating away from the seating area. It's all just so perfect. Also, the glowing thing behind the man in the last photo is (at least I *think* it is) a jukebox. Whoa. I'm very much using my imagination here, but I'm pretty sure it would be wired to speakers that play music all throughout the apartment.

The next apartment belongs to Delon's business adviser, who has the most beautiful atrium-like home. There are animals everywhere (At one point Delon is covering his face with a tissue to show how much it must smell like a zoo, even if it looks more like a greenhouse.) She even has a pet tiger! My favorite part, though, is that giant glass wall that seems to overlook some kind of courtyard. And even though I'm not personally a giant fan of wicker, all of the wood and plants in this home just look so cozy and chic to me. (Also, note the yellow sunglasses make an appearance here.)

Last but not least is this exquisite indoor pool belonging to Delon's boss. In middle school I remember we got to design (on paper) our dream homes in wood shop and one of the first things I did was to add an indoor swimming pool. I also had a water fountain in the entryway... I'm a sucker for indoor water features, apparently.

This room just looked so awesome to me. I love the roof that appears to be made entirely of glass with a circular shade? And isn't this basically an infinity edge pool before that was a thing? Also, like the previous apartment, I really love all of the plants.

Well, that about wraps things up! I think I'm going to do Come Blow Your Horn next, that's been one of my favorite movie bachelor pads for at least 10 years now... I can't believe I still haven't taken screenshots and posted them here!

You can view the other two posts in my Apartment series right here.

That awkward moment when...

March 06, 2016

Sometimes my favorite movies have one moment, or one scene, where I'm just like ... hmm... that's kind of weird. It usually doesn't affect how I feel about the movie as a whole, but, depending on the scene, it can leave me feeling troubled, confused, bewildered, or just kind of awkward. The best example I can think of occurs in Laura (1944).

If you haven't seen the movie, be forewarned, I delve into spoiler-territory here. Also, if you haven't seen Laura, what the heck? It's one of the best film noirs of all time, and it's available on Netflix Instant. Now skedaddle, go watch it! Hop to it!

Alright, this is the scene that bugs me every time --

Laura and Mark are standing in the kitchen getting ready to make breakfast when they hear someone unlocking the door. In walks Bessie, Laura's maid, who had discovered what she assumed was Laura's dead body a few days beforehand. Naturally she's scared out of her wits. She screams, she hides her face in her hands, she's physically shaking. And Laura says, "How about taking over here? Fixing us some coffee and eggs?" Bessie is still in shock, replying "But I... I saw it with my own eyes. I don't understand." And Laura tenderly reassures her, "have you ever heard a ghost ask for eggs?" and then Laura and Mark leave the room.

I get that it's 1944 and Bessie is "the help" and an affluent woman like Laura might not treat her with as much respect and kindness as she deserves. BUT. It just seems incredibly weird that, given Bessie's over-the-top reaction to seeing Laura alive, their first inclination is to put her to work. Like, take her to sit on the couch for a few minutes. Give her the day off. Fetch her a glass of water, for goodness' sake.

Part of the reason that this always feels uncomfortable or awkward to me is the fact that Bessie is so unflinchingly devoted to Laura. Out of all the people who know Laura, Bessie is the one who seems the most grief-stricken by her death, the most protective of her privacy, the most affected by her reappearance, and the most outraged when Mark announces that Laura was the murderer. Her actions before Laura turns up alive serve to fill in the blanks of Laura's personality. You learn bits and pieces from Waldo and Shelby, but because both of those characters seem so self-absorbed and shifty you don't fully believe everything that they say. It's through Bessie that you feel you're learning about the real Laura, and come to believe that she must have been the kindest woman to ever walk the earth.

So then it's kind of jarring when you see them interact for the first time and Laura seems so singularly uncaring. I mean, unless I've been misinterpreting this movie my whole life, which is definitely possible.

Actually. Okay, new possible theory. Maybe this scene is supposed to indicate that Laura really isn't the best person after all. Mark falls in love with the idea of Laura, and so does the audience. We believe her to be the angel that everyone says she is. But the reason that, as Mark says, Laura "certainly surrounded [herself] with a remarkable collection of dopes" is because Laura fits right in with them. She's callous towards the people who care about her, and Mark is about to get trapped in her web.

Maybe? What do you think? And do you also have favorite movies with one scene that rubs you the wrong way? It's funny, I've seen Laura so many times and this scene has bugged me with each repeated viewing. But it wasn't until I sat down to write about it that I realized this one scene might actually be relevant to understanding the movie as a whole, in a completely different way from how I had originally understood it.

TCMFF wish list

March 03, 2016

The 2016 TCM Film Festival is officially NEXT MONTH! They still haven't announced too much about the schedule or special guests, so I thought it would be fun to make a little (read: way too long) wish list of movies and people I'd love to see at this year's festival! Please note, these are my own personal preferences, not necessarily what they *should* show based on popularity or importance. Like, it's the 50th anniversary of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly but it's also the 50th anniversary of The Trouble with Angels -- one is clearly more important than the other, but guess which movie I'd rather see? ;)

Okay, let's start out with anniversary movies!

50th anniversary: Movies made in 1966

If TCM is going to celebrate the 50th birthday of any movie, my personal pick would be The Trouble with Angels. It's one of my all-time favorite movies, one of the first classic films I ever loved, and the namesake of my other blog, Scathingly Brilliant. ("I've got the most scathingly brilliant idea!") Bonus points if Hayley Mills or June Harding could be there!

Tied with The Trouble with Angels for 1st place in my imaginary programming list is How to Steal a Million. Angels was my introduction to classic film as a kid, but How to Steal a Million is the movie that made me a classic film fan for life. I actually cried after TCM screened my favorite movie, Sunday in New York, at the 2014 festival, and I'm pretty sure How to Steal a Million is the one that would conjure up similar emotions if it's scheduled this year.

Antonioni's Blow-Up is also celebrating 50 years, and it would be amazing to see that on the big screen. There are so many possible guests they could get to introduce this -- Vanessa Redgrave! Jane Birkin! Sarah Miles! (although I'd much rather see her introduce The Servant.) Truffaut's only English-language film, Fahrenheit 451, is also turning the ripe old age of 50 this year and it would be glorious to see that at the festival. (I touch on this again later in my post, but, *cough* JULIE CHRISTIE *cough*.)

Michael Caine starred in three '66 flicks, Alfie, Funeral in Berlin, and Gambit. I feel like it's more likely that Alfie would get a nod of recognition from TCM, but I'd prefer Gambit. (And again, how cool would it be if Michael Caine could introduce the film? I'd die.)

I know foreign films don't really get a lot of love at the festival (btw if anyone is aware of any festivals that ONLY show old foreign films, please let me know in the comments? Even if it's not in the US.) but Jean-Pierre Melville's Le Deuxieme Souffle was a '66 release, and I'd kill to see that at the festival. (Related: next year will be 50 years since he made Le Samourai. I will weep enough to fill the Chinese Theater with tears if that isn't on the 2017 TCMFF schedule.)

I'd also be pretty happy if they showed Penelope, a really fun Natalie Wood comedy, or Arabesque, a not-actually-that-fantastic spy caper starring Gregory Peck that would be worth seeing on a giant movie screen simply because LOOK AT SOPHIA LOREN IN THIS MOVIE:


You know I could go on about the 60's forever, but I'll stop myself here and move on to movies celebrating their 75th birthday.

75th anniversary: Movies made in 1941

I'd be remiss if I didn't acknowledge '41 is the year of Citizen Kane. I feel like that's kind of a must-show for the anniversary... I'll be shocked if it isn't on the schedule (although Chimes at Midnight just got a DVD release this year & it's celebrating its 50th anniversary, so that might win out if they don't want to double-up on Welles movies?) I do love it, but I had the privilege of seeing it at The Garden in Princeton last year so unless nothing else that interests me was programmed at the same time I'd probably skip it, personally. '41 is also the year of How Green Was My Valley, which seems to fit this year's theme of "moving pictures."

But number one on my list, hands down, is Meet John Doe. I was lucky enough to see this on the big screen once before, during the American Film Institute's 100th birthday celebration for Barbara Stanwyck in 2007, and honestly I could watch this movie every week without growing tired of it. I'd definitely go see it again.

Here Comes Mr. Jordan is also celebrating its 75th anniversary. It's one of my all-time favorite comedies, starring Robert Montgomery and James Gleason. I still haven't had the pleasure of seeing Robert Montgomery's face on a big screen yet, and this needs to be the year it finally happens.

I'm just now realizing I've already seen a lot of movies from 1941 in theaters, how strange! Another one of my favorites from this goldmine year is Sullivan's Travels, which I saw at The Film Forum last spring. Like Meet John Doe, I'd watch this again in a heartbeat. If you love movies about loving movies, seek this one out. I don't really need reminding that comedy is essential to humanity, but it doesn't hurt to reinforce the notion every so often with a healthy dose of Sullivan's Travels.

Guest wish list

If I had written this one month ago, Alain Delon would have been at the top of my wish list. Unfortunately, he had a health scare in early February and his doctor said it wasn't safe for him to fly to Vienna for an event so I highly doubt he'll be making the much-longer flight from France to America for the festival at this point. (Just one more reason I need to find a film festival in France, where he might be a guest?? yes??)

My dream guest is and always will be Julie Christie. She's my absolute favorite actress and I can't even describe how excited I would be if I got to see her in person. I feel like this is pretty much a pipe dream, though, because if she wasn't there for Doctor Zhivago's 50th anniversary last year (I'd imagine TCM must have tried to get her, right?) there's not much hope for future festivals. But a girl can dream!

Anna Karina attended a BFI event this past January, which makes me think it's feasible that she could be a TCMFF guest, right? Ugh, I'd be so excited I'm not really sure if my brain could handle it. This is probably sacreligious, but I would just love if she could introduce one of her non-Godard directed movies. I doubt any programmer on earth would make this choice, but I think she is such a great actress and has so much screen presence, it's a crying shame that she's always kind of relegated to "Godard's muse" and mostly just gets asked questions about him. Godard is awesome, obviously, but so is she, and I would love to see her get some recognition on her own.

Like I said earlier in the post, I'd obviously also love to see Michael Caine, Hayley Mills, Sarah Miles, Vanessa Redgrave and Jane Birkin. Catherine Deneuve would be AWESOME. I throw this phrase around too much, but seriously, I WOULD DIE on the spot if they had Emmanuelle Riva, but I don't think she speaks English so that's probably not going to happen.

The festival also usually has a lot of celebrity film fans who introduce movies. In 2014 I saw Alec Baldwin introduce A Hard Day's Night (I'm a giant 30 Rock fan, so I was that embarrassing classic film fan who was freaking out more over seeing Alec Baldwin than some actual classic film stars, bringing disgrace upon me and my family, and causing some my closest friends to lose all respect they might have had for me) and Patton Oswalt prepared me for the traumatizing event that was seeing Eraserhead.

This wish list is comprised of one single human: Tina Fey. She was a guest programmer on TCM last December, so it could happen. She's probably the busiest person in the entertainment business (possibly tied with Chris Hardwick, who I would also love to see at TCMFF, maybe introducing a 60's Hammer film or something?) but I'm keeping my fingers crossed that she could carve out a few minutes to introduce something, anything. I would watch literally anything she wanted to introduce, even a Tyrone Power movie. SERIOUSLY.

Honestly, though, whatever the schedule ends up looking like, whatever guests they end up having, I know I'll be happy with it. In 2014 & on the 2015 cruise I watched quite a lot of movies that I wouldn't have personally scheduled myself, and I enjoyed them tremendously! And usually it's the lack of things-you-already-love that ends up creating an opportunity to discover new favorites!