Appropriately enough, my Saturday began quite literally with an early morning screening of The Longest Day (insert your own joke here). This was capped off by a talk from Robert Wagner, who recounted his small role amongst the bevy of stars (Mitchum, Fonda, Wayne, Burton etc). Seeing it on the big screen, I'm reminded what a towering achievement The Longest Day really is. It's an epic that achieves the intimacy of a character drama; some sequences are more effective than others but on the whole, it's an entertaining, remarkable film that can be counted among the best of the war film genre. The editing and that hummable score are particularly noteworthy.
The next screening was the one I'd most been looking forward to and it didn't disappoint. Retour de Flamme/3-D Rarities, presented by film historian Serge Bromberg, was probably the most unique offering of the festival and definitely something I would like to see more of in the future. The charmingly French Bromberg, of the terrific Lobster Films, curated/narrated/presented a clip show of ultra-rare 3D films, some over 100 years old. They included clips from the Lumiere Brothers, Soviet educational films, nature films, and a tremendous exhibition of circus performers whose juggled balls and pins came whizzing straight at you! In an era where it seems 3D is being exploited rather callously for big budget mass entertainments, it was astounding to realize that the technology (or some rudimentary form of it, anyway) had been popular with cinema-goers since the media's very inception. The presentation really gave a fascinating historical overview to the format.
|Me, looking like a total 3D dork.|
The next showing was Harold Lloyd in the terrific proto-romcom, Girl Shy. I was especially pumped for this screening as it coincided with the Campaign to Save the Harold Lloyd Birthplace, a contingent of silent movie and Harold Lloyd fans that hope to draw attention (and attendance) to the Burchard, Nebraska homestead where Lloyd was born. We handed out flyers to the people in line and everyone seemed genuinely interested in the campaign. Later this summer, we're hosting a Harold Lloyd Blog-a-Thon to raise awareness of the cause.
Anyway, the film. I had seen Girl Shy before, but you've never really seen a silent comedy (especially a Harold Lloyd comedy) until you've seen it in a packed house. The audience was screaming with laughter! Harold always kills, even eighty years after the fact!
The evening program begun with one of my all-time favorite films, Gun Crazy. This was a really special screening, as the star Peggy Cummins was there in person to talk about it. Apparently, the British-born Cummins hadn't been back in the U.S. since the 1950s and had never given a live interview about the film before! Wow, we were really being treated to something special. Peggy looked as gorgeous as ever, sporting a sparkly golden blazer and just generally being charming. It was clear the moderator Eddie Muller (the czar of noir) had a crush on her (as does anyone who watches the film!), so it was fun to see that dynamic in play during the Q&A. The print itself was gorgeous; I had never seen Gun Crazy on the big screen before, and boy, what a thrill. I know it sounds corny, but I really got a buzz off of seeing one of my favorite films noir on the big screen with the star in person.
We stuck around the Egyptian for the late night screening of a film I had never even heard of (but now can't imagine my life without), Call Her Savage. Starring one of the sexiest women ever onscreen, "It" girl Clara Bow, Call Her Savage is exactly what an outrageous pre-Code movie should be. It takes place in a land where wearing bras is unheard-of, whippings occur regularly and bestiality in-jokes are the norm. It is a wild, wild movie and Bow is full of sass as the ferocious, rebellious lead character. We were also treated to a short clip of Clara Bow in color (!), which was a real treat. She's even more beautiful in color.
I had wanted to stay up and watch Duck Soup at midnight, but I was just too tired. And I knew I had a huge day ahead of me. So, no (Duck) Soup for you! (Bad "Seinfeld" joke, I apologize).
My friends and I woke up super early on Sunday, convinced that we'd be late to the Cinerama screening of How The West Was Won. As it turned out, we were first in line (Hollywood Blvd was practically deserted) and the next people didn't show up for about half an hour. Oops! Well, we decided to feast ourselves on coffee and cheeseburgers for breakfast (good decisions) while we waited to be let in to the screening.
At the same time, they happened to be filming a documentary about Cinerama right next to us. They were filming with real Cinerama cameras, too!
Seeing these cameras in action--some were also on display inside the theater--was the highlight of the morning for me. Just when you think the bell's tolled for film and cinema and movies forever, someone decides to film a Cinerama documentary with real Cinerama cameras. Kind of renews your faith a bit.
The film was introduced by the one and only Debbie Reynolds, who's just as much as a spitfire as you'd expect her to be. She was full of enthusiasm for the movie, even some fifty-odd years after she made it. The most impressive part of the film is probably the soundtrack. They presented it in the old roadshow format which featured an entr'acte where we just listened to the score in the dark. It was wonderful.
Because How The West Was Won clocks in at about one million hours, our viewing options for the rest of the day were somewhat limited. We decided to continue the theme of epic westerns with a screening of Howard Hawks' masterpiece, Rio Bravo. The always-beautiful Angie Dickinson was there to introduce the film and talk about making it. Her stories about Hawks and Wayne were wonderful. This is another film you truly can't appreciate until you've seen it on the big screen. It was filmed for that screen, you can tell. You're not really getting the full experience if you watch it on your TV at home.
After Rio Bravo, I think the combination of excitement and exhausting was now mingling with a sense of impending sadness. We only had one movie left: The Thief of Bagdad (another looong movie). It goes without saying that Douglas Fairbanks is amazing, but he is truly, truly a-ma-zing in this movie. He scales walls and climbs up ropes with an agility that is inhuman. He's more like some kind of wild animal in this flick. Like a boyish, charming, rakish wild animal. I don't even know how to describe the physical feats of wonder he pulls off as the title thief. I mean, Aladdin wishes. Presented with live musical accompaniment, the film was an instant energizer. Everyone in the theater was laughing and gasping and applauding in unison. It was a great, communal experience.
After this screening, we were all raring to go. Go party, that is. The film part of the film festival was over, but the fest part of the festival was just beginning. Maybe, however, the details of our hard partying into the night are best left remembered to those who experienced it. I'll leave you with this snapshot of two film nerds looking very, very, blissfully happy. Thanks, TCM Fest! See you in 2013!