- Category: Movie Reviews
- Written by Gilbert Seah
TIFF Cinematheque Presents - Dreaming in Technicolour (PART 1)
Technicolor is a colour motion picture process invented in 1916 and then improved over several decades. It first started with two colour Technicolour followed by 3-strip Technicolour and then a dye transfer process. The latter process was also used to restore films like THE WIZARD OF OZ, APOCALYPSE NOW REDUX and REAR WINDOW, all three of which will be screened in this series.
Other films that initially utilized the colour process include melodramas like ALL THAT HEAVEN KNOWS and epics like LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. Needless to say, the best way to experience Tehnicolour is to experience it on the big screen.
For a complete listing of films in this series, for ticket pricing and venue, please check the TIFF website at tiff.net
TIFF Cinematheque Presents - Dreaming in Technicolour
ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS (USA 1955) **
Directed by Douglas Sirk
Melodramatic Douglas Sirk takes his movie full tilt with the story of widow Cary Scott’s (Jane Wyman) love affair with younger hunk, Ron Kirby (Rock Hudson). They romance is looked down upon by not only her grown-up children but by her social circle. The film is full of colour (the car, for example that Ron drives is in three colours) which makes it one of the perfect films to showcase the Technicolour process in this film series. The snow that falls in the film is artificial as can be seen flicked away from the clothes long after the characters have been in the room long after. But the script by Peg Senwick leaves much to be desired. It is predictable, ucorny and at times unbelievable over-the-top. The lack of chemistry between Hudson (whom everyone knows is gay now but not then) and Wyman does not help either. Their two characters fall in love after a few meetings and begin awkward kisses. But the worst is the film’s last segment that turns a happy ending to more melodrama.
(Screening June 30)
BLACK NARCISSUS (UK 1947) ****
Directed by Michale Power and Emeric Pressburger
Based on the novel of the same name, BLACK NARCISSUS refers to the name of the perfume worn by the young general (Sabu) while attending one of his classes at the convent/school. The film is a religious drama shot in glorious Technicolour by Jack Cardfiff (as the opening credits proclaim). True, the film is extremely colourful from the costumes, flowers and scenery despite the fact that the film was shot at Pinewood Studios and not in the Himalayas. The story involves the nuns led by Sister Clodagh (Deborah Kerr) setting up of a school and hospital up in a remote location in the Himalayas (the Palace of Mopu, near Darjeeling) for the local people, only to find themselves increasingly seduced by the sensuality of their surroundings in a converted seraglio high up in the mountains. It does not help that the local British agent Mr Dean (David Farrar), always in shorts, arouses the sexuality of both Clodagh and Sister Ruth (Kathleen Byron). Lots of good British drama and dialogue despite the staged look of the film.
(Screening July 7)
BONNIE AND CLYDE (USA 1967) ***** Top 10
Directed by Arthur Penn
A landmark gangster film in many ways from the violence to its sex and nudity! The film begins with the meeting of Bonne Parker (Faye Dunaway) with bank robber Clyde Barrow (Warren Beatty) as she spots him while naked trying to steal her mother’s car. From then on, it is one hell ride for the audience with director Penn glamorizing the lifestyle of BONNIE AND CLYDE. The film is very stylish and the performances more than excellent, garnishing all four leads Academy Award nominations in the acting categories. Estelle Parsons won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her portrayal of the immensely irritating screaming wife and sister-in-law of Clyde Barrow. This highly successfully film made stars of all the leads including Michael J. Pollard as C.W. Moss the not too bright driver who parks the getaway car during one bank robbery. The film also contains a very touching scene between Bonnie’s mother and her. The depression era is stunningly captured on film with Burnett Guffery winning the Oscar for Best Cinematography. BONNIE AND CLYDE is highly enjoyable, perfectly directed and a film to be viewed again and again.
(Screening June 23)
THE FOUR FEATHERS (UK 1939) ****
Directed by Zoltan Korda
This 1939 adaptation of the venerable novel by A.E.W. Mason, directed by Zoltan Korda and produced by bother Alexander is considered the best of all The Four Feathers films. Shot in glorious Technicolour, the film features spectacular battles between the British forces and the natives in Sudan on camels and horses. The spectacle is matched only by the human drama that makes the film even more interesting. In the midst of all the troubles, upper-class non-conformist Harry Faversham (John Clements) resigns his commission and is promptly accused of cowardice by his friends and fiancée. Determined to discover his true cowardice or courage for himself, Faversham travels to North Africa incognito, adopts the disguise of a native slave, and plunges into the centre of battle. Sir Ralph Richardson is memorable as one of Harry’s friends, John who grows blind from sunstroke while on duty and is heroically rescued by Harry. The dialogue is all so camp despite the serious subject of heroism and cowardice.
(Screening Aug 13)
THE GODFATHER (USA 1970) ***** TOP 10
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola
The original Best Picture Oscar winner that spurned two critically acclaimed and box-office successful sequels Parts I and II still stands at the best of the three. Based on the novel and co-written by Mario Puzo, this is the epic story of the Corleone Mafia clan, its troubles and how it finally manages to stay on top by extremely violent means. The film opens with the wedding of the Godfather’s (Marlon Brando) daughter’s (Talia Shire) wedding. As the Don is being greeted by various ‘guests’ requesting favours (See Image), Coppola’s film cuts to the celebrations in which many things are going on in between the lines or images. The sons are introduced from hot-tempered Sonny (James Caan), adopted Tom Hagan (Robert Duvall) to eldest Alfredo (John Cazale) to the favourite youngest Michael (Al Pacino) who will eventually inherit the position of Godfather. The film is scattered with violent killings from strangulation, knifing, gunning to the beheading of a horse. The ending is a brilliant intercutting of the assassination of the 5 other family heads amidst the christening of Michael’s Christening of his Godson in which he denounces Satan and his deeds. Everything else about the film is near perfect including Nino Rota’s riveting score and Brando’s performance that won him the Oscar for Best Actor.
(Screening Aug 2)
GOOD MORNING (Japan 1959) ****
Directed by Yasujiro Ozu
GOOD MORNING ends with a very happy good morning where the greeting, uttered several times, affects the characters on the screen. The setting of this feel-good observational piece, a comedy of manners, takes place in a Tokyo suburb. The action weaves in and out of the tiny houses in the suburbs as the various characters carry out their daily routines. Among them is Mrs. Hayashi, the treasurer, has has given the dues to the chairwoman, Mrs Haraguchi (Haruko Sugimura), who denies it. But the story centres around two boys, attracted to a neighbour's house because they have a television set. They pressure their mother into buying them a television set, but their mother refuses. Both end up going on a silence strike against all adults. And their English tutor and aunt appear to be starting a fresh romance. Ozu is fond of placing his camera still and has his characters move in and out of the frame. And it has the feel of the audience as voyeurs observing the neighbourhood.
(Screening: Aug 9)
LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (UK 1962) Top 10 *****
Directed by David Lean
If the term sprawling epic was conned, it would likely have its source from David Lean’s 7-Oscar winning LAWRENCE OF ARABIA including Best Picture. The film begins with T.E. Lawrence (Peter O’Toole) dead from a motorbike accident and flashes back to the times when he was a British soldier ending up uniting the Arab tribes against the Turks. The image of a dot in the desert sands evolving into a rider on a horse, the sandstorms and stunning desert landscapes won Freddie Young the Oscar fro Best Cinematography. The sound like the echoes bouncing off the desert mountains also won the film an Oscar for Best Sound. The additional bonus is Maurice Jarre’s haunting score. Almost everything is perfect in this film including the Oscar nominated script by Robert Bolt. The running time of 200 plus minutes passes really fast. This is the film that made O’Toole an instant star. An impeccable film from start to finish in glorious Technicolour.
(Screening Jun 20)
REAR WINDOW (USA 1954) ***** TOP 10
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Based on a short story by Cornell Woolrich (Hitchcock claims that the best movies are based on simple stories), REAR WINDOW has a simple premise. A news photographer, L.B. Jeffries (James Stewart) has broken his leg on a job. He has another week in his cast and spends his days looking out his apartment’s REAR WINDOW spying at the goings-on of his neighbours. L.B.’s world has been reduced to what he can see through that window.
L.B. notices various neighbours, Miss Lonelyhearts (Judith Evelyn), looking desperately for a beau, a newly married couple, a songwriter (Ross Bagdasarian) and a salesman, Lars Thorfeld (Raymond Burr) looking after his invalid wife. When the salesman acts suspicious, like taking various suitcases out of the apartment at various times in the morning with the wife not being in view, L.B. suspects murder. He gets his nurse, Stella (Thelma Ritter) and fashion designer girlfriend, Lisa Freemont (Grace Kelly) to become his aids to prove that a murder has taken place.
Hitchcock’s film works on various levels. There is a romantic comedy in all this. When the two highly different personalities finally have a common goal of solving the murder case, love blooms. There is also a subplot involving two other romances.
Hitchcock has proven and especially in this film that he is indeed the Master of Suspense. Hitchcock gets the audience right into Stewart’s point of view, looking through his binoculars as Kelly sneaks into the murderer’s apartment just as he is returning to catch her there. His camera shots of the murderer tossing L.B. out of the window as he falls is perfect suspense generation. When Stewart is watching the apartment of the killer, the other subplot of Miss Lonelyhearts about to take sleeping pills keeps the audience anticipation high.
The film is also full of humour, especially at the film’s start on the subject of spying on the neighbours. The repertoire between Ritter and Stewart is hilarious. The massage she gives him also looks really effective, courtesy of Hitchcock insisting on perfection of his scenes.
REAR WINDOW can be enjoyed on multiple viewings. This is more that my 5th viewing and there is always more to enjoy that could have been missed.
Flaws? I wondered initially at the film’s climatic segment when the killer entered L.B.’s apartment with the door unlocked. Why did L.B. leave the door unlocked when he knew the killer was about to come in?. Upon reflection, the answer was rather obvious, as L.B. was in a cast and cannot reach the lock of the front door. Why then did he leave the door unlocked? The reason would be to let both the nurse, Stella and Lisa in without having to make too many temporary spare keys.
REAR WINDOW also gives a new meaning to the word flash photography. REAR WINDOW though dated (the use of land lines and no cell phones; lcm of air-conditioning) still stands the test of time as one of the best suspense thrillers of all time.
(Screening Jul 25)
SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN (USA 1952) ****
Directed by Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly
Many has described SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN as the happiest musical of all time. In many ways this is true for the abs colourful musical sequences not to mention the famous dancing in the rain segment performed by Gene Kelly. But his co-star Donald O’Connor upstages him in his solo number “Make ‘Em Laugh” earlier on in the film. The mundane plot deals with the transition of a silent movie studio to sound. Gene Kelly plays movie star Don Lockwood and Debbie Reynolds plays his girlfriend Kathy. She stands in for Don’s talentless costar but famous actress Lina Lamont played by Jean Hagen. Never mind the sillyplot and romance, the musical is what this delightful film is all about. And it lives unto its title as the happiest musical of all time.
(Screening June 19)