Posts Tagged ‘Vincente Minnelli’

Heads-up re: TCM, 4/7

April 7, 2010

Tonight (or rather, tomorrow morning) at 12:30 TCM will be showing Vincente Minnelli’s “The Pirate” (1948), which was one of the highlights of last semester’s Minnelli retrospective at the Cinematheque. “The Pirate” is nothing if not silly, flashy and unapologetically frivolous—and therein lies both its charm and its potency.

By now many are familiar with Andrew Sarris’ summation of Minnelli and his singular body of work (“Minnelli believes more in beauty than art”), but unlike his more ostentatiously self-serious works (“The Bad and the Beautiful,” “Lust for Life”), “The Pirate” suggests that cinema as a medium always relies upon an erasure of the dividing line between the sensual and the contemplative. Even if the implications of its aesthetics weren’t so stimulating and significant, the movie’s just a load of fun; very highly recommended.


How I spent my winter vacation

January 13, 2010

Come to think of it, if you’ve kept up with this blog at all over the past few weeks, you already know how I spent most of my winter vacation. But now that I’ve begun writing this post, I might as well share something or other with you, dear reader. What to say, what to say… Hmm… Oh! How about this:

Five great (what does that mean?) films I watched over the break

“I No Longer Hear the Guitar”/“Emergency Kisses”/“The Birth of Love” – I’m grouping these together because I approached them as a triptych and I ain’t sorry I did. Lately Garrel’s work has been doing it for me in a way that no other director’s has. I think these films would really resonate with anybody who is 21 but feels 51.

“Numéro deux” – You saw the images I posted yesterday, yes? If so, you can probably understand where I’m coming from.

“Two Weeks in Another Town” – It’s so ridiculous, so excessive, so convinced that it’s saying something truly profound about creative genius and the various obstacles inherent to big-budget art—profit-obsessed investors, sadistic former flames, unstable collaborators, etc.—that I can’t help but love it. One of Minnelli’s great charmers.

“Casa de Lava” – Again, I’ll let the images speak for themselves. If you can find it, you should savor every second of this stunner.

“Sansho the Bailiff” – Mizoguchi’s a master whose work I’m aiming to become much more familiar with in the semester ahead. “Sansho the Bailiff” is relentlessly affecting, ingeniously composed and brilliantly constructed. Watching this film one totally gets why the inaugural Cahiers du cinéma crew idolized him. Obviously “Ugetsu” is essential as well.

Free on-campus screenings for this, our beloved weekend of 12/4-5

December 4, 2009

Quite a weekend for those of you who don’t neglect the robust film scene here at UW.

Tonight at the Cinematheque: the final film in the ‘theque’s Vincente Minnelli retrospective, Home From the Hill (1960), starring none other than Hollywood’s original Hercules, Robert Mitchum. The Minnelli series has really been one home run after another, so I’m inclined to believe that Home From the Hill will be every bit as engaging and borderline psychedelic as the rest of V.M.’s Technicolor melodramas. I haven’t personally seen this one, but here’s Jonathan Rosenbaum’s capsule review (courtesy of his website):

One of Vincente Minnelli’s best ‘Scope and color melodramas (1960), adapted by Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank from William Humphrey’s novel. Set in a small town in Texas, the plot centers on a troubled family: a promiscuous patriarch (Robert Mitchum) and his frigid wife (Eleanor Parker) compete for the loyalty of their son (George Hamilton), who discovers that he has an illegitimate half brother (George Peppard). With Luana Patten, Everett Sloane, and Constance Ford. 150 min.

The screening begins, as always, at 7:30PM.

Saturday night at the Cinematheque: a trio of documentary shorts by Alain Resnais entitled Art/History. The triptych will consist of Guernica (1950), Les statues meurent aussi (1953) and the paradigm-shifting Nuit et brouillard (1955). More information on the Cinematheque’s series of six films (directed) by Resnais can be found here. In my mind, this is the main event of the Cinematheque’s Fall schedule; seeing Nuit et brouillard at least once in one’s life is something of a moral imperative. Resnais may be known primarily for his excursions into the territories of high modernism (such as Hiroshima mon amour, Muriel and L’année dernière à Marienbad [which the ‘theque is screening next week]) and high theatricality (Mélo, Privates Fears in Public Places), but these documentaries constitute an essential chapter in the oeuvre of one of cinema’s all-time innovators. Your attendance at this screening (which begins, believe it or not, at 7:30PM) is mandatory, as far as I’m concerned.

And now for something totally different: South African sci-fi flick District 9 (2009) is screening at the Play Circle Theater in Memorial Union on both Friday and Saturday nights at 7:00PM and 9:30PM. Didn’t get a chance to see this one myself but the buzz was surprisingly ecstatic, so you could definitely do worse than to swing by.

As impressive as this roster may seem, I’m undoubtedly omitting a screening or two. Looks to me as though you’ve got a lot to consider, Madison.

This weekend: two Minnelli melodramas at the Cinematheque

November 13, 2009

There are only two screenings on campus this weekend that strike me as being absolute must-sees, and both of them are part of the Cinematheque’s ongoing Vincente Minnelli retrospective: tonight it’s The Cobweb (1955) and tomorrow night it’s Some Came Running (1958), and both will begin at 7:30PM.

I haven’t seen The Cobweb but it’s certainly got a strong-looking cast (Gloria Grahame, Lauren Bacall and Richard Widmark); Some Came Running, on the other hand, I have seen—on TCM—and am really looking forward to being able to see it on the silver screen that will doubtlessly do it the justice that my 13-inch TV couldn’t.

Some Came Running is undoubtedly one of Minnelli’s most endearing melodramas, as well as his most literary, even if Frank Sinatra isn’t 100% believable as an angst-ridden writer who turns to drink and private yet theatrical displays of affection to cope with his inability to compose the mythical “great American novel” (which, truth be told, was probably written by a Russian). Despite this slight problem of believability, Sinatra’s Dave is a much less repulsive character than is, say, Jeff Daniels’s creative writing professor/professional snob from Noah Baumbach’s The Squid and the Whale.

Aside from Sinatra, whose star burns too bright for my generation to be able to suspend our collective disbelief and view him as anyone other than Frank Sinatra, Some Came Running also features a strong-as-four-day-old-coffee performance by Dean Martin (the same performance that Michel Piccoli’s character references in Le Mépris) and Shirley MacLaine as a thoroughly sympathetic but thoroughly pathetic woman who can’t take a hint until she proves she can take a hint (and read a short story)—but at that point it’s too late and her fate has been sealed like a twice-licked letter.

Thus, there’s a lot to look forward to at the Cinematheque this weekend. If you’re not presently embroiled in an unfathomably thick situation vis-à-vis schoolwork, you should definitely consider checking these two out.

This weekend à la Cinematheque

October 16, 2009


Friday night: Vincente Minnelli’s Lust for Life (1956), an über-polychromatic, cinematic portrait of Vincent van Gogh (played by Kirk Douglas), this film has the reputation as being Minnelli’s most confessional melodrama, though it also has the reputation as being a somewhat masturbatory testament—what’s more self-flattering than using the image of history’s most famous tortured artist as an allegory for oneself?—from one of Hollywood’s most grandiose figures. The screening begins, as usual, at 7:30PM, and, in my myopic estimation, it ought to be terribly good.


Saturday night: Grigori Aleksandrov’s Volga, Volga (1938), a musical comedy that holds the rather remarkable distinction of having been Stalin’s favorite film—an interesting tidbit that should by no means be downplayed. Last Saturday’s screening from the Aleksandrov series, The Circus, was a lot of head-scratching fun; thus, I’m going into Volga, Volga with more or less high expectations. You’d never believe it but the screening begins at 7:30PM. Definitely be there if you’re a cultural—as opposed to a practicing—red, or if you’re an orthodox Groucho-Marxist (like yours truly).

It’s been marinating for a minute now

October 9, 2009

Poster - Band Wagon, The_02

In today’s issue of the Daily Cardinal: My review of last Friday night’s screening of Vincente Minnelli’s The Band Wagon (1953) at the Cinematheque. (Spoilers: I have mostly positive things to say about this one. Please forgive the really crude/borderline inaccurate characterization of Alain Badiou, whom I’ve never actually read but whose work, in a weird way, interests me greatly. Not really sure how or why I came up with the connection.)

Why, I nearly forgot that the Cinematheque is screening Vincente Minnelli’s ‘The Bad and the Beautiful’ tonight at 7:30PM

September 26, 2009

Today’s just one of those days when the title of a post might as well say it all. Obviously I apologize for waiting until the last minute to write this sucker; my plate’s a little overloaded at the moment.


The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) is definitely a must-see if you’ve never. It’s the rare work of art that functions both as a vicious backhand and as an emphatic pat-on-the-back; it’s also got some outstanding performances by the perpetually and adorably ridiculous Gloria Grahame, the slippery and macho Kirk Douglas, and a toppling tower of a sell job by Dick Powell, who is outstanding as an academic man’s man and prominent member of the Southern literati who gets dragged into the pervasive craziness of the Hollywood machine.

The Bad and the Beautiful feels as though it contains much, much more than it really does, which is to say that it’s marked by illusions of excess, and all its cinematographic flashiness and melodramatic pyrotechnics cover up the fact that the film is rather simply designed and assembled. To borrow a term from Robert Venturi, The Bad and the Beautiful is a decorated shed, but it’s a shed that you probably want to visit.

Saturday night at the Cinematheque: Vincente Minnelli’s ‘The Pirate’

September 17, 2009

It was just two weeks ago that the Cinematheque screened Vincente Minnelli’s Meet Me in St. Louis, an event which was nothing short of a rousing success (at least to those of us who actually showed up). If you were unfortunate enough to miss that screening, you’ll get another opportunity to enter into the dazzling, polychromatic, occasionally absurd world of the Minnelli Technicolor musical when the Cinematheque screens The Pirate (1948) on Saturday night at 7:30PM. The film stars Judy Garland, with whom most cinemaddicts in Madison are likely all too familiar at this point, and Gene Kelly, who is probably the most graceful and athletic block of cheese ever to perform on camera, so The Pirate certainly isn’t lacking star power. If you’re a UW student who enjoys cinema and you fail to attend this screening, well… then you’re heartless. But seriously, I’d love to see more students at the Cinematheque on Friday and Saturday nights. It’s free, for crying out loud. What are you doing at 7:30PM on a Friday that’s so important anyway? Cripes.

On deck: an all-black musical

September 7, 2009

This upcoming Friday night the Cinematheque continues its series of films directed by Vincente Minnelli (which began this past Friday with a rousing screening of Meet Me in St. Louis) with Minnelli’s directorial debut: 1943’s Cabin in the Sky. This film, adapted from a Broadway musical written by Lynn Root, features an all-black cast, placing it in a quirky tradition that includes Otto Preminger’s adaptation of Carmen Jones (1954) and King Vidor’s Hallelujah! (1929). But what really sets Cabin in the Sky apart, at least on paper, is its arsenal of actors (and musicians serving as actors) whose names ought to ring a few bells: Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Lena Horne, Ethel Waters and Eddie “Rochester” Anderson. It’s always a pleasure to see such iconic figures assembled and doing their thing on the silver screen; but to see so many of them, especially in a cinematic rookie’s first feature-length effort, is a rare opportunity. Just can’t enough of those musicals, all-black or otherwise.

Meeting V.M.

August 27, 2009

A week from tomorrow (September 4th) the Cinematheque will kick off its nine-film Vincente Minnelli retrospective with his iconic Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), starring Judy Garland, which the great James Agee once described as “a musical that even the deaf should enjoy.” Minnelli is an undisputed giant of classical Hollywood, a status which he self-consciously interrogated in his outstanding industry micro-epic The Bad and the Beautiful (1952; playing at the Cinematheque on September 26th). Here, via the invaluable online film journal Senses of Cinema, is a relatively comprehensive profile of Minnelli, loaded with biographical and textual detail.

As far as Meet Me in St. Louis is concerned, I’m going to defer to Agee once again:

Technicolor has seldom been more affectionately used than in its registrations of the sober mahoganies and tender muslins and benign gaslights of the period. […] To the degree that this exciting little episode fails, it is because the Halloween setup, like the film as a whole, is too sumptuously, calculatedly handsome to be quite mistakable for the truth.

In the above quote we get shades of Andrew Sarris’s claim, made many years afterward, that Minnelli, an alleged auteur, “believes more in beauty than in art.” More to come.