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20th Anniversary Tribute to The Film Foundation


20th Anniversary Tribute to The Film Foundation

Friday, October 8th at 7:30 pm

THE BIG COMBO 1955/b&w/88 min.
Scr: Philip Yordan; dir: Joseph H. Lewis; w/ Cornel Wilde, Richard Conte, Brian Donlevy, Jean Wallace, Lee Van Cleef.
Restored by UCLA Film & Television Archive with funding provided by The Film Foundation.

Joseph H. Lewis' brutal detective thriller is a prime example of the film noir, largely on account of John Alton's harsh cinematography, which emphasizes extremes of black and white with few intermediary grey tones, and transforms backrooms, bedrooms, and alleys into abstract arenas for dueling obsessions. Lieutenant Diamond is frustrated but unyielding in his pursuit of organized crime boss Mr. Brown (Richard Conte, in a suave and sadistic performance), who relishes power gained through hatred and resolve. Brown's girlfriend is Susan—whom Diamond also desires—a one-time pianist now exhausted and trapped by the sensual cravings of her psyche. Images assault the viewer: shadowy figures in pursuit of a lone woman, a hearing aid that doubles as a torture device, a lover's ecstatic face trembling in close-up. Lewis' fractured world adopts style as its substance, making every maneuver seem like a futile struggle against isolation and madness.—Doug Cummings.

Friday, October 8th at 9:10 pm

THEY MADE ME A FUGITIVE (AKA I BECAME A CRIMINAL) 1947/b&w/99 min. Scr: Noel Langley; dir: Alberto Cavalcanti; w/ Trevor Howard, Sally Gray, Griffith Jones.
Restored by the BFI with funding provided by The Film Foundation.

This early British film noir comes courtesy of lesser known Brazilian director Cavalcanti, who was described by The Guardian in July 2010 as having "made a handful of the most polished, imaginative and downright enjoyable films of the 1940s." His background in avant-garde silent films (assisting Marcel L'Herbier and Louis Delluc, among others) and GPO Film Unit documentaries paved the way for this gritty revenge thriller. An unkempt Trevor Howard stars as a former RAF hero who falls in league with a group of black marketeers, turning to crime as a cure for his postwar ennui. When he stops short of drug dealing, his accomplices frame him for murder, and he vows payback. Highly influenced by French poetic realism (the style first referred to as "noir"), the film makes atmospheric use of wintry Soho locations, and its unexpected violence (intensified in one scene by a spinning camera and distorted lens) and potent sense of fatalism provoked strong reactions; surprisingly, it passed British censors uncut but was released in America with twenty minutes truncated.—Doug Cummings.

Saturday, October 9th at 5:00 pm

PANTHER PANCHALI 1955/b&w/115 min.
Scr/dir: Satyajit Ray; w/ Kanu Bannerjee, Karuna Bannerjee, Subir Bannerjee.
Restored by the Academy Film Archive with funding provided by The Film Foundation.

Inspired both by Italian neorealism and time spent with Jean Renoir on the set of The River (another restoration by The Film Foundation), Satyajit Ray adapted his moving debut feature from a novel about a poor Brahmin family living in Bengal. Shot on location, largely with nonprofessionals, and using available light, the film captures everyday events, rural textures, and the precarious livelihood of its characters with a powerful mixture of tenderness and lack of sentiment. Ray's refined visual sense (he was a working illustrator) informs images such as children dancing in a downpour or glowing flax undulating in the wind. The film proved to be such an international success, it spawned two sequels that collectively became one of world cinema's most beloved trilogies. Sadly, the original negative of the film was lost in a fire, and like many Ray pictures, India's humid climate and poor storage facilities wreaked havoc on surviving prints, reducing the film's resonant lyricism to a mass of scratches and degradation. This 2005 restoration premiered on the film's fiftieth anniversary.—Doug Cummings. $5 admission.

Saturday, October 9th at 7:30 pm

THE RED SHOES 1948/color/133 min.
Scr.dir: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger; w/ Moira Shearer, Anton Walbrook, Marius Goring | Restored by UCLA Film & Television Archive in association with the BFI, The Film Foundation, ITV Studios, Global Entertainment Ltd., and Janus Films. Restoration funding provided by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, The Film Foundation, and the Louis B. Mayer Foundation.

Cinematographer Jack Cardiff is the subject of a new documentary, and his extraordinary facility with light and color was never more evident than in this vibrant tribute to the world of ballet. Powell and Pressburger's penchant for artifice—atypical for British filmmakers—energizes the drama, inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale, producing one of cinema's greatest dance films. Vicky Page, a talented dancer, is offered the opportunity of a lifetime to star in a ballet under the tutelage of a renowned impresario (Anton Wallbrook), who demands supreme dedication at the expense of everything else in her life. Vivid Technicolor hues and experimental lighting suggest the magic allure of creativity while stressing its painful perfectionism and emotional toll. The film's justly famous 17-minute ballet sequence—based on a series of surrealist paintings by art director Hein Heckroth—is a tour-de-force of camera movement, variable recording speeds, physical effects, and human grace; its influence was felt throughout American musicals of the 1950s.—Doug Cummings.

Friday, October 15th at 7:30 pm

BONJOUR TRISTESSE 1958/color & b&w/94 min./Scope
Scr: Arthur Laurents; dir: Otto Preminger; w/ Deborah Kerr, David Niven, Jean Seberg. Restored by the Museum of Modern Art and Sony Pictures with funding provided by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and The Film Foundation.

While Otto Preminger was known for melodramas (Laura, Angel Face) and courtroom dramas (Anatomy of a Murder, Advise and Consent), his sense of cool detachment and even-handedness in judgment and composition was unusual and elevating. This CinemaScope adaptation of Francoise Sagan's novel of the same name charts the carefree dalliances of an idle rich father and daughter pair, Raymond (David Niven) and Cecile (Jean Seberg, whose spunky performance inspired her role in Godard's Breathless) on the French Riveria; but when a sophisticated fashion designer comes to visit Raymond, Cecile's close relationship with her father is threatened. Shot on location like many Preminger works, the film makes unusual use of black-and-white for the present day scenes that take place in Paris and sumptuous color for the flashbacks set on the Cote d'azur. But Preminger carefully undermines the film's pictorial beauty by gradually exposing the tensions lurking beneath the surface; as the drama progresses, the widescreen frame feels increasingly restrictive, limiting the spaces between characters, and provoking an unbearable lightness of being.—Doug Cummings.

Friday, October 15th at 9:15 pm

THE BAREFOOT CONTESSA 1954/color/128 min.
Scr/dir: Joseph L. Mankiewicz; w/ Humphrey Bogart, Ava Gardner, Edmond O'Brien.
Restored by UCLA Film & Television Archive in cooperation with MGM Studios with funding provided by The Film Foundation and Robert Sturm.

"I tried to do a bitter Cinderella story," said Joseph L. Mankiewicz about his first independent production, a widescreen melodrama in which a movie director (Bogart) discovers a Spanish dancer (Gardner, vaguely modeled on Rita Hayworth), turns her into a star, and becomes friend and confidant for her tumultuous romantic life. Given its complex narrative structure—eight flashbacks and four narrators emanating from a funeral—one might suspect the influence of Citizen Kane, co-written by Joseph's older brother Herman. But unlike Welles' film, the mysterious persona at the center of this inquiry is a woman, and her commentators are uniformly male; Mankiewicz's portrait of Hollywood deal-making, the Italian aristocracy, and the Riviera's international jet set are far from rosy (making it a kindred spirit to other films in this series), but the film can largely be read as a story about female exploitation. Cinematographer Jack Cardiff perfectly recreates the atmosphere of a Madrid nightclub, an expensive industry party, and the colorful Mediterranean coastline in equal measure.—Doug Cummings.

Saturday, October 16th at 5:00 pm

LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN 1945/color/110 min.
Scr: Jo Swerling; dir: John M. Stahl; w/ Gene Tierney, Cornel Wilde, Jeanne Crain, Vincent Price. Restored by the Academy Film Archive and Twentieth Century Fox with funding provided by The Film Foundation.

Fox's biggest moneymaker of the '40s, and one of the few classic film noirs shot in color, Leave Her to Heaven is a frightening character study that makes brilliant use of its sunny, rural locations. A seemingly porcelain Gene Tierney stars as Ellen Berent, a woman so possessive of her husband (partly because he resembles her father), she orchestrates a series of crimes to keep him for herself. The Technicolor clarity generates intense emotion in contrast with Berent's inscrutable gaze, and the drama derives much of its force from its psychological plausibility. "Mental illness was first referred to as alienism," writes Meredith Brody and Jonathan Benair in the Film Noir Encyclopedia. "This corresponds to director John Stahl's unusual conception of his heroines as super-real, emotionally alive individuals frustrated by their dull surroundings and unimaginative men. Society might see these woman as unnatural and mentally ill, but to Stahl they are profoundly provocative beings." The film is perfectly lensed by Leon Shamroy, who ties Charles Lang in holding a record eighteen Academy Award nominations for cinematography.—Doug Cummings.

Saturday, October 16th at 7:30 pm

SENSO 1954/color/118 min.
Scr: Suso Cecchi d'Amico, Luchino Visconti; dir: Luchino Visconti; w/ Alida Valli, Farley Granger.
Restored by StudioCanal, Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia/Cineteca Nazionale, and Cineteca di Bologna/L'Immagine Ritrovata. Funding provided by GUCCI, The Film Foundation and Comitato Italia 150.

Luchino Visconti's lavish melodrama, co-written with favorite screenwriter Suso Cecchi d'Amico (The Leopard), opens in Venice in 1866 during the last days of the Austrian occupation. As Garibaldi's troops advance on the city, the wealthy, high-strung Countess Serpieri (Alida Valli) attends a performance of Il Trovatore at La Fenice Theater where she notices a handsome young Austrian lieutenant (Farley Granger) engaged in a dispute with her cousin, a patriot; when she next encounters the lieutenant, he has become a deserter hiding out on her country estate, but his charming manner and dangerous plight provoke pity, then love in the older woman. In keeping with Visconti's operatic theme, reckless passion leads to betrayal, madness and revenge. The film's original cinematographer, Aldo Graziati, tragically died in a car crash during production, so Robert Krasker (The Third Man), and Giuseppe Rotunno (The Leopard) were brought in to finish shooting the picture. The visually homogeneous result—splendorous pans, elegant tracking shots, and high angles—showcases the operatic sets and an evolving color palette that charts a path from glory to decadence: lighter colors in early scenes give way to richer, passionate hues. "I love melodrama because it is situated right on the border between life and the theater," Visconti said, and he continually emphasizes that border with the film's impressive litany of costumes, uniforms, and veils.—Doug Cummings.

Saturday, October 23rd at 7:30 pm

BEGGARS OF LIFE 1928/b&w/100 min./silent
Scr: Benjamin Glazer, Jim Tully dir: William Wellman; w/ Louise Brooks, Wallace Beery, Richard Arlen.
Restored by George Eastman House with funding provided by The Film Foundation.

Famous for her frank portrayals of sexuality in silent German masterworks by G.W. Pabst, Louise Brooks was an American dancer and flapper film actress born and raised in Kansas. This rare melodrama was her last American feature, largely shot on location and directed by William Wellman; it follows the exploits of an abused country girl running from the law who joins up with a group of rail-riding hobos (including Wallace Beery). Its macabre opening—in which a drifter attempts to strike up a conversation with a man who proves to be a corpse—gives way to a hair-raising montage of superimpositions and dissolves that recreate Brooks' account of his demise. Brooks' natural rapport with the camera is on strong display here, and it's easy to see what Pabst might have noticed when he purportedly glimpsed her in the role of a circus performer in Howard Hawks' A Girl in Every Port: her "unguarded American smile—a spontaneous dazzler that she, not unreasonably, expects can get her anything." (J. Hoberman)—Doug Cummings.

Friday, October 29th at 7:30 pm

SHADOW OF A DOUBT 1943/b&w/108 min.
Scr: Thornton Wilder, Sally Benson, Alma Reville; dir: Alfred Hitchcock; w/ Teresa Wright, Joseph Coten, Hume Cronyn, Henry Travers.
Preserved by the Library of Congress in cooperation with Universal Studios with funding provided by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and The Film Foundation. This is one of Hitchcock's most fully realized pictures; it was also the film he would cite in later years as being his favorite. A bored teenager (Teresa Wright) eagerly anticipates the visit of her beloved Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotten) whose name she shares; but when detectives inform her that he's suspected of being a serial killer of wealthy widows, a pervasive evil begins to seep through the veneer of small town respectability. Although Hitchcock vastly preferred filming in studios, exteriors and some interiors were shot on location in Santa Rosa, California. Always the moralist, Hitchcock cinematically suggests that individuals are a fusion of good and evil by emphasizing dualities, doubles and repeat events. Some critics have detected another comparison, among them Bill Krohn who writes: "The opening image of [Uncle Charlie] lying in bed fully dressed during the day, his miraculous escape from the detectives, his coffin-like Pullman berth on the train to Santa Rosa, and his refusal to be photographed" suggests a vampiric connotation.—Doug Cummings.

Friday, October 29th at 9:30 pm

CLOAK AND DAGGER 1946/b&w/104 min.
Scr: Albert Maltz, Ring Lardner, Jr.; dir: Fritz Lang; w/ Gary Cooper, Robert Alda, Lilli Palmer.
Preserved by UCLA Film & Television Archive in cooperation with Paramount Pictures with funding provided by The Film Foundation.

The originator of the spy movie genre, Fritz Lang, offered up this suspenseful anti-Nazi thriller immediately after the war. Gary Cooper plays a nuclear physicist recruited by the American government to establish contact with a Hungarian colleague working with the Nazis; low-key and straight-laced, Cooper's stoicism serves as counterpoint to the film's exciting set pieces and anticipates today's taciturn action stars. Lang's masterful sense of visual logic and economy sharpens each sequence as incidental events and chance occurrences—a passing photographer, a stalled car, a stray cat—become pivotal events. The dark and frequently wet locations lend terrific atmosphere to the story, originally intended (according to Lang experts) as a critique of unchecked science in the atomic age. But Warners ultimately replaced the final reel to soften the punch, and destroyed the original ending. The film has been issued on DVD numerous times, but it has always been plagued by technical problems due to poor print conditions; this is a rare opportunity to see it in pristine form.—Doug Cummings.



Classic Hollywood