Jeff Bridges will be honored with SBIFF’s 2017 American Riviera Award on Thursday, February 9, 2017 at the historic Arlington Theatre. Bridges will be fêted with a Tribute, moderated by Scott Feinberg, celebrating his illustrious career, culminating with his captivating performance in David Mackenzie’s Hell or High Water, a CBS Films release. The film opened in August to critical acclaim.
American Riviera Award
honoring Jeff Bridges
Moderated by Scott Feinberg Thursday, February 9, 2017 @ 8:00pm
For his role in Hell or High Water, Bridges has received Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award nominations for Best Supporting Actor, as well as the National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actor. Bridges’ renowned career includes celebrated roles in films such as The Big Lebowski, Fearless, The Contender, The Mirror Has Two Faces,TheFabulous Baker Boys, The Door in the Floor, True Grit, Starman, The Morning After, Jagged Edge, The Last Picture Show, Against All Odds, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, The Fisher King, Seabiscuit, and Crazy Heart (for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor).
“Jeff Bridges shows us in Hell or High Water that an already great artist can continue his growth. I may go as far as saying that this is his best performance,” stated SBIFF Executive Director Roger Durling. “It’s truly special to be able to celebrate Jeff – for he’s not only a dear friend of SBIFF – but he is a timeless legend in our industry.”
The American Riviera Award was established to recognize actors who have made a significant contribution to American Cinema. Bridges will join a prestigious group of past recipients, including last year’s honorees Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, and Mark Ruffalo (2016), Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke (2015), Robert Redford (2014), Quentin Tarantino (2013) and Martin Scorsese (2012), Annette Bening (2011), Sandra Bullock (2010), Mickey Rourke (2009), Tommy Lee Jones (2008), Forrest Whitaker (2007), Philip Seymour Hoffman (2006), Kevin Bacon (2005) and Diane Lane (2004).
‘On the Map’ reveals the basketball contest that gave Israel a sense of sporting and national pride
By Kenneth Turan – Los Angeles Times
Sport, it’s been said, is the toy department of our culture, but even diversions can have their moment of unforeseen socio-political relevance.
That’s what happened in 1980, when a young U.S. Olympic ice hockey team surprised the mighty Soviets and won the gold medal in a contest that’s been described as the Miracle on Ice.
In a different sport three years earlier, and as detailed in the genial documentary “On The Map,” Israel experienced a similar epochal moment that shifted the national culture.
That was when the country’s Maccabi Tel Aviv team, with six Americans led by the charismatic Tal Brody, won the European Cup basketball championship in a tournament that had resonance above and beyond the final victory.
For it was after Maccabi’s miraculous semi-final win over CSKA Moscow, the fearsome Red Army team, that the over-the-moon Brody told a television interviewer, “We are on the map. And we are staying on the map — not only in sports but in everything.”
Israeli director Dani Menkin has been especially thorough in telling this classic against-all-odds sports story. He interviews Brody and his teammates, Israeli sports figures and American basketball luminaries like coach Digger Phelps, former NBA Commissioner David Stern and an enthusiastic Bill Walton, a former teammate of Brody’s on America’s 1970 national team.
Menkin also helps us understand why that casually uttered Brody phrase became a sensation, resonating in Israel for decades in a way that is fascinating from a historical perspective but also leads to some reflections about what is different in the world today.
The key figure in “On the Map” is obviously Brody, a fluid 6-foot-1 point guard from Trenton, N.J., who had the skills to be drafted 12th by the then-Baltimore Bullets (now the Washington Wizards) in 1965.
But before the NBA season began, Brody went to Israel to compete in the Maccabiah Games, and that experience turned him in a completely different direction. Encouraged by the owners of the Maccabi Tel Aviv team and the celebrated Gen. Moshe Dayan, he decided he wanted to be part of something bigger than the NBA, he wanted to take basketball in Israel to another level.
This idea took firmer shape in the early 1970s, when other American players, some Jewish, some not, were persuaded to join Brody. The last piece of the puzzle, 6-foot-10 center Aulcie Perry, was signed after a competing center ate so much at a team banquet that the coach was afraid he would hog the ball.
No Israeli team had ever gotten past the first round in the European Cup tourney, but “On the Map” focuses in a game-by-game way on why the 1977 event turned out to be different.
Each contest had its own drama, and we both hear about it through memories and watch chunks of the contests themselves via game footage and home movies shot by rabid fans.
That semi-final game against the U.S.S.R. was problematic for several reasons, starting with the fact that the Soviets did not recognize Israel at the time and initially refused to even play before a neutral court was found in the tiny Belgian town of Virton.
Given that CSKA Moscow had several players from the national team that had beaten the U.S. in the 1972 Olympics, the Tel Aviv team shouldn’t have had a chance, which gave Israel’s victory so much resonance that former Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky, also interviewed here, says it helped sustain him during nine years in a Siberian prison camp.
While the final game against an Italian team was so watched in Israel that Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin postponed the announcement of his resignation until it ended, Brody’s quote became the memory that lasted.
It was, in its exuberance, perfect for a time when Israel was seen and saw itself as a plucky underdog on the world stage. Whether justifiably or not, that perception has changed, and without really meaning to, “On the Map” brings today’s situation into sharper focus.
The Handmaiden Is a Cinematic Masterpiece Park Chan-wook’s new romantic thriller is a sumptuous tale of shifting identities, forbidden love, and colonialism.
By David Sims – The Atlantic
The Handmaiden contains multitudes: It’s a sumptuous romantic period piece, as well as a sexy spy thriller, replete with secret identities and triple-crosses. It’s an extended commentary on Japan’s occupation of Korea in the 1930s, and it’s an intense piece of psychological horror from one of the masters of the genre, Park Chan-wook. But more than anything, The Handmaiden is just pure cinema, a dizzying, disturbing fable of love and betrayal that piles on luxurious imagery, while never losing track of its story’s human core. For Park, the Korean director of crossover genre hits like Old Boy and Thirst, the movie feels like an evolutionary leap forward in an already brilliant career.
The film is, surprisingly enough, an adaptation of Sarah Waters’s 2002 novel Fingersmith, a Victorian crime novel about a petty thief who gets entangled in a long con against a noblewoman, with whom she then falls in love (after that, many further twists ensue). Park and his co-writer Chung Seo-kyung have taken Waters’s investigation of Victorian repression and its limits on female empowerment, and translated it into a tale that delves into the dynamics of Korean culture during Japan’s pre-war occupation. This is a movie about the costumes people wear, both literal and psychological, and that focus extends outward to its setting, a peculiar mansion that mashes up Japanese and Victorian architecture. Park’s film is one where every gesture or period detail is loaded with double meaning, and where his heroines have to wrap their feelings in layers of deception just to try and survive.
The plot plays out the same way that Fingersmith does, following a a three-part structure where each successive chapter sheds new light on the last, and a series of three grand cons bound up into a larger, swooning tale of misandry, romance, and liberation. Sook-hee (Kim Tae-ri, making her film debut) is a crafty young pickpocket plucked from a den of orphans to be the new handmaiden to a Japanese heiress, Lady Hideko (Kim Min-hee). She’s part of an elaborate scheme cooked up by the conman Count Fujiwara (Ha Jung-woo), who plans to marry the emotionally fragile Hideko for her money and then swiftly have her committed. Sook-hee is hired to facilitate his deception, manipulating Hideko into the Count’s arms, but of course, things don’t go exactly as expected.
Hideko is a prisoner in a gilded cage, a manse designed to reflect the culture of Korea’s occupying power, of which she is a prized example. In interviews, Park has said what fascinated him most about transposing Fingersmith to 1930s Korea was the opportunity to comment on the occupation. The chief villain of the piece, Hideko’s uncle-by-marriage, Kozuki, is a Korean intellectual who fetishizes Japanese culture—but he’s also keeping the Japanese Hideko under his thumb as some petty act of supremacy. While he delves into a budding romance between Hideko and Sook-hee, Park burrows into the twisted relationship between the two countries, and the foolishness of the Korean characters gunning for social ascendency by imitating the Japanese way of life.
The film’s dialogue is subtitled in two colors (Korean in white, Japanese in yellow) to underline the disguises the characters are constantly donning in their efforts to blend in. Park has never been a subtle director, which is why he’s worked so well with more lurid genres (most of his movies fall in the thriller or horror category). With The Handmaiden, he makes use of a smorgasbord of tropes and somehow gets away with it. It’s not every film that can feature astute historical commentary, explicit lesbian sex, prolonged bouts of torture, and a giant foreboding octopus without seeming ridiculous. But in The Handmaiden, each of these elements is as wonderfully surprising as the plot itself, which never lets the viewer guess what’s coming next.
The first part of the film charts Sook-hee’s manipulation of Hideko, a con job that turns into a seduction, and then, a seemingly authentic romance; the power dynamic is clearly tilted against the timid heiress. After 45 minutes, the story is abruptly inverted, then re-told through the eyes of Hideko, revealed as far more self-aware than initially imagined; for its third act, the film upends itself again, each time layering a deeper understanding of its four major characters. You might see each twist coming in isolation, but when they’re all knitted together, the effect is stupefying.
The Handmaiden’s identity shifts as much as its sinuous ensemble; it’s as exciting to watch Park keep his grasp on its changing tone as it is to watch the characters double-cross each other. To say much more would spoil a dazzling climax, but this is at its core a tale of liberation, of costumes being thrown off, and of the delight (and terror) that comes with embracing one’s true self. The Handmaiden is long, occasionally demented, and intense enough that it won’t suit everyone. But it’s moviemaking that demands to be enjoyed, a thrill ride in service something far grander and more important.
Before getting to Mr. Durling’s note, I saw this film yesterday. It’s an extraordinary effort from the South Korean Director Park Chan-Wook. Already an admirer of his now seemingly classic works of Old Boy (2003), and Lady Vengence (2005), I experienced an entirely new level of his artistic craft with The Handmaiden. Mesmerizing and undaunting with a raw, creative, narrative flair, Mr. Park delivers an explosive human drama – thrilling and compelling. Park’s best work to date. (See below review by Manohla Dargis, The New York Times)
“Far too good to be watched in one sitting,” exclaims the Philadelphia Inquirer about THE HANDMAIDEN, and I couldn’t agree more. Gorgeous, classical, and erotic, I don’t think you’ll see a more delicious film this year. If you love cinema AT ALL, you have to see THE HANDMAIDEN. It’s the visual equivalent of drinking champagne!
Below find the New York Times Review. It plays tonight (Tuesday) at 5:00pm, tomorrow (Wednesday) at 7:30pm, and next Sunday through Wednesday at the Riviera Theatre.
‘The Handmaiden’ Explores Confinement in Rich, Erotic Textures
By Manohla Dargis – The New York Times
The art of the tease is rarely as refined as in “The Handmaiden.” Set in Korea in the 1930s, this amusingly slippery entertainment is an erotic fantasy about an heiress, her sadistic uncle, her devoted maid and the rake who’s trying to pull off a devilishly elaborate con. The same could be said of the director Park Chan-wook, whose attention to voluptuous detail — to opulent brocades and silky robes, luscious peaches and creamy shoulders — turns each scene into an invitation to ooh, aah and mmm. This is a movie that tries to ravish your senses so thoroughly you may not notice its sleights of hand.
It’s not for nothing that one of its heroines, Sookee (Kim Tae-ri), is a pickpocket, though that’s getting ahead of her story. It opens with Sookee weepily saying goodbye to some adults and wailing children, their gushing matched by the torrential rain. She’s off to work for Lady Hideko (a sensational Kim Min-hee), a pale beauty who lives with her tyrannical uncle, Kouzuki (Cho Jin-woong), a collector and purveyor of art and rare erotic books whose darting tongue has turned black from his ink pen. The realms of his bibliophilic senses are suggested when a client asks if one of his books is by the Marquis de Sade. “It’s Sade-esque,” the uncle says, all but winking at the audience.
The kinks grow more outré and twisted, the winks dirtier and broader. The uncle has raised Hideko from childhood, away from the world, intending to wed her for her fortune. He’s also turned her into a puppet, having trained her to read erotic fiction aloud for the delectation of his potential customers. Fate in the form of the con man (Ha Jung-woo) intervenes. Disguised as a count, he insinuates himself into the uncle’s home and seemingly into the niece’s affection, enlisting Sookee in the ruse as Hideko’s new maid. The count plans to marry Hideko and then ditch her, a plan that seems doomed when Sookee and Hideko’s lady-maid intimacy steams and then boils over.
The inspiration for all this intrigue is Sarah Waters’s ambitious 2002 novel, “Fingersmith,” a lesbian romance set in Victorian Britain in which she slyly has her way with established literary themes like avaricious male guardians and cloistered female wards. In adapting the movie, Mr. Park, who wrote the script with Chung Seo-kyung, has moved the story to Korea during the Japanese occupation. This setting initially seems more thread than cloth, conveyed in the smatterings of soldiers who pass through the story and in the mixing of languages, although it also factors into the villainy of the uncle, a Korean who’s embraced a Japanese identity, asserting, “Korea is ugly and Japan is beautiful.”
Mr. Park is a genre virtuoso, known for thrillers like “Oldboy,” whose filmmaking is notable for its visual order and extreme violence, a combination that creates a seductive, at times unsettling aesthetic of immaculate frenzy. The violence in “The Handmaiden” tends to be more restrained than in some of his other work, more psychological and rather less blunt and bloody. A notable exception is some sadomasochistic whip-work that’s far more vigorous than is found in, oh, say, “Fifty Shades of Grey.” There’s also a characteristic Grand Guignol flourish toward the end that’s outrageous enough that you may find yourself at once laughing and gasping, only to hastily avert your eyes.
It’s one of the rare times you want to look away in “The Handmaiden,” which Mr. Park has turned into an emporium of visual delights. Part of Sookee’s journey is one from perdition into opulence, from a lowly thieves’ den into the sumptuousness of the mansion. Yet appearances remain deceiving, which is one of this story’s themes. Everything inside the manor and out has been calculated to enchant, from the grounds with their carpets of green and bursts of flowering trees to the interiors with their wood paneling and floral wallpaper. Nothing is more perfect than Hideko’s petal mouth with its lusciously carnal red lipstick.
Yet beauty can be a curse; a prison, too. Hideko’s uncle has forbidden her to leave the grounds, turning her into a bird in a gilded cage. Under his steady gaze and severe hand, with the ever-present threat of violence (there are rightfully ominous allusions to a basement), she has been raised amid material plenty with luxuriously appointed rooms as well as drawers and shelves stuffed with elegant feminine frippery — gloves, hats, gowns. Mr. Park loves displaying all these goods, much like a proud merchant (or Gatsby), even as moment by moment he pushes the narrative into ugliness, scratching off the gilt to reveal a grim drama in which Hideko plays both the leading lady and slave.
Mr. Park’s attention to this world’s sumptuous surfaces at first can seem at odds with the underlying evil, as if — like the uncle — he were putting his aesthetic sensibility above all else. Mr. Park just seems to be enjoying himself too much, as the camera glides over satiny robes and bodies or pauses on an exquisite tableau. In one such display, as another of the uncle’s confined women narrates a tale, two shoji screens behind her part, an opening that mirrors the sexual conquest she’s relating. Yet Mr. Park also slips in little jokes, comic line readings and clownish faces that ease the tension, lighten the mood and suggest there’s freedom in laughing into the void.
The void is by turns enslaving and emancipating in “The Handmaiden,” which plays with familiar form as a way to deliver unexpected meaning. A rebus, a romance, a gothic thriller and a woozy comedy, “The Handmaiden” is finally and most significantly a liberation story. Mr. Park may not seem to be doing all that much with the big ideas simmering here, including how the relentless pursuit of aesthetic perfection — especially when it comes to inherently imperfect human beings — can serve as a means of terror. But the ideas are here, tucked into a different kind of erotic story, one that alternately jolts and delights as Sookee and Hideko laugh their way to a new ending.
From Chan-wook Park, the celebrated director of OLDBOY, LADY VENGEANCE and STOKER, comes a ravishing new crime drama. PARK presents a gripping and sensual tale of two women – a young Japanese Lady living on a secluded estate, and a Korean woman who is hired to serve as her new handmaiden, but is secretly plotting with a conman to defraud her of a large inheritance. Inspired by the novel Fingersmith by British author Sarah Waters, THE HANDMAIDEN borrows the most dynamic elements of its source material and combines it with PARK Chan-wook’s singular vision to create an unforgettable viewing experience.
“One of the year’s sliest, sexiest thrillers. The first section is only part of the story. The rest is so suspenseful, sexy and surprising that it would be a shame to say any more.” – Entertainment Weekly
“A feast for all the senses.” – Rolling Stone
“A hugely entertaining thriller. Simmering with genuine sexual tension.” – The Guardian
Screening: Sunday, November 27 @ 2:00pm Monday, November 28 @ 7:30pm Tuesday, November 29 @ 5:00pm Wednesday, November 30 @ 7:30pm Sunday, December 4 @ 2:00pm Monday, December 5 @ 7:30pm Tuesday, December 6 @ 5:00pm Wednesday, December 7 @ 7:30pm
at the Riviera Theatre – 2044 Alameda Padre Serra
Directed by Chan-wook Park
Written by Seo-Kyung Chung, Chan-wook Park
Inspired by the novel “Fingersmith” by Sarah Waters
Starring Min-hee Kim, Kim Tae-ri, Jung-woo Ha,
Jin-woong Cho, Hae-suk Kim, So-ri Moon
Country of Origin: South Korea
Running Time: 144 min
Notes on Blindness is like no other film you’re likely to see this year. It traces one man’s difficult journey and emerges with a reflection on the human condition that’s as uplifting and edifying as it is simply moving.
Below find the New York Times Review which named it Critic’s Pick. It plays throughout the week; tonight at 5:00pm, tomorrow at 7:30pm, and Thursday/Friday/Saturday at 11:00am at the Riviera Theatre.
See you at the movies!
‘Notes on Blindness’ Is John Hull’s Trip From Darkness to Light
By Stephen Holden – The New York Times
In 1983, John M. Hull, a professor of religion at the University of Birmingham in England, lost his eyesight and began the agonizing personal journey to hell and back that he describes in the magnificent documentary “Notes on Blindness.”
Adapted from Professor Hull’s memoir, “On Sight and Insight: A Journey Into the World of Blindness,” the film, using mostly his words, describes with extraordinary eloquence, precision and poetic sensitivity his physical and psychological metamorphosis as he felt the world retreat until it seemed mostly out of reach.
Not only his vision faded, but his visual memory to the extent that he felt his past disappearing as well as his future. At his lowest point, he was overwhelmed by a profound loneliness and isolation, a sense of being forever cut off and trapped in darkness.
The spine of the film — the first feature directed by Peter Middleton and James Spinney — is an audiocassette diary that Professor Hull kept for three years and published in 1990 as “Touching the Rock.” A decade earlier, while awaiting the birth of his first son, Professor Hull became alarmed by black discs interfering with his vision and underwent a series of unsuccessful operations to correct the condition. In 1983, he went completely blind and by September of that year, he began forgetting what his wife and children looked like, except their images in still photos. “I knew that if I didn’t understand blindness, it would destroy me,” he says.
One of his first responses was to amass a collection of recorded books related mostly to his academic career. But behind his determination lurked fearful dreams and fantasies. In the most vivid nightmare, restaged in the film, he is in a supermarket aisle as a torrential wave rounds a corner and rushes toward him. A low point came at Christmastime 1983 when he suffered panic attacks and decided he could never accept blindness. He describes a desperate sense of being enclosed and “entirely alone.”
But he was not alone. By his side until his death in 2015, at the age of 80, was his wife, Marilyn. The couple are portrayed by Dan Skinner and Simone Kirby, who lip-sync his words with such impeccable precision and delicacy you quickly forget they’re actors. The intensity of their bond is evoked in a scene of the pair slow dancing to the Mamas and the Papas’ recording of “Dedicated to the One I Love.”
Shortly after this nadir, Professor Hull was roused from his despair by the sound of rainfall, which gave a shape and texture to his environment, and he began using the tape recorder to document his interactions with his wife and children, as well as his inner thoughts.
Because he was born in Australia, he decided that reconnecting with his roots might provide solace. But the trip was a disaster when he discovered that his homeland had changed so much that the comforting sense of familiarity he expected was not to be had. He struggled to communicate with his aging parents, and to rediscover a landscape that he thought he remembered but didn’t.
Returning to England, he felt re-engaged with the world and determined to live not in nostalgia but in reality, and to accept his blindness. After a profound spiritual revelation and sense of renewal, his despair miraculously lifted and he was filled with joy and appreciation of the fullness of life.
“Notes on Blindness” avoids the sentimental pitfalls of a documentary this personal. Its overt religiosity is minimal. The tone of the narration is so wrenchingly honest that the film never lapses into self-pity or relies on mystical platitudes.
The Art of Conflict, reviewed by Larry Gleeson during the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, is a well-researched documentary directed by Valeri Vaughn and narrated by younger brother, comedic actor, Vince Vaughn. The Art of Conflict tells the acrimonious story of the conflict in Northern Ireland with large wall-sized building murals scattered throughout the various neighborhoods in Northern Ireland. The conflict originated from the territory’s religious, social and economic struggles of the mid to late nineteenth century. Vaughn focuses her storytelling on the period known as “The Troubles” (the early 1970’s) and thereafter brings the conflict into present day.
During the Q & A following the viewing, both Vaughns presented and fielded questions from the audience. Vince tended to dominate the conversation as he began by providing the background to the film’s birth. He happened to be in Ireland and decided to partake in a Black Cab taxi tour. Along the way he began noticing several murals as the cabbie showed him the sights while filling his ears with some local history. As the Vaughns are of Irish heritage Vince became intrigued. This was in 2005.
Without missing a beat, he claims he immediately telephoned Valeri about the possibility of her undertaking the subject matter of the murals as a project knowing Valeri’s early penchant for making documentaries. Valeri acquiesced and agreed to do it.
The Art of Conflict was seven years in the making including several visits to the Emerald Isle. Numerous interviews and many hours of footage later, a very real piece of art began to emerge as the peace process undertaken at the time began showing aspects of progress evidenced by thematic changes in the mural landscape.
Some of the changes were a concerted effort by the two primary opposing groups, the Catholics and the Protestants, as they tried to peacefully co-exist and to allow the peace process to provide some relief from the tensions of an existing war carried out in their respective neighborhoods and business establishments.
It seemed that the Irish Nationalists, predominantly Catholic, wanted peace a bit more. I don’t believe the Vaughn’s depiction of the conflict was tilted towards either side. A point was made during the Q & A that every effort was made to ensure the piece was as balanced as possible.
With the long history of repression, to me it stands to reason, that the Catholic Nationalists would want peace more as they have fought for rights historically back to the Land Use Agreement.
Literally, Vaughn very well could have produced a Burnsian-style documentary detailing the conflict and its origin. On one hand it’s remarkable she didn’t. While on the other hand, it’s remarkable what she did do.
She captured a very unique time in history using wall murals as an impetus for further inquiry. She delved into the major events and characters of the times and bars no holds eschewing historical photographs, archival footage and present day interviews in telling the story of a bloody, soulless conflict pounded home by the murals and their shapelessness and faceless depictions.
It appears Ms. Vaughn has embarked on a journey of storytelling here that is just beginning. Wholeheartedly recommended.
After losing sight, John Hull knew that if he did not try to understand blindness it would destroy him. In 1983 he began keeping an audio diary. Over three years John recorded over sixteen hours of material, a unique testimony of loss, rebirth and renewal, excavating the interior world of blindness. Published in 1990, the diaries were described by author and neurologist Oliver Sacks as, ‘A masterpiece… The most precise, deep and beautiful account of blindness I have ever read.’ Following on from the Emmy Award-winning short film of the same name, Notes on Blindness is an ambitious and groundbreaking work, both affecting and innovative – and one of the most essential British documentaries of the year.
NOTES ON BLINDNESS
Written & Directed by Pete Middleton, James Spinney
Starring John M. Hull, Marilyn Hull, Miranda Beinart-Smith
Country of Origin: UK
Running Time: 90 min
“Hull’s wisdom and the agility of his insights as he struggles to make sense of his condition, form the basis of this elegant, evocative, and deeply affecting documentary.”
Wendy Ide – Screen International
“A seamless patchwork of reminiscences, tracing John’s voyage into darkness with astute and sensitive cinematic imagination.”
Tim Robey – Telegraph
“Notes On Blindness raises fascinating questions about our reliance on visual memory aids and the amount to which we truly experience the world around us.”
Ben Nicholson – CineVue
Viewed during the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. Reviewed by Larry Gleeson.
Singin’ In The Rain, is a Hollywood gem created under auspicious beginnings as the writers, Green and Comden, pushed themselves through the night to come up with a musical recycling some of the great tunes of yesteryear. One can’t help but wonder!
The musical film contains toe-tapping tunes and choreographed dancing that are a pleasure to experience. The version I watched was in color and the colors were vivid and bright and complemented the tone of the film.
In addition, the musical had a significant industry milestone contained within as the transition from silent to talkies was showcased in a lighthearted, laughable, and fun manner as we see a camera hidden in a phone booth, a microphone placed in flower pot and the outcomes of such attempts as preview audiences laugh and guffaw at the attempts to synchronize and balance the recorded voices.
Even the film’s climax brings laughter as the audience witnesses platinum blonde bombshell, Lina Lamont, played to a tee by Jean Hagen, a prim a-donna of the worst sort, who has connived, bullied and blackmailed co-stars and executives alike in making her way to the top, being brought down as the curtain is raised showcasing a new rising star, Kathy, played by the effervescent Debbie Reynolds. The audience sees Kathy singing and Lamont’s contemptuous attempt at lip synching. When confronted Lamont speaks and the audience roars with laughter at her high-pitched Brooklyn accent.
The theme of contempt isn’t just introduced at the end. It’s evident from the opening as Don, played by Gene Kelly, overwhelms a reporter as he details his rise to stardom with his partner Cosmo, played by Donald O’Connor, with “Dignity. Always Dignity.” Yet, the truth is the two struggled and scraped and clawed their way to the top working in pool halls, slapstick vaudeville sketches and even burlesque. Not one to be left out, Kathy gets in on the contempt as she tells Don she’s a serious actor and then we see her jumping out of a birthday cake.
Meanwhile the studio is sending out press releases stating Don and Lina are a romantic couple. Hilarity ensues as Lina believes the press releases and is in hot pursuit of her man Don. And, studio executive Simpson, played by Millard Mitchell insists talkies will never catch on. Most everything gets turned this side of Tuesday as Don and Kathy become romantically involved, Lina finally gets what’s coming to her (although one can’t help but sympathize with such a nitwit), talkies catch on and sound get synchronized onto the film as it’s shot, and the project is a success.
Definitely a feel-good film from start to finish. I highly recommend this film the any cinephile as it’s a Hollywood treasure in respect to the industry at large and also because of the superb dancing and singing performances. Furthermore, I strongly encourage those interested viewers to watch this film on the big screen as it’s characters are larger than life.
Reviewed by Larry Gleeson. Viewed at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2011.
Gigola, directed by Laure Charpentier, is a French film with subtitles set in the early 1960’s Paris containing themes of adult sexuality and gender issues. The film made it’s debut at the Cannes Film Festival. From there Gigola was shown at the Hamburg Film Festival in Germany and finished out the year at the Paris Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, in Paris, France. The mise-en-scene is in Gigola is remarkable. The costumes, make-up, and lighting are spectacular conveying images reminiscent of That’s Entertainment (1974), and Moulon Rouge (2001).
The film opens with a teenage school girl named George, played by Lou Dillion, as a young and slender coming of age debutante, and her teacher, an attractive mid 30ish woman. Playful background music provides energy for a highly sexually charged, sensual transaction between George and her teacher.
Charpentier jumps ahead to 1963 Paris nightlife scene. George’s boy friend has committed suicide. George has decided to withdraw from school and announces to the night-time partiers that she has flunked out of medical school seemingly intentionally.
Next time we see George she is in a Parisian bistro and we are introduced to a Carol Channing like character. George has reinvented herself.
A comment is made to George, “You look like a gigolo.”
George coolly replies, “Gigola.”
We now see George as Gigola, the name she has given her new self. A well-to-do matron comes to the bistro and Gigola is into action. Dressed in a black tuxedo, Gigola escorts the matron onto the dance floor for a spin. Soon the pair leave the bistro together and head to the matron’s estate. With grace, elegance and a touch of class Gigola seduces the matron in an erotic bedroom scene with a snake-headed cane and white gloves.
Gigola, if nothing else, knows what she wants and she goes after it. She threatens to leave her new found matron unless she receives more money. The matron has already given Gigola a signet ring and a red MG convertible. The matron capitulates handing over to Gigola a large cache of currency. We now witness Gigola expanding her “business” with new girls working under her discretion.
Meanwhile, Gigola’s father, an opium addict, is squandering away the family’s estate as he cogently leads the life of a Parisian gentlemen. Eventually Gigola confronts her father brandishing a loaded revolver after repeatedly warning her father to stay away and, in turn, pleading with her mother to cut him off.
After an attempted suicide, Gigola finds herself under the care of a psychiatrist who bears a striking resemblance to her former teacher. She suggests having a baby to Gigola. Gigola is less than optimistic but the psychiatrist is able to connect with Gigola. Never one to miss an opportunity, Gigola deftly makes clear her intentions to the attractive psychiatrist. When the psychiatrist makes a “house call” Charpentier uses a wrestling take down move to portray the mixed emotions the psychiatrist has – she is attracted to Gigola but she is married and lives according to her principles as a married woman – a defining characteristic of the times. The psychiatrist cares about Gigola and they have dinner together where she tells Gigola that Gigola needs to let go.
Again without missing a beat Gigola moves deeper into the nightclub scene in Paris meeting a Mr. Tony Pasquale, a Sicilian. The two gain a mutual respect for each other and Tony ends up impregnating Gigola. Gigola has the baby and it seems as though Gigola has accepted normalcy and is conforming to societal norms. Gigola has left and George has come back.
However, before a sigh of relief can be expressed, in tromps the cast from the bistro. A raucous scene ensues in the hospital room with Gigola consenting to have her locks cut – a symbol of Gigola’s re-emergence.
The film closes with Gigola adhering to her somewhat circular, misguided idealism. She has turned over the care of her child to her mother and she is shown in tuxedo walking down a Parisian cobblestone alley way with her back back to the camera just before sunrise.
Amazing Friday night film for the right audience. Gigola is currently available on Amazon Prime.