Saturday, February 5, 2011

Double Feature at the Stanford Theatre

I watched 232 movies in the 365 Days of 2010. On November 19th I went to a double feature at the beautiful Stanford Theatre:
Mildred Pierce
1945. 111 minutes. USA. Directed by Michael Curtiz. Watchdate: 11/19/2010.
So I missed the Pick Up on South Street/Where the Sidewalk Ends double feature at the Stanford Theatre in October which was unfortunate but luckily I got to make up for it with another pairing of a movie I had heard was a must-watch with an Otto Preminger movie as the second feature. Mildred Pierce is definitely worth seeing, whether or not you're a big noir fan as I'm fast becoming, because it's a Great Big American Movie that's more fearless than Curtiz's earlier Casablanca if a bit less polished. The script is almost psychotically ambitious, and its plot holes seem like part of the madness rather than a real flaw. The movie moves really fast, with the dramatic beats dropping furiously in almost every scene. It's like you're watching entire lives unfold, and it actually sort of makes sense that it's getting remade as a miniseries by Todd Haynes since there's more than enough going on to fill a half dozen hours or more, even though the movie itself clocks in at under two. Anyway, it's really quite hypnotic to watch how they unpack the American Dream and it's underlying insecurities about money, class, family and love. The glittering Mildred signs are haunting in their frivolous yet unknowing pride. The scenes with the Monte Beragon character have an underlying menace that's unnerving even as they guide you towards solving the mystery. And dear lord they drank a lot of booze in this movie. All in all, quite the movie experience.

Angel Face 
1952. 91 minutes. USA. Directed by Otto Preminger. Watchdate: 11/19/2010.
First of all, it's awesome to see "Howard Hughes Presents" before you watch a movie. This was a really cool choice (by David Packard, the owner/curator of the Stanford Theatre) to pair with Mildred Pierce, because it toyed with similar anxieties about money and class. The script was inferior, but Preminger's direction is riveting and astonishingly ahead of its time. Particularly how the he would pair music from one scene and action from another in the kind of montage that's common to see in a Scorsese or Coppola movie. Jean Simmons is also excellent in  the lead role, and Robert Mitchum plays a drunker, more pedestrian version of his Out of the Past character. I don't want to give away too much, but Preminger also shoots a couple of scenes of destruction masterfully with a frenetic but perfectly controlled energy. I think this was probably a very good first exposure to him as a director, I'll need to watch more soon for certain.

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