Monday, May 17, 2010

The Valley of Gangwi

For its next screening, on Wednesday, May 26, Jay Schwartz's Secret Cinema returns to the American Philosophical Museum (104 S. Fifth Street) for a 16mm screening of a science-fiction "dinosaur western" The Valley of Gangwi (1969, Jim O'Connolly). A Technicolor film, it features the work of noted stop-action animator Ray Harryhausen. Admission is free, and the film screens at 7pm. (The Museum's Dialogues with Darwin exhibit will be open beforehand.)

Monday, May 10, 2010

I Fidanzati

This Saturday (May 15, 7PM), the International House (3701 Chestnut) will be screening as part of their Janus Film series Ermanno Olmi's second film, I Fidanzati. I've not seen this one yet, but am a big fan of Olmi's Il Posto, so I eagerly await the chance to see the follow up on film. Olmi has a knack for observed, documentary-like social realism combined with amazing formal rigor and composition. Not cheery films, but ultimately they have a humanist redemption.

Program notes available at the I-House website.

Robin Hood (1938)

For some reason - I suspect a free print lent out to promote the upcoming Russell Crowe film - the Roxy (2023 Sansom) has been running a two-week engagement of the 1938 Warner Bros. Robin Hood, with Errol Flynn. That's right: a decent 35mm Technicolor print (if not perfect: the first reel has a scratch) of a film that really shines on the screen. When I went I was the only person in the cinema, so had what amounted to a private screening.

It's a famous film that probably does not need me talking it up, but if you're wondering why you should care about a fluffy classic adventure film, I'd say two reasons. One, the film does give a fun fairy-tale account but yokes it with a political message that clearly speaks to the Depression yet raises more questions than it answers (New Dealism as monarchism?). Two, the color scheme helped expand the expressive possibilities of Technicolor. As film historian Scott Higgins notes, previously Hollywood cinematographers had argued between flamboyant, thematic color (red = passion, etc) and a realistic, muted color palette. What Robin Hood does is combine them both, muting backgrounds and keeping palettes relatively controlled, but also using bright, saturated color for specific characters and thematic effects.

As a bonus, the Bugs Bunny "Rabbit Hood" screens beforehand.

Whither Foreign Films?

An interesting article this weekend in the Inquirer on the dearth of foreign films hitting American (and local) screens. What struck me is the debate over whether the Ritz's declining foreign offerings are the result of Landmark ownership (a commonly held belief - I've heard it myself) or of the broader market trends.

Promoting Repertory Film

Philadelphia has a repertory film problem. Not enough old movies screen here, and the ones that do have a hard time gaining an audience. For many, these two go together: we do not have more of a film culture because there is no demand. However, it may be more of a matter of a vicious circle, so I hope to promote local screenings with the hope of encouraging both demand and supply. At the very least, there are currently exciting events across the city worth paying attention to.

If you have an event you want me to be aware of, drop me a line at ccagle AT temple DOT edu. I will tend to reserve space here for screenings of older films or harder-to-see foreign or independent work, and I will prioritize films projected on celluloid or high-quality format. The exception will be work originally produced for video or other non-film formats.

And if you have any suggestions for what would make this a better blog, let me know.