As I’ve rather obsessively discussed, one of the reasons I would find it difficult to leave Seattle is the sheer accessibility of film, including multiple revival series. One of my favorites is provided by Metro Classics, and my only criticism of them is that they don’t sell series passes; if I could buy a pass, I would be much more diligent about attending films.
I did make it to three out of this last series. First, Swing Time, because I felt the opportunity to see a Fred & Ginger movie on the big screen was not to be missed. I haven’t seen Swing Time since I was a child, obsessively watching AMC (back when they actually showed American Movie Classics), and it was great fun. There are a bunch of great numbers in that show, like “A Fine Romance” & “The Way You Look Tonight”, and of course the dancing is filmed flawlessly in long & sweeping takes. It does have a blackface number that takes one aback as a modern viewer, but to the film’s credit, it’s not a mockery or a caricature. It’s a tribute to Bill Robinson, a great dancer.
On a showbiz roll, I came back the next week for All That Jazz, Bob Fosse’s over-the-top musical about his own death. We went over parts of it in my college film class (the fucking brilliant opening scene in particular — name me another movie that delivers that much information about the main character in less than one minute) but I don’t think I’ve seen it in full since then.
Roy Scheider brings incredible energy to the role of Joe Gideon, Fosse’s stand-in, and it will forever be the primary project I associate with him (followed by SeaQuest DSV, lest ye think me some variety of snob.) There’s a magnificent use of sound, one of those things that when it’s good you don’t notice and when it’s amazing you do. The whole thing is deeply personal, incredibly dark, excessive, perfectly flawed, and beautiful. It’s definitely the film in this series I’m most glad I made the effort to see.
Barton Fink is an entirely different kind of showbiz movie, with John Turturro fighting writer’s block in a hellish hotel in Hollywood. It’s not the sort of film that you’d expect really needed to be seen in the theater, since it’s more of a character/allegorical piece, but on DVD I had never noticed how fantastic the sound design was. (No, seriously. It’s amazing.) And of course it’s lit by Roger Deakins, who is a genius. In the end Fink‘s not my favorite Coen brothers film, nor is it their most accessible, but it is exquisitely crafted.