A Classic Movie Halloween!

October 31, 2016

Happy Halloween! A couple weeks ago I got obsessed with the idea of making a Halloween video set to a Bauhaus song. I wanted to do Spirit, but then I re-listened to She's in Parties and it just seemed to fit so well with the ethereal spookiness of early 30's horror and Val Lewton films. I have enough footage saved to my computer now to do one with Spirit as well, but I think I'll save that for next year.

But for this year, here's "She's in Parties" by Bauhaus, with clips from the following films: Isle of the Dead (1945), I Walked with a Zombie (1943), Dracula (1931), Night Monster (1942), The Old Dark House (1932), Mark of the Vampire (1935), Frankenstein (1931), The Fall of the House of Usher (1928), The Black Cat (1934), The Seventh Victim (1943), Nosferatu (1922), Doctor X (1932), Bedlam (1946), Cat People (1942), Horror Island (1941), The Leopard Man (1943), The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), The Wolf Man (1941)

BFI Classics: Cat People

October 19, 2016

This was the last book that I wanted to read for Raquel's Summer Reading Classic Film Book Challenge, which ended on September 15th. But in a beautiful fusion of procrastination and serendipity, I didn't get around to reading it until this week, when leaves are falling, the wind is starting to moan --not quite howling just yet-- and Halloween is definitely in the air. It's the perfect time of year to dive into a book about one of my favorite spooky movies!

I've read a handful of BFI books now, and Cat People by Kim Newman is my favorite. I've really enjoyed all of them, but some can get so caught up in the production details that they don't really spend too much time on the film itself. The bulk of this book devotes itself to deconstructing each scene, and it's absolutely fascinating. Production details can be interesting too (and this book isn't lacking in that department) but I'm personally way more interested in the actual film than the budgeting details. There's a reason I chose to read a book about a movie instead of a book about economics, haha :)

The author is a huge fan of the movie, which comes in handy when you're talking about a film that some people might not appreciate. He defends it valiantly from its detractors and diligently answers critiques with reasons why its supposed shortcomings make the film even better. He even included a particularly spiteful review from Stephen King and rebutted the complaint that the film was too obviously shot on a soundstage ("When I was supposed to be worrying about whether or not Jane Randolph was going to be attacked, I found myself worrying instead about that papier-mache stone wall in the background." UGH. For someone renown for his wild imagination, King certainly had a hard time using it when watching this movie.)

One interesting observation that really stuck with me was about which characters the audience is supposed to sympathize with. Modern audiences like Irena, Simone Simon's character, and feel sorry for her. But at the time of its release, did audiences instead see themselves in the milquetoast Kent Smith and All-American but nevertheless brazen husband-stealer Jane Randolph? Was French Simone Simon (playing Serbian here) a foreign, unfamiliar character whose exotic appeal had lured Kent away from his waspy Girl Friday? Newman writes in the book that the film is clearly trying to switch heroines halfway through the film -- in the scenes in which Randolph's character is in danger, we are supposed to be rooting for her. But do we? My heart is still with Irena, the poor romantic girl stuck in a body that she can't control.

Newman also gives us some background information about the sets used (or I should say, re-used) in the film. Val Lewton was an ace at recycling old sets, and here there are quite a few that will look familiar to you once you know where else you saw them! The inside of Irena's building with the giant ornate staircase is from The Magnificent Ambersons. Kent Smith's workplace is from The Devil and Miss Jones. The park is from an Astaire-Rogers musical (not sure which one.) For the infamous pool scene, they actually used an existing apartment building that had the right claustrophobic feel, with eerie underwater lighting. (On location shooting, take that, Stephen King!)

I've seen the film countless times so I didn't feel like I needed to revisit it before reading the book. However, now that I've learned so much about the film, gained so many insights into the characters and the psychology of the movie, I'm eager to watch it again with a newfound understanding.


October 17, 2016

Today is my one year Alainiversary! On October 17th, 2015, I fell down an Alain Delon rabbit hole and I've been watching his movies as if they were air and I couldn't breathe without them ever since.

About a week ago I received this signed photo in the mail. I could have fainted. I actually sat down right where I was standing, my eyes so fixed on the writing that someone would have had to physically move my head to get me to stop looking at it.  

To Kate. 

I don't know how to say this. I just... this means a lot to me. I don't care if it sounds silly or sad, but for some of us celebrity crushes are kind of all we have. I celebrate mine, and I embrace them. They make me goofy-grin happy! They are benchmarks in my life. There were my Sinatra years, my Bogarde years, and now my Delon years.

I enjoy the hunt, that desperate search to find every last movie they ever made. I like scouring ebay for weird memorabilia (favorite Sinatra find: a McDonalds lapel pin that says "Fry me to the moon", favorite Bogarde find: a comic book with an illustrated [and highly embellished] biography, favorite Delon find: Japanese fan magazines and an 81" poster for Any Number Can Win.) I like watching and rewatching the movies over and over again until I can close my eyes at night and play them on the black velvet underside of my eyelids*.

And I enjoy celebrating their anniversaries. Sinatra started on February 14th, 2000 when I was making a Valentine's Day mixtape for my parents (always the coolest kid around, it's nothing new) and Bogarde started on August 10, 2009 during TCM's Summer Under the Stars. I had seen Alain Delon before in Once a Thief and The Yellow Rolls Royce but it didn't *hit me* until I watched The Girl on a Motorcycle last October. It's not even really his film, it's 95% Marianne Faithfull, but his few scenes sealed my fate. Hook, line, and sinker, for a whole year.

Looking back on this little cinematic love affair, I can't believe how many Alain Delon related opportunities came up this year. Last December I got to see Purple Noon at The Film Forum. In February the Film Society at Lincoln Center showed an original print of La Piscine. In July The Film Forum showed a few Delon films, but the only one I was able to see was Deux Hommes dans la Ville. The reason I couldn't see the other ones? I was in Paris, where I got to see Le Samourai at Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé! And while I was there I also managed to pick up an Alain Delon coffee table book at a little DVD shop, along with some movies that were missing from my collection.

And then finally, my autograph. What beautiful timing. An Alainiversary present from the man himself! ;)

*paraphrasing Nabokov here

TCM Bus Tour in New York City

October 13, 2016

A couple weeks ago I had the pleasure of going on the TCM Classic Film Bus Tour in New York City. I'm a TCM Backlot member and they had a promotion a few months back where you could get the tickets, normally $49 each, for only $6! I got tickets for me and my parents, and the savings alone actually paid for my Backlot membership, so that was pretty cool!

I had done the LA tour during the 2014 TCM Film Festival, but I was itching to do the New York one since it's more like "home turf" to me :) I couldn't help but compare/contrast while I was on the bus, but I feel like my own preferences and sensibilities definitely influenced my opinions. I like New York better than Los Angeles. I like that it's kind of rough and dinged-up and a lot of days in NYC are spent trying to figure out how to navigate around a local parade or avoid falling into an open construction site, lol! It's not as shiny and sparkly as LA, but I love that. It feels more homey and cozy. When you're in New York, it's more like you're actually in a movie while LA feels like you're on set.

The tour bus in LA was TCM branded, had giant picture windows and a large flat screen tv in the front of the bus. The New York bus was a little worse for wear, was not TCM branded, and it had a sole travel-size-dvd-player screen for everyone to watch. But I liked it more.

For one thing, our guide, Jason, was WAY better than our LA guide, who my friends and I nicknamed "casually sexist tour guide Mike" because of the way he flippantly inserted demeaning misogynist comments into so many of his film anecdotes. Jason was knowledgeable and clearly was a true classic film fan. It was obvious that he was excited about the tour and film history, and his excitement was contagious. I found myself getting pretty pumped about locations for films I've never even seen, like Ghostbusters or Plaza Suite.

The tour kicked off with the "New York New York" number from On The Town screening on the DVD player as we drove off to our first destination. Then Robert Osborne came on (the screen, not the bus, haha!) and spoke a little bit about which NYC films made him fall in love with the city and move there. He said that Woody Allen's Manhattan is his favorite New York film, which really caught me by surprise. I'm not a fan of that film at all, but I have to give it some credit now, I guess, if it has the Osborne seal of approval!

Throughout the tour he'd ask the bus driver to pull over for a minute, at which point he'd play a clip from a film that was shot on the location we were stopped at. Above you can see On the Town playing on the DVD player while we were parked next to the subway stop in the movie.

This is actually not the best example (it's just the only one where I happened to take a photo of the screen and the location!) because this scene from On The Town was actually filmed on a soundstage! They had tried to film on location here, but because Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly were so popular, they had a difficult time getting work done with all of the crowds they were drawing!

We made a couple of stops along the way, the first one being Zabar's, where You've Got Mail was filmed.

I should mention here that I felt like the tour was kind of post-1970's heavy, so for any of those militant TCM fans who think classics stop at 1960 you might want to steer clear of this tour. There were definitely a decent amount of older film locations -- I'm going to list every film at the bottom of this post -- but most of the movies are post 1960. There were a lot that seemed like weird choices to me, actually, like Moscow on the Hudson and Baby Boom. I'd be the first to acknowledge that some of the more modern films (if you can even call them that when they're 20-30 years old already) are bona fide classics but those seemed like odd choices to me for a TCM Classic Film tour.

Anyway, speaking of bona fide modern classics -- You've Got Mail. I love this movie (although I kind of hate how it ends!) so I was excited to stop at Zabar's. This is where Meg Ryan gets in the "cash only" lane when she only has a credit card.

36 Sutton Place is where the girls lived in How to Marry a Millionaire!

Of course we had to drive by Tiffany's! If I was in charge of the tour I think I would have come prepared with pastries and let everyone go stand outside the window for a little early morning contemplation a la Audrey Hepburn.

This is where Elizabeth Taylor hails a cab in Butterfield 8. Our tour guide joked that only in the movies could someone hail a cab in NYC and actually get one immediately. I think he might have been forgetting that the person hailing the cab was Elizabeth Taylor ;) Pretty sure she could get ten cabs just by stepping outside the door...

This is the street where Sally gets her Christmas tree in When Harry Met Sally, another one of my modern favorites. I should mention here that -- assuming every tour operates in the same order that mine did -- the left side of the bus is definitely the side to be on. My parents were sitting on the left and my mom kept trying to take photos for me because I was missing everything on the right side. (So thank you to my mom for a lot of these photos!)

Finally, we stopped at the subway grate where Marilyn Monroe took her iconic Seven Year Itch promo shots. I was wearing a mini skirt so this was my pathetic attempt at "doing a Marilyn" on the subway grate, haha!

The subway grate actually isn't marked, there is literally no way to know it's even there unless you know the exact address (southwest corner of Lex and 52nd, the 2nd subway grate in from the street) before you go there. Apparently classic film fans are trying to get the city to declare it a historical landmark so that they can at least get a plaque for it, and I really hope that works out! My only complaint about this stop is that the bus parked in the spot where you'd have to be standing in order to get a photo from the same angle as Marilyn's original pictures. It's a small pet peeve though!

Overall, I was incredibly pleased with the tour. I learned so many interesting facts about movie history in New York that will definitely be on my mind whenever I'm in the city now. Did you know that tenement residents were evicted in order to build Lincoln Center in their place? Before it was torn down the city let the crew of West Side Story come in and shoot in the abandoned neighborhood. I thought that was so sad!

Ideally I would love it if the tour was successful enough that they made one for Lower Manhattan (this tour only went through midtown and uptown) which is where I like to go whenever I'm in New York. I feel like there's a lot of material there, definitely enough for another tour! I'd also LOVE if they made a Paris tour. I couldn't stop talking about it to my parents after the tour was over. I started plotting out which movies I'd include, which locations, trivia to ask during the tour. I almost want to write out a whole Paris tour and just send it to TCM with my fingers crossed that they'd take me up on it, haha!

But right now we just have an LA tour and a NYC tour and I loved them both. If you love movies, I don't think the small things like bus branding or tv screen size will affect your enjoyment of the tour. The most important things are the locations, the information, and the tour guide, and the NYC tour excelled in all three departments. I'd actually do it again if the opportunity came up.

Here are the films that were included in the tour, in order of date:

Mounted Police Charge (1896), King Kong (1933), My Man Godfrey (1936), Nothing Sacred (1937), Miracle on 34th Street (1947), The Naked City (1948), On The Town (1949), Ma and Pa Kettle Go To Town (1950), It Should Happen to You (1954), The Seven Year Itch (1955), The Eddy Duchin Story (1956), North by Northwest (1959), Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961), West Side Story (1961), Barefoot in the Park (1967), Rosemary's Baby (1968), The Producers (1968), Midnight Cowboy (1969), Cactus Flower (1969), The Out of Towners (1970), Plaza Suite (1971), Serpico (1973), The Way We Were (1973), The Sunshine Boys (1975), Network (1976), Marathon Man (1976), Annie Hall (1977), Superman (1978), Manhattan (1979), Eyewitness (1981), Arthur (1981), Moscow on the Hudson (1984), Splash (1984), Ghostbusters (1984), Heartburn (1986), Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), Baby Boom (1987), Wall Street (1987), Three Men and a Baby (1987), Moonstruck (1987), Working Girl (1988), Big (1988), When Harry Met Sally (1989), Sleepless in Seattle (1993), You've Got Mail (1998)

Two Alain Delons are better than one

October 03, 2016

This post is for the Dual Roles Blogathon (It's not late if it's still technically yesterday in some time zones while I'm writing this, right?) which is highlighting films in which an actor plays more than one part. Naturally I couldn't pass up an opportunity to screencap the heck out of La Tulipe Noire (1964) in which Alain Delon plays a masked hero during the French Revolution.

The film itself is okay, it's definitely not the best adventure film out there, but it's enjoyable. Also, the US release has somewhat confusing English subtitles. But let's get real... if you're watching La Tulipe Noire, you didn't come for the subtitles:


To be honest I've only watched the film from start to finish once. But I've lost count of how many times I've just popped the dvd into my computer and fast-forwarded to the best eye candy scenes where Alain Delon is playing what has to be the hottest masked avenger in cinematic history.

Now that's not really much of a stretch for Alain, right? I mean, you could look at basically any candid photo of him and be like "yeah, definitely the hottest masked avenger of all time." He doesn't even need to DO anything, he just oozes "hot masked avenger."

So that's where the acting and the dual roles come in. Because in addition to playing Guillaume de Saint Preux, The Black Tulip, hero of the French Revolution, he is also playing this guy:

When the hot masked avenger gets injured on the job, he asks his brother Julian to cover for him. Guillaume has a whole Scarlet Pimpernel/Zorro situation happening-- he's a respected member of society who needs to keep his heroic antics under wraps. If he attends a social function with a giant gash on his face, the guy who caused it will obviously know he's The Black Tulip.

So sweet, innocent, pure little cinnamon roll Julian takes his place. He is so delicate and nice and awkward that, I kid you not, whenever the story was following him I'd be like "ugh, bring back Alain Delon!" That's how good Alain Delon is. He was literally right in front of me on the screen and I forgot it was him. Because hot masked avenger Alain Delon was nowhere to be seen.

Look at them, they don't even look like the same person. The Black Tulip is confident and manages to make a ponytail tied with a ribbon look like the most macho hairstyle that ever was. Julian, meanwhile, is buttoned up to the neck in a pilgrim ensemble like "gee, shucks, Guillaume, I sure wish I was as cool as you are!"

"we are literally the same person but I am still staring at you in awe because you are such a perfect specimen"

The film was based on a novel by Alexandre Dumas, but apparently (I haven't read the book) the only thing they have in common are the names of the characters. So if you're looking for an accurate adaptation, you'll have to look elsewhere.

But I'm pretty sure if you're watching La Tulipe Noire, you were looking for something else:

(more screencaps after the jump!)