Saturday, March 12, 2011

Revival cinema

L.A.'s New Beverly Cinema is hosting Quentin Tarantino's "March Madness." The director programs the revival theater's calendar for the month of March and, if I lived in L.A., I'd see everything Tarantino has on the docket, including his own KILL BILL: THE WHOLE BLOODY AFFAIR.

Tarantino's calendar encapsulates what I think "revival" should be all about. Rarities, thought long-lost and probably encountered somewhere in your cinephile past wasting away inside a decrepit grindhouse or suburban drive-in. Or, possibly, seen during the halcyon days of VHS when it was a thrill to take movies - any movies - home. The great video stores in the early 80s had enormous backlogs of cinetrash, art disguised as trash, trash disguised as art, Eurotrash, slasher trash, horror sci-fi, Blaxploitation, Ozploitation (Australian trash cinema, i.e., STONE), sexploitation - sub-sub genre films pursued on purpose or stumbled upon accidentally.

All of the films on Tarantino's calendar could be considered cinematic art because the very nature of film translates into art although I'm sure there are hoards of people out there willing to take me on for that statement.

I have a long-lost aunt who won't watch films produced in America because of "their lack of artistic integrity." She only watches foreign films because, in her head, the way of art is through "experiencing cultural differences."

Don't get me wrong, I love global films but which would I rather watch - Ingmar Bergman's THE SEVENTH SEAL or John Flynn's ROLLING THUNDER? Yep - ROLLING THUNDER.

ROLLING THUNDER has enormous cinematic cache - its a visceral revenge film with sociological implications (the plight of the returning Vietnam vet, the nature of loneliness, a family on the brink), a scathing screenplay written by Paul Schrader (who subverts his own TAXI DRIVER screenplay for ROLLING THUNDER), and is acted armed-to-the-teeth by William Devane and Tommy Lee Jones. And, unlike the Bergman film, it moves.

Overall, Tarantino's program is hugely fun and if you're programming for revival - whether grouping the most serious foreign entries or the craziest grindhouse - you've got to have fun doing it.

Give me a revival house for one week and here's what I'd give back (all double features except for Wednesday, which would be a triple...and this line-up is not definitive):

ROLLING THUNDER (1977) - director: John Flynn.
Tagline: A Vietnam Vet Kills for Revenge.

THRILLER: A CRUEL PICTURE aka THEY CALL HER ONE EYE (1974) - director: Bo Arne Vibenius (Alex Fridolinski).
Tagline: The Movie That Has No Limits of Evil.

RABID aka RAGE (1977) - director: David Cronenberg.
Tagline: Pray It Doesn't Happen to You.

GOD TOLD ME TO (1976) - director: Larry Cohen.
Tagline: It Will Give You Nightmares Forever.

SUSPIRIA (1977) - director: Dario Argento.
Tagline: The only thing more terrifying than the last five minutes of this film are the first 90!

HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS (1970) - director: Dan Curtis.
Tagline: Barnabas Collins, Vampire, Takes a Bride in a Bizarre Act of Unnatural Lust.

HORROR HOUSE aka THE HAUNTED HOUSE OF HORROR (1969) - director: Michael Armstrong.
Tagline: Behind Its Forbidden Doors an Evil Secret Hides!

WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH HELEN? (1971) - director: Curtis Harrington.
Tagline: Heart Pounding Terror!

WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? (1962) - director: Robert Aldrich.
Tagline: Sister, Sister, Oh So Fair, Why is There Blood All Over Your Hair?

WHITE LINE FEVER (1975) - director: Jonathan Kaplan.
Tagline: Carrol Jo Hummer--A Working Man Who's Had Enough!

MACON COUNTY LINE (1974) - director: Richard Compton.
Tagline: It Was the Fall of '54. A Time When Laughing Was Easy. And Laugh They Did, Until They Crossed the ... Macon County Line.

THE GREAT TEXAS DYNAMITE CHASE (1976) - director: Michael Pressman.
Tagline: Move Over Butch and Sundance-Here Comes Candy, Ellie Jo and Slim.

DELIVERANCE (1972) - director: John Boorman.
Tagline: What Did Happen on the Cahulawassee River?

UNHOLY ROLLERS (1972) - director: Vernon Zimmerman.
Tagline: A Locker Room Look at the Toughest Broads in the World!

KANSAS CITY BOMBER (1972) - director: Jarrold Freedman.
Tagline: The Hottest Thing on Wheels.

And, naturally, after laying out the program, you realize there's so many you've missed.

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