Category: cinema experiences

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Cinema Experiences: Gone with the Wind

“Now, if there’s anybody who knows how to give a girl a good time, it’s Ashley. Although, I expect our good times must seem terribly silly to you because you’re so serious.”

Yesterday afternoon, I went with a group of classmates/housemates to see Gone with the Wind at the Prince Charles Theatre in Soho. I’ve seen it 5 times on the big screen in a variety of theatres with a variety of audiences. Whether it’s at the historic Bay Theatre in Seal Beach, The magnificent Egyptian in Hollywood, or the small town Strand in Marietta, Georgia, Gone with the Wind always makes for good viewing. But I think yesterday was my favorite experience yet.

The Prince Charles is one of London’s equivalents to an indie theatre. They often do themed sing-alongs to The Sound of Music, Grease and other films, and regularly screen a repertoire of older movies. It’s also a lot cheaper than the major chain theatres like the Odeon in Leicester Square. The popcorn is good (and cheap) and the seats are really comfortable. All of these factors were brownie points for the Prince Charles, but what made the screening so fun was the people I saw it with. Showing my favorite films to a group of other film students can be a bit nervewracking, especially because Gone with the Wind is a film that I’ve loved so much for such a long time, I really want other people to share in the enthusiasm. Most people had already seen it, although not on the big screen, and one person was viewing it for the first time (this person was more or less tricked because she wasn’t aware that the film ran close to four hours. Sorry, Helen!). After it was over I cautiously gauged their reactions, and they all enjoyed it. Huzzah!

The screening in itself was only part of a larger event. Afterward we headed to the Chandos near Trafalgar Square for some drinks and quality film discussion. Topics included Vivien Leigh’s beauty and a short-lived debate about whether she had a mustache in the film (it’s just unfortunate upper lip shadow in some scenes, guys!), how she’s Britain’s national treasure and how Clark Gable was perfect as Rhett Butler. The troupe then moved back to Chinatown for a hearty and delicious meal, good wine and ice cream before calling it a night.

As for my personal experience, I can only say that I loved the film just as much this time as I have every other time I’ve seen it. I even cried at the end, and that’s never happened before. Something about Scarlett’s final monologue was extra poignant this time around. Gone with the Wind continues to impress each time I see it, and I’ve seen it many, many times. It will always hold a special place in my heart.

This is my reaction every time the end credits roll on GWTW.


Gone with the Wind: Good film, or the best film?

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Cinema Experiences: Term of Trial

In the 1960s, Laurence Olivier successfully bridged the gap from studio films to the British New Wave with his performance as Archie Rice in the 1960 Tony Richardson film The Entertainer. Two years later he continued his string of “ordinary” characters by playing Graham Weir in Peter Glenville’s Term of Trial, which was screened at the BFI last night as part of their Projecting the Archive series. Jo Botting, the curator of fiction at the BFI archive, gave an introduction before the film. She read excerpts from Sarah Miles’ autobiography and talked about how the film was received upon its initial release.

Term of Trial is one of Olivier’s lesser-known films and, much like in William Wyler’s Carrie (1951), he delivers a quietly powerful and underrated performance as an alcoholic school teacher in gritty northern England who becomes the object of one of his female students’ affection. Graham Weir, despite being a genuinely nice man who wants to change students’ lives for the better through his teaching, is accused of sexual assault when he rejects the advances of young Shirley Taylor (played brilliantly by an 18 year old Sarah Miles in her first film role), his prized pupil. Shirley is so enraged and hurt by Mr. Weir’s rejection that she brings false claims against her once revered teacher. Graham is in a lose-lose situation all around. At home, his nagging, selfish wife (Simone Signoret) accuses him of not being man enough to give her the life she thinks she deserves. He is frustrated at school by the defiance of a trouble-making student (Terrence Stamp), and the accusations brought against him cost him the coveted job of head schoolmaster.

It seems that many people found–and still find–Olivier miscast as Weir, but I thought it one of his best performances. Subdued yet sympathetic throughout most of the film, Olivier the great stage actor breaks free when he is given full reign of the scene when Graham stands accused in court. All of his sublimated emotions and frustrations suddenly explode (we get a glimpse of something boiling beneath the surface in a previous scene when his wife’s comments cause him to violently slap her across the face). Paul Dehn, critic for the Daily Herald said of Olivier’s performance in the courtroom scene:

“Olivier’s own long speech from the dock is a piece of inarticulate agonising as unforgettably delivered as the best of his Shakespearean soliliquies.”

I urge anyone who mistakenly accuses Olivier as being nothing but a hack or ham actor to reconsider his performances in this film as well as in Carrie.

Term of Trial has an all-around strong cast. Simone Signoret was, as always, tough as nails. I had the opportunity to see Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Les Diaboliques the previous evening and was blown away by her performance as a school teacher who helps to murder her colleague’s headmaster husband (with whom she was also having an affair). Sarah Miles was surprisingly very good as Shirley and more than held her own opposite her acting idol. Miles also claims to have had an on and off affair with Olivier that started during filming and lasted for several years. I had only seen her previously in David Lean’s Irish epic Ryan’s Daughter and didn’t think much of her at the time; my mistake. Terrence Stamp (also in his first film role) plays the thug character to perfection, the incarnation of so many angry young men of the period.

What I love about Olivier was his ability to develop his acting style through different filmic periods. From matinee studio idol to Shakespearean expert, everyday average Joe to supporting player in later years. It’s always a pleasure to see the range of his film acting. There are people who insist he was best on stage, and perhaps he was, but he was also a damn good film actor, and that’s all we have left. Let’s appreciate his films while we can.

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Secret Cinema (Shhh!)

WARNING: This post reveals the super-secret secret of Secret Cinema. Read at your own risk.

Last night I had the pleasure of attending Secret Cinema, an interactive, cult film event put on by Future Cineama. The aim of the game is to completely immerse the audience in the atmosphere of the film they will be screening. The gimmick is that audiences aren’t notified of where it will be screened or what they will be watching. Once signed up on the website, participants are given clues such as what to wear and where to meet at a designated date–tell no one!

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Cinema Experiences: Twentieth Century (1934)

Saturday nights are always good nights to go to the cinema!  After the success that was Bringing Up Baby last weekend, I went back to the BFI tonight with a couple of friends to see another Howard Hawks film, Twentieth Century (Paramount), starring my second favorite actress of all time, Carole Lombard.  It has John Barrymore, too!  The film concerns a rather nutty (isn’t everyone a bit nuts in screwball comedies?) playwright named Oscar Jaffe who discovers a shop-girl on whom he bestows the stage name Lily Garland.  Lily is a not-so-good actress, but Jaffe knows there’s a goldmine of talent hidden in there somewhere.  He gets it out by jabbing a pin into Lily’s backside. A crazy love affair ensues before Lily leaves Jaffe to hit it big in Hollywood.  When Jaffe becomes hard up for money, he coincidentally runs into Lily on the 20th Century train from Hollywood to New York and more crazy antics follow.

Carole Lombard actually plays the straight(er) character in this film, just to give you an idea of how riotous the comedy is!  She and Barrymore are brilliant together.  This was actually the first John Barrymore film I’d ever seen and I thought he was hilarious–a bit like Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka, taken up a few notches if you can believe it.  Or maybe it was just the wild hair…

Anyway, I’d definitely recommend this film, it was a riot from start to finish.  One wishes Carole Lombard had lived longer because she was definitely a force to be reckoned with on screen.  She met Barrymore match for match.  Loved it!  And her wardrobe was nothing short of fabulous.

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Cinema Experiences: Bringing Up Baby

Tonight was the first time I’d gone to the cinema in months.  I just haven’t had time with the holidays and essay writing, but since I handed in my last essay of the first semester today, it was definitely time to remedy my cinema-going situation.  One of my classmates was celebrating his birthday, so I went with him and a few other people from the film programme at KCL to see Bringing Up Baby, part of the current Howard Hawks season at the BFI.

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