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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Reviews of the Cinematheque's weekend films

Posted By on Thu, Jan 14, 2010 at 4:02 AM

The Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque is showing several great movies this weekend. Here are reviews of just a few of them.

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Angel (France/Britain/Belgium, 2007) Based on a tome by British writer Elizabeth Taylor (not that Elizabeth Taylor), François Ozon’s (Swimming Pool, 8 Women) yummy retro fairy tale about the meteoric rise and cataclysmic fall of a female novelist in Edwardian England is the ultimate in guilty pleasure treasures. Bratty schoolgirl Angel Deverell (Romola Garai, best known as Keira Knightley’s duplicitous kid sister in Atonement) will stop at nothing to achieve literary success and thanks to the efforts of a sympathetic publisher (Sam Neill) and her selfless-bordering-on-masochist personal secretary (Lucy Russell), she realizes her dream. The only thing standing between Angel and true happiness, though, is struggling painter Esmé (Michael Fassbender from Inglourious Basterds), the Rhett Butler-like rogue who becomes her eventual undoing. Ozon’s witty deployment of deliberately phony matte backdrops and swelling, syrupy orchestral music are Golden Age of Hollywood stuff, and Angel could have been one of Bette Davis or Joan Crawford’s signature roles. But it’s doubtful whether even George Cukor or Douglas Sirk could have made a movie as ornately, exquisitely gilded or sublimely entertaining as this. At 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 16, and 8:20 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 17. **** (Milan Paurich)

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Bye Bye Birdie (US, 1963) The corpse of the 1950s was barely cold when this high-camp Hollywood adaptation of the Lee Adam-Charles Strouse Broadway (and high-school drama club) warhorse came out, in glorious, pastel-hued Panavision, with giddy parodies of such Eisenhower-era Boomer obsessions as Elvis, TV, teens, Oedipus complexes, Soviets, even a subplot about what appears to be amphetamines. Yet the storyline is as close to insubstantial as musicals get. Conrad Birdie (Jesse Pearson) is a Presley-like rock ’n’ cinema idol, about to be drafted into the military, but his characterization is so neutered you wonder why they even bother to show the legendary dude at all. Instead, focus is on the mom-dominated songwriter (Dick Van Dyke) trying to get Birdie to sing his latest for a live on-air farewell on The Ed Sullivan Show, and the Columbus-area teen queen (irresistible Ann-Margret) chosen to receive a symbolic "one last kiss" from Conrad. Fun as cotton candy and about as nourishing. Parenthetically, what's the deal with Elvis satires set in Ohio? So was Chris Columbus' Heartbreak Hotel, located to a "Taylor, Ohio" outside Cleveland, complete with Spanish moss in the trees. At 5:15 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 16 and at 4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 17. ** 1/2 (Charles Cassady Jr.)

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Days of Heaven (U.S., 1978) A must-see — considered by many to be one of the American movie masterworks of the 1970s and perhaps of all time — this 1978 drama depicts with mythological magical realism a love triangle on the prairies circa 1918, amid golden wheat fields, threshing machines and rootless immigrant-worker communities. A young, hot-tempered migrant laborer (Richard Gere) lets his lover marry a young, semi-invalid landowner (Sam Shepard) in hopes that the two of them will inherit the sickly man’s wealth when he finally dies. Child actress Linda Manz narrates the tragedy in a timeless old-young voice. The apocalyptic locust swarm is one of the many unforgettable sights and sounds (including immortal soundtrack No. 234 or so from Ennio Morricone) that proves there was more to Hollywood in those days than disco and disaster pics. Terrence Malick waited (and taught in academia) for two decades before directing another commercial feature. One likes to imagine he was boycotting the medium until the Police Academy sequels ceased coming out. At 6:45 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 14, and 9:40 p.m. Friday, Jan. 15. **** (Cassady)

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