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Thursday, August 21, 2008

This week at SFC: Broadway Danny Rose

STUDIOFILMCLUB
BUILDING 7
FERNANDES INDUSTRIAL CENTER
EASTERN MAIN ROAD
LAVENTILLE
PORT OF SPAIN


STUDIOFILMCLUB is located in the front foyer space of building 7.

Our screenings are FREE and all are welcome to ALL.

THURSDAY 21st August 2008 - Woody Allen gets his first outing at SFC... with BROADWAY DANNY ROSE . Come early to see the great documentary about six movies that kept the freaks in their seats from the midnight hour on... often running for years and years in the same cinema. We will screen this over two weeks.

7:45 pm

Midnight Movies : From the Margins to the Mainstream (Stuart Samuels/USA/2005/45')

A testament to the days when word of mouth was carried by live voices rather than group email, Stuart Samuels’s marvellous documentary offers case studies of the half-dozen key titles that defined the alternative film-going circuit of ’70s America. With deft cultural, political and industrial contextualisation and contributions from numerous well-placed sources – including all six titles’ directors – ‘Midnight Movies’ consitutes a warm, rich tribute to an era of fecund perversity, even if it’s as formally conservative as its subjects were transgressive.

Its story starts with Alejandro Jodorowsky’s brilliantly bonkers ‘El Topo’ (1970), which set the midnight movie template by unexpectedly settling into triumphant, dope-suffused residency at New York’s Elgin cinema. ‘Night of the Living Dead’ offered American audiences a more locally identifiable tranche of oppositional excitement that – like ‘Pink Flamingos’ – deployed shockingly coarse corporeal spectacle in the service of a militantly liberal sensibility. ‘The Harder They Come’, meanwhile, married political indignation to a sensationally popular musical form new to the US. We end with a couple of anomalies among such anomalous company: ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’, made by a major studio but only at home among the freaks, and ‘Eraserhead’, which is undoubtedly transgressive but not exactly a rollicking party of a picture.

Nodding at the scene’s revival of ’30s oddities and its influence on the later mainstream, ‘Midnight Movies’ leaves some tensions unexplored (could these screenings both hark back to committed ’60s activism and herald the ‘birth of irony’?) but shows a keen eye for practicalities. In many ways, it’s a document of a dying technology, a celluloid cottage industry whose means of production, distribution and exhibition are alien to today’s aspiring auteurs. Most of all, it’s a celebration of cinema-going as a ‘ritual experience or trip’, a communal adventure with no real equivalent in the exquisitely atomised YouTubeverse.


8:30 pm

BROADWAY DANNY ROSE (Woody Allen/USA/1984/84')

Often overlooked, Broadway Danny Rose has developed a cult following among select Woody Allen fans; Chris Rock claims it to be of his favorite films. Nick Apollo Forte is Lou Canova, a singer not of the first rank, and an alcoholic. He has both a long-suffering wife and a mistress who belongs to a Mafia hood. He's so good an actor that you wonder what became of him, just as you wonder what becomes of Lou when Danny finally has to give up on him. He and Woody are the centre of this celebration of a Broadway not too far from Damon Runyan. Around them are spread the out-of-work no hopers, the vicious and ungrateful success stories, the dumb showgirls and the even dumber gangsters we've come to know so well in lesser if much more portentous movies.

The film starts marvellously, with a group of comics sitting around a Carnegie Deli table trading stories about Danny and his exploits on behalf of his clients. Since Allen wrote the script, even the made-up tales are funny. Then we see how Danny gets Lou on the road again, riding the nostalgia boom of the time, booking him into Top 40 concerts and finally finding him a date at the Waldorf, with Milton Berle in the audience looking for guests for his TV special.

Lou trying to persuade Danny to take his girlfriend to the Waldorf so she won't get upset is another hilarious sequence. But if he's good - a drunken egotist with a heart of silver - so is Mia Farrow as the girl, a brassy Mafia blonde with a taste in hair and dress styles that might suit the fashion sense of a lowly henchman of Capone. (Farrow's performance is superb and unlike anything else in her career: loud, brassy, and comically obnoxious.)

In all, this is a film which inhabits New York just as well as Annie Hall but looks at a different kind of instantly recognisable inhabitant. Perhaps it sails near caricature at times. But then so does the world we're observing. As for Danny Rose himself, this is one of Woody's most actorly performances. For once he forgets himself and plays someone else. Part caper, part-show biz satire, Broadway Danny Rose is a delightful combination of nostalgia and cutting observations about human nature.

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