Wednesday, October 26, 2011

PFA Screens 1978 'J. Edgar Hoover',
Rohmer Films, Mostel in 'Godot'

Quite an eclectic and bold choice of old movies to catch this week at the Pacific Film Archive on the Cal Berkeley campus, but first, a word about a contemporary movie soon to open in theaters.

Clint Eastwood's annual Oscar-bait film this year is "J. Edgar", as in Hoover, the former tyrannical boss of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Written by Oscar-winning and openly gay screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, "J. Edgar" opens in early November and stars dreamboat Leonardio DiCaprio as Hoover. This movie oozes high-quality, big budget and A-list production values.

The same cannot be said of Larry Cohen's 1978 exploitation B-picture "The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover", starring Broderick Crawford, Celeste Holm and Jose Ferrer, it barely received a limited release in theaters.

Cohen's bio-pic was shown in the summer at New York's downtown temple of art cinema, the Anthology Film Archives, and contemporary critics urged readers to catch the rare screenings. Bay Area film lovers have only chance to see it up on the big screen, when it shows tomorrow, October 27, at 7 pm at the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley.

Let's compare trailers for the dueling Hoover bio-pics. First up is the one for Eastwood's version:

All that gloss and the intensity of DiCaprio should make for a memorable experience, even if I find DiCaprio way too fine-looking to make me forget about the bull-dog appearance of Hoover throughout his life.

Next up, the 1978 trailer showcasing that version's grindhouse approach to the story and look. "J. Edgar Hoover", if it played on the pre-Disney 42nd Street strip would have found an audience and some profit:

The PFA reverts to more expect fare on Saturday with two 1980s films by French auteur Eric Rohmer. From 1986, "Summer", about a lonely female Parisian secretary seeking companionship and maybe love while on vacation. I saw when it played stateside and enjoyed it tremendously, very much appreciating its quiet humor.

"Summer" shows on October 29 at 6:30 pm and also on October 30 at 4:00 pm.

Another Rohmer film, one that I have not seen, plays on October 29 at 8:30 pm, "Four Adventures of Reinette and Mirabelle". Some details about it from the PFA program notes:

Four episodes in the relationship between a naive but talented painter from the provinces and a worldly Parisian student. . . . Working a sophisticated variation on the country mouse/city mouse theme.

Finally, on Sunday at 6:00 pm, a restored print of the late 1950s TV version of "Waiting for Godot" with the great Zero Mostel unspools. The listing says sheds light on the production:

Premiering in 1959 on WNTA-TV in New York, the ambitious experiment Play of the Week [presented a variety of works] ... Thanks to progressive casting decisions by producers such as David Susskind, actor Zero Mostel, who suffered years of unemployment for refusing to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, enjoyed a comeback after being selected for Samuel Beckett’s absurdist masterpiece, Waiting for Godot.

I'm hoping to watch all of these films in the coming days, and enjoy the Cal campus' trees and scenery as fall begins. Click here for more info on all of the PFA's film programs.

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