Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Favorite Film Discoveries of 2013 - Ariel Schudson ""

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Favorite Film Discoveries of 2013 - Ariel Schudson

Ariel Schudson is a dedicated media preservationist/archivist with a MA in Moving Image Archive Studies from UCLA. Most recently, she was on a panel at Stan Lee’s Comikaze about feminism and geek culture and just completed work as the social media coordinator for a campaign to raise money for NOTFILM, a film by Samuel Beckett, starring Buster Keaton.
Heavily interested in theatrical exhibition and access, she programmed a successful series at the New Beverly Cinema called SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NEW based on concepts of moving image preservation and total enjoyment!
Ariel’s major interests are: women in film, film noir & precode, action & crime films and being able to see a film in a theater from beginning to end without having to tell anyone to STOP TEXTING.

Her website with professional writing work can be located here: www.arielschudson.com
Her  blog can be found here: http://www.sinaphile.wordpress.com



    
1) TRY AND GET ME aka THE SOUND OF FURY –1950- 35mm  dir. Cyril Enfield, Preservation funded by Film Noir Foundation (Festival of Preservation, Billy Wilder Theater)
I was really excited to see this film. Actually, that’s an understatement. Mcinematic enthusiasm was probably about as subtle as a 5 year old’s desire for cotton candy at the county fair. Why? Because this was a film that I had a very personal relationship with and I thought that was pretty damn cool.  Back in February of 2011, I had actively participated in the Film Noir Blogathon and raised money for this film to get restored. Using a nitrate print and one of Martin Scorsese’s own personals for reference, UCLA restored TRY AND GET ME/THE SOUND OF FURY. I have to say that now, as an accredited person in the field and a writer, knowing that my film writings DID raise money for this great film? It felt great.
The movie itself? Well, to start off, it began its career as THE SOUND OF FURY but was recalled by producer Robert Stillman and renamed as TRY AND GET ME everywhere except for L.A. and San Francisco (those locales had already began using the original title in advertising). Thus the multi-title issue. But that was also due to the mixed audience results and issues around the content.
But…WOW. Whatever name it goes by, this film is great. Fritz Lang’s FURY (1936) starring Spencer Tracy (a movie I love!) is based on the same true event as this oneBut there is a very distinct difference between Lang’s storytelling and Tracy’s performance and the dark, noir violence that is conveyed in THE SOUND OF FURY. There was space enough for me to be shocked which usually does not happen in a film from 1950. I LOVED THAT. The restoration (unsurprisingly) was excellent. Lloyd Bridges is a tall glass of brilliance. I want more like this film. But that’s the thing: there really is only one TRY AND GET ME/THE SOUND OF FURY. I hope that you all get a chance to experience it. And big. This was 100% not made for smaller screens. As Raymond Borde and Etienne Chaumeton wrote of the final sequence, “[it] remains one of the most brutal sequences in postwar American cinema.” And that’s no joke.


   
2) REPEAT PERFORMANCE - 1947 – 35mm – dir. Alfred Werker, Preservation funded by The Packard Humanities Institute and the Film Noir Foundation(Festival of Preservation, Billy Wilder Theater)
In my experience, Eagle-Lion Films has never led me astray. From the time my interest in cinema peakedI began to notice that it was their logo that appeared at the heads of quite a few of the films I watched and loved. RAW DEAL, T-MEN, HE WALKED BY NIGHT, all films that noticeably altered the way that I pursued literature and moving image work. I remembered the logo as a symbol of quality (to me). Just as an aside, Eagle-Lion? Not a big budget studio. They might’ve been Poverty Row, but what they could do with what they had? I’ve seen films today that have millions of dollars that still can’t pack the wallop that those pictures still can.
Skip forward to UCLA’s Festival of Preservation.  I see that REPEAT PERFORMANCE is going to be an Eagle-Lion picture and I’m already giddy. I just didn’t know how much. Eddie Muller, the “Czar of Noir” and founder/president of the Film Noir Foundation described the film as “basically the film noir version of It’s a Wonderful Life” and I can’t think of a better way to encapsulate what I experienced.  A fantastically Twilight Zone-tinged New Year’s Eve story with strange criminal elements, time twists, and some of THE MOST TERRIFICALLY electrifying moments between female actresses you’ll ever see! Joan Leslie and Virginia Field are just knockouts in this. Also, Natalie Schaefer’s brief role is just a gas. I want to hug that lady. She’s great. This film really showcases female performance terrifically. If I could, I would make this my holiday film every year. If you get a chance to see it, just know this: 90% of the film you will spend as tense as a tightrope. The other 10%? Character set-up and credits.
This is a winner.

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3) IT ALWAYS RAINS ON SUNDAY 1947 – 35mm – dir. Robert Hamer (TCM Film Festival, TCL Chinese Multiplex)
Boy was it great to see Googie Withers again in this! I haven’t seen NIGHT IN THE CITY in years, but I remembered her face from it and it was spectacular to see a film that took her further. Nothing against Jules Dassin (ever!!), just that Hamer showcased her and I’m glad for it. I’m a sucker for British films and I have a massive soft spot for the British Kitchen Sink dramas and New Wave films that came about in the late ‘50s/early '60s. However, I’m also obsessed to my eyeteeth with crime and noir cinema. So, if you take these genres, grind ‘em up, make a paste out of ‘em, and throw in a few fascinating female characters? I AM SOLD. Also, the visuals are spectacular. The night chase sequence made me gasp. I usually know how good a film is by how many times I have to raise my hands to the sides of my face. It was a constant battle with my paws…up, down, up, down. The post-war discourse and criminal tensions in the film are quite present, but the actual story in IT ALWAYS RAINS and its attention to character will also surprise you. The familial dynamics of a broken down house, young adult women coming of age in a desperate economy and a matriarch who is unhappy in her marriage and frantically trying to hide a criminal element within the space of the home is a brilliant narrative. And really? That doesn’t even explain half the film. If you get a chance, watch this film. It’s not average fare.



4) I AM SUZANNE – 1933 – 35mm – dir. Rowland  V. Lee (TCM Film Festival, TCL Chinese Multiplex)
You will never see another film like I AM SUZANNE. have never seen another film like I AM SUZANNE. I have a tendency to enjoy the strange and bizarre in my classic cinema. I like almost anything set in a carnival or freakshow; I enjoy things that involve the monstrous or fantastic within what is deemed “normal” environs or people (see films such as NIGHTMARE ALLEY or THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME as examples of those). And more than most people? really love puppets and marionettes. So, a precode puppet musical, where the line between reality and fiction sometimes blends and Lillian Harvey is just sensational? Yeah. I was so in. If you get a chance to see this film, do it. If you have a problem with puppets and LOTS of them, stay away. They’re not just background, baby, they’re center stage and they make sure you know.


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5) THE FAST & THE FURIOUS: TOKYO DRIFT – 2006 (outdoors screening)- dir. Justin Lin
Once you’ve gone FAST you’ll never go back. This was my first…and, well, you never forget your first right? My name is Ariel, and I am an F&F addict. And proud.


6) THE BIG FIX – 1978 – 35mm – dir. Jeremy Kagan (New Beverly Cinema)
Played on a double-bill with one of my all-time fave modern noirs, Robert Altman’s THE LONG GOODBYE, this film was a real showstopper. Another modern noir, I will go on the record as saying that it is probably one of the greater unseen 70s modern noirs that I have ever seen.
Richard Dreyfuss, F. Murray Abraham, John Lithgow…even a baby Bonnie Bedelia! This film does everything that many “standard” films noir should, simply updated.Working with political landscapesa private investigator and disillusionment with the past and interpersonal relationships, I am honestly shocked that this film hasn’t gotten more play. Unavailable on DVD at the time of this writing, I feel incredibly lucky to have seen such a great print. But I really hope that it becomes more available at some point. As far as films go, it was a one-of-a-kind 70s detective feature with enough comedy to be light every so often and enough serious critical matter to make you realize exactly what year this was made and why it was necessary.


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7) THE GREAT HAPPINESS SPACE: TALE OF AN OSAKA LOVE THIEF – 2006 – Netflix Streaming – dir. Jake Clennell
I have a huge love for documentaries. I also have a huge interest in the way that sexuality and underworld life is constructed (and has been constructed) in other countries, especially one like Japan. When I came across this one, I was really taken by the subject matter: THE GREAT HAPPINESS SPACE looks at the male “host” culture in Osaka. Not only does it study the training and lives of the young men who are the aforementioned “hosts,” but it also interviews and documents the women who pay large amounts of money to spend time with these young men. It is a fascinating encounter with gender, economics and sexuality- in short, a film not to be missed.


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8) COPYRIGHT CRIMINALS – 2009 – Netflix Streaming – dir. Benjamin Franzen, Kembrew McLeod
What do you get when you have a documentary about the use of sampling in music and its various legalities featuring George Clinton, Chuck D., Clyde Stubblefield, DJ Spooky and Mix Master Mike? COPYRIGHT CRIMINALS. Not only does it have these folks in it, but it explores the topic of musical sampling within a commercial context, discusses issues in and around what exactly “piracy” would be and really defines a variety of terms and modern situations that people toss around in a more explicit and studied manner. In my mind, this may be one of the more important docs I’ve seen in the last 10 years. I have watched it 3 or 4 times already. It’s smart, the points are valid and I would love to see it extended to more kinds of media. It’d be great to see these directors do it on film work. Seriously. Three words when it comes to this film: WATCH IT NOW.

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