Monthly Archives: April 2018

Surf’s Up, Cinephiles: Takeshi Kitano’s A Scene at the Sea Washes Ashore in Imported 35mm Print on April 30
Plus! Summer 2018 Season Announced

Music Box Theatre – 3733 N. Southport Ave.
General Admission: $10

Monday, April 30 @7:00 PM
A SCENE AT THE SEA
Directed by Takeshi Kitano • 1991
In Japanese with English subtitles
Best known in the US for violent thrillers like Boiling Point and Sonatine—and better known in Japan as a famous stand-up comedian and TV host—Takeshi Kitano launched his own production company with this gentle, haunting masterpiece. A Scene at the Sea tells the story of a deaf trash collector (Claude Maki) who finds a broken surfboard on his garbage route. He repairs it and, encouraged by his girlfriend (one-time actor Hiroko Ôshima), begins surfing every day, eventually entering in competitions. Driven by the music of frequent Miyazaki collaborator Joe Hisaishi, A Scene at the Sea is a film “with a minimalist eloquence that allows the movie to suggest all the joys and difficulties of life” (Lisa Alspector, Chicago Reader). Named one of the ten best films of the ’90s by David Bordwell, A Scene at the Sea screened for a weeklong run at Facets Cinematheque in 1996 (one of very few US engagements) and has been burned in the brain of this CFS contributor ever since. We guarantee it will stay with you for twenty years or your money back. (JA)
101 min • Office Kitano • 35mm from The Japan Foundation, Permission Tamasa
Short: “Study in Wet” (Homer Groening, 1964) – 16mm – 9 min

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And just like that, we have a new season upon us!

Pull up a deck chair, pop open a can of Moxie, and check out all 27 programs we have slated for Summer 2018.

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Plus! Summer 2018 Season Announced

Taking the Taboo Off the Cinema: A Million Bid

Very few people have seen Michael Curtiz’s A Million Bid (1927), but it’s an interesting picture, moreso than its meager reputation would suggest. The film merits barely more than a paragraph in James Robertson’s The Casablanca Man: The Cinema of Michael Curtiz and earns a passing mention in Alan K. Rode’s newly released Michael Curtiz: A Life in Film. (Rode provides additional context on A Million Bid in his recent interview with Ben Sachs.) Yet the story of its production, release, and restoration of A Million Bid suggests a film of enduring, imponderable mysteries. Rather than attempt a critical evaluation of the film, I hope to demonstrate how rich and contradictory a record A Million Bid left behind in primary sources alone.

The neglect of A Million Bid is understandable. The script is rote melodrama, and the film itself (presumed lost for decades until a copy was rediscovered in Italy) is somewhat extraneous in assessing Curtiz’s legacy. It was Curtiz’s second American film, but his first, The Third Degree (1926), long ago preserved by the Library of Congress, seemed a sufficient example of his work from this period. The Third Degree was released amidst of flurry of Warner Bros. publicity, touting the studio’s newest filmmaker (already a veteran director of sixty films in Europe) as a technical wizard. “I do not see a scene with my eyes,” boasted Curtiz in a Los Angeles Times profile, “I see a scene with camera-eyes.” The film earned decent reviews, with favorable comparisons to E.A. Dupont’s Variete, one of the German imports frequently invoked as a rejoinder to pedestrian Hollywood technique.  Continue reading

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A Million Smackers Can’t Buy Love, but Eleven Bucks Buys a Ticket to This Silent: Curtiz’s A Million Bid, 4/21

Music Box Theatre – 3733 N. Southport Ave.
General Admission: $11 • Seniors: $9 • MBT Members: $7

Saturday, April 21 @ 11:30 AM 
Music Box Theatre / Live Accompaniment from Music Box Organist Dennis Scott
A MILLION BID
Directed by Michael Curtiz • 1927
Shortly after Warner Bros. acquired the assets of the ailing Vitagraph Company of America in 1925, the studio embarked on a remake of the latter’s 1914 melodrama A Million Bid. From the start Warner recognized the material’s aptness for contract starlet Dolores Costello (dubbed “The Belle of the Box Office” by the studio), but cycled through several directors—including Alan Crosland and Roy Del Ruth—before ultimately giving the assignment to Hungarian émigré Michael Curtiz, who needed a low-key follow-up to his ostentatious and much-publicized American debut The Third Degree. The plot is high seas hokum: Costello loves a young surgeon (Malcolm McGregor) but is betrothed to a wealthy jerk (Warner Oland) who ponied up a million bucks for the privilege. Oland eventually forces himself upon Costello aboard his yacht (where else?), but a violent storm interrupts his plunder, causing the rapacious millionaire to develop amnesia in the aftermath. The 1914 version of A Million Bid is presumed lost, and for decades it was assumed that the 1927 remake suffered the same fate. A tinted nitrate print with Italian titles was discovered at Cineteca del Comune di Bologna, and became the basis for this restoration from the Library of Congress and L’immagine Ritrovata in 2004. (KW)
65 min • Warner Bros. • 35mm from Library of Congress
Preceded by: “His Marriage Wow” (Harry Edwards, 1925) – 20 min – 16mm

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A Delirious New Musical from the Director of The Cobweb: Vincente Minnelli’s Yolanda and the Thief in 35mm – 4/18

The Auditorium at Northeastern Illinois University – Building E, 3701 W. Bryn Mawr Ave
General Admission: $7 • NEIU Students: $2

Wednesday, April 18 @ 7:30 PM
YOLANDA AND THE THIEF
Directed by Vincente Minnelli • 1945
In the immediate wake of Meet Me in St. Louis, director and master stylist Vincente Minnelli found himself an in-demand property at his home studio M-G-M. In the midst of re-envisioning the Judy Garland romance The Clock and contributing sequences to Ziegfeld Follies, Minnelli directed one of the weirdest films to ever be made by a Hollywood studio. Yolanda and the Thief began life as a musical adaptation of a children’s story by Madeline author Ludwig Bemelmans (whose art, along with the paintings of Salvador Dali, serves as one of the film’s chief visual inspirations), but Minnelli saw the film as a chance to direct a full-on “surrealist revue,” a project he had been dreaming of since his early days as a Broadway set designer. Fred Astaire stars as an American gangster running from the law in the fictional and vaguely Latin American country of Patria who sees an opportunity for a quick payday when he encounters the beautiful and grotesquely naive mineral water-heiress Yolanda (Lucille Bremer) and whips up a plan to convince her he is a literal angel sent from Heaven. Minnelli’s marked disregard for coherent plotting or naturalistic performance may have ensured the film would be misunderstood by critics and audiences expecting a traditional Astaire movie, but the director’s refashioning of the Hollywood prestige-musical toolkit in service of bold, avant-garde filmmaking—on full display in the film’s 15-minute dream ballet centerpiece—feels utterly galvanizing today. (CW)
108 min • Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer • 35mm from Warner Bros., Permission Swank
Short: Selected Cartoon

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Please note: our April 7 screening of A Million Bid has been re-scheduled for April 21

Saturday, April 21 @ 11:30 AM 
Music Box Theatre / Live Accompaniment from Music Box Organist Dennis Scott
A MILLION BID
Directed by Michael Curtiz • 1927
Shortly after Warner Bros. acquired the assets of the ailing Vitagraph Company of America in 1925, the studio embarked on a remake of the latter’s 1914 melodrama A Million Bid. From the start Warner recognized the material’s aptness for contract starlet Dolores Costello (dubbed “The Belle of the Box Office” by the studio), but cycled through several directors—including Alan Crosland and Roy Del Ruth—before ultimately giving the assignment to Hungarian émigré Michael Curtiz, who needed a low-key follow-up to his ostentatious and much-publicized American debut The Third Degree. The plot is high seas hokum: Costello loves a young surgeon (Malcolm McGregor) but is betrothed to a wealthy jerk (Warner Oland) who ponied up a million bucks for the privilege. Oland eventually forces himself upon Costello aboard his yacht (where else?), but a violent storm interrupts his plunder, causing the rapacious millionaire to develop amnesia in the aftermath. The 1914 version of A Million Bid is presumed lost, and for decades it was assumed that the 1927 remake suffered the same fate. A tinted nitrate print with Italian titles was discovered at Cineteca del Comune di Bologna, and became the basis for this restoration from the Library of Congress and L’immagine Ritrovata in 2004. (KW)
65 min • Warner Bros. • 35mm from Library of Congress
Short: TBA

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