Tuesday, November 10, 2009

1948 in New York City (cinematically speaking that is)

Okay, it's actually 2009.  November 7, 2009 to be exact, but it felt as if I were transported back to 1948.  Why, you ask?  Well, I'll tell you.  The two films that - by large margin - hold the top spots in my list of the best films of 1948 were playing on the same day in the same city and this avid - or should I say rabid - cinephile (damn those who say the term is long out of vogue!) was able to see both films on the big screens of two Manhattan art houses.

The first was Vittorio De Sica's The Bicycle Thief, playing at Lincoln Plaza Cinema.  As the black and white print popped and hissed and stuttered a bit at times - as old 35mm prints are apt to do - the nearly sold out crowd laughed, gasped and awed at what is undoubtedly one of the greatest films ever made.  I had never seen the film on anything larger than a 40 some inch TV and it was an amazing feeling to do so.  To watch poor Antonio desperately searching for his stolen bicycle, and thus his very livelihood, was a strange melange of heartbreak and cinephiliac giddiness.  But we were just getting started.

As I boarded the D train bound for The Village and then proceeded to make my way down Sixth Ave toward Houston and in turn, Film Forum, my heart began racing a bit.  Then a bit more.  And then a bit more.  It may sound ridiculous and quite dramatic (I do have a penchant for the overdramatic at times) but I was shaking with some weird sort of uber-anticipation as I drew closer and closer to the cinema.  And there it was on the marquee - Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger's The Red Shoes.  

Lucky for me I had bought my ticket online the night before because as I entered the cinema the glaring, somewhat obnoxious sign read 7:00 show sold out.  Shortly after this the even more obnoxious sign went up reading 9:45 show sold out.  It was great to see so much interest in The Red Shoes (as damn well there should be!) but if I hadn't already had ticket in hand I would have probably dropped to my knees right there on Houston and wept like a child.  In fact the picture below of the lovely Moira Shearer would have been my reaction if I had not already procured my golden ticket.  I did tell you I had a penchant for the overdramatic.

So, to get back to my story of cinephiliac glory (overdramatic again), I entered the very crowded theatre - about eleven minutes prior to showtime - and took my seat in the front row.  Legs outstretched and head resting on my seatback, the lights went down and the projector motor whirred from the back of the theatre.  After a trailer for the soon-to-be-released 35mm restoration of M. Hulot's Holiday (opening at Film Forum on 11/20) The Red Shoes began and I (overdramatizing once again) was in Heaven.

Martin Scorsese called The Red Shoes, "The greatest technicolor film ever made." and I whole heartedly agree with the great filmmaker and fellow cinephile.  This was going to be the closest thing to a religious experience this semi-agnostic, ordained minister (yes, I really am) has ever had.  The vivid blues and reds and greens and yellows were mesmerizing as I stared in wonder at the glowing screen.  By the end, my legs and back (and yes, my buttocks) were aching but it mattered not for I was able to watch the effervescent, the gorgeous, the remarkable Moira Shearer dance her dance all the way to what is probably the greatest (and most tragic) finale a movie has ever had.

With cinephiliac orgasm in tow, I left Film Forum and made my way home - after a quick bite with my lovely wife Amy and her friend Molly - and dreamt of the greatest technicolor film ever made.  Fin.

1 comment:

Bill Crumlic said...

No need to apologized for gushing over greatness! Although it is no comparison to classics the JJ Abrams revival of Star Trek as an actual action-adventure film instead of a tired homage to large screen TV made me feel the same. Recently, I have had opportunity to revisit Star Trek X and gush over his amazing vision of my all time favorite group of characters and it left my seat wet. Wonderfully wet in fact. When we talk of our passion we are allowed the latitude to gush and over dramatize because to us... It is not over the top... it is love.