Friday, March 25, 2011

Camera Obscura: Gatlinburg Film Fest Opens; 'Taxi Driver' Anniversary

I've not had a movie post in a few weeks as the state and federal legislative sessions have just brought out so much deeply ridiculous and useless proposals that have demanded my attention and yours (I hope). Not that I need to apologize to readers, more that readers (along with my humble self) can gain perspective and enrichment and a breath by taking a look at more esoteric creations. To paraphrase William Hurt from "The Big Chill", "Sometimes ya gotta just let art wash over ya."

The 3rd Annual Gatlinburg Film Festival opens today and offers a host of locally-made short film submissions for numerous awards, and also offers screenings of the documentary of the Nashville flood of 2010, called "Nashville Rises" and another doc, "The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia" which offers an even deeper (and most bizarre) examination of the family of cult star Jesco White, 'The Dancing Outlaw'.

A full schedule of events is here - the Festival is held at the River Terrace Hotel and Convention Center. A write-up via the Knoxville News Sentinel has more.


Mention must be made of the passing of Elizabeth Taylor this week. She came out of the Hollywood studio system as a teenage girl and redefined the word Star like no other, a force of astonishing power and beauty, and a noted philanthropist, who captured America's imagination both onscreen and off for decades. Kim at TCM's Movie Morelock page has a tribute:

Elizabeth Taylor looms as large as Cleopatra herself on our cultural landscape. But Taylor wasn’t just a pop culture icon. The Oscar winning actress helped invent the term. Warhol turned her image into art. Mattel turned her image into a Barbie doll. The Vatican condemned her “erotic vagrancy” and the Queen of England honored the actress by appointing her a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire. Taylor’s timeless beauty will haunt us forever. She’s part of all of our lives whether we want her to be or not and I’m thankful for the incredible body of work that she left behind for us all to enjoy."

She also has captured fantastic accounts of Taylor's work through the last half of the 20th century on her own blog, Cinebeats, with extensive reviews of her films and many great photos too.


And now for something completely different.

Since George Lucas is endlessly beating the dead horse of "Star Wars" into nano-particles, then so can the rest of us. The following vid is from a series called "Troopers", a fan-made collection of shorts which gives us a peek into the hum-drum lives of Stormtroopers as they run for coffee and bear claws, fix leaky pipes, take out the garbage -- and the one below is an "interrogation" of "rebel princess". Good stuff:


"Taxi Driver" is such a rare film - still retaining it's power after 35 years, and also a breathtaking take on America and New York City in one of its darkest times. A new print and new theatrical release is underway. Critic J. Hoberman tries to capture what made the film so unique both then and now in his recap:

Citizen of a sodden Sodom where the steamy streets are always wet with tears, among other bodily fluids, (the character) Travis Bickle embarks each evening on a glistening sea of sleaze. Seen through his rain-smeared windshield, Manhattan becomes a movie—call it “Malignopolis”—in which, as noted by Amy Taubin in her terrific Taxi Driver monograph, “the entire cast of Superfly seems to have been assembled in Times Square” to feed Travis’s fantasies. The cab driver lives by night in a world of myth, populated by a host of supporting archetypes: the astonishing Jodie Foster as Iris, the 12-year-old hooker living the life in the rat’s-ass end of the ’60s, yet dreaming of a commune in Vermont; Harvey Keitel as her affably nauseating pimp; Peter Boyle’s witless cabbie sage; and Cybill Shepherd’s bratty golden girl, a suitably petit-bourgeois Daisy Buchanan to Travis’s lumpen Gatsby."

I remember seeing it several times during the 1970s, and it is truly unforgettable. And it gave actor Robert DeNiro and director Martin Scorsese a huge introduction to audiences. It tackles politics, social structures, fame and infamy, tour de force filmmaking, and offers a deranged, hilarious, and a daft Manhattan trapped in it's own cage.

In the mid-1980s, I rented a VHS copy of the movie, popped it into a washing-machine-sized top-loading VHS player, and saw it in a large living room of a home where I was house-sitting. As disturbing as it was on the theatrical screen, it was even more horrifying in my home. Letting Travis Bickle into your home leaves a dark stain on everything. It stands as one of the major milestones which the 1970s gave us is such large numbers - The Godfather, Chinatown, Nashville, and yes, even Star Wars - the creations of then-young filmmakers who are today's legends of Hollywood.

Most notable too, the movie was the very last scored by composer Bernard Herrmann, and the music is a relentless heartbeat of night and the city and the madness of those times. It is mournful and bluesy and adds so much to an already iconic movie. The opening moments and music are below:

No comments:

Post a Comment