TCMFF is always full of hard choices, but in any given time slot, there’s usually at least one event that I’m least interested in, which helps narrow it down. That was not the case for me with today’s first block. Not only were all of the movies playing in the first time slot all excellent, there were some other cool events going on like a meet-up for fans of musicals and an event at the ASC clubhouse, so there was literally nothing I simply wasn’t interested in. I figured I would just play it by ear and see how I felt when I got up that day, but when I got up, my decision wasn’t any easier. I managed to narrow it down to the panel discussion at the ASC clubhouse and Kiss Me Deadly at the TCL multiplex, but I still didn’t know which way to go. Since they started at different times, I decided to just start getting ready for the day and depending on when I finished getting ready, that would decide it for me. The winner: Kiss Me Deadly.
I had only seen Kiss Me Deadly once before, but that was several years ago and I didn’t remember it very well, so it was like getting to see it for the first time all over again. It may not have been the most lighthearted way to start the day, but I’m so glad I went because it was awesome. Getting to experience that ending in a theater was really intense. If you’re a fan of the movie and ever have the chance to see it in a theater, go see it because getting to hear the sound at the very end of the movie over a really good sound system is definitely something you won’t forget.
After Kiss Me Deadly, I went to check out Jean-Pierre Melville’s When You Read This Letter. I only recently started discovering Melville’s work, so this was one I really didn’t want to miss. It’s a movie that can be extremely frustrating; filled with ambiguity and characters who behave in questionable ways. But it has a lot of beautiful shots and moments that are quite startling. There were quite a few moments that drew gasps from the audience. Without getting into any spoilers, the ending completely floored me, yet I was satisfied with it. I definitely need to see some more of Mellville’s films.
Next up was a trip to the Chinese Theater for Sunset Boulevard introduced by Nancy Olson. Sunset is one of my all-time favorite movies and I’d been waiting for about 10 years to have a chance to see it on the big screen, so this was an opportunity I was not about to pass up. Although I must say, never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d ever be waiting to see Sunset Boulevard while surrounded by a bunch of ‘NSYNC fans. The line for Sunset ran up through the Hollywood Highland shopping center, where there was also a long line for a pop-up shop with ‘NSYNC merchandise. Only on Hollywood Boulevard would there be a point in time when a bunch of Gloria Swanson/Bill Holden/Billy Wilder fans and ‘NSYNC fans would ever be in the same place at the same time.
Seeing Sunset Boulevard in a theater was everything I had hoped it would be. Gloria Swanson was just made for the big screen. There were several shots that were so much more impactful to see in a theatrical setting and the Franz Waxman score sounded absolutely amazing on the Chinese Theater’s sound system. Even though I’d seen the movie many, many times before, this was like getting to see it for the first time all over again. And Nancy’s discussion with Michael Feinstein before the movie was terrific. She talked a bit about her career before she was cast in Sunset and what it was like working with the great Billy Wilder. One interesting story she told was about how the clothes she wears in the movie were her own personal wardrobe. Billy hadn’t been satisfied with the costume designs Edith Head had been coming up with for her character, so he eventually told Nancy to just wear what she normally wears to the studio.
The next time slot was another one I was very torn on. I always love Hollywood Home Movies, but this year, it was up against a screening of Marion Davies’ Show People over at the Egyptian, introduced by my friend Lara from Backlots. It ended up being another case where I made an extremely last minute decision and Show People won. I thought it would be nice to follow up Sunset Boulevard with a more lighthearted Hollywood tale. Plus, Show People is one of those movies that absolutely begs to be seen with an appreciative crowd. There’s nothing quite like getting to see a silent comedy in a theater full of people laughing along, plus it had been a long time since I’d last seen it so the jokes felt very fresh to me. Even though the movie got interrupted by a false fire alarm, going to this screening was nothing less than pure joy.
After Show People, I decided to go in a completely different direction (stylistically speaking) by seeing 1932’s Scarface, which was introduced by John Carpenter. As tempting as the screening of The Big Lebowski was, Scarface won this block for me since I figured I’d have fewer chances to see that movie in a theater. This is another movie I hadn’t seen in a pretty long time and I was really glad to revisit it. The performances by Paul Muni and Ann Dvorak are both electrifying to see on TV at home, just imagine how great it was to see them on a nice big screen.
Every year, I look forward to the festival’s two midnight movies, but I just didn’t have the energy for The World’s Greatest Sinner the day before. But that’s okay, because tonight’s screening of Night of the Living Dead was the one I was most excited for. You know it’s going to be a good screening when you’re having a blast and the movie hadn’t even started yet. There are a few attendees who often bring fun favors to hand out at the midnight screenings and this time, they had zombie cookies (both in black and white and colorized) and cardboard masks.
Originally, director Edgar Wright had been scheduled to introduce Night of the Living Dead, but unfortunately, he had some issues with his visa and wasn’t able to make it. However, he did arrange for Simon Pegg to to fill in for him, which was really awesome. It was a movie that clearly meant a lot to him, so his intro was great. Getting to see the brand new, crystal-clear restoration of Night of the Living Dead in a theater was a real treat. I’d recently picked up the Criterion blu-ray of that movie so I knew how good the restoration was, but getting to see it in a theater with so many people having fun and with Simon Pegg’s introduction, this was easily one of my all-time favorite TCMFF screenings. Completely and totally worth staying up late for.