The plans changed a bit this time. I had planned to write about a film that has been mentioned in more than one past column. I managed to get into an extremely early screening, and I couldn’t wait to tell you all about it.
Unfortunately, that will have to wait. When I say this was an early cut, I’m not doing it justice. It was still being filmed a month earlier. So the cut I saw was still digitized (prior to the actual processing of the film), with rudimentary editing, “filler” music and no credits. Given the understandably ramshackle state, everyone there had to sign a release agreeing not to discuss the project. If and when this film sees the light of day -- there’s no distributor yet, despite the presence of some large-ish indie film names -- I’ll talk about it more. For now, though, my lips are sealed.
In the meanwhile, I can tell you about some of the upcoming offerings at New York’s Film Forum. If you haven’t been to Film Forum before, you’re really missing out: This downtown triplex specializes in offbeat new releases and pristine revivals. The revival theatre spends about half its time showing mini-festivals (a Stanley Kubrick retrospective, say, or a series of "blaxploitation" films). It also rereleases old movies for one or two weeks, most recently a new print of Orson Welles’ 1962 retelling of Kafka’s “The Trial.”
Its next offering will be of special interest to theater buffs: It’s the 1953 movie of “Kiss Me Kate.” You may well have seen this on video or television, and a small chunk of Bob Fosse’s “From This Moment On” choreography can currently be seen in Fosse. But odds are you haven’t seen the film -- which features Howard Keel, Kathryn Grayson, Ann Miller, Fosse, Carol Haney and an uncredited Hermes Pan -- in its original 3-D incarnation. Bruce Goldstein, director of repertory programming at Film Forum, will be showing a new print at Film Forum for two weeks, starting July 7. “’Kiss Me Kate’ is probably the greatest experience you can have in a 3-D film,” Goldstein says. It was one of about 40 movies filmed in a process called Polaroid 3-D; this was a relatively complicated process that involved filming and then showing the film with two projectors, which are run simultaneously in perfect overlapping synchronicity. When viewed with 3-D glasses, this method virtually eliminates the “ghosting” that you sometimes see in 3-D movies. Cleaning a Polaroid 3-D print can be extremely painstaking today -- “each scratch looks like a meteor coming at you because it doubles in intensity,” Goldstein says -- and Film Forum is one of only four existing screens that can accommodate the process. (The theatre screened Alfred Hitchcock’s 3-D “Dial M for Murder” last year and plans to show the Vincent Price horror classic “House of Wax” in September.)
With the exception of a few tossed garments in “Too Darn Hot,” “Kiss Me Kate” wouldn’t seem to rely on as many 3-D gimmicks as one is accustomed to seeing. But as Goldstein points out, the staging of the play-within-a-play makes unique use of the 3-D effect: “It’s neat when the proscenium seems to jump out at you.”
(Goldstein is also in the process of getting the rights to rerelease another major film musical, one that has been out of circulation for more than 20 years now. That’s all I can say right now, but I’ll let you know if that changes.)
As it happens, Film Forum has planned a one-two punch for stage devotees. Rainer Werner Fassbinder is best known for directing such acclaimed works as “Despair” (written by Tom Stoppard) and the 15-hour “Berlin Alexanderplatz,” but he also tried his hand at writing plays. “Water Drops on Burning Rocks” (July 12), a play he wrote at the age of 19 but never saw produced, has just been adapted for the screen by up-and-coming French director Francois Ozon (“See the Sea”).
“Water” makes for a natural transition to the big screen despite its stage origins, says Nancy Gerstman, copresident of Zeitgeist Films, which is distributing the film. “It’s not a static play,” she says. “It’s really kinetic and really out there. It’s very much in Francois’ style, with a little Fassbinder thrown in.”
Film Forum is scheduled to screen “Water” for two weeks, with the possibility of an extension. After that, Gerstman plans to release the film in 25 or 30 major markets over the course of the summer.
For some reason, I’ve received a fair number of e-mails asking about the “Chicago” film recently. Unless a lot of minds have changed drastically, this project is completely dead. Last I heard, Madonna lost interest once Goldie Hawn was shown the door for a younger actress (most likely Charlize Theron). Nicholas Hytner has walked away from it, and someone very high up in the decision-making process assures me that it’s off. Of course, things change in Hollywood, but that’s where it currently stands. Sorry, gang.
My Favorite Thought: Nobody else seemed to like “Love’s Labour’s Lost,” either. (Although I swear I have the gentlest readers out of any performing arts Web site; Some of the vitriol that comes out of a lot of movie sites is just shocking.) Anyway, Will had the kindest things to say about it:
“I was quite excited to see ‘Love's Labour's Lost’ but spent the majority of the film shaking my head 'no.' It looks as if they spent too much effort with that eyebrow-raised self-awareness...and too little on the musical numbers. Sure, the singing wasn't great, but the choreography was appallingly boring! But it wasn't a truly awful film. It was slightly redeemed by the bittersweet finale.”
More in line with my general impression was Julie:
“I too was disappointed in ‘Love's Labour's Lost.’ Actually, disappointed is perhaps too mild a word. Initially, I wasn't quite sure if it was supposed to be some parody of a movie musical, which its laughable dance sequences and absurdity seemed to point to. But if it was indeed a parody, what the heck would be the point of that? That interpretation ruled out, I concluded that Branagh had, unfortunately, gone temporarily mad. His previous movies and performances are nothing short of brilliant, but this was just painful to watch.”
Your Thoughts: I should have asked this a while ago, but where are you people from? I try to avoid New York-centric topics as a rule because I see that many of you are scattered far and wide, but I’ve never conducted any kind of official request. So fess up. Who exactly is out there? And do you mind the occasional NYC column, or would you rather see broader coverage?
Eric Grode is New York bureau chief of Show Music magazine, assistant editor of The Sondheim Review and a theater critic for Back Stage.