Wednesday, September 21, 2005

repeat screenings, new gleanings

It happens every year. Sometimes there is simply nothing else in the time slot. Sometimes someone offers me a ticket to a premiere. Sometimes I just love a film so much I have to see it again. But every film festival includes a number of repeat screenings. Obviously, a second screening allows a chance to find new nuance and meaning. But it also offers an unexpected opportunity to see a film with a different audience, or in a different kind of venue or context. My three repeat screenings of this year all added unexpected new appreciation. One of them, Elizabethtown, I will deal with in the next post.

The press/industry screening of Mary occurred in the middle of the first Saturday afternoon - a day that is probably the most attended by industry professionals of the whole festival. The screening was sold out. The reception was quiet throughout (a good sign generally with this group - no phones clicking on; no flashlights examining timetables). The sober intensity of the film registered fully on all gathered. The next night, I saw it again in the context of the public screening, attended by remarkably inarticulate director, Abel Ferrara and actor Matthew Modine, who had just seen the film for the first time and hadn’t had a chance to digest it. The editor, Langdon Page, was the only coherent member of the group able to express the movie’s aesthetic. The mostly evasive and hollow answers to the questions of the other two left me feeling less certain about the film - and wondering if it was more an accident of fate in the hands of its skilled editor, than a careful construction of vision and ideology. The film has met with mixed critical response and after the second screening I was beginning to understand why.

Liza with a Z could not have had a more euphoric screening than the one at the Elgin theatre that first Friday afternoon. With Ms. Minnelli and a host of others in attendance, and accompanied by my friends, it would have been impossible to live up to its significance and exuberance in any other screening. But sitting quietly with it on my own tv in the press/industry library (just one of several films I looked at there), I was surprised by how deeply it still affected me. The disappointingly unspectacular direction of Bob Fosse that my friends and I had noted post-screening, seemed more impressive in this small screen version. I was forced to remember that it was made for television - and what had not seemed to work in the big screen (Fosse’s overwide shots of the stage) actually lent a dignity in its formality when brought down to the small screen. And the out of focus projection had a shaper clarity in places so that expressions were more clearly visible.

There are films that I wish I could have seen twice. I wanted to see Romance and Cigarettes again, especially since it has had great trouble seeing the light of day and its release date keeps getting pushed back (It was only once previously screened - at Venice). I could have seen Sketches of Frank Gehry again just for its wonderful forms and shapes. And I found myself yearning for some of the serene images from Into Great Silence. But that could be just the weary body and soul, tired of navigating the noisy city streets!

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