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March 30, 2017
Saturday, April 18, 2015

Classics shine through in restored versions

A scene from Orson Welles’ dazzling b&w film The Lady From Shanghai.
A scene from Orson Welles’ dazzling b&w film The Lady From Shanghai.
By Pablo Suárez
For the Herald
BAFICI’s wide-ranging selection graces the screens of the City’s film fête

When you talk about a classical film, you usually mean films from the Golden Age of Hollywood, which lasted from the late 1920s (the end of the silent era) to the early 1960s.

A Hollywood classic typically is a landmark film with big stars, excellent production values, a riveting narrative, an outstanding set of aesthetics, and a very distinctive identity. Then there are films outside the Hollywood studio system — either in the US or in other countries — that reach a similar status for all or some of the same reasons, and are considered classics as well. In any case, we're talking about films which critics and general viewers have embraced ever since they premiered; features that have defied the passing of time and survived in the cinematic memory of several generations.

In this year's BAFICI's Clásicos restaurados (Restored Classics) section, there are 16 classics of all kinds from the US, France, Argentina, Canada, the UK, and Russia. The following is my personal top five, none of them to be missed. Of course you've seen them before, but now you get the benefit of watching them on the big screen in deftly restored versions.

In La tregua (Argentina, 1974), directed by Sergio Renán and co-written with Aída Bortnik, based on the eponymous novel by Uruguayan writer Mario Benedetti, there’s not only a most tender and caring yet ultimately doomed love story between Martín Santomé (Héctor Alterio), a lonely and disillusioned widower about to turn 50, and Laura Avellaneda (Ana María Picchio) a woman half his age, but also a sensitive examination of how ordinary people strive to have less ordinary existences so they can feel more alive in the middle of so much routine and melancholy. With a dream-team cast including Luis Brandoni, Marilina Ross, Antonio Gasalla, Carlos Carella, Norma Aleandro, Cipe Lincovsky, Oscar Martínez, and Walter Vidarte, La Tregua was the first Argentine and South American film to ever be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film.

Marilyn Monroe and Rita Hayworth, two equally beautiful Hollywood legendary stars, have a place to shine on in Billy Wilder’s The Seven Year Itch (US, 1955) and Orson Welles’ The Lady From Shanghai (US, 1947), two superbly shot Tinseltown productions filled with vibrant, sparkling colours, and dazzling black and white chiaroscuro, respectively.

When the wife and son of Richard Sherman (Tom Ewell) take a vacation and he's left alone at home, he happens to notice that a gorgeous young blonde, the Girl (Marilyn, who else?) lives in the apartment above him. After seven years of marriage, he wants to sample other dishes. And Marilyn certainly is like having a full course dinner at Maxim’s. Would you blame him? The Seven Year Itch not only unabashedly shows Marilyn’s alluring legs in the unforgettable subway scene, but it’s also the film — perhaps together with Wilder's Some Like It Hot — which displays her knack for comedy at its best. Granted, she may not have been a great actress, but she could have fooled you if you’d only seen her here.

You could say pretty much the same about Rita Hayworth. She wasn't a gifted thespian — she only got a nomination for a Golden Globe in her whole career — and yet in the visually sumptuous The Lady from Shanghai she is Elsa Bannister, the perfect femme fatale, another blonde beauty (remember that Orson Welles, who was her husband at the time, made her dye her hair for the part) who sets up a web of lies and deceit for everybody to fall into only to be herself the final prey. With a convoluted murder plot that begins with a weird yachting cruise and ends up in a maddening shootout in a fun house's hall of mirrors, The Lady from Shanghai is way more than a fine exercise in style — as has often been labelled: it's a splendid piece of classical film noir.

In David Lynch's masterpiece Blue Velvet (US, 1986), the finest neo-noir takes central stage as Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle Maclachlan), a young college student, finds a human ear in an empty lot on his way back to Lumberton to visit his hospitalized father.

He teams up with model student Sandy Williams (Laura Dern) and together they embark on a bizarre, quite surreal investigation which includes falling in love with Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rossellini), a suffering femme fatale — much to Sandy's despair and to his own safety.

Rejected by the Venice Film Festival for its disturbing yet mesmerizing sexual scenes, Blue Velvet was also Lynch’s first film to entirely delve into one of his recurring themes: the inherent duality of everything.

For there are two sides to everything: that which is on the surface and that which lies beyond. And they are very close to each other: Lumberton is both luminous and shadowy, secure and perilous, pure and perverted. And so is everybody who lives there.

Which is a similar idea tackled by David Cronenberg in much of his work, most ostensibly in Dead Ringers (Canada, 1988), the story of Beverly and Elliot Mantle (Jeremy Irons), twin gynaecologists whose psyches are completely opposite while they are physically identical — something they use for their own profit.

That is, until their relationship begins to deteriorate over a new woman. And it is precisely the dreary, unstoppable process of degradation and dissolution these two beings that are one suffer under the threat of a third party that Cronenberg's keen eye dissects as clinically as the twins examine, use, and sometimes abuse their helpless female patients.

When and Where

— La tregua, April 20 at 9pm, Village Recoleta. April 21 at 12.30pm, Village Recoleta.

—The Seven Year Itch, April 18 at 9pm, Village Caballito. April 21 at 5.10, Village Recoleta.

—The Lady From Shanghai, April 23 at 8pm, Arte Multiplex Belgrano. April 24 at 3.30pm, Arte Multiplex Belgrano.

— Blue Velvet, April 18 at 9pm, Arte Multiplex Belgrano. April 24 at 12.30pm, Village Recoleta.

— Dead Ringers, April 19 at 11pm, Village Caballito. April 20 at 6.30pm, Village Caballito.

@pablsuarez
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