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Q&A: Director Bruce Weber & Cinematographer Jeff Preiss on Their Chet Baker Documentary LET’S GET LOST
On Thursday, May 5, 2016, director Tim Hunter joined Nitehawk film programmer John Woods to discuss RIVER’S EDGE following a sold out 35mm screening of the film. Throughout the chat, the two talk on the real teenage murder and cover-up that inspired the film; landing the likes of Dennis Hopper, Crispin Glover, and Keanu Reeves for a cheapo indie (“God watches over independent films”); and how his experience filming his previous film, Over the Edge, lent credibility to the youth culture featured in River’s Edge.
On June 2, Nitehawk’s books on screen series, Booze & Books, celebrates the new edition of Vicki Baum’s Grand Hotel, published by New York Review Books, with a 35mm screening of the film classic starring Greto Garbo, John Barrymore, and Joan Crawford (amongst many others). The new publication, which will officially be available on June 7 but we’ll have it for sale earlier at our screening, features an introduction by Noah Isenberg. Just yesterday, NYRB put an excerpt of Noah’s introduction which we’re happy to provide a little taste of here…
EAVESDROPPING ON WEIMAR
In the preface to her posthumously published memoirs, It Was All Quite Different, written in 1960, the last year of her life, Viennese-born writer Vicki Baum begins with a reckoning of sorts:
You can live down any number of failures, but you can’t live down a great success. For thirty years I’ve been a walking example of this truism. People are apt to forgive and forget a flop because they care little about things that aren’t in the papers or on television, and a book that fails dies silently enough. But a success, moth-eaten as it may be, will pop up among old movies or as a hideous musical or in a new film version, or in a Japanese, a Hebrew, a Hindu translation—and there you are.
The success to which Baum is referring is her international best seller Grand Hotel. In the novel, Baum brought her readers into a complex, multi-perspectival world—in this case a luxurious, pulsating, yet vaguely tragic first-class hotel—in which they can eavesdrop on the conversations, and on the lives, of the finely observed people that she presents. Readers became so attached to the characters that when the novel was initially serialized in the Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung, whose circulation at the time topped two million, they wrote letters of protest after a certain unnamed character (no spoilers here) gets killed off late in the story. Originally published as Menschen im Hotel in Berlin in 1929, the book was quickly adapted to the stage, co-written by Baum, where it opened in January 1930 to rave reviews and an extended run at the Theater am Nollendorfplatz under the direction of Max Reinhardt and his star pupil Gustaf Gründgens (who played the leather-clad gangster boss in Fritz Lang’s M the following year).
When Grand Hotel was published in the United Kingdom in 1930, it earned a new round of impassioned accolades from both critics (“brilliant” and “especially poignant to the present day”) and the public. After an English-language stage adaptation made a major splash on Broadway, Doubleday released the American edition in early February 1931. It spent several weeks at the top of the Publishers Weekly bestseller list and sold 95,000 copies in the first six months. Baum soon relocated to Hollywood, where she assisted in adapting her story to the screen at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer; the credit sequence of the film features her prominent byline beneath the title. In 1932, she attended the glitzy premiere in Times Square, escorted by none other than Noël Coward. Directed by Edmund Goulding and starring Greta Garbo, the Barrymore brothers, and Joan Crawford, the film earned the studio the Oscar for Best Picture that year.
Following the New York premiere of HIGH-RISE at the Tribeca Film Festival, director Ben Wheatley came to Nitehawk on April 21 to talk about Ballard, architecture, sound design, and Tom Hiddleston. To make the evening even more special, Wheatley gave everyone in the audience a HIGH-RISE shirt that he illustrated and Norton provided new versions of J.G. Ballard’s novel HIGH-RISE. What a great night…and Wheatley has the pics to prove it!
Thanks to Magnolia Pictures, Norton, and Mr. Wheatley!
HAWKS NITE OUT: The Wicker Men at Villain
Sunday, May 1; 5pm | TICKETS
There is no better filmic celebration of Mayday than the Christopher Lee-starring, Robin Hardy-directed, horror classic, The Wicker Man (1973). In honor of its brilliant unusualness, cultural importance, and Lee’s amazing hair, below is a text I wrote last year called How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare. The essay was written in collaboration with UK artist Darren Banks’ solo exhibition, Backwater, and compares the film to Joseph Beuys’ performance piece that gives the text its title.
How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare
Robin Hardy’s bizarre film The Wicker Man (1973) situates horror at the boundaries of sanity and puts varying degrees of morality up for grabs. Emerging at the death rattle of the utopian ideal that was widely envisioned in the 1960s, it is situated amongst American shockers The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) and Last House on the Left (1972) which grappled with the disillusionment of societal stability in the wake of the Vietnam War, the assassinations of Martin Luther King Junior and Robert F. Kennedy, the 1969 riots, and emerging fragile economies. The Wicker Man is a decisively British interpretation of this failure by hippie culture and reactively calls those in authority into question. At the same time, it challenges a reluctance to return to nature and the generation’s abandonment of community in favor of new individualism. It’s a unique film that both embraces and discards community, nature, sex, religion, capital, and the value of life.
Ahead of its April release, Nitehawk hosted director Jeremy Saulnier (Blue Ruin) to talk about his punks vs. white supremacists blood bath Green Room. Headed up by Entertainment Weekly writer Kevin O’Sullivan, the two share a funny talk about Saulnier’s punk rock past, the film’s genre movie roots (“it’s a way to get Mad Max for super cheap”), and why he followed up a critical darling like Blue Ruin with a bloody, hard hitting punk thriller.
“If you think you are the one person to make the one movie at the one time then you know it’s the right choice… even though it seems lazy.” – Jeremy Saulnier
Following our Local Color screening of CREATIVE CONTROL, the film’s writer and director Benjamin Dickinson sat down for a chat with Tribeca Film Festival Senior Programmer Cara Cusumano. Creative Control is a satirical look at a bleak, Yuppified near future of Williamsburg and its so-called “creative class” – or, as Dickinson puts it – “a miasma of crapulence and self-hatred.” Cusumano prods Dickinson on his visual inspirations – Antonioni and luxury advertisements – and the challenge of switching between the emotional taxation of acting and the analytical eye of directing.