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Film/Life: Thelma Schoonmaker Presents

In 1989, at Seattle’s Burke Museum, I toured an exhibition of 19th-century Native American artifacts with the Legendary British film director Michael Powell (1905-90) and his wife, Thelma Schoonmaker, who has received three Oscars for editing all of Martin Scorsese’s films since 1980. Michael’s eyesight being somewhat dimmed, Thelma read a text panel of Chief Seattle’s words aloud: “Every part of this country is sacred to my people. Our dead never forget this beautiful world that gave them being. They still love its winding rivers, great mountains and sequestered vales, and they ever yearn in tenderest affection over the lonely-hearted living, and often return to visit, guide and comfort them.” Michael considered this for a moment, then looked at me with his intensely blue, far-seeing eyes: “That pretty much says it all, doesn’t it?”

 Young Powell was a “dreamy boy” of the English countryside, who grew up attuned to the mystical murmurings of nature and the invisible forces and connections that draw us to certain places and people, and that make us ponder the deep questions of life and death. Powell’s sense of the mythic in everyday reality, his ravishing pictorial vision, wild imagination, and questing heart empowered him to conjure true cinematic magic. King Arthur’s Merlin, Shakespeare’s Prospero, and Aladdin would rightly call him brother.

The Red Shoes (1948)

Almost every film Powell made with his writing partner, Emeric Pressburger, breathes the rarified air of fairytale or fable, even when set in post-World War II London. The Red Shoes, their most famous film, is based on the Hans Christian Andersen tale of a girl whose wish to dance at a grand ball in red shoes is granted. But the shoes are possessed by dark sorcery, and though the girl is tired at evening’s end and wants to go home, the shoes sweep her on and on, never stopping. The film sweeps us into the world of passionate young people who live to dance. It’s a rainy afternoon, everyone crowds into a threadbare back street theater, and someone turns on a record player. Vicky Paige (Moira Shearer, another of Powell’s red heads) takes the stage and, melded with the music, she twirls and twirls. As her body whirls around to a frontal position, Powell smites us with what The New Yorker’s Anthony Lane calls “the most stunning close-up in the history of cinema, a sudden bright ecstacy that verges on the demonic.”  This transcendent moment and Vicky’s religious devotion to her art pierce the chilly heart of impresario Lermontov (Anton Walbrook), who woos her into joining his celebrated European troupe.

Vicky embraces the gritty, punishing work necessary to make her body defy gravity with perfect grace, and she bonds with the colorful characters in Lermontov’s company. She’s especially fond of young composer Julian Kraster (Marius Goring), and she becomes an overnight star performing his The Red Shoes Ballet. Director Powell’s wizardry transports us from the dance-theater stage to an aesthetic-emotional realm of music, dance, Technicolor expressionism, and surreal design that embodies Christian Andersen’s fairy tale and the growing tension between Lermontov, Vicky, and Julian, for Vicky and Julian have fallen in love. Can “the comforts of human love” be enough for a woman who can soar like a goddess? Is being wedded to one’s art a matter of life and death? Over the years The Red Shoes has inspired countless people to become dancers, from classical to modern and avant garde.

As a New York youth, Martin Scorsese felt that The Red Shoes was the most powerful movie he had ever seen. Aside from the sheer joy of watching Powell and Pressburger’s films, Scorsese learned from them as he ventured into filmmaking. Powell always began a project with a sharp personal vision, got that vision onto the screen, and fought any meddling bean counters to keep it there. Years after Powell’s daring and disturbing film Peeping Tom ended his British career, Scorsese welcomed him (“my inspiration”) to his New York film family and was instrumental in bringing Powell’s work the critical and audience appreciation it deserved. Powell gave Scorsese good advice (“Raging Bull should be in black and white”), and fell in love with Scorsese’s new editor, Thelma Schoonmaker, who won her first Oscar for Raging Bull.

The King of Comedy (1983)

Actor Robert de Niro, who stunned the world with his searing performances in Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, brought Scorsese his next project, The King of Comedy. While Powell and Schoonmaker’s love blossomed, Scorsese was in a “Poor Me” mood: his marriage to Isabella Rossellini was crumbling and he felt lonely and dejected. The King of Comedy’s Rupert Pupkin (De Niro) doesn’t have the capacity for low spirits. He’s frantically, exuberantly ambitious in a one-track direction, to perform a ten-minute stand-up comedy spot on the TV show of his idol Jerry Langford (a wonderfully subdued Jerry Lewis). Rupert’s convinced that he’s bubbling over with talent, though, down in his basement, the cardboard figures of celebrities like Liza Minnelli don’t applaud when he delivers his act.

One day Rupert worms his way into Langford’s limousine and raves about his own dynamite talent. Langford invites him to a follow-up meeting, but it’s just a way of brushing him off. Scorsese has said that “the amount of rejection in the film is horrifying; there are scenes I almost can’t watch.” Horrifying, true, but also hilarious. Cutting rebuffs that would embarrass and shame a less obsessive person just spur Rupert on: he keeps bouncing back and reframing harsh setbacks as the challenging stepping stones of his creative mission. When all else fails, Rupert and his fellow Langford-worshipper Masha (the fierce comic Sandra Bernhard) kidnap Langford, with hopes of getting Rupert his TV gig. The extreme social chaos that Rupert and Masha perpetrate is nicely balanced by Langford’s quiet nobility as he copes with these two wild, absurd grown-up kids. Researchers say that we laugh with recognition when we experience familiar, perhaps endearing human foibles and shortcomings. But we also laugh nervously, when behavior is unexpectedly intense, and there’s danger in the air. Marlon Brando laughed so much at The King of Comedy that he hosted Scorsese and De Niro at his private Tahitian island.

Born in the British Isles, Michael Powell loved islands and waterways and, as a man in his eighties, saw that his life was a river flowing ever onward until “there will be nothing left for me but the open sea.” His spirit lives on in his wondrous, thoughtful, thrilling art, and in the hearts of Thelma Schoonmaker and Martin Scorsese. Twenty-eight years after Michael and Thelma’s 1989 visit, Thelma will join us at the Seattle Art Museum to present Powell and Pressburger’s The Red Shoes on Monday, March 6 and Scorsese’s The King of Comedy on March 7. She’ll introduce the films, answer audience questions and speak of her life in movies.

—Greg Olson, Manager of SAM Films

Images: Eagle-Lion/Photofest, © Eagle-Lion Films. 20th Century Fox. Eagle-Lion Films, Inc./Photofest, Photographer: George Cannon, 20th Century Fox/Photofest, © 20th Century Fox.

Migrations & Marches: Congressman John Lewis, Writer Andrew Aydin, & Artist Nate Powell

On February 22 Congressman John Lewis will present his graphic novel trilogy, MARCH, during Migrations & Marches, a SAM event taking place at Benaroya Hall in order to accommodate a larger audience. The event is presented as an educational opportunity for regional youth and a majority of the seats were reserved for students and their families. As a result, public seating was limited and the event sold out almost immediately. To allow more people to take part in this exciting program, we’re staying open late to host a free live stream of the talk in Plestcheeff Auditorium. We’ll also keep the Jacob Lawrence: The Migration Series exhibition open and free until 9 pm this evening. If you can’t make it to SAM, not to worry! You can tune in from the comfort of your home right here! The video will be available here to watch at any time after the event, as well.

Created with co-writer Andrew Aydin and New York Times best-selling artist Nate Powell, MARCH, recently the winner of the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, recounts the story of the civil rights movement through the eyes of one of its most well-known figures and shares important lessons about nonviolent activism and empowerment. Congressman John Lewis is an American icon whose commitment to justice and nonviolence has taken him from an Alabama sharecropper’s farm to a seat in Congress, from a segregated schoolroom to the 1963 March on Washington, and from being beaten by state troopers to receiving the Medal of Freedom from the first African-American president.

 

Encounter the Experiential Art of Paige Barnes at Olympic Sculpture Park

If you’re visiting the Olympic Sculpture Park in the next three months you might encounter the new artist in resident of SAM’s pilot residency program as part of Winter Weekends. Paige Barnes is a movement artist whose dancing is sinewy and soft. Even the angles she creates from ankle to elbow appear like feather tips, tilting and adjusting to the surrounding atmosphere. While at the Olympic Sculpture Park her movements are directed by visitors’ pulses.

Having recently completed a degree at Bastyr University to become a licensed acupuncturist practitioner, Barnes uses a medical vocabulary to describe the quality of the pulses informing her movement, but is not approaching the pulse diagnostically. In fact, once she takes a pulse there is no exchange until after she takes the visitor’s pulse again, after the multimedia performance, and notes any differences in heart rate and quality in reaction to the experience.

“fast flick & that knee flick It’s not the birds but the burrows that wild flying beetle who is all marmalade.” –Vanessa DeWolf, Video: Vida Rose

Far from medical in her vocabulary, is the text of Vanessa DeWolf, a writer working with Barnes who crafts a personalized poem for the visitor in response to Barnes’ dance. Visitors are given this poem, as well as a walking score based on different parts of the body that offers a suggested guide through the park. As Barnes dances, animator Stefan Gruber begins drawing. His digital marks are highly repetitive, leaving ghostly traces behind on the projected image of his work in progress. During a break in Barnes’ movement, bassist Evan Flory-Barnes begins a solo that continues once the dancing begins again. Making her way back across the room, Barnes comes to rest in front the visitor, whose pulse has beat all this creative energy into action. DeWolf reads aloud the piece she’s been writing this entire time and Gruber plays the animated version of the drawing he’s been making. Played linearly, the marks make a line drawing that moves and morphs, the previously disjointed marks now a visual echo of Barnes’ movement.

“And with her long unbroken beach and owls softly cooing this might be the softest hunt ever” –Vanessa DeWolf, Video: Sage Mailman 

Hesitant and fluid, occasionally staccato, intermittently delicate, Barnes creates improvised repetitions that flow like the blood, sometimes thick and viscous, sometimes thin and light. This chain reaction of artistic media is using landscape is a metaphor for the body: the liver is a meridian, the kidneys are a water element controlling fear and willpower.

Glimpse the process of this residency taking place Saturdays–Mondays in the PACCAR Pavilion. Weekends, Barnes and DeWolf will take pulse readings from 2–3 people and Mondays, the entire artist crew will take 2 pulse readings. Attend the Winter Weekend Art Encounters to see the ongoing outcomes of these pulse readings. The Friday, January 27 Art Encounter, Bridging Pulse, will be informed by the prior public pulse readings and feature the core group of artists. February’s Friday 24 Art Encounter will not include animation but will feature 10 dancers interacting with each other and responding to multiple pulse reading stations. For the third and final Art Encounter on March 31 will present Vanessa DeWolf’s writing as a lead character in a more intimate and contained performance.

“I’m available as a marble ten the pages open to where I will find it again” –Vanessa DeWolf, Video: Bruce Clayton Tom

At each Art Encounter you’ll notice a pulsing light directed outwards from the PACCAR Pavilion. This is the work of Amiya Brown, yet another collaborator in Page Barnes’ menagerie. Let this light, programmed to pulse at the pace of various Northwest lighthouses guide you safely towards these subtle and beautiful encounters.

–Chelsea Werner-Jatzke, Copywriter & Content Strategist

Film/Life: Viva Italia! Italian film From Neorealism to Fellini

Once again, we again team with Festa Italiana to celebrate classic Italian cinema.

January 12
Rome, Open City (Roberto Rossellini, 1945)
During the World War II Nazi occupation, Roberto Rossellini, a rich man’s son, playboy, and passionate intellectual, whose credo was “freedom above all else,” plotted in secret to attack Italy’s invading enemies with the sword of artistic expression. Believing that “ideas generate images,”  Rossellini sold his possessions, lived with Resistance partisans and, with Federico Fellini, crafted a scenario that celebrated the day-to-day heroism of Romans opposing oppression. In the film a fleeing Resistance leader is sheltered by a pregnant woman (the great Anna Magnani), with a sadistic Gestapo leader (Harry Feist) in pursuit, while an activist priest attempts to deliver money to the freedom fighters. This founding classic of neorealism has the intense immediacy of a documentary, and the heart and soul of a poem. Digital restoration, 101 min.

January 19
Europe 51 (Roberto Rossellini, 1952)
In the post-World War II years, Rossellini reacquainted himself with the pleasures of living well: his beautiful suits, cars, and women. He met the celebrated actress Ingrid Bergman (Casablanca), they fell in love, divorced their respective families, got married, and made films in Italy. A sensualist by nature, Rossellini also had a deep spiritual sensitivity, and had made a moving testament to St. Francis in 1950 (St. Francis, God’s Jester). The director was stirred by Francis’s compassion and devotion to helping others, and one day he said to Bergman, “I’m going to make a modern-day story about Francis, and Francis is going to be you.”  Rossellini had suffered the death of a beloved son, and in Europe 51 Bergman is a wealthy woman who, after her young son dies, shocks her husband (Alexander Knox) and friends by renouncing her privileged life to try to uplift the downtrodden. With Giulietta Masina (star of The Nights of Cabiria, and Federico Fellini’s wife). Digital restoration, 118 min.

February 2
Voyage in Italy (Roberto Rossellini, 1953)
Often called one of the most beautiful films ever made, Voyage explores the interplay between buttoned-up Nordic and relaxed Latin temperaments. An unhappily married couple (Ingrid Bergman and George Sanders) embodies the emotionally cool, rational hyper-efficient ethos of northern cultures. Rossellini, as a boy growing up in Naples, “felt the presence of the miraculous,” but Bergman and Sanders are in Naples for a business deal, to sell the villa they’ve inherited. Each on their own, they make separate excursions in the region that give them a taste of the Italians’ intimate bond with their mythic past, nature and sexuality. Rossellini immerses us in a world that “is for the departed as well as the living, something eternal,” a world that brings two northern visitors to their senses. Digital restoration, 97 min.

February 9
The Passionate Thief (Mario Monicelli, 1960)
This festive romp is a prime example of commedia all’italiana, which mixes laughter, desperation, and satire into a sparkling cocktail. Or many cocktails, since it’s New Year’s eve in Rome, and a movie extra (Anna Magnani) plunges into an all-night swirl of adventures with an actor friend (the comic Toto) and a suave crook (Ben Gazzara). The trio encounters La Dolce Vita’s Trevi Fountain, German aristocrats, and countless parties; they sing and dance, scramble and scheme as Magnani’s effusive persona makes the journey a soulful quest. Digital restoration, 105 min.

February 16
I Knew Her Well (Antonio Pietrangeli, 1965)

This rediscovered seriocomic gem of Swinging-Sixties Italy centers on Adriana (Stefania Sandrelli), a young  provincial beauty who comes to Rome with dreams of becoming a movie star. Innocent, guileless, and sexually alluring, she grows up quickly as she negotiates an obstacle course of tangential jobs and hungry men who “know her well.” But we who see the full arc of her life know her best. As one man says, “She may be the wisest of all.” Digital restoration, 115 min.

February 23
The Conformist (Bernardo Bertolucci, 1969)

This stunning masterpiece, an adaptation of Alberto Moravia’s novel, melds in-depth character study, Fascist politics and transcendent cinematic beauty in a sensual, operatic flow of images. In the prewar 1930s, a man (Jean-Louis Trintignant) represses his youthful sexual trauma by obsessively seeking conformity, thus endangering everyone he cares about. Ravishing cinematography by world-master Vittorio Storaro. Digital restoration, 115 min.

March 2
Padre Padrone (Paolo and Vittorio Taviani, 1975)
This moving autobiographical story of author Gavino Ledda’s life begins in rural Sardinia, where the boy’s father (padre) is also his boss (padrone). The youth (Saverio Marconi) is hungry for learning, but his father (Omero Antonutti) makes him tend sheep in solitude, unschooled. Can a traditionalist patriarch and a creative and ambitious son learn to accommodate each other? Winner of the Grand Prix and International Critics’ Prize, Cannes Film festival. Digital restoration, 113 min.

March 9
City of Women (Federico Fellini, 1980)

“Have you ever explored your female side?” an angry woman asks Marcello Mastroianni, who, as in La Dolce Vita and 8 ½, portrays director Fellini’s alter ego. For three decades Fellini has presented onscreen women of spirit, willpower and unique individuality, and men who are confused, enraptured and overwhelmed by them. In this film Mastroianni finds himself in a fantastical world dominated by women who make fun of his cluelessness. Ultimately, Fellini feels that the “taste of life” is in the mystery of men and women, the way we’re waiting for a message from each other. With Anna Prucnal, Bernice Stegers. Cinematography by Giuseppe Rottuno. Digital restoration, 140 min.

March 16
Night of the Shooting Stars (Paolo and Vittorio Taviani, 1981)
Via the viewpoint of a six-year-old girl, the Taviani brothers transform a chapter of Italian history, which they lived as youths, into a poetic legend. During World War II, on a night when wishes come true, a Tuscan farming village challenges their Nazi occupiers as liberating American forces draw near. The film, a highly acclaimed melding of realism and spiritual grace, has the look of early Cézanne paintings. With Omero Andonutti, Margarita Lozano. Digital restoration, 107 min.

Get series tickets now!

—Greg Olson, Manager of SAM Films

Photos: Embassy Pictures/Photofest

Film/Life: Yves Saint Laurent Selects

As he grew up, Yves Saint Laurent’s personal and professional sensibilities were shaped by the art of film. The Seattle Art Museum and Alliance Française de Seattle present two of Saint Laurent’s favorite films, Children of Paradise and Beauty and the Beast, plus Belle de jour, for which he designed Catherine Deneuve’s costumes, one of which is in Yves Saint Laurent: Perfection of Style.

October 26
Les Enfants du Paradis/Children of Paradise (Marcel Carné, 1945)

Children of Paradise (1945 France) aka Les enfants du paradis Directed by Marcel Carné Shown from left: Pierre Brasseur, Arletty

Young Yves Saint Laurent and the cinema-goers of the world were swept away by this visually lush, romantic, witty, and ironic epic of intertwined life and art in the 19th-century Paris of Balzac. There are comedies and dramas in the teeming streets of the Boulevard of Crime and on the Funambules Theatre stage. Outside, the soulful mime Debureau (Jean-Louis Barrault) saves the beautiful courtesan Garance (Arletty) from being falsely accused of theft. She is the mistress of the sly, murderous criminal Lacenaire (Marcel Herrand), but this doesn’t stifle her sudden surge of love for Debureau. Over the years, this threesome’s dance of changing partners and betrayals is joined by a classical actor (Pierre Brasseur), an  aristocrat (Louis Salou) and a young actress (Maria Cessarès) as director Carné and screenwriter Jacques Prévert show us that “poetry and cinema are almost the same thing.” And we can throw in “the world is but a larger stage” for good measure. Stunning art direction by Alexandre Trauner, costumes by Mayo. In French with English subtitles, 35mm, 195 min.

November 9
La Belle et la Bête/Beauty and the Beast (Jean Cocteau, 1946)

Beauty and the Beast (1946 France) aka Beauty and the Beast Directed by Jean Cocteau Shown from left: Jean Marais (as La BÍte), Josette Day (as Belle)

One of the most enchanting films for adults and children opens with poet-writer-director Jean Cocteau’s words: “Let me begin with the true ‘Open Sesame’ to childhood: Once upon a time . . .” In this marvelous live-action version of the classic fairy tale, an impoverished merchant (Marcel André) picks a rose for his daughter, Beauty (Josette Day) in a mysterious castle garden, and is confronted by the leonine Beast (Jean Marais), who accuses him of stealing. The Beast will spare his life if he sends Beauty to live at the castle. To save her father, she agrees, but faints when she first sees her fierce new companion. As her fear blossoms into compassion and affection, Cocteau conjures a wondrous realm of magic mirrors and golden keys, where tears become diamonds and “love can beautify ugliness.” It’s easy to see how this film about physical and emotional transformation could inspire Yves Saint Laurent, who would brighten women’s lives with creations of fabric and form. Art direction by Christian Bérard, costumes by Marcel Escoffier. In French with English subtitles, 35mm, 95 min.

November 30
Belle de jour (Luis Buñuel, 196
7)

Belle de Jour (France 1967) Directed by Luis Buñuel Shown from left: Macha Meril, Francoise Fabian, Catherine Deneuve

With abundant self-knowledge, Luis Buñuel, the cinema’s master Surrealist, said that “in the hands of a free spirit, the cinema expresses the life of the subconscious.” Beneath the chilly, reserved surface of a beautiful Parisian wife’s (Catherine Deneuve) bourgeois life, a torrent of unexplored sexual desire gushes. Like an innocent discovering an obscure pathway to her psyche and her body, she crosses the threshold of a brothel and goes to work. What she learns about herself in the house of women is a treasure of selfhood that she keeps secret, but her involvements with a young hoodlum (Pierre Clémenti) and her husband’s friend (Michel Piccoli) threaten to expose her. The film poses the provocative question: Is Deneuve’s narrative of emancipation all a dream or fantasy? One thing’s for sure: she wears, and steps out of, costumes by Yves Saint Laurent, one of which is in our exhibit Yves Saint Laurent: The Perfection of Style. Art direction by Robert Clavel. In French with English subtitles, 35mm, 100 min.

Get tickets now!

– Greg Olson, Manager of SAM Films

Images: Courtesy of Photofest.

Film/Life: Shadowland

Film/Life: Shadowland: The 39th Film Noir Series
Thursdays, Sep 29-Dec 11, 7:30 pm
Seattle Art Museum

Shadowland, where the past is haunted, but the future’s bright with big-money schemes. Where tough dames and wise guys live for midnight and hope to see the dawn. Where fate sings a blues tune and laughs in the dark.

Film noir is low-down, sexed-up, over the speed limit. It’s the juvenile delinquent child of brooding German Expressionist cinema aesthetics, French poetic realism, and American pulp fiction, godfathered by post-World-War-II malaise and timeless moral corruption.

The world’s longest running film noir celebration, called “the best series in Seattle film history” by Charles R. Cross, features a Top Pot doughnut opening night party.

September 29: Nightmare Alley (Edmund Goulding, 1947). “Film noir” is a French term, but it speaks eloquently to the American ethos of success at any price. Romantic matinee idol Tyrone Power stunned the world with his deep-delving portrayal of a carnival hustler who manipulates women and a gullible public to gain all the glittering prizes in life. Years ahead of its time, the film holds up a dark mirror to the show business of religion, and it gives a frightening whiff of a cunning animal hiding behind a respectable façade. In 35mm, 110 min.

October 6: The Chase (Arthur Ripley, 1946). Haven’t been to Cuba yet? Have we got a trip for you. One of the most evocative adaptations of master noir novelist Cornell Woolrich’s fictional world, The Chase centers on downtrodden war vet Robert Cummings. In Miami he finds, and returns, mobster Steve Cochran’s wallet. Hired to be Cochran’s chauffeur, Cummings meets the racketeer’s melancholy, victimized wife (Michele Morgan) and creepy henchman (Peter Lorre). Cummings is stirred by Morgan’s beauty, and her plight, and the film becomes a fever dream of escape to Havana, speeding cars and lurking menace. UCLA Film Archive 35mm print, 86 min.

Virginia Mayo

Virginia Mayo

October 20: T-Men (Anthony Mann, 1948). This gritty gem established the artistic reputations of director Anthony Mann and wizard noir cinematographer John Alton. Attempting to crack a Detroit counterfeiting ring, Treasury Agents Dennis O’Keefe and Alfred Ryder descend into a dangerous night world. Mann shows that there’s a thin line between the law and the lawless as the agents pose as hoods to infiltrate the gang. Alton’s camera bathes everything in cold shadow and hot light, and Wallace Ford has the cinema’s most memorable steam bath. With favorite gravel-voiced bad guy Charles McGraw. Library of Congress 35mm print, 91 min.

October 27: The Unsuspected (Michael Curtiz, 1947). Cultured and refined, the silky voice of Claude Rains tells tales of mystery and murder on his popular radio show. Obsessed with death and deception, as well as the need to gain control of a fortune and his niece’s opulent mansion, Rains plans to kill to get what he wants. And of course he will do it with finesse, as an exercise of his brilliant mind. Still, no matter how carefully he plans, blackmail, amnesia, and femme fatale Audrey Totter are beyond his control. Library of Congress 35mm print, 103 min. Screening includes a film discussion with critic Richard T. Jameson.

November 3: The Red House (Delmer Daves, 1947). This rare pastoral noir features the superb Edward G. Robinson as a crippled farmer who’s cared for by his devoted sister (Judith Anderson) and adopted daughter (Allene Roberts). Roberts has always been told to stay away from a strange, abandoned red house somewhere out in the woods, but one day she and hired hand Lon McCallister set out to find it. Twisted psyches, dark secrets and Miklos Rosza’s haunting music are sure to follow. Library of Congress 35mm print, 100 min.

November 10: Flaxy Martin (Richard Bare, 1949). An honest attorney (Zachary Scott) starts working for a crime syndicate. It’s not for the money—it’s the woman. He can’t resist mob boss Douglas Kennedy’s luscious girlfriend (Virginia Mayo), and she feels the same about him. But soon Scott’s trapped in a web of underworld machinations and sudden death. Maybe librarian Dorothy Malone can help. With the great Elisha Cook, Jr. as a small-time hood. Library of Congress 35mm print, 86 min.

November 17: The Prowler (Joseph Losey, 1951). Van Heflin appears to be a model policeman, but he’s out to get everything he can out of life, any way he can. The report of a prowler takes him to an affluent neighborhood, where he meets the lonely wife (Evelyn Keyes) of a popular, wealthy radio disc jockey (the voice of blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo). Heflin sees the sad and shapely Keyes as a ticket to the good life, and starts scheming on the wrong side of the law. UCLA Film Archive restored 35mm print, 92 min. Screening includes a film discussion with critic Richard T. Jameson.

December 1: Sweet Smell of Success (Alexander Mackendrick, 1957). Powerhouse Burt Lancaster plays a ruthless Broadway gossip columnist who has more than brotherly feelings for his sister (Susan Harrison). “Susie’s all I’ve got,” he tells nervous press agent Tony Curtis as he orders him to ruin the career of Susie’s jazz musician boyfriend (Martin Milner). This proves to be no easy task, even in “a dirty town” where brutal power rules and souls are for sale. With poetic dialogue by Clifford Odets, James Wong Howe cinematography and hot Chico Hamilton Quartet jazz. Digital cinema restoration, 96 min.

Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler (2014) Directed by Dan Gilroy

Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler (2014)
Directed by Dan Gilroy

December 8: Nightcrawler (Dan Gilroy, 2014). From the acid-dripping gossip columns of Sweet Smell of Success to the late-breaking video footage of Nightcrawler, the cynical, dark side of human nature makes news. An LA loner (Jake Gyllenhaal) fascinated by TV news starts shooting car wrecks and homicide scenes after the action’s over, and selling his footage to struggling news editor Rene Russo. His good artistic eye and gutsy pursuits advance his career, and one night he comes upon a crime as it’s happening. Does he pause to consider professional ethics, human decency and personal safety? Not for a second. Digital cinema, 104 min.

Get your series passes to Shadowland now!

—Greg Olson, Manager of SAM Films

Images: Courtesy of Photofest.

Film/Life: The Eternal Return of David Lynch

David Lynch Movie Night Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
Wed Jul 20 2016
7:30 Pm – 9:45 PM

Writer, director, furniture maker, painter, musician, songwriter, vocalist, and photographer David Lynch believes in reincarnation: “You die and you have a little time in a dream and, by golly, you come back.”

Born and raised in the Northwest (Montana, Washington, Idaho), Lynch, who now lives in Los Angeles, keeps coming back to our neck of the woods to reincarnate one of his most potent and enduring artistic dreams: Twin Peaks. In this international TV phenomenon (1990-91), Lynch’s floating-in-a-dream, emotional-visceral storytelling penetrated the dark woods and rainy mists of a small town to reveal secret desires and enigmatic metaphysical connections.

The idea of exploring beneath the surface of everyday reality is central to Lynch’s sensibility. His father was a Forest Service research scientist who probed pine trees for hidden disease, and for over three decades Lynch, the daily meditator, has plumbed the deep inner stream of his subconscious.

Things hummed along pleasantly in the town of Twin Peaks. People worked in the sawmill, chowed down at the diner, drank hot black coffee; kids went to school, everyone felt safe with Sherriff Harry Truman on guard—and then the sweetheart of the community, golden Homecoming Queen Laura Palmer, was found cold, blue, dead and wrapped in plastic on a lakeshore. Unprecedented for TV, we saw the town grieve for a harrowing period of time. Nothing less than innocence was lost, chaos reigned, an almost cosmic wound was suffered.

Laura Palmer

The FBI sent Dale Cooper to investigate, and he was indeed a Special Agent well beyond the parameters of his job description. He was dressed in regulation black suit, white shirt and dark tie, but his mind colored outside orthodox lines. He was a stalwart and true defender of the law, but he intuitively sought clues by throwing rocks at bottles while reciting people’s names, correctly read folks’ romantic status in a split second, entered “a box of chocolate bunnies” into the official record and voiced a child-like wonder at “those amazing trees you’ve got around here.” Cooper got to know Laura’s parents, her friends and those she loved, but all his efforts couldn’t solve the mystery of her killing. He knew that two plus two sometimes equals seven, but even his creative, non-linear mind couldn’t grasp the shape of an ancient evil that breathed in empty rooms. And he was haunted by Laura;  it felt like his mission was to save a girl who was already dead.

It took Lynch and his writing/production partner Mark Frost so long to reveal Laura’s killer that many viewers dropped out, and Twin Peaks was cancelled in its second season. The continuing story of Laura, Cooper, the town, and its denizens remained an energy-generating locus in Lynch’s mind, so in September of 1991 he and his cast and crew returned to the Snoqualmie Valley to shoot the theatrical film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. (This blog’s author, in stealth mode, witnessed much of the filming, as recounted in his book David Lynch: Beautiful Dark). The filmmakers expected the typical Northwest gloomy chill, but were met with a golden eighty-degree Indian Summer. Lynch believes that “things happen when they’re supposed to,” and he embraces artistic accidents. So since this prequel film would focus on Laura Palmer’s days and nights leading up to her death, he saw the unexpected death-of-summer atmosphere as a perfect fit.

Lynch is very much a hands-on creator, but for part of the TV Twin Peaks run he was away making his film Wild at Heart (1990), and when he resumed production he didn’t like the way the show had meandered away from its essence. So Fire Walk With Me is the intimate, direct-experience (rather than TV’s alluded-to) story of Laura and those she loves and fears. She’s a vital young woman who chooses/is chosen by the shadow side of life, a schoolgirl of the sorrows, but with delivering angels hovering near. For, though no one can convey the terrible power and beauty of darkness like Lynch, he believes in the white-light grace of transcendence. Sheryl Lee’s stunningly committed performance as Laura can make you feel that the order of the universe is at stake. In addition to the TV Twin Peaks’ fine cast (including the late, great Catherine E. Coulson as The Log Lady and Lynch himself as FBI Inspector Gordon Cole), Fire Walk With Me features Keifer Sutherland, Chris Isaak, and a tall, thin gentleman named David Bowie.

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992)Directed by David Lynch, Shown: David Bowie

Throughout the TV run of Twin Peaks, Lynch’s hypnotic narrative bent time and space, and made dreams invade reality. So, though Fire Walk With Me precedes Laura’s death, it also follows it; it’s a prequel and a sequel—and a bridge to the future. For the third time in twenty-seven years Lynch has brought his continuing story and cameras to the Northwest: the new incarnation of Twin Peaks will air on Showtime cable in 2017.

Get in the Twin Peaks mood with our Fire Walk With Me screening. The trees are green, the coffee’s black, the Red Room is as mysterious as a blue rose, and shades of good and evil color the night. Get your ticket today.

—Greg Olson, Manager of SAM Films

Images: Photo: Photofest. Photo: ABC/Photofest, © ABC. Photo: New Line Cinema/Photofest, © New Line Cinema.

Summer Mindfulness and Creativity

Like many of us who live in the Pacific Northwest, I was called to this region of the country because of its natural beauty, dramatic mountains, and sparkling waters. I moved here from the concrete flatlands of sprawling Midwest suburbia, where the air too often smells like a combination of diesel and fried food. Thankfully, I was raised by a mother who highly values experiences in the outdoors. She is also a fulltime professional artist, and as a resourceful single mother she brought her children along on her searches for inspiration in the natural world. My mom taught us to appreciate the outdoors by encouraging close attention: listen carefully and you can hear the wind under the wings of migrating Canadian geese; stand still long enough and you may just catch that tadpole. Trees were measured by hugs around their trunks, leaves applauded as they trembled in the breeze, thunderstorms were music to dance to, dirt was painting material, and a flower’s scent was joy juice. The natural world was full of magic and creative potential.

Seattle yoga summer classes at Olympic Sculpture Park

It’s clear now that my own mindfulness practice began in these early experiences with nature. The connections between mindfulness and creativity have been inherently linked throughout my life and I believe that’s true for so many others. Living in our busy urban environment, paying attention to beauty is especially important. We all know how easy it is to be caught up in the speed and pace of the day-to-day bustle. But there is magic here too.

“. . . I hear all sounds running together, combined, fused or following,
Sounds of the city and sounds out of the city, sounds of the day and night,
Talkative young ones to those that like them, the loud laugh of work-people at their meals,
The angry base of disjointed friendship, the faint tones of the sick,
The judge with hands tight to the desk, his pallid lips pronouncing a death-sentence,
The heave’e’yo of stevedores unlading ships by the wharves, the refrain of the anchor-lifters,
The ring of alarm-bells, the cry of fire, the whirr of swift-streaking engines and hose-carts with premonitory tinkles and color’d lights,
The steam-whistle, the solid roll of the train of approaching cars . . .
I hear the chorus, it is a grand opera,
Ah this indeed is music—this suits me. . . .”
–Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

I work at the Seattle Art Museum designing and implementing programs for art and the environment. Many of my programs take place at the Olympic Sculpture Park and I recently planned our robust Summer at SAM season. Every Saturday morning during July and August, hundreds of guests come to the sculpture park to participate in free outdoor yoga with 8 Limbs. It’s a fantastic and productive partnership. It’s also been a surprisingly rewarding program to work on personally. Imagine hundreds of people, all different backgrounds, ages, and skill levels, moving and breathing in sync to a backdrop of the Olympic Mountains, Puget Sound, and a masterful collection of minimalist modern sculpture. The energy of each body emanates through the entire nine acres of the park.

In my job, I often live in a world of thought that is fairly abstract, trying to translate complicated histories and dense art language to audiences through multidisciplinary programs. I also get to play with these ideas, stretch, pull, and bend the boundaries of the expected into the unexpected. Art and the environment is a broad subject that has room to encompass natural, built, and virtual environments. Within the field there is a lot of freedom to explore what it means to have a physical body that is deeply connected to and affected by its surroundings.

Free yoga classes with 8Limbs Yoga in Seattle
Yoga teaches awareness of the body’s relationship to the ground and earth, the space around and between bodies. It is guided by our interactions with nature and the very profound integration of our spirit, our physical makeup, and the cosmos. The Olympic Sculpture Park provides a unique setting for this awareness to take place at the intersections of art, nature, and the city. During practice, there is grass beneath your feet, breeze blowing from the waterfront, mountains in view, and native plants surrounding you. The city is alive and humming with noise from the street, railroad tracks, and neighborhood comings and goings of a growing area. Amid all of this, the park’s collection of modern and contemporary sculpture brings a focal point of creativity to mindfulness. You are, at once, a part of an entire community of systems and reminded of the many inspirations so readily offered if you just pay attention.

“Everything is gestation and bringing forth. To let each impression and each germ of a feeling come to completion wholly in itself, in the dark, in the inexpressible, the unconscious, beyond the reach of one’s own intelligence and await with deep humility and patience the birth-hour of a new clarity: that alone is living the artist’s life. Being an artist means not reckoning and counting, but ripening like the tree which does not force its sap and stands confident in the storms of spring without the fear that after them may come no summer. It does come. But it comes only to the patient who are there as though eternity lay before them, so unconcernedly still and wide.”
–Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

—Leah Oren, Program Associate for Art and Environment, Seattle Art Museum

8 Limbs instructors will teach two free yoga classes every Saturday at SAM’s Olympic Sculpture Park at 9 am (All Levels Flow) and 10:30 am (Level I) from July 9 through August 27. On September 10, 17, and 24 we will continue teaching one class at 10:30 am (Level I). There is no yoga offered over Labor Day weekend.

IMAGES: Photos by Robert Wade.

Film/Life: Cary Grant

Cary Grant for President
Thursdays, Jul 7-Aug 11, 7:30 pm
Seattle Art Museum

In this political year we celebrate the fun-loving intelligence and casual, stylish charm of Cary Grant, who critics, authors, and Clint Eastwood call “the best, most subtly brilliant actor in the cinema.” To put it simply, he’s comic perfection.

Of course perfection takes hard work, even for the man who makes everything look easy and elegant. We picture him at age eighty-two, impeccable in a cashmere sweater, lounging in his Beverly Hills garden. Or fifty years earlier, nonchalant in a formal tuxedo, laughing with Katharine Hepburn at a chic Hollywood soiree. But who’s this nine-year-old Archie Leach of Bristol, England, a child of working-class poverty and a traumatic home life? How did Archie grow up to be Cary, “the man from dream city,” as a character calls him in The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer?

A lonely child weary of his parents’ battles, Archie at nine was astounded to come home from school one day to find his mother gone—forever. Unbeknownst to the boy, his father had committed her to a mental institution and Archie had to live with the mystery of her absence. Alienated from his emotionally distant father and bored with school, Archie was a latch key kid fending for himself. Visiting backstage at a vaudeville stage show, he felt at home amid the “smiling, jostling people wearing costumes; they were cheerful and carefree; I had found a place to be, and people let me be there.”

Cary Grant in 1940

Cary Grant in 1940

Escaping from spiritual darkness, Archie made his way into the light-filled world he was born to inhabit. Mature for his thirteen years, bright, tall, good-looking, athletic and graceful, he began touring Britain with a vaudeville troupe, reveling in audience applause, and, eventually, his father’s pride.  Archie performed in New York at age sixteen, and the can-do American spirit, plus the exuberant, self-confident persona of swashbuckling US movie star Douglas Fairbanks, reinforced the English youth’s quest to discover and become his best self. And just as Archie’s vocal accent would become a unique blending of American and English tones, the English wit and sartorial paragon Noël Coward joined Fairbanks as an inspiring example of how to make one’s way through life.

Archie flexed his artistic muscles on the New York stage, singing, dancing, acting, doing magic tricks and acrobatic stunts, and getting laughs. He identified wet, cold weather with the emotional malaise of his Bristol childhood, and he vowed to always live where the sun shone. It was time. The movies were being made in California, so he got in his used Packard and drove cross-country to Hollywood. He knew where he was going and he was about to take a world of delighted moviegoers with him—but he had to do something about that name. He was Archie Leach, but he chose to be Cary Grant. “I played at being someone I wanted to be until I became that person. Or he became me.”

Bringing Up Baby (1938) Directed by Howard Hawks Shown: Katharine Hepburn (as Susan Vance) , Cary Grant (as Dr. David Huxley)

Bringing Up Baby (1938)
Directed by Howard Hawks
Shown: Katharine Hepburn (as Susan Vance) , Cary Grant (as Dr. David Huxley)

July 7: Bringing Up Baby (Howard Hawks, 1938). Our series begins at the pinnacle of screwball comedy, with serious-minded paleontologist Cary Grant at the top of a ladder putting together a dinosaur skeleton. His life is carefully planned: complete his project, get married tomorrow. But can the intrusive, chaotic whirlwind that is Katharine Hepburn and her pet leopard, Baby, show him a more wonderful life? Library of Congress 35mm print, 102 min.

July 14: My Favorite Wife (Garson Kanin, 1940). Bigamy was never so much fun as when Irene Dunne, lost at sea years ago, returns to find her husband (Grant) married to Gail Patrick. Juggling this crazy, comically contentious situation is difficult enough—and then hunk Randolph Scott, who Dunne was shipwrecked with, enters the picture. Library of Congress 35mm print, 88 min.

July 21: The Philadelphia Story (George Cukor, 1940). In this witty triumph for Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, and James Stewart, we join Philadelphia aristocrat Hepburn on the eve of her wedding to tycoon John Howard. Her ex-husband Grant, with a bemused light touch, hangs around the periphery letting her know that she’s making an unwise marriage. And newsman Stewart plunges right in, falling for the magnificent woman he’s been sent to report on. Which man Hepburn will choose remains a beautifully sustained question. Features a famous scene sparked by dialogue Cary Grant improvised. In 35mm, 110 min.

July 28: Arsenic and Old Lace (Frank Capra, 1944). Grant’s a master of polite reserve, so it’s a delightful contrast when he cuts loose and dithers about. What’s driving him to distraction? His wacky Brooklyn aunts just might be poisoning visitors and burying them in the cellar. And then sinister Peter Lorre and Raymond Massey come to call. In 35mm, 118 min.

August 4: Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (H.C. Potter, 1948). Jammed into a tiny Manhattan apartment with his wife (Myrna Loy) and two daughters, Grant dreams of a serene house in the country. He impulsively buys an ancient farmhouse, and gets cheated by the real estate agent in the process. Then, as he deals with a deluge of construction problems, the frustrated Grant has to listen to the wry comments of his friend Melvyn Douglas, who has a flirtatious eye for Loy. In 35mm, 106 min.

August 11: Charade (Stanley Donen, 1963). Grant always worked with the best performers, and his only pairing with Audrey Hepburn is a high-style comic thriller. Hepburn has a lot to be puzzled about: her husband is mysteriously dead, there’s stolen money, and menacing James Coburn and George Kennedy don’t wish her well. But one thing’s for sure—at one point she says to Cary Grant, “You know what’s wrong with you? Nothing.” With music by Henry Mancini. In 35mm, 113 min.

—Greg Olson, Manager of SAM Films

IMAGES: © RKO Radio Pictures Inc., Courtesy of Photofest.