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Found 3 results

  1. The 1988 British film, "Madame Sousatzka," is one of "those" movies that's a personal favorite, but also one which you tend not to recommend to others, since it's so esoteric and focused - you just don't think that most people will enjoy it. I'd seen John Schlesinger's film revolving around an eccentric piano teacher (Shirley MacLaine in a uniquely quirky performance as Irina Soustazka), and her current young piano prodigy, Manek Sen (played excellently, and (just as importantly) with pretty convincing piano, by 16-year-old Navin Chowdhry). Anyway, I'd seen Madame Sousatzka at least twice in the past - once when it was released, at least one additional time on video, and then over-and-over again with some of my favorite clips on YouTube. However, a couple weeks ago on Amazon Prime, I rented it again, and began noticing scenes that I simply did not remember. At first, I thought the passage of time had dimmed my memory, but this continued to occur, and then it became obvious that in the past, enormous portions of the film had been edited out - perhaps almost as much as thirty minutes. I had always felt like this was a charming film, full of brilliant moments, but also with wasted potential throughout; now, I know why I thought this: It's because, for whatever reason, editors had gutted enough scenes to leave the versions that I saw nearly incoherent at times. Now, for the first time ever, I feel like I've actually experienced Madame Sousatzka as Schlesinger intended for me to see it - the difference between this experience, and past experiences, was remarkable enough so that I can't think of another film that had been so thoroughly stripped of its vitality and essence. I now realize that what I'd previously thought as simply foibles in the story, was actually tragedy in the editing room - this film had been denuded of what makes it great, and *now* I can finally say, after nearly thirty years, that Madame Sousatzka is a great film. The more you know about classical music, especially the standard concert piano repertoire, the better. Chowdhry isn't actually playing the pieces, but his fingers are hitting the notes, even in the most difficult pieces, so he was clearly a high-level amateur pianist that had studied the instrument for years. He was also utterly charismatic, charming, and the oldest of old souls, considering he played a sixteen-year-old. If you've ever watched Madame Sousatzka, and feel as I felt (that it was a "fun, cute movie with lots of holes"), please do yourself a favor and watch it on Amazon Prime. I remember during this Charlie Rose interview, David Lynch's outrageously terrible flop, "Dune" (which I contend is one of the worst movies I've ever seen), is revealed by Wallace to have been completely butchered by editors, to the point of rendering it incoherent. Although not as bad as "Dune," what the editors did to "Madame Sousatzka" is surely in the same vein - they very nearly killed the movie. (Full disclosure: I think Frank Herbert's "Dune," beloved by many science-fiction fans, is one of the most interminable, arduous books I've ever read - it took me over six months to read, and I hated myself for finishing it.) I won't spoil the plot for you, but this is not action-packed, and is very much of a cerebral film (with a couple of very hair-raising moments). Please give Madame Sousatzka another chance - it's a wonderful film, and I never even knew it. It's remarkable that I can't find *anything* on the internet about it ever having been butchered (or restored). One last thing: There are numerous supporting roles (close to a half-dozen) that are all superb - this is a very, very strong cast. Yes, even Twiggy.
  2. Midnight Cowboy is one of "those movies" I assumed that I'd seen before, but upon watching it, I realized there's absolutely no way I had. What an amazing acting duo by Voight and Hoffman (Hoffman got top billing, but I think Voight captured this film). While this may be the first example of a long string of overacted character roles by Hoffman, he still managed to pull it off. Voight, on the other hand, just plain owned this movie - I cannot imagine anyone playing a better Joe Buck. This plot became so complex and dark that I was mesmerized and stunned into silence. I'd had a long day, and had to work to stay on top of things - this is not a film to be tossed off lightly. It's interesting that 1967 was considered the Big Year of Hollywood turnaround ("the year Hollywood grew up"), and Midnight Cowboy, two years later, carried that torch appropriately into the near future. This film was very sad, and it was progressive of the Academy to award it Best Picture given it's nudity and melancholy overtones.
  3. I hadn't seen "Marathon Man" since I was in high school - given my filtered memory, I'm surprised at how slow the film starts off, but once it builds (about one-third or one-half way through), it builds quickly and relentlessly. It's a fiendishly fun thriller that will make you wince, pity, fear, and cheer, all with unresolved questions at the end, but you may be surprised at how slowly the film begins. An obvious repeated theme in this film is pain, and the ability to "run through it," and the marathon motif is no MacGuffin - it's highly symbolic of the horrors which are coming. Speaking of MacGuffins, I've started working my way through "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" whose thread you'll find in that link - I hope people see an episode they remember, and feel free to discuss it, as with all the old TV series that I've gone through - it has been, and continues to be, my hope that our members will find this to be a fun place to discuss their old favorites, right down to the sub-atomic level of detail - same goes with all these old films I've been joyfully revisiting. One of my goals with this website is to get some of my knowledge down on paper for future generations, so they don't have to learn it all over again. Although there's no "knowledge" in this little essay, I hope it at least gives you a stroll down memory lane - who knows? Maybe it will inspire some of you to watch the film again, decades later. My only regret is that our human lifespan isn't 250 years so I could do everything I'd like to do, but if it was 250 years, I'd wish it were a thousand, and if it were a thousand, I'd wish it were a million (unless, of course, I was in "The Escape Clause," - "The Twilight Zone," Season 1, Episode 6, co-starring none other than the first Latino ever to be nominated for an Academy Award, Thomas Gomez). There's a humorous, famous, and somewhat legendary story about an interplay between Dustin Hoffman and Sir Lawrence Olivier about "Why don't you just try acting?" that's worth reading about. It is nearly disturbing how much I find William Devane to resemble Jack Nicholson in this film. I cannot possibly be the only one who has noticed this - if Jack Nicholson and Robert F. Kennedy had had a baby, it would have been William Devane. The other two supporting roles, played by Roy Scheider and Marthe Keller completes the billing of quite a talented cast, with even more character actors who played their roles very well - the cast may have been this film's biggest overall strength, or number two just behind the unrelenting suspense which lasts for over an hour.
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