Archive for July 2015
For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to watch old movies. As a kid, I went through the TV Guide every Sunday to see what classic films would air that week. I’d circle the ones I NEEDED to see. Many of them were on way past my bed time. My dad, who knew what these films meant to me, made some sneaky moves so I could watch and Mom wouldn’t know. Well, I’m sure she had an inkling. Dad would maneuver the television so I could see it from my secret spot in the hallway. As I craned my head to watch James Coburn answer the phone in that café in occupied France, I was hyper aware of my parents’ movements on the sofa. One false move, or lack thereof, would mean a scolding along with the near certainty that I would have to go back to bed and miss the rest of the movie. So I crouched uncomfortably on the tips of my toes so I could spring up and sprint the few steps to my bedroom and jump under the covers if I sensed one of them getting up for a snack during the commercial.
I saw a lot of amazing things from my private theatre seat in the shadows. Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen saved a village from Eli Wallach. Marlon Brando and Karl Malden had a beer and foiled Lee J. Cobb. Paul Newman played some pool. Clint Eastwood and Donald Sutherland fought negative waves and the Germans for a fortune in gold. Michael Rennie and Patricia Neal tried to save the world. I witnessed all these momentous events from a hiding place a few steps from my bedroom. At night I’d watch Charles Laughton defend Tyrone Power and during the day, I’d look at my walls covered with posters of McQueen on a bike jumping that barbed wire fence and Harpo Marx holding up a swordfish.
Of all the things my parents gave me, and they gave me a lot, one of the things I’ll always be happiest about is that they encouraged my love of movies. Now that I have a child of my own, it thrills me when my teenager walks into the room and says, “Is that Joan Crawford? She looks so young.” I still watch a lot of movies, but now I do it from the comfort of my couch instead of squished against the wall in my parents’ hallway. Some things are nearly the same though. I still check the schedule for Turner Classic Movies every week to see what gems I NEED to DVR and I still look at my walls, but this time I see the faces of Robert Mitchum and Orson Welles looking back at me.
I still can’t get enough of this.
PEGGY GUGGENHEIM: ART ADDICT tells the story of a woman born into a wealthy family who decides to collect art. It doesn’t sound terribly exciting until you learn that she promoted and supported Picasso, Kandinsky, Klee, Mondrian, Motherwell, and Pollock. She had affairs with or married Pollock, Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, and Samuel Beckett and many others. She created galleries in London and New York and a museum in Venice which bears her name. Without her efforts at the start of World War II, many works of art and artists themselves might have been lost to the Nazis. She may have been a fascinating character, but all we learn about her is that she loved to collect modern art and lovers. All anyone in the film says about her personality I that she’s odd and a black sheep.
Shades of Venice
The film touches on the eccentricity of the Guggenheim family as well. According to the film, Peggy’s sister, embroiled in a contentious custody hearing, pushed her two kids off the roof of a New York skyscraper. No one pressed charges. Aside from her unbalanced sister there’s Peggy’s father, Benjamin, whom she adored and who died on the Titanic, famously giving up his seat on a lifeboat to another passenger. Peggy’s uncle Solomon, founded the Solomon R. Guggenhein Museum in New York City.
Uncle Solomon’s garage.
I enjoyed PEGGY GUGGENHEIM: ART ADDICT although the film does less to enlighten us on the life and personality of the subject and more to name drop artistic and literary giants of the twentieth century. That said, it was fun seeing Picasso and Max Ernst clowning around and Jackson Pollock smiling as he straddled a huge canvas on his Long Island lawn. That lawn, the house on it, and the food Pollock ate subsidized by Peggy Guggenheim, by the way.
Mural by Jackson Pollock
Lisa Immordino Vreeland, the granddaughter-in-law of fashion writer Diana Vreeland, directed the film as a survey course on the life of Peggy Guggenheim. I left knowing more about Peggy, but not a lot more. Whether the subject and her friends balked at saying much about her or Vreeland just wanted to whet our appetite is unclear. It does seem that a Jewish woman who smuggled valuable modern art out of Paris as the Nazis marched in and who had a headboard designed for her by Alexander Calder warrants a more exciting treatment.
Peggy and friends under her Calder headboard.
I saw PEGGY GUGGENHEIM: ART ADDICT at the 2015 Provincetown International Film Festival.
The six Angulo brothers and their younger sister live in an apartment on the lower east side of Manhattan. Since they rarely venture out of their apartment, they learn about the world outside by watching and reenacting movies. They painstakingly transcribe dialogue and recreate props and costumes from their favorite films and act them out in their cramped apartment.
The Angulos’ cardboard and duct tape Batman
That part is fun. Then, there’s real life. The boys live with their mom and dad, too. Dad, part cult leader/part drunken asshole, decided years ago that the kids would be home-schooled and rarely, if ever go outside. Dad only goes out for groceries and wine. Mom, who drank the Kool-Aid years ago, rarely goes out herself since her husband has the only key. Neither he nor his wife has a job.
The boys watching a film in their apartment.
The kids, the oldest of whom is about 18, sport thigh-length hair because Dad says so. They seem remarkably well-adjusted despite their veal-like upbringing. The boys are bright, curious, and articulate. Most people would have gone out of their tree a long time before this, but they’re resourceful, loyal, and quick to smile. First time director Crystal Moselle hit the jackpot with THE WOLFPACK. According to Moselle, she ran into the six boys during one of their rare field trips into the world. She befriended them and they invited her into their home to film. The family makes for a fascinating subject. Even footage of their making dinner and watching movies entertains. As harrowing as the kids’ lives are, they maintain a positive outlook and there is hope. When one of the older boys goes over the wall one day, it opens the door for the others to follow. Soon they’re walking down the street together and even going to see a movie.
A happy excursion
THE WOLFPACK documents the lives of children deprived of the normal social interaction they need to learn and grow and how resilient kids are. It also shows that power-crazed idiots shouldn’t have children.
I saw THE WOLFPACK as part of the 2015 Provincetown International Film Festival.
Based on the book Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star written by Tab Hunter and Eddie Muller (film noir guru), TAB HUNTER CONFIDENTIAL chronicles Hunter’s life from his childhood through his early years as a matinee idol and pop singer to his foray into B films, dinner theatre, and John Waters.
Along the way, Hunter struggled with his homosexuality, religious conflicts, and family duty. He worked with the biggest stars of the day and tells some good stories, but he doesn’t gossip. Hunter talks about his own life, but leaves his friends alone. He does share some interesting truths about the studios of the 1950s. When a tabloid threatened to break a story about his homosexuality, the studio came to his rescue. After he broke with Warner Brothers, he was on his own. What’s funny is that the squeaky clean image Hunter portrayed on screen is a near reflection of his own life. He just happens to be gay. In spite of the scandal, Hunter remained popular. Always conflicted about his sexual orientation and religion, Hunter finally accepted himself and rediscovered his faith. He also discovered his love for horses. TAB HUNTER CONFIDENTIAL is an entertaining look at the taboos of 1950s America and how they shaped the lives, careers, and films of that era. It’s also a refreshing story of a sweet, wholesome guy.
I saw TAB HUNTER CONFIDENTIAL as a part of the 2015 Provincetown International Film Festival.