Parent Category: Film Festivals
Published on Friday, 14 August 2015 14:31
Written by Jack Angstreich
The summer schedule of the Film Society of Lincoln Center reached its apotheosis this month with it's long-gestating, comprehensive retrospective of the films of Richard Lester — several shown in excellent, 35-millimeter prints on the magnificent Walter Reade Theater screen — which ran from the 7th through the 13th and was curated by Gavin Smith, the editor of Film Comment.
The underrated director's work was showcased in a series at the Museum of the Moving Image in the 1990s but in a much smaller selection. Only a few films were left out of the current program: his first feature, It's Trad, Dad! (screened at the Film Society in a rock 'n' roll series a few years ago); The Mouse on the Moon, a sequel to the popular Peter Sellers vehicle, The Mouse that Roared; The Ritz, an adaptation of the Terence McNally play; Superman II; Superman III; the wonderful, unsung Finders Keepers; and his last film, the Paul McCartney rockumentary, Get Back.
Highlights of the series included the titles described below, all shown in beautiful 35-millimeter prints at the Walter Reade.
The director's almost never screened, early, silent, slapstick short made with and starring Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan, the rarely screened The Running Jumping & Standing Still Film displays the madcap sensibility that would flower in Lester's features.
The dazzling, exhilaratingly creative The Knack …and How to Get It, one of Lester's supreme works, stunningly photographed by the incomparable David Watkin, and starring Michael Crawford and Rita Tushingham, as wonderful as they have ever been, and also featuring a superb performance by Ray Brooks as the story's resident Lothario. This was previously screened at the Film Society in a series devoted to Woodfall Film Productions. A further bonus here is the chance to glimpse early appearances of Jacqueline Bisset, Jane Birkin and Charlotte Rampling, all at their most ravishingly gorgeous.
The brilliant and rarely shown thriller, Juggernaut, was shot by Gerry Fisher and features an astounding cast including Richard Harris, Omar Sharif, David Hemmings, Anthony Hopkins, Shirley Knight, Ian Holm, Roy Kinnear, Freddie Jones, Cyril Cusack, Michael Hordern and Roshan Seth, among others.
The equally rare Royal Flash is an enjoyable romp set in Victorian era Europe, adapted from a novel by George MacDonald Fraser, with brilliant performances by Malcolm McDowell, Alan Bates and Oliver Reed.
The entertaining Butch and Sundance: The Early Days, another rare title, was Lester's second film made in Hollywood — the extraordinary Petulia was his first — and was pioneering as a "prequel" — in this case to George Roy Hill's popular western, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford — before that format had become a commercial standard in the industry. The casting of Tom Berenger — who gives a splendid performance — and William Katt cannily recalls the iconic faces of Newman and Redford, while the film, shot by László Kovács, sports a roster of excellent supporting actors including Peter Weller, Brian Dennehy, Christopher Lloyd, John Schuck, Jeff Corey, Jill Eikenberry, Vincent Schiavelli, as well as Michael C. Gwynne, who gave a delightful introduction to the screening, recounting anecdotes from the shooting.
The powerful, politically astute, ultra-rare Cuba — also shot by Watkin — a romantic drama set on the eve of the Cuban revolution, also features a remarkable cast, starring a dashing Sean Connery doing some of his best work, along with a winsome Brooke Adams — the one weak link here, unconvincing as a strong, erotic presence — along with a handsome Chris Sarandon, Martin Balsam, Walter Gotell, Hector Elizondo, Jack Weston, Denholm Elliott, and Lonette McKee. It was shown in a newly struck print.