1959: fourteen years after the war ended and five years before The Beatles played The Ed Sullivan Show, the cinema started to go democratic. Cameras were smaller, weighed less and cheaper, thereby allowing independent directors to make movies they wanted to make about the subjects that were closest to them.
The Sie Film Center in Denver is celebrating 1959 in conjunction with the Clyfford Still Museum and the Denver Art Museum’s exhibit, 1959: The Albright-Knox Art Gallery Exhibition Recreated. Film/STILL 1959 runs from Thursday, May 8 to Sunday, May 11 and screens seven films. All seven of these films are crafted by writer/directors with a wholly unique perspective, a perfect match to the paintings of Clyfford Still, whose abstract expressionism was anything but usual.
The festival kicks off Thursday, May 8 with the American Film Institute’s Number One Comedy of All Time, Some Like It Hot from director Billy Wilder. Two penniless musicians (Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon) accidently witness the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre and have to get out of town fast. Their only way out is to dress in drag and join an all-girl group headed to Florida. Loaded with one-liners and some of Marilyn Monroe’s best work, Some Like It Hot sizzles just as much today as it did in 1959. CU’s Associate Professor of Film Studies Melinda Barlow will introduce the film and provide a multimedia introduction for the festival.
Friday evening begins with The Hudsucker Proxy, the 1994 film from cult icons the Coen Brothers set in 1959 and starring Tim Robbins as Norville Barns, the fictional inventor of the hula hoop.
Paul Newman and Jennifer Jason Leigh also star in this Frank Capra-esque picture of American Capitalism that shows that it’s not just power that corrupts, but success as well. The 1959 science-fiction film, Plan 9 From Outer Space follows and is about as hokey as they come. Often considered to be the worst movie of all time, Plan 9 is not without a sense of charm, and director Ed Wood’s love for the medium is evident in practically every frame.
Saturday screens three of the year’s heavy-hitters, starting with Shadows, the first movie from indepen dent New York director, John Cassavetes. Dealing with race relations and featuring an excellent jazz score from saxophonist Shafi Hadi, Shadows is a complete and total break from the Hollywood system. From the gritty black and white to the gloss and polish of Alfred Hitchcock, North By Northwest features Cary Grant as Roger Thornhill, a dull advertisement man who is mistaken for an enemy spy. James Mason and Martin Landeau play the bad guys and Eve Maries Saint sizzles with Grant as they make their way across America, ending up battling on the presidential faces of Mount Rushmore in Rapid City, S.D.
Saturday night closes with the jewel in the crown of the French New Wave, The 400 Blows, director François Truffaut’s debut film about beloved miscreant Antoine Doinel ( Jean-Pierre Léaud).
Simultaneously beautiful, heart breaking and playful, The 400 Blows is like a breath of fresh air in a stale room. If you only have time to see one of these, make it this one.
The festival concludes on Sunday with In Cold Blood, Richard Brooks’ 1967 film of Truman Capote’s book about the Clutter family killing in 1959. Brooks filmed in the very house where the murders took place and paints a very human (and disturbing) portrait of the two murders, played by Robert Blake and Scott Wilson.
All seven movies screen at the Sie Film Center in Denver. More information about screening times and ticket prices can be found at www.denverfilm.org