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Archive for May, 2009|Monthly archive page

HUNK OF THE WEEK

In Uncategorized on May 20, 2009 at 2:35 am

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Jon Peterson, for being the most dazzlingly talented triple threat in town, currently in his spellbinding one-man show SONG AND DANCE MAN, at the Triad. The final show of this run is tomorrow night, May 20 at 7 pm (reservations: 212-362-2590)
But, great news! the Triad is so behind this show that Jon will be performing it monthly beginning in June.

Read my very honest and very inspiring GAY CITY NEWS interview with this real-life hero of the musical stage, who’s also currently rehearsing SOPHISTICATED LADIES at the charming Gateway Theater in Bellport, Long Island, May 27-June 13 (Box office: 631-286-1133)

http://www.gaycitynews.com/site/index.cfm?newsid=20315375&BRD=2729&PAG=461&dept_id=568864&rfi=8

In SONG AND DANCE MAN, Peterson breathtakingly pays tribute to his personal inspirations:

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Fred Astaire

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Gene Kelly

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Bobby Darrin

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Anthony Newley, here pictured in the most bizarrely titled film in movie history, CAN HIERONYMUS MERKIN EVER FORGET MERCY HUMPPE AND FIND TRUE HAPPINESS?

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RON HOWARD: DEMON – ICALLY BAD DIRECTOR

In Uncategorized on May 15, 2009 at 7:14 am

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Botox on the run

Save your shekels this week and don’t bother with ANGELS AND DEMONS.

Major, but pertinent digression: years and years ago this writer decided to begin his college education by studying film at the University of California. The choice of schools was made largely because of the advisory presence there in the Cinema Department of my favorite director, George Cukor. I arrived in Los Angeles from Hawaii, green as a fresh pineapple, only to find the jock-ridden campus located in a ghetto (a shooting murder occurred on Fraternity Row my first year) and the Cinema Department situated in a firetrap which formerly housed the stables for the school’s polo team (as if the immense and expensive edifice housing every USC sports trophy wasn’t bad enough).

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I never did get to meet Cukor, unfortunately, but a prominent presence in one of my classes was Ron Howard. “What the hell is Opie doing here?” I cruelly wondered, like any snarky 18-year-old, already dismayed over my hard-working parents’ tuition dollars being frittered. (But what the hell did I know? I wanted to learn how to make my own version of JULES AND JIM and found myself surrounded by Trekkies and sci fi geeks fashioning foam rubber meteors to hurl at their lenses. They all became subsequently rich and successful with the STAR WARS franchises, et al.)

Walking into the screening room where ANGELS AND DEMONS was being shown, all these years later, I wondered the exact same “Opie” thing. I did enjoy Howard’s first film, SPLASH, for its disarming youthful romanticism and equally youthful Tom Hanks and the late John Candy. Since then, he has tackled a bewilderingly diverse array of subject matter – a pity then, that he’s not so much an inspired, versatile studio talent like Michael Curtiz, so much as an adequate hack a la Henry King. What a field day those hard core auteurist/Cahiers du Cinema critics like Francois Truffaut and Jean Luc Godard would have had over this man who has serviceably done everything from Irish period epics to space odysseys to Westerns (the excruciating, noisy THE MISSING) with nothing resembling even a hint of artistic individuality about any of them.

Dan Brown’s books which provided the subjects of this latest film and THE DA VINCI CODE are perfect airplane reads: potboiling, somewhat indifferently scribbled but exhaustively (if sometimes wrongheadedly) researched page turners and, therefore, fit material for a bang-up entertainment. But you want a Scorsese or DePalma who could at least leaven the pulp with some approximation of art or sensuality. Howard, ineffably American, in the old aw-shucks/gee whiz Jimmy Stewart/Frank Capra tradition, directs these opuses like a tourist in a very strange land, mouth agape at all this exotic, art-history-and-religion related exoticism like some budget traveler from Midland, TX, on – and I know this is too easy – the Da Vinci Code tour in Paris.

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The gowns and accessories were lovely, filled with fashion-forward looks for fall, like cunning capelets and Juliet caps

There are now, evidently, ANGELS AND DEMONS tours in Rome, God help us, and the film feels very much like one of those, except lacking in any attendant authenticity. The Vatican forbade any filming on its premises, so what you get is the Papal City looking as if crafted for Las Vegas, with shiny, indifferently carved sculpture and the Sistine Chapel something out of Disney. Howard populates it with loudly demonstrating pro and anti-stem cell research freaks who clash noisily on the Carrara.

And there’s Tom Hanks, too old for the part, but every bit Howard’s perfect aw-shucks thespian cohort, rapping out arcane historical/religious information and Latin at breakneck speed, and looking just as surprised as we that he knows any of this weird-ass stuff. He’s as about as convincing a serious scholar as Jane Fonda is a musicologist in her Broadway show, 33 VARIATIONS, with her flawless grooming and Armani-esque ensembles.

Howard’s idea of creating suspense is just whipping his camera around Rome as the clock devastatingly ticks away the hours that are left in the imprisoned lives of four Papal candidates, with possible total “anti-matter” destruction of Vatican City imminent, as well. It’s exhausting but never gripping, so uninspired is his direction, which rather takes the whipping-down-hallways technique of THE WEST WING, and couples it with Hans Zimmer’s shriekingly banal shrieking choruses in Latin on the soundtrack.

There are the requisite moments of horror meant to make you gasp in your seat, but the first one, which featured a decomposing monk’s skull made out of obvious rubber with a large rat gnawing the eyesocket, was the kind of risible thing a third grader might draw to shock his teacher on Halloween.

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Ayelet Zurer and Botox on the run

The supporting cast doesn’t offer much fun respite from Hanks’ Botoxed faux gravitas: Ayelet Zurer as the obligatory much younger brainy babe sounds like Ingrid Bergman, but has no chance to display anything approaching the womanly radiance of that great star. (Howard is clueless when it comes to women; remember Jennifer Connelly’s old age makeup in A BEAUTIFUL MND?) Ewan McGregor as a high-collared high-ranking very Irish Vatican priest makes like a more buff Barry Fitzgerald. I was dying for him to break into “Too-ra-loo-ra” while fondling some papal treasure.

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Ewan McGregor, the new Barry Fitzgerald

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Howard and Hanks appeared on the Charlie Rose show and, to his credit, even Howard blanched a little when Rose, as obnoxiously effusive in the presence of Hollywood as ever, referred to him as “one of the world’s greatest storytellers.” I much preferred Hanks’ highly accurate description of his director, which I’m supposing was only meant in the most complimentary way: “Ron is a directing machine, like a Univac 305.”

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The Univac – does this look like Ron Howard?

Dan Brown wasn’t on the show because he’s deep in research for his next opus in Washington, D.C. Hanks joked about it being about a D.A.R. conspiracy this time around – I hope he didn’t give anything away.

All together, now, can we spell

H-A-C-K ?

Copyright: davidnoh09

TIP-TOP TEMPERAMENTALS

In Uncategorized on May 15, 2009 at 5:30 am

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Michael Urie, Thomas Jay Ryan in THE TEMPERAMENTALS

You need to beg, borrow or steal a ticket to the sold-out run of John Marans’ play THE TEMPERAMENTALS (Barrow Group Studio Theater), which, sadly, is ending this weekend and absolutely should be extended as it is, simply, the finest new play of the year so far. It recounts the founding of the Mattachine Society, a pioneering gay activist group founded by lawyer Harry Hay nearly twenty years before the so-called groundbreaking 1969 Stonewall uprising. Taking its name from a medieval secret society which favored “eccentric” behavior among men, what is largely unknown today is that its co-founder was Hay’s lover, Rudi Gernreich, then a struggling costume designer who went on to international fame and a solid place in fashion history as the creator of the topless bathing suit in the ’60s, remaining in the closet until his death in 1985. Scrupulously researched and written with a sophistication, sensitivity and speed which sets it head and shoulders above such other critically acclaimed concurrent productions like RUINED or GOD OF CARNAGE, it provides both a rich history immersion as well as a deeply human, elementally stirring emotional experience.

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Harry Hay (1912-2002)

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Rudi Gernreich (1922-85)

The very word “”homosexual” is whispered, nay, hissed, throughout the play, conveying with brutal accuracy the abject secrecy and fear which was once, on at least some level, every gay man’s lot in life. “Temperamental” was a code word used among gays to describe themselves at the time, fearful of straight repercussions, not ot mention the law, itself. Many of the scenes take place in The Chuckwagon, a nominally gay Los Angeles bar, and, under Jonathan Silverstein’s sensationally kinetic direction, a miracle of theatricality is produced yet again on a bare New York stage no bigger than a breadbox, with the only props being a few period vinyl upholstered steel office chairs, breathlessly creating an entire vibrant period world. After suffering through countless, well-intentioned but frankly abysmal gay plays, one wants to shout hosannahs over ‘s savvy, succinct writing, which encompasses such effective fillips as having all the characters recite their backgrounds in fractured yet seamless tandem monologues which express both the difference and utter sameness of the experience of growing up queer and misunderstood in a very dark age. The tensions between gays and fellow Communist party members, gays and women (especially wives and mothers) and, ultimately, gays and gays (with Mattachine Society infighting which eventually caused Hay’s departure from the group he’d started) are all incisively addressed.

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Vincente Minnelli

The five member cast dazzles with their commitment and versatility, playing numerous roles. Front and center is Thomas Jay Ryan as Hay, bringing a convincing ’50s Brooks Brothers-ish Everyman quality at odds with his radical Communist beliefs which somehow managed to segue into gay activism. He manages to make Hay’s incessant single-minded pedanticism amusing and endearing even while he infuriates, and is deadpan hilarious as Hay’s final flamboyantly shawl-wearing future founder of the Radical Faeries activist group. Michael Urie, from UGLY BETTY, completely fits Hay’s initial, infatuated description of him as a cameo, so creamily pretty is he, but along with his consisderable physical allure, he has major acting chops as Gernreich. His dead-on Viennese accent enriches, adding both humor and eccentric individualism to his impassioned characterization of a deeply romantic soul at odds with his own driving ambition. He’s frustrated in scenes with Harry, who, although determinedly queer, is all too conscious of the pressures of a hetero world, shying away from physical demonstrations of affection. At the same time, he’s very attentive to the stay-in-the-closet career advice of his studio boss, Vincente Minnelli, who is interpreted with a perfect synthesis of mandarin power and sissiness by Tom Beckett, in a peerless cameo that I’d even recommend Liza seeing, if only to evoke Papa once more. Marans’ writing is never more savvy than when Hay refers to Minnelli’s famous erstwhile wife as “Her.” She was, of course, Judy Garland, which incites Hay, who was very straitlaced before he discovered his inner androgyne, into an hilarious monologue decrying the excessive behavior of queens who go on and on about her every mannerism and vocal prowess.

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John Burnside, Hay’s partner for nearly 40 years and co-founder of the Radical Faeries, who died last year at 91

Matthew Schneck brings a more traditional campy outrageousness to promiscuous, bigoted but lovable Mattachine member Bob Hull, and Sam Breslin Wright has a touchingly real street quality as former cop Dale Jennings, whose arrest via entrapment by a policeman in a public bathroom triggers the Hay’s landmark legal case wherein the love that dared not speak, finally, finally did.

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Peggy Moffitt, supermodel and Gernreich muse, in his topless bathing suit

FABULOUS UPDATE!!!

This just in from KPPM Press Office:

By popular and critical demand the MAN underdog production of “The Temperamentals” by Jon Marans, will reopen on Wednesday, June 10th for a limited four week run Off Broadway at the larger (same location) TBG Theater, 312 West 36 Street 3rd Floor, NYC. Previews began April 30, 2009 for the limited engagement through May 18th in the intimate studio theatre and all performances were sold out in advance with a waiting list for all the shows. Thomas Jay Ryan plays Harry Hay and Michael Urie (TV’s “Ugly Betty”) is Rudi Gernreich, with Tom Beckett, Matthew Schneck, Sam Breslin Wright completing the cast. The acclaimed play is directed by Jonathan Silverstein.

for more info:

www.thetemperamentals.com

Copyright: davidnoh09

WHERE WAS PAT CLEVELAND?

In Uncategorized on May 6, 2009 at 5:07 pm

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Beverly Johnson, first black woman on the cover of VOGUE, August 1974

My timing was perfect as I attended Monday’s preview of the Costume Institute show, THE MODEL AS MUSE at the Metropolitan Museum, for I arrived at the same time as supermodel Beverly Johnson, the first black woman to grace on the cover of VOGUE magazine (and survivor of an abusive relationship with Chris “Mr. Big” Noth), who is just as gorgeous and svelte as ever. I just hope La Johnson was also invited to that evening’s ever-more-exclusive ball, as well she should have been, for her prominent place in that magazine’s and, indeed, modeling, history.

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Marion Morehouse, supermodel of the Jazz Age, beloved by photographer Edward Steichen, painted by her husband, poet E. E. Cummings

In these stressed economic times, scary indeed for magazines and museums, there was a slightly more warm and fuzzy feel to the event. Chairwoman of the benefit gala, Anna Wintour, in a fetching beige paper silk, scallop-edged coat, doffed those trademark shades and seemed less aloof, “democratically” hanging out at the press reception instead of remaining esconced in her seat. Her most prominent social partner was Marc Jacobs, whose company is underwriting the exhibit, and he looked terrific and sexy, tanned with pitch black faux-hawk in a black skirt/shorts ensemble. He addressed the crowd, saying what an honor it was for him to work with the museum, which he grew up with and still avails himself of the research opportunities in their fashion library. Costume Institute Director Harold Koda mentioned how the idea for the show came about during a lunch with co-curator Kohle Yohannon who had the manuscript for his book about Conde Nast models (which became the show’s catalogue) with him. Wintour inspected the show over the weekend and observed of the room which featured the grunge era of the early ’90s, as “just not grungy enough.” With that, hair stylist Julien D’Ys, who had worked on all the mannequins, flew into action, spray painting the walls with drawings of famous models and their names, while, as Yohannon told me, he kept shouting ideas (“Naomi!, Carmen!”) at him.

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The apotheosis of the supermodel: Linda, Cindy, Naomi and Christy strutting to George Michael’s “Freedom” at the Gianni Versace show finale

The show, awash with VOGUE covers featuring dazzling icons of the last 50 years, should be a huge popular hit – yes, the “Trinity” (Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell and Christy Turlington) is prominently featured – and I can imagine hordes of kids just camping out in the galleries all summer long.

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Conspicuously absent: Azzedine Alaia (with Grace Jones)

There will be many quibbles, I imagine, about who and what was left out, like the ongoing issues of the scarcity of ethnic models and ever younger and more emaciated bodies being forever, it seems, in vogue. There’s already a big brouhaha about the absence of model-favorite designer Azzedine Alaia, which resulted in certain big-time no-shows at the ball from the likes of Naomi Campbell, Stephanie Seymour and Linda Evangelista. Alaia had evidently designed gowns for some seven models, but personally requested that they not wear them to the event. He should have let them show up in his drag, which would have made the strongest model-as-muse statement of them all.

I personally wish more emphasis had been given, on film, to the thrilling runway work of the models, as well as their print images – from the early, mincingly demure strutting in intimate salons with the models bearing numbered cards of their outfits to the strikingly fresh and energetic seminal pret-a-porter shows of the ’70s to the outrageous extravaganzas which followed by the likes of designers Thierry Mugler, Gianni Versace and John Galliano. And there isn’t a single photo or video sequence of the greatest runway model of them all: Pat Cleveland.

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Pat Cleveland, photographed by Antonio Lopez

and here’s a tribute to her:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9k5Ff_4kfxY

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Donatella Versace at the Ball. Ah, the glamour of fashion!

Copyright: davidnoh09

DUVIVIER REDISCOVERED

In Uncategorized on May 6, 2009 at 6:01 am

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Julien Duvivier’s film, LA TETE D’UN HOMME (1933) , based on a George Simenon novel, and never released in this country, is a major discovery, and reason enough to make one want to catch every film in Museum of Modern Art’s current retrospective of the work of this vitally important French director, once so unfairly excoriated by Francois Truffaut and other prominent figures of the French New Wave, immaturely bent as they then were on denigrating the work of certain earlier directors to further deify others, whose directorial “personality” was far more evident in all of their work and, therefore preferable to someone like Duvivier who, like William Wyler, was merely content to serve the material as brilliantly as possible.

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Julien Duvivier (1896-1967)

LA TETE D’UN HOMME begins with the graphically bloody discovery of a rich old woman’s corpse, and follows the efforts of Detective Jules Maigret (Harry Bauer) to discover her murderer, efforts which lead him into an assortment of low dives, Posh Deco flats and rural farmhouses. He encounters the enigmatically tortured Radek (Valery Inkijinoff), a doomed man who may or may not have committed the murder at the behst of the woman’s playboy nephew Willy Ferriere (Gaston Jacquet), who has a venal mistress to support.

In this film one can see the roots of so many policiers and film noirs, French and American, to follow: the preponderance of nocturnal scenes, fascination with grotesque characters, like a bumbling giant who finds himself haplessly entangled in the murder, raffish nightspots and the women who inhabit them, with their easy virtue and complex agendas, and that reliable gambit of the obsessed detective who makes mistakes and is frustratingly “taken off” the case. The script is pungent and richly character-driven, including much off-hand humor, as when a pair of street whores complain about slow business, blaming it on “respectable women who just give it away to their husbands – the dirty sluts!” The film is rife with cinematic felicities, like a striking sequence in which a policeman hot on the investigative trail talks to various informants who were filmed separately and appear as rear projections while the interrogator remains fixed and “present” in the foreground. Or, when the trail takes the detectives to a farmhouse in Versailles, the country scenery flashes by outside their car windows, in striking contrast to the teeming urban landscape that is Paris, and one of the cops offhandedly refers to “King Louis’ little country getaway” as they pass the gates of the royal palace. And then there are all the scenes taking place in the roiling, smoke-filled boites so beloved by Duvivier – at one point one can read the graffiti “Tirez sur le pianiste” scrawled on the wall above the bandstand which, ironically, was also the title of the Duvivier-hating Truffaut’s reputation-making film. Indeed, Duvivier’s striking exploration of the medium and fluid experimentation with photography, rhythmic cutting and sound in the early ’30s only prove that, to a large extant, those self-congratulatory cinematic mavericks of La Nouvelle Vague, were merely inventing the wheel.

Throughout, the film is blissfully adult, never more so than in an encounter between Radek and a prostitute he picks up and takes home. As she matter-of-factly starts to remove her clothes, he stops her, professing his wish for simple companionship for an hour or so. (Sex, however, does occur, anyway.)

Baur makes a memorably bear-ish Maigret, doggedly determined as well as empathically human, but Inkijinoff is even more fascinating to watch. With a strange, Asiatic handsomeness, he comes across alternatively as a diabolical Jack the Ripper (there are echoes of LULU in his scene with the whore), and then the most pitiable lost soul, possessed as he is of a terminal illness, which makes his every action that much more desperate.

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Georges Simenon (center), Suzy Prim and Georges Colin leave their handprints at a cabaret in Paris in 1952.

Georges Simenon was said to have hated this film, particularly for the focus Duvivier gave beloved, iconic French singer Damia, which momentarily stops the film short as she sings a smoky, throbbing ballad of elusive love. Damia (1889-1978) predated Edith Piaf as an interpreter of the “chanson realiste”, and many feel she was by far the greater singer. She supposedly was the first vocalist (during WWI) to have a single spotlight focusing on her face and hands, had an affair with Queen Marie of Rumania, and died after a fall down a flight of stairs in the Metro. Her song “Tu ne sais pas aimer” became a French AIDS anthem.

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Damia

Duvivier’s camera picks up this mournful woman with the mournful voice, warbling away in the middle of a raffish hotel party and, however much it may interrupt the policier thread, one is nevertheless grateful for this indelible recording of a legendary star. (She also appears in Abel Gance’s NAPOLEON). Her song lends the film a further devastating layer of romantic fatality, haunting as it is to the tragic, friendless Radek.

The film will be shown again, today, May 6 at 4:30. Last Saturday, when I saw it, I also caught two other worthy Duvivier films.

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Wolfgang Klein

HALLO BERLIN? ICI PARIS! is a charming romance between two telephone operators, one French and one German, who have a transcontinental flirtation over their switchboards. Two more cynical friends of each bully their ways into this fragile relationship, very nearly ruining things forever. The film has faint echoes of Lubitsch’s THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER and is very nearly as disarming, reveling as it does in the streamlined up-to-the-minute technology and sophistication of 1932, which still cannot erase the yearning of two hopelessly romantic souls. Duvivier touches abound in this full celebration of the new glory of sound in cinema, from the sprightly multi-lingual opening to a lovely moment in which all the female telephone operators, inspired by the heroine’s unseen romancer, suddenly break into deliriously sentimental song, startling their switchboard clients and incurring the wrath of their prison matron-like supervisor.

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Josette Day

A cherubic young Josette Day, unrecognizable from the Beauty she would portray for Jean Cocteau in his LA BELLE ET LA BETE, plays the girl with a wistful, pure gamine allure and Wolfgang Klein is even prettier as her appealingly innocent, ardent beloved, sporting plucked eyebrows to rival any modern metrosexual. The film includes a hilarious whirlwind tour of Paris which prefigures that whizz-bang romp through the Louvre in Jean-Luc Godard’s BAND OF OUTSIDERS, and a fascinating glimpse of a black jazz club. Unlike contemporaneous American films, miscegenation was not a problem here: the heroine’s rapacious girlfriend reveals a wall in her apartment plastered with photos of her boyfriends, which include a prominently displayed black boxer, as well as an Asian.

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Michel Simon

PANIQUE (1947) comes from another Simenon novel and was Duvivier’s notable, post-WWII flop, being too unrelentingly grim for audiences of the time. Michel Simon gives the most powerful moving performance of a misogynist in screen history. His M. Hire is insufferably aloof and superior, yet you can’t help but feel a grudging admiration toward this lonesome total individualist, while completely understanding how his ways could alienate an entire neighborhood into detesting and eventually attacking him. Vivian Romance is somewhat lacking in the irresistible appeal that would convince you of Hire’s implacable fascination with her, but the tension of the film mounts inexorably, rivetingly, and culminates in a truly shattering, bleak finale.

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Jean Gabin, Mireille Balin

The retrospective is filled with rarities, which I am determined to catch, as well as Duvivier’s famous PEPE LE MOKO, possibly the greatest French romantic tragedy of the 1930s (and that’s a field crowded with worthy competitors), and Hollywood work like THE GREAT WALTZ, with its unforgettably kitsch scene of Johan Strauss composing “Tales of the Vienna Woods” while carriage-riding through – where else? – the Vienna Woods (although the recent biography of Victor Fleming by Michael Srawgow avers that this was realy the work of that movie’s doctor, Fleming, and not Duvivier.) Duvivier’s lavish yet strangely unsatisfying Alexander Korda-produced version of ANNA KARENINA, with Vivien Leigh, perfectly cast but somehow lacking, is also on the roster.

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Vivien Leigh as Anna Karenina

On May 14, Stephen Sondheim will introduce Duvivier’s great international success UN CARNET DE BAL (1937), which he once considered making a musical of. I do wish MOMA was screening LYDIA, the 1941 remake of this film which Duvivier again directed. Produced by its star, Merle Oberon, it features that actress’ strongest, rangiest performance, and is a visual (costumes by no less than Marcel Vertes, Walter Plunkett and Rene Hubert) and aural treat, with its piercingly lyrical Miklos Rozsa score.

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Merle Oberon as Lydia

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THE GREAT WALTZ, with Fernand Gravet as Johann Strauss, and Miliza Korjus, she of the tea kettle coloratura, who inspired James McCourt’s cult opera novel MAWRDEW CZGOWCHWZ

Here’s the link to MOMA schedule of Duvivier films:

http://www.moma.org/visit/calendar/films/946

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Hildegarde Neff in HOLIDAY FOR HENRIETTA, 1952