IT’S ALWAYS FAIR WEATHER, directed by Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly, written by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, with Kelly, Cyd Charisse, Dan Dailey, Michael Kidd, and Dolores Gray.
Has there ever been a more deceptive title and ad for a movie than this Belgian poster for the depressive 1955 musical IT’S ALWAYS FAIR WEATHER? Not that the original title or the strained happy ending are exactly apt either. [I resaw this movie yesterday, on my last day at Il Cinema Ritrovato, and might have written about this sooner -– i.e., before I returned to Chicago -– if I’d been able to figure out a way to paste in photos on my laptop.] But in fact it expresses more negative feelings about American culture at mid-century than anything by Frank Tashlin. Tashlin, after all, always seems to love his characters, but what mainly typifies the satirical feelings here about television, advertising, and other forms of corruption are disgust, disillusionment, self-hatred, and anger. It seems characteristic that Kelly and Charisse, the romantic leads, never even get to dance together, and that Dolores Gray’s climactic number, “Thanks a Lot, but No Thanks” (see still), registers as a conscious ripoff of Monroe’s glacially bitter “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.… Read more »
From the Chicago Reader (November 21, 2003). — J.R.
This stunning 93-minute video (2002) by Canadian conceptual artist Michael Snow might be his greatest work since La region centrale over 30 years ago. Almost certainly his most accessible feature, it combines elements from virtually all his previous films: the inexorable camera movement of Wavelength, Back and Forth, and La region centrale; the encyclopedic cataloging of Rameau’s Nephew; the playful self-reflexivity of So Is This. This is also his first encounter with digital video, and it explores all the things DV can do to stretch, compress, and distort bodies, a subject Snow explores formally, comically, and at times even ideologically. (There’s a lot of dialectical play in the film between two distinct spaces: a very contemporary row of staffed computer stations, backed by windows overlooking a cityscape, and a completely sealed-off bomb shelter of a living room filled with 50s kitsch and inhabited by an all-American family, in which a TV set clearly “rhymes” with the computer screens.) Not counting the asterisk, the title refers to the tissue connecting the hemispheres of the brain, an apt reference given the prodigious and joyful inventiveness on display. Univ. of Chicago Doc Films.… Read more »
From the Chicago Reader, May 18, 2001. — J.R.
Normally, viewing 16 shorts in a row is a bit like following ice cream with pickles, cheese dip, key lime pie, lima beans, bread pudding, and spinach. But this lineup is relatively homogeneous in its strangeness — evident in the actor’s monologue filmed by children that constitutes David Cronenberg’s 35-millimeter Camera (2000, 6 min.), Joshua Pritzker’s weird animation Small Car (7 min.), Jim Finn’s Communista (a compilation of three songs), and most of all, Todd Rohal’s wildly surrealist Knuckleface Jones (1999, 13 min.), which offers the most peculiar and dreamlike cross-gendered sex I can recall seeing. There are more surrealist high jinks in the other animated shorts, some featuring puppets and clay animation, plus an experimental black-and-white documentary (Trevor Arnholt’s 13-minute digital video The Composer) and a parodic trailer starring Eric Stoltz and Tate Donovan (Paul Harrison’s Jesus and Hutch). The program runs about 95 minutes, and overall it’s not a bad lineup. Biograph, Friday, May 18, 8:00, and Sunday, May 20, 1:00.
– Jonathan Rosenbaum
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