2018 TCM Classic Film Festival Review: Day Three

One of my most anticipated films started day three with Bullitt (1968). This is a movie I am always surprised that I haven’t seen due to the iconic car chase. It was worth the wait to be able to see it on the big screen. Jacqueline Bisset was supposed to be in attendance but had had to cancel due to a family emergency. Instead, we got a fantastic introduction by Film Noir Foundation President Eddie Muller whom I look forward to seeing every year. He was quick to tell the audience that if you were only there for the famous 11-minute chase, you would have to wait 65 minutes. It was surprising to see so many people leave once that was over. It is such a great film with much more to offer, especially Steve McQueen as Lieutenant Fran Bullitt looking to solve the murder of an informant under is protection. This is more complex than a simple whodunit. It had me on the edge of my seat with every twist and turn.

Maurice (1987) was my next film of the day. Directed by James Ivory, it tells the story of a young man struggling with his sexuality in 20th century England. Hugh Grant plays his tormented love interest in what was his first major role. Having recently seen Call Me by Your Name, for which Ivory won the Academy Award in 2018 for his adapted screenplay, it feels that film, was an update to Maurice in terms of how life was different in the 1980s. The performances are noteworthy and the concept of deciding to live a lie rather than being truthful to who you are and who you love is impactful. The highlight of the screening was the interview of Ivory by Ben Mankiewicz beforehand. Ivory disagreed with almost every thought Mankiewicz had and argued on almost every question. Whoever did the research ahead of time failed miserably but it made for a very entertaining session.

The World of Suzie Wong (1960) was the most bizarre film I viewed during the festival. Robert Lomaz (William Holden) has decided to quit advertising and move to Hong King to be an artist. Upon his arrival, he meets and is immediately intrigued by Suzie Wong (Nancy Kwan). He convinces her to model for him and later learns that she is a prostitute. It is an odd mix of trying to address societal issues while also being a weird love story. The love-story part of the film didn’t work at all for me. Perhaps because Holden isn’t believable as being that gullible to put up with this young lying prostitute and that he would truly fall in love with her. Kwan is beautiful and charming but her antics outweigh those factors to be realistic. The location photography is beautiful and I would have enjoyed the film a lot more if it stayed focused on the darker matters and instead had him help her out of her situation rather than fall in love.

Scarface (1932) was another last-minute decision as the prospect of seeing John Carpenter introduce the film was more enticing at the time than sleep. I didn’t even intend to stay for the entire movie or really any of it but Carpenter gave a rousing introduction and once it started, the film captured me for the duration. Set in 1920s Chicago, the story follows the rise and fall of gangster Antonio “Tony” Camonte (Paul Muni). Director Howard Hawks shows rampant violence but in black and white there is a certain beauty to it. Muni’s performance is memorable as well since he is able to create a likability even with all of the terrible things he does. Carpenter highlighted certain things to lookout for which made the viewing that much more enjoyable, including that the opening shot was a single take over three minutes long. It is easy to understand why it is considered one of the films to have shaped the gangster genre since it reminded me of the films by whom I consider to be the master of this genre, Martin Scorsese.

Lorna Miller

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