Friday, August 24, 2007

cinema obscura: Sundance Discovery! "Polly Maggoo" Airs! Plus More!

The Sundance Channel continues to air Universal titles that Universal apparently doesn't care about. Alan Alda's "The Four Seasons" was one of the recent survivors, for example.

Anyway, check on George Roy Hill's masterwork, "Slaughterhouse-Five" (1972), faithfully based on the Kurt Vonnegut book, at 7 p.m. (est) pm Friday, August 31st.

George Miller's "Lorenzo's Oil" (1992), an intelligent sick-child film featuring affecting performances by Nick Nolte and Susan Sarandon, airs at 8 a.m. (est) Saturday, September 1st, followed by Allan Winton King's 1981 Canadian film, "Silence of the North", starring Ellen Burstyn, at 12:30 p.m.(est).

The film verison of the stylized Luis Valdez Broadway musical "Zoot Suite" (1981) , starring Edward James Olmos, Tyne Daly and most of the Broadway cast, pops up at 2 p.m. (est) on Thursday, September 6th. It's difficult to believe that Universal even made this film.

But the big news is the dual debut of two long-lost French titles - Jean
-Luc Godard's 1972 "Tout Va Bien" ("All Is Good") and expatriate American filmmaker William Klein's 1966 "Que êtes-vous, Polly Maggoo?" ("Who Are You, Polly Magoo?").

"Tout Va Bien," airing on Thursday, August 30th at 11:15 a.m. and 6:15 p.m. (est), was something of an art-house and festival event in '72, pairing the still-militant and social-conscious Jane Fonda with French workhorse Yves Montand in a talky, pretentious, ultimately disappointing polemic about a workers' strike at a slaughterhouse in Paris.

Fonda and Montand play a married couple - she's a reporter, he directs commerials - who find themselves trapped in the meat factory where a lot of preachy soul-searching about class takes place. You stay with it because it's Godard, Fonda and Montand, but "Tout Va Bien" (released on DVD by Criterion in 2005) is decidedly minor. There's a reason why it's been largely forgotten.

"Polly Magoo," meanwhile, directed by former fashion photographer William Klein and featuring a score by Michel Legrand, is a lively curio about the Swinging Sixties, French-style, and the fashion industry.

Airing Saturday, September 1st at 8 p.m. (est), it is colorful, fun and almost depressingly date but definitely worth the watch, especially for the late, great Grayson Hall who plays the editor of Voguehere and is allegedly doing a wicked variation on Diana Vreeland (Klein's old boss), seemingly by way of Kay Thompson (shades of "Funny Face" here).

Co-starring French stalwarts Jean Rochefort, Sami Frey and Philippe Noiret. The unknown, untrained Dorothy MacGowan plays the titual Polly. She's fab, but it was her first and last film.

The film all but evaporated until it showed up for two screenings at the Whitney Museum of Art in 1997. This is its first America broadcast.

Note in Passing: As a filmmaker, Klein is perhaps best remembered for his stirring 1969 Muhammad Ali documentary, "Fly Like a Butterfly, Sting Like a Bee."

(Artwork: Dorothy MacGowan as Polly Maggoo/Polly Magoo, and friends, in William Klein's seemingly lost French novelty)

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1 comment:

Daryl Chin said...

Yes, just caught up with POLLY MAGGOO, and it is such a time capsule! There was a William Klein retrospective a while back, and i also caught his MISTER FREEDOM... Have to say that some of his short films (such as a lovely short of the billboards and neon in Times Square in the late 1950s) are really superb, but MAGGOO and FREEDOM are antic in such a 60s-attempted-counterculture way. Nevertheless, a good time was had be all....

As for TOUT VA BIEN, if i may say so, one of the problems is that, as the romantic feelings that Godard had in the 1960s started to seep out, his films became more "theoretical" and stylistically adventurous, but with less and less "love": Godard doesn't show any for Jane Fonda (as he proved in A LETTER TO JANE). I know that's totally unfashionable to say, but people who take "theoretical" and "modernist" approaches to Godard always underrate BAND OF OUTSIDERS because it's his most openly emotional movie (you know, when you're watching it, that Godard must have been totally in love with Karina at the time).

(Godard's movies with Karina actually echo the trajectory of von Sternberg's films with Dietrich: they both made seven films together. In the early films, it's obvious that the director is besotted with his leading lady, then you get the fourth film, in the case of Sternberg and Dietrich, SHANGHAI EXPRESS, in the case of Godard and Karina, BAND OF OUTSIDERS, where Dietrich is at her most glamorous and Karina is at her most touching. Then the feelings start to seep out, until you get THE DEVIL IS A WOMAN, where Dietrich is almost mask-like, and MADE IN U.S.A., where Karina is at her most dead-pan, and it's obvious that whatever relationship existed between the director and his star, it's now over.)