The TCMFF is my yearly oasis, a little piece of paradise. But it includes one (sweet?) torture: we need to build a schedule and choose among all the movies shown. If it was heart wrenching to select the 12 or 13 movies I watched, it is impossible to choose my favorite three. But Theresa insists! I am going to choose a favorite of mine and two movies I had never seen before: “The Clock”, “The Defiant Ones”, and “Road House.”
I had only seen “The Clock” once before, when TCM had shown it as part of their regular programming. It immediately became a favorite and I was eager to see again. On TV it had seemed a small, intimate movie, not the kind of film one associates with Vincente Minnelli. At the TCMFF I could see that it was 100% Minnelli. He was displaying all his mastery of technique. What seems to be a light love story plays against the large canvas of New York City. The suspense builds (yes, suspense!), and love-against-the-clock becomes not only the dilemma of Judy Garland and Robert Walker, but our own. Let’s not run out of time to love.
I was hesitant about going to “The Defiant Ones” because the competition (other movies shown in the same time slot) was appealing. But one of the pleasures of the TCMFF is to discover great movies. When I watch a good movie for the first time and that initial impact comes from the big screen ~ instead of from my big TV ~ well, there’s nothing like it. “The Defiant Ones” surpassed all my expectations: Stanley Kramer does his best directing; the script is sharp, moving, and doesn’t feel dated; the black-and-white cinematography is beautiful and tough. I don’t have words to describe Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier. Some moments of Poitier’s performance are particularly branded in my mind.
“Road House” was packed! The movies TCMFF show in Nitrate prints are always popular. When are we going to have a chance to see that again? Let’s face it: never. At least when you live where I live. I had seen other movies in Nitrate prints at previous TCMFFs, and in most of them I couldn’t tell a difference. I could with “Road House.” The Nitrate was giving depth and a new dimension to the characters. They seemed to pop from the screen. I don’t like to go to new movies in 3-D because they make me dizzy. I wish 3-D were something akin to the experience of seeing Ida Lupino, resplendent as a peculiar femme fatale and luminous in an evening gown. It seemed that her shoulders had volume and texture. The nitrate had the same effect on the endearing creepiness of Richard Widmark. I will never forget the experience of watching “Road House.”
Theresa: “What was your favorite memory of the festival?”
Theresa, you are killing me! This is impossible to answer, which is a testimony to how wonderful TCMFF is. Do I choose listening to an interview? Or having a cocktail at Musso & Frank? Or the warm conversation I had with Linda (Lindley) while waiting in line at the Legion Post 43? Or how I was in awe of Eddie Muller and Ben Mankiewicz at the closing night party when they were having a kind word with everybody who wanted to approach them? I was one of the fans who chatted with them. I told Ben while we were having a picture taken: “You were very kind to me last year at the festival.” He replied with the dry sense of humor that he has displayed during his tenure at TCM: “It must have been by mistake.” I am laughing up a storm in the photo.
If I had to choose something new about the 2019 TCMFF, I would have to mention The Legion Post theatre. That new venue was my favorite place during the festival. The theater itself was terrific, but the Legion Post had the best managed lines, the warmest atmosphere, and a wonderful bar in the basement. If I had to choose the best thing about every TCMFF, it would be “movies with friends.” The TCMFF has become a place where I meet people, where I encounter friends, who seem ~ and are ~ real friends, even if we only see each other once a year. I am not big on social media, but the appeal of the platforms I use is to keep in touch with all those lovely people out there who share my fascination with watching movies in the dark.