Monday, January 11, 2016

The Hamburger Caper

by F.T. Rea


With 2015 in the rear-view mirror, there were some nice highlight moments associated with the four Bijou Presents events staged during the year. (To see the press releases for those events click on the numbered links -- 1, 2, 3, 4). However, the group-effort that went into creating the Hamburgers, as described below, tops my list of Bijou-related highlights. 

On Fri., Sept. 11, James Parrish and I went to the Lamplighter coffee shop on Morris St., near VCU, for a meeting with Rick Alverson. The purpose of the get-together was to discuss the pre-premiere* screening of "Entertainment" (2015) at The Byrd scheduled for Nov. 8. More specifically, we needed to talk about how to promote The Bijou's then-upcoming fundraising event. During the conversation that ensued the Hamburger Caper was born.


"Entertainment" is the fourth feature-length film Alverson has directed. Having seen the movie, by way of a screener supplied by the distributor, James and I already knew that promoting it as an easy-to-like laugh riot, suitable for a broad audience, would be a mistake. But the promotional material available -- poster and ad images -- for the movie didn't seem to have enough pizzazz to grab the attention of the artsy crowd that might like such a film for a one-off event. Since The Bijou's budget for promotion wouldn't allow for us to make a splash with conventional advertising, we needed a bright idea.

The conversation at the coffeehouse meandered pleasantly. When Rick and I started talking about hand-painted roadside billboards in Los Angeles the spark appeared. After finding out from Rick that they were still being done, I started yammering about how cool they looked back in the '70s, when I last visited LA. Rick interjected something like, "We ought to make the posters for the show look like Banksy's spray-painted graffiti."


Bingo!

Immediately, I told Rick I loved the idea and wanted to do it. While I'm not sure he believed me, the three of us happily brainstormed about it. Rick, James and I all liked the idea of using a variation of the image of the comedian in the film that appeared on the 1-sheet. We also talked about details about the film's star, Gregg Turkington, performing live, as Neil Hamburger, at the after-party at the New York Deli.


Later on, James and I kicked around the possibilities of how we might pull it off by making a series of Banksy-esque posters that would be displayed outdoors. How many to make? How big? Materials? Soon I suggested Chuck Wrenn ought to be in on making the Hamburgers. James agreed and said he wanted to bring in Ed Trask, too. Eventually, we decided to try to make the project to fabricate the Hamburgers into an art-making, beer-drinking happening.

We found both Chuck and Ed to be enthusiastic about lending their hands. Thus, after talking it over with other members of Team Bijou, we decided the posters should be painted on king-sized wooden panels. No movie title. No explanation (which had been Rick's original suggestion). Only the date of the screening -- 11/8/15. We optimistically assumed we could talk several friends with businesses on popular thoroughfares to allow us to hang the Hamburgers (as we came to call the painted panels) on outside walls facing traffic.


Trask brought in Big Secret to cut the stencils for the job. Chuck helped me pick out the material and he cut the panels to size (2.67' by 4'). We applied coats of white, somewhat-waterproofing prima to them (Herschel Stratego helped). Before the stencils were cut Ed, James, Chuck and I discussed at length how to achieve the look we wanted.

A team of six artists was assembled on Oct. 7 to do the spray-painting work in the basement of Anchor Studios at 1 E. Broad St; they were Shane Brown, Michael Harl, James, Terry (me), Ed and Chuck. All of did some painting. Ed did the most. We made Hamburgers in two sizes since Big Secret made large and small stencils for us. A day later, I cut the stencil for the date and added it to each panel over the image of the comedian.


The photos of the Hamburger-making scenes accompanying this piece were shot by Shane Brown and James Parrish. The image of the completed Hamburger at the bottom of this post was shot by yours truly. Click here to see how the finished products looked posted at various sites.

Why call it a caper?

It's more fun that way.


* The Bijou's screening of "Entertainment" was before the film had its theatrical first-run begin in New York City on Nov. 13, 2015. Our thanks for that special booking go out to Rick Alverson and the distributor of his film, Magnolia Pictures.


Friday, November 20, 2015

Cooking Up the Hamburgers


By F.T. Rea 

Maybe you saw one or more of the Bijou's Hamburgers while they were installed at various locations around town. The photo above of what we came to call a "Hamburger" was taken with my iPad on Oct. 8, 2015. It was shot in the basement of Anchor Studios' space at 1 E. Broad St. That's where a crew of artists combined to create it and the 11 others in the series. The Hamburger Crew's roster included Shane Brown, Michael Harl, James Parrish, Ed Trask, Chuck Wrenn and me -- the art director.

The Hamburgers that were subsequently put on public display in mid- to late-October were made using a stencil that was furnished by Big Secret. The images were made with spray-paint. Each one-eighth-inch panel measured approximately 4' by 2.66'.

One of the first Hamburgers to go on display was at Balliceaux.
In simple terms the Hamburger concept was the centerpiece of a teaser campaign to promote the Bijou Presents event that put Rick Alverson's new film, "Entertainment," on the big screen at The Byrd on Nov. 8. The pre-premiere's after-party was staged at the New York Deli, where Neil Hamburger headlined a live comedy showcase hosted by Herschel Stratego.

A thirsty Hamburger at Hardywood. 
Smaller versions of the Hamburger image (without the date at the top) were made using another stencil. They appeared in various locations around town, as well. The one seen below is posing for its picture in a Dixie Donuts display case.


How the Hamburgers came to be cooked up and served makes for a good story that will be posted soon. So what you've just consumed is yet another teaser. Stay tuned...



Saturday, November 14, 2015

Five Film Favorites: French Films

by F.T. Rea

From 'Breathless'

My trips to France have been vicarious: words written by others, pictures created by others. For the most part, what I know -- or think I know -- about France has been gathered and presented to me by filmmakers. Moreover, a good part of what I know -- or think I know -- about good movies has been shaped by countless hours spent watching French films.

Like many baby boomers who grew up loving movies, once I discovered foreign films the French New Wave films exerted a big influence on me. So, for me, the memories of Paris that were stirred up by the terrorist attacks on Nov. 13, 2015, weren't based on times I actually spent there, soaking up the milieu.

Instead, films I've loved have been brought to mind. Today, Nov. 14, 2015, my five favorite French feature films are as follows:

“The 400 Blows” (1959): B&W. Directed by François Truffaut. Cast: Jean-Pierre Léaud, Claire Maurier, Albert Rémy. Note: This story’s deft portrayal of a brave boy’s yearning for dignity in an indifferent world kicked in the door for the New Wave’s filmmakers.

"Breathless" (1960): B&W. Directed by Jean-Luc Godard. Cast: Jean-Paul Belmondo, Jean Seberg. Note: An opportunistic thief on the lam becomes irresistible to a pretty American journalism student in Paris. Uh-oh, the guy is dangerous. How long can it last?

"Day for Night" (1973): Color. Directed by François Truffaut. Cast: Jacqueline Bisset, Valentina Cortese, François Truffaut. Note: An engaging look at the process of making of a movie, with the private lives of the cast and crew intermingling with the production.

"The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie" (1972): Color. Directed by Luis Buñuel. Cast: Fernando Rey, Paul Frankeur, Delphine Seyrig. Note: Probably prankster Buñuel’s most accessible film, this dream within a joke, within a dream, sparkles with its dry wit.

“Lacombe, Lucien” (1974): Color. Directed by Louis Malle. Cast: Pierre Blaise, Auroe Clement, Holger Lowenadler. Note: How does a naive, nihilistic teenager in France, just looking for a way to fit in, end up running with the Nazi invaders? Hey, why not?

That list of sweet flicks includes only feature-length movies. But today I just can't resist mentioning two of my favorite short films that happen to be French:

“La Jetée” (1962): B&W. Directed by Chris Marker. Cast: Davos Hanich, Hélène Chatelain, Jen Négroni. Note: A stunning example of how less can be way more. This short New Wave classic about memory, imagination, longing and time is unforgettable.

“The Red Balloon” (1956): Color. Directed by Albert Lamorisse. Cast: Pascal Lamorisse, Sabine Lamorisse, Georges Sellier. Note: Using little dialogue, this utterly charming 34-minute French fantasy follows a boy and his balloon friend along the streets of Paris.

From 'The Red Balloon'

To wind up, allow me to quote Rick Blaine (played by Humphrey Bogart), the protagonist in "Casablanca" (1942). Speaking to Ilsa Lund (played by Ingrid Bergman), Rick says: "We'll always have Paris."

Indeed. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Reviews of 'Entertainment'

At The Bijou's 'pre-premiere' of 'Entertainment' at The Byrd.
Left-to-right: Terry Rea; Rick Alverson; Gregg Turkington;
James Parrish. Photo by Oz Geier.
Ed. Note: Thanks need to go our to all the volunteers and friends of The Bijou who helped to make the Nov. 8, 2015, event such a success and so much fun. More on that aspect of the story will be posted soon. The story of making the Hamburgers is in the works. 

In the meantime here are some reviews of the film, comments on the event and a few photos. More photos are on the way, too.

Photo by Oz Geier.

I Could Go On and On: 
What's the Difference?
by Karen Newton
Richmond was even cooler than usual tonight. That's because the Bijou was hosting the premiere of 'Entertainment,' former Richmonder and director Rick Alverson's latest movie, at the Byrd Theater. It was yet another well-chosen fundraiser on the Bijou Film Center's cinematic path to their own building. Any way you look at it, it was a big deal for us to get the film shown here before it premieres in New York City...

If scoring the premiere of an important up and coming director's work and exposing Richmond film fans to a true indie movie (there are no gimmes or easy answers in this one) is what the Bijou Film Center will be all about, Richmond's film-loving set ought to be wishing they were doing a fundraiser a month until they get their building.
 To read the entire review click here.

Photo by Oz Geier.
"Entertainment" Review 
by F.T. Rea

"Entertainment" (2015): Color. 110 minutes. Directed by Rick Alverson. Cast: Gregg Turkington, John C. Reilly, Tye Sheridan, Michael Cera.  

The film's protagonist is an abrasive comedian who hurls his absurd material at small audiences in bleak dives in forgotten towns. The laughs come more from the situations than the jokes. Between gigs the nameless comedian -- played by Gregg Turkington and billed as The Comedian -- is frequently shown as a passive observer of what sights he encounters traveling through the desert -- sights such as an airplane graveyard. 

Clearly, he is detached, but from what? Alone in cheap motel rooms, he talks to his estranged daughter on the phone. Does she exist?  

As odd as some of the characters appear to be, they feel real -- painfully real. As it mocks our expectations, "Entertainment" is a compelling odyssey. Occasionally, it's laugh-out-loud funny, but check your expectations at the door.

For viewers who've enjoyed the rather unconventional work of directors such as Robert Bresson, Luis Buñuel and David Lynch, Alverson's new flick could be about to shoulder its way onto their top ten lists. Love it, or hate it, "Entertainment" is a bona fide "art movie." 

Although Turkington wears his familiar Neil Hamburger stand-up comic get-up, his performance in the movie isn't exactly the same as his live show. Within the film The Comedian is darker. He seems unsure and paranoid. For most of the film he's killing time between his dutiful performances. Still, we lack the context to know how crazy the protagonist was last week, or last year. He appears to be unraveling before our eyes. How much of it might be a dream is hard to tell.  

Trying to guess specifically what Alverson wanted the audience to make of the film's ambiguities might be fun for some viewers. The mysteries of "Entertainment" can and should be explored in conversations over beers, coffee, but solutions won't be easy to find.

The memories and lessons of an odyssey aren't necessarily the same thing as answers. Why, why-y should we expect movies to have answers?

Photo by Oz Geier
"Entertainment" Review 
by Peter Schilling Jr.

The opening line of Rick Alverson’s Entertainment—“How is everybody feeling?"—is certainly a good question to ask any audience member after witnessing this bizarre and challenging film. The story, such as it is, of a unnamed comedian (played by Gregg Turkington) wandering from gig to gig through the American Southwest, plays at times like some of antagonistic Antonioni films, with long, steady shots, broken at times by circular conversations and people struggling to find some meaning, or… none at all.

Though our comedian has no name in the picture, on stage he is Turkington’s alter ego, Neil Hamburger, who approaches each set like some strange throwback warped by time and distemper. Hamburger mats down his thinning hair into crazy, almost seaweed like strands across his vast forehead, sports a lousy tux, and sucks on a cocktail while cradling two others in his right arm while he grouses into the microphone in his left.

An evening with Hamburger means a night of nervous laughter and perplexed gaping, and I found myself almost doubled over in laughter from some of his jokes. He stands, clearing his throat (and how he musters up that much phlegm on cue is beyond me), before ripping into baffling jokes with lusciously vile punchlines, such as asking us why Madonna fed her child “Alpo brand dog food?” Because that’s all that comes from her breasts, apparently. From there it’s E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial and his penchant for blow jobs, haranguing any patron who dares walk out or raise his or her voice, or just two minutes of blowing wet raspberries. Hamburger is a master of thought-provoking discomfort, and the scenes of his stand-up comedy are brilliant.

The problem with Entertainment ultimately lies in its narrative frame. The comedian is roaming the southwest, in nameless little towns, at nameless little bars and lounges and restaurants, doing his spiel to nameless people who sit wondering why he’s there. Usually he follows a young man who wears a bowler and a clown face, and pretends to masturbate and shit in his hat. Along the way, he meets a cousin (played by John C. Reilly), gets punched by a young woman he insulted, helps deliver a baby, and calls his nameless daughter frequently and late at night.

Yes, you did read “helps deliver a baby”, and that scene, which doesn’t work for a minute, reflects Entertainment’s major problem: if you’re going to ask us to take this emotional roller coaster, then we have to feel like these people are real. In all of Alverson’s prior work, his characters were real, and so honest it hurt to watch them on screen, such was their misery, their pain, their self-deception, and, sometimes, their grace and kindness and strength. But inEntertainment, people like the comedian’s cousin are such clichés they derail the movie—Reilly’s pro-business dialogue is so rote you almost expect him to say “One word: plastics”. And to reduce a great actress like Amy Seimetz into a drunken wretch who has no dignity and can only express herself by punching our hero is ludicrous. Then there’s Dean Stockwell, who stands around in the background of one scene and has no lines. There’s simply no point to that at all.

Ultimately, though, the story is Turkington’s, and he runs with it, probing the depths of self-loathing that must attach itself to the life of any comedian, not to mention one as acerbic as him. Strip this film down to this one man, staring into a mirror, silent, turning over the night and probably his every failure in his head, and that is when Entertainment is as riveting as any movie I’ve seen.

Photo by Ric Bellizzi.
Village Voice: 
The Harrowing 'Entertainment' Puts You in the Tux of America's Worst Comic
by Alan Scherstuhl
"Like grad school or that cave in The Empire Strikes Back, what you get out of Rick Alverson's bold and desolate Entertainment depends on what you put into it. It's less a film you watch than a breakdown episode you try to get through, a bottomed-out desert lulu that manages to make its 110 minutes pass like the worst month of your life. It's slow, seamy, pained, sometimes hallucinatory, a dismal sort of fantasy camp for anyone who might like to tour the Mojave's diviest bars as a depressed and detested stand-up comic, sleeping in a car and passing out on the floors of rest-area bathrooms..."
Click here to read the entire review.

Photo by Ric Bellizzi.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Official Trailer for "Entertainment"


If you want a taste of Rick Alverson's "Entertainment," which according to Indiewire's "The Playlist" is "a twisted existential comedic masterpiece," check out the official trailer.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Press Release: Alverson's 'Entertainment' pre-premiere screening


Date: October 20, 2015
To: All media for immediate release
Re: Screening of "Entertainment"
From: The Bijou Film Center

The Bijou Film Center will present "Entertainment" at the Byrd Theatre in Carytown on Sun., Nov. 8. The show starts at 6:30 p.m. After creating stirs at various film festivals, including Sundance, "Entertainment" will begin its theatrical first run in New York City next month. Five days prior to that premiere it will play one-time-only here in Richmond.

Following a special happy hour gathering at the Portrait House (5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.), across the street from The Byrd, Richmond's own Rick Alverson -- the director of "Entertainment" -- will be on hand to introduce the film.

Admission: Tickets at the box office will be $10.00 (the box office will open at 6 p.m.). Advance tickets are available online at Eventbrite for $7.00 (plus a processing fee of $1.38) each. Paper advance tickets will be available for $7.00 (cash or check) at Bygones Vintage Clothing and Steady Sounds until the day of the show.

The proceeds from this screening will be split between the Byrd Theatre Foundation's "Journey to the Seats" and the Bijou Film Center.

The After-Party will unfold at the New York Deli following the screening. It will feature a live comedy showcase, which will be hosted by Herschel Stratego. As a special treat, the protagonist in the film, The Comedian, aka Neil Hamburger (as played by Gregg Turkington), will appear on that program. Admission will be free.

*

"Entertainment" (2015): Color. 110 minutes. Directed by Rick Alverson. Cast: Gregg Turkington, John C. Reilly, Tye Sheridan, Michael Cera.

Film Note: The film's protagonist is an abrasive comedian who hurls his absurd material at small audiences in bleak dives in forgotten towns. The laughs come more from the situations than the jokes. Between gigs the nameless comedian is frequently shown as a passive observer of what sights he encounters traveling through the desert -- sights such as an airplane graveyard. Clearly, he is detached, but from what? Alone in cheap motel rooms, he talks to his estranged daughter on the phone. Does she exist? As odd as some of the characters appear to be, they feel real -- painfully real.

As it mocks our expectations, "Entertainment" is a compelling odyssey. Occasionally, it's laugh-out-loud funny. For viewers who've enjoyed the rather unconventional work of directors such as Robert Bresson, Luis Buñuel and David Lynch, Alverson's new flick could be about to shoulder its way onto their top ten lists. Love it, or hate it, "Entertainment" is a bona fide "art movie" that is probably destined to become a cult classic.

More about the Film:

The Guardian: "Sundance 2015 review: 'Entertainment' -- a comedy about emotional collapse and existential despair."

Interview with Rick Alverson in Crave.

*

The Bijou Mission: The goal is to establish the nonprofit Bijou Film Center in Richmond, Virginia. Its centerpiece will be a small independent cinema (approximately 120 seats) that will strive to present the best of the artsy first-run independent and imported films available. They will be sandwiched between short runs of selected classics, perhaps an occasional festival.

Co-presenters and Sponsors:

The event's co-presenters are: VCU's Institute for Contemporary Art and the Virginia Film Office.

The event's sponsors are: Big Secret; Candela Books + Gallery; Michael Harl Graphic Design; New York Deli; Portrait House; Steady Sounds; Ed Trask; Chuck Wrenn.

More About The Bijou: For background information these two articles reveal more about our quest, go here and here. And, we have already won an award from the Theatre Historical Society of America. More background pertaining to the Bijou Film Center can be found on the Bijou's Facebook page and its Bijou Backlight blogzine. This is the fifth event in the series of fundraisers presented by the Bijou Film Center over the last year. The success of our previous events has helped to bolster our confidence that Richmond is ready to support a well-programmed art house cinema.

Break a leg: When The Bijou opens for business, before the first film lights up the screen, its founders and staff will pause to toast our goal -- to become the hub of all things film in Richmond. We'll raise our glasses in The Bijou's small adjoining café/coffeehouse, which will regularly serve sandwiches, soups, salads, bagels, pastries, coffee, tea, beer, wine and so forth.

Beyond the exhibition of our gourmet film fare, we hope to be a friend to Richmonders interested in the preserving of old films and the making of new films. However, for the time being, we are focused on finding the best location for the Bijou Film Center to put down its roots. While we have made some recent progress on this front, it's too soon to say anything more.

More info: Bijou Film Center, PO Box 4994, Richmond, VA, 23220; www.bijoufilmcenter.org

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Five Film Favorites: Cartoons


This category is especially tricky. There's no way I can remember what my favorite cartoons were when I was 10 years old, back when cartoons mattered to me more than most things in real life. Baseball mattered more.

What will fill up this list will be my five favorite cartoons today. Still, before I get to that I want to give the reader some sense of what I liked best, back when I was a cartoon-loving kid. My favorite 'toons featured these characters: Betty Boop, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Heckle and Jeckle, Mr. Magoo, Popeye, Woody Woodpecker and so forth. Rather than go on, I'll stop there. You get the picture.  

In the late-1950s I still very much enjoyed the smooth animation styles of the old cartoons that were originally made to play in movie theaters. The early cartoons made for television, like Mighty Mouse, had imitated them. Then the Hanna-Barbera style came to TV. It was everywhere suddenly and I didn't like it all that much.

The drawings were flatter. Their entertainment value relied more on the dialogue than the art. Although I watched Huckleberry Hound and Yogi Bear, even liked them, I was put off by the animation style. The same was true for Rocky and Bullwinkle, although I liked the cartoons on that program more, because the writing was much funnier.

For this list of five favorites I'm talking mostly about cartoons that are about seven minutes long, which was standard in the time before television. So no feature length animated films are on this list. Neither are made-for-TV shows like The Simpsons, etc. 

Here are my five favorite short (all less than 10 minutes) cartoons, with one added special mention of an unusual animated segment of a feature-length film.

"The Critic" (1963): 4 minutes. Color. Directed by Ernest Pintoff. Voice by Mel Brooks. Click here to watch it.

"Duck Amuck" (1953): 7 minutes. Color. Directed by Chuck Jones. Voices by Mel Blanc. Click here to watch it.

"Minnie the Moocher" (1932). 8 minutes. B&W. Directed by Dave Fleischer. Voices by Mae Questel, Cab Calloway. Click here to watch it.

"Rooty Toot Toot" (1951): 7 minutes. Color. Directed by John Hubley. Voices by  Thurl Ravenscroft, Annette Warren. Click here to watch it.

"Thank You Masked Man" (1971): 8 minutes. Color. Directed by John Magnuson. Voices by Lenny Bruce. Click here to watch it.

Bonus pick: This is a segment from "Allegro non Troppo" (1976). It was an Italian take off of Disney's "Fantasia." Both films used pieces of classical music as their sound. Click here to watch it.


Thursday, August 20, 2015

Press Release: 'The Third Man' screening and after-party

Date: August 18, 2015
To: All media for immediate release
Re: Screening of "The Third Man"
From: The Bijou Film Center

The Bijou Film Center will present the newly restored 4K version of "The Third Man" at the Byrd Theatre in Carytown on Sun., Sept. 6, 2015, at 7 p.m. With The Byrd's new 4K projector and its deluxe sound system the beloved gem of a movie promises to look and sound better than ever.

"The Third Man" (1949): B&W. 104 minutes. Directed by Carol Reed. Screenplay by Graham Greene. Music by Anton Karas. Cast: Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli, Orson Welles, Trevor Howard. Note: This film noir classic is basically a who-dunnit murder mystery set in crumbling post-WWII Vienna. Or, is the real mystery a matter of who was murdered? Since each of the principle characters is hiding something, well, the truth lurking in the shadows isn’t so easy to see ... much less, to grasp.

More about the Film: Here are a couple of excerpts from the late Roger Ebert's review of Reed's masterpiece: 
  • "Has there ever been a film where the music more perfectly suited the action than in Carol Reed's 'The Third Man'?"
  • "Of all the movies I have seen, this one most completely embodies the romance of going to the movies." 
Click here to read Ebert's entire review. A second review of the movie is here. To see the new trailer go here.

Admission: Tickets at the box office will be $10.00. Advance tickets are now available online at Eventbrite for $7.00 (plus a processing fee of $1.38) each. Paper advance tickets will be available for $7.00 (cash or check) at Bygones Vintage Clothing and Steady Sounds until the day of the show. The proceeds from this one-time-only special screening will be split between the Byrd Theatre Foundation's "Journey to the Seats" and the Bijou Film Center.

The After-Party will unfold at the New York Deli following the screening. Gypsy Roots will perform live on stage. The Deli will offer a special The Third Man menu that night. Admission will be free.

*

The Bijou Mission: The goal is to establish the nonprofit Bijou Film Center in Richmond, Virginia. Its centerpiece will be a small independent cinema (100-to-120 seats) that will strive to present the best of the artsy first-run independent and imported films available. They will be sandwiched between short runs of selected classics, perhaps an occasional festival.

Before the Screening, between 5 p.m. until 6:30 p.m. Happy Hour at the Portrait House will happen. Raffles will be held. Steady Sounds will play movie soundtracks.

Our thanks go out to this event's sponsors: Candela Books + GalleryMichael Harl Graphic Design;  New York Deli; One South Realty Group;  Portrait HouseVCUarts Department of Photography and Film.

More About The Bijou: For background information these two articles reveal more about our quest, go here and here. And, we just won an award from the Theatre Historical Society of America. More background pertaining to the effort to breathe life into the Bijou Film Center can be found on the Bijou's Facebook page and its Bijou Backlight blogzine.

This is the fourth event in the series of fundraisers produced by the Bijou Film Center over the last year. The resounding success of those events has bolstered our confidence that Richmond is ready to support a well-programmed art house, along the lines of the one described above. In discussing our plans we regularly hear encouragement from locals who agree that especially in the last 15 years -- culturally speaking -- Richmond has evolved, considerably. We have to believe that bodes well for the Bijou's future.

Break a leg: The night The Bijou opens, before the first film is presented, we will pause to toast to what we hope will become the hub of all things film in Richmond. We'll raise our glasses in The Bijou's small adjoining cafe/coffeehouse, which will regularly serve sandwiches, soups, salads, bagels, pastries, coffee, tea, beer, wine and so forth.

Beyond the exhibition of our gourmet film fare, we hope to be a friend to Richmonders interested in the preserving of old films and the making of new films. However, for the time being, we are focused on finding the best location for the Bijou Film Center to put down its roots. And, yes, we'll take all the help we can get.

*

The Bijou Film Center's temporary studio/office is at 1 E. Broad St. (23219) in Richmond's downtown "arts district." More info: www.bijoufilmcenter.org

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Carol Reed's masterpiece: 'The Third Man'

If you read much about "The Third Man" (1949) you'll run into claims that it's a near-perfect movie. Such assertions seem to flow mostly from the safe notion that no feature film can be "perfect." But whatever flaws nitpickers might see in Carol Reed's film noir masterpiece simply don't play as mistakes to me. So I'm here to say that in my book, it's as close to perfect as it's going to get. 

"The Third Man" (1949): B&W. 104 minutes. Directed by Carol Reed. Screenplay by Graham Greene. Music by Anton Karas. Cast: Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli, Orson Welles, Trevor Howard.

Note: This film noir classic is basically a who-dunnit murder mystery set in crumbling post-WWII Vienna. Or, is the real mystery a matter of who was murdered? Since each of the principle characters in the story is hiding something, well, the truth lurking in the shadows isn’t so easy to see ... much less, to grasp.

It seems the legendary film critic Roger Ebert found more than just a measure of perfection in this beloved movie: 
  • "Has there ever been a film where the music more perfectly suited the action than in Carol Reed's 'The Third Man'?"
  • "[It] was made by men who knew the devastation of Europe at first hand. Carol Reed worked for the British Army's wartime documentary unit, and the screenplay was by Graham Greene, who not only wrote about spies but occasionally acted as one. Reed fought with David O. Selznick, his American producer, over every detail of the movie; Selznick wanted to shoot on sets, use an upbeat score and cast Noel Coward as Harry Lime. His film would have been forgotten in a week. Reed defied convention by shooting entirely on location in Vienna, where mountains of rubble stood next to gaping bomb craters, and the ruins of empire supported a desperate black market economy. And he insisted on Karas' zither music." 
  • "Of all the movies I have seen, this one most completely embodies the romance of going to the movies." 
Click here to read Ebert's entire review.

The characters moving through the film's deliciously twisted plot can be seen as representing various shades of gray truths, set before a harsh backlight cast by the bitter reality of the times. Within this story, they, too, are perfect: 

Joseph Cotten (who was from Petersburg, Virginia) is perfect as Holly Martins, a pulp fiction writer. He's the stubborn, naive American, in way over his head in a strange part of the world. More specifically, in Vienna and down on his luck, Martins is riding for a fall. Atop a Ferris wheel he winces as he asks his once-trusted old friend, Harry Lime, "Have you ever seen any of your victims?
Orson Welles is perfect as Harry Lime, the suave opportunist who answers Martins question with the beginning of a chilling and memorable speech: "Victims? Don't be melodramatic. Look down there. Tell me. Would you really feel any pity if one of those dots stopped moving forever? If I offered you twenty thousand pounds for every dot that stopped, would you really, old man, tell me to keep my money, or would you calculate how many dots you could afford to spare?"

Trevor Howard is perfect as Major Calloway, the voice of reason and reality. He knows a situation with no good options when he sees one. As a military man, acting as a policeman, he just hopes to prevent more wreckage. Recognizing what a sap Holly is, Calloway says: "Go home Martins, like a sensible chap. You don't know what you're mixing in, get the next plane ...You were born to be murdered."

And, yes, Alida Valli is perfect as Anna Schmidt, the war-weary European. She's loyal to her instincts and passions no matter what comes. Hey, Anna has seen it all. Thanks to Harry's effort to obscure her past, together with her own charm and savvy, she has kept her secret hidden ... so far. Anna says: "A person doesn't change just because you find out more."

Can't reveal the role the cat plays in the story. It would give too much away, but the cat is perfect, too.

On Sun., Sept. 6, at 7 p.m. only, you can watch those characters come alive in the new 4K restoration of "The Third Man." See it on the Byrd Theatre's big screen and hear it through The Byrd's deluxe sound system. Maybe you, too, will call it perfection!

For more information and to see who's already planning to come, visit the Bijou Film Center's Facebook event page.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Sept. 6: "The Third Man" 4K restoration


The Bijou Film Center will present the newly restored 4K version of "The Third Man" at the Byrd Theatre on Sun., Sept. 6, 2015, at 7 p.m.

Don't forget, The Byrd has a new 4K projector in its booth. The proceeds will benefit the Bijou Film Center and the Byrd Theatre Foundation. Here are the basic details:

"The Third Man" (1949): B&W. 104 minutes. Directed by Carol Reed. Cast: Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli, Orson Welles, Trevor Howard. Note: Screenplay by Graham Greene. This elegant murder mystery is set in crumbling post-WWII Vienna. Or, is it a murder mystery? The main characters are all working their own angle, so the truth isn’t easy to grasp.

Maybe as close to a perfect movie as it gets. For more on the film and the restoration click here.
  • Admission: $10.00 at the box office. 
  • Advance tickets for $7.00 will be available soon at selected locations and online (a service charge of about a dollar is added to the price for online purchases).
The after-party will unfold at the New York Deli following the screening. Gypsy Roots will perform live on stage. Admission will be free. 

More information will be posted soon.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

An Imaginary Jack Nicholson Film Festival

by F.T. Rea
Jack Nicholson in "Five Easy Pieces"
On Facebook a musician friend reminded me of a Jack Nicholson film festival that played at the Biograph. He mentioned having seen “Five Easy Pieces” there and went on to say how much he enjoyed going to the Biograph in those days; it broadened his horizons when he was a student. Naturally, it's always nice to hear such remembrances.

Flashing back, there were many good aspects to my job as manager of Richmond's Biograph Theatre at 814 W. Grace St. (1972-83). One of the best was picking the films for double features.

Which isn't to suggest I thought them all up. Not at all. I had bosses in Georgetown. Over the first year, I gradually became more involved with programming the theater. We talked endlessly on the telephone about which movies had the most potential at the box office.

In those early days my decision-making was focused more on the midnight shows. And, once I did start making most of the calls about what to play, as far as the repertory bookings were concerned, I was already blessed with a great staff at the Biograph; their suggestions fed into the mix. Then there was the suggestion box in the lobby that allowed the theater's patrons to weigh in.

Still, the point of this post isn't to rehash the Biograph's sepia-toned history, yet again. What I want to do this time is make up a 12-feature Jack Nicholson film festival. With six double features, let's call it “Jack's Greatest Hits.”

Each twin bill would play for either three or four days. Matinees would be offered on Sundays and Wednesdays. Since the Biograph closed in 1987 (there's a noodle-themed restaurant in that space now), for this imaginary festival I'll just have to dream up an imaginary cinema. Let's locate it in the heart of town and call it The Bijou.

Although, for the most part, the 12 films selected for this game are favorites of mine, I've included two movies I didn't like all that much -- "The Shinning" and "The Departed." Did that because I expect a lot of loyal Nicholson fans consider his performances in those two films to be among his best. Maybe I need to watch them again. 

To make room in the festival for them one of my favorites I had to bump off the list was “The King of Marvin Gardens” (1972). Although I liked it a lot back in the day, I have to admit it's a bit tedious and off-the-wall. Plus, I haven't seen it in a long time. But I remember that some of Jack's fans didn't like him all that much in that role.

Remember, this is an imaginary festival. Its ignores the reality of how booking these particular pairings might not be possible, from a business standpoint. Nonetheless, without further ado, spanning 37 years of his work, here's the Jack's Greatest Hits film festival.

Thu.-Sun.:
“Five Easy Pieces” (1970) + “Chinatown” (1974)

Mon.-Wed.:
“Easy Rider” (1969) + “The Passenger” (1975)

Thu.-Sun.:
“The Last Detail” (1973) + “One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest” (1975) 

Mon.-Wed.:
“The Shining” (1980) + "The Departed" (2006)

Thu.-Sun.:
“Carnal Knowledge” (1971)  + “As Good as It Gets” (1997)

Mon.-Wed.:
“Prizzi's Honor” (1985) + “The Pledge” (2001)

A year or so from now maybe you'll get to see a repertory festival sort of like this one at The Bijou. It sure would be fun to have a hand in programming such a project.

Jack Nicholson and Billy Snead.
They were pals going back to the early 1950s (long story)
and got together occasionally. Billy (1935-2012) grew up in
the Fan District, played on the Biograph's softball team and
was a regular at Chiocca's for decades.

Anyone have a suggestion for a seventh double feature?

*

Note: By the way Billy Snead was a good story-teller. He had some good ones about Nicholson. Billy's daughter Sande posted some of the stories he put on paper here.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A Happening Sunday Afternoon

by F.T. Rea

James Parrish and Terry Rea hamming it up at Hardywood for 
Jere Kittle's lens. (She did the film reels installation, too).
Hooray for Hardywood! indeed.

The folks at Hardywood Park Craft Brewery certainly did their part to make the Bijou Film Center's show on Sunday afternoon (May 17) a rollicking success. Hardywood's staff did a magnificent job of setting up the stage, running sound and accommodating the thirsty crowd. In particular, I have to cite Kerry Anderson for seeing to it that things went smoothly.

By the way, I stole that "Hooray for Hardywood" line from Richmond Magazine's Harry Kollatz, Jr. It was used as the title of a piece Kollatz penned last week to let his readers know about the Bijou's "Music, Movies & Magic" show. So, Harry, who attended the show, deserves some thanks, too.

After a classic Daffy Duck cartoon was screened The Red Hot Lava Men administered a healthy dose of impeccably authentic surf guitar to the assembled audience. It was well received and it was fun to feel the energy in the cavernous room percolating. 

Speaking of writers who helped to prompt attendees for the afternoon's fare, STYLE Weekly's Chris Bopst made the scene, too. Making the Bijou's variety show an Event Pick was appreciated.

For a review of the event, please read Karen Newton's blog post, "Barrels of Fun," at I Could Go On and On. It seems Karen had a pretty good time, even if she doesn't care much for beer.
Today's event at Hardywood - bands, movies, magician and raffle - is the latest fundraiser to help get the upcoming Bijou Film Center up and running so that those of us devoted to the movie theater experience will have a place to see not only films that don't make it to Richmond, but repertory film as well...
...The Happy Lucky Combo took the stage with accordionist Barry looking particularly dapper in a straw boater, a gentleman's best topper on a summer-hot day, introducing themselves to first-timers (although how that's possible, I can't imagine) with a song, "We're the Happy Lucky Combo."
Seeing a lot of longtime friends at the party was quite encouraging. I'm happy to say there were too many there for me to try to name them all. However, one name I have to mention is Chuck Wrenn. Chuck, who I've worked with on many a promotion/show, was kind enough to introduce the last band to play -- Avers.  

Avers, fresh off of its smashing success at the South By Southwest Music Festival (SXSW) in Austin, did not disappoint the crowd. When Avers began playing the audience had doubled in size. The sudden influx of Avers fans cut the audience's average age in half. A packed house took in Avers' lively set of original material. The six-piece band's tight performance went over well with all ages assembled. 

Throughout the afternoon's event, with Chaplin and Keaton on the screen between sets by the bands, the vibe in the room was uplifting. The turnout was encouraging. As much fun as it was in having had a hand in putting on the show, and observing the roomful of people enjoying the entertainment and beer, this geezer particularly enjoyed the sight of little kids taking in the cartoons and watching our house magician, John Smallie, perform.

It needs mentioning here, too, that our sponsors played an integral role in making the show possible. There were:  Candela Books + Gallery, Christopher's Runaway Gourmay, Crossroads Coffee and Ice Cream, Don't Look Back, Hardywood Park Craft Brewery, Michael Harl, Plan 9, Portrait House, Triple Stamp Press.

Michael Harl's eye-catching poster design had people stealing them leading up to the show. Flattering? Yes. Helpful? Not so much. At the show we sold posters to attendees who wanted a souvenir.

Other than to have a good time on a Sunday afternoon, the purpose of the Music, Movies & Magic event was to publicize the fundraising drive the Bijou is kicking off to raise $15,000 to buy specific equipment that will put us in the film transfer business. Machines similar to what we'll need were demonstrated during the event by K Sean Finch of AV Geeks (out of Raleigh, NC).

We, James Parrish and me (Terry Rea), plan to start transferring old film and videos for customers in the fall of this year. News of how you can contribute to the cause will be published in a few days. Meanwhile, we'll continue to update this thank-you post with photos people send us. So, come back again to see what has been added. 

Thanks to all, especially our dutiful volunteers, who helped us in many way to put the event together and hold it together. And, last but not least, thanks to all who attended.

Another shot by Jere Kittle.