Thursday, December 03, 2009

Cinemateca Portuguesa & Monte Hellman

I was in Portugal last week and had the chance to visit the Portuguese Cinematheque: Cinemateca Portuguesa.



In December, they're showing some sublime films such as The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, An Affair to Remember, Stromboli, Anatomy of a Murder, The Birds and works by directors like Fritz Lang, King Vidor, George Cukor, Vincente Minnelli, F. W. Murnau, Claude Chabrol...

Their November program included experimental films too. There were screenings of films by Gregory Markopoulos and Andy Warhol. You can go to their website to see the calender.

Apart from all this, there were a wonderful-looking Monte Hellman retrospective. The only evening I had some time in Lisbon I went to see his Silent Night, Deadly Night III: Better Watch Out!. As you can tell from the title, it's a B-Horror movie, but what the title can't tell is how great the film actually is. Wonderfully lit, with an amazing framing that constantly emanates an awareness of the off-screen world.

The off-screen space is always important in a horror movie as you always wait for the evil to come inside the frame the main characters inhabit, but I've never seen it done with such exactitude and such tension. (Confession: I watched very few horror films.)

Narrative-wise, there is no real evil in the film, certainly not a clear line between the good & evil, which makes Silent Night, Deadly Night III: Better Watch Out! all the more terrifying and disturbing. The evil resides in memories, all human beings have some frightening images lying in their (sub or not) consciousness.

When I went out of the theatre, the beautiful Lisbon seemed to reveal the fright within...

According to Wikipedia:
"At a screening at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, Texas in July 2008, Hellman introduced the film, saying he thought it was his best work (though not his best film). His esteem for the work was partly due, he said, to the speed at which the entire project was put together. The original script was thrown out and rewritten in one week, starting in March. By the end of April, principal photography was done, editing was done in May (with Hellman taking time out to go to the Cannes Film Festival), and by July 1989 there was an answer print screened at a film festival."


And again according to Wikipedia, the film was a direct-to-video release but I've seen it on a 35mm print, as it was originally intended.

Needless to say, I don't have a clue about the first two, or the last two films of the series. If anybody who reads this has seen any of them, please do comment.

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