Thomas Jerome Newton carries an English passport, but he’s not from England. He’s from another planet. He’s just arrived in New Mexico with a few thousand dollars’ worth of gold rings and a plan: he needs to become a wealthy industrialist, develop space technology centuries ahead of what’s currently available on Earth, and ferry enormous quantities of water back to his drought-stricken home planet before it’s too late.
Becoming a rich industrialist isn’t that hard for him, really, because he’s got a head chock-full of futuristic technology. And because he’s able to hand pick his own team of loyal employees, he knows his instructions will be carried out to the letter while he keeps out of sight.
But Newton is about to have a close encounter with three of Earth’s biggest cultural exports: sex, alcohol and television. As if that isn’t enough, at the same time he’s also going to learn that humanity — the species he’s been forced to put a lot of trust in — isn’t that trustworthy.
Science fiction is at its best when it holds up a mirror to the human species and really shows us how we look from the outside. If we end up looking like a bunch of cruel, greedy and rapacious apes, whose fault is that?
Candy Clark, Rip Torn and Buck Henry are perfectly cast, as is David Bowie in his first film role. His Newton comes alive through little moments: the way he recoils a little in surprise when he sees his first door open, or the way he brushes his hair aside when he becomes self-conscious. This film is intelligent, tragic, deeply affecting and, of course, a little weird. But you expected that, didn’t you? –Michael Popham
The Man Who Fell To Earth screens Friday and Saturday, December 12 and 13 at 7:00 and 9:45, and Sunday, December 14, at 5:00 and 7:00, at the Trylon. Purchase tickets here.
The world’s cinemas have long been haunted by vampires. The brilliant and truly frightening 1922 German film Nosferatu introduced the angular Count Orlock, a vampire with knife-sharp nails who slinks around in the shadows searching for victims. It was and still is an amazing creation. There is the inimitable Bela Lugosi in the 1931 Dracula, one of the most well-known versions of the good Count. Fast forward to the 1979 film with the same name, and you’ll find a noble and elegant Frank Langella, who left many of us young women opening our windows before going to bed and turning down the collars of our pajamas to expose our necks. Skip ahead to 1983 and we have The Hunger, the most sensual, elegant, and thoughtful vampire movie to date. (Keep your Robert Pattinson, ‘tweens! This one was made for grown-ups.)
In The Hunger, we are drawn into a vampire world by two of our era’s most seductive stars: David Bowie and Catherine Deneuve. (Just watching them playing chess together for 90 minutes would be riveting. And indeed they are reputed to have done just that during breaks in filming. Could they be any cooler?) Combined with the sleek visual aesthetic of director Tony Scott, we have a true winner. An ethereal and engrossing version of the classic horror story – perhaps the most sensually thrilling and sexually charged of them all.
The film begins with Miriam and John Blaylock (Deneuve and Bowie), a vampire queen and one of her changelings, several centuries into their bloody, wedded bliss. In the throb of a crowded nightclub, these ultimate hipsters knowingly watch each other from across the room. The first shot of Deneuve captures her stunning, timeless beauty, hidden behind dark glasses, her deep red lips blowing smoke into the hazy, dim room. (Could anything make smoking look any cooler?) And Bowie, scanning for their next victims, is also beautiful, sexually electric. Deneuve’s Miriam is watching Bowie’s John, who is watching the crowd. The film cuts between the pulsing urgency emanating from our stars and the uber-hip Peter Murphy – lead singer of the renowned band Bauhaus – punked out and clinging to the inside of a cage. He is singing, of course, the band’s stellar hit, “Bela Lugosi’s Dead.” It just doesn’t get better than this. The one-night-stands our two stars bring home with them are in for the surprise of their lives. They, and we, learn that the Blaylocks have a lust for blood.
From there we move to New York’s Upper East Side, to the Blaylocks’ well-appointed home. Without the nightclub opening, we wouldn’t know what century or country we were being ushered into; the home’s billowing, sheer drapes, the antique furnishings, the regal décor, and the thick, exotic atmosphere belie both time and place. And the musical accompaniment augments the visuals in perfect balance. Here, in this amazing home, is where the real story begins.
The Hunger is the film debut of director Tony Scott – brother to Ridley Scott – who shares his sibling’s stunning sensibility in creating the visual aspects of this movie. (Think Blade Runner, thick with atmosphere and a thoroughly believable futuristic world.) Both brothers began their careers making commercials in England before coming to America to test the waters of movie-making. This has obviously given them an eye for capturing mood and atmosphere, and for being outstanding seducers of their audiences. Tony Scott’s aesthetic gives the film the elegance that makes it so satisfying to watch. It is truly a visual seduction – supported by the sensuousness of its stars and a collection of some of the most stirring pieces in classical music history. It’s so alluring, it elevates all the senses. Viewers will succumb and fully surrender to this film.
Of note is the amazing aging of John Blaylock, when the vampire spell of eternal youth inexplicably stops working for him. Critics were astounded by the miraculous appearance of this body growing older, decade by decade, in the space of mere minutes. (Remember, this was before computerized alterations were de rigeur.) It’s a true feat, and heartbreaking to watch.
Also of note is Susan Sarandon’s presence as a doctor researching progeria, a disease that ages people prematurely. It’s a nice conceit – Miriam Blaylock seeking out any advances in stopping a rapid aging process. You’ll have to forgive the stunning Sarandon’s awkward appearance, as this was, after all, the 1980s; her haircut is, well, so 80s, and her (and Deneuve’s) makeup is overdone – glaring interruptions in an otherwise visually perfected world. Add to that the ridiculousness of the doctor’s demeanor, and you’ll want to edit out the scenes in her research facilities to maintain the full beauty of the movie. (Sarandon introduces herself in the film as a specialist in progeria – pronounced, incorrectly, pro-ja-REE-uh – and her need to light up a cigarette every time she stands in front of her research primates’ cages is ridiculous and oh-so-dated.) All this can be forgiven, however, by the beautiful lovemaking scene she has with Miriam. It is a scene so delicate and erotic that will entice viewers of all sexual proclivities.
The Hunger remains a classic vampire movie. It dances in its beauty and gentility, its memorable music, and the magnetism of its stars. That it touches on the sorrows of eternal life is a bonus. Come prepared to be transported. – Andrea Matthews
Andrea Matthews is a writer living in Minneapolis.
The Hunger screens Friday and Saturday, December 5 and 6 at 7:00 and 9:00, and Sunday December 7 at 5:00 and 7:00, at the Trylon. You can purchase advance tickets here.
An American businessman (Josh Charles) is in Paris, trying to set up a big deal in the Middle East for his bosses back home. His negotiations appear to be successful, and he is instructed to fly immediately from Paris to Dubai. But as he sits in his hotel room, overlooking the Charles de Gaulle airport, he has an epiphany: he realizes he is completely, utterly unhappy with his life.
Meanwhile hotel maid Audrey (Anais Demoustier) feels she isn’t where she belongs either. She’s a college dropout, coming off a bad breakup; she is overworked and underappreciated. She feels there is a freedom and lightness of being that exists somewhere, if only she can find it.
At first, Pascale Ferran’s Bird People comes across like a French Lost In Translation, with much of the action taking place in a hotel. While Paris seems a perfect place to lose your marbles and seek a new life and new identity, we find ourselves limited to the airport Hilton adjacent to the less-than-romantic airport. But the film quickly takes a turn toward the fantastic, as Audrey discovers that she can literally become like the sparrows that flit outside the windows of the rooms she cleans. That discovery, set to David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”, is when the whole movie takes wing.
This is an offbeat little film: not quite a comedy, not quite a romance, not quite a fantasy; but it is a strange and memorable journey. — Michael Popham
Bird People screens Monday and Tuesday, December 1 and 2 at 7:00 and 9:30 at the Trylon. You can purchase tickets here.
Wondering if you should go to see Harold Lloyd’s The Freshman, which starts Friday at the Trylon? Let’s see what the New York Times said about the film when it premiered back in September 1925:
If laughter really is a panacea or some ills, one might hazard that a host of healthy persons were sent away from the Colony yesterday after regaling themselves in wild and rollicking explosions of mirth over Harold Lloyd’s comic antics in his latest hilarious effusion, “The Freshman.” Judging from what happened in the packed theatre in the afternoon, when old folks down to youngsters volleyed their hearty approval of the bespectacled comedian, the only possible hindrance to the physical well-being of the throngs was as attack of aching sides.
In this new production Mr. Lloyd burlesques a young college student with athletic aspirations. While it is a decidedly boisterous affair, it is evident that Mr. Lloyd knows his public. He gives them something easy to laugh at a film in which the authors could not be accused of dodging slapstick or of flirting with subtlety. It is a story which deserved more gentle handling, but there’s no gainsaying that the buffoonery gained its end in its popular appeal. Occasionally this jazz jester rubs in the fun by repeating his action, and he also anticipates laughter.
Harold Lamb (Mr. Lloyd) first is introduced as a deserving youth who idolizes the past year’s most popular student at Tate College. Harold’s father is a rampant radio enthusiast, and in one sequence is deluded into the belief that he has reached some far-distant country, only to discover that what he hears are the odd yells of his college-mad son, who is practicing as a cheer-leader in a room above
The most amusing chapter in this stretch of fun is where Harold succumbs to the notion that he is a possible candidate for the football team. He permits himself to be tackled and bowled about by the husky students, and is eventually permitted to sit on the players bench at the most important contest of the season. Tate’s team fares badly, one after another being put hors do combat. The coach observes the ridiculous Harold aching for his chance, but has no faith in the young man who wears his spectacles under his rubber nose protector, Harold’s insistence, however, gives him his chances and all sorts of laughable gags follow, one of them being introduced when Harold is warned by the umpire that he must release the ball when the official whistles. Later one perceives Harold clutching the ball, dashing toward the opponent’s goal. Suddenly there is a factory whistle. He is five yards from his destination when he halts and throws down the ball.
This is a regular Harold Lloyd strip of fun, which is made all the more hilarious by introducing something like suspense in the sequences on the football field.
The Freshman screens Friday and Saturday, November 21 and 22, at 7:00 and 9:00, and Sunday, November 23 at 5:00 and 7:00. Live accompaniment by The Rats and People MN. Tickets are $10.00, and you can purchase them here.
Our series “The Play’s the Thing: Vaclav Havel, Art and Politics” continues with Jan Němec’s A Report On Party and Guests.
A pleasant afternoon outing is cut short when a few pushy intruders force a group of friends to play a round of ridiculous party games. Jan Němec’s absurdist parable on the behavior of authority figures is a landmark of the Czech New Wave of the brief Prague Spring. Preceded by The Mist (Mlha) (1966, 28m) Capturing Prague’s celebrated Theatre on the Balustrade from a variety of different perspectives, The Mist is a celebration of the place where Václav Havel began as a dramaturge and stagehand.
Screens at the Trylon Monday and Tuesday, November 10 and 11 at 7:00 and 9:00. All shows are free and open to the public.
We are proud to partner with the National Film Archive Prague, Václav Havel Library, Embassy of the Czech Republic in Washington, and Czech and Slovak Sokol Minnesota to bring to the Twin Cities these feature-length and short films celebrating Havel’s work.