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The Trylon’s celebrated 5th Anniversary Silent Film Festival has been a rousing success, and it closes this weekend with the man who started it all: Buster Keaton. Five years ago we presented a month of sold-out Keaton shows to inaugurate the Trylon, and we’ve been going strong ever since. Come enjoy Go West, Keaton’s western masterpiece, with live accompaniment by Rats and People MN. This a hilarious send up of a genre that, by 1925, was already in need of a good ribbing!

Review by Trylon regular Ben Schmidt.

No spoilers here, I refuse to tell you why or how Buster Keaton goes West. But soon after he does so the following occurs:

Unexpectedly, our hero ends up on a cattle ranch, a fish out of water. Hes poor. Hungry. Trying to fit in.

While out trying to help the other workers, a cow limps past him. He approaches it cautiously, still not used to this place, or its people, or these animals. Mustering a bit of courage, he pats her head. At rest, or in his company, she seems content.

So he grabs her bum leg and sees a rock has lodged in her hoof. He removes it, making it a point to show her the cause of her pain before dropping it to the ground. All better now.

A second passes. Keaton glances down at their feet, at this rock that now rests on the ground. No. That wont do. As cow looks on, he snatches up the rock up and digs a small hole. Then quickly buries it as best as hes able, ensuring no harm will come to her ever again.

Its disarmingly thoughtful, and so damned sweet, and just one of the many reasons I was so taken with this film. Id never witnessed Keatons wonderful attention to detail and timing, but I now understand why this film from 1924 remains fresh and funny.

For neophytes like myself, its testament to Keatons talent as actor and director, and to his alarmingly wonderful attention to detail and timing.

No wonder this film from 1924 remains so funny and engaging.

Though tiny keychain-gunplay never hurts either…

Ben Schmidt is a writer: strong of beard, smooth of voice.

Go West screens Friday and Saturday at 7:00 and 9:30; Sunday at 5:00 and 7:30. Purchase tickets here.

buster keaton go west 1925 busy street scene

chan-drunken-masterOur wonderful Jackie Chan Adventures series continues with what some consider his greatest movie, The Legend of Drunken Master!

Review by Trylon regular Ben Schmidt.

The Legend of Drunken Master is exactly five things:

1. Its the best kung fu movie ever made.

2. Its so damned good, it transcends its own genre, being one of the best films ever made, period. (Doubts? Know my mother and Time magazine both back me up here.)

3. Its Jackie Chans Citizen Kane (Yuen Woo-ping being Chans Herman J. Mankiewicz).

4. Its the story of how you never knew how much you wanted to see a man with a spear fight a man with a sword underneath a train, until you see exactly that. And you realize its the BEST thing. And THEN you realize that fight took place while our Drunken Legend was sober. Who knows what hes capable of when he starts to drink. (And he then very quickly starts to drink.)

5. Its showing at the Trylon!

 What more do you need to know? An amazing film. Not to be missed.

Ben Schmidt is a writer: strong of beard, smooth of voice.

The Legend of Drunken Master screens Monday and Tuesday at the Trylon at 7:00 & 9:00. Purchase tickets here.

Jackie Chan | The Legend of Drunken Master [1994] | Trailer

 

SM2-GH186-Project-A-Part-II-S01The Trylon’s Jackie Chan Adventures continues with the crazy historical epic Project A.

Review by Trylon regular Ben Schmidt.

Project A is a weird bird. But any bird that allows Jackie Chan, Samo Hung, and Yuen Biao to sing together is worth watching, this film being no exception. They three are a type of Voltron–each strong of their own accord, but most phenomenal together.

Do approach this screening with a patient mind, as Project A takes a while to sort itself out. In the beginning, Chan’s humorless stint in sailor suit comes across as distant and odd. It feels like work. Things happen. People argue. Boats explode, though not very well. Even the first fight scene, a bar brawl, feels uninspired.

But hang in there, dear friend. Once you reach the hand-grenade tomfoolery, know that Project A does relax and begin to have fun–as will you. And as the movie finds its footing, you’ll begin to appreciate its unsung stars. Yes, as always, Jackie Chan orchestrates ridiculous stunts, one that allegedly almost killed him. (When you see the landing, you’ll know which.) But, dear sweet Lord, do you feel the thankless work of his stunt team as they are kicked, chucked and hurtled about from one scene to the next? Though it’s often cringe-worthy, the choreography is a refreshingly earnest display of talent and discipline.

Thankfully, the brute physicality on display is balanced with Chan’s now trademark humor and playfulness. It’s far from a one-note production. Ultimately, these people are busting their bottoms to entertain you, and their effort shines, with no fancy editing or special effects to hide behind.

That being said, I shall say it again, Project A is a weird bird. This is a film that harbors both a light-hearted and surprising bicycle chase, and quite suddenly knives go plunging into the chest and legs of unfortunate pirates (which is followed by the funniest line in the movie). But this weird is good weird. Most films struggle to have any personality at all, let alone one as funky and unrefined as Project A’s. Well worth enjoying in the cool, comforting darkness of the Trylon.

SUPER PROJECT A BONUS CHALLENGE: When the time comes, try figuring out who supplies the English voice of pirate leader Lo Sam Pau. Don’t ruin it for yourself beforehand (put down the Google.) The casting decision was another odd, wonderful part of Project A. I loved it. And later, I was genuinely delighted to discover who it was.

Like the film itself, a mad little bit of genius.

Ben Schmidt is a writer: strong of beard, smooth of voice.

Project A trailer (Jackie Chan)

Project A screens at the Trylon Monday and Tuesday at 7:00 & 9:00. Purchase tickets here.

The ConversationOur Hackman in the Seventies series closes with what is arguably the man’s greatest film, Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation.

Review by Aaron Vehling.

In Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation, Gene Hackman’s Harry Caul is renowned for his unparalleled ability for audio surveillance, and for the blood on his hands as a result of his services. His latest case, the focus of the film, starts out as a fairly straightforward success story that culminates into a subtle but psychotic game of “Telephone.” The National Security Administration should take note.

The film was released in 1974, which was not only the same year Coppola released the second Godfather but also the year Richard Nixon resigned from the office. The nation had weathered a lot of trauma in the previous decade, and Nixon’s leaving office because of Watergate solidified a widespread mistrust in institutions.

The government had a relationship with its people along the lines of “do what I say and not what I do.” Caul is essentially a personification of this. He is the a master of his trade, establishing increasingly complex ways of listening in on people despite the technical limitations of the day. He cares nothing for the privacy of others, but protects his privacy with a ferocity.

Caul barely connects with people, even his staffer Stan (John Cazale), who knows him the best, doesn’t really know him at all. Caul sleeps with women, whom think they are his girlfriends. Although if they ever ask him any questions neither of them are getting lucky that night. He doesn’t like talking about himself, won’t use a home phone and keeps his doors triple-locked.

This is Caul’s way of dealing with his guilt. A previous wiretap job resulted in the death of three people, a fact fellow surveillance folk remind him of on occasion. Wracked with guilt, the deeply Catholic Caul creates a world around him in which he can fein a lack of responsibility while staying in the business. As he says, he’s not responsible for what his clients do with their tapes.

This is where Coppola’s writing and directing take a masterful turn. When Caul produces perfectly clear recordings of a conversation between a man and a woman (Cindy Williams and Frederic Forrest), he becomes concerned about the meaning of the conversation. He does not have any context, but he hears a series of buzz phrases that trigger his memory of the three he indirectly killed.

Among them is “He’d kill us if he had the chance.” It’s a refrain that echoes in his brain and convinces him that either his client, The Director (Robert Duvall) or The Director’s assistant, Martin (Harrison Ford, with ankle intact), is keen on killing the couple.

Caul’s guilt causes him to endure painful nightmares. He looks at Cindy Williams through a mist and tells her, “I’m not afraid of death, but I am afraid of murder.” Eventually, The Director’s men begin to follow him, invading his privacy and turning the “bugger” into the “bugged.”

Suddenly Caul’s existence — as an empty vessel for other people’s information — consists of his running around like nothing is safe anymore. Any sense of stability he had is lost and eventually he tears his whole world apart, smashing the prim and proper edifices all around him. It all happens under a deliberate, careful and often quiet pacing that Coppola crafts in a fashion that primarily went away since quick edits became custom.

The Conversation was nominated for three Academy Awards, losing best picture to The Godfather Part II, a rather insane scenario that only further secured Coppola’s role as a leading member of the New Hollywood movement. Five years later he would create Apocalypse Now, a movie that would ensure that no matter how improperly he approached filmmaking in the decades to come, Coppola was a master at his craft and was seated at the forefront of turning the political mistakes of the 1960s and 1970s into artful and horrifying films.

Aaron Vehling is a journalist and musician who loves the music of Johnny Jewel and New Order and the films of David Lynch and Lars von Trier. Though he’s from Longfellow, Minneapolis, he now lives in Harlem, New York, on the same block as the mansion from The Royal Tenenbaums.

The Conversation screens Friday and Saturday at 7:00 and 9:15, Sunday at 5:00 and 7:15. Purchase tickets here.

 

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Our wonderful Gene Hackman in the Seventies series continues with what is arguably the least known of Hackman’s great films, Scarecrow. There is no reason whatsoever for this little masterpiece to have fallen through the cracks. Released in 1973, after Hackman had won his Oscar for The French Connection, and made between Al Pacino’s star turns in the Godfather movies, the film won the grand prize at the Cannes Film Festival to boot. The movie is gritty, funny, heartbreaking, fitting in perfectly with the 70s aesthetic of grimly realistic films highlighting great performances.

Scarecrow is not without its faults–it is a weird, rambling film, and one of those pictures that simply never sits all that well with audiences. But today it’s forgotten, in my opinion, because it examines, with great respect for its characters, the meaning of friendship and poverty. Honestly, I can’t think of the last time there was a great American movie about being poor, and friendship doesn’t sell tickets, I guess.

Of all the films in the Hackman series, I seriously urge you to see this one. Hackman is simply amazing here, and Pacino is the perfect foil. There are so many brilliant scenes between these two actors, on the road, in bars, at a dinner table, in jail–too many to count. And the opening shot of Scarecrow might just be one of the top five in all of cinema history, if not the best.

Scarecrow screens Friday and Saturday at 7:00 and 9:15, Sunday at 5:00 and 7:15. Purchase tickets here.

Scarecrow – Trailer – (1973)