December 20th 2012. Pick Of The Day.

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The Film Forum's exhaustive retrospective of the great screen icon Jean-Louis Trintignant finally comes to a close today, as must all French occupations. The twin 70's action noirs THE OUTSIDE MAN and AND HOPE TO DIE, co-starring Roy Scheider and Robert Ryan respectively, screen for a second and final day while the entire tribute closes out with Claude Chabrol's LES BICHES. Take a good guess what the latter's about. I kid the sulky one over the grim facade which became his lifelong trademark, but this sourpuss not only helped define the soul of his country postwar, post Hitler's emasculation of a fiercely chauvinistic society, he also delved into the pain felt by violated national identity. Trintignant brought not merely menace but hurt, usually in a film scenario where one might ease the other. The Froggy Frown has contributed in important ways to the timeline of cinema, and for this we are forever grateful. I would make one of these parting gifts my Pick today except I've laid several wreaths at JLT's feet already, so I'm going to award it to another great actor whose face was a permanently frozen upside down C. More of that later.

MOMA's phenomenal Dickens On Film series gets underway tonight with a pair of more obscure programs; Claude Rains stars in the 1st sound adaptation of the author's unfinished THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD, while the evening time slot is filled with a selection of silent shorts based on the author's works, featuring early versions of A CHRISTMAS CAROL, OLIVER TWIST and NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. DROOD is offered today with an illustrated lecture by Adrien Wootton, and the silent features are accompanied by Ben Model on the piano. This is gonna be fun.

MOMA then turns down the good cheer with its continuing Pier Paolo Pasolini retrospective today, featuring a knockout perf by Anna Magnani, the only other Italian export from the 50's I may have chosen over Sophia Loren. It's a thing. MAMMA ROMA finds AM essaying the role of a prostitute in search of a new life for herself and her son, only to find the past sticks like a barnacle. At least in Italian Neo-Realist flicks it does. America, not so much.

Next up in the PPP hugfest is the kneeslapping OEDIPUS REX, which tells the tale of...nah, better ya don't knoew. Go in blind like I did. Emerge even blinder.

The quintessential Arthur Freed-Vincente Minelli collaboration, perhaps the greatest example of the MGM musical assembly line of the 40's, screens tonight at, of all places, the Clearview Theater in Chelsea. They like musicals in that neighborhood? Who'da thunk? MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS not only served as blueprint for Mayer's song-and-dance department for the decade to come, it also produced an off-screen wedding betwen its director and star, Minelli and Judy Garland, whose union would in turn produce Lucille 2. That alone makes this film important, but yeah there's also the quality of the Technicolor cinematography and the sophistication of song integration with screen narrative and blah blah blahbbity blah. Lucille 2. Nuff sed.

The 92YTribeca'll have you picking lead outta yer liver you scum sucking dog. Okay, maybe not that but they are screening CUT THROATS NINE, a film so violent it was marketed as a horror film in the states, as part of their Beyond Leone series, focusing on Spaghetti Western fauxteurs in anticipation of Quentin Tarantino's DJANGO UNCHAINED.

Of course, George Bailey wants a BIG one today at IFC Center. IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE screens all day.

Anthology Film Archives' trib to perhaps an even sourer puss than Trintignant's, but certainly a more bipolar one, continues apace as its Ben Gazzara retro offers two of the master thesp's more memorable roles. Okay ONE of his more memorable roles, and another where he shouts a lot, and there's not a goddam thing wrong with that you sonofabitch!

The shouty one, should you be confused, is CAPONE, where Big Ben rips the scenery to shreds as Scarface Al. Produced by Roger Corman and co-starring John Cassavetes, who directed The Gazz in the second of today's double bill, my Pick Of the Day.

John Cassavetes. Ya wanna light a cigarette and unscrew a bottle of Scotch just typing that name. Man's man, bucker of trends, pisser off of exactly the right people, banger of Gena Rowlands. You wish you had this guy's balls. Long before he dared fuck with Lee Marvin in THE DIRTY DOZEN he had certain ideas of what film should aspire to be, and threw every cent he had into a little think piece, his first directorial effort, called SHADOWS. Unfortunately Hollywood underwent no New Wave like Italy and France experienced at the time, so while feted abroad his film made little impression at home. Still he thrived, and created a Rat Pack of his very own, including friends and fellow actor-hellraisers Seymour Cassel, John Marley, Peter Falk and The Gazz himself. Utilizing a mostly improvisational method where the camera was slave to performance, wherever it may lead, his films not only helped provoke an alt film vogue but remained at their fore, with offerings still intriguing like HUSBANDS, MINNIE AND MOSKOVITZ and A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE, which allowed Dame Gena Rowlands full run of the wolfpack and brought her an Oscar nod. Personality crisis was Cassavetes theme, and he only went deeper into psyches fragile film by film. His next put Gazzara front and center and provided the man with perhaps his finest screen iteration.

THE KILLING OF A CHINESE BOOKIE is pretty self-explanatory. Or is it? Gazzara's self-made club owner is actually a financially stretched degenerate gambler, who may have left himself a singluar escape from his plight. Perhaps the culmination of Benny G's method and Cassavetes' seeming disdain of. Unique and influential. Essential viewing. Screens tonight at 9pm at Anthology Film Archives.

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Mayan Apocalypse Party at Lunasa this Friday starting at 8pm! Twixt St. Mark's Place and 7th street! We're raffling off the complete James Bond BluRay box set to raise funds for Occupy Sandy! Come down, knuckleheads! Excelsior!


-Joe Walsh