Melodrama King

Vincente Minnelli at Anthology, plus BAM hearts Asian cinema

A show biz all-rounder, Vincente Minnelli established his Hollywood reputation as one of MGM's premiere directors of musicals, including Cabin in the Sky, Meet Me in St. Louis, The Pirate, The Band Wagon, and An American in Paris. But beginning with The Bad and the Beautiful in 1952, Minnelli brought a comparable brio, if not garishness, to a series of star-studded, widescreen melodramas, four of which are showing this week at Anthology Film Archives in The Bad and the Beautiful: The Melodramas of Vincente Minnelli.

Inevitably giving its irresistible title to the mini-retro, The Bad and the Beautiful features a typically ferocious Kirk Douglas as a larger-than-life Hollywood producer whose career implodes as bad Gloria Graham and beautiful Lana Turner watch. The lunatics even more literally take over the asylum in Minnelli's first Technicolor melodrama, The Cobweb (1955), with Graham sashaying through the bin, playing wife to Richard Widmark's sanitarium director. Adapted from the James Jones bestseller and set in deepest Indiana, Some Came Running (1958) is the first and best of the Rat Pack flicks and stars Frank Sinatra (as an aspiring novelist), Dean Martin (as a professional gambler), and Shirley MacLaine (as the dame who loves them). This is the movie Godard riffs on in Contempt.

Two Weeks in Another Town is Minnelli's self-reflexive sequel to The Bad and the Beautiful (which appears as a clip within). Kirk Douglas is here a fallen star attempting a comeback in a cheap costume spectacle being directed in Rome by Edward G. Robinson. Reviewing Two Weeks 45 years ago in the Anthology house-organ Film Culture, Peter Bogdanovich called it "the kind of movie critics hate and audiences love: critics because it's flashy, loud, and, to them, unimportant—audiences because it's flashy, loud, and to them, exciting." The same might be said of Minnelli's melodramas in general, although now the situation would be reversed. Aug. 15 through 19, Anthology Film Archives.

Also:
BAM Cinematek marks the 10th anniversary of Hong Kong's return to China with The New Decade: Hong Kong Film, featuring nine HK features produced over the past few years. The movies span all genres—romantic comedy, family melodrama, backstage musical, martial arts, policier—with a special nod to reigning action director Johnnie To. In addition to To's 2004 Breaking News and "Election Doublebill" (the 2005 Election and its 2006 sequel Triad Election), the 10-day series includes a preview of To's hit man buddy film Exiled, set to open later this month.
Aug. 16 through 26, BAM.

Upcoming:
Keeping to the neighborhood, BAM goes on to South Korea—HK's successor as the epicenter of East Asian pop cinema—for this year's installment of the New York Korean Film Festival. The genres are more fluid, and there's a four-film tribute to Im Kown-taek, best known here for the costume epic Chunhyang, and a man whose 101 (and counting) features surely make him the most prolific of contemporary directors.
Aug. 21 through Sept. 2, BAM.

 
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