Sophie: Mommy, I'm very hungry!

L'hôtesse à la réception mondaine: Sophie, it's impolite to use those words at the table!

         The Phantom of Liberty (1974)
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September Issue

Classic Film

Realism and  Surrealism

September will bring a great variety of films from some great directors - Federico Fellini, Luis Bunuel, and Frank Capra. We'll also be screening a variety of genres - a screwball comedy, two surrealist films (one of them a comedy), a classic Australian drama and a social-realist drama. It's difficult to capture all that variety in this month's issue but we'll try. We'll take a look at the work of Anthony Quinn (who appears in Fellini's La Strada), We'll look at the life and the later work of Surrealist filmmaker Luis Bunuel, and we'll try to explain what surrealist filmmaking was all about.

Be make sure to check out all the great films we have screening this month (at the bottom of the eZine).

We hope you enjoy this month's issue of Classic Film
Classic Actors
Anthony Quinn
Anthony Quinn was born Antonio Rudolfo Oaxaca Quinn on April 21, 1915, in Chihuahua, Mexico, to Manuela (Oaxaca) and Francisco Quinn. After starting life in extremely modest circumstances in Mexico, his family moved to Los Angeles, California, where his father had secured work as an assistant cameraman at a local studio. He grew up in the Boyle Heights and the Echo Park neighborhoods and attended Polytechnic High School and later Belmont High, but he eventually dropped out. The young Quinn boxed (which stood him in good stead as a stage actor, when he later played Stanley Kowalski to rave reviews), then later studied architecture under Frank Lloyd Wright at the great architect's studio, Taliesin, in Arizona. Quinn was close to Wright, who encouraged him when Quinn decided to give acting a try. After a brief apprenticeship in theatre, Quinn hit Hollywood in 1936 and picked up a variety of small roles in several films at Paramount, including an Indian warrior in The Plainsman (1936), which was directed by the man who later became his father-in-law, Cecil B. DeMille.

As a contract player at Paramount, Quinn mainly played villains and ethnic types, such as an Arab chieftain in the Bing Crosby-'Bob Hope' vehicle Road to Morocco (1942). As a Mexican national (he did not become an American citizen until 1947), he was exempt from the draft. With many actors in the service fighting World War II, Quinn was able to move up into better supporting roles. He had married DeMille's daughter Katherine DeMille, which enabled him to move in the top circles of Hollywood society.

He became disenchanted with his career and did not renew his Paramount contract despite the advice of others, including his father-in-law (whom Quinn felt never accepted him due to his Mexican roots). Instead, he returned to the stage to hone his craft. His portrayal of Stanley Kowalski in "A Streetcar Named Desire" in Chicago and on Broadway (where he replaced the legendary Marlon Brando) made his reputation and boosted his film career when he returned to the movies.
Brando and Elia Kazan, who directed "Streetcar" on Broadway and on film, were crucial to Quinn's future success. Kazan, knowing the two were potential rivals due to their acclaimed portrayals of Kowalski, cast Quinn as Brando's brother in his biographical film of Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata, Viva Zapata! (1952). Quinn won the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for 1952, making him the first Mexican-American to win an Oscar.

It was not to be his lone appearance in the winner's circle: he won his second Supporting Actor Oscar in 1957 for his portrayal of Paul Gauguin in Vincente Minnelli's biographical film of Vincent van Gogh, Lust for Life (1956), opposite Kirk Douglas.

Over the next decade Quinn lived in Italy and became a major figure in world cinema, as many studios shot films in Italy to take advantage of the lower cost. He appeared in several Italian films, giving one of his greatest performances as the circus strongman who brutalizes the sweet soul played by
Giulietta Masina in her husband Federico Fellini's masterpiece La Strada (1954).

Alternating between Europe and Hollywood, Quinn built his reputation and entered the front-rank of character actors and character leads. He received his third Oscar nomination (and first for Best Actor) for George Cukor's Wild Is the Wind (1957). He played a Greek resistance fighter against the Nazi occupation in the monster hit The Guns of Navarone (1961) and received kudos for his portrayal of a once-great boxer on his way down in Rod Serling's Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962).

He went back to playing ethnic parts, such as an Arab warlord in David Lean's masterpiece Lawrence of Arabia (1962), and he played the eponymous lead in the "sword-and-sandal" blockbuster Barabbas (1961). Two years later he reached the zenith of his career, playing Zorba the Greek in the 1964 film of the same name (a.k.a. Zorba the Greek (1964)), which brought him his fourth, and last, Oscar nomination as Best Actor. The 1960s were kind to him: he played character leads in such major films as The Shoes of the Fisherman (1968) and The Secret of Santa Vittoria (1969). However, his appearance in the title role in the film adaptation of John Fowles' novel, The Magus (1968), did nothing to save the film, which was one of that decade's notorious turkeys.
In the 1960s Quinn told Life magazine that he would fight against typecasting. Unfortunately, the following decade saw him slip back into playing ethnic types again, in such critical bombs as The Greek Tycoon (1978). He starred as the Hispanic mayor of a southwestern city in the short-lived 1971 TV series The Man and the City (1971), but his career lost its momentum during the 1970s. Aside from playing a thinly disguised Aristotle Onassis in the cinematic roman-a-clef "The Greek Tycoon", his other major roles of the decade was as Hamza in the controversial 1977 movie The Message (1976) (a.k.a. "Mohammad, Messenger of God", as the Italian patriarch in The Inheritance (1976), yet another Arab in Caravans (1978) and a Mexican patriarch in The Children of Sanchez (1978). In 1983 he reprised his most famous role, Zorba the Greek, t on Broadway in the revival of the musical "Zorba", for 362 performances. Though his film career slowed during the 1990s, he continued to work steadily in films and television.

Quinn lived out the latter years of his life in Bristol, Rhode Island, where he spent most of his time painting and sculpting. He died in hospital in Boston from pneumonia and respiratory failure linked to his battle with lung cancer. He was 86 years old.

Below is a short but interesting interview he gave where he talks about the role his father played in his life.
Anthony Quinn talking about his father's influence
Surrealism in Film
Surrealism was the first literary and artistic movement to become seriously associated with cinema,though it has also been a movement largely neglected by film critics and historians. The foundations of the Surrealist movement coincided with the birth of motion pictures, and the Surrealists who participated in the movement were among the first generation to have grown up with film as a part of daily life

It is described as a modernist approach to film theory, criticism, and production with origins in Paris in the 1920s.

At around this time Dadaism or the Dada movement arose and is described in Dona Budd's The Language of Art Knowledge,

Dada was born out of negative reaction to the horrors of the First World War. This international movement was begun by a group of artists and poets associated with the Cabaret Voltaire in Zürich. Dada rejected reason and logic, prizing nonsense, irrationality and intuition. The origin of the name Dada is unclear; some believe that it is a nonsensical word. Others maintain that it originates from the Romanian artists Tristan Tzara's and Marcel Janco's frequent use of the words "da, da," meaning "yes, yes" in the Romanian language. Another theory says that the name "Dada" came during a meeting of the group when a paper knife stuck into a French–German dictionary happened to point to 'dada', a French word for 'hobbyhorse'

Closely related to Dada cinema, Surrealist cinema is characterised by juxtapositions, the rejection of dramatic psychology, and the frequent use of imagery that is designed to shock. The first Surrealist film was The Seashell and the Clergyman (1928), directed by Germaine Dulac but perhaps the best known Surrealist film was made by Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí in 1929 - Un Chien Andalou. While Buñuel's films were many and varied he continued to be associated with the movement despite the fact that his films had varying degrees of Surrealist influence.
Many filmmakers have been influenced by Surrealism or at least Surrealist images. In Alfred Hitchcock's Spellbound the nightmarish dream sequence (see image above) was conceived and designed by Salvadore Dali.

Some people believe the comedy of the Marx Brothers is somewhat Surreal, and there is a (tenuous) link to Surrealism. Slavadore Dali was very taken with the Marx Brothers and went to the trouble of writing them a film script. They did read it but it was too weird, even for them, so the film was never made. Sadly there is no record of the script surviving.

There are some very good online resources around Surrealist cinema.

They include:

The Film Reference Website

Cine Collage

And if you're interested in watching more Surrealist films there is an online list of some of the Best Surrealist films made.
Luis Bunuel
Bunuel made films while based in France, the US, Mexico and Spain

Luis Buñuel was born in Span in 1900. In studied first with Jesuits before enrolling in the University of Madrid, majoring in science. At the University he met Salvador Dali and Federico Garcia Lorca. Inspired by Fritz Lang's film, Destiny , Buñuel went to Paris to study film during the 1920's amidst a flourish of avant-garde experimentation. There he became an assistant to the experimental filmmaker Jean Epstein, and in 1928 collaborated with some friends including Salvador Dali on Un Chien andalou , which became a surrealist classic. It provoked a scandal, but Buñuel went on to film L'Age d'Or in 1930, creating another scandal. L'Age d'Or would also be the last time Salvador Dali would collaborate with Buñuel as he fought with Buñuel over the film's anti-Catholicism. After L'Age d'Or , Buñuel further pursued his interests in anti-clericalism when he turned his attentions to making a documentary called Land Without Bread (1932), studying the contrast between the poverty, disease, and death of the Spanish people and the lush, jewel-filled world of the Spanish Catholic Church. Buñuel went on to work for the foreign branches of major Hollywood studios, dubbing for Paramount in Paris and supervising co-productions for Warner Brothers in Spain. He produced several more Spanish pictures before leaving Spain for the United States during the Spanish Civil War.

While in the United States, he was director of documentaries at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. He also found himself working for major Hollywood studios again as well as the U. S. government, supervising Spanish-language versions of films for MGM, making documentaries for the U. S. Army, and dubbing for Warner Brothers. Buñuel began to direct films again after a creative hiatus of almost 15 years when he went to Mexico.
In association with producer Oscar Dancigers, Buñuel made a series of films, including Los olvidados (1950), El (1952), and Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz (1955). The best of these films brought Buñuel once more to international acclaim. It was with his Mexican films that Buñuel began to fully develop his unique mix of surrealist humor and social melancholy, combining a documentary sense with surrealist qualities into a loose, discontinuous form of narrative that his films would continue to follow as his career would progress. With his Mexican films, he paid especially close attention to the details of average Mexican life. Buñuel would continue to make films in Mexico, most notably Nazarin (1958), even after leaving the continent.
Buñuel returned to France in 1955 to begin three co-productions that placed him in the center of cinematic art. His first opportunity to work and live in Spain came when he made Viridiana in 1961. Though his script was initially approved, the film was banned upon release due to its anticlerical images, notably Buñuel's famous parodical shot of Leonardo Da Vinci's painting, The Last Supper . Nevertheless the film achieved international recognition. Controversy and problems with either distribution or censorship continued to appear throughout his career, as in his French film, Belle de Jour (1967), which would later go out of distribution for many years until Martin Scorsese rereleased it in 1996. Despite the complications Buñuel continued to be one of the most creative and productive of all film directors.
Bunuel continued making films for 50 years

We have previously  screened the Bunuel film That Obscure Object of Desire (1977), his last film, and will be screening two more films from his later French period - Belle De Jour (1967) and The Phantom of Liberty (1974)

Bunuel was brought back to France by producer Serge Silberman, a Polish entrepreneur who had fled to Paris after the Holocaust. Silberman proposed that the two make an adaptation of Octave Mirbeau's Journal d'une femme de chambre, which Buñuel had read several times. Buñuel wanted to do the filming in Mexico, but Silberman insisted it be done in France. The book was adapted into the 1964 film Diary of a Chambermaid and became the first of several to be made by the team of Buñuel, Carrière and Silberman. This team later produced Belle de Jour (1967) starring Catherine Deneuve.

Deneuve said about working with Bunuel:

"Well, I think it was difficult for him, coping with his deafness. Some people said he was not that deaf, but I think, when you don't hear very well and when you're tired, everything sinks into a buzz, and it is very hard. French is not his language, so on Belle de Jour, I'm sure that it was much more of an effort for him to have to explain. ".

In 1973, at the Monastery of Paular in the Spanish Somosierra, Bunuel wrote the screenplay for The Phantom of Liberty (1974) with Carrière for production by Silberman. The resulting film is a series of 12 distinctive episodes with separate protagonists, linked together only by following a character from one episode to another in a relay-race manner. Buñuel has stated that he made the film as a tribute to poet Benjamin Péret, a founding member of French Surrealism, and called it his "most Surrealist film".

There is an excellent Luis Bunuel documentary on YouTube that looks back on his life using Luis' own words from his Autobiography. You can access it by clicking the link below

The Life and Times of Don Luis Buñuel
The Life and Times of Luis Bunuel

Screening at The School of Arts

Friday, 2nd of September

7.00pm start

The Phantom of Liberty (1974)

One of Luis Bunuel's most free-form and purely Surrealist films, consisting of a series of only vaguely related episodes.

Comedy     Rated: R      104 min
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Screening at Now Office Furniture

Saturday, TBA

7.00pm start

It Happened One Night (1934)

A spoiled heiress, running away from her family, is helped by a man who is actually a reporter in need of a story.

Comedy/Romance     Rated:G      105 min
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Screening at Cafe Nova

Sunday, 25th of September

7.00pm start

Careful he might hear you (1983)

Family jealousies. His mother dead, PS lives in Sydney with working-class Aunt Lily and Uncle George. When he's six or eight, his posh Aunt Vanessa descends from England.

Drama     Rated:PG      110 min
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Screening at The School of Arts

Saturday, 3rd of September

7.00pm start

Belle De Jour (1967)

A frigid young housewife decides to spend her midweek afternoons as a prostitute.

Drama     Rated: M      101 min
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Screening at The Hoi Polloi Cafe

Saturday, 17th of September

7.00pm start

La Strada (1954)

A care-free girl is sold to a traveling entertainer, consequently enduring physical and emotional pain along the way.

Drama     Rated:M    108 min
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