Thursday, May 6, 2010

TCM Film Fest Day 4 and Closing Night

Everything ends.

We got up early (looking a little worse for wear, dresses packed in our TCM bags) for Fragments, screenings of incomplete films or small fragments of films that have been found. This was, of course, right up our alley and reminded me of Orphans. The sincere interest and questions from attendees who knew nothing about preservation was a nice reminder of why we were really there.

Sunnyside Up, a MoMA print (shout out!), was next. It was cute, sure, but I was shocked by how delightfully dirty-minded it was. Picture that demure little lady below gyrating around while extremely phallic trees sprouted out of the ground. Weird. Also, the...well...annoying songs our darling lead girl sang repeatedly throughout the film have been stuck in my head ever since and I kind of want to punch her.

The next event we can file under "things I didn't see coming" along with several experiences of the last month or so of my life... It was a screening of The Good Earth at the Egyptian with Luise Rainer in attendance.
We figured we should go because she's 100 years old and the opportunity is most certainly not going to present itself again. She hobbled out to the stage with only a little help and sat gracefully down across from Robert Osborne. When the applause finally died down she apologized for her inability to walk as quickly as she once could, and told us that four years ago she "idiotically" fell and hasn't been as quick on her feet since. There was collective agreement that she should definitely not be apologizing for this. (I don't think anyone expected her to be on her feet at all.) She had lost her hearing aid just before the show and kept forcefully asking WHAT?? WHAT?? in her amazing German accent after every question. It was really quite hilarious but Bob-O saved the day by grabbing a pen and paper and having her read the questions. I can't even describe what happened after that. It was like sitting in front of an angel and having her tell you all the secrets of life and eternity. She talked about being a woman in the business, her career decisions (she peaced out of Hollywood at the height of her career because she wasn't intellectually and emotionally fulfilled), her first love and the beautiful 50-year marriage to her second love that defined half of her life. She told us about the importance of being kind and loving, happy and fulfilled. It was like she was talking right to me about my own loves and life... but I'm sure everyone there felt the same. It was one of those moments where you feel connected to everyone in the room as humans and you leave wanting to be better. There was not a dry eye. Robert Osborne cut her short when it was time to start the film and every single person in the room protested. She said she would stay as long as we liked and answer our questions, and we all begged for the movie to be cancelled so we could just stay with her a little longer... but the powers that be said no. There was no photography or video allowed so I am left with the image of two empty chairs and a memory that I won't soon forget.
We had to book it out of there before the film started to wait in line for Metropolis. Whilst in line we enjoyed the sweet sounds of the worst bongo player of all time and I made Luise Rainer proud by behaving like the super refined and classy lady that I am.

We filed into Grauman's possibly more excited than we'd been all week. We'd already seen our "favorites" but this was the big one, the North American premiere of the most complete version of Metropolis seen since it was released in 1927 Germany. As I've mentioned, oh, I don't know, a billion times before, the missing footage was found by a graduate of our little MIAP program. This fact makes me very proud and very hopeful that my own career will not be a complete failure. The Alloy Orchestra provided intense, haunting, perfect live accompaniment that really brought the film to life on screen. The missing footage (very easy to distinguish because it came from 16mm) really filled out the story, particularly the ending, but that's all I'll say. Ashley and I were on the edge of our seats (literally) for the entire 2.5 hours. There were extended sequences where I couldn't even breathe. The audience was completely silent the entire time, which I found incredible, and there was an atmosphere in the room that I have never felt before--it was the unmistakable feeling that we were witnessing something major. Everyone sat in silence for a few seconds before standing and giving the film and those who worked on it the biggest ovation of the entire festival. Ashley and I went a little crazy when Paula's (our MIAP hero) name finally came on screen.

I feel so lucky to have been there for that experience and for the entire first ever TCM Film Festival, one of the coolest experiences of my life. We went to the closing night party and then crashed the exclusive party afterward, danced the night away and didn't sleep till we were on the airplane the next morning. It was sad saying goodbye to the beautiful Roosevelt Hotel, decked out with that iconic image of Gene, and to Club TCM inside.
Thanks for reading and thank you, Swinny, for this memory.

1 comment:

  1. Wow. I sincerely wish I could have been there for the conversation with Luise Rainer. How amazing! I love hearing about the real guts of people's lives. You are a lucky lady! I'm glad you had a great time!!!