The Breaking Point Screens at L.A. Film Festival on Saturday

Susan King

6/20/2012 12:00:00 AM

"The Breaking Point” is one of those forgotten great films that you have probably never heard of, let alone seen. But over the last decade, the 1950 film noir based on Ernest Hemingway’s “To Have and Have Not” is getting the respect it so richly deserved. Last year, Warner Archive released the film on DVD, and Saturday afternoon the Los Angeles Film Festival will screen the recently restored print at REDCAT.

“I think it is the best adaptation of any of Hemingway’s works,” said film noir historian Alan K. Rode. “In fact, Hemingway told Patricia Neal, who was in the movie, that this was [his favorite] movie made of any of his books.”

Warner Bros, the studio that produced “The Breaking Point,” had scored a huge hit with its very loose 1944 adaptation of “To Have and Have Not,” which starred Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. The only thing that movie and Hemingway’s story of a married fishing boat captain on the ropes had in common was the title and the name of the lead character, Harry Morgan.

Directed by Howard Hawks, the fun and romantic “To Have and Have Not” involved Nazis, the French Resistance and a lot of quips between Bogart and Bacall, who married the following year.

“The Breaking Point,” said Rode, was the brainchild of writer Ranald MacDougall, who sold the idea of doing a more faithful adaptation of Hemingway's book to Warner Bros.’ producer Jerry Wald.  The project also served as the return of actor John Garfield to Warner Bros.

Garfield had become a star at Warner Bros. in 1938 with “Four Daughters” and was one of the studio’s top talents until he left to form his own production company, which made one hit film, the 1947 classic boxing drama, “Body and Soul.” But his career was treading water after that.

“The Breaking Point” was to be his first film of a two-picture deal with the studio. And Oscar winner Michael Curtiz of “Casablanca” fame, who had directed Garfield in “Four Daughters” and other films, came on board. Neal played the femme fatale, Phyllis Thaxter was Garfield’s loving wife and Juano Hernandez played his co-worker and friend.

Harry Morgan is a hard-working fisherman for hire who can barely make ends meet.  “I would call this a mid-life crisis noir," Rode said. “I think one of the reasons why the movie holds up, and why so many film noir movies hold up, is that people can identify with him. He is losing his boat. He loves his wife. He loves his children. But so often as we see in film noir, people get on that trolley car and they ride it to the end.

"Garfield gets involved with a very shady lawyer and in immigrant smuggling and much, much more. Pat Neal tempts Garfield and gets him right to the point he is going to get involved with her, but his innate character keeps calling him back. So much of it rings true.”

Warner Bros. planned to give “The Breaking Point” a huge buildup leading to its release in early October. But during the summer of that year, “Red Channels,” a pamphlet that named actors, writers, musicians, broadcast journalists and others who were considered Communist or had Communist leanings or knew “subversives,” came out.

Though he was not political, Garfield’s wife was, and his name was on the list.

"All the movie moguls were scared, and none were more scared ... of the hysterical atmosphere of anti-communism than Jack L. Warner," noted Rode. "He completely pulled the plug on the movie and put almost no money into promotion. The picture was released, got good reviews and it was absolutely buried. Garfield’s contract for another picture was canceled by Jack Warner.”

Garfield would make one more picture, 1951’s “He Ran All the Way,” before he died of a heart attack in 1952 at the age of 39.

Martin Scorsese’s the Film Foundation is sponsoring “The Breaking Point” at LAFF. Funding for the restoration was provided by Warner Bros. in association with the foundation and theHollywood Foreign Press Assn. UCLA Film & Television Archive did the preservation and restoration.

“One of the great things about preservation in general is if you have never seen a movie, it doesn’t matter if it’s 60 years old, it’s a new movie to you,” said Margaret Bodde, executive director of the Film Foundation. “So preservation is this wonderful resource for everyone discovering a film for the first time.”


Louis XIII, In Association with The Film Foundation, Organizes Unique “East Meets West” Conversation Between Iconic Filmmakers Stanley Kwan and Alexander Payne

6/7/2012 12:00:00 AM

During the 65th annual Cannes Film Festival, LOUIS XIII® hosted an intimate gathering at the beautiful Majestic Beach. For the first time, American director Alexander Payne and Asian director Stanley Kwan had the opportunity to discuss film and their creative vision in an event titled EAST MEETS WEST in front of more than 80 journalists and cinephiles.

LOUIS XIII® Cognac, the world's most esteemed spirit from the House of Rémy Martin®, an official supplier of the Cannes Film Festival, forged an exciting partnership in 2011 with The Film Foundation, the leading non-profit organization dedicated to film preservation founded by Martin Scorsese.

Coming from different horizons, the two world-renowned filmmakers shared their thoughts on cinema, discussed their professional individual journeys and answered questions.

Stanley Kwan discussed a scene from Ozu's movie TOKYO STORY and explained "I remember the first time I saw TOKYO STORY: basically, in this movie 'less is more'. I was a kid and I really experienced a movie's power."


Alexander Payne commented, "Ozu never made a bad film. He worked in many different genres; in the silent period he made comedies and thrillers. Essentially he's a comedy director, even in his sentimental work in the 1950s. He has a profound bittersweet sense of human comedy. He's an important director not just for Stanley and myself but for many cineastes. Even when shooting THE DESCENDANTS, I was thinking of Ozu, with shots of the landscape - the moments of rest - between the dramatic scenes."


Payne then showed a clip from Sergio Leone's ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, a film that was restored by The Film Foundation.  "Sergio Leone's ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST speaks to the thrill of cinema. For Leone, the story is an excuse to enter the realm of cinema, to splash around. I chose the opening credit sequence - which is so playful, beautiful and thrilling - because it talks of the thirst for cinema."


The two filmmakers ended their discussion by speaking about the nature of film making. "The flash of the little idea that can be a movie....that this idea could be a film, that leads you through the years of actually making the film, of seeking the financing...and then talking about it afterwards to audiences - if you're lucky to get distribution. If the audience senses a good concept in the film, then they know that they are in good hands with the director," said Payne to Kwan.

Kwan responded by saying "A woman . . . seated next to me in a café, some words from her, can inspire me; that can be a character in my next film."

To highlight the quality in LOUIS XIII® that inspires creativity, Stanley Kwan brought his own "touch" to the East Meets West conversation by revealing a teaser of his new directorial webisode featuring Zhuang Yong, the Chinese freestyle gold-medal winner at the Barcelona Olympic Games.

Following the East Meets West conversation, Augustin Depardon, Global Brand director, invited guests to share a LOUIS XIII® Experience. "LOUIS XIII® is an assemblage of 1,200 different eaux-de-vies", introduced Depardon. "The youngest is 40 years old, the oldest is over 100 years old, so I would like to raise a glass and toast to the art of preservation, to the art of creation, and to our two fantastic filmmakers!"

Through the success of its first East Meets West conversation at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, LOUIS XIII® has officially staked a claim in the art of cinema, preservation and creation. Here's to many more LOUIS XIII® moments!


Scorsese Goes to the Drafthouse: An Exclusive Look at Mondo's 8 New Posters For Classic Movies

Eric Kohn

5/2/2012 12:00:00 AM

"The Avengers" isn't the only major team-up taking place this week. Austin-based Alamo Drafthouse's poster-art boutique Mondo has joined forces with Martin Scorsese's film preservation organization The Film Foundation to create new 35mm prints of eight essential films with brand-new posters to go along with them.

The plan calls for new 35mm prints of "King Kong," "The Night of the Hunter," "The Old Dark House," "Paths of Glory," "Rashomon," "The Unholy Three," "Film" and "Shadow of a Doubt." Tickets have already gone on sale.

Scorsese's Film Foundation has arguably played a more essential role in the preservation of film history than any other institution (its mandate to keep an awareness of the medium's fragility and wonder alive extended into the plot of last year's Scorsese-directed "Hugo"). However, the other participants in this collaboration have also been instrumental in the continuing vitality of film culture.

The Drafthouse, which most recently announced plans to bring its famous in-theater dining experience to New York with a theater set to open later this year, has been a major player in the national conversation to preserve the sacred quality of the moviegoing experience. Mondo applies a similar logic to movie posters, creating limited runs for modern blockbusters, classic films and cult hits alike.

The three new Mondo posters previewed in the following pages demonstrate an attentiveness to artwork that takes the focus off simply telling you the content of the movies -- the movies take care of that – and instead emphasize the distinctive environments, themes and emotions that make them into timeless cultural objects. By capturing the movies' essence, the posters transcend their marketing value to become eloquent artworks in their own right.

While "The Killing" put Stanley Kubrick on the map as a director to watch, his 1957 "Paths of Glory" marked his first large-scale effort, a powerful war-in-the-trenches WWI epic starring Kirk Douglas as morally conflicted officer of French soldiers unwilling to lead his men into certain death. Mondo's poster, designed by Jay Shaw, conveys the movie's radical disdain for the way battlefield tactics disregard the value of human life.

The original blockbuster, "King Kong" has become such an iconic monster movie that the sheer scope of its vision has been nearly eclipsed by its fame. Mondo's poster, with its deep yellows juxtaposed against an exaggerated art-deco cityscape, resurrects the movie's underlying appeal. Notably, we don't see the top of the skyscrapers, a decision by artist Laurent Durieux that makes the giant ape look relatively small in the grand scheme, trapped by his surroundings rather than attacking them. It was beauty that killed the beast and the magic of "King Kong" is that we feel sorry for him.

"Vertigo" had more nuanced storytelling and "Psycho" burrowed deeper into its main character's psychological disarray, but many still regard 1943's "Shadow of a Doubt" as the seminal Alfred Hitchcock film. The movie follows a murderer on the lam (Joseph Cotten) visiting his relatives in Santa Rosa, Calif. and forming a strange bond with his rebellious niece (Teresa Wright). As she grows increasingly suspicious of her uncle's motives, the young woman must reconcile her personal allegiances with a higher sense of moral responsibility, a struggle marvelously rendered by Mondo artist Alan Hynes in this bleakly expressionistic poster.



Movies: "Blimp" Is Back! British Gem Is Beautifully Restored

Michael Glitz

11/15/2011 12:00:00 AM

I suppose every great filmmaker is unique in some way -- otherwise they wouldn't be truly great. But the British team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger is so unusual, it almost beggars belief. Many of their best films are such odd ducks, such weird conglomerations of genres and tone, that they almost seem to create their own new categories film by film. A Matter Of Life And Death aka Stairway To Heaven is a strange concoction of fancy and fantasy and World War II and romance. It may be my favorite film of theirs and you'll simply find nothing like it before or since. The Red Shoes is a visually erotic feast that delivers a little girl's dream of being a ballerina combined with very adult concerns. Black Narcissus is a fairy tale crossed with sexy nuns locked in feverish desire with a soupcon about the fading British empire. One could go on, but clearly their very best films are strikingly different.

This is certainly true for The Life and Death Of Colonel Blimp, a movie I was eager to see in its restored state. The film opens for a two week run at Film Forum on November 18. It's a highlight of To Save And Project, the annual film festival at MOMA celebrating movies that have been preserved and restored. Organized by Joshua Siegel, Associate Curator of MOMA's Department of Film, it's an annual highlight of MOMA's film calendar and runs through November 25, with numerous choice movies worth catching like three programs devoted to the work of director Jack Smith.

But Blimp was a highlight, featuring an introduction by director Martin Scorsese (a huge fan and a key figure in the preserving of their work) and the great film editor Thelma Schoonmaker, who was married to Michael Powell for the last six years of his life. But of course the movie itself was the main treat. The restoration is just stunning: the Technicolor film looks positively dazzling, with Blimp roasting in a Turkish bath quite like a Christmas goose. Roger Livesey is the star and he ages from a young man to a heavy set blustery old fellow in a ham-free performance that is astonishing from beginning to end. Scorsese says Robert De Niro asked Powell how it was done (the aging) and Powell said, "It's acting." Not fair, since the makeup is exceptionally well done, especially for a color film of that era. (Aging still is hard to do; just go see J. Edgar if you doubt me.)


I've always been a little confused about the idea of Colonel Blimp. It's shorthand in the UK for a pompous old fool, jingoistic and silly and a figure that would be ridiculous if he didn't still wield power or people with power didn't still listen to his sort. Blimp was a cartoon character that first appeared in the Evening Standard in the 1930s.

Since this film is called The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp you might reasonably expect it to be a scathing satire of such buffoons. But you'd be wrong. Many things are remarkable about the film but perhaps the most subtle is the fact that our Blimpian hero (called Clive Candy, VC) looks precisely like a Blimp right down to the outrageous moustache and walrusy face and yet he is nothing of the sort. The film humanizes Blimp or more precisely shows us a man who the superficial might dismiss as an old twit stuck in his ways but is in fact a thoughtful, intelligent and humane person who is not remotely jingoistic or ignorant of the cost of war.

Blimp/Candy is a sweetheart in fact and the vehicle by which Powell and Pressburger question the very act of war, especially when it involves atrocities and attacks on civilians, and wonders if war is always worth winning if it means losing your soul. As if that's not enough, the movie pivots around the genuine and warm friendship between Blimp/Candy and the German he duels with (another brilliant bit of acting, by Anton Walbrook) after the Boer war. (Nothing cements a friendship like a good sword fight.) Now here's the mind-blowing part of this: The Life and Death Of Colonel Blimp -- a movie by the most British of British filmmakers when resources were slim that questions war itself, warns against brutality against the enemy, features a friendship between British and German soldiers -- was released in the UK on June 10, 1943 at the height of the war and the day before Britain launched a massive air raid on Dusseldorf, Germany with some 700 planes dropping untold numbers of bombs on the city, a site of steelworks and oil plants. No wonder Churchill hated it.

Romance is also key to Blimp, which begins in the midst of World War II and flashes back (after Blimp/Candy is held underwater in that Turkish bath and a voice intones rather goofily "40 years ago...40 years ago...") to the early 1900s. Candy befriends the German he dueled with while they're both recuperating in hospital and daily visited by a lovely English woman (played by Deborah Kerr). The German and Kerr announce their engagement and Candy is thoroughly delighted for about two seconds until he realizes with despair that he too is madly in love with the girl. Candy spends the rest of the film looking for a woman who can match this ideal -- and in a way he succeeds, since Kerr plays two other female roles. Her performance is also terrific, for she makes each woman subtly different from the rest; it's a marvelous film debut.

Several moments will stay with you for a long time, like the German's plea at the border to be allowed to escape from Germany into England and Candy's own ruminations on the cost of war. This Blimpian fellow is as far from Blimp as one can get and still be a war veteran of a certain age. None of what I've said captures the delicious...tone of the film, the delightful sensibility that permeates every scene. It's mature, intelligent, understanding, droll, humane and intoxicating; don't ask me how it creates that mood but it does and it's key to the film's pleasure.

It's shocking but somehow not really surprising to hear that 20% or 30% or so of all movies ever made are lost. Back in the early 1900s, who worried about film history when a bunch of lousy two-reelers were clogging up a studio's basement or posing a fire hazard? But I am frequently stunned that classic films by major directors can fall into disrepair. When Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window needs restoring, when movies by legends of British cinema like Powell-Pressburger only survive because Scorsese reaches into his own pocket to help pay for that rescue, you realize that no film is safe. That's why film festivals like To Save And Project at MOMA are so imporant and why any chance to see a movie like The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp on a big screen should not be missed.



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