When I say Film Forum is one of my favorite theaters in the city, I should probably be more specific. I love the programming, but could do without the cramped seats, lack of cupholders, and ridiculously cranky patrons. Yesterday marked the third time in as many viewings I nearly saw a septuagenarian fight break out over people pushing in the aisles.
The films are worth it- this time around it was a double-feature of ‘The Phantom Lady’, a noir so strange it borders on the absurd, and ‘Cat People’, the good one, not the 80′s one. The former was introduced by none other than James Ellroy, writer of ‘The Black Dahlia’, who praised the film and the genre with bawdy slang.
I wish I could find a transcript of the movie somewhere-there were so many strange exchanges and unintentionally hilarious conversations. The best may have been the police officer’s back and forth with the convicted man’s best friend, who, unbeknownst to him, is really the killer. As the officer goes on about how the killer’s clearly a ‘paranoiac’, the best friend/killer keeps staring at his murderous hands, talking in a near-monotone about how perhaps the killer’s really not such a bad guy after all; maybe he’s just a misunderstood genius. Again, this is a film where a silly hat is the key to getting a man off death row. Certain parts put symbolism above story and logic, such as the scene where a hot-to-trot drummer takes the heroine to a closet with a jazz band already playing, jumps on in, and proceeds to have a very Freudian drum solo.
‘Cat People’ is a more moody and somber film, but its dated gender politics cracked the audience up, prompting another cranky patron to yell “We’re trying to watch the movie!!!” So are we, guy. Calm down. Half the fun of watching older movies with a wider audience is enjoying the discrepancy between what was taken for granted then and what’s assumed now.
The opening of Harold Lloyd’s ‘Speedy’, seen earlier at Film Forum, drove the audience to distraction. While Lloyd and his girl laughed as they were thrown from spinning wooden platforms into metal walls, rode rollercoasters with no straps or harnesses, and….went down a hill riding metal horses(honestly I have no idea what that ride was about; it’s primary purpose looked like a cheery form of electrocution), the audience couldn’t focus on their charming romance and kept flipping out.