NIGHT FLIGHT

Not as bad as one has been led to believe. The strengths and weaknesses of this production are exactly those of the studio system. No expense or effort has been spared to make this film, yet it never really `sings’. The cast is one of the most spectacular rounded up for an 84-minute film. The photography has a black and white sheen, luminosity, which must have been unspeakably spectacular in the original nitrate print projected on a silver screen. The sets, a rare non- Cedric Gibbons design at MGM (credited to Alexander Toluboff) are suitably jazzy. The first five minutes are a set-up for audience sympathy dealing with an emergency delivery of Polio serum. Corny, but well done. The worst parts of the film are exactly where it cleaves closest to St. Expury’s original. Characters stop and begin to expostulate with a touch of the Eugene O’Neills. In this case poetry is better shown than expressed. One of the strangest phenomena of NIGHT FLIGHT is the fact that the legion of stars in the cast rarely, if ever, play a scene with one another. Helen Hayes is married to Clark Gable yet they never share the screen together.

P.S. YOUR CAT IS DEAD!

Who says there are no second acts in American lives? Not Steve Guttenberg. With an image defined by roles in cinematic cheese such as THREE MEN AND A BABY, DINER, and of course the entire POLICE ACADEMY metastasis, he’s unpredictably emerged as a first-time film director with an unlikely choice: P.S. YOUR CAT IS DEAD!, adapted from the novel/play by James Kirkwood.

2002 EAST COAST VIDEO SHOW

The new millennium was unmistakably upon us as the East Coast Video Show wound down on October 11th with a whimper. Outside of $125 hotel rooms in Atlantic City, and casinos squeezing every last penny out of gamblers with $20 buffets and table game minimums of $10, everyone was grumbling about the declining video business, and the onslaught of Video On Demand (VOD). Like MIPCOM, the major companies had a small presence with MGM’s booth almost invisible if you didn’t look for Leo.

HEAVEN

Some years ago, I can’t remember how many, the Film Society of Lincoln Center had a season of films celebrating the critical concept called the auteur theory. Simply stated this is the idea that a good film, or even a better film, is the result of the intellect of one person, the director and the stronger director is one who leaves his indelible stamp on the finished film. The timing was ironic because a month before the US courts had ruled that in fact it was the copyright holder that held all rights to a work of art. At the end of American motion pictures there had been for some time, the credit stating that for legal purposes, Twentieth Century Fox or Columbia Pictures or whomever, was to be regarded as the author of the photoplay, etc. So in fact, as far as the American Industry is concerned, there is no such thing as the Auteur Theory.

AT SACHEM FARM aka UNCORKED aka HIGHER LOVE

I have never figured out how stuff this awful gets made. It’s not pointless, I’ll give it that, it’s just so derivative and takes its own Great Heart for granted that it never bothers to articulate. Nigel Hawthorne plays the traditional Holy Fool who has a $134,000 pillar built so he can sit on it and work his spiritual magic. The problem to overcome is that Rufus Sewell, who lives in a sprawling mansion on a piece of property with its own lake, forest and hills, needs money which he plans to get by selling his uncles wine collection so he can start up an old manganese mine. Don’t think about it, just go along with it. Minnie Driver, who I guess is his designated girlfriend ain’t driving no mini as she pulls up to the front door behind the wheel of a half million dollar Mercedes 300 SL. I couldn’t figure out the meaning of ‘needs money’ in the context of this film.