Sunday, 5 October 2008

8½ Suggestions for Double Bills

In their August 08 issue, Sight & Sound celebrated the 'lost world of the double bill'. As well as alerting me to new films and pointing out similarities between films I already knew, the article also got me thinking about what double bills I'd have chosen or would chose, should I ever need to. And so, without further ado, I present you 8½ suggestions for double bills…

1) King of the Hill (1993) and Pan's Labyrinth (2006)
Although The Spirit of the Beehive would clearly be a more obvious choice to pair with Pan's Labyrinth, I've chosen Steven Soderbergh's criminally over-looked King of the Hill. In very different ways, the two films both show child protagonists using their imagination to help deal with the world around them (okay, so in Pan's Labyrinth it's likely the fantasy elements are real, but that's beside the point for the purpose here!).

2) The Trip (1967) and 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Upon it's release, Kubrick's film was advertised as 'the ultimate trip', and rumours abound to this day about people going to see the film merely in order to be able to drop acid during the Star Gate sequence. So, what better to accompany 'the ultimate trip', than, well 'The Trip'. Written by Jack Nicholson, directed by Roger Corman and staring
Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper (and made two years before Easy Rider) the film tells the 'story' of a TV commercial director (Fonda) having his first LSD trip (and yes, that's basically the whole story).

3) Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (1970) and The Company of Wolves (1984)
Both ostensibly horror films, these two classics each deal with the transitional period of a young girl on the verge of adulthood, and as such can be seen as clear companion pieces perfect for a double bill.

4) The Parson's Widow (1920) and Smiles of a Summers Night (1955)
Both Dreyer and Bergman have reputations as being directors of difficult, serious, and, dare I say it, austere works, but as these two films show, these reputations weren't fully justified. Not only touched with the genius and trademarks of their creators, these two films also show just how funny (and accessible) the filmmakers could be when they wanted.

5) People on Sunday (1930) and Before Sunrise (1995) and Quiet City (2007)
Okay, so I'm cheating a little bit here by suggesting a triple bill, but a double bill of any of the three films listed above would work equally well. Essentially, all three films tell the same story: two people meet at a train station (or, in the case of Before Sunrise, on the train) and then proceed to spend the next 24(ish) hours hanging out together. However, each film handles the narrative in a different way, and offers the story filtered through a different decade (20s, 90s and 00s respectively).

6) American Graffiti (1973) and Dazed and Confused (1993)
Again, two films with similar narrative outlines, set in different decades: here, a group of teenagers spend a final night together before heading off for college in the 60s, and the last night of school for the class of '77. Again, there are more differences than similarities, and a juxtaposition of the works offers us an insight into life as a teenage during the two periods in which they're set.

7) La Belle et la bête (1946) and Edward Scissorhands (1990)
Two fairytales about outsiders which are as powerful and as poignant for adults as they are for children.

8) Angels with Dirty Faces (1938) and Mean Streets (1973)
Although Scorsese's love of old James Cagney films is well documented (not least by himself in A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies), I've never been able to find anything in which he directly talks about Angels with Dirty Faces, certainly the most clearly and typically 'Scorsesean' of the one's I've seen (if anyone reading this knows of anywhere where Scorsese has mentioned this film, I'd be grateful if they could let me know). The plot of Curtiz's film, about a group of 'dead end' kids caught between admiration for
James Cagney's hoodlum and the attempts of Pat O'Brien's priest to keep them on the straight and narrow, sounds not only like perfect territory for a Scorsese film, but also like something straight out of the milieu of his early life. In a way, the choice of Mean Streets is a little arbitrary, and could easily be replaced with, say, GoodFellas or Who's That Knocking at My Door. However, as I intend to discuss in a future post, I think that Mean Streets contains a key to allowing an understanding of Scorsese as a spiritual filmmaker, and hence the suggestion of pairing it with Angels.

8½) Boccaccio '70 (1962) and RoGoPaG (1963)
The reason for this being a 'half' suggestion is twofold: one, I am only half suggesting it, and two, and I am perhaps only suggesting half of it (and of course the presence of Fellini also gave rise to the idea doing eight other suggestions). The problem with presenting this as a suggestion for a double bill is, moreover, also twofold: one, the two films have a combined run time of almost five and half hours, and second, well, some of the sections in these two portmanteau films aren't very good (RoGoPaG, for instance, contains the least interesting work I have seen by Rossellini). So, why suggest it at all? Easy: Fellini's The Temptation of Dr Antonio, De Sica's The Raffle, Pasolini's La Ricotta, and, to a lesser extent, Gregoretti's Il Pollo ruspante. Perhaps, therefore, the answer, as alluded to above, would be a partial screening, containing half of each film.

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