High Museum of Art: Films


The Beaches of Agnes by Linda Dubler
Agnes Varda

Agnes Varda

Just when I thought that I had exhausted every beach-related film theme apart from D-Day, along comes the American release of Agnes Varda’s latest autobiographical film, The Beaches of Agnes. Regulars to the High’s annual spring series French Film Yesterday and Today may remember that we showed Varda’s  similarly personal The Gleaners and I a few years back.

If Beaches doesn’t open commercially in Atlanta (it’s playing now in New York) , I’ll certainly include it in our 2010 edition of FFY&T. But spring is a long way off, so I’ll share a few impressions of the film now.

Though women played a major role as muses to the French New Wave of the 1960s (think Jean Moreau, Anna Karina, and Catherine Deneuve), Agnes Varda was the only female  director in that influential movement. She began her career as a still photographer, taking family photos in a Paris department store to support herself. When she felt the need to add words to her images, she turned to filmmaking.

The elfin Varda, now 81, introduces herself as a someone acting the role of a pleasingly plump old lady, a sly way of letting us know that fantasy and embellishment count as much as documentary truth in her playbook. Standing on the shore with the waves pounding behind her, Varda tells us that she believes that people hold landscapes inside themselves. “If we opened me up we’d find beaches,” she says.  Surrounding her are myriad production assistants, setting up mirrors in the sand. These mirrors capture the water (fluid and changing as memory) and announce the introspective, reflective, and fragmented form that her film will take.
Continue reading



Apocalypse Now: Film Mavens’ Picks by Linda Dubler

Continuing with the theme pulled from Misrach’s On The Beach exhibition, my film world colleagues contributed these suggestions for outstanding apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic movies.
Linda Dubler

From Bruce Fletcher, Idaho International Film Festival

Zardoz
Things To Come
Panic in Year Zero

La Jetee
No Blade of Grass

No Blade of Grass:  “And then one day the polluted Earth could take no more.” So begins No Blade of Grass, director, co-writer and producer Cornel Wilde’s adaptation of The Death of Grass by John Christopher. Wilde’s too little-seen (yet very influential) dystopian nightmare gets bleaker (and more brutal) soon thereafter.  A global viral pandemic has killed all the cereal grasses causing global starvation and the total collapse of civilization. Nigel Hawthorne leads a ragtag band of survivors across Northern England as they scavenge for food, kill to live, and fend off marauding biker gangs. “Yesterday, they were decent people letting their environment die. Now they are savages, killing to keep themselves alive.”

Continue reading



Apocalypse Now: Staff Picks by Linda Dubler
July 10, 2009, 10:36 am
Filed under: Staff Picks | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I’ve asked Museum staff again for their two cents on their favorite apocalyptic movies. (Learn about the inspiration for the current exhibition Richard Misrach: On The Beach here >>)

Johan Harper, Security
Damnation Alley and
Night of the Comet

Why does the end of the world have to be so depressing? Damnation Alley has everything you need in a Post-Apocalyptic movie. Bad special effects, cheesy dialogue, a strange monster truck that floats called “The Land Master”, man-eating cockroaches, George Peppard, and Jan-Michael Vincent! What more can you ask for? O.K. the movie’s beginning is pretty grim and serious, but the low production values turn the whole mess into an unintentional comedy before too long. The scene where the actors fail to pretend to be afraid of tons of plastic cockroaches tied to long strings pulled across the floor is comedy gold! “This whole town is infested with killer cockroaches. I repeat: KILLER COCKROACHES!” Too funny! damnation_alley_ver2

Another enjoyable end of the world movie is Night of the Comet. If you wake up one day and everybody else has become little piles of red dust, wouldn’t you really rather just go shopping at the mall? If everyone is dead, everything is free! Night of the Comet has it all – zombies, mad scientists, and gun-toting valley girls! It is a comedy, it is a horror movie, it is a time capsule from 1984!

Continue reading



Staff Picks: Summer Movies by Linda Dubler
June 19, 2009, 2:44 pm
Filed under: Staff Picks | Tags: , , , , , ,

Museum staff weigh in on their favorite summer beach movies.

———————————————————————————

10

10

10  (1979)
Cinque Reeves, Security Officer

I’d have to go with 10 from Blake Edwards for the most memorable beach scenes. Just thinking about George trying to walk on the hot sand makes me laugh. It’s probably one of Dudley Moore’s best performances.

———————————————————————————

Endless Summer

Endless Summer

The Endless Summer (1966)
Dana Haugaard, Coordinator of Facilities

My favorite summer beach movie is also the one of my favorites for the middle of winter: The 1966 documentary The Endless Summer by Bruce Brown. It is as carefree as every summer should be, and the soundtrack cannot be beat.

———————————————————————————

One Crazy Summer

One Crazy Summer

One Crazy Summer (1986)
Emily Beard, Web Content Coordinator

This movie is basically exactly the same as Savage Steve’s other Cusack vehicle Better Off Dead, except instead of snow there’s sand, and in lieu of a French exchange student, you get Demi Moore with hippie braids. There’s the rich-boy bully, his hot 80s girlfriend, sidekicks Bobcat Goldthwait and a Murray brother, a vindictive 9-year-old, drive-ins and cartoons. Even when it tries to be serious it isn’t, and that’s what makes it an excellent beach movie.

———————————————————————————

Shag

Shag

Shag (1989)
Berry Lowden, Curatorial Assistant, Decorative Arts and Design

1. Myrtle Beach in the 60s
2. Bouffant hair
3. Shag dancing
4. Making out in vintage 60’s cars
5. Racy Bridget Fonda routines with American flags (errr….)

It’s a keeper!

———————————————————————————

Weekend at Bernie's

Weekend at Bernie's

Weekend at Bernies (1989)
Danielle Avram, Curatorial Assistant, Modern & Contemporary and Photography

It may be embarrassing to admit, but Weekend at Bernies is one of my all-time favorite guilty pleasures. We had a VHS copy when I was a kid and actually destroyed it from watching it so many times.



Summer Movies/YouTube, Part 3 by Linda Dubler
Endless Summer

Endless Summer

Summer bliss has been distilled for as long as moving images endure in Bruce Brown’s 1966 glorified home movie, the surfing classic Endless Summer. A daring example of a filmmaker taking on his own distribution, the film remains a cult favorite.

For the funhouse mirror version of the surfing life, see Doug Pray’s Surfwise. It’s a dysfunctional family doc that will leave you grateful for your own less-than-perfect upbringing. Surfwise focuses on the lives of Paskowitz family, dominated by dad Dorian “Doc” Paskowitz, a surfer, health nut, and self-appointed sex god. Doc (a one-time physician) and his Mexican-Indian wife Juliet had nine kids — eight sons and a daughter — who were raised to be natural creatures, not products of American middle-class conformity. Everyone lived together in a minivan and like the surfers in Endless Summer, chased the waves.

Paskowitz, who was 85 when the film was made in 2007, is Jewish, and the film explores how his devotion to fitness, strength, and self-sufficiency was a direct response to the widespread vision of Jews as helpless victims during the Holocaust. As one son wryly comments, “Doc wanted to repopulate the world with Jews.”

YouTube Diversions



Summer Movies/YouTube, Part 2 by Linda Dubler
June 17, 2009, 11:42 am
Filed under: Film Series: Online | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

As far as the art film crowd is concerned, the undisputed king of beach comedies is Jacques Tati’s Mr. Hulot’s Holiday, made in 1953. Ephraim Katz, author of the indispensible Film Encyclopedia, describes Tati’s alter-ego, the hapless Mr. Hulot as “a gangling, awkward character whose peculiar gait and odd misadventures set him apart from the gadget-obessessed world around him.” The film tells its barely-there story visually, with very little dialogue; some viewers may find it a tad slow going by contemporary standards.

As Rogert Ebert observes “the movie is constructed with the meticulous attention to detail of a Keaton or Chaplin. Sight gags are set up with such patience that they seem to expose hidden functions in the clockwork of the universe.” Give it a chance and you may find its innocent humor a refreshing antidote to all of the loud, overbearing product out there.

Rowan Atkinson remade the film as Mr. Bean’s Holiday. If Bean sets your teeth on edge I’d skip it; if not, it’s interesting to compare the master and then his less subtle acolyte.

-Linda Dubler

You Tube Diversions



Summer Movies, Part 1 by Linda Dubler

Landscape photographer Richard Misrach‘s works are on view at the High, so the next few posts will spin off from the exhibition On the Beach, a show of exquisite, large scale pictures shot from an overhead vantage point in Hawaii after 9/11. Some of the images are populated, some devoid of human presence, but all suggest both seaside paradise and doomsday unease. This duality is embodied in the exhibition’s title, a forthright statement of what to expect from the images, and also a reference to Nevil Shute’s book and Stanley Kramer’s  post-apocalyptic film of the same name about a bunch of Australians awaiting the appearance of a nuclear cloud that promises to annihilate them all.

Beach Blanket Bingo

Beach Blanket Bingo

OK, impending extinction may not be your idea of summer fun. So let’s consider beach blanket escapades, amusement parks, surfing, and all things sweaty and summery, with just a quick side trip into the apocalyptic.

To begin on an historic note, Blake Leland, a poet and longtime professor in the Science, Technology, and Culture program at Georgia Tech, points out that “many of the beach movies (Beach Blanket Bingo, Beach Party, Muscle Beach and the like) were released after the Cuban missile crisis (as close to actual apocalypse as we’ve come so far).” He continues, “I wonder if these atrocious movies aren’t part of a kind of pre-apocalyptic denial of the possibility of annihilation–at least for teens!”

Well, partying on the eve of destruction is a hallowed tradition, so in retrospect maybe the spunky teens were trying to tell us something. I suspect that all that American International Pictures saw when they produced the cycle of beach party movies made in the mid-1960s were dollar signs. The films starred Philadelphia teen idol Frankie Avalon and a curvy grown-up  Mouseketeer, Annette Funicello.

Funicello was still under contract with Disney when these films were shot, and AIP had to promise that she wouldn’t appear in a bikini since exposing too much flesh would tarnish her wholesome image. I must admit that during the time when Beach Blanket Bingo et al appeared in theaters, I was too busy being a junior high school existentialist to see them and I haven’t revisited them since. They did make lots of money, and they may still have some campy charm.

From Here to Eternity

From Here to Eternity

Before Annette and Frankie were kicking up sand and singing rock n’ roll,  some other Hollywood icons were grabbing Oscars for a World War II era saga, From Here to Eternity, which features an indelible image of  Deborah Kerr and Burt Lancaster locked in a wave-wetted embrace. The 1953 drama directed by Fred Zinneman, ends with the bombing of Pearl Harbor, which in a sense presages the looming atomic disaster of On the Beach. When From Here to Eternity was restored and re-released in 2003, J. Hoberman wrote in the Village Voice, “Contemporary audiences may not see why, even in its toned-down simplification of the novel, From Here to Eternity was the most daring movie of 1953, but it remains an acting bonanza”

Linda Dubler