Amid news of a Pac-Man movie, the latest casting developments in Captain America, reviews of Iron Man 2, new TV spots for The A-Team, and Fox’s announcement of a Planet of the Apes prequel, I excavated a small piece of encouragement: Pedro Almodovar will be working with Antonio Banderas once again. The film, The Skin I Live In, will begin shooting this summer.
“The film will be a terror film, without screams or scares,” Almodovar told the Spanish daily El Pais. “It’s difficult to define and although it comes close to the terror genre – something that appeals to me that I’ve never done – I won’t respect any of its rules. It’s the harshest film I’ve ever written and Banderas’ character is brutal.”
Throughout the eighties, Almodovar and Banderas made five films together – Labyrinth of Passion, Matador, Law of Desire, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, and finally Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! – an impressive, versatile streak that, in its day, ranked with the greatest director/actor partnerships around. Back then, before Almodovar had fully cultivated his current, perversely mature sensibility, Antonio Banderas was the living embodiment of his world, Cary Grant to his Howard Hawks. Under Almodovar’s direction, the actor alternated between a screwball-state of flummoxed boyishness (like Grant in Bringing Up Baby, Monkey Business, I Was A Male War Bride) and commanding manliness (like Grant in Only Angels Have Wings) – a duality appropriate to Almodovar’s madcap feeling for passionate behavior.
Together they forged new cinematic ground (Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! is an NC-17 comedy about a stalker in love with a heroine addicted porn-star), pushing ahead into uncharted emotional territory that they may not have reached on their own. Katharine Hepburn’s famous remark about Fred and Ginger – “He gave her class and she gave him sex” – readily applies; Pedro is Fred, Antonio is Ginger. How else could we have been lured into rooting for Banderas, who played that memorable, lovable rapist in Matador? Teamwork.
Jimmy Stewart made cold Hitchcock warm; Mastroianni gave warm Fellini cool; and Liv Ullmann gave Bergman’s films a chance at hope, like a life preserver thrown into a cold, dark sea. Antonio Banderas – a highly gifted performer who has never really been taken seriously in America – could, as Almodovar said, play “a puerile guy with an overpowering power of seduction.” Has there ever been a better summary of Almodovar’s brand of playful intensity?
Posted in Actors, Company Town
Tagged alfred hitchcock, almodovar, antonio banderas, bringing up baby, cary grant, cinema, federico fellini, fellini, film, fred & ginger, fred and ginger, fred astaire, ginger rogers, hitchcock, howard hawks, i was a male war bride, ingmar bergman, international cinema, iron man, iron man 2, james stewart, jimmy stewart, katharine hepburn, labyrinth of passion, law of desire, liv ullmann, marcello mastroianni, matador, monkey business, movies, only angels have wings, pac-man, pedro almodovar, planet of the apes, spanish cinema, the a-team, the skin i live in, tie me up! tie me down!, women on the verge of a nervous breakdown
When I found out that my friend, film historian Jeremy Arnold, was a regular at The Playboy Mansion’s storied movie nights, I very calmly flipped out. (What follows is the first part of a two-part blog.)
Me: How did this happen?
Jeremy: I became friends with Hef eight years ago when I interviewed him for Premiere Magazine. We hit it off. He saw me as a fellow romantic about the old movies and old music, and he ended up liking my article, and invited me into his circle of friends. I’ve been going up there for movie nights almost every weekend since.
Me: What films have you seen? What were Hef’s reactions?
Jeremy: Fridays and Saturdays are classics; Sundays are new movies. Hef programs everything personally. Fridays are the more festive classic nights because Hef reads a five or ten minute introduction comprised mostly of comments about film history. One of his friends prepares research notes for him, and Hef goes through those notes and combines them with his own thoughts or knowledge to come up with the final version, which he handwrites on legal paper. Saturdays we just watch the movie sans intro. (Sometimes on Saturday we’ll watch a boxing match afterwards, if there’s a good one scheduled that evening.) Some recent weekends, Hef showed Sullivan’s Travels and High Sierra, The Third Man and Cry Danger, House of Rothschild and Rasputin and the Empress. Two weeks ago he ran Chaplin on Friday and Modern Times on Saturday. Last weekend was his birthday, and we had an annual showing of Casablanca, his favorite movie, followed by caviar and champagne in “Rick’s Café” across the hall. (The dining room was decorated for the event.) For that one we all wore white dinner jackets, and the ladies wore vintage dresses. Generally movies will show up on the schedule again after 4 or 5 years. There are often “new” old movies that pop up, but many of the most famous classics – especially the vintage Warner Bros films, and Astaire-Rogers films – pop up pretty regularly.
Me: What does the place look like?
Jeremy: It’s a giant living room that has a movie screen that rolls down from the ceiling at one end. Hef and his girls sit on the closest leather couch. There’s another leather couch behind it, then a row of armchairs, then a few rows of padded folding chairs, plus various other chairs around the side of the room. In front of Hef’s couch are dozens of cushions which are usually occupied by playmates or other girls that are testing for Playboy and staying at the mansion for the weekend, etc. Some of them don’t make it all the way through the classic titles, but others do. On a side table are little wooden bowls of popcorn for people to take, and in the back are some bowls of M&Ms, chocolate-covered raisins and peanuts, etc., for people to partake of during the screening. Most of the classic are shown on DVD or Blu-Ray with a state of the art DVD projector. The image is excellent. All Sunday movies, and the occasional classic movie, are shown on 35mm. There’s a dual-projector booth in the back and a union projectionist when needed.
Jeremy Arnold will be introducing a screening of Ladies of Leisure at Cinefamily (aka the Silent Movie Theater), next Friday 4/23 at 8pm. He writes for tcm.com and is working on a book about underrated classic movies.
(Movies at the Mansion: Part II will contain the implication of nudity.)
Posted in Garbo Speaks!, Last Night When We Were Hollywood
Tagged casablanca, chaplin, charlie chaplin, cry danger, fred and ginger, fred astaire, ginger rogers, hef, high sierra, house of rothschild, hugh hefner, ladies of leisure, modern times, playboy, playboy mansion, rasputin and the empress, sullivan's travels, the third man