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Ken Classics Week Takes Us Around The Globe

Celebrate cinema from Hollywood to France to Japan

Photo credit: Paramount Pictures

Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond famously waiting for her close-up at the end of Billy Wilder's "Sunset Boulevard."

Week of Classics

Friday: “Je T’Aime Moi Non Plus”

Saturday and Sunday Matinee: “The Incredible Shrinking Man”

Saturday: “The Thin Man”

Sunday: “Sunset Blvd.”

Monday: “Yojimbo”

Tuesday: “Cat on A Hot Tin Roof”

Wednesday: “Mr. Klein”

Thursday: “Suspicion”

A week of classics at Landmark’s Ken Cinema is always something to celebrate and a new one is here.

At the end of Billy Wilder's cynical, stunning and ravishing "Sunset Boulevard" (1950), an obviously deranged Norma Desmond (impeccably played by Gloria Swanson, fearless as she played a character referencing her own stardom) walks down a staircase to news cameras that she thinks are movie cameras on a Cecil B. DeMille set.

Listen to this story by Beth Accomando.

"I promise you," she says into the cameras, "I'll never desert you again because after 'Salome' we'll make another picture and another picture. You see, this is my life! It always will be! Nothing else! Just us, and the cameras, and those wonderful people out there in the dark!"

Yep. That's me. Riveted to those images flickering in the dark on the screen. If you are also one of those people out there in the dark that Norma is talking to then you live for the Ken Cinema's Week of Film Classics.

Wilder’s bleak and beautiful assault on Hollywood, "Sunset Boulevard," is just one of the gems screening during this latest week of movie classics.

The delicious line up starts Friday with Serge Gainsbourg’s debut feature "Je T’Aime Moi Non Plus" (1976). Gainsbourg was a French bad boy and pop icon who was a singer, musician, painter, composer, poet and filmmaker. For his first film he turned to his real life partner Jane Birkin as the star and added Andy Warhol superstar Joe Dellasandro for a twisted tale of love.

Then we turn to Hollywood for the existential 1950s science-gone-wrong horror of "The Incredible Shrinking Man" (1957). The film boasts a smart script from author Richard Matheson ("I Am Legend" fame) based on his own book as well as wonderful special effects to show a world growing larger as the protagonist shrinks. The film screens as a new 4K restoration.

Then we head to the 1930s for the wisecracking wit and excessive servings of cocktails in "The Thin Man" (1934). The film kicked off a highly successful franchise starring William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles. They were joined by their adorable but never helpful dog Asta as they solved crimes among the New York upper crust. The easy rapport of the stars plus the playful dialogue made marriage seem like a delightful romp. I think that film set my unrealistically high expectation for marriage. If you have never seen Powell and Loy then you need to sample some of this sparkling comedy.

Marriage is more of a battlefield as Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman bring heat to Tennessee Williams' "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" (1958). Taylor is in top form as is Burl Ives as Big Daddy. Good thing this isn't screening on nitrate because Newman and Taylor might ignite the combustible film stock. This one really sizzles on the big screen.

Photo credit: RKO Radio Pictures

Alfred Hitchcock seems to delight in making charming Cary Grant look ominous in "Suspicion."

A chilly romance is at the heart of Alfred Hitchcock's "Suspicion" (1941) with Joan Fontaine ever fearful that the charming Cary Grant has something criminal in mind. Hitchcock who loved twisting audience expectations seems to savor making Grant look suspicious and ominous. Fontaine, who also scored well in Hitchcock's "Rebecca," is absolutely lovely and vulnerable in this one.

Photo credit: Janus Films

Toshiro Mifune stars as a crafty ronin (a wandering samurai without a master) in Akira Kurosawa's "Yojimbo."

A pair of foreign films round out the selections with Akira Kurosawa’s "Yojimbo" (1961) featuring a charismatic Toshiro Mifune and Alain Delon starring as the mysterious "Mr. Klein" (1976).

"Yojimbo" is cited as the film that inspired Sergio Leone's "A Fistful of Dollars" (1964) which kicked off the spaghetti Western genre in the 1960s. Mifune rivets us to the screen as a crafty and skilled ronin (wandering samurai with no lord or master) who takes advantage of two rival gangs causing turmoil in a small village. The film epitomizes Kurosawa's mastery of action and storytelling. (And just an FYI, I will be co-hosting a screening of "For A Few Dollars More" in April as part of Film Geeks SD series on Italian Genre Cinema.)

"Mr. Klein" offers a different style of film making as Joseph Losey spins an existential tale set in Nazi-occupied Paris in which Delon's art dealer Mr. Klein discovers he has a doppelganger.

It’s a week to celebrate cinema at the Ken.


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Satisfy your celluloid addiction with the Cinema Junkie podcast, where you can mainline film 24/7. This film and entertainment series is run by KPBS Film Critic Beth Accomando.

So if you need a film fix, want to hear what filmmakers have to say about their work, or just want to know what's worth seeing this weekend, then you've come to the right place.

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Aired: January 24, 2020 | Transcript

  • Your curated weekly guide to local arts and culture in San Diego, from Arts Calendar Editor Julia Dixon Evans, delivered to your inbox every Thursday afternoon.

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Beth Accomando
Arts & Culture Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI cover arts and culture, from Comic-Con to opera, from pop entertainment to fine art, from zombies to Shakespeare. I am interested in going behind the scenes to explore the creative process; seeing how pop culture reflects social issues; and providing a context for art and entertainment.

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