Midcentury Madness ’22

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First show: July 30

MIDCENTURY MADNESS ’22

PART 11-12 of 18 • Meditations on War & Birthday Tribute for an Unsung Hero

Not content to simply keep breaking ground with his FRENCH HAD A NAME FOR IT series, Midcentury Productions’ head honcho Don Malcolm is presenting 36 ultra-rare mid-century films (what else?) from around the world in 18 double features—an ongoing event unlike anything else.

MIDCENTURY MADNESS shifts gears as it plunges further into the second half of its singular run at the Roxie Theater. Our “end of July” screenings remind us of the horrors of war and pay tribute to a man tenaciously dedicated to the pursuit of a better world.

SAT, JULY 30 • NOON

War is hell: it is never the right answer. But we cannot shrink from facing our violent past lest we find that we will be forever enslaved to it. “That’s why so many films were made about World War II,” Don Malcolm notes. “The filmmakers wanted us never to forget.”

KANAL + CARRIAGE TO VIENNA

Kanal

In KANAL, director Andrzej Wajda immerses us in the efforts of the Polish resistance during the heroic, ill-fated Warsaw uprising (fall 1944). The indomitability of the fighters as they desperately attempt to hold off the Nazis while waiting in vain for the elusive assistance of the Soviet army is a grim but ultimately transcendent homage to the human spirit. As critic John Simon notes, the film is suffused with “the dark radiance of doom.” We see that war is literally a descent into hell: Wajda is telling us that in order to avoid the same fate, we must experience it for ourselves. (1957, 91 min.)

Carriage to Vienna

CARRIAGE TO VIENNA / KOCÁR DO VÍDNE brings us back into the open air, but the scars of war remain omnipresent as the journey undertaken by two ex-Nazi soldiers hovers menacingly between escape and revenge at the hands of the woman whose carriage they have appropriated. Director Karyl Kachyna (whose 1970 film THE EAR was screened in MCP’s AGITPROP series in 2017) takes his characters into a dense, labyrinthine forest, creating a slow-building battleground between the soldiers and the woman, who waits stealthily for her moment to avenge her husband’s death at the hands of the Nazis. (1966, 78 min.)

SUN, JULY 31 • NOON

93rd birthday tribute to Don Murray. Eight years ago MCP presented a sprawling career retrospective for actor/director/activist Don Murray, most famous for his roles in BUS STOP, ADVISE & CONSENT, and THE HOODLUM PRIEST. Turning 93 on July 31st, Don is still with us—and still firmly committed to humanitarian and pacifist principles. We’re proud to present two exceptionally rare works showcasing little-known aspects of Don’s career as we continue to sing the praises of our favorite “unsung hero.”

SWEET LOVE, BITTER + BILLY BUDD

Sweet Love, Bitter

In SWEET LOVE, BITTER, jazz and race relations collide in a gritty tale of troubled souls thrown together in the attempt to prevent brilliant saxophonist “Eagle” Stokes (Dick Gregory) from succumbing to the downward spiral of drug addiction. Don’s troubled college professor has his eyes opened to the real world of interracial tension as he assists Eagle’s friend Keel (Robert Hooks) in a desperate race against Eagle’s self-destructive tendencies. While director Herbert Danska had 20 minutes of the film cut by his producers, what remains is among the most powerful films made in the 1960s. Mal Waldron provides a haunting score for a film that noted jazz critic Francis Davis called “the best film ever made about jazz.” (1967, 90min)

Billy Budd

Don Murray’s distrust of Hollywood prompted him to select prompted him to select films with exceptional care, and he turned down several roles that made others into big stars (e.g. Paul Newman in CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF). He preferred the then-burgeoning world of live television, appearing in more than a half-dozen such productions from 1957-1961. Among the best—and the rarest—is his turn as the titular character in BILLY BUDD, a DuPont Play of the Month production directed by Robert Mulligan (TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD). Co-starring with Don in a brilliant, homoerotically charged performance, is noted stage and film actor Alfred Ryder as Claggart, the man whose advances Billy rejects (with tragic consequences). BILLY BUDD has not been screened anywhere since its broadcast on May 25, 1959. (88 min)

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