MR. TURNER COMES TO SAN FRANCISCO
When Mike Leigh’s brilliant film about J.M.W. Turner was released last year ‘EatDrinkFilms” was thrilled that Colin B. Bailey, Director of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco agreed to write about the film for our readers. Now you can see the fabulous exhibit of Turner’s paintings that Bailey has curated at the de Young Museum: J.M. W Turner- Painting Set Free.
“One of the greatest English painters of the nineteenth century, J.M.W. Turner was celebrated for his brilliant depictions of light, the virtuosity of his technique, and his extraordinary Romantic imagination. Experience the first major survey of Turner’s late career, when the artist displayed a fierce engagement with grand themes of nature, history, and religion.”
—Courtesy de Young Museum notes
Read Colin B. Bailey’s review of Mr. Turner.
Read Gregory Scharpen’s interview of Timothy Spall about playing J.M.W. Turner.
The movie Mr. Turner is available in various video formats at Amazon.com.
DINING WITH THE DEAD AT MOUNTAIN VIEW CEMETERY
One of the most beautiful views of the Bay Area is from the heights of the Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland. Getting to the top, on foot, by bicycle or automobile will take you past hundreds of fascinating grave sites, large and small with people buried there as far back as 1863. Mountain View Cemetery was designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead who also designed Golden Gate Park and Central Park in Manhattan.
Twice a month there are themed guided tours and this Saturday is especially unique as docent Barbara Gibson leads her “Food Mavericks and Literary Lions.” (She tells us this will probably be the last time she does this annual theme as she has moved to Santa Cruz).
This free, docent-guided tour starts at the final resting place of Victor “Trader Vic” Bergeron and ends at the grave of James Folger. Other notables on the tour include novelist Frank Norris, California’s first Poet Laureate (1919) Ina Coolbrith, famed horticulturalist Henderson Luelling, “father of the Pacific fruit industry,” Freda Ehmann who birthed California’s ripe olive industry and chocolate maker Domingo Ghiradelli – expect some scandalous stories. There will also be inventors, cookbook, detective writers and historical icons.
Mountain View Cemetery
5000 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland
10:00 am- 12:00 pm
- More information at mountainviewcemetery.org
- Famous people buried at Mountain View Cemetery
- Some of their stories.
One of the best 3D classics is having a rare week-long showing at the beautiful Smith Rafael Theatre in San Rafael. Kiss Me Kate looks gorgeous and is terrific fun with 15 Cole Porter songs including “Brush Up Your Shakespeare,” “Too Darn Hot,” and “I Hate Men” staged by MGM at the studio’s musical production peak in 1953.
For show times and more information.
Watch the trailer promoting the 3D version
and John Landis enthusing about Kiss Me Kate while watching the trailer:
“The 3D craze during the 1950s was relatively brief, but it spawned a few noteworthy films that were good enough to stand on their own in flat versions after the fad faded. Chief among them is Kiss Me Kate, Cole Porter’s tuneful backstage romp that ran for more than 1,000 performances on Broadway and became one of MGM’s most vibrant and exhilarating musicals. (And for a studio that specialized in the genre and produced such classics as The Wizard of Oz, Meet Me in St. Louis, Easter Parade, An American in Paris, Singin’ in the Rain, The Band Wagon, and Gigi, that’s saying something!) Aside from a lucky, aged few who attended the movie during its premiere engagement, most Kiss Me Kate aficionados have only seen the 2D version. Though 2D doesn’t at all compromise this acclaimed, scintillating film (3D isn’t required to admire the top-notch score, applaud the vital performances, and bask in the dazzling terpsichorean feats), many of us have dreamed of viewing the film in the format for which it was expressly designed. And yet nothing could really prepare us for the stunning reality of that experience.
Simply put, Kiss Me Kate in 3D is a revelation. Though it’s still the same movie, Kiss Me Kate seems strikingly different and wondrously fresh in 3D, as the extra dimension makes it more playful, innovative, visually striking, and — of course — immersive and immediate than its 2D counterpart. At last, we can fully appreciate Ann Miller tossing a scarf and bracelet at the camera during the “Too Darn Hot” number, Tommy Rall swinging through the screen on a rope as he dances to “Why Can’t You Behave?” and Kathryn Grayson knocking a tin saucer in our laps as she grouchily sings the archly comic feminine lament, “I Hate Men.” Finally, after more than 60 years, Kiss Me Kate seems whole, and it’s a tremendous treat to see this musical in the manner in which it was always intended.
Produced by Jack Cummings (eat your heart out, Arthur Freed) and directed with spirit and panache by the underrated George Sidney, this tale of a bickering theatrical couple (modeled after the temperamental Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne) who ceaselessly mouth off and square off during an opening night performance of a musical adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew brims with wit, style, and sophistication. Dorothy Kingsley’s spritely screenplay (adapted from Sam and Bella Spewack’s book) seamlessly merges the backstage and onstage scenarios, and combines The Bard’s poetry with more contemporary banter to create a madcap atmosphere of romance, lunacy, and mix-ups galore. Porter’s memorable tunes, including “So in Love,” “Tom, Dick, or Harry,” “Wunderbar,” “Always True to You (in My Fashion),” “Where Is the Life That Late I Led?,” “We Open in Venice,” and “Brush Up Your Shakespeare,” punctuate and augment the story, and his clever, jaunty lyrics heighten the air of joie de vivre pervading the proceedings. (Though some of them had to be toned down to pass the censors, one of my favorite lines from “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” managed to squeak by: “If she says your behavior is heinous, kick her right in the Coriolanus!” That’s classic Porter and oh so clever!)
When actor-producer-director Fred Graham (Howard Keel) and composer Cole Porter (Ron Randell) decide to mount a musicalized version of The Taming of the Shrew, they trepidatiously approach Fred’s bitter ex-wife – and diva extraordinaire – Lilli Vanessi (Grayson) to play Katherine opposite his Petruchio. She reluctantly agrees, and so begins an adversarial partnership made all the more volatile by the simmering sexual tension that still rages between the unhappily divorced couple. Complicating matters is Fred’s dalliance with the saucy Lois Lane (Miller), who portrays the comely Bianca, and Lilli’s impending nuptials to down-home cattle baron Tex Callaway (Willard Parker), whom she hopes will whisk her away from the theatrical hurly-burly to a tranquil life on the range. (Of course, from the get-go, we all know that’s the last thing Lilli really wants.) Meanwhile, Lois tries to keep her irresponsible boyfriend, Bill Calhoun (Rall), on the straight and narrow, but when he signs Fred’s name on a gambling I.O.U., a couple of mafia henchmen (Keenan Wynn and James Whitmore) come to the theater to collect, and threaten to shut down the show on opening night if Fred doesn’t pay up. Holding them at bay, taming his shrewish leading lady onstage and off, and weathering Lilli’s mercurial mood swings and rash decisions frazzle fearsome Fred to a fare-thee-well and put the success of the show in jeopardy.
Kiss Me Kate is supremely entertaining from start to finish, a bright, vivacious musical filled with romance, humor, and dynamite songs and dances. Though it might seem an odd choice for a 3D extravaganza, this splendidly realized production embraces the format and allows us the rare opportunity to experience musical numbers in a uniquely up-close-and-personal manner, heightening their intimacy and impact. Keel and Grayson, who co-starred two years earlier in MGM’s remake of Show Boat, possess terrific chemistry, and his booming bass aligned with her light soprano make their mellifluous duets of “So in Love” and “Wunderbar” soar. Both also rise to the occasion dramatically, and seem to relish flinging barbs and beating each other up verbally and physically. Miller, in what she claimed was her all-time favorite role, lights up the screen as Lois/Bianca in her finest screen performance. Her fresh-faced beauty, boundless energy, and sizzling tap dancing always grab our attention, while Wynn and Whitmore as the bumbling, streetwise thugs inject even more madcap comedy into the tale. The duo also proves they can hoof it almost as well as their professional colleagues; their “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” is a delightfully hammy tour de force that always stops the show.
And speaking of show-stopping numbers, nothing can top the sublime “From This Moment On,” an orphan song that was cut from another Porter musical and – in one of the most inspired decisions in Hollywood musical history – added to the Kiss Me Kate film score. This sumptuous, breathtakingly danced number showcases a young, unknown Bob Fosse, whose minute-long jazz ballet with Carol Haney (see photo below) marked a shift in the choreographic wind and the introduction of a unique and electrifying style that would soon take Broadway by storm and be forever identified with its brilliant creator. Though Hermes Pan exquisitely choreographed the rest of the film, he allowed Fosse, Rall, and Bobby Van – all of whom represented dance’s new wave – to devise their own specialty routines within the “From This Moment On’” framework, and the result is a dazzlingly eclectic display of grace, athleticism, innovation, and unadulterated brashness that’s as fresh and exhilarating today as it surely was more than six decades ago. Coupled with an infectious melody, stark yet functional set, and thrilling orchestration that ranks among the genre’s best, “From This Moment On” is sheer bliss and the undisputed highlight of a film that’s stacked to the gills with memorable musical sequences.
Kiss Me Kate doesn’t have much substance, but it knocks itself out in the entertainment department, thanks to a fantastic score, high-energy dancing (Rall, Fosse, and Miller are worth the price of admission), a cleverly crafted screenplay, flashy costumes, and a supremely talented cast. All that, and 3D, too! Along with Anything Goes, Porter called Kiss Me Kate one of his two perfect shows, and MGM’s glorious screen adaptation honors it well. What’s more, this superb 3D release revitalizes the film and secures its standing as one of the studio’s practically perfect musicals.
ABOUT THAT 3D!
Now THIS is what 3D is all about! Unabashedly bold, packed with fun, and maximizing the inherent gimmicky nature of the process, Kiss Me Kate embraces 3D technology like few films before or since, and the result is a dazzling display of dynamic dimensionality that has been lovingly restored frame by frame. From the clever opening title sequence of spinning diamonds to numerous projectiles and in-your-face close-ups, the film’s wow factor is off the charts, and the visual shenanigans only enhance our enjoyment of the story and songs. Director George Sidney doesn’t just fill this musical with a bunch of cheesy – yet completely captivating – 3D effects, he fully integrates the process into the narrative, so the bulk of his shots exude some level of palpable dimensionality. A strategically placed piece of furniture, foreground grouping of extras or set pieces, or slightly angled perspective all contribute to the stimulating 3D feel that permeates the picture. Unlike other films that only tease us with a hint of 3D, Kiss Me Kate continually flings a barrage of eye-popping images our way, and almost all of them tickle our fancy and delight our senses. This 3D version also restores some deleted footage that was cut from the film’s “flat” prints, most notably the show-within-the-show’s lavish opening featuring Bob Fosse and Bobby Van tossing confetti and a pail of water at the camera and an Intermission card that follows Grayson’s “I Hate Men” number.”
by David Krause, High-Def Digest