The final day began with Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), which finally allows me to check off the Chinese Theater on my TCMFF Bingo Card. Not sure why this theater won’t turn up the interior lights so people can find seats. I imagine the injury lawsuits will cost more than the electricity bill.
Introduced by John Sayles, this Western was based on a story by Dario Argento, Bernardo Bertolucci, and Leone. It stars Henry Fonda against type as the villain Frank, a stone-cold killer; Jason Robards against type as Manuel “Cheyenne” Gutiérrez; and Charles Bronson as Harmonica, a role Clint Eastwood was agains takingt. Unfortunately after Sayles told me that bit of casting trivia, I couldn’t stop wondering about what could have been whenever Bronson was on screen.
The story focuses around a plot of land intended to be a source of water for the eventual railroad. Owned by Brett McBain, tycoon Morton (Gabriele Ferzetti) wants the land and sends Frank and his gang to intimidate McBain, but Frank ups the ante, killing McBain, his children, and framing Cheyenne for the murders. However, matters get complicated when Mrs. McBain (Claudia Cardinale) shows up to claim the land. When Harmonica arrives, Frank sends three men to kill him and they all fail. Alliances shift throughout out the story, leading to a showdown between Harmonica and Frank. The story is good and the plot takes some interesting turns but the film’s pacing is too slow and would benefit from another pass by an editor. Fonda is wonderful as a bad guy.
Director Robert Benton and actress Sally Field, who won an Oscar for her performance, attended Places in the Heart (1984). They spoke about Benton allowing the actors to improvise, which Field finds rare and special. She also gives him credit for allowing her to evolve as an actress.
The film is set in Texas 1935 and tells the story of Edna (Field), who strives to keep her family cotton farm after she is left a widow. It’s tough for a woman to make it on her own, but she receives help from Moses (Danny Glover in a very good performance that deserves more recognition), a black man drifting through town, and Will (John Malkovich), a blind tenant she takes on. The film certainly affects places in the heart’s of an audience as the story presents familiar triumphs and defeats for stories set during this era. The final scene even goes a step too far in trying to manipulate the viewer’s emotions. It’s a good film, just wish it had been more original.
Having to go to back to the real world on Monday, my last film of the weekend was Silk Stockings (1957) because seeing Fred Astaire dance is a festival tradition I take part in as often as I can. This musical remake of Ninotchka first appeared on Broadway and is notable for being the last Cole Porter original production there.
Astarie plays American film producer Steve Canfield. He wants Russian composer Peter Illyich Boroff (Wim Sonneveld) to score his next film, which is being shot in Paris. The Soviet higher-ups aren’t happy with this idea and send three bumbling agents (Peter Lorre, Jules Munshin, and Joseph Buloff). Canfield wins their allegiance by playing to desires which have been restricted back home. Agent Ninotchka (Cyd Charisse) is sent soon after, setting up a love story between she and Canfield. Though not a major work by either Astaire or Porter, it’s still a fun adventure.
And that’s how my 2018 TCM Classic Film Festival came to an end, missing a chance at another movie and the Closing Party. Though exhausted from watching movies for four days and irregularly eating and sleeping, I am already looking forward to next year, especially being its tenth outing, so I am expecting big news and surprises.
Read my coverage of Day 3.