Giants of the Seventh Art

Many film audiences these days are obsessed with new works and that is why, unlike the works of singers or visual artists, films do not become more popular or valuable after their author’s deaths, even though some of them greatly deserve it, especially in comparison with the best contemporary productions

Film Programs remind us of and offer us a unique opportunity to see hard-to-find films starring or directed by the giants of film art who have recently passed away. In this program of recently deceased film authors, especially interesting are the films directed by Mario Monicelli and Blake Edwards, two directors who belong to the very top of the world cinema in the second half of the 20th century. They are the authors of brilliant comedies (even though they directed other genres as well) that still do not have many competitors in the sense of their humor and imaginativeness as well as the fact that the directors successfully used this genre to create a complex image of the world they live and work in.

Even though it is sad that these virtuosos of humorous film are no longer with us, one thought that may console us is the fact that they both had long and fruitful lives and left many valuable films behind them. The older among them, the Italian Monicelli (1915), directed more than sixty and wrote screenplays for more than a hundred films. In 1935, together with co-director Alberto Mondadori, he won an award for his debut The Boys of Via Paal (I ragazzi della via Paal) based on the famous novel by Ferenc Molnár, at the Venice Film Festival in the competition program of children’s films. More than seventy years later, he directed his last feature film, The Roses of the Desert (Le rose del deserto, 2006), and remained active in film until the end of his life. His films, including the anthological I soliti ignoti (I soliti ignoti) and The Great War (La grande guerra), derive comedy from the imbalance of big things that some picturesque group of people wants to achieve and their actual abilities. In that context, poverty, hunger and even death can be cause for laughter. Therefore, most of his comedies do not have a happy ending but in the end all the comic scenes form a complex image of a society that rarely offers even just pieces of happiness.

At a first glance, it may seem that Blake Edwards’ most famous character of inspector Clouseau (played congenially by Peter Sellers) from the Pink Panther series is an effective and exquisite caricature. However, he actually resembles a clumsy bureaucrat who is trying to do his job and his clumsiness does not seem so unusual that it could not happen to anybody from time to time. The salvos of laughter are caused by the number and gradation of his clumsy acts, which are used in a consistent manner in order to create a solid dramaturgical plot that brings the contemporary world’s absurdity (especially bureaucracy, the bourgeoisie and the police) to light through the use of twists on everyday situations. Blake’s exquisite directing talent was further shown off via many different films, from the romantic comedy and drama in the cult Breakfast At Tiffany's, thriller Experiment in Terror, a drama about alcoholism Days of Wine and Roses and very complex comedies such as S.O.B. and Victor, Victoria.

Leslie Nielsen (1926) is an extremely popular Canadian-American actor and comedian who acted in more than a hundred feature films and many more TV series. He became famous in 1980 after his role in the parody Airplane!, and afterwards continued to build his career as a comedian on a character who is convinced that he knows everything better than anyone else, but actually most often misunderstands what is going on around him. This results in humor that makes people laugh out loud at the absurd parody on the screen (especially in the series of films The Naked Gun). Even though many critics did not value his films very highly, audiences around the world love him.

Hollywood star of the 1950s and 1960s, Tony Curtis (1925) was an action star, ladies’ man and a serious drama actor, as well as a great comedian. He was the protagonist of one of the best comedies of all time, Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot (1959). He showed his relatively late discovered talent for comedy in another film by Blake Edwards The Great Race, while in Richard Fleischer’s The Boston Strangler he plays an unusual role for him: a serial killer.

Jill Clayburgh (1944) became an atypical but nevertheless great star because of the demanding roles such as those in Paul Mazursky's An Unmarried Woman and Bernardo Bertolucci’s La Luna. These complex roles portrayed contemporary women who manage to cope with problems brought on by the changed role of women in the modern society.

Even though he directed only thirteen feature films (besides working in theatre and on television), Arthur Penn earned his reputation as one of the best directors of the second half of the 20th century. He worked with some of the best and strongest modern actors and very originally combined American genre models with the film movements of Western Europe that he felt close to as an author. Therefore he had an extremely important role in the radical change in Hollywood films which happened in the second half of the 1960s and early 1970s. His most representative film and one of the most important films of all time, Bonnie and Clyde, is a combination of a black film and road film, a true story about a couple of gangsters and a myth that they inspired. It offers a critical view to the American system and its injustices that created the criminal pair.

This program offers a reminder of memorable film authors and stars from recent history and consists of many anthological films that will delight even the most demanding audiences. It also offers a review of some of the most important tendencies that occurred in world of film in the second half of the 20th century. (Tomislav Kurelec)