"1933" at Film Forum
Rolling out 66 features in one month, stacked in double and triple features, Film Forum’s 80th-anniversary time-machine series trumpets 1933 as Hollywood’s “naughtiest and bawdiest year.” That builds on the established brand of pre-Codes having all the fun—the censorial Motion Picture Production Code wouldn't be enforced until 1934—and it’s yet another chance to enjoy movies associated with that before-the-party-ends freedom. (There's a film by Dorothy Arzner!) But another attraction of the 1933 showcase is, put bluntly, all the weird shit—the entertainments gone bonkers, and the experiments that hustle along.
The mesmerizing human mandalas of Footlight Parade typically induces a trance in me that's eventually broken by a double take over the fact that such visions, melding the avant-garde and the big show, were ever made. This was also the banner year of heavyweight classics Duck Soup—check out the non sequitur found footage of herds of beasts (1933 was also the year of Bruce Conner’s birth)—and King Kong, which essentially cross-breeds monster adventure and backstage drama into a dramatization of the terror and wonder of showbiz (or movies), and which is still gripping with its funky, wide-eyed stop-motion. (For an especially creepy beastly pile-up, see also the animal revolt at the end of starry-eyed Zoo in Budapest.)
Whether attributable to modernist foment across the arts or silent-era innovation applied to the changing medium, the selection here puts on display renewed creative energies, including narrative experimentation: with The Power and the Glory, for example, a regularly cited predecessor to Citizen Kane, or The Sin of Nora Moran, a hash of flashbacks and cutaways that ends with a governor talking to the disembodied-head apparition of his mistress, who has been sentenced to the electric chair. The heady dawning age of FDR found a notorious deus ex machina presidential parable in Gabriel Over the White House, while William Wellman’s Wild Boys of the Road (and in a different way Raoul Walsh’s Sailor’s Luck) plunge into vibrant depictions of the grind of daily life.
Through March 7