Thursday, 30 March 2017

Capital Celluloid 2017 - Day 106: Mon Apr 17

A Star is Born (Cukor, 1954): Regent Street Cinema, 8.30pm


Welcome to the reason this blog exists. In December 2010 I watched this film, a movie I went to see when restored and re-released in cinemas in 1983, on television. I thought afterwards how much I would love to see this movie on the big screen again and that prompted an idea to write a daily blog picking a film to see in London. The purpose of starting the blog was to highlight to film lovers the best movies on the capital's repertory cinema circuit.

What writing the blog has also done is reinvigorate my moviegoing. The act of putting this small contribution to the London film scene together has resulted in encouraging me to go and see more movies. I hope the blog has had that impact on others too. This brilliant restoration of one of the greatest Hollywood films of all time comes highly recommended. Many believe Judy Garland gave her greatest performance in this film and one critic has called Mason's the best supporting performance by a male actor in modern Hollywood. Try and get to see A Star is Born where it should be seen - in a cinema.

Chicago Reader review:
Even in this incomplete restoration George Cukor's 1954 musical remake of the 1937 Hollywood drama is devastating. Judy Garland plays a young singer discovered by aging, alcoholic star Norman Maine (James Mason), who helps her to fame as "Vicki Lester" even as his career slips. Garland gives a deeply affecting performance--halting, volatile, unsure of herself early on and unsure of Norman later--and her musical numbers are superb. Yet the film's core is its two-character scenes, in which small shifts in posture subtly articulate the drama's essence. Cukor gives his preoccupation with self-image a surprisingly anti-Hollywood spin: despite the many industry-oriented group scenes, the characters seem fully authentic only when they're alone with each other. The scenes of Lester acting seem tainted with artifice, and her a cappella performance of her current hit for Norman on their wedding night further separates the public from the private. Later, reenacting the production number shot that day, she uses a food cart for a dolly and a chair for a harp; Cukor's initial long take heightens the intimacy between her and Norman, just as the household props implicitly critique studio artificiality. All that matters, Cukor implies, is what people can try to become for each other. The film was badly mangled when Warner Brothers cut a half hour shortly after its release; this 1983 35-millimeter restoration replaces some footage, offering stills when only the sound track could be found. Fortunately these slide shows are confined to early scenes, giving some sense of what was lost. 
Fred Camper 

Here (and above) is the trailer.

If you want to read an excellent account of the film, its making and the background to the 1983 restoration I can recommend Ronald Haver's book A Star is Born. Full details here.

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