Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 322: Sun Nov 19

Dick Tracy (Beatty, 1990): Cinema Museum, 7.30pm

Cinema Museum introduction for this 35mm screening:

Introduction by critic Kambole Campbell

Virtual Q&A afterwards with matte painter David Mattingly

Leaping out of Chester Gould’s 1930s cartoon strips, Dick Tracy (1990) is a comic book adaptation unlike any other. Ace policeman Dick Tracy (Warren Beatty) takes on mob boss Big Boy Caprice (Al Pacino) while resisting femme fatale Breathless Mahoney (Madonna). Warren Beatty’s bizarre passion project boasts extraordinary matte paintings and prosthetics to create an incredible pop-art world on film captured by Vittorio Storara’s cinematography. This stylishly unique Hollywood flick is a stunning, primary coloured spectacle with a surprisingly sincere love story within this righteously corny pulp-noir.

Painted Skies is a film season celebrating fake backgrounds, spotlighting films with innovative set design that reminds us of their artificiality. This season was curated by Bruno Savill De Jong as part of the National Film and Television School (NFTS). Find more info at their website for Painted Skies and follow them on Instagram (@paintedsky_films) and Twitter (@paintedskyfilm).

Time Out review:
Set in the '30s, Warren Beatty's film culls its villains - a gallery of grotesques with names like Pruneface, Flattop and The Brow - from the later '40s strips. As Tracy (Beatty) sets about foiling the plans of Big Boy and The Blank to take over the city, Breathless Mahoney (Madonna) introduces emotional conflict for the careerist detective, whose long-standing relationship with Tess Trueheart (Glenne Headly) is going nowhere fast. Beatty has rejected 'psychology and behaviour' (read complexity) in characterisation; this is old-fashioned, clearly defined morality, with literally no shades of grey (the use of colour is wonderfully imaginative and carefully modulated). Pleasing restraint is evident in the way Beatty allows his character to be outshone by his adversaries. As mobster Big Boy, a brash thug fond of misquoting Lincoln, Nietzsche and Plato, Al Pacino is virtually unrecognisable and hugely enjoyable; and Madonna gives confident renditions of the Stephen Sondheim numbers. A spectacular movie whose technical achievements - notably the sharp editing - will surely provide a gauge by which subsequent comic strip films are judged.
Colette Maude

Here (and above) is the trailer.

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