The theme for this month – City of Dreams

Theatrical Release

Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood (2019)

Written and directed by Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Inglourious Basterds)
Shot by Robert Richardson (Inglourious Basterds, Kill Bill)
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Emile Hirsch, Margaret Qualley, Timothy Olyphant and Julia Butters.

“You can’t say he didn’t warn us up front. After all, Tarantino calls his newest film Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood which is, of course, not only an homage to Sergio Leone (Once Upon a Time in the West, Once Upon a Time in America), but also the traditional way to start a fairy tale. And Once Upon a Time is a fairy tale – one that may break your heart. You sense making it may have broken a bit off Tarantino’s.

“At the same time, you hear his bad-boy laughter and feel his boundless cinephile affection for a time in Hollywood when Dean Martin and Charlie Manson co-existed. Yes, it’s 1969. Martin is cruising through his fourth outing as Matt Helm in the third-rate spy franchise, The Wrecking Crew. One of the smaller roles is played by an irresistibly sunny blonde named Sharon Tate. We know this because we see Tate – well, Robbie, who is sensational – at a matinee, delightfully watching herself.” Eleanor Ringel Cater, Saporta Report

“First and foremost are best buddies Rick Dalton (DiCaprio) and Cliff Booth (Pitt). Dalton’s an aging and alcoholic B-movie cowboy looking down the barrel of an unfulfilling future filming Sergio Corbucci-helmed spaghetti Westerns in Almería, Spain, to pay the bills. Booth is his tough-as-nails stunt double, driver, and all-around compadre-cum-enabler. The pair saunter through L.A. in full-on leisure mode, encountering various famous names, among them newly arrived next-door neighbors Sharon Tate (Robbie) and her sparsely glimpsed husband Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha), Green Hornet star Bruce Lee (Mike Moh), and those creepy hippies hanging out at the Spahn Ranch, chief among them the libidinous Pussycat (Qualley) and Tex (Austin Butler).” Marc Savlov, Austin Chronicle

“Tarantino’s images are busy, at times even showy, yet relentlessly functional, merely decorating his doctrinal delivery, as in some bravura crane shots (such as one that carries over the screen of the drive-in to follow Cliff to his trailer) and some long-running tracking shots (such as the one in which Rick meets the child actor on a studio backlot) that display the power of the Hollywood system without its expressive energy or symbolic resonance. His movie is filled with the pop-culture iconography of the time—a soundtrack of Top Forty needle-drops, vintage radio commercials for such products as Tanya tanning oil and Heaven Sent perfume; movie marquees and posters for films of the day; and some fashions of the times. But Tarantino voids those artifacts of substance—of political protest, social conflict, any sense of changing mores.

“Tarantino never suggests the existence of a world outside of Hollywood fantasy, one with ideas, desires, demands, and crises that roil the viewers of movies, if not their makers. He rigorously and systematically keeps the outside world outside of the movie’s purview until, in the final twist, his fiction intersects with history in a way that only hammers his doctrine home.” Richard Brody, New Yorker

“There is some of that in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, like when Cliff goads Bruce Lee into a sparring match. The purely textual reading of this climax also has catharsis, to the point where I wish Tarantino would move beyond it (The Hateful Eight indulges this impulse to a fault). Looking at the bigger picture, the lack of genre constraints create an opportunity for richer subtext, plus a freedom and looseness that still avoids tedium. Rick’s final moments find him at ease, with him unable to realize what he and Cliff accomplished. This revisionist history embraces our best qualities while rejecting our worst impulses, so maybe underneath all that blood and pain, Tarantino is downright sappy.” Alan Zilberman, Brightest Young Things

“And yet the same meta narrative he’s advocating makes Once Upon a Time almost completely insufferable, because he only seems to have genuine sympathy for people like himself. Everyone else is either presented like a superficial ideal or a sexual conquest or an unforgiving monster or a willing and/or deserving victim.

“It’s not fun, it’s not smart, it’s not challenging. It just comes across as self-serving and self-indulgent to a hitherto unseen degree. And a few great shots, solid performances and (as always) a stellar soundtrack can’t save it. Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood is Tarantino’s least satisfying motion picture, a fantasy that got completely out of hand, which spends more time wallowing in fetishistic nostalgia and being unconvincingly defensive than offering anything of genuine value.” William Bibbiani, Bloody Disgusting

“Compared to how, say, Jean-Luc Godard or François Truffaut transmogrified their pulp sources, it’s child’s play.

“Once Upon a Time in … Hollywood does have much to recommend it: Although DiCaprio seems miscast as an aging, washed-up actor (mostly because he never seems to age), Pitt, in a rangy, lived-in performance, is marvelous. As Sharon Tate, Robbie is quite touching as the film’s golden emblem of innocence. In a wonderful scene, she sits in a public theater playing one of her movies and beams at the audience’s enjoyment.” Peter Rainer, Christian Science Monitor

Archival films

Shampoo (1975)

Directed by Hal Ashby (Harold and Maude, Being There)
Written by Robert Towne (Chinatown, Bonnie and Clyde) and Warren Beatty (Reds, Heaven Can Wait (1978))
Shot by Laszlo Kovacs (Paper Moon, F for Fake)
Starring: Warren Beatty, Julie Christie, Goldie Hawn, Lee Grant, Jack Warden, Tony Bill and George Furth.

“The film…stars Beatty as a Beverly Hills hairdresser whose active and complicated sexual life leads him to disappointment as the country slides into a long cultural hangover and era of political turpitude. To see how similar issues are dealt with by Hollywood today, check out Don’t Mess With the Zohan. Just kidding.” Carina Chocano, Los Angeles Times

The Day of the Locust (1975)

Directed by John Schlesinger (Midnight Cowboy, Billy Liar)
Written as novel by Nathanael West (It Could Happen to You) and adapted by Waldo Salt (Midnight Cowboy, The Philadelphia Story)
Shot by Conrad L. Hall (Cool Hand Luke, American Beauty)
Starring: Donald Sutherland, Karen Black, Burgess Meredith, William Atherton, Geraldine Page, Richard Dysart and Bo Hopkins.

“The locusts are the little people, faceless and sad, who accumulate on the benches of Los Angeles, waiting for a bus that will never come. They’re surrounded by the artificial glitter of Hollywood, which provides dreams that certainly are happier and sometimes seem more real than the America of the 1930s. But one day, the dreams will end and the locusts will swarm and the whole fragile society will come crashing down.

“That was the apocalyptic vision of West’s 1938 novel The Day of the Locust, and it’s a vision elaborated on, sometimes too literally, in Schlesinger’s expensive, daring, epic film. Hollywood is taken as a metaphor for an United States that was moving from depression to war, and its fantasies outrun themselves until all that’s left is anarchy. The story is seen in terms of a handful of characters that Sherwood Anderson would have described as Grotesques: otherwise mostly normal people with one attribute so out of proportion that the whole personality is disturbed.

“There is Homer (Sutherland), sexually repressed almost to the point of paralysis; and Faye (Black), who’s so mesmerized by the vision of romance on the screen that she can hardly comprehend the notion of romance in her own real life; and Harry (Meredith), who is Faye’s father, an old trouper who now performs a sad parody of his vaudeville act as a door-to-door salesman.” Roger Ebert


Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood is at The Grand Cinema.
Shampoo will screen at 7:15 p.m. on Friday, August 2 in the Center for Spiritual Living (206 N. J St).
The Day of the Locust will screen at 7:15 p.m. on Friday, August 9 in the CSL.

The TFC Discussion Night for these three films is Wednesday, August 14 in the CSL.

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