Cinema

KINO SLANG PRESENTS SAY ONE FOR ME

Saturday, March 9 at 8 PM

Doors 7:30 pm; $5 admission.

SAY ONE FOR ME (1959, Frank Tashlin. 119 minutes. 16mm print.) — A rare one by Hollywood filmmaker and critic Frank Tashlin, a beautiful Technicolor film, part-musical, about a priest (Bing Crosby) who is trying to commercialize his church with song and dance, while the church pianist (Ray Walston) struggles with alcoholism, and one of the singers (Debbie Reynolds) falls in love with a thoroughly Godless man (Robert Wagner), who is also the boss at her side-job performing in an adult nightclub, a job she only takes to pay for the hospitalization of her beaten father.

This film is perhaps the last entry into a string of popular “singing priest” movies (Going My Way, The Bells of Saint Mary) that Hollywood produced after World War II. Tashlin’s version here, called one of the “Fifty Worst Films of All Time” in 1978 by baby-boomers who were clearly embarrassed by it, is limpid and complex. “It stands as an interesting nexus of the uneasy relationship between sexuality, showbiz, and moral religion,” wrote critic Roger Garcia. “Tashlin draws this triangle through the film’s (emphatically interior) spaces—the church, the community hall, nightclub and apartments, all describing a kind of geography of the sacred and profane.”

Preceded by THE MOTHER (A Mãe, 1979, João César Monteiro. 25 minutes) — A mother has two sons. She loves one son less than the other, and aims to prove it. When a cow is stolen, she’s sure the thief is none other than the wretch she gave birth to. “I’m hatching a plot, good son. I’m hatching a plot. We’ll catch the rascal red-handed!” Based on a traditional Portuguese folktale called “The Rich and the Poor”, shot on 16mm in rural north Portugal and played by its inhabitants, this comedy swaps the sacred and the profane as portentously and rapidly as the lines and colors of an El Greco. It partakes of a very specific act of cinema, a homecoming, a “return of a traditional popular tale to its original human and social environment” (Luís Miguel Oliveira), while smacking of the great passions evident in all of Monteiro’s films. Quite casually, with none of the false sobriety and gimmickry of today’s so-called “experimental ethnography”, we see the richness of northern Portuguese peasant architecture in the village of Lebução (which has been destroyed and now looks like a California suburb no older than this film)—its colors, its food, plumbing, soil, and even its odors—, and the beauty of the people, both fed and contradicted by the darts that fly out of their mouths, in dialogue by the good grace of César Monteiro mixed with colloquialisms. Monteiro is the only heir to Erich von Stroheim in his unemphasized realist detail, cruelty, and care, and this short is a bit like his primordial marsh hamlet “Mother Garoupe” sequence from Foolish Wives.

Program total running time: 2 hours and 30 minutes.

“Kino Slang” is a regular series of cinema screenings programmed by Andy Rector at the EPFC. It continues the cinematographic and historical excavations, proceedings by montage and association, silent alarms and naked dawns of the twelve-year-old blog, Kino Slang.

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