SIFF 2010: Old Gold

[Originally published in Queen Anne & Magnolia News, May 26, 2010]

Some authentic rarities this week in this week’s SIFF archival programs. Saturday, May 29, 1 p.m. at Harvard Exit brings Senso, a 1954 film by Luchino Visconti that’s come to the screen in several versions — including one with English dialogue by Tennessee Williams and Paul Bowles! Alida Valli stars as an Italian countess who, in the midst of widespread war and nationalist protest in 1866, enters upon a doomed love affair with Austrian officer Farley Granger. (The director originally hoped to cast Ingrid Bergman and Marlon Brando in the roles — the first of many changes forced on him.) For all but the most devout of Visconti fans, the film is legendary mostly for its Technicolor, which should fully validate the title in this Film Foundation restoration.

Nothing rare about On the Waterfront (Sunday, May 30, 1:30 p.m., Harvard Exit), but if you’ve somehow managed to miss Elia Kazan’s Oscar-sweeping Christ allegory of betrayal and redemption on the New Jersey docks, here’s your chance to atone. This was the 1954 engagement that kept Marlon Brando occupied, giving the performance many have hailed as the finest in American cinema; certainly it’s among the most definitive and memorable. The whole cast is extraordinary (three supporting-actor nominees: Lee J. Cobb, Karl Malden and Rod Steiger), and Leonard Bernstein contributes his sole original score for a dramatic motion picture.

Afterward, shoot over to SIFF Cinema (Sunday, May 30, 4:30 p.m.) where stellar silent-film accompanist Donald Sosin will be at the piano to enhance A Spray of Plum Blossoms. The 1931 Chinese film (Asian films continued to be made sans sound well into the mid-’30s) stars the famous actress Ruan Ling-yu.

Erratum: Last week, cross-eyed from perusing the SIFF catalogue, I plugged in the wrong showdates of the Jerzy Kawalerowicz films. Happily, they’re still in the future, a de facto double bill (but you’ll need two tickets) next Wednesday, June 2, at Harvard Exit. Mother Joan of the Angels? plays at 7 p.m.; Night Train at 9:30 p.m. —RTJ