🎬 #1 Bogdanovich and Poitier, two greats, two great films 😊
FILM ONE: TO SIR, WITH LOVE
1967 James Clavell
I remember seeing this film when I was maybe 12 years old. It was on late at night probably on BBC2 and my Mum was watching it. I sat watching along with her, loving every second even though I had no idea about telling a story with a camera, the politics or social commentary. I just loved the main character and the simplicity of the story. My opinion of the film hasn't changed at all. Struck even then by the noble performance of Poitier, he was the best kind of teacher anyone could ever want, much like Williams' teacher in Weir's 'Dead Poet's Society.' The film is even more impressive now because it and the film below are great examples of the camera not getting in the way. Every choice the director makes is in service of the story. They're not just being fancy for fancies sake. The technique is invisible other than a great montage sequence set to the title track by Lulu, who also stars in the film. One of the reasons my Mum was probably watching it.
This film is a 'gentle story' as agent Martin Baum said, about a black teacher trying to do their best for a bunch of white kids no one cares about. Both sides falling in love with the other as the story unfolds. It's just one of the many Sidney Poitier performances that gives a film heart. I'm not one for sentimentality but this is a perfect film to light up a dark January night. Please don't tell anyone I said that.
TL;DR why should I spend 1 hr 45 minutes of my precious life watching this? Poitier stars in a wonderfully executed tale of acceptance as a reluctant but idealistic substitute teacher who wins over a class of outcasts that initially don't care about him. Leaves you feeling better about humanity and slightly in love with Poitier's teacher.
*Available for a small rental fee on Youtube, Amazon, Google Play and Apple TV*
Fact: Peter Bogdonavich, the director of film two this week, who sadly also died earlier this month, directed a made for TV sequel - 'To Sir, With Love 2.’
FILM TWO: MASK
1985 Dir Peter Bogdanovich
Thematically linked both by their story of acceptance and their school setting is this great film. Some people might be shocked at the inclusion of such a sentimental choice, but to them I say where is your soul? Plus I don't think this is a sentimental film. So what's the story with this one? I was around the same age when I first saw it as the film above. I had discovered it randomly flicking through channels, I miss that with on demand. Based on a true story, I remember being taken by the plight of the main character, a kid trying to be accepted in school. I also remember thinking that it was the first time I'd ever seen a lead character with a facial deformity. Rocky Dennis, despite his genetic disorder and the pains it causes him, does his best to have a 'normal life.' Who wants one of those anyway?
It's a touching and similarly gentle film that shines through the simplicity of the story and the strength of the performances. Especially by Cher and Eric Stoltz. One of the scenes that I still think about today involves Rocky using physical touch to help explain colour to a blind student, a young Laura Dern [who looks uncannily like her proxy-daughter stand in, in Jurassic Park, played by Ariana Richards]. The film owes a lot to The Elephant Man, but that doesn't take anything away from a no bullshit story of hope and warmth handled perfectly by Bogdanovich.
TL;DR why should I spend exactly 2 hours of my precious life watching this?
Eric Stoltz stars as Rocky Dennis, a young teenager with a facial deformity fighting to have a normal life as a high school student, who becomes so much more. Cher is in a biker gang with Sam Elliot and it leaves you with an embiggened spirit. Inspired by Rocky's incredible attitude, you'll say to yourself in the mirror, 'maybe I can do better at life,' through misty eyes.
Not currently available via the traditional streamers,
if you get my drift. A VPN might come in helpful, but of
course I don't condone this type of behaviour.
Fact: László Kovács the DOP shot Ghostbusters 2 years previously.