Movie Diary 9/28/2009

When I attend the Port Townsend Film Festival, I tend not to go to the movies very much. This is the ninth year I have gone to talk to classes at Port Townsend High School and participate in a few events at the fest and go to nice restaurants and sit in the sun. (It possibly shouldn’t be sunny in Port Townsend, Washington, in late September every year, but somehow it usually is.) This year I saw two movies; see tomorrow’s post for those.

Elsewise, along with the usual film-as-art talks at the high school, I moderated a talk with Cloris Leachman there one morning. “Moderated” is a somewhat absurd word in this context; I sat next to the Oscar-and-nine-time-Emmy-winner and pitched a few questions while marveling at the razor-sharp comic instincts and unflagging energy of this 83-year-old kook. Her anecdotes about how she created bits of business for herself in otherwise thankless roles demonstrated just how hard she’s worked, even if the results might look like off-the-cuff zaniness. She also corrected grammar in a slightly fearsome Frau Blucher manner, which was completely awesome. I observed two other Leachman sessions, including an outdoor Q&A where she used son George Englund, Jr., as a foil and played out at least a half-dozen running gags with unerring timing. She closed that session out with a performance of “A Wonderful Guy,” from South Pacific, one of my favorite Rodgers and Hammerstein songs, and very skillfully delivered even if she confessed she no longer had the high notes. (R&H put her in the lead for a month during the show’s original run.) After all that I was too worn out to get to the official “Very Special Evening With…”, where an indefatigable Leachman was interviewed by Robert Osborne.

Nice year, even though I didn’t get to many movies. Everybody spoke of the absence of the late Peter Simpson, for years the leader of the PTFF, as well we should have. I had two nice Q&As with Gabriel Figueroa Flores, the son of the legendary cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa; Flores has made a documentary, Portrait of Diego Rivera, about footage his father made of Rivera in 1949, a project never completed. He told some good stories about his father’s relationships with John Ford and Luis Bunuel, which I’ll try to get to in future postings someday.

Just saw the two films, but I did see part of An American in Paris projected on the outdoor screen on Taylor Street. People sitting on straw bales, and lining up for a movie at the Rose Theatre, and “‘Swonderful” playing out under the stars – another year in Port Townsend.