Keep Your Distance

Sometimes it’s best not to get involved

VIRTUAL REPERTORY SERIES

FRIDAY, MARCH 27 – THURSDAY, APRIL 2, 2020

While we are all doing our best to flatten the curve on COVID-19 while practicing social distancing, we thought it might be good to have some reminders that, while it’s hard to not be able to hang out with friends, sometimes, it’s better NOT to get involved with other people. To that end, we present this series of films that feature sometimes hilarious, sometimes thrilling, but always cautionary tales of when it might have been best to just leave well enough alone – even if the end result is a happy ending.


Friday, March 27 • Double Feature

THE 39 STEPS

Streaming on Criterion Channel; stream for free on Snagfilms; for rent elsewhere

1935 • dir Alfred Hitchcock w/Robert Donat, Madeleine Carrol, Lucie Mannheim, Godfrey Tearle • 86 min

Many of the films of Alfred Hitchcock provide textbook examples of why it is sometimes best to keep your distance from our fellow humans. In THE 39 STEPS, a charming British man (Donat) goes out of his way to help a distressed woman and finds himself on the run from both the law and a secret spy ring. A remarkably entertaining and brisk film that features the trademark Hitchcock style.

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THE LADY VANISHES

Streaming on Amazon Prime and Criterion Channel; stream for free on Snagfilms; for rent elsewhere

1938 • dir Alfred Hitchcock w/Margaret Lockwood, Michael Redgrave, Paul Lukas, Dame May Whitty • 96 min

It’s hard not to become engaged in the lives of your fellow passengers on a train but, again, Hitchcock offers us a reason to steer clear. Iris (Lockwood), an English tourist abroad in pre-war Europe befriends a kindly old woman who promptly disappears. When the other passengers on her train deny the woman’s existence, Iris and her new beau (Redgrave) search for the truth and put themselves in the crosshairs of an espionage ring.

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Saturday, March 28 • Double Feature

THE LAVENDER HILL MOB

Streaming on Kanopy; for rent elsewhere

1951 • dir Charles Crichton w/Alec Guinness, Stanley Holloway, Sidney James • 78 min

A seemingly mild-mannered London bank clerk (Guinness) secretly hatches a scheme to steal a gold bullion delivery and smuggle it out of the country in the form of cheap-looking tchotchkes. Though the heist goes according to plan, things fall into hilarious disarray soon after and the would-be crooks find themselves on a desperate search for their own loot. Absolutely prime British comedy from the legendary Ealing Studios directed by Charles Crichton (A Fish Called Wanda) and starring Alec Guinness at his comedic best.

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BIG DEAL ON MADONNA STREET

Streaming on Criterion Channel only; not currently available for rent online

1958 • die Mario Monicelli w/Vittorio Gassman, Marcello Mastroianni, Renato Salvatori • 106 min

For the second part of this hapless crooks double feature, we travel to Italy for the all-star comedy, BIG DEAL ON MADONNA STREET. A motley crew of small-time hoods join forces to rob the safe at a pawn shop by tunneling through from a vacant apartment next door. Unfortunately, pretty much everything that can go wrong does. Most notably, the apartment in question isn’t empty any longer nor do any of them have the skill to crack the safe. None of this stops them from trying anyway and a hilarious misadventure ensues. A parody of both Italian neo-realism and meticulous heist films like Rififi, BIG DEAL ON MADONNA STREET became a hit both at home and abroad.


Sunday, March 29

IT’S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD

Streaming on Amazon Prime; for rent elsewhere

1963 • dir Stanley Kramer w/Spencer Tracy, Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Buddy Hackett, Ethel Merman, Mickey Rooney, Dick Shawn, Phil Silvers, Terry-Thomas, Jonathan Winters, Edie Adams, Dorothy Provine, Eddie ‘Rochester’ Anderson, Jim Backus, Buster Keaton • 205 min

The film that defines ‘madcap,’ IT’S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD is another great example of how just leaving well enough alone might save a boatload of trouble. When a newly released convict crashes on the interstate, a group of fellow motorists learn about the hiding place of a $350,000 payday and the race is on. A comedy epic like no other, MAD WORLD is endlessly entertaining with an all-killer-no-filler cast of basically every funny person alive in 1963. A must watch!

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Also Sunday, March 29 • Virtual Late Show

SINGLE WHITE FEMALE

Streaming for free with ads on Sony Crackle; for rent elsewhere

1992 • dir Barbet Schroeder w/Bridget Fonda, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Steven Weber, Peter Friedman, Stephen Tobolowsky • 107 min

Getting fed up with your roommates already? Hopefully, none of us have to deal with a ‘Hedy’ in our lives. When budding software designer Allie Jones (Fonda) breaks up with her fiance, she brings in a roommate to help pay the rent. While seemingly mild-mannered if a little needy, ‘Hedy’ Carlson (Leigh) holds secret depths. Soon things start getting creepy with Hedy adopting her roomie’s fashion and hairstyle and becoming dangerously possessive. You probably know where this is headed but this exemplar of cheeseball, early-90s pop-psychology thriller still delivers – mainly through the uber committed performance from the always reliable Jennifer Jason Leigh.

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Monday, March 30 • Double Feature

THE CONVERSATION

Streaming on Amazon Prime and Kanopy; stream for free with ads on Sony Crackle; for rent elsewhere

1974 • dir Francis Ford Coppola w/Gene Hackman, John Cazale, Allen Garfield, Cindy Williams, Frederic Forrest, Harrison Ford, Teri Garr, Robert Duvall • 113 min

In this great paranoid thriller, Gene Hackman plays Harry Caul, a surveillance expert who gets in over his head and way too involved in the subjects of a particular job. To be fair, Harry is pretty socially distant as a rule but his obsession with the safety of a couple he has recorded draws him out of his safe zone – both literally and figuratively. A sonic riff on Blow-Up, THE CONVERSATION is both a brilliant character study and an effective thriller.

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BLOW OUT

Please Note: Due to licensing changes on April 1, this title is no longer available.

1981 • dir Brian De Palma w/John Travolta, Nancy Allen, John Lithgow, Dennis Franz • 108 min

Another sonic puzzle with John Travolta as Jack Terry, a movie sound effects creator who inadvertently records a car accident that takes the life of a presidential hopeful. Jack manages to save a young woman at the scene and, once he listens to his recording and hears a gunshot preceding the crash, the two of them work together to try and figure out what really happened. Of course, Jack is soon in over his head and both of their lives are in danger. Brian De Palma’s Hitchcock worship is on full display as he deftly melds the voyuerism of Rear Window and Blowup and his own pseudo-exploitation vibes. A truly great thriller with an unusually affecting performance by Travolta at the height of his fame.

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Tuesday, March 31 • Double Feature

THE DISCREET CHARM OF THE BOURGEOISIE

Streaming on Amazon Prime and Criterion Channel; for rent elsewhere

1972 • dir Luis Buñuel w/Fernando Rey, Delphine Seyrig, Paul Frankeur • 102 min

You might be missing dinner parties with friends right about now but you may have second thoughts after watching Luis Buñuel’s delightfully mean satire. A bourgeois couple arrive at the home of a friend expecting a meal but they are informed that the party was planned for the next night. Nevermind, they will retire to a local inn for dinner… but more complications ensue. Again and again the traveling party of spoiled bourgeoisie try to engage in a meal and, again and again, they are denied food for any number of reasons. A classic of world cinema that playfully taunts both its subjects and its audience in the most rewarding ways.

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DAISIES

Streaming on Kanopy and Criterion Channel; for rent elsewhere

1966 • dir Věra Chytilová w/Jitka Cerhová, Ivana Karbanová, Julius Albert • 76 min

Another great satire with Czech director Vera Chytilová giving life to the chaotic, unbridled passions of youth in the form of two young women, both named Marie, who decide that the world is ‘spoiled.’ To rebel against the rot of it all, they indulge in their every desire – often at the expense of those around them (especially men). An anarchic celebration of female freedom and power, DAISIES is a fantastically fun arthouse riot recently rediscovered by our friends at Janus Films/Criterion.

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“LIBERATING! A dada, gaga series of high jinks, oral fixations, and aggressive regression.”
– Melissa Anderson, The Village Voice

Bonus: Play dress-up with Marie I and Marie II paper dolls! (to save the image: desktop users right-click, mobile users long-press)


Wednesday, April 1 • Double Feature

THROW MOMMA FROM THE TRAIN

Unfortunately, this title is no longer available from AmazonPrime as we originally thought. It is now only available for rent online.

1987 • dir Danny DeVito w/Danny DeVito, Billy Crystal, Anne Ramsey • 88 min

Taking life advice from the films of Alfred Hitchcock is not always the best idea. For instance, take the example of Larry Donner (Crystal) and Owen Lift (DeVito). Larry is a struggling author who meets Owen, a sad sack with the world’s worst mother. After a viewing of Strangers on a Train, Owen becomes convinced that, if he gets rid of Larry’s troublesome ex-wife, Larry will help him out by doing away with his mom. Of course, nothing is that easy, the police quickly get involved, and Larry, Owen, and Owen’s overbearing momma (Ramsey) end up fleeing on a train to Mexico.

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PLANES, TRAINS, AND AUTOMOBILES

Streaming on Amazon Prime; for rent elsewhere

1987 • dir John Hughes w/Steve Martin, John Candy • 93 min

I believe it was Jean-Paul Sartre who once wrote, “Hell is other people.” In PLANES, TRAINS, AND AUTOMOBILES, John Hughes makes this case pretty convincingly when a put-upon businessman (Martin) must team-up with a loutish but (mostly) well-meaning salesman (Candy) as the two of them try and fail and try and fail to get home to Chicago for Thanksgiving. As is the usual in a Hughes film, the ending is heartfelt and sentimental but, before it gets there, the writer/director puts his main characters, especially the über uptight Martin, through a set of trials that would drive almost anyone bonkers.

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Thursday, April 2 • Double Feature

DETOUR

Streaming on Amazon Prime, Kanopy, and Criterion Channel; for free on Tubi; for rent elsewhere

1945 dir Edgar G. Ulmer w/Tom Neal, Ann Savage, Claudia Drake • 68 min

“Stay away from everyone” is basically the best advice that anyone could give to a film noir hero or heroine. In this seminal noir, Tom Neal stars as Al, a washed up piano player who hitchhikes to L.A. to join his girlfriend. When he is picked up by a pill-popping gambler that soon winds up (accidentally) dead, Al assumes the man’s identity. Unfortunately, he is not the only hitchhiker on the road that knows the gambler and he is soon at the mercy of a scheming femme fatale (Savage). Haunting, shadowy, dark, and strange, DETOUR is a great example of this doom-laden genre.

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BLADE RUNNER: THE FINAL CUT

Streaming on Netflix; for rent elsewhere

1982 • dir Ridley Scott w/Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos, M. Emmet Walsh, Daryl Hannah, William Sanderson • 117 min

Hopefully you have not become isolated enough that you want to start building androids just for the company. Even if you did, there’s no guarantee that would keep you any safer than being around actual human beings. At least, that seems to be the case if we use this classic of sci-fi neo-noir as our guide. Harrison Ford stars as Deckard, a retired ‘blade runner,’ a detective that specializes in catching rogue, life-like androids called replicants. When his old job comes calling, Deckard is pulled back into the life – and into mortal danger.

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