Cranky Hanke’s Screening Room: Directors Series for Asheville Film Society?

So here we are at the halfway mark in the second month of the existence of the Asheville Film Society. So far we’ve run Blood Simple (1984), Rushmore (1998), The Times of Harvey Milk (1984), Manhattan (1979), Twentieth Century (1934), Tetro (2009), Blue Velvet (1986) and The City of Lost Children (1995). This week we’ve got Tarsem Singh’s The Fall (2008).  That’s a pretty solid list and the response has been generally gratifying.

We have a good line-up through August, which is available online at the AFS website—www.ashevillefilm.org/—all of which is open to the public and free. For members we have some special events on tap—a screening of the new Tilda Swinton movie I Am Love on July 21 and one of Neil Jordan’s Ondine on August 4—with more to come. There are also a couple of surprises in the works that I hope to announce very soon. Now, all that’s pretty swell, if I do say so, but the issue has been raised about the possibility of doing films in blocks of specific series—either by director, genre or star,

My objection to the concept at first was that the approach has the drawback of potentially shortchanging members. It’s one thing for someone to dislike a particular film selection in the course of a month. It’s quite another for someone to dislike an entire month of films. I find it personally unthinkable that anyone would dislike the prospect of a series of Josef von Sternberg movies, but I know that there are people who would. Even the suggestion that we run a series of a specific genre—screwball comedy was put forth at one point—has the same problem.

However, an alternative idea has been put forth—that we run a separate themed series in addition to the regular Tuesday screenings. That, of course, comes with its own issues—mostly based on the probability of people not wishing to set aside two nights a week for these screenings. (In many cases, it would mean three nights a week because of crossover with the Thursday Horror Picture Show screenings.) But this past week, we managed to draw a reasonable crowd for a Wednesday night showing of The City of Lost Children—one I think would have been larger had it been more widely known (it was added late in the schedule). So we’re giving serious consideration to this separate series idea—at least experimentally.

The reason I’m bringing this up here is that I’d like to open up a dialogue with the film community on the topic and this seems the best possible venue at my disposal to do such a thing. First of all, let’s look at this from a scheduling point of view. Obviously, Tuesday and Thusday nights are out. Not so obviously, Sunday night is difficult from my perspective because—well, movie reviews have to be written sometime. That leaves the rest of the week open. Wednesday worked OK once, but I’m not morbid about it being the answer.

I’d certainly consider Monday, Friday or Saturday. I suspect that Friday and Saturday might be off-putting to some of our members—especially younger ones—who view the weekend as the time for gadding about, though I’d argue that one could take in a movie at 8 p.m. and start gadding around 10 p.m.. And if that’s too late for you to gad, you folks aren’t the gadder-abouters that we were in my day. (Pardon me, while I stroke my beard in contemplation of the younger generation.) In any event, I’m opening the floor to suggestions on this matter.

The other considerations lie in the choice of material, which I wouldn’t limit to filmmakers—though that would be a focus—but would include genres and performers. Some of this seems obvious to me. I mentioned Sternberg above and his work would certainly be included at some point, but I’d also say that there are a plethora of choices that strike me as essential. Off the top of my head, I’ll throw out the ones that are undoubtedly anticipated by persons familiar with my cinematic household deities. Without thinking too deeply about it, I’d say (in no particular order) that Ernst Lubitsch, Rouben Mamoulian, Charles Chaplin,  James Whale, Leo McCarey, Howard Hawks, Orson Welles, Preston Sturges, Akira Kurosawa, Richard Lester, Stanley Donen, Stanley Kubrick, Ingmar Bergman, Jean Cocteau, Rene Clair, Federico Fellini, Woody Allen, Robert Altman, John Boorman, Pedro Almodovar and (yes, of course) Ken Russell are all pretty darn essential.

There are others—F.W. Murnau, Frank Borzage, Erich von Stroheim, Sergei Eistenstein, John Ford—who are in the inescapable realm. In some cases, these fellows are more essential than some of those I named in that first list. There are those who consider Murnau’s Sunrise (1927) to be simply the greatest film ever made, and that’s not a point I’d actually care to dispute, even if the idea of a single greatest film strikes me as hyperbolic.

I’d also make cases for lesser known filmmakers—like Mitchell Leisen and William Dieterle—who ought to be better known, and then there are filmmakers who, I believe, are in need of re-evaluation—Michael Winner and Peter Bogdanovich, come immediately to mind. When we ran Winner’s much-reviled The Sentinel (1977) for the Thursday Horror Picture Show, it was something of an eye-opener to see that it went over much better now than it did 33 years ago. Movies and the people who made them should, I believe, constantly be in a state of re-evaluation. These lists are not finite by any means—and I’m fully aware that I’ve included very few filmmakers who are working today. Once again, I’m opening the floor for suggestions.

And then there are genres. Screwball comedy has been suggested and I think it’s a good suggestion—and it’s also one that affords the possibility of showing something other than the usual suspects from most lists. Nearly everybody’s seen Bringing Up Baby (1938), but how many people have seen True Confession (1937), Easy Living (1937) or Murder, He Says (1945)? I could also see doing musicals—even possibly a “Musicals for People Who Don’t Like Musicals” program, since I often find that people’s idea of musicals is colored by bad experiences with musicals of a certain type. Any genre is possible, though horror might be gilding the lily since it’s pretty well represented on a weekly basis now. Still, even that if presented with less than usual choices might prove worthwhile.

Performers are another area to take into account. Comics and comedians come to mind here. People like Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton, the Marx Brothers, W.C. Fields, Mae West, Laurely and Hardy, and Bob Hope (in his prime) certainly deserve a slot. But there are others to consider, too. I’d say Wheeler and Woolsey could do with a hearing, but I’m not sure there’s enough material available to pull that off. (I’ll work on it.) What about Will Hay? And to the chorus of “who?” I can hear in my mind’s ear, I’ll point out that Hay (no relation to the censor Will Hays—with an “s”) was the king of British comedy in the 1930s and 1940s. He might be likened to W.C. Fields (and often is), but that’s deceptive. Fortunately, most of his best work is available—at least on British imports.

There are other—not strictly comedic—choices. And there are other screen teams, like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers and William Powell and Myrna Loy. Iconic figures like Bogart and Edward G. Robinson are possitibilities. This goes on and on, and I’m doing this without putting in much in the way of research, knowing full well I am making major omissions that simply aren’t occurring to me. That’s partly why I want to encourage this column to be used as a springboard to an open dialogue with interested parties. So here it is—have at it.

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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41 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Screening Room: Directors Series for Asheville Film Society?

  1. Steven Adam Renkovish

    If you were to screen a Stanley Kubrick series, well, that would be a gift from Jesus.

    That’s it. I’m moving to Asheville. ‘Nuff said.

  2. Ken Hanke

    If you were to screen a Stanley Kubrick series, well, that would be a gift from Jesus

    If He kicks in for those Blu-ray releases of some of the titles, I’ll see He gets a credit.

    That’s it. I’m moving to Asheville.

    You’d be more than welcome.

  3. Chip Kaufmann

    Having weighed in already on this topic in a separate column, I second the above proposal now that it has been laid out in more detailed fashion. The idea of opening it up to various categories will certainly ensure that there will be no shortage of material to choose from.

    What it then boils down to then, as I see it, is essentially two things. 1) When would these showings take place? and 2) Who will be presenting them?

    I like the idea of Wednesday evenings but could go along with Mondays. I also like the “Pack Library” approach of different qualified people presenting a topic of their choosing within certain guidelines. Of course this opens up a can of worms as to the definition of “qualified” but that can be determined once it’s decided that this idea gets the green light.

  4. Jesus (or Warner Brothers) put those Kubrick titles out on blu-ray early on. We have most of them, if not all available.

    Brunel or Tati maybe?

  5. Steven Adam Renkovish

    I’d be up for a Bergman fest as well! You can’t go wrong with either SEVENTH SEAL or FANNY AND ALEXANDER. Just watched THE SILENCE the other night, and it was pretty amazing – although I can see why it was so controversial upon it’s release in the sixties.

    Robert Altman is another one of my faves, although I need to explore some of his older films. I loved SHORT CUTS and THE PLAYER. I need to finish GOSFORD PARK, and I need to see NASHVILLE. I grew up watching POPEYE.

    I’ve only ever seen two Almodovar films – BAD EDUCATION and BROKEN EMBRACES, but I’d love to see VOLVER and ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER. TIE ME UP, TIE ME DOWN is so hard to find, so that would be nice as well.

    I’ve only just begun to delve into Woody Allen as of late. I started with ANNIE HALL, MANHATTAN, and SHADOWS AND FOG — and everyone keeps telling me to check out EVERYTHING YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT SEX.

    As far as Whale is concerned, I absolutely adore BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN. A double feature of BRIDE and GODS AND MONSTERS would be spiffy!

    I love Fellini’s 8 1/2 and LA DOLCE VITA. Both wonderful. Aside from those two, I haven’t seen any of his other films.

    Ken Russell. Wow. I’ve seen TOMMY. I just purchased GOTHIC on DVD a few days ago. I’m waiting for it to come in the mail. I tried watching THE DEVILS, and got pretty far into it – about an hour and ten minutes to be exact. I have to say, I’m not a prude. I’m not easily offended at all, but…damn. One day, I will finish it, when I am prepared to do so!

    Akira Kurosawa’s DREAMS is one of my favorites. I love it so.

    All in all, I’d say you’ve got a pretty good list of directors there. Can’t wait for the first series.

  6. Ken Hanke

    The idea of opening it up to various categories will certainly ensure that there will be no shortage of material to choose from.

    I don’t think there’s any shortage of material, even if we stuck to directors — not at one a month.

    I like the idea of Wednesday evenings but could go along with Mondays.

    I am of two minds on this. Mondays are tricky for me because of the movie listings coming in up till 8 p.m. I could try to inforce some earlier deadline with the theaters, but that mayn’t work. If I can use the theater’s wireless, I could finish them from the bar. Wednesday, however, is the one day of the week that qualifies even vaguely as free time and I hate losing it.

    I also like the “Pack Library” approach of different qualified people presenting a topic of their choosing within certain guidelines. Of course this opens up a can of worms as to the definition of “qualified” but that can be determined once it’s decided that this idea gets the green light.

    I’m not against the idea, but you note the can of worms that comes with it, meaning it would need approaching carefully. I’d like to discuss it with you at the next screening. Are you coming on Tuesday?

  7. Ken Hanke

    Brunel or Tati maybe?

    If you mean Bunuel, quite possibly. I would have been a little careful about both, since they’ve been shown around town within living memory. But Blue Velvet with either our biggest or second biggest turnout — and it had been on TCM that weekend. So I’m not sure that matters much.

  8. John r

    I will echo some of the interest in Kurosawa, and I would really enjoy Eisenstein on the large screen. If I had to pick another night, it would be either Mon. or Wed., but I would not be a regular attendee.

  9. Ken Hanke

    everyone keeps telling me to check out EVERYTHING YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT SEX

    Wouldn’t be high on my list, but…If you want one of the “early funny ones” (see Stardust Memories to get the reference), I’d put Love and Death at the very top.

    As far as Whale is concerned, I absolutely adore BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN. A double feature of BRIDE and GODS AND MONSTERS would be spiffy!

    I’m uneasy about a double bill of that length — you’d be getting into three hour range without a break. Thing is, however, I’ve wanted to pair the two for years now. (And Nosferatu with Shadow of the Vampire. Well, we’ve got a double feature of Mae West movies in August. We’ll see how that goes.

    I tried watching THE DEVILS, and got pretty far into it – about an hour and ten minutes to be exact. I have to say, I’m not a prude. I’m not easily offended at all, but…damn.

    Well, part of the idea is to disturb you.

  10. Ken Hanke

    I will echo some of the interest in Kurosawa, and I would really enjoy Eisenstein on the large screen.

    The idea of Eisenstein on the large screen is especially appealing to me.

    If I had to pick another night, it would be either Mon. or Wed., but I would not be a regular attendee.

    Is that because of the expansion of no. of days or is that just because?

  11. Ken Hanke

    Because I work nights over the weekend.

    Ah, I actually meant the part about you not being a regular.

  12. Me

    Ken whats the chance of getting the film Possesion(1981) played at the Thursday Horror Show?

  13. arlene

    Damn! I may just move to Asheville.

    Been revisiting Fellini myself. I’ll second La Dolce Vits ans 8 1/2. With Intervista tossed in as a bittersweet coda.

  14. Me

    A Jean Cocteau directors series would be awesome, also Friday and Saturday would be great seeing that i live an hour away from Asheville and cant really make during weekday showings.

  15. Ken Hanke

    How about a series of films about filmmakers? GODS AND MONSTERS, ED WOOD and SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE

    Because I like the idea of combining films about filmmakers with films by those filmmakers.

  16. Ken Hanke

    Ken whats the chance of getting the film Possesion(1981) played at the Thursday Horror Show?

    A good sales pitch or a loan of the DVD because I know nothing about it and it’s apparently OOP.

  17. Ken Hanke

    Damn! I may just move to Asheville.

    Well, Clapton knows, I’m not stopping you.

  18. Ken Hanke

    A Jean Cocteau directors series would be awesome

    It would be, but it might take a bit of looking about because only Beauty and the Beast is easily available. The “Orphic Trilogy” is OOP and pricey.

  19. Ken Hanke

    Just out of curiosity are you just showing films that you’ve seen or are some of them stuff that you want to see as well?

    It’s kind of hard to make an informed programming decision if you haven’t seen a movie and I’ve always seen them before they run obviously to review them. I’m not alone in the picking, though, and we do take suggestions from viewers or at least consider them. Phantom of the Paradise, Dr. Phibes and Bad Taste were requests, for example. There aren’t that many horror pictures — apart from Euro-horror and Asian horror — that I haven’t seen.

  20. brianpaige

    The idea of the whole slew of comedians all lumped into one festival sounds intriguing. I do know that last year a festival in Maryland did show So This Is Africa as part of a comedy fest, so that W & W flick is out there in some form.

    How about the various Universal Olsen and Johnson movies?

  21. Ken Hanke

    I do know that last year a festival in Maryland did show So This Is Africa as part of a comedy fest, so that W & W flick is out there in some form.

    Probably owned by some private collector on 16mm. And that’s fine if you have access to 16mm projection, which is less and less the case. Some W&W (RKO only) was on laser. That might be a source, since that can be effectively burned to DVD — assuming you have the laserdisc player (mine is dead).

    Olsen and Johnson (don’t much care for them myself) are another case of something that shows up at festivals and/or cons via 16mm and private collectors. Hellzapoppin’ is kind of a staple of grey market sellers at cons.

  22. That might be a source, since that can be effectively burned to DVD—assuming you have the laserdisc player (mine is dead).

    I do. And videodisc. And beta.

  23. Ken Hanke

    I do. And videodisc. And beta.

    We need to palaver — about the laserdisc player anyway.

  24. Steven Adam Renkovish

    My friend suggested a Todd Solondz film series.

    HAPPINESS is one of the most disturbing films that I have ever seen. The cast is excellent, though.

  25. Ken Hanke

    My friend suggested a Todd Solondz film series.

    While I can see a single Solondz film, I’d need a lot of evidence that there was sufficient interest for a solid month.

  26. Dread P. Roberts

    I’m uneasy about a double bill of that length—you’d be getting into three hour range without a break.

    Well, that pretty much dashes my thought process, but I’ll go ahead and throw it out there anyway.

    While I’d love to make it to as many screenings as possible, three sepparate nights is a rather hefty proposition for me, personally. (This is the first week that I’ll even be able to make it to two of them back to back, which I’m rather excited about.) What would have more potential for me, would be a double bill on Tuesdays – with a small intermission. Now, I realize that screenings going until midnight would be a bit much for most – especially on a weeknight – but maybe the Tuesday screenings could start at 7:00 pm instead? Again, I know that it’s a long-shot for normal people to sit through back to back screenings like this. BUT, maybe this’ll ensure more seating for the more hardcore cinemaphiles. Plus, people will be getting more (twice as much) out of their trip, which could potentially make the Tuesday night drive even more appealing to some.

    And if people are Ok with that, then that might open up the possibility for other Tuesday night screenings of singular three to four hour films (which I imagine will be necessary if you do a Kubrick series).

    With that said, I most certainly wouldn’t want this senario if I’m the only one in favor of it. So if there are others out there that like this idea (or hate it), please voice yourself.

    The idea of Eisenstein on the large screen is especially appealing to me.

    I’m not very familiar with Eisenstein, and I’d certainly be interested in fixing that. Bergman would also be rather nice on the big screen.

    In the realm of directors that I’m very familiar with – that have not been mentioned – might I add Danny Boyle to the mix? Granted, there should (rightly so) be an ommision or two from his body of work, but still…

  27. Ken Hanke

    Ken did you notice Smile is coming on TCM this Wednesday?

    I haven’t worked on the “Reeler” yet, though I don’t guarantee I’d have mentioned it offhand.

  28. Ken Hanke

    What would have more potential for me, would be a double bill on Tuesdays – with a small intermission. Now, I realize that screenings going until midnight would be a bit much for most – especially on a weeknight – but maybe the Tuesday screenings could start at 7:00 pm instead?

    My basic qualms come down to…the 7 p.m. time is probably impractical for Justin and me most weeks. I’ve been following the Toronto Film Society and while they do double-features, they clearly state that no double-feature exceeds three hours. My guess is there’s a reason for that based on audience response.

    And if people are Ok with that, then that might open up the possibility for other Tuesday night screenings of singular three to four hour films (which I imagine will be necessary if you do a Kubrick series).

    I was going to point out that if you wanted to do, say, a Lindsay Anderson series O Lucky Man is 180 minutes by itself and couldn’t very well be part of a double-feature, so if you do this on Tuesday as part of a double, you’re cutting into potential choices. Mind, I’m not solidly against the idea of two films, but I’m not sold on its practicality. I’m not entirely sold on the practicality of three shows a week either.

    In the realm of directors that I’m very familiar with – that have not been mentioned – might I add Danny Boyle to the mix? Granted, there should (rightly so) be an ommision or two from his body of work, but still…

    Oh, I think he goes without saying, and if we’re limited to a month, no one’s going to get complete filmography coverage, so the two omissions are not an issue.

  29. Ken Hanke

    Feast your eyes on the sequel, yes sequel, to HAPPINESS. Same characters, all different actors.

    I can’t say the trailer excites me.

  30. Ken Hanke

    Ken i thought you might be interested in this.

    Adventures With Ken Russell: ‘The Liszt twist’

    Thanks. Very interesting. I don’t agree with the guy’s assessment of the film — and I know Ken too well to place any stock in an anecdote/assessment he wrote over 20 years ago. I know he did an about face on it last time he saw it. I have a sneaky hunch that it’s a film whose time is coming.

  31. Me

    Ken whats wrong with Smile?

    I think that guy mentioned that he was going to do a review of a different Ken Russell film each month.

  32. Ken Hanke

    Ken whats wrong with Smile?

    Nothing especially”wrong” with it. I just never thought it was all that great. I know others do.

    I think that guy mentioned that he was going to do a review of a different Ken Russell film each month

    I thought I’d keep an eye out. I couldn’t tell if he was planning to or if he had planned to (past tense).

  33. Steven Adam Renkovish

    I went to Barnes and Noble today, and bought Carl Dreyer’s VAMPYR on DVD out of pure curiosity. I had heard of it, but had never seen it. I was impressed with it, and wouldn’t mind seeing it projected as part of the horror series! Just a thought…

  34. Ken Hanke

    I had heard of it, but had never seen it. I was impressed with it, and wouldn’t mind seeing it projected as part of the horror series! Just a thought…

    I think it might be better suited to an AFS screening, since it’s probably more art film than horror picture.

  35. Lady L

    I would like to encourage a few Friday night showings for purely personal reasons: its much easier for me get out on Fridays (childcare is not so much of a problem) and I don’t have to get up for work on Saturday. I would love to come to more screenings during the week, but those two issues seem to get the better of me most of the time.

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