Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Seeing Double

When Two Films Are Better Than One

I've not bought an issue of the BFI's film mag Sight & Sound for years but this month's cover feature on double bills caught my eye. Watching two films in a row is one of the most enjoyable ways to spend four hours and I was intrigued by what they'd recommend. S&S likes to wear its arthouse credentials on its sleeve and the critics and cinema programmers they've asked to select dream double bills drop names like Frank Bozage, RD Pestonji, Dusan Makavejev and dozens of other filmmakers I've never heard of.

There are some recognisable films in the list though. Mark Kermode picks The Wicker Man and Don't Lock Now. Western expert Ed Buscombe pairs The Searchers and Rio Bravo. The American critic Graham Fuller goes for "episodes from the same demented dream" Apocalypse Now and Aguirre Wrath of God. I'd have gone behind the scenes of Francis Ford Coppola and Werner Herzog movies instead and shown Hearts of Darkness, the brilliant documentary about the horror of making the Vietnam nightmare followed by Burden of Dreams, Les Blank's insider's view of the twin madness of dragging a boat over a mountain and working with Klaus Kinski to make Fitzcaraldo.

Here are four more of my perfect matches. Leave a comment to share your top twos.

Leningrad Cowboys Go America (1989) & The Band's Visit (2007)

In the first film an insane band of Finns try to live the American rock'n'roll dream. In the second an Egyptian police band experience extreme culture shock on their tour of Israel.

The Man Who Shot Liberty Vallance (1962) & Lone Star (1996)

John Sayles' film about the truth behind past events in a small Texas town seems like a deliberate riff on the famous line from John Ford's western, "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend".

The War Room (1993)& Bob Roberts (1992)

Two documentaries about American political campaigns - one fact, one fiction. Without much access to Bill Clinton, the Pennekabers focus on the equally charismatic James Carville and youthful sidekick George Stephanopoulos. Apparently Tim Robbins refused to release the soundtrack to his spoof doc because he was worried that its satirical songs would actually be used by right-wingers.

Salesman (1968) & Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)

You wouldn't think films about salesmen would be gripping but these are both favourites of mine. There's something quite tragic about the men in the Mayles Brothers' doc as they try to flog bibles door-to-door in Florida. There's even more tragedy (and quotable dialogue) in the David Mamet classic.

So, there you have five double bills that I'd joyfully sit through. Is it a decent list? What would your selections be?


Jo Smith said...

The Phoenix Cinema in East Finchley does great double bills every Sunday. Katy and I went to see The Big Sleep / The Big Lebowski double there once which is a fantastic pairing. But the projector broke half way through so we only got to see The Big Sleep that time!

Nigel Smith said...

Big Sleep and Big Lebowski is a great double. Coincidentally a few hours after posting this I received the Prince Charles Cinema newsletter that announced they're having a double bill season. Pretty unimaginative in general but All About Eve and The Apartment is a good one. Sadly I've agreed to sit through Barry Lyndon at the NFT that night.

Cocktails said...

I'm afraid that I'm going to spoil your fun and admit that I don't really like double bills. I just can't cope with that much cinema. I like to have space between the films as such.

But if you don't mind punishing yourself, here are some possible double bills (that I would run screaming in the other direction away from):
Requiem for a Dream and Naked
Last Year at Marienbad and Hiroshima Mon Amour
Strawdogs and The Wild Bunch

And yes, I agree The Salesmen is a top film. I only recently saw that at the NFT and was captivated.

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