Sunday, July 15, 2012

Tonight's Movie: South Pacific (1958) at the Egyptian Theatre

I had another fantastic evening at the movies tonight!

The fun started with dinner at the Pig 'N Whistle with some wonderful friends met thanks to this blog. We then went next door to the Egyptian Theatre's screening of SOUTH PACIFIC (1958) in 70mm, and all I can say about that experience is "Wow!!"

I've always been fond of this movie and have seen it several times, but this was my first time to see it in a theater. (I don't think a 16mm Films Incorporated print shown in my junior high school cafeteria counts!) The Egyptian showed it complete with overture and intermission music. When the overture faded out and the opening credits began, the combination of the music and visuals absolutely blew me away. The effect of seeing this film in 70mm on the Egyptian's huge screen was absolutely stunning; I almost felt as though I were seeing the film for the first time.

It's common in some circles to dismiss the film, mostly due to the color wheel lenses used in some of the musical numbers. And while I still think that choice was a mistake -- although I was just about sold on the lenses during "Bali Ha'i" tonight -- when blown up in a beautiful 70mm print the effect wasn't nearly as distracting as I remember from past viewings. I also appreciated that the lenses weren't used during some of the songs, such as "There is Nothing Like a Dame" -- although in that case the changing lighting on the location shoot was interesting to observe!

In fact, I think SOUTH PACIFIC is a movie in need of critical reassessment. It's a beautifully acted, faithful rendition of the Broadway show, which is all one needs for a great evening of entertainment, especially as it contains some of the most transporting music ever written. It has the added bonus of gorgeous Kauai and some of the finest orchestrations ever heard in a movie musical.

The only false notes in the entire movie were a couple of silly back projection close-ups of Ray Walston plunging out of an airplane. Aside from that, I really don't know how the movie could have been further improved. SOUTH PACIFIC was, amazingly, the 40th classic film I've seen on a big screen this year, and it ranks near the very top of my list in terms of how much I enjoyed the experience. I expected to have a good time, but it's hard to describe the thrill I felt watching it on what I can only repeat was a huge screen, with superb sound.

France Nuyen, who was just 17 when she played Liat, was there to watch the film, along with Richard Harrison, who played Buzz Adams' copilot. She remains an exquisitely graceful, lovely woman. She said she had attended another screening where the scenes with the colored lenses were faded and washed out; she said what we saw at the Egyptian tonight is how the film is meant to be seen. She was grateful for the experience of being in the film, saying she owed her career to the director, Joshua Logan, and she was clearly very moved by the opportunity to see the film again in perfect condition.

John Kerr had been scheduled to attend the screening but was under the weather. I felt as though I was watching his performance with a fresh perspective tonight, and my appreciation for him as Lt. Cable went up considerably on this viewing.

SOUTH PACIFIC is available in a beautiful Collector's Edition DVD set.

Related Posts: A South Pacific Reunion (June 2010); Tonight's Theater: South Pacific (October 14, 2010); Tonight's Theater: South Pacific (October 22, 2010).


Blogger Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

My gosh, what an experience. Sounds terrific.

4:25 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

Wow, 40th film this year. Do you think you might hit 100 by the end of the year? What is your record (of movies seen in the theater in a year), do you know/remember?

5:18 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

It really was great, Jacqueline!

I'm pretty amazed at the number of films in a theater this year, Tom. It's quite a bit of effort to make the drives from Orange County to Los Angeles, but very worthwhile, needless to say!

The last few years I've typically seen in the neighborhood of 220 films total, but just a handful of that number in theaters. This year the four weekends of film noir at the TCM and Noir City Festivals account for half of the 40 movies, in 23 days! Given that, I'd be surprised if I got up to 100 classic films in a theater this year, but 60 is possible. I'm considering three more Budd Boetticher films at UCLA next weekend...

The movie watching records I've kept most of my life (I'm a list maker from way back) didn't list movies by year, but I did see a very significant number of classic films each year in L.A. theaters when I was growing up. That dropped off to virtually nothing when my kids were little -- I saw only 60 new-to-me films in an entire *decade* starting in the early '90s, and some of those movies I don't remember at all (grin). Now that they're older and film fans themselves, I've swung full circle back to going to see movies in L.A.!

Best wishes,

5:41 PM  
Blogger DKoren said...

Wow, I so wish I'd been home to head over there. I love that movie so much and would have really loved this viewing.

8:22 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Deb, if there's another 70mm screening you can get to in the future, I really hope you can do it -- if you love the movie the experience will blow you away! Wish you could have been there!!

Best wishes,

11:45 PM  

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