My favorite theater within walking distance of my house is the Capitol Theater in Arlington, MA. It used to be a cool low-cost third-run movie theater with occasional first-run indie movie showings. For a short time they were also showing Hindi films out of Bollywood, and now they are both a low-cost second-run movie theater with first-run 3D movies. In addition they recently started telecasting operas and showing classic movies on the weekends as part of a repertory series. This weekend’s rep movies are a wild double bill: Orson Welles’ “Touch of Evil” and David Lean’s “Summertime.”
Starring Katherine Hepburn and Rossano Brazzi, “Summertime” tells the story of an American schoolteacher (Hepburn) arriving in Venice for her dream vacation. While there she meets Renato (Brazzi), a store shop owner who quickly falls in love with her. As she is slowly feeling the same, she discovers he is married. Does she continue the affair or end it and return to America? What seemingly lacks for a storyline is made up by Lean casting a luscious lens onto the city of Venice. The city becomes not so much a character on its own as much as it becomes an emotional wave that stimulates all the characters involved. Filmed in glorious Technicolor, fall in love with a city as many did after the film’s release.
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On the flip side, in “Touch of Evil” stars Charlton Heston as Miguel Vargas, a Mexican lawman on honeymoon with his wife when an American contractor is killed on the US-Mexico border. The investigation by US police captain Hank Quinlan (Welles) dredges up a suspect but Vargas knows the evidence is planted. With this both men go after each other—Vargas to get the truth, Quinlan to protect his reputation. This is considered one of the finest (and last) of the postwar noir films and one of Welles’ finest and most memorable films. Filled with some of the strangest performances you’ll ever see and one of the best opening sequence ever filmed, see why this is a staple in film studies classes everywhere. The 1998 restored version will be screened.
Both films grew to become the individual directors’ favorites. With what they put into each film and what we got out of them it’s not hard to see why. Both films play at the Capitol Theater in Arlington on Saturday and Sunday afternoon/evenings this weekend only.
Trivia: Heston would not do “Touch of Evil” unless Welles directed the picture. Doing this resuscitated Welles’ feature directorial career again. It was Welles’ idea that Heston’s character be Mexican, changing him from a white American.
After Hepburn performed the fall into the canal in “Summertime,” she developed a conjunctivitis infection that stayed with her for the rest of her life. The number of tourists visiting Venice doubled the year after the film’s release.
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