From 10 am on February 28 to 10 am on February 29, I had the pleasure of attending the Cinematheque’s second 24 Hour Movie Marathon in Vancouver. The $40 tickets were well worth the price considering the amount of films shown and the free goodies given out. 15 films that the Cinematheque deemed essential viewing were shown. The list of films was not revealed ahead of time. The only hint provided was “tick tock.”
It was a great spectacle the morning of the event: everyone pouring into the theatre dressed in pajamas with pillows, blankets, and survival kits, ready to claim a seat for the next 24 hours. The Cinematheque was kind enough to brew free coffee throughout the entire event—something that was essential to making it through the whole night. An announcer came up to the podium just before the first film to hype up the crowd. “Are you guys ready for 24 hours of rom-coms?” she called out. The whole audience laughed, though as it turned out, playing with time and memory leaves plenty of room for romantic films.
Groundhog Day (1993) was an excellent, high-energy choice to begin the festivities, which almost made you believe this was going to be 24 hours of romantic comedies. Phil Connors (Bill Murray), a weatherman who hates small talk, is trapped living the Groundhog Day over and over again in the most famous Groundhog Day city in America: Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Phil despises going to the event every year and he is generally a brutally selfish and mean-spirited man, but by the end of the film he is a completely different person. Many viewers, including myself, will have seen this film, but it had been some years and I can now greatly appreciate the effort director Harold Ramis went through to recreate each moment as exact as possible for each repeat scene. It may not have the most satisfying story due to Murray’s non-serious approach, but the gags and seamless scene recreation make this a worthwhile classic.
A 35mm reel of La Jetée (1962) begins and the audience goes wild. These are the kinds of films that the Cinematheque is known for showing. Chris Marker’s classic 30-minute sci-fi is the precursor for Terry Gilliam’s Twelve Monkeys (1995) and describes a post-World War III France where people live underground due to radiation. In the underground, scientists experiment on prisoners by sending them back and forward in time—the subjects are chosen based on vivid dreams from the past. Most do not survive, except for the story’s protagonist, (simply called Man, played by Davos Hanich). La Jetée is almost entirely composed of still images, which are edited extremely well together to form the story through masterful composition. My expectations were high leading into the next film, and the Cinematheque did not disappoint.
The opening credits begin and the director is revealed: Alfred Hitchcock. Rope was Hitchcock’s first colour film and the first film to make use of careful editing to give the illusion of a nearly one shot film. Rope demonstrates Hitchcock’s mastery in camera control as he gives us a unique perspective into a murder that is followed by a dinner party. Brandon (John Dall) and Phillip (Farley Granger) execute what they think is a perfect murder, hide the body in a chest in the middle of the living room, and then throw a party in that room. It is incredibly suspenseful as you try and guess if someone will find the body, and also a wonderful dig at the recent Oscar-winner Birdman.
The theme of time becomes a bit more loose than I thought it would be, especially with the vague connections Before Sunset (2004) has to it. It was the first sequel to Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise (1995), which follows the same two character eight years later, and features one of the characters writing a book titled This Time, but now anything is possible for the characters. Despite its loose connection to the theme, it is a great trilogy of films with long takes, superb acting from Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, and an examination of the mindsets during that time.
The crowd begins cheering as the opening credits display “a Christopher Nolan film”— it is Memento (2000), an obvious choice. The film follows, in backwards chronology, the story of Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce), a man suffering from anterograde amnesia who is out to find the person who killed his wife. Leonard does this by taking photos of people, places, and things, and then writing on the photos as memos for when he loses his short term memory. His lapses in memory are a bit too convenient for the storyline, sometimes to the point of frustration, but it is an interesting exercise in re-ordering how a story is told.
Switching up styles, we are treated to Mamoru Hosoda’s animated time bender The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (2006), the first recipient of the Animation Award when the category was added to the Japanese Academy Awards. Makoto Konno (Riisa Naka) is a high school student with a bad memory who suddenly finds she has the ability to literally leap through time after falling on a magic acorn in one of her school science labs. Makoto initially uses this to do things like party at a karaoke bar with her friends for 10 hours straight after only paying for one hour, but soon transitions into altering unfortunate things that have happened to her, which turns out to have a butterfly effect. Like many anime stories with romantic elements, it can be a bit too melodramatic (even as an animation), but it is a fun time film.
Making a high concept sci-fi film for only $7k is an interesting feat, but that does not mean Shane Carruth’s Primer (2004) is easy to understand. Anyone claiming to completely understand the entire plot of Primer after their first viewing had to have read the Wikipedia article ahead of time. Two engineers, Aaron (Shane Carruth) and Abe (David Sullivan), build a machine in a storage locker that can take them back a day, allowing them to have foresight into future stock market prices. Everything has to be executed perfectly so that the clones they make through using the machine do not deviate from the path they need them to follow, which does not last forever. Primer looks like it was filmed through a security camera, with poor image quality, composition, and colour balance, followed by obvious post-synchronous audio and unconvincing acting, but Carruth does at least display good camera control. It is hard to recommend this film and I am glad they showed it sooner rather than later in the evening.
Orlando (1992) is an adaptation of the famous Virginia Woolf book Orlando: A Biography (1928), a visually amazing film that worked perfectly with the time of day. The gender-bending film features Tilda Swinton as the nobleman Orlando, who is commanded by Queen Elizabeth I (played by Quentin Crisp, who does an exceptional job in his cross-dressed role as well) to live forever. What follows is mesmerizing journey through time (1600 to present) as Orlando changes his views to suit his needs and eventually changes sex. Director Sally Potter does a wonderful job of capturing the attitudes towards women throughout the ages, as well as shots that look as if they belong in old English paintings. Orlando is a wonderful celebration of English culture, which segues perfectly into the next film.
A Philip Glass score trickles into the theatre and I gyrate in my seat in anticipation for Errol Morris’ A Brief History of Time (1991). Part Stephen Hawking reading from his book of the same title, part documentary on Hawking’s life, the film splices events seamlessly together to connect the story of Hawking’s life, the major ideas in his book, the use of the advancements in science fiction, and intricate explanations or the theories he helped develop. The fatigue increased the dream-like qualities of the film, and although the physics may have confounded those less knowledgeable, it is a remarkable tribute to Hawking’s life—much more so than The Theory of Everything (2014).
Everyone stumbles back to their seats after the latest intermission; the Cinematheque was not allowing in-and-outs between 12:25 am and 4:50 am, so the expectations are high for entertaining films. Tom Tykwer’s Run Lola Run (1998) begins, encouraging us with its running sequences to make it to the finish line at 10 am. Lola (Franka Potente) has 20 minutes to run around looking for 100,000 Deutschmarks before her boyfriend, Manni (Moritz Bleibtreu), robs a supermarket to help pay back a mobster. The film shows Lola failing twice, but, by some mysterious act, is able to start from the beginning again. The time travel is never really explained apart from something to do with the power of love, but it is interesting to see the repeats as the events twist slightly. Lola will pass by certain people and have a photograph montage of what happens to them later flash across the screen—this can range from people stealing babies, winning the lottery, becoming born-again Christians, dying from drug overdoses, or engaging in BDSM. Lola is a film that will lose some of its specific meanings to non-German people, but is still an engaging experience.
The coffee breaks are getting more frequent and necessary. Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing (1956) begins. I am a bit disappointed we do not get to see A Clockwork Orange (1971) instead. The Killing follows a group of crooks who work with some employees for a race track that try to execute a daring robbery of the place. The film-noire setting works well for the late night movie, but it lacks the extra energy and demented quality that Kubrick’s other films have. The only thing that kept us going was Elisha Cook Jr. playing up his idiot character to the point of absolute hilarity.
More coffee is drank. My energy is at its lowest since the marathon began. Suddenly, a large horn section kicks in and the face of Bruce Campbell graces the screen—it is Sam Raimi’s Army of Darkness (1992), thank goodness. The energy of the audience changes; suddenly we are all attending a cult classic movie night and everyone cheers as loudly as they can at every cheesy effect and tagline. Following the events of Evil Dead 2 (1987), Ash (Bruce Campbell) is sent back to 1300 where he must make peace with the locals and discover a way back home. It is an absolute riot of one-liners and silly special effects, and it completely reinvigorated me for the last three films.
Fresh air and free breakfast of fruit and scones. At this point, I am so cracked out on coffee that I feel like I have already gone to sleep and gotten back up the next day. Francis Ford Coppola’s Peggy Sue Got Married (1986) is next, which amounts to 103 minutes of laughing at Nicolas Cage doing his best impressions of Pokey from The Gumby Show and jokes about having the same maturity level as an adult while reliving high school. Peggy Sue (Kathleen Turner) is at odds with her electronic sales-man husband, Charlie Bodell (Nicolas Cage), and has a hard time facing him at their 25 year grad reunion. When she is crowned prom queen, she faints and wakes up 25 years ago in 1960. Like any post-Apocalypse Now (1979) Coppola works, it has some interesting shots and is entertaining, but overall forgettable.
Well into the home stretch, the Cinematheque must not trust our wakefulness if they are going to put on Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989). Whether it be the sleep deprived state or my desire for something that does not take itself as seriously as Peggy Sue Got Married, Bill & Ted is an enjoyable film to turn your brain off to. Two teenagers, Bill S. Preston (Alex Winter) and Ted ‘Theodore’ Logan (Keanu Reeves), are more concerned with their band Wyld Stallyns than trying to pass their history class. Their teacher, Mr. Ryan (Bernie Casey), gives them the ultimatum that they must get As on their final assignment, otherwise they will fail the class—the result being that Ted will get sent to military academy in Alaska by his police officer dad (Hal Landon Jr.). With the help of a man from the future named Rufus (George Carlin), they attempt to wrangle key historical figures to help them ace their presentation. It does not have the same cult classic calibre that Army of Darkness has, but it is a fun watch and an interesting look into the beginning of Keanu Reeeves’ career.
It is time for the final film. I am hoping for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), but instead, staying with the goal of presenting a wide variety of genres, we are shown the Fred Zinnemann western, High Noon (1952). Let us get one thing straight: High Noon is a great western and a fantastic allegory on the rampant black-listing that was happening during the McCarthy era, but it is not a good film to watch after being awake for 24 hours. Dimitri Tiomkin’s quiet, thumping theme song would have lullabied me to sleep if it had not been for the several cups of coffee I had consumed at this point. Marshall Will Kane (Gary Cooper) is wed to Amy (Grace Kelly), and thus is supposed to give up his title as marshall to pursue a quiet life. He almost makes it out of town when he hears that a gang will be coming in at noon to take the town. Too proud to leave, Will unsuccessfully tries to find some deputies and ends up taking the gang with few numbers. If anything, Will’s stubbornness echoed my own that helped me make it through all 15 films without missing a second.
My brain is angry at me and the fresh air never felt so good. It was a bizarre experience sitting through so many films, but it is something I would do again next year in a heartbeat, regardless of how I think that film selection should have gone. The major thing that stuck out about the order of the films was that there was always a theme that related to the next film. Almost all of the films played on the idea of memory in some way, but there were specifics that carried to each film from the last. La Jetée featured a man reliving a past experience like in Groundhog Day; Rope played on the idea of some humans being superior beings like in La Jetée; Before Sunset featured people who were past lovers like a couple on Rope; and so on. These moments reveal the care the Cinematheque took in currating the event—it really tied the experience together in a cohesive way for those who were awake enough to see it the whole way through. This was an event made by film lovers for film lovers. If you would like more information on the Cinematheque, visit their website.