There is no greater film festival for classic movie lovers than the TCM Classic Film Fest in Hollywood, California. Every spring, throngs of moviegoers descend on the honorary capital of moviemaking for a feverish, bleary-eyed three-day celebration of the moving image.
Now in its seventh year, the TCM Film Festival, running April 28–May 1, continues to expand the ever-growing TCM brand. What started simply as a TV channel has moved from mere programming to one of a historical and archival presence. TCM produces DVDs, Blu-Rays, various product lines, established a theme cruise, a Hollywood/New York movie locations bus tour, even an impressive social media presence. TCM, in general, isn’t simply a celebration of the movies, but movie lovers as well.
And lucky for those lovers, this year’s TCM Film Fest does not disappoint.
“The magic of the movies isn’t just motion, but emotion,” a TCM press release states, describing this year’s theme of Moving Pictures. “These are the films that set our love of cinema in motion.”
And that emotion takes many forms. The festival is broken into nine subcategories: Essentials (e.g., All the President’s Men, It’s a Wonderful Life, A Face in the Crowd); Special Presentations (90th Anniversary of Vitaphone, Serge Bromberg’s Amazing Film Discoveries, A Short History of Widescreen Cinema); Inspirational Sports Movies (e.g., Fat City, The Pride of the Yankees, Rocky); Coming of Age (e.g., Boyz n the Hood, Tea and Sympathy, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn); Festival Tributes (e.g., actress Gina Lollobrigida presenting Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell, and Trapeze; a conversation with writer/director Carl Reiner following Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid; and actor Elliott Gould talking The Long Goodbye and M*A*S*H); Discoveries (e.g., He Ran All the Way, Never Fear, Los Tallos Amargos); Love and Loss (e.g., Brief Encounter, Dark Victory, The Way We Were); Religious Films (The Keys of the Kingdom, King of Kings, The Song of Bernadette, The Passion of Joan of Arc) and Animal Movies (e.g., Bambi, Roar, Old Yeller).
In total: 79 features, a handful of short subjects, 13 panels, and six venues over four jam-packed days. TCMFF offers something for everyone.
Though they come for the movies, festivals are always the place to meet famous faces and to hear the tales from those who made the movies. This is even more evident at TCMFF, where aging stars pack houses and draw bigger crowds than some of the screenings. Over 80 special guests have been announced for this year’s festival, including producer/writer/director Francis Ford Coppola—who will be placing his hand and footprints in the cement outside of Mann’s Chinese Theater in conjunction with a screening of his personal favorite, The Conversation (April 29). Yet, it is the appearance of Jean-Luc Godard’s former wife and muse, Anna Karina, at TCMFF that is a cause for cinematic celebration. Karina, now 75, rarely makes stateside appearances, but thanks to TCM, a new restoration of Band of Outsiders (April 30), Karina will be making two L.A. and three New York appearances.
Godard and Karina formed one of cinema’s most joyous and successful collaborations. They first worked together in Le Petit Soldat (1960) and went on to craft six more iconic works of the French New Wave: A Woman is a Woman (1960), Vivre Se Vie (1962), Band of Outsiders, Pierrot le Fou (1965), Alphaville (1965), and Made in U.S.A. (1966). Of these, Band is by far their most accessible and vibrant work. Godard once described it as: “Alice in Wonderland meets Franz Kafka.” And for a movie loaded with references and quotations, it is an apt description. Band of Outsiders positively pulses off the screen and a new restoration, thanks to Rialto Pictures, is an event not to be missed.
Band of Outsiders, like most restorations, was done digitally and will be presented as such. Many of the films presented at TCMFF will project digitally, as is common these days, but the TCM Film Fest remains committed to screening as many movies as possible on celluloid prints of any measurement. For 2016, TCM Film Festival has announced 25 screenings of films on film: 6 Hours to Live (1932); The Big Sleep (1946); Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back (1934); Children of a Lesser God (1986); Double Harness (1933); A Face in the Crowd (1957); He Ran All the Way (1951); A House Divided (1931); King of Kings (1961); Law and Order (1953); The Long Goodbye (1973); The More the Merrier (1943); Network (1976); Never Fear (1949); One Man’s Journey (1933); One Potato, Two Potato (1964); Pleasure Cruise (1933); The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928); The Pride of the Yankees (1942); Repeat Performance (1947); The Russians are Coming The Russians are Coming (1966); Los Tallos Amargos (1956); Tea and Sympathy (1956); Trapeze (1956) and The Yearling (1946).
But these 25 aren’t viewers’ only chance to experience film on film at TCMFF. In fact, three of the most intriguing programs offered are the well-curated and impeccably presented package shows: 90th Anniversary of Vitaphone (April 30), Serge Bromberg’s Amazing Film Discoveries (April 29), and A Short History of Widescreen Cinema (April 30). If any of these prospects are as impressive as last year’s Return of the Dream Machine—a series of hand-cranked films from cinema’s primitive days—then they will delight moviegoers hungry to understand how the presentation of their beloved medium is as important as what is being presented.
Few companies have done as much for the preservation and appreciation of classic film as has TCM, and their 2016 film festival is no exception. Here, stars are ageless; movies are immortal, and the image continues to flicker inside grand palaces. Watching a movie is a time-traveling event, but here, that time is eternal.