Thursday, May 11, 2017

Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Romance

If you're reading this in the Boston area on Thursday afternoon (the 11th), this movie's got its last first-run screening at the Brattle at 7pm, and it would in no way be a bad way to spend an hour and a half this evening. Sorry it took so long, but I didn't see it until Sunday night, there was other stuff that took a while to get done, and so on. Hopefully it will be on VOD and disc soon, and I can see it coming back to the Brattle as part of a Recent Raves series.

And, yes, I will probably get it on disc when it's announced, if only for the poster/cover art. Unfortunately, my email is acting up so I can't tell when the first picture of Patrick Mate's poster appeared in it - this film has been bouncing around festivals for a couple of years, but it struck me as cute and charming from the first. It's mildly vexing that I can't find the poster for sale on Amazon, either to be the review's link to things nobody ever buys to help this blog pay for itself or to get one myself. Guess I'll have to settle for the disc when that comes out to have a copy.

Kind of wish I'd been able to get to the movies the Brattle had play as companions (tonight's is History of the World: Part I), since that's a really nifty thing to do when you've got documentaries on film and filmmakers playing.

Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Romance

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 7 May 2017 at the Brattle Theatre (first-run, DCP)

Like the world in general, the world of film is built on people like Harold and Lillian Michelson, folks who are good something that contributes to the success of a larger undertaking, do it for a long time, and similarly put in the effort to have good lives when they get home from work. Even when their contributions are, in fact, important parts of highly-visible successes, telling their stories can be hard - it's technical on the one hand and expected on the other. Lucky for us, this couple made friends with good storytellers, who have brought their shared life story to the screen in a way that, aside from being charming, highlights their importance.

Both Harold Michelson and Lillian Farber grew up in the Miami area, with Harold meeting his kid sister's best friend after returning from World War II. It wasn't a match Harold's parents approved of, so they decamped to California, where Harold started out as a background artist who, when given a chance to work on storyboards, had an innate sense of what the camera would see. They had three children, and when they reached school age, Harold recommended that the head of MGM's research library take the restless Lillian on as an apprentice. It eventually became her library, moving with her from one studio and institution to another until she retired from DreamWorks in 2010.

Harold became a production designer during that time, a more high-profile way to put his artistic talents to use, but it's his time as a storyboard artist that forms the framework for director Daniel Raim's movie in more ways than one. Filmmakers from executive producer Danny DeVito to Francis Ford Coppola talk about how crucial his work was, pointing out that Harold had a knack for recognizing perspective and what specific cameras would pick up that made it much easier to visualize the final product, and then going further to point out that certain crucial bits of framing in The Graduate, including the famed under-the-leg shot, first appeared in his boards. This isn't used to diminish director Mike Nichols's work; ultimately going with that shot was his decision, as was doing the work on-set to make it effective on screen. Instead, it demonstrates that this process is a lot less top-down than many people imagine. It's something hinted early on when the on-screen definition of Lillian's work is "discovering facts to stimulate filmmakers' imaginations", showing how what makes a movie comes from a number of sources.

Full review on EFC.

No comments: