Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Projectionist (1971)

Well-meaning but clumsily made, writer-director Harry Hurwitz’ homage to the movies concerns a New York City movie-theater projectionist whose fantasy life runs amok as he imagines himself into various scenarios inspired by the movies he shows. The premise is straightforward, and Hurwitz clearly delineates the different elements (“real” scenes are in color, fantasies are in black-and-white), but the picture’s jumbled tone and pointless narrative add up to tedium. The “real” scenes are the most effective, with Hurwitz’ grainy low-budget photography lending seedy realism to vignettes inside a projection booth and a theater lobby, as well as scenes of the projectionist (Chuck McCann) strolling around bad old Times Square or relaxing in his tiny hovel of an apartment. In fact, the movie is probably too effective at conveying the dismal nature of the projectionist’s life: The character always seems one bad experience away from going postal, especially when he’s getting yelled at by his skinflint boss (Rodney Dangerfield). The second layer of the picture, comprising original fantasy footage shot by Hurwitz, is the least effective. The overweight McCann dons a silly superhero suit to portray “Captain Flash” in broadly comic bits inspired by serials and silent movies. These scenes go on forever, and McCann’s mugging feels desperate. Even more problematic are gimmicky scenes cutting new shots of McCann into clips from Casablanca (1942) and other Hollywood classics—a device executed with much more flair a decade later in the Steve Martin comedy Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (1982). The Projectionist has some fans in the cinephile crowd, who appreciate the picture’s film-geek nostalgia and handmade quality, but for most viewers, Hurwitz’ sole feature will simply seem amateurish and dull.

The Projectionist: LAME

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