April Highlights on TCM
ALEC GUINNESS (April 2, 6am)--April 2 is the 100th birthday of Sir Alec Guinness, and to mark the occasion TCM is showing 11 of his pictures. Guinness was always a very special actor. Compared to Laurence Olivier and Ralph Richardson and John Gielgud, the other giants of English theater and cinema, Guinness seemed quiet and self-effacing--he would merge with the rhythm and tone of whatever picture he was in, so completely that his mastery was sometimes apparent only after the fact. Guinness started at the Old Vic in 1936 and quickly became one of English theater's foremost Shakespearean actors, but his career in movies didn't really begin until the end of the war (he was in the Naval Reserve). In 1946, he played Herbert Pocket in David Lean's adaptation of Dickens' Great Expectations--an auspicious debut and the beginning of a six-film collaboration with Lean across five decades. Guinness is perfect in this passionately crafted picture: he seems to have walked right out of Dickens' universe (he had played the role onstage, in his own adaptation). Right from the start, Guinness seemed to have a clear understanding of cinema, of the visual line of his performances (it's interesting to remember that he was an admirer of Stan Laurel). He never directed a movie himself, but he had a director's temperament, I think: he was a quietly intense explorer of humanity, and his face, his body and his mellifluous voice were his equipment. TCM is only covering a brief period in Guinness' career with the tribute--there's no room for his performances in Ronald Neame's The Horse's Mouth and Tunes of Glory, his Fagin in Lean's Oliver Twist, his Colonel Nicholson in The Bridge on the River Kwai, also by Lean, or his incredible work as George Smiley in the two BBC mini-series based on John Le Carré's Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Smiley's People. But they are showing three of the finest pictures he made at Ealing Studios in the '50s, all comedies: The Lavender Hill Mob, directed by Charles Crichton, The Ladykillers, directed by Alexander Mackendrick (who also worked with Guinness on The Man in the White Suit), and Kind Hearts and Coronets, directed by Robert Hamer, which is one of Guinness' crowning achievements and one of the best pictures of its era.
AKI KAURISMAKI (April 27, 2am)--At the end of the month, TCM will be showing Ariel and The Match Factory Girl, two of the very best pictures by the Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki. When he began making movies in the late '80s, Kaurismäki was working at the same accelerated pace that Rainer Werner Fassbinder kept up in the '70s. Both directors seemed to be making up for lost time, building bodies of work that filled in great cinematic gaps, telling stories that no one had ever told about places and people that hadn't been seen in movies. Their pictures shared certain qualities: a certain bluntness, a need to get right to the point; visual beauty that seems to have been inspired by Dutch painting; and a strong commitment to stories about people who work for a living. But Kaurismäki's pictures, while as harsh as Fassbinder's on one level, also have a sweet, funny and lyrical side. Ariel and The Match Factory Girl are two of his very best.
by Martin Scorsese