Retro Scene: ‘Pink Panther,’ ‘Oyster Princess,’ ‘Tootsie,’ ‘Battle Royale’

Peter Sellers in Blake Edwards' 'The Pink Panther'
Peter Sellers in Blake Edwards' 'The Pink Panther'

Here’s a spotlight on four retrospective screenings, starting tonight:

  • ‘The Pink Panther’ (1964; d. Blake Edwards). Nearing the age of 40, with ‘Lolita’ behind him and ‘Dr. Strangelove’ just around the corner, Peter Sellers teamed with Blake Edwards to create his most beloved character, the bumbling Inspector Clouseau. See it to marvel how Sellers absolutely stole a routine heist picture from matinee idol David Niven (a very game straight man). [Tonight and tomorrow, Texas Theatre]
  • Amusing Aside: In his book ‘The Moon is a Balloon,’ Niven notes that he suffered frostbite in his nether regions whilst taking advantage of the producer’s offer to provide ski instruction on an afternoon off from filming ‘The Pink Panther’ in the Italian Alps. (The producer did not know that Niven was an experienced skier.) Quickly surmising the danger, Niven sought help from several Italian ski guides, who helped him to a hotel bar bathroom, where the actor thawed out his member in a glass of brandy.
  • ‘The Oyster Princess’ (1919; d. Ernest Lubitsch). If you can only see one retrospective screening this week, make it this one, which I was happy to catch at SXSW last month. Austin group Bee Vs. Moth debuted their awesome original score there, and will play it again; it’s a terrific accompaniment to Lubitsch’s film, a very funny, visually inventive story about a very picky heiress, her potential suitor(s), and her very bored father, a wealthy business tycoon. [Saturday night only, Texas Theatre]
  • ‘Tootsie’ (1982; d. Sydney Pollack). Reportedly a troubled production in which the script went through a myriad amount of changes, the finished product emerges as some kind of jewel. The script is still problematic — for one thing, the treatment of Terri Garr’s character is abysmal — but it feels like Dustin Hoffman’s ultimate performance as a thinly-disguised version of his own flinty, vain persona. With Jessica Lange, Dabney Coleman, Geena Davis, Charles Durning, and abundantly funny, cameo-sized roles for Bill Murray and director Sydney Pollack. [Friday night only, Palace Arts Center, Grapevine]
  • ‘Battle Royale’ (2000; d. Kinji Fukasaku). Beyond the superficial plot similarities, what ‘The Hunger Games’ and ‘Battle Royale’ most hold in common is a desire to comment on society. Fukasaku’s message was to young people in Japan, and he marshaled all of his considerable talents and experience to deliver a very potent, chilling time-bomb. But will the half-drunken midnight crowd see past the blood, cheese, and  melodrama? If not, it’s their loss. [Midnight, Friday and Saturday only, Landmark Inwood]
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