Saturday, June 18, 2011

Preview: Julie Christie films

"All women are aware of that moment when suddenly the boys don't look at you. It's a fairly common thing, when suddenly you no longer attract that instant male attention because of the way you look. I never really knew how to enjoy beauty, but it took the form of a subconscious arrogance, expecting things, all muddled up with celebrity. Then you begin to deal with it. In the 1970s I was amazed to be talked about as a 60s sex symbol. I wasn't that person, as if I were a doll from the past. I had to learn to come to terms with that. It's funny, it's silly, the ridiculousness of having asked so much of celebrity. Then it becomes really interesting and very much part of the excitement of the life you're living now, knowing you're approaching the end of it."

-Julie Christie

The 1960s and 70s were certainly a turbulent time in our culture, and it was no different in the world of movies. It was a post-studio system era, but not quite the age of New Hollywood. The studios were looking to sell anyone as a product, and it was a time that was easy for an actress to be regarded as a mere sex symbol.

Few were thinking of building an actress' career as a body of work, and fewer still were in a position to do anything about it. Too often, a woman with any appeal was packaged up like deli meat and served up as a mere sex kitten. Raquel Welch is s prime example of one who become a hollow sex symbol, although she did help Andy Dufresne during his time at Shawshank prison.

Julie Christie could easily have become another log in this fire. A British actress who rapidly shot to prominence, she was unquestionably beautiful. More importantly, Christie had talent. She exploded on the scene after playing Lara in David Lean's epic Doctor Zhivago and winning an Oscar for her role in Darling. She worked with prominent directors, but also turned down many roles in other films. As the 70s continued, she became even more selective in her roles, effectively rebelling against the idea of being a mere product.

McCabe & Mrs. Miller is a very unconventional film directed by the great Robert Altman, who often referred to it as an "anti-western." Starring Christie and Warren Beatty as partners in a brothel that proves to be a successful venture. Eventually, as the town prospers, their business attracts the interest of a mining company. The company makes them an offer they shouldn't refuse, but McCabe holds out; an action that will bring dire consequences. Music for the film was by musician and poet Leonard Cohen, whose moody rhythms and vibe fit the film like a velvet glove.

Prior to the making of McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Christie and Beatty were dating and had already been declared the most glamorous couple in Hollywood. They were the "Brangelina" of the late 1960s and early 70s before ending their relationship in 1973. Regardless, they remained close afterward, appearing together in Shampoo and in Heaven Can Wait.

Fahrenheit 451 gave Julie the opportunity to work with young French director Fran├žois Truffaut. An adaptation of the acclaimed Ray Bradbury novel, it is a depiction of America as a dystopian nightmare, where hedonism rules and books are outlawed. Christie is showcased in dual roles here, as Linda Montag and Clarisse McClellan. Truffaut imagined these women as two sides of the same coin to the protagonist (Guy Montag), and felt Christie was capable of pulling off both roles. It was, however, a very difficult production that Truffaut endured, ultimately resulting in this quizzical and eccentric science fiction film.

Although these two films may be from Julie Christie's youth, in no way did her career peak during the 60s and 70s. In a rare feat for an actress, she has achieved a whole new degree of success as a mature woman. The 1980s were a quieter time for her, but the 90s saw her reignite her status as a cinematic legend. She appeared as Gertrude in Kenneth Branagh's unabridged film adaptation of Hamlet in 1996 and followed that with another Oscar-nominated turn in 1997's Afterglow. She joined the hit parade of British thespians who have appeared in the famous Harry Potter series, performing as Madam Rosmerta in 2004's Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban. But perhaps her most significan role in her recent years was that of an Alzheimer-stricken patient in Away from Her in 2006.

Never content to be just another cog in the machine, Julie Christie has proven to be more than a pretty face. Yes, British 60s swinger Austin Powers would have thought of her as merely "shagadelic," but she's so much more than that. She's a legend, a treasure, an intelligent and beautiful woman who has chosen her own path when the world and Hollywood were beginning to spiral out of control. So is Julie Christie a modern star for modern times? Yeaaaaah, baby.

Showtimes for the films:

McCabe & Mrs. Miller
Tuesday, Jun 21st
Wednesday, Jun 22nd

Fahrenheit 451
Tuesday, Jun 21st
Wednesday, Jun 22nd

Final Notes about the screening

Bring your new or gently used books for Fahrenheit 451 and receive FREE admission! The drive benefits Austin Public Library.

Double Features:
"When two movies are grouped together under the same thematic heading, one ticket is good for both features when viewed back-to-back on the same day." (cha-ching!)

"Hassle-free downtown parking available for $6 at the One American Center for all summer films! Since you’re also supporting the theatre when you buy parking, they're giving you a free small soda each time you park there for a film. Buy online with your film tix and print out your confirmation e-mail or buy directly from the garage attendant (cash only). Attendant will have your soda ticket as well."

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