The UCLA Film Archives offers something rare and exciting Friday night at Melnitz Hall: the first public showing in more than 35 years of the uncut version of Budd Boetticher's "The Bullfighter and the Lady."
Boetticher's are the best bullfighting movies for aficionados. He had the closest connection with the subject. He was a bullfighter himself, one of a handful of Americans who became professional matadors.
"The Bullfighter and the Lady," based on Boetticher's story, and restored by Robert Gitt, tells of a rich, brash and impulsive American sportsman who becomes obsessed with bullfighting. His passions and inexperience bring on tragedy and a final test of mettle. It's a well-liked film, shot with the crisp, even-tempered clarity and steely control of Boetticher at his best. It's also a peak effort for stars Robert Stack and Gilbert Roland.
But the version most people have seen was compromised, despite expert editing. John Wayne's Batjac Productions thought the film was too long to release at 124 minutes. John Ford, as a favor to Wayne, came in and trimmed it to 87 minutes. Boetticher's cut vanished, except in Spanish-speaking countries, the Library of Congress and the private collection of Robert Stack, whose complete 16-millimeter print inspired the restoration.
Missing from the 87-minute version were some of Ward Bond's narration, the introduction of the real-life matadors, a scene with Paul Fix as a writer-philosopher and a deepening of relationships. Ford's instincts as an action director were sound: He kept intact most of the bullfights and the scenes between Stack and Roland--the heart of the film. But he also made one pragmatic choice: Boetticher showed the climactic fight in slow-motion, giving it the same awesome, balletic grace Kurosawa got five years later in "Seven Samurai." Ford, to save time, returned the fight to normal speed--and lost a magical moment.
"The Bullfighter and the Lady," at its original length is clearly an American movie classic.
Whatever one thinks of the sport--or the conventional romance that scenarist James Edward Grant wrote--you come away saturated with the subject: its mechanics and the mysterious machismo that animates it (something Roland's performance endows with an almost mystical resonance).
Scheduled to attend a discussion after the 8 p.m. showing will be Boetticher himself, Stack and perhaps Roland. (Information: (213) 825-2581.)
Was it only 20 years ago that Kenneth Anger's "Scorpio Rising" seemed to crash the outer limits of undergound film taste--with its narcissistic rough-trade motorcyclists, Nazi regalia, images of Brando, Dean and Christ and wall-to-wall rock score? The movie's mix of Satanism, homosexuality, chi-chi flash and irreverent pop imagery now seems closer to MTV than the edge--though the strange elegance of Anger's style is still compelling. "Scorpio" opens Part Two of UCLA's complete Anger retrospective (Tuesday at Melnitz at 8 p.m.)--which includes a Mick Jagger-composed sound track to 1969's "Invocation of My Demon Brother," and a score by Charles Manson crony Bobby Beausoleil to the surprisingly gentler 1980 "Lucifer Rising." Also screening: 1949's "Puce Moment" and 1965's "Kustom Kar Kommandoes."
It's strange--and some will find it bewildering and boring--but there's probably more sheer physical beauty in Hiroshi Teshigahara's documentary "Antonio Gaudi" (showing at the Nuart Tuesday and Wednesday) than in 90% of the films around now. Teshigahara is a major Japanese director (he made "Woman in the Dunes") who abandoned movies to become headmaster of a flower-arranging school. He returned in 1985 out of passion for his subject, Spanish architect Gaudi. There is no narration and only one brief interviewee. Mostly, we simply see Gaudi's Barcelona buildings--and the staggering, posthumously built Temple of Sagrada Familia--lovingly shot by Teshigahara and crew, and accompanied by a Toru Takemitsu score. You'll wonder afterward why more architects today don't design with this kind of imagination, fancy and daring.