Film Comment Selects 2013

Howard Zieff: Hearts of the West + Slither

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Howard Zieff: Hearts of the West + Slither
Howard Zieff,
USA | 199 minutes

A Film Comment Double Feature!

Hearts of the West
Howard Zieff | USA | 1975 | 35mm | 103m

Jeff Bridges, Alan Arkin, Blythe Danner, and Andy Griffith star in this affectionate, underrated, often hilarious comedy about a naïve youth’s Tinseltown rite of passage. Set in a poverty row studio grinding out B-Westerns for Depression-era audiences, Howard Zieff’s nimble, laid-back comedy stars Bridges as a would-be novelist who accepts work as a stuntman after a run in with two grifters, while insisting he’s the next Zane Grey, and is taken under the wing of a wise old pro (Andy Griffith) who may not be as benign as imagined. Bridges’s canny performance balances broadness and subtlety, while Griffith wears his character’s sad, threadbare duplicity like a medal rather than a wound, oozing pride instead of blood. One of the highlights of the Seventies Hollywood’s nostalgia trend, Hearts of the West has as much vitality, originality, and craft as any classic from the Thirties and Forties. Print courtesy of BFI Distribution.

Slither
Howard Zieff | USA | 1973 | 16mm | 96m

In this little-known, rarely screened, not-to-be-missed comedy written by future Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai director W. D. Richter, bemused car thief James Caan, fresh from prison, hits the road to track down his murdered friend’s stash of embezzled cash. After hitching a ride with a fast talking, pistol-packing kook (Sally Kellerman), he teams up with rec-vehicle enthusiast Peter Boyle and wife Louise Lasser and soon the trio find themselves pursued across Northern California by two mysterious black mobile homes. Amidst the deadpan, rambling, low-key comedy and increasingly absurd circumstances (watch out for the Bingo Hall fight sequence), Caan reveals his genius for double-taking comic befuddlement, more than holding his own against the antics of Boyle, Kellerman, Allen Garfield, et al. A glorious piece of Seventies oddball Americana.

Series: Film Comment Selects 2013

Venue: Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center

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