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September 21 - September 23

The Cinematic Life of Norman Mailer

Given his extraordinary, prolific accomplishments as a writer, Norman Mailer’s short career as a filmmaker is often characterized as inconsequential in biographical contexts, something in which he dabbled between writing projects. Such analysis fails to recognize the incredible commitment Mailer made to filmmaking first with his three improvisational features and later with his adaptation of Tough Guys Don’t Dance. Inspired by the likes of Cassavetes and Warhol, Mailer was intrigued by the manner in which these artists challenged the boundaries between fiction and nonfiction, a frequent concern in his own writing. He took their improvisational strategies into even more dangerous territory with his first three films which not only demonstrate his innovative approach to directing but also feature fascinating performances by the man himself. The denouement of Maidstone is the stuff of legend, in which Mailer and Rip Torn engage in a no-holds-barred physical and verbal assault raising provocative questions about the limits of fictional representation. Although largely ignored when first released, these films are an essential piece of the canon of 1960s American independent cinema. Twenty years later, Mailer returned to filmmaking with Tough Guys Don’t Dance, this time with the backing of a major studio. However, his stylized, neo-noir met with similar indifference by critics and audiences and has only recently been reconsidered for its radical challenges to genre convention.  This series includes all four films made by Mailer as well as three rarely-screened documentaries, one directed by Pennebaker and two by British filmmaker Dick Fontaine which offer powerful examples of Mailer’s dynamic screen presence.

Special thanks to Michael Chaiken, Dick Fontaine, and Pennebaker Hegedus Films.

Norman Mailer's Appearance Is Canceled
Friday September 21 at 7:30 pm

Maidstone

Directed by Norman Mailer
With Norman Mailer, Rip Torn, Beverly Bentley
US 1970, 35mm, color, 110 min.

Norman T. Kingsley (Mailer) is an experimental filmmaker/presidential candidate planning a soft-core remake of Buñuel’s Belle de Jour at a palatial Hamptons villa. Under the protection of an elite security force led by his brother (Torn), Kingsley barrels through the production and much of his cast (including three of Mailer’s ex-wives). This masterwork of American independent cinema culminates in an explosive confrontation between Torn and Mailer in which the line between fiction and nonfiction is bludgeoned with a hammer.

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Saturday September 22 at 7 pm

Will the Real Norman Mailer Please Stand Up?

Directed by Dick Fontaine, Appearing in Person
US 1968, video, color, 60 min.

 

Norman Mailer vs. Fun City, USA

Directed by Dick Fontaine, Appearing in Person
US 1970, video, color, 50 min.

These two documentaries directed by British filmmaker Dick Fontaine offer vérité portraits of Mailer in the late 1960s. Will the Real Norman Mailer Please Stand Up? is the filmed counterpart to Mailer’s Pulitzer-winning nonfiction novel, The Armies of the Night which focuses on his participation in the antiwar protest movement.  In addition, the film provides behind the scenes footage of the filming of Beyond the Law. Norman Mailer vs. Fun City, USA documents Mailer’s 1969 bid for the Mayor’s office in New York City.  Accompanied by his running mate, Jimmy Breslin, Mailer charismatically works the press and the public with a provocative platform that ultimately fails.

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Saturday September 22 at 9:45 pm

Tough Guys Don’t Dance

Directed by Norman Mailer
With Ryan O’Neal, Isabella Rossellini, Lawrence Tierney.
US 1987, 35mm, color, 110 min.

Mailer returned to directing after nearly twenty years for this adaptation of his best-selling novel. Ryan O’Neal portrays an alcoholic writer living in Provincetown whose life goes haywire when he discovers a decapitated head. Compared to Tarantino for his stylized mix of grotesque violence and rapid-fire dialogue, Mailer described this puzzler as “a murder mystery, a suspense tale, a film of horror, and a comedy of manners.” Print courtesy of Pennebaker Hegedus Films.

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Sunday September 23 at 3 pm

Town Bloody Hall

Directed by Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker
US 1979, video, color, 88 min.

In this fascinating verbal battle of the sexes, Mailer faces off with Germaine Greer in a famed 1971 debate on women’s liberation held at New York City’s Town Hall. Hours of raw footage of the event sat on Pennebaker’s shelf for several years before Hegedus edited it down to feature length creating an insightful documents of early 1970s gender politics. Print courtesy of Pennebaker Hegedus Films.

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Double Feature Screening – 2 Films for the price of 1
Sunday September 23 at 7 pm

Wild 90

Directed by Norman Mailer
With Norman Mailer, Mickey Knox, Buzz Farber
US 1968, video, b/w, 90 min.

Based on drunken late night improvisations developed by Mailer, Knox and Farber following stage performances of The Deer Park, Wild 90 follows the uneventful exchanges of three small-time crooks holed up in a rundown New York apartment. Despite poor sound recording, this improvisational work features a vigorous performance from Mailer whether taunting his cronies or going nose to nose with a German Shepherd. Print courtesy of Pennebaker Hegedus Films.

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Sunday September 23 at 8:45 pm

Beyond the Law

Directed by Norman Mailer
With Norman Mailer, Rip Torn, George Plimpton
US 1968, video, b/w, 90 min.

A night at a Manhattan police station provides the context for
Mailer’s second feature in which he plays a morally corrupt Irish cop. Featuring appearances by George Plimpton as the Mayor and Rip Torn as a freewheeling biker, this police procedural was constructed using three camera crews which simultaneously recorded the frenzied scenes of interrogation. Print courtesy of Pennebaker Hegedus Films.

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