Tibbits Classic Film Series will re-introduce audiences to two forgotten masterpieces when they screen Joel and Ethan Coen’s “Miller’s Crossing” and Martin Scorsese’s “The King of Comedy” on January 11th at 6:00 pm.
Even film makers who are generally regarded as geniuses can make a film that slips into obscurity. “Miller’s Crossing” and “The King of Comedy” are classics to film buffs but are mostly unknown to the general public. These films either fade away due to not being well-received by audiences at the time of their release, or as is the case with “The King of Comedy,” the creator’s films before and after are so highly praised or infamous— “Taxi Driver,” “Raging Bull,” “The Last Temptation of Christ,” and “Goodfellas”— that they are just plain overlooked.
The evening will open with Joel and Ethan Coen’s “Miller’s Crossing,” a neo-noir mob movie set during Prohibition. Tom Reagan is the chief adviser to a mob boss, Leo, who is in a dispute with lower level boss, Johnny Caspar, over the activities of bookie Bernie Bernbaum. Meanwhile, Tom is in a secret relationship with Leo’s girlfriend, Verna who happens to be Bernie’s sister. In trying to resolve the situation without bloodshed, Tom is cast out from Leo’s camp and ultimately finds himself stuck between several deadly and unforgiving parties. “Miller’s Crossing” was considered a huge failure at the time, making back a little over five million dollars of its 14-million-dollar budget. In later years it found an audience on home video and in 2005 Time Magazine chose it as one of the 100 greatest films made since the magazine’s inception. “Miller’s Crossing” stars Gabriel Byrne, Albert Finney, John Turturro, and Marcia Gay Harden.
Rounding out the evening is Martin Scorsese’s black-comedy gem, “The King of Comedy.” Rupert Pupkin is obsessed with becoming a comedy great. After meeting his idol, comedian and talk show host Jerry Langford, Rupert sincerely believes he has been given a spot on Langford’s show and a shot at stardom. Reality soon drags Rupert out of his cloud of delusion and he realizes to get on Langford’s show he will have to enlist the help of his celebrity-obsessed friend Masha and kidnap the comedy great. Some film buffs consider this film to be a companion piece to “Taxi Driver.” Both films are set in New York City and deal with a main character who has a distorted sense of reality. “The King of Comedy” is more along the lines of “The Office,” compared to “Taxi Driver” which is very dark, violent, and depressing. Like “Miller’s Crossing,” “The King of Comedy” also bombed with audiences making back a feeble $2.5 million of its $19 million budget but found an audience in later years. Actor Steve Carell, a fan of black comedies, cited “The King of Comedy” as a personal favorite and fans of “The Office” will be able to see the influence of De Niro’s Rupert Pupkin on Carrell’s Michael Scott. “The King of Comedy” stars Robert De Niro, Jerry Lewis, and Sandra Bernhard.
“Forgotten Masterpieces” is the fourth installment of the Tibbits Classic Film Series, an 8-part set of monthly double features showcasing Hollywood classics from every decade screened at the Tibbits Opera House on 14 S. Hanchett Street in downtown Coldwater. The Classic Film Series is sponsored by Dr. Matthew Christopher, DDS. Admission to the film series is free unless noted. Concessions, including a cash bar, will be available for purchase. For more information, please visit Tibbits.org or call 517-278-6029.