Cinematheque: Ashby’s “The Landlord,” 12/3

Cinematheque: Ashby’s “The Landlord,” 12/3

The Telluride Film Festival and Telluride’s five-star Wilkinson Public Library have teamed up for another Cinematheque. A free series for the cinephile at heart, patrons are treated to food and lively discussion at each of the four Monday night screenings in the library’s Program Room. The ongoing fall/winter film study dives into seminal works by the great director Hal Ashby, whose iconic films includes COMING HOME (1978), THE LANDLORD (1970), HAROLD AND MAUDE (1971), THE LAST DETAIL (1973), SHAMPOO (1975) and BEING THERE (1979), among others. Ashby helped drive the dialog and ideology of a nation navigating its way through the 1970s. His meditations still hold up today, as our nation finds itself in a new kind of revolution. Check out THE LANDLORD on Monday, December 3, 6 p.m. And scroll down to watch the trailer for the movie.

As a young adult, Ashby moved from Utah to California, where he pursued a bohemian lifestyle and became an editor (THE LOVED ONE, THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING~THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING, IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT). Ashby said throughout his career that his time as an editor gave him the techniques and insight that he later perfected as a director.

Ashby directed his first film, THE LANDLORD, in 1970, (112 minutes, Rated R), which revolutionized the way racism was portrayed in American cinema: with honesty.

“Instead of staying on that safe, predictable level, it begins to dig into the awkwardness and hypocrisy of our commonly shared attitudes about race,” wrote Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun Times.

The film follows Elger Winthrop Enders (Beau Bridges), a rich society kid approaching his 30th birthday who decides it is time to move away from his parents’ home. He purchases a tenement house in a Brooklyn ghetto because (as he says while relaxing beside the family pool), “everyone wants a home of his own, you know.” 

Upon its release, The New York Times called the film, “a wondrously wise, sad and hilarious comedy.” In another article published by The NY Times 37 years later, journalist Mike Hale wrote “Before Gentrification Was Cool, It Was a Movie.” He praised THE LANDLORD for tackling racial tension head on and said in surprise how the film, “…would disappear after its 1970 release – rarely shown and just as rarely discussed.”

One of Ashby’s most important works.

With Beau Bridges, Louis Gossett, Jr., Pearl Bailey, Lee Grant and Diana Sands.

Upcoming screenings for January and February include HAROLD AND MAUDE (1971, 91 minutes, Rated PG), about the love between a suicidal young man of about 20 and an almost 80-year-old widow, and BEING THERE (1979, 130 minutes, Rated PG), on Roger Ebert’s list of “Great Movies” and featuring the mesmerizing Peter Sellers.

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