The joys of TCM Fest are twofold: seeing perennial favorites on a big screen for the first time and discovering unearthed gems for the first time anywhere. The former category is as stacked as ever this year — highlights include John Huston's The African Queen, William Wyler's Ben-Hur and a brand-new restoration of Terrence Malick's Badlands — but, per the norm, it's the largely unseen curios that most warrant a trip to the Hollywood & Highland area this weekend. This particular pleasure of the festival has its locus in the Discoveries program, which this year features 14 films made between 1932 and 1971.
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Turner Classic Movies' four-day festival, now in its fourth iteration and running today through Sunday, again looks poised to draw a rewarding balance between the classic and the underappreciated — with the fest's exceptionally intrepid audience helping to tip the scales toward the latter.
The siren call of Bonnie and Clyde at the Chinese Theater this Saturday will no doubt be difficult to ignore, for instance, but might we recommend moseying next door to the Mann Chinese 6 for Claude Autant-Lara's La Traversée de Paris instead? The film, usually referred to stateside as Four Bags Full, stars the legendary Jean Gabin (of Grand Illusion, Daybreak and Pépé le Moko fame) as one of two black marketeers attempting to smuggle suitcases full of pork in Nazi-occupied Paris; it's more or less impossible to find on DVD. You might even wake up early that morning in order to make the 9 a.m. screening of The Swimmer, which stars Burt Lancaster in what is sometimes cited as his best performance. About a wealthy ad exec who decides to get home by swimming through a series of backyard pools one day, Frank Perry's most highly regarded film remains an object of fascination, in part because of the 52-year-old Lancaster's willingness to expose his butt for his role.
Perhaps the most enticing offering is the blacklisted Cy Endfield's Try and Get Me, based on a real-life kidnapping incident from 1933, which led to an equally real lynch mob; it screens Saturday at 9 p.m. A financial failure that was condemned by the House Un-American Activities Committee, it represents the best of TCM Fest: a film that was potentially dangerous to watch when it was released and has been difficult to see in the decades since.
TCM CLASSIC FILM FESTIVAL | TCL Chinese Theatre, Chinese 6, Egyptian Theatre and others | April 25-28 | filmfestival.tcm.com