News Column

'Citizen Kane' part of Plaza Classic Film Fest tribute to Roger Ebert

August 5, 2013

YellowBrix

Aug. 05--Roger Ebert might have given a big thumbs up to this year's Plaza Classic Film Festival.

The sixth annual edition of the 12-day festival, which runs through Sunday, includes a series of seven of the late Chicago Sun-Times film critic's favorite movies.

Called "Ebert Everlasting," the series includes Orson Welles' "Citizen Kane," which will be shown at 7 tonight in the Plaza Theatre.

Also scheduled: Werner Herzog's "Fitcarraldo" at 6:30 tonight in the Philanthropy Theatre, Federico Fellini's "La Dolce Vita" at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Philanthropy and the Russ Meyer sex romp "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls," which Ebert co-wrote, at 9:30 p.m. Saturday in the Plaza Theatre.

The series, which started Friday, also featured Welles' "The Third Man," Japanese filmmaker Yasujiro Ozu's "Tokyo Story" and Martin Scorsese's "GoodFellas."

Charles Horak, the film festival's artistic director, believes that showing some of Ebert's favorite movies is a fitting way to honor a man he has called "a peerless purveyor of cinema and a wonderful writer."

"I like the idea of sitting in the theater watching a film and maybe trying to watch it through his eyes," Horak said.

"These are great films, certainly, but what made them personal favorites? Maybe it helps us intuit

who he was as a human being, not just a critic," Horak said of the series.

Ebert, who died at age 70 on April 4, took film criticism from the pages of the newspaper to TV screens, joining Chicago Tribute critic Gene Siskel in 1975 on PBS' groundbreaking "Sneak Previews" show, where they signaled thumbs up or thumbs down on the movies they reviewed.

He started as a film critic at the Sun-Times in 1967 and continued writing, including

blogs until his death, even though he battled cancer since 2002 and lost his ability to speak five years later.

"I don't know how he did it," said Laura Emerick, his editor at the Sun-Times and a regular guest at the Plaza Classic.

"He saw more films than he might have otherwise because it kept him going to write and share his passions with others," she said. "When he decided to go full force on the Internet, with his blog and Twitter, that became his voice. Even though he couldn't talk, he was probably more expressive."

Tonight's offering, "Citizen Kane," is a particularly apt inclusion, in part because Ebert championed Welles' and other filmmakers, including Martin Scorsese, Spike Lee and Ozu.

"He saw it many times. He respected what Orson had done, how he perservered and how everything was aligning against him," said Emerick, Ebert's editor since 1994.

"He was regarded as the first American (film) auteur, which meant much to Roger," she said. "He did many seminars where he'd take the film and analyze it shot by shot. He never tired of doing that."

The Oscar-winning 1941 film was Welles' first, coming on the heels of a successful carer in theater and radio, including a groundbreaking, and alarming, live broadcast of H.G. Wells' "The War of the Worlds" in 1938.

Welles

was given free rein to make the movie he wanted, unusual for a first-time director when studios ruled Hollywood.

He produced, directed, co-wrote and starred as Charles Foster Kane, which was a commercial failure initially. It was embraced by French critics, then revived in the United States in the 1950s.

"Citizen Kane" chronicles the rise and fall of a politically motivated newspaper owner. Most of it is told in hindsight.

"The film's construction shows how our lives, after we are gone, survive only in the memories of others, and those memories butt up against the walls we erect and the roles we play," Ebert wrote in 1998.

"There is the Kane who made shadow figures with his fingers, and the Kane who hated the traction trust, the Kane who chose his mistress over his marriage and political career, the Kane who entertained millions, the Kane who died alone."

Doug Pullen may be reached at 546-6397.

-- Films remaining in the Plaza Classic Film Festival's "Ebert Everlasting" series

-- "Fitzcarraldo," German with English subtitles, 6:30 p.m. today Philanthropy Theatre. $4.

-- "Citizen Kane," 7 p.m. today, Plaza Theatre. $8.

-- "La Dolce Vita," Italian with English subtitles, 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Philanthropy Theatre. $4.

-- "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls," written by Russ Meyer and Ebert, 9:30 p.m. Saturday, Philanthropy Theatre. $4.

___

(c)2013 the El Paso Times (El Paso, Texas)

Visit the El Paso Times (El Paso, Texas) at www.elpasotimes.com

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