Film noir’s feline stars: The cat in ‘Sudden Fear’

Happy Halloween everyone! More on the most famous kitties in film noir

The Cat in “Sudden Fear” 1952

Name: Scair D. Cat

Character Name: Alcatraz Joe

His one-time acting role allowed Chicago-born Scair D. Cat to pursue his culinary ambitions on the West Coast.

Bio: Having grown up in the back room of Chicago’s Katnip Klub on Lincoln Park West (“where no puss gets the boot”), Scair D. Cat was on particularly friendly terms with bartenders, bouncers and cooks. In fact, it was by helping out in the kitchen that he perfected a secret steak sauce he hoped to introduce to a bigger audience.

After receiving the blessing of the Klub’s management, Scair decided the sauce was ready for the big leagues and on a chilly winter day in 1952 skulked his way to Table One of the famous Pump Room restaurant at the Ambassador East Hotel, seeking to snag the chef’s attention.

But as Fate would have it, Joan Crawford and director David Miller were the human guests at Table One that day, discussing their upcoming project, the melodramatic thriller “Sudden Fear,” set in San Francisco. Crawford’s role as a playwright, who marries a younger man (Jack Palance) but discovers his treacherous true colors and carefully plots her retaliation, was one of her most demanding.

Crawford, eyes bulging and brows arched, took one look at Scair’s bulging eyes and arched brows, and convinced Miller that he should be cast as Alcatraz Joe. Scair was not the least bit interested in acting or Hollywood but Crawford won him over by promising that she would help promote his steak sauce on the West Coast as soon as filming wrapped. And Crawford made the ideal choice – Scair lends a shocking fierceness and rugged theatricality to the intense chase scenes toward the movie’s end.

True to her word, Crawford made several important introductions for her feline co-star. At the same time, Scair fell in love with the West Coast and began creating seafood sauces and recipes. He set up shop in San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf and became a consultant to restaurants such as Alioto’s. He and Crawford remained close friends.

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Edith, Head of her class: A shrewd woman with a sharp eye and unprecedented success in Hollywood

Famed costume designer Edith Head knew that clothes should underscore an actor’s character, not upstage it. And she applied the same discipline to dealing with Hollywood’s elite, putting every ounce of effort into making them look their absolute best while deflecting attention from herself.

Edith Head

Actress Susan Claassen

A shrewd approach along with her natural talent for design, a gift for navigating studio politics and a tremendous amount of hard work made her one of the movie industry’s most successful women.

In her 60-year career, at Paramount and Universal, she worked on more than 1,131 films, received 35 Academy Award nominations and won eight Oscars, more than any other woman. (Walt Disney, with 26 Oscars, holds the record for a man.)

This savvy lady with her tailored suits, neat little bun and statement specs comes out of the shadows and into the spotlight in “A Conversation With Edith Head,” which opened Friday night at LA’s Odyssey Theatre. And she’s spirited, strong, funny and flawed as played by actress Susan Claassen.

One of her peccadilloes was a disdain for modesty. “I’m not different from other designers, I’m the best,” Claassen tells the audience matter of factly. Another memorable Head aphorism: “You can have anything you want in life, if you dress for it.”

Tinseltown anecdotes and stories of working with the stars are sprinkled throughout the play, which is set in 1981. Head died in October of that year at age 83, still under contract to Universal, having just completed the Steve Martin film “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid.”

The show recreates Head's cocktail dress for Bette Davis (far left) and a gown for Elizabeth Taylor (far right).

The format includes questions from the audience as well as free advice on your sartorial choices. Since Claassen called me stunning and asked if I was a model, naturally I think the woman is the greatest genius known to Western civilization. ;)

But, joking aside, Claassen is brilliant in this role, capturing the character’s gestures, mannerisms and demeanor without mimicry or impersonation. Claassen reveals the enormous power Head wielded through her sketch pad and pencil as well as the sacrifices (15-hour days, six days a week in her heyday), self-doubt and sadness that were facets of her extraordinary life.

A closer look at the recreated dress for Bette Davis in "All About Eve" from 1950.

Claassen, who recently received an Ovation nomination for Lead Actress in a Play for this part, co-wrote the work with Paddy Calistro, author of the book “Edith Head’s Hollywood.” The idea came to Claassen while watching a TV biography about Head.

Says Claassen: “Not only do I bear a striking resemblance to Edith, but we share the same love for clothes and fashion. … There are many myths about her, but she was a discreet, tenacious personality. She knew whose hips needed clever disguising and made sure those legendary stars always looked the part.”

Head was a frequent collaborator with Alfred Hitchcock and added élan to the wardrobe of film noir stars, dressing, for example, Barbara Stanwyck in “Double Indemnity,” Gloria Swanson in “Sunset Blvd.,” Ingrid Bergman in “Notorious,” Grace Kelly in “Rear Window” and “To Catch a Thief,” Kim Novak in “Vertigo,” and Tippi Hedren in “The Birds.”

She also dressed Bette Davis as the glamorous actress Margo Channing in “All About Eve” and designed Elizabeth Taylor’s white ball gown in “A Place in the Sun.” In fact, she worked with nearly all the Hollywood greats, including Mae West, Clara Bow, Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren, Marlene Dietrich, Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, Sean Connery, Robert Redford and Paul Newman.

When in 1967 Paramount chose not to renew her contract, she was hired by Universal, thanks to her friendship with Hitchcock, who perhaps really was her favorite director, despite her practical policy of naming her favorite director as the one for whom she was currently working.

Opening night fell on Head's birthday. Cake and champagne were in order, natch.

Though Head’s motto was to accentuate the positive and camouflage the negative, the chapter of her childhood spent in the Nevada desert was good training for holding her own in Hollywood. She was, she said, used to dealing with scorpions.

Opening night coincided with what would have been Head’s 114th birthday so, after the show, party guests sipped champagne and ate red-velvet birthday cake, donated by Susie Cakes.

“A Conversation With Edith Head” is a guest production at the Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, 90025. It runs Thursdays through Sundays through Nov. 13. (The play premiered in Tucson, Ariz., in 2002 and has since played in many US cities and abroad.) Tickets are $40. For more information: 310-477-2055; www.edithhead.biz.

Photos from the production are copyright of Film Noir Blonde.

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In his short life, Jean Vigo helped ignite a cinematic uprising

October’s reader giveaway, announced earlier this month, is Criterion’s anthology of French filmmaker Jean Vigo and a Chicago film fest T-shirt. To enter, just comment on any post this month. Here, critic Michael Wilmington discusses the director and his work.

He died at 29: Jean Vigo, the spirit of youth, of art, of cinematic rebellion, of France between the wars. He was a citizen of the world cinema, even though he directed only four films: two documentary shorts, a featurette, and one feature, all of them to some degree commercial and critical failures. And yet Vigo lives.

The son of a revolutionary who died in a prison, Vigo helped ignite an artistic and cinematic uprising. He and his co-conspirators, Jean Renoir, Pierre Chenal, Julien Duvivier, and Marcel Carné, created Poetic Realism, beautiful stylized portrayals of marginalized, often doomed characters, such as criminals. This style of filmmaking, along with German Expression, greatly influenced film noir.

Jean Vigo

The look of Vigo’s films inspired 1940s and ’50s Hollywood. His great collaborator was the cinematographer Boris Kaufman, a poet of light, who later shot “On the Waterfront” for Elia Kazan and Sidney Lumet’s “12 Angry Men.”

Vigo’s works are records of the real – love and sex, wealth and poverty, French culture, French life as it was lived in the 1930s – and documents of the surreal, that mysterious land of our dreams.

He made movies about sunny resort cities and the bourgeoisie at play (1930’s “À propos de Nice), about a real-life Olympic champion swimmer (1931’s “Taris”), about schoolboys in revolt in a school run by monsters (1933’s “Zéro de Conduite”) and about two lovers and a wild old man on a barge on the river (1934’s “L’Atalante”).

“Zéro de Conduite,” a 44-minute featurette was based on Vigo’s memories of boarding school days, a nightmare of absurdities, tangled up with lyrical flights of freedom. The sarcastic treatment given the school’s bizarre academics is probably partly responsible for the film’s long banning in France (1933-45).

Dita Parlo and Michel Simon star in "L'Atalante."

“L’Atalante” remains one of the most hypnotically beautiful and lyrical films ever made. Twice, in 1962 and 1992, “L’Atalante” was voted one of the 10 greatest films of all time in the Sight and Sound International film poll. It is now a national treasure in France.

Vigo died in 1934. His work was trashed and forgotten, then resurrected and restored a decade after his death, and seen all over the world. If you see these films, they will make you feel more alive. They will flood your heart with love, your eyes with beauty and your mind with poetry, mad comedy and dreams. There are only four Jean Vigo films, but they open up a world for us. If we let them.

This Criterion anthology offers excellent special features and of course the films:

“À propos de Nice” (1930, silent, English intertitles)

“Taris” (1931, English subtitles) With Jean Taris.

“Zéro de Conduite” (1933, English subtitles) With Jean Daste, Louis Lefebvre.

“L’Atalante” (1934, English subtitles) With Michel Simon, Dita Parlo, Jean Daste, Louis Lefebvre.

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CIFF roundup: more neo noirs, After Dark and documentaries

"Once Upon a Time in Anatolia" is a nod to Leone.

There was something for every cinephile’s taste at the Chicago International Film Festival. Here are a few more impressions.

Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan earned much praise from critics for his nod to Sergio Leone, “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia,” a slow-burn search for a buried body led by a police team, a forensic doctor and a prosecutor with the killer in tow.

As the hunt drags on (the killer can’t remember the exact location), other secrets emerge from these richly drawn characters. Starring Muhammet Uzuner, Yilmaz Erdogan and Taner Birsel.

Riley Keough

“The Good Doctor” (US) might make you think twice about heading to the ER. Orlando Bloom is Dr. Martin Blake, ambitious, hard-working and a bit of a fish out of water as an Englishman working in California. He also has a pesky habit of playing God.

It’s intriguing, to be sure, but a shame that we never get any sense of why Blake goes to the dark side. Riley Keough co-stars as his trusting teenage patient; Taraji P. Henson is the head nurse, Michael Peña is the partying orderly. Directed by Ireland’s Lance Daly.

After Dark
The fest’s After Dark horror-movie lineup, full of guts, gore and zombies galore, was expanded to 17 films and for the first time these titles were part of the official competition. Highlights included “Rabies,” Israel’s first slasher film and the first Cuban zombie film, Alejandro Brugues’ “Juan of the Dead,” which was an audience favorite.

I couldn’t fit “Juan” into my schedule, but enjoyed “Rabies” by Navot Papushado and Aharon Keshales, a former critic. An ill-fated walk in the woods leads a man to beg for help from four strangers. At the same time, a Good Samaritan in another part of the woods sees the work of a crazed killer firsthand (his beautiful dog is slain) and tries to prevent more harm. Cops are called too but to no avail. Extremely entertaining with a whip-smart script.

Far less entertaining and rather a let-down was “The Whisperer in the Darkness” (US), from director Sean Branney with a screenplay by Andrew Leman based on an H.P. Lovecraft story. Shot in black and white as an ode to 1930s horror flicks, “Whisperer” is a movie you’re really hoping to like. Unfortunately, the stilted acting, tepid direction and feeble script all keep the movie earth-bound and draggy.

Documentaries
In a world where individualism is on the wane, welcome inspiration for living your own personal dream comes from fashion icon and legendary editor Diana Vreeland. Drink in her influence when you see “Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel” (US), a movie full of personal history, pure whimsy and gorgeous images. No matter where you fall on the style spectrum, you’ll enjoy this first-rate film by Lisa Immordino Vreeland, who won the fest’s Silver Hugo for her work.

Werner Herzog

Werner Herzog’s “Into the Abyss” (US) looks at the far-reaching repercussions of a 2001 murder case in which three people were killed, one man was executed and another is serving a 40-year prison sentence.

Herzog told the Los Angeles Times: “I think in this particular case, with this very senseless crime, so senseless it’s staggering, what fascinated me was that it points to a decay in family values and the cohesion of society, all these things that looked so big and beyond this case. It was not a question of proving [the perpetrators’] guilt or innocence.” Enthralling throughout.

Werner Herzog image from The Guardian; Riley Keough image from 411mania

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The Marilyn Chronicles at Chicago film fest

Chicago saw the installation this summer of a 26-foot-tall tacky statue of Marilyn Monroe by J. Seward Johnson, so maybe it’s fitting that the city’s film fest hosted two Marilyn flicks, both much more elegant than the gargantuan “Seven Year Itch” tribute.
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Simon Curtis’ “My Week with Marilyn” (UK) offers a glimpse into a brief period in the troubled actress’ life: her 1956 trip to London to shoot “The Prince and the Show Girl” in which she co-starred with Sir Laurence Olivier.
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The source material is “The Prince, the Showgirl and Me,” a memoir by Colin Clark, an assistant director on the film and son of art historian Sir Kenneth Clark (of “Civilisation” fame). Curtis brings the memoir to life with sumptuous cinematography and spellbinding, Oscar-worthy performances from Michelle Williams as Marilyn, Kenneth Branagh as Olivier and Eddie Redmayne as Colin Clark.
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“MWWM” also explores profound changes in the world of film acting as the Stanislavski/Method school took hold of Hollywood and clashed with British style, still deeply rooted in stage tradition.

"Nobody Else But You"

Darkly funny, quirky and delightful to watch was the story of a modern-day Marilyn, “Nobody Else But You,” by Gérald Hustache-Mathieu. Sophie Quinton plays Candice Lecoeur, a luscious weathergirl in a remote French village whose life oddly parallels Marilyn’s and in a “Laura”-like way becomes the focus of a murder mystery.

Hustache-Mathieu’s most brilliant achievement is the unlikely mix of disparate mood and tone – farce, black humor, drama – fluidly, splendidly coming together. The audience loved it and high-energy Hustache-Mathieu was humbly charming at the post-screening Q&A.
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In writer/director Julia Leigh’s erotic reworking of the fairy tale “Sleeping Beauty” (Australia) we meet another stunning blonde: Emily Browning as Lucy, a desperate college student using her looks to make a living in the sex industry. Though I admired Browning’s performance, the movie was disappointingly sluggish and dull.
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Tomorrow: More highlights from the fest
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Dark dramas shine at Chicago International Film Festival

Dark domestic dramas led the fine slate of high-style movies at the 47th Chicago International Film Festival, which boasted a lineup of nearly 200 titles.

In “We Need to Talk About Kevin” (UK) by Lynne Ramsay, neo noir meets New Age parenting in a haunting thriller. We witness, in jagged pieces that jump back and forth in time, the unthinkably brutal rupture of a dysfunctional but not entirely unhappy family.

Creating buzz at many fests, Tilda Swinton will doubtless continue to earn acclaim for her wrenching portrait of a mother struggling to love her son Kevin (Ezra Miller) who comes into the world seething with anger. Chicago-born John C. Reilly plays her denial-prone husband. Rich with visual metaphor and captivating performances (though the script is not fully there), this is destined to be a neo-noir classic. (“We Need to Talk About Kevin” does not release in the US until February.)

Samuli Niittymaki

I doubt Finnish director Zaida Bergroth had “Mildred Pierce” in mind when she made “The Good Son,” which won the top prize in the new directors competition. But I kept thinking of Michael Curtiz’s 1945 classic starring Joan Crawford as a flawed single mother of two daughters, the elder of whom is a bit of a snake, as I watched Elina Knihtila portray Leila, a flawed single mother of two sons, the elder of whom (Samuli Niittymaki as Illmari), is a bit of a psycho.

Eero Aho plays Leila’s new love interest, a kindly writer named Aimo. Anna Paavilainen is excellent as Illmari’s girlfriend as is Eetu Julin as Unto, the younger brother. Arresting images, subtle acting, nicely paced.

Arguably, “A Dangerous Method” (Germany/Canada) by David Cronenberg could be classified as a domestic drama, dealing as it does with the long-term adulterous relationship between renowned Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) and a patient-turned-student-of-psychoanalysis Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley). Viggo Mortensen is Sigmund Freud; Sarah Gadon is Jung’s wife. This finely crafted film is already generating Oscar buzz.

“Martha Marcy May Marlene” (US) is the kind of film that leaves you reeling, then lodges in your mind for days. Elizabeth Olsen (sister of Ashley and Mary Kate) stars as a young woman who escapes from an evil cult and struggles to reconnect with her estranged sister (Sarah Paulson) and her new brother-in-law (Hugh Dancy). Writer/director Sean Durkin’s fragmented narrative swerves from past to present; the tension mounts masterfully to a claustrophobic level. Thoroughly mesmerizing, but as much as I admired Olsen’s presence and vulnerability (she may be an Oscar contender), I felt no sympathy for her character. John Hawkes (of “Winter’s Bone”) is unforgettable as the warped cult leader.

English actor Dexter Fletcher makes an impressive directorial debut with “Wild Bill.” Though the story is essentially rooted in cliché, the fresh writing and powerful acting inject vitality into this tale of an ex-con (Charlie Creed-Miles) reconnecting with his young sons (Will Poulter and Sammy Williams) in London’s East End.

A desire for a father-daughter reunion drives the ex-con (Mark Pellegrino) in “Joint Body” by Brian Jun. But he gets sidetracked when he meets a stripper (Alicia Witt) in a seedy residential motel in downstate Illinois and the two end up on the run. (The term joint body refers to a convict who works out and walks the walk with confidence.)

Too melodramatic to be a real thriller, Thierry Klifa’s “His Mother’s Eyes/Les Yeux de Sa Mère,” (France) about a writer’s plan to ingratiate himself into a fractured family, is still intelligent, engrossing and features an easy-on-the-eyes cast, which includes ever-lovely Catherine Deneuve, Nicolas Duvauchelle, Géraldine Pailhas and Jean-Baptiste Lafarge.

And though definitely not a noir, the festival’s grand-prize winner, “Le Havre” (Finland/France) by Aki Kaurismaki, recounts the forming of a temporary, makeshift family. A working class French man (André Wilms) befriends and protects an African boy (Blondin Miguel) who lands illegally in Le Havre on the way to reuniting with his mother in London. Lit and composed like an Old Master painting, Kaurismaki’s film brims with humanity and humor.

Tomorrow: More about movies at the festival

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CIFF closes with ‘The Artist,’ Marilyn photo show opens in LA

The Chicago International Film Festival closes tonight with a much anticipated French film, “The Artist,” by writer/director Michel Hazanavicius. Described by the festival as “a love letter to the movies,” the story is set in 1927 Hollywood as silent films gave way to sound.

“The Artist” stars Jean Dujardin (he snared the Best Actor award at Cannes in May), Bérénice Bejo and John Goodman. It opens in the U.S. on Nov. 23.

I will posting in more detail about the films I saw and people I met at the fest as well as some ideas for retro chic dining in Chicago.

Meanwhile, in LA, the Hollywood Film Festival starts today at the ArcLight Cinema in Hollywood and runs through Oct. 24.

And on Friday from 7-9 p.m., the Duncan Miller Gallery is hosting the opening reception of 12 Photographs (and more) of Marilyn Monroe.

In addition to 12 large-format images from Lawrence Schiller, the exhibition features iconic prints from other photographers who captured Marilyn, including Philippe Halsman, Milton Greene, Bob Willoughby, Murray Garrett and Benn Mitchell.

The show runs through Nov. 26 at the Duncan Miller Gallery, 10959 Venice Blvd., Los Angeles, 90034, 310-838-2440.

Marilyn Monroe image copyright Murray Garrett

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Rolling Stones: Some Girls Live in Texas shows band at its best

I took a break from the Chicago Film Fest, which ends Thursday, to watch The Rolling Stones: Some Girls Live in Texas (a live concert shot in 1978 and shown last night in movie theaters nationwide). Seeing it made me think of a piece I wrote when I was on staff at the Chicago Tribune. This essay ran in January 2003 a few days before I saw the Stones live in Chicago. It’s an oldie but I hope still a goodie.

Copyright: The Chicago Tribune

An oddly touching moment over the holidays was seeing this tag on a gift from a girlfriend: “To Jackie, the Sixth Stone,” acknowledging my decades-long attachment to Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and the boys. The reason it touched me is that of all the millions of Rolling Stones fans around the world, I’m probably the least deserving of the honorary inclusion.

A vintage shot of the original band.

I’m a loyal fan and I love them to death. But I have to confess: I’m sort of a “lite fan.”

I have no idea what their first hit single was, I can’t recite all of the songs on “Exile on Main Street” and my fairly extensive collection of Stones memorabilia is composed mostly of gifts, rather than the result of any vigorous scouring or even casual browsing on my part.

That’s probably because I missed the early “street fighting” days, having become smitten in the 1980s. It may be a rite of passage for girls to have crushes on rock stars, but almost 20 years later my swooning is still going strong.

I think the first Stones record I bought was “Emotional Rescue.” The first one I fell in love with was “Some Girls,” which I probably “borrowed” from one of my older siblings.

My older sister is a big fan, although I don’t have any pivotal memory of her playing a song for me or of trying to copy her taste in music. As adults, we’ve attended several Stones shows together and last summer she flew in to attend the party I held to celebrate Sir Michael’s 59th birthday. (It was well attended, even if the guest of honor didn’t make it.)

Mick Jagger in 1978

What I find especially entertaining, besides the music of course, is that revealing my adoration yields varying and vehement responses.

I often hear the charge that Mick is a womanizer. And it’s pretty tough to argue to the contrary. Concerts and conquests have accounted for a huge chunk of his life. But my impression is that he’s been pretty open about not wanting to settle down and be faithful to one woman. Anyone who got involved with him would have to have been living in a cave not to realize that.

Sometimes people whine that the band should retire. It bores me to hear the claim that the Stones are passé or over the hill, and to the people who wrongly think the group hasn’t done anything good recently, I say, “So what? They’ve already done enough great stuff to last another 40 years.”

Meanwhile, without ever specifically seeking out fellow fans, I’ve bonded with people who share my love for the Stones. When I lived in London in the late 1980s and early ’90s, I went to lots of parties that culminated in guitars being plugged in, Stones songs being played and dancing until morning.

Producer/manager Andrew Oldham once wrote that "the Rolling Stones are more than just a group, they are a way of life."

I also encountered a fair amount of snobbery. “Mick’s trying to write an autobiography, except he can’t remember anything that happened past last year,” was one snide remark from a friend who thought the Stones were overrated.

It was in London that I met my French friend Véronique and discovered that in addition to our mutual frustration with English plumbing, we also shared a fascination with the sexy, stylish and silly Mick Jagger.

Given her record at other Stones shows, I wouldn’t put it past Véronique to try to use my above-mentioned gift-tag as a backstage pass. “I must see Meeck,” were her parting words when she left my boyfriend and me at Wembley Arena and rushed closer to the stage. I didn’t see her again that night. The next morning she called to say she had maneuvered her way into the third row – within touching distance of Meeck – and that we had been foolishly timid to stay behind. In fact, it wasn’t fear as much as confusion and disbelief at the way she took off.

But more power to her, I thought. And she has never hesitated to get up and dance to Stones songs at a pub, a bar or a party on either side of the Atlantic. It actually works better if different people “play” different band members, but with her I make concessions and we both play Mick.

Having left London with zero Stones sightings aside from Wembley, I almost booked a vacation to Mustique because Mick has a house there; until I checked the dizzying schedule of connecting flights from Chicago and chose St. Martin instead. Well, perhaps I’ll run into him in the south of France sometime.

The Stones' last studio album was "A Bigger Bang," 2005.

I briefly dated a friend of a friend whom I met at the “Bridges to Babylon” show at Soldier Field in 1997. Other romances have fizzled upon the discovery that I fawned from afar over Mick – who is not a “skinny little runt.”

A friend I met last year established a permanent claim to being cool when he revealed that he had once obtained backstage passes and met the whole band before seeing the show. “They’re all much shorter than I am,” he informed me. He added that Mick was diplomatic; Keith was dipping into a bottle.

Mick, with his prancing and preening, his strutting and sashaying, will always be my No. 1 favorite. But over the years my appreciation and affection for Keith has grown considerably. Yes, he’s still scruffy and spaced out, but endearingly so, I think now. And as a musician, he’s matchless. I understand why Mick is the leader, but even lite fans know that Mick really wants to be Keith and Keith is actually in awe of Charlie Watts, deadpan and detached, and charmingly eccentric.

For Wednesday night’s show, I’m happy to be going with a bona fide, longtime and proper fan. He vividly recalls hearing his first Stones song, “Satisfaction,” and can recite all the songs on the first Stones album he bought, “Aftermath.”

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CIFF announces winners; honors Mackie with tribute

The Chicago International Film Festival, headed by founder and artistic director Michael Kutza, last night announced the winners of this year’s competition.

In the category of International Feature Films, the Gold Hugo was awarded to “Le Havre” (Finland/France) a depiction of illegal immigration by acclaimed director Aki Kaurismäki. The Silver Hugo went to Mohamed Diab’s “Cairo 678” (Egypt), a film that addresses sexual harassment.

Olivia Colman earned the Best Actress award for her role in “Tyrannosaur” (UK) and Maged El Kedwany won Best Actor for “Cairo 678.”The jury gave the Best Screenplay prize to Joshua Marston and Andamion Murataj for “The Forgiveness of Blood” (US/Albania).

Look for the book this month; the movie comes out in May.

Top honors among the documentary contenders were bestowed on Mila Turajlic for “Cinema Komunisto” (Serbia) and Lisa Immordino Vreeland’s “Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has To Travel” (US).

Additionally, the festival recognized French film director and producer Claude Lelouch’s 50 years as a filmmaker by giving him a special Silver Hugo. Actor Anthony Mackie scored the Artistic Achievement award on Saturday at the festival’s annual Black Perspectives tribute.

For more info on other documentary winners, as well as New Directors, the Founder’s award, After Dark, Short Films, Intercom and the Chicago award, visit the fest’s site. The Audience Choice award will be announced on Oct. 24.

Anthony Mackie is being honored tonight at CIFF.

Meanwhile, since my last post, I have been in cinephile heaven, watching movies galore, including:
“From One Film to Another,” Claude LeLouch, France

“Wild Bill,” Dexter Fletcher, UK

“Nobody Else But You,” Gérald Hustache-Mathieu, France

“Diana Vreeland: The Eye has To Travel,” Lisa Immordino Vreeland, US

“Into the Abyss,” Werner Herzog, US

“Don’t Go Breaking My Heart,” Johnnie To, Hong Kong

I talked with Lisa Immordino Vreeland this morning and she’s lovely. Now I’m off to toast Anthony Mackie. Here’s hoping he’ll be sleeveless despite the chilly wind. ;)

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Sun, screenings, superb restaurants at Chicago Film Fest

I’m hoping the glorious weather lasts here in Chicago.

Of the film fest’s plethora of titles, I’ve seen “We Need to Talk About Kevin” by Lynne Ramsay, “A Dangerous Method” by David Cronenberg,“Rabies” by Aharon Keshales,“Patang” by Prashat Bhargava,“My Week with Marilyn” by Simon Curtis and “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia” by Nuri Bilge Ceylan.

Looking forward to tonight’s “Nobody Else But You,” a mystery by Gérald Hustache-Mathieu.

And of course I’m finding time to eat well in a city jam-packed with passionate chefs. More later …

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