Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Plugging Elvis

No, not "de Elvis Presley," as Andy Kaufman used to say. I'm talking about Elvis Mitchell, the film critic who in July hosted his own interview program, Under the Influence, on Turner Classic Movies.

The premise of the program is simple. Mitchell talks to prominent film folk - stars from in front and behind the camera - about those from the past who influenced their work. From all appearances, Mitchell has an encyclopedic knowledge of film history, as well as a fine-tuned appreciation for what makes great films work.

Mitchell's subjects for the initial set of 30-minute interviews were the late Syndey Pollack, Bill Murray, Laurence Fishburne, and Quentin Tarantino. In each, Mitchell was easily able to get them to open up, to the point where I'm sure the interviews could have gone on for another 30 minutes without losing steam. Pollack did a great job of explaining how his acting experience informed his work behind the camera, Fishburne was positively eloquent about how he learned from the things that Clark Gable did on screen that had nothing to do with dialogue, and Quentin Tarantino was like a hyped-up kid after eating too much candy on Halloween. Great stuff, and without the fawning that has turned James Lipton into a caricature of himself.

The bad news is that the show does not return until November (with subjects Joan Allen, Richard Gere, John Leguizamo, and Edward Norton). The good news is that if you have Comcast Cable, it is still running in the On Demand feature. Check it out; you won't be disappointed.

The official Under the Influence site is here.

An interview with Elvis about the show can be found here.

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