The Best Old Movies on a Big Screen This Week: NYC Repertory Cinema Picks, February 24-March 1

bell book and candle

Bell, Book and Candle (1958)
Directed by Richard Quine
A Technicolor sister to René Clair’s I Married A Witch, this supernatural screwball comedy’s sharp quirkiness is compounded by its correlation to Vertigo’s quasi-necrophilia, which was released earlier that year. First, an amusing reunion: no longer playing a corpse, sorceress Kim Novak takes romantic charge with square Jimmy Stewart, dusting off his manic-eyed charm after a decade of more serious roles. The shared themes of identity crisis are more playful here as Novak ponders dropping the humdrum hocus-pocus excitedly practiced by elder witch Elsa Lancaster and bongo-beating warlock Jack Lemmon, and drunkenly investigated by Ernie Kovacs. Quine skillfully translates the broad innuendos and feminist subtext with James Wong Howe’s cinematography, which mirrors the “cool” of wintry Greenwich Village, plus witchcraft’s perceived emotional frigidity. As the craft has once again achieved hipsterization, it’s fun to see where that all started. Max Kyburz (February 24, 8pm at BAM’s “Witches’ Brew”)

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