It’s Sunday, Nov. 30, and I’m nestling into The Palm Theatre’s comfy chairs and noshing on inexpensive (a big bag for $4!) and buttery (yes, real butter!) popcorn as I await the final installment of Take Two Live for 2014—a screening of the 2006 Best Foreign Picture contender Joyeux Noel.
- PHOTO BY GLEN STARKEY
- INDIE CINEMA: The Palm Theatre, the first U.S. movie theater run by solar energy, screens independent, foreign, art house, and mainstream cinema, as well as the monthly "Take Two Live" series on the last Sunday of the month.
Hosted by Palm Theatre owner Jim Dee and former Insomniac Video owner Bob Whiteford, the monthly series presents classic and often-obscure films, which the two introduce, screen, and then close with a Q-and-A. For years, Bob and Jim had a regular Monday night KCBX radio program called Take Two, an hour-long program that discussed all things film. They really know their stuff!
There’re about 85 people in the Palm’s biggest theater, which holds 120, and the crowd claps appreciatively when Bob and Jim sit down before two microphones.
Jim reminds us that it’s 2014, and next month’s Christmas Eve marks the 100th anniversary of the event the film depicts, in which German, French, and Scottish soldiers agree to a brief truce to celebrate Christmas together.
Jim also mentions Richard Attenborough’s 1969 film Oh! What a Lovely War, which also covers this incredible event, and Bob—a real World War I and II buff—sets the history surrounding the event, the “bungling calamity” that started the war, “static or trench warfare,” the meaning of “no man’s land,” and to put some of the battles into perspective, he explains that some clashes left as many as 70,000 or more men dead in a single day.
- PHOTO COURTESY OF NORD-QUEST PRODUCTIONS
- MERRY CHRISTMAS: "Joyeux Noel," which depicts a real incident that occurred on Christmas Eve in 1914, when French, German, and Scottish soldiers agreed to a brief truce to celebrate Christmas, was screened and discussed Nov. 30. Take Two Live next screens David Lean’s "Brief Encounter" on Jan. 18.
“That’s the daytime population of San Luis Obispo with people coming into town to work, and it was all fought over two football fields’ worth of shell-pocked mud,” reminds Bob.
Right before they run the film, Bob and Jim offer one more hint at understanding what we’re about to see.
“It’s a plea for peace,” Bob says. “I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m war weary as hell.”
“Peace on Earth and goodwill to men is the message,” Jim adds. “This event happened 100 years ago, and we still haven’t quite gotten it right.”
The film is emotionally powerful, filled with soaring music that pushes all my emotional buttons, and great performances mostly from actors I don’t recognize save for leads Diane Kruger, Gary Lewis, and Daniel Brühl.
After their Christmas Eve celebration, the men on the various sides, now that they’d met their “enemies” face to face and discovered their humanity, couldn’t continue fighting, and their units were disbanded and sent to other fronts.
After the screening, Bob points out that the places the soldiers were sent—Verdun and Tannenberg—were real meat grinders with high casualty rates.
- PHOTO BY GLEN STARKEY
- YOUR HOSTS: Film aficionados and former KCBX "Take Two" radio hosts Bob Whiteford and Jim Dee, the latter of whom owns The Palm, screen classic and sometimes obscure films, introducing them before the screening and following with a Q&A.
“Their chances of survival were probably zero,” Bob laments, before they open the floor for comments and questions. Jim’s wife, Patty, moves through the audience, handing a mic to those wishing to speak, and for about 20 minutes or so, those of us in attendance have a chance to reflect on this powerful film and its depiction of the goodness of humanity in the midst of war, and the irony that such goodness was seen as weakness, insubordination, and fraternizing with the enemy.
I think we all agree as we embark on this holiday season that we could all use a little bit more of the film’s message. By the way, Joyeux Noel means Merry Christmas.
Take Two Live!
After taking December off, Take Two Live returns next year with a new film and discussion at 12:30 p.m. every last Sunday of the month. David Lean’s A Brief Encounter (1945) screens Jan. 25; John Ford’s The Whole Town’s Talking (1935) screens Feb. 22; Vittorio De Sica’s Umberto D. (1952; Italian) screens March 29; and David Miller’s Lonely Are the Brave (1962) screens April 26. Each Take Two Live screening costs $12. Visit The Palm Theatre’s website, www.thepalmtheatre.com for future Take Two screenings as well as their daily offerings.
Glen Starkey takes a beating and keeps on bleating. Keep up with him via twitter at twitter.com/glenstarkey, friend him at facebook.com/glenstarkey or myspace.com/glenstarkey, or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.