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We’re already halfway through March, and we’ve got an exciting slate of films coming up! This weekend, we open our doors to Screamfest for a special screening of Halloween III: Season of the Witch. Then next week, we’re joined by Mission Control Arcade for Disney’s Tron, the next installment in our Art House Arcade series. Wrapping up the month is the one and only Shrek, playing as part of Arvida Books’ Movies ‘N’ the Books X Frida series. In between all the exciting events is a perhaps lesser-known but no less enthralling film, Elia Kazan’s 1957 satirical drama A Face in the Crowd.
He’s not just an entertainer. He’s an influence, a wielder of opinion, a force… a force! Andy Griffith is superb in his debut screen performance portraying the rise of a raucous hayseed named Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes from itinerant Ozark guitar picker to local media rabble-rouser to TV superstar and political king-maker. Marcia Jeffries (Patricia Neal) is the innocent Sarah Lawrence girl who discovers the great man in a back-country jail and is the first to fall under his spell. The film debut of Griffith, his performance as the megalomaniacal Rhodes is a stark, early contrast from the wholesome roles he would later become iconic for. Despite receiving a mixed reception upon release, A Face in the Crowd has since been reassessed as not only one of Kazan’s finest films but an eeriely prescient one as well.
This inspired programming pick comes courtesy of Dean Dezara, our second March Volunteer of the Month! Part of the Wednesday crew, I haven’t worked with Dean but I have had the chance to talk and hang out with him at volunteer functions and movie screenings. From my interactions with him, the impression I’ve got is a guy who’s down to earth for the most part but also possesses a passion for movies and a surprising fun streak, which are all qualities that it doesn’t hurt to have when volunteering behind the Frida counter. They also came through in our interview, with him being happy to share his thoughts on A Face in the Crowd and how it compares to his other VOTM picks. I was planning on seeing it anyway, but talking to Dean has made me all the more determined to catch it next week!
How did you find out about The Frida Cinema?
So, I want to say it was 2018 or 2019, I was looking for a theater that was playing The Irishman and this was the only one I could find in the area on Fandango. Then during the pandemic with the drive-ins, I went to see An American Werewolf in London. I went one more time once it reopened for The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and I just dug the vibe.
What made you want to volunteer here?
My little sister needed volunteer hours and she doesn’t have a car, so I had to start driving her to and from here. I’m also a big movie nerd and I love being part of the Santa Ana community, so I started volunteering myself!
Tell us a little bit about A Face in the Crowd.
I watched it, I want to say, in 2020. I just watched it on Criterion going through a whole lot of movies because I was laid off at the time and I was just watching everything I could. I saw a movie where Andy Griffith was playing a guy that wasn’t the family dad or wholesome guy, and I just thought it was a good movie.
What were your other choices for Volunteer Pick of the Month?
Clerks and Cinema Paradiso! I was really shooting for both, but I had list of like eight movies and just sent it to a bunch of my friends and said “Hey, help me condense this to three because I can’t figure it out!” My thinking was Clerks is the cult classic, Cinema Paradiso is the foreign classic, and Face in the Crowd is kind of like a hidden gem that a lot of people haven’t seen but I think is a phenomenal movie. And Elia Kazan is known for On the Waterfront, which is considered like one of the greatest movies of all time, so I feel A Face in the Crowd might get a little overlooked.
What is your favorite Frida memory?
Favorite Frida memory? Oh man, probably the Birthday Bash most recently because The Big Lebowski is one of my favorite movies of all time! I went as The Dude for Halloween a couple years ago, so I had the costume ready, showed up as The Dude, and never felt more like myself.
If you could program any movie here, what would you pick?
Oh man. It probably would have been Clerks just because when you first start getting into movies, there are certain cult classics that hook you and Clerks was the one that got me hooked into independent cinema and micro-budget movies. I’ve seen all the other cult classics – I’ve seen The Big Lebowski, I’ve seen Pulp Fiction, I’ve seen all of those movies – on the big screen but I’ve never seen Clerks on the big screen, and that’s just one of my favorite movies of all time.
A Face in the Crowd screens starting Monday, March 20th at The Frida Cinema.
Monday, Mar 20 – 5:15pm, 7:45pm
Tuesday, Mar 21 – 5:15pm, 7:45pm