Pennies from Heaven

Gordon Willis in Person
Screening on Film
$12 Special Event Tickets
Directed by Herbert Ross.
With Steve Martin, Bernadette Peters, Christopher Walken.
US, 1981, 35mm, color and b&w, 108 min.

Willis brilliantly channeled the light and spirit of iconic Depression-era imagery - particularly the loneliness of Edward Hopper and the hard-scrabble lucidity of Walker Evans - into the landmark Hollywood remake of Dennis Potter’s magical British teleplay that built a fantasy bridge between Tin Pan Alley escapism and Depression-era misery. Willis cinematography is nothing short of tour de force, inventing a polished Art Deco noir beauty and a tawdry melancholy to define the irreconcilable worlds explored by Pennies from Heaven’s story of struggling sheet music salesman escaping from his downward spiraling life into a fantasy world drawn from movie musicals.  One of the great films of the 1980s, Pennies from Heaven owes much of its power to Willis’ visionary camerawork and his ability to convey black-and-white glamour in brilliant colors that somehow bring with a cool, vaguely disturbing edge to the Thirties Chicago so beautifully evoked by the film.

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