“They’re one-title film stars,” clarifies the Somerville Theatre’s creative director Ian Decide. “Cage. Travolta. So a lot of of their roles are iconic… so lots of career highs and lows.” But we’re sticking with the highs correct now for “Encounter/Off: Travolta/Cage,” a 10-7 days, 19-film sequence of double functions at this time operating at the recently refurbished, 108-12 months-outdated motion picture palace in Davis Square. Every single Tuesday evening during the months of March and April, a movie starring John Travolta is adopted by one starring Nicolas Cage, culminating on Could 3 with “Face/Off,” director John Woo’s delirious 1997 motion extravaganza in which the actors virtually dress in each and every other’s faces for most of the working time, performing place-on impersonations of a single an additional in a madcap, meta-film hall of mirrors and balletic gunplay. Enjoyment actuality: “Face/Off” was the to start with time I ever went to see a motion picture and then went back to observe it once again the extremely upcoming day.
According to Choose, the mashup of these mercurial motion picture stars was a natural way to jumpstart the theater’s repertory film software just after a extensive lockdown and our bleak omicron wintertime. He first advised me of his thought last summer months when the theater was shuttered for renovations, over a most likely avoidable selection of beers throughout the street at The Burren. We mentioned at size how Travolta and Cage have designed extra undesirable motion pictures than most stars of their stature, and the stink of those people bombs can from time to time cloud their indelible contributions to movie heritage. In fact, the lineup Choose has put together for this sequence contains a person cultural phenomenon immediately after another. Movies like “Saturday Evening Fever,” “Moonstruck,” “Grease,” “Valley Female,” “Raising Arizona” and “Pulp Fiction” have turn out to be aspect of our shared pop consciousness — they are flicks you truly feel like you have viewed even if you haven’t. It’s also unattainable to visualize any other actors playing these roles.
Early very last year, I discovered myself chatting to a director who was desperately trying to land Travolta for his subsequent project, a dangerous drama about a drug vendor who does some incredibly bad issues. He advised me “I want John mainly because audiences will stick to him anyplace. When he’s in the proper purpose, he connects with you the way quite few other individuals can.” This struck me as comprehending Travolta’s enchantment in a way even the actor himself would seem to have trouble with from time to time. Of system, John Travolta has often been amazing — my technology grew up surrounded by posters and pinups of him in the white disco go well with, the greaser getup or the cowboy shirt and Stetson — but he was also normally available, susceptible and even type of a goofball.
Travolta was a intercourse symbol, but not in the aloof, standoffish method of say, Richard Gere (who with “Times of Heaven,” “American Gigolo,” “An Officer and a Gentleman” and “Pretty Woman” produced an whole occupation out of flicks Travolta turned down) but in a clumsier, extra endearing manner. The rigidity and enjoyment were in how his uncouth characters, so usually missing in essential table manners, could abruptly go with such beautiful grace, suggesting the possibility potentially that he could be housebroken. We set up with the misogynist macho posturing of his Tony Manero in “Saturday Night Fever” or the redneck wifebeater in “Urban Cowboy” due to the fact Travolta lets us see the frightened very little boy guiding the masculine fragility. A PG-rated version of the similar conflict plays out in “Grease,” with Danny Zuko learning how to not act like the dude all his dumb pals want him to be.
I really don’t feel several movie icons have unsuccessful onscreen so continually or magnificently as Travolta, tragically so in Brian De Palma’s “Blow Out.” The actor’s initially job as an real adult with a job is a common De Palma patsy, pondering he has all the things figured out prior to face-planting in the heartbreaking finale. His blundering is performed to a lot extra amusing effects in “Pulp Fiction,” where Travolta’s big celebrity comeback came taking part in an impossibly charming, drug addict hitman who does not do a solitary issue correct for the complete movie. He unintentionally pretty much kills the boss’ spouse, mistakenly shoots somebody in the face, then will get killed himself simply because he was looking through on the toilet during a stakeout. But gentleman, can he dance.
Does any actor fall in appreciate as ardently as Nicolas Cage? His eyes appear to liquify when gazing on his intended, his total human body swooning with rapturous abandon. He’s a performer who helps make big alternatives, placing it politely. It is this commitment, the sheer sincerity, that I’m concerned has created Cage a figure of mockery for a self-guarding, ironic period when almost everything is minimized to memes. Sometimes it appears like Nicolas Cage came right here from outer space — obtaining interviewed him, I’d say it is a 50/50 risk — and however the substantial odds he can take and wild, entire-bore physicality are normally thrilling to observe, even in videos unworthy of his items. Economical difficulties and a rough extend of paycheck roles did a amount on his popular and essential standing, but Cage has been on a vocation upswing as of late, headlining cult hits like “Mandy” and obtaining warmly deserved kudos for his heartfelt general performance in last summer’s kidnapped-pet drama, “Pig.”
It was his fondness for the animal in that film that acquired me pondering about how influencing it is to check out Nic Cage in love. Irrespective of whether as the rubber-limbed convict longing for mugshot photographer Holly Hunter in the Coen brothers’ “Raising Arizona,” or the adenoidal teen heartthrob pondering what is up with his time-touring prom date Kathleen Turner in Francis Ford Coppola’s “Peggy Sue Received Married.” (The nasally, braying voice Cage set on for the character famously encouraged his co-star to question if he was knowledgeable that movie is a lasting medium, and purportedly also value him a plum position in his uncle Francis’ “The Godfather Section III.”) His lovelorn mania for Cher’s skittish spinster is what sends “Moonstruck” soaring, Cage’s crazed effectiveness embodying screenwriter John Patrick Shanley’s thesis of romance as a terrifyingly disruptive power: “Love you should not make things awesome,” the character passionately describes. “It ruins every thing. It breaks your coronary heart. It would make matters a mess.”
My own most loved Cage performance is in his most controversial enjoy tale, David Lynch’s “Wild at Heart.” The rockabilly street movie stars a snakeskin jacket-sporting Cage as Sailor Ripley, a rebel on the operate with his jailbait gal, Lula (Laura Dern), in a frenzied, every thing-such as-the-kitchen-sink homage to 1950s juvenile delinquent flicks, Elvis videos and “The Wizard of Oz.” It is a surreal, kitsch landscape of graphic violence, very hot sex, sicko comedy and inexplicable, Lynchian interludes that experienced 50 percent the viewers booing when it gained the Palme d’Or at the 1990 Cannes Movie Competition. The Somerville will be screening the first, X-rated, European edit of the movie, which experienced to be trimmed for American audiences upon first launch. Hilariously, Decide has programmed it to follow Travolta’s lovely, shock smash babysitting comedy from the previous calendar year, “Look Who’s Conversing,” in which the audience is privy to the internal monologue of a wiseacre toddler voiced by Bruce Willis. (Choose jokes about how this could possibly not be the ideal night “to just take advantage of Somerville’s lax psilocybin rules. Or possibly it’s suitable?”)
Other double characteristics fit together additional comfortably, irrespective of whether we’re observing the hillbilly hijinks of “Raising Arizona” paired with “Urban Cowboy,” or “Grease” and “Peggy Sue Bought Married,” both equally with their 35-12 months-previous higher faculty students. Some other less-heralded gems in the sequence include things like “Red Rock West,” John Dahl’s nifty, almost never-screened 1993 neo-noir in which Cage performs it straight towards an unhinged Dennis Hopper, and “Get Shorty,” Barry Sonnenfeld’s breezy 1995 Elmore Leonard adaptation pits Travolta’s clean-speaking bank loan shark opposite key supporting performances from Gene Hackman, Delroy Lindo, Dennis Farina and a pre-“Sopranos” James Gandolfini. The penultimate week plans “Broken Arrow” and “The Rock,” both of those actors’ initial forays into the kind of blockbuster action movies that would at some point bog down their careers. Admittedly, had been this chronological series to keep on earlier the 1990s, these kinds of triumphs for these two stars would be a great deal less and farther concerning. But hey, we’ll normally have “Face/Off.”
“Encounter/Off: Travolta/Cage” runs at the Somerville Theatre as a result of Tuesday, May possibly 3.