More than a 'Touch' of Gould at Port Townsend


NEW YORK -- The Port Townsend Film Festival, which recently received a grant from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to aid in bringing filmmakers to the fest, announces Tuesday that Elliott Gould will be the main honoree at this year's Sept. 28-30 event near Seattle. There also are commitments from directors in Germany, Colombia, throughout the U.S. and possibly Spain.

During the three-day fest, 28 features will be shown -- nine of them documentaries and 60% of them new -- accompanied by 40 shorts, almost all of which are new. Icing on the cake will be the screenings of two of Gould's films: 1971's "The Touch," the only English-language film directed by Ingmar Bergman, and 1974's "California Split," directed by Robert Altman. The print they'll be showing of the Bergman film, which also stars Bibi Andersson and Max von Sydow, is Gould's own copy. It is not in the best shape colorwise, but apparently it's the only 35mm print that exists in North America. (That makes it another strong argument for film preservation.)

"The Touch" received a lukewarm reception back in '71 and, all these years later, is still not transferred to DVD -- so the PTFF will be an exceptionally rare opportunity to check it out. But, says the fest's artistic director Peter Simpson: "Films that are considered failures are often more interesting than commercial hits. After 36 years, today's generation of moviegoers can make up its own mind about the success or failure of 'The Touch.' " And what Simpson could have added: It's never a waste of time for anyone interested in film to check out a contribution by Mr. Bergman, who died last month. Fewer seem to be doing it these days. More should. ... This is the eighth time around for the PTFF, self-described as "a block party celebrating great films and great filmmakers." Born in 2000, it basically has honored one filmmaker per year, last year's honoree being Malcolm McDowell, with others including Eva Marie Saint, Tony Curtis, Jane Powell, Shirley Knight, Patricia Neal, Debra Winger and Arliss Howard. ... While Elaine Stritch makes her year-end plans to do her one-woman Broadway show in a cabaret venue (Cafe Carlyle), another legendary Broadway Tony champ has been set to make a November return to Feinstein's at the Regency. Chita Rivera, with an all-new show, will play that Park Avenue spot for three weeks from Nov. 6-24. Also on Feinstein's upcoming agenda is Mary Cleere Haran singing the songs of the great Doris Day from Oct. 16-27, and, immediately after Chita's engagement, Michael Feinstein himself will be doing his annual holiday show in the room from Nov. 27-Dec. 29. ... In the fall, Feinstein's again will have its special Sunday and Monday night series, which, this time around, will include Keith David doing a tribute to Nat King Cole in addition to featuring Rachel York, Joni James, Susan Anton, Clifton Davis and, a little drumroll here, Tony Martin, who hasn't done a New York cabaret turn in umpteen years. Tony's now 94, but age be damned. Last year another nonagenarian, Kitty Carlisle Hart, gave a terrific show at Feinstein's; I also caught the amazing Kitty during a week's run in '06 at a legit house in Atlanta, where she sang, talked, told amusing showbiz tales and held the audience in the palm of her hand for a full evening. And few today can come close to singing with the smooth voice and velvety shadings of the amazingly youthful Dolores Hope, who is a mere 95.