Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Best Old Movies on a Big Screen This Week

Posted By , and on Wed, Jan 8, 2014 at 9:00 AM

docks of new york 1928 josef von sternberg
The Docks of New York (1928)
Directed by Josef von Sternberg
Handsome Paramount studio sets play the role of New York, thick fog covering the exterior seams, general clutter camouflaging the lusty interiors (wharf pub The Sandlot, a hellish ship boiler room). George Bancroft is the stoker whose skirts-and-ale one-night shore leave leads to a dead body, a shits-and-giggles marriage and love—the last thing the oafish brute ever figured would suit him. Two years before Dietrich and The Blue Angel, von Sternberg had already found an ideal muse in Betty Compson; as the fun-time gal bride, Compson’s weary eyes are a map of crap luck and "too many good times." Justin Stewart (Jan 11 at MoMA, part of its The Aesthetics of Shadow, Part 1: Japan)

millers crossing john turturro coen brothers
Miller's Crossing (1990)
Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen
The Coens’s third feature is an elegant, lived-in ultra-gangster picture with an assured cast and an often funny, always nihilistic mean streak. The elaborate intricacies of the plot and its double crosses are ultimately irrelevant; the real joys here are the brothers’ dense, poetic dialogue and second-to-none eye for detail. Gabriel Byrne, Albert Finney, Jon Polito, and Marica Gay Harden are all superb, but John Turturro steals the movie, begging for his life in the woods in a scene that’ll stick with you forever. The operatic violence pulls no punches, more raw and potent than anything in No Country for Old Men. Zach Clark (Jan 10 at Nitehawk)

page of madness 1926 teinosuke kinugasa
Page of Madness (1926)
Directed by Teinosuke Kinugasa
“The aesthetics of shadow” was a term coined in relation to Japanese architecture, whose design gave room for magic and mystery to grow; in time it also came to refer to a branch of early Japanese cinema, whose shadows were crafted with contemporary German and American influences but created their own hidden lives. Kinugasa’s 35th film as a director and his first independent production, made silently and without intertitles, overruns with such shades. Page begins with a storm bombarding a mental asylum, where an aging janitor (played by Masuo Inoue) works near the cell of his convulsively dancing wife (Yoshie Nakagawa), who has been locked up ever since she drowned one of the couple’s children years prior. Their adult daughter (Ayako Iijima) comes to visit at a time in which reality dissolves and other inmates break loose. Leering people flood hallways in stretched, distorted images while the old man struggles to escape a darkness that might devour them all. Kinugasa’s great, similarly compassionate period melodrama Crossroads (1928) will also screen at MoMA; both it and Page of Madness will be shown on 35mm with live musical accompaniment. Aaron Cutler (Jan 12-13 at MoMA, part of its The Aesthetics of Shadow, Part 1: Japan)

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