Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Best Old Movies on a Big Screen This Week

Posted By , , , , , and on Wed, Mar 19, 2014 at 9:00 AM

the bowery raoul walsh wallace beery
The Bowery (1933)
Directed by Raoul Walsh
This is a nostalgic mythologizing of the Lower East Side in the bad old days when it was dangerous and exciting—the 1890s. Daredevil Steve Brodie’s disputed leap off the newly constructed Brooklyn Bridge is one climax of the rivalry between fleshy saloon-keeper Wallace Beery and sharpish George Raft (as Brodie), which breaks out all along the titular seedy strip in roughhouse vignettes involving bareknuckle brawls, chorus girls, and many exploding cigars (plus very dated ethnic backslapping. Be prepared!). Against such high spirits, how can shared love interest Fay Wray hope to compete? Walsh, the original vulgar auteur, keeps things “poifectly” broad. Mark Asch (Mar 25 at BAM, part of its Scorsese/Walsh series)

from the east chantal akerman movie
From the East (1993)
Directed by Chantal Akerman
This movie is both a literal and figurative representation of its title, a visual diary of the director’s sojourn across the former European Communist bloc as the seasons turn from autumn to winter and the topography shifts from rural to urban. Moving in uniform tableaux, mostly in right-to-left tracking shots, Akerman’s camera patiently documents a culture suspended between eras, creating in turn a cinematic index of the people, places, and professions of post-war Europe. Expanding upon the temporal and spatial experiments of her celebrated 70s work, Akerman locates a fresh plane of aesthetic freedom, combining peripheral ambience and both diegetic and non-diegetic musical cues within a constantly expanding and contracting logistical framework, resulting in a fully mapped, three-dimensional travelogue for the senses. Jordan Cronk (Mar 19 at Spectacle, part of its Akermania series)

muddy river kohei oguri japanese movie
Muddy River (1981)
Directed by Kohei Oguri
In a 1983 Times article, critic Donald Richie characterized the Japanese film industry of that era as “devoted to wooing, seducing, placating and brutalizing a dwindling audience”; in contrast, the freshness and delicacy of Oguri’s debut feature made it “an aberration.” To Richie, the B&W observational record of two young boys’ friendship in a riverside part of 50s Osaka avoided empty escapism in favor of reviving the shomin-geki, a genre of dramas that presented ordinary people dealing with reality. Like in earlier cases, trauma stirs beneath this film’s calm surface. The open-faced boy Nobuo lives in a home doubling as a noodle shop with a war veteran father haunted by memories of Manchurian battles; the moodier Kiichi and his sister lost their father to war and now live on a houseboat with their rarely seen single mother, who works as a prostitute. The film’s parents strive to provide good lives for their children, free of past troubles, while the children strive to play happily together, away from present-day judgment. Aaron Cutler (Mar 21 at Japan Society, part of its A Tribute to Donald Richie series)

once upon a time in the west movie sergio leone
Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)
Directed by Sergio Leone
Seldom are sound and visuals so well matched as in Leone's sprawling Westerns. The dusty, sun-blanched landscape is paired here with one of Ennio Morricone’s finest scores: flutes, banjos, trumpets, and reverb-saturated guitars with tones bright and sharp as galvanized tin render several memorable leitmotifs.The classical plot features a gang of ruthless bandits, led by the ice-eyed Frank (Henry Fonda), hell-bent on seizing a ranch that has the region’s only source of water and will thus be priceless once the railroad comes through. Meanwhile, a nameless cowboy with a harmonica and thirst for revenge (Charles Bronson) is on Frank’s trail. Joseph Neighbor (Mar 22 at BAM, part of its Music of Morricone series)

roaring twenties movie raoul walsh humphrey bogart james cagney
The Roaring Twenties (1939)
Directed by Raoul Walsh
A staggering hat trick of entertainment, American history and art, this film cherry-picked from and built on its crime-film predecessors, establishing a template for followers. In 104 minutes, Walsh sprints through decades—from a WWI shell hole to the end of Prohibition—without sweating or giving too-short shrift, abetted by restless camerawork and copious narrated, newsreel-style montages (“an era of amazing madness!”) that fit flush with the action and moving drama of the rise and tumble of Eddie Bartlett (James Cagney). The intro says, “This film is a memory,” and the result speaks to cinema’s powerful, alarming ability to index and thrillingly heighten history. Justin Stewart (Mar 24 at BAM, part of its Scorsese/Walsh series)

under capricorn alfred hitchcock joseph cotten
Under Capricorn (1949)
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
In Hitchcock’s second Technicolor film, Southern Hemisphere recklessness is documented seamlessly in long shots and mysterious eyelines. Set just below the Tropic of Capricorn in Sydney, Australia, most of the melodramatic tale takes place at a bleak but lavish homestead owned by Sam Flusky (Joseph Cotten) and his wife Henrietta (a self-degrading Ingrid Bergman). Henrietta’s dissociative behavior, rumors of murderous pasts and the duplicitous housemaid’s nubility all telegraph inevitable trouble. While the setting and historicism are atypical for Hitchcock, the ambiguous fear driven by gender inequality and insubordinate male and female power struggles are unmistakably his in this undervalued film. Samantha Vacca (Mar 22, 25 at Anthology, part of its Auteurs Gone Wild series)

you and me movie fritz lang 1938
You and Me (1938)
Directed by Fritz Lang
There are so many reasons you shouldn't miss this rare Fritz Lang musical (with music by Kurt Weill!). Earthy, delicate and ethereal Silvia Sidney is at her best in this perfect romance. Tragic misunderstandings, endearing domestic details, and a honeymoon staycation in Little Italy and Chinatown mark her whirlwind relationship with former gangster, George Raft. But the highlight of the film—in fact, a highlight in cinema history, in which most plots are based on the lack of capital—is a scene in which Sidney pulls out a chalkboard to prove that crime, in fact, does not pay. Miriam Bale (Mar 20 at Anthology, part of its Auteurs Gone Wild series)

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