05/27/15 7:02am
05/27/2015 7:02 AM |

Richard Widmark and Jean Peters in Samuel Fuller’s PICKUP ON S

Pickup on South Street (1953)
Directed by Samuel Fuller
High and low crime go eye-to-eye in this dustup of swindles. Fresh out of jail and back to his grift, Richard Widmark’s magic-fingered, sneering hood, Skip McCoy, makes off with a lovely straphanger’s (Jean Peters) purse. Plus the purse’s cache of microfilm intended for the Soviets. From the beginning critics found the plot hard to believe, with the New York Times and Variety shaking their heads at its tale of Feds and Reds and something like love, one half of that love (Peters’s Candy) getting knocked out, beat up, shot at, and showered in beer. But pulp the way Fuller cooks it—snappy, violent, and mean—makes it own sense, right being Peters’s pleading, artless look, wrong a matter for us in the real world to fuss with. Pickup on South Street is fresh, pulpy, and savage, a still hot, hard-boiled classic. Jeremy Polacek (May 29-June 4 at Film Forum; showtimes daily)

04/01/15 9:00am
04/01/2015 9:00 AM |


Some Call It Loving (1973)
Directed by James B. Harris
The octogenarian Harris is known best today for producing three of Stanley Kubrick’s early films, but he has also directed five films of his own. All are action movies save for the spellbinding, little-seen Some Call it Loving, a jazz-drenched romantic drama based on John Collier’s short story “Sleeping Beauty.” Its lead character is a haunted young saxophonist (played by Zalman King) whose eyes fall enraptured one night upon a carnival sideshow attraction—a lovely girl (Tisa Farrow) who has been lying dormant for eight years. He buys her and brings her back with him to the West Coast mansion where he resides with a domineering wealthy older widow (Carol White) and a comely maid (Veronica Anderson); his seemingly submissive role within this group of seduced and seducers changes once their newcomer wakes up. Like those of Kubrick, Harris’s films show conflict arising from peoples’ efforts to mold their surroundings into the things they want to see. Some’s man’s courtship of a sleeping beauty comes within a larger, more consuming search for the woman of his dreams. Aaron Cutler (Apr 1, 7:30pm at BAM’s “Overdue: James B. Harris,” followed by a Harris Q&A)

03/18/15 9:00am
03/18/2015 9:00 AM |

A scene from Marco Bellocchio's CHINA IS NEAR (1967). Courtesy S

China Is Near (1967)
Directed by Marco Bellocchio
Two working-class secretaries, Giovanna (Daniela Surina) and Carlo (Paolo Graziosi), enact a plan to climb up the social ladder with the unwitting help of inexperienced professor-turned-Socialist council candidate Vittorio (Glauco Mauri) and his sexually promiscuous sister Elena (Elda Tattoli, also co-writer). But in the world of China is Near, no one—not even Vittorio’s passionate young Maoist altar-boy brother, Camillo (Pierluigi Apra)—is spared Bellocchio’s satirical blade. Those who only know Bellocchio from the more-humanist bent of recent efforts like Vincere and Dormant Beauty may be startled by the serrated edge of the comedy in this, his follow-up to his even-more-incendiary 1965 debut Fists in the Pocket. Even in 1967, though, Bellocchio allows moments of nuance and empathy to shine through: Giovanna’s heartbreak upon realizing she’s as much of a pawn in Carlo’s machinations as everyone else; Vittorio’s desperate attempts to intellectually justify his selling out to a disappointed Camillo. Though the details of its political concerns place this squarely in the late 60s, Bellocchio’s wounding view of human beings hiding behind politics to justify appalling behavior still resonates. Kenji Fujishima (Mar 20-26 at Film Forum; showtimes daily)