07/08/15 7:28am
07/08/2015 7:28 AM |


Prince of Broadway (2008)
Directed by Sean Baker
Many of the most acclaimed micro-budget directors working in America today—Joel Potrykus, Alex Ross Perry, Rick Alverson—create films centered on hostile narcissists. Not Baker. His films look at marginalized communities with a sympathetic eye, aided by the casting of non-professional actors. Here, that eye is turned toward an illegal Ghanaian immigrant who sells counterfeit merchandise and suddenly finds himself forced to care for an 18-month-old. Baker’s shooting places you alongside the characters while his cross-cutting forces examination of how seemingly disparate experiences are shaped by the same system, generating insight through observation and epiphany through experience. Forrest Cardamenis (July 9, 5:30pm at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Baker series preceding the theatrical release of Tangerine)

06/24/15 8:15am
06/24/2015 8:15 AM |

Orson Welles in Carol Reed’s THE THIRD MAN (1949). Courtesy Rialto Pictures / Studiocanal. Playing June 26-July 9.

The Third Man (1949)
Directed by Carol Reed
Holly Martins (Joseph Cotton), author of pulpy, second-rate Western novellas, is lured into the foreboding danger of postwar Vienna by his estranged lifelong friend Harry Lime (Orson Welles). Typically down-on-his-luck and over a barrel, Martins succumbs to the offer—only to find when he arrives that Harry is dead, impelling Martins into a chiaroscuro chase of ambiguous morality. This Vienna is threadbare and rain-slick; skepticism abounds and there’s nary a native Austrian in sight. Reed’s direction and Graham Greene’s screenplay reach a summit of perfection: a balloon man, a sewer chase, and an inimitable Ferris wheel confrontation—all to the sounds of the unrelenting zither. Samantha Vacca (June 26-July 9 at Film Forum in new 4K restoration; showtimes daily)

06/17/15 10:00am
06/17/2015 10:00 AM |


The Catalogue (2004)
Directed by Chris Oakley
The Magic Lantern Cinema series program “Masses and Swarms” contains eleven short, crowd-themed film and video works. Oakley’s video piece is set in a shopping mall where surveillance systems scan and classify visitors according to color-coded consumer profiles. “I wanted the piece to operate as a mild science fiction, a screen recording of an as-yet-unrealized system,” Oakley writes by e-mail. “I’d been interested in surveillance for more than a decade before RFID (radio-frequency identification) tagging became a reality. I initially hoped to use real CCTV images from malls, but after finding them impossible to obtain I decided to shoot my own at the Bull Ring development in Birmingham, which was then Britain’s newest and largest urban shopping center. The screen overlays, suggesting a system in which tracking of individuals has converged with a database, were created and composited over a subsequent three-month period. I had always seen the relationship between retailers and customers as essentially hunter/prey, and at that time felt it had gained an even more sinister edge. Interest in The Catalogue never seems to have waned, even as our relationship with privacy has changed immensely.” Aaron Cutler (June 19, 7:30pm at UnionDocs as part of the program “Magic Lantern Presents: Masses and Swarms”)

06/10/15 5:00am
06/10/2015 5:00 AM |

Romy Schneider and Michel Piccoli in Claude Sautet’s LES CHOSES DE LA VIE (1970). Courtesy: Rialto Pictures / Studiocanal; Photo by Claude Mathieu

Les choses de la vie (1970)
Directed by Claude Sautet
Sautet made quietly masterful melodramas about lives lived in contemporary France. He paid exquisite attention to the reverberations that came from choices his characters made to live apart or together, in one place or another, and in conflict between their public roles and private wants. Les choses de la vie (“The things of life”), Sautet’s fourth feature and first commercial success, is among five of his films whose new digital restorations will receive their US premieres this month. It is also among his collaborations (five each) with the actors Michel Piccoli and Romy Schneider, who star as the middle-aged engineer Pierre and his younger mistress Hélène, for whom Pierre once might have left his wife Catherine (Léa Massari). The film unfolds largely inside Pierre’s mind following a car accident, as he transmutes his physical pain into reflections on and regrets about his relationships with both women. Its story takes place within a distended version of time that allows us to flash back and move forward in observation of all three people as they decide how to reveal their feelings, and as they break their own hearts over lies. Aaron Cutler (June 12-18, showtimes daily, as part of a program of Rialto Pictures Sautet restorations at Lincoln Plaza Cinemas)

06/03/15 10:05am
06/03/2015 10:05 AM |

blood of jesus

The Blood of Jesus (1941)
Directed by Spencer Williams
A key document in the evolution of the race film, this epochal sophomore feature by pioneering actor-turned-filmmaker Spencer Williams is just as equally an important piece of early independent filmmaking proficiency. Starring the director himself as a spiritually wayward Southerner who accidentally shoots his devoted wife Martha (Cathryn Caviness), the film takes as its subject nothing less than the transmutation of the spirit and the journey, even after death, of the soul from purgatory to eternal sanctity. Integrating a variety of forward-thinking visual effects—from superimpositions to sourced footage from obscure religious films—to animate the series of trials and temptations Martha undergoes as she approaches the afterlife, Williams pushes accepted aesthetic values even as he prompts provocative questions regarding not just mortality, but of the price of redemption and the rich, complex history of religion in black culture. Jordan Cronk (June 3, 6:45pm; June 6, 2:30pm at MoMA’s “A Road Three Hundred Years Long: Cinema and the Great Migration”)

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)

05/20/15 10:39am
05/20/2015 10:39 AM |

    the last metro

The Last Metro (1980)
Directed by François Truffaut
Truffaut’s timeless political, emotional, and technical virtuosity is on full display in The Last Metro, which dominated the 1981 César Awards, as he dissects German-occupied France’s submerged agony with tight pans and quick cuts that reveal a world dense with duplicitous and furtive activity. Theater owner and actress Marion Steiner—a superbly fluid Catherine Deneuve, segueing between native poise and incongruous distraction—is whipsawed by prudence and patriotism. She must hide her fugitive Jewish husband Lucas while not only staying open—Parisians took refuge in theaters, trundling home on the last subway before curfew—but also resisting abject capitulation to craven collaborationist censorship. This she accomplishes by staging a cryptically anti-Nazi play, Disappearance, that Lucas clandestinely directs to keep from going stir-crazy. Complicating Marion’s balancing act is saturnine leading man Bernard Granger (Gerard Depardieu, very intense), whom she finds recklessly militant—and disconcertingly attractive. French nationalism, pride, culture, and stamina triumph, as indeed they did, and duress, endearingly, excuses straying. A beautifully crafted film. Jonathan Stevenson (May 22-25, 11am at IFC Center’s Deneuve matinee series)

05/13/15 8:50am
05/13/2015 8:50 AM |


After Hours (1985)
Directed by Martin Scorsese
All the anxiety of Koch-era New York is wrapped up in this surreal, screwball and terrifying film about a toothy nobody (Griffin Dunne) who gets stuck in SoHo, broke, hunted by an angry mob and surrounded by bad luck, suicide, lunatics and awful coincidences. Pitching Downtown as a psychic prison—an inescapable, ouroboric maze—this nightmare of eternal return propels through interweaving adventures in artists’ lofts, diners, dive bars, subway stations, punk clubs and the apartments of bartenders, waitresses and johns. It’s a last look at crazy old New York, before the early-morning streets got so crowded cabbies couldn’t even drive down them like maniacs anymore. Henry Stewart (May 15, 16, midnight at IFC Center’s “Staff Picks”)

05/06/15 9:00am
05/06/2015 9:00 AM |


The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976)
Directed by Nicolas Roeg
Only David Bowie could be said to be typecast in the role of an aloof alien conquering the world through cultural innovations. Roeg’s typically impressionistic structure frames the extra-terrestrial’s benign invasion as War of the Worlds as written by Marshall McLuhan, in which the creature enchants humans with gimmicky technology while ultimately succumbing to the homegrown pathogen of television. The cutting stabilizes only when Bowie turns to stare at screens, his purpose receding in favor of the mind-numbing thrall of mass entertainment The fractured editing of Don’t Look Now embodied the cruel persistence of memory, but here it reflects the equally horrific consequences of forgetting. Jake Cole (May 7, 7:30 at BAM)

04/22/15 9:09am
04/22/2015 9:09 AM |

Brigitte Fossey and Georges Poujouly in René Clément's FORBIDD

Forbidden Games (1952)
Directed by René Clément
Forbidden Games was doubtless touched by some great luck to cast then five-year old Brigitte Fossey for the role of Paulette. Charmed, beguiling, and grief-racked, Fossey’s Paulette belongs among the great child roles, kin to Jean-Pierre Léaud’s Antoine Doinel and Tatum O’Neal’s Addie Loggins. Paulette is inexplicably orphaned by German aircraft firing on hers and other families fleeing the front lines in early WWII, and then stumbles upon the Dollés, a comically dysfunctional farming family—their father brawls with a neighbor in a fresh grave; Michel, the youngest son, steals crosses to create a secret (and forbidden) cemetery for Paulette. But truly it is Clément that makes his own luck. Boldly weaving the cruel, humorous, and unfathomable into Forbidden Games’s fairytale-dabbled, traumatized daydream, Clément conjures innocence as few ever have: magical, morbid, and desperately half-aware. Jeremy Polacek (Apr 24-May 7 at Film Forum; showtimes daily)