04/15/15 6:29am
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04/15/2015 6:29 AM |

full moon in paris

Full Moon in Paris (1984)
Directed by Éric Rohmer
The fourth and most emotionally tumultuous of the elder statesmen of the nouvelle vague’s “Comedies and Proverbs” series leans closer to the moralistic than the humorous half its thematic epithet. An at times uncomfortable look at the nuances and negotiations inherent to romance, the film follows Louise (Pascale Ogier) and Rémi (Tchéky Karyo), an unmarried couple whose plan for living together grows complicated when the former chooses to keep her Parisian apartment as a pied-à-terre for nights of metropolitan partying. Meanwhile, Louise’s best guy and girlfriend (Fabrice Luchini and Virginie Thévenet) are both harboring secrets related to the couple which slowly tug at the seams of an already fraying relationship. Shot in Rohmer’s typically unadorned style, with an emphasis on dialogue and situational irony rather than decorous mise-en-scène, the film arrives very subtly at a climax all the more devastating for its inevitability. Jordan Cronk (Apr 17-30, showtimes daily at the Film Society of Lincoln Center; new DCP restoration part of “Éric Rohmer’s Comedies and Proverbs”)

04/08/15 9:46am
04/08/2015 9:46 AM |


Sankofa (1993)
Directed by Haile Gerima
The Ethiopia-born Gerima’s films present slavery in different guises. Harvest: 3,000 Years, for instance, shows an impoverished clan in his homeland tending a wealthy white landowner’s farm, while Bush Mama lays out perils of wage slavery facing ghettoized African-Americans in contemporary Los Angeles. In Sankofa, Gerima (who has lived in the US for much of his life) tells the tale of an African-American fashion model (played by Oyafunmike Ogunlano) who goes to work at a white photographer’s beck and call on a shoot at a former slave trading site in Ghana, and who then finds herself sucked into the past and serving as a Louisiana plantation slave. The abuses she meets raise her awareness of how enforced captivity of black people has lasted well beyond slavery’s formally legalized end. The film’s name is an Akan word that means “reach back and get it”; that word is also the name of one of the film’s characters, an older Ghanaian musician (Kofi Ghanaba) encircling past-haunted sites who calls for slaves from every era to “step out and tell your story.” Aaron Cutler (Apr 12, 5pm, 8pm at BAM’s “Space is the Place: Afrofuturism on Film”)

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)

03/25/15 10:14am
03/25/2015 10:14 AM |


Carlito’s Way (1993)
Directed by Brian De Palma
If a man (with a gun) is being chased through Grand Central Station by several other men (who have guns), how long until the first man is prostrate on an escalator, shooting upwards while being borne downhill? If Sean Penn shaves a receding hairline into his glorious head of New-York-mob-lawyer hair, is his gradual moral recession also guaranteed? If a girl dares you to break down her door, does it count as affirmative consent? Master logician De Palma investigates, while Al Pacino, this time as the Puerto Rican Carlito Brigante, tries to escape his life of crime. These days, Carlito lives on in lyrics, even if it’s much easier to find an apple walnut salad than a bullet with your name on it in El Barrio. Elina Mishuris (Mar 26, 8pm at IFC Center’s “Celluloid Dreams,” followed by a Q&A with editor Bill Pankow)

03/11/15 9:44am
03/11/2015 9:44 AM |


Pulgasari (1985)
Directed by Sang-ok Shin
One of the touchstone directors of North Korean films came from South Korea. In 1978 the prolific South Korean filmmaker Shin and his ex-wife, the actress Choi Eun-Hee, were abducted at the command of the young Kim Jong-il, who believed that their work would innovate his nation’s film industry. Shin directed seven films in North Korea and then fled it with Choi shortly before Pulgasari, his last film made there, was finished. North Korea’s first monster movie (shot with a clear nod to Godzilla) unfolds in feudal times, with rebel peasants battling wicked Goryeo Dynasty warlords. An elderly blacksmith creates a lizard creature that springs to life after absorbing a drop of his daughter’s blood. The masses-allied beast proceeds to devour every piece of iron that it can find, and in the process grows first to human size and then into a towering giant. It aids the impoverished farmers in their fight until their iron tools are the only ones left for it to claim. Pulgasari (whose name means “Immortal”) comes to seem like a savior who will do whatever his people require of him—even leave them, if need be. Aaron Cutler (Mar 11, 10pm; Mar 21, 24, 7:30pm at the Spectacle’s “Juche Your Illusion I: Cinema of North Korea”)

03/04/15 8:21am
03/04/2015 8:21 AM |

     return to burma

Return to Burma (2011)
Directed by Midi Z
A restless young man (played by Wang Shin-Hong) bears a dead co-worker’s ashes from Taiwan back to their birth country—known officially today as Myanmar—then tries to create work opportunities for himself and others there. “My motivation for making this film was very simple,” says Midi Z (with translation by La Frances Hui) of his neorealist debut feature, which will screen with his 2014 short The Palace on the Sea. “I wanted to explore the human condition resulting from ten years of drastic change in Burma, with the country’s first general election in two decades present as a backdrop. At the time, I felt like the film’s protagonist, wanting to return home to work but not knowing how to begin. The people he meets are my friends and family members doing things that they do in their everyday lives. My personal experiences lie behind all my films—the differences are in techniques and contexts. Return to Burma is a personal essay; its follow-up feature, Poor Folk (2012), is like an untamed horse, free and wild; the feature after that, Ice Poison (2014), is a painstaking fable. Throughout them I try to express common global conditions of helplessness, displacement, and separation.” Aaron Cutler (Mar 7, 5pm at the Asia Society’s “Homecoming Myanmar: A Midi Z Retrospective”)

02/18/15 8:16am
02/18/2015 8:16 AM |


Quick Billy (1971)
Directed by Bruce Baillie
The South Dakota-born Baillie’s sweet films unfold like waking dreams. His hour-long opus of associations Quick Billy covers life cycles through overlapping sounds and images of things including ocean waves, moonlight, lovemaking, classical and jazz music, caged and wild animals, childhood photographs, and memories of the American West; these myriad simple gifts are gently offered for us to drift among. “Was thinking, why did I make Quick Billy?” Baillie writes by e-mail when queried about his film, which Anthology Film Archives will screen together with a related six-roll film correspondence between him and fellow filmmaker Stan Brakhage. “Seems to have been necessity, to explain my way through another mystery—as a poet must write the poem, or the farmer plant his pepinos and potatoes. Or as our friends the trees reach for the sky. Somehow we are asked for an explanation.” Aaron Cutler (Feb 20, 7:30pm at Anthology Film Archives’s “Essential Cinema”)

02/11/15 9:30am
02/11/2015 9:30 AM |


The Old Dark House (1932)
Directed by James Whale
The (very) odd film out amid Whale’s fantastic hit parade of Frankenstein (1931), Invisible Man (1933), and The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), this blissfully macabre, motley tale of wrong house, wrong family, wrong time moldered for decades in a Universal Studios vault. Just the sort of treatment—as Charles Laughton (a brash, sweet industrialist) and company learn—that probably helped drive their host family so singularly batty. Caught in a howling downpour, these passersby seek refuge under the Femm family’s roof, but find instead an all-time loony bin: Rebecca is half-deaf, God-fearing, and rude; Saul’s a deceitful firebug; and even Horace, who seems the normal one, says he’s wanted by the law. And then there’s their kooky, mad boozing butler Morgan (Boris Karloff). Deliciously atmospheric with Whale’s signature wit, The Old Dark House is a suspenseful brew of gothic and comedy. Jeremy Polacek (Feb 12, 12:30pm, 3:45pm, 7pm, 10:15pm at Film Forum’s Laughton series)

02/04/15 2:16pm
02/04/2015 2:16 PM |


Joe Versus the Volcano (1990)
Directed by John Patrick Shanley

Before Shanley was the Pulitzer-winning playwright of Doubt (but after he was the Oscar-winning screenwriter of Moonstruck), he wrote and helmed this big-budget comic-fairy-tale curiosity, whose narrative plays out like Woody Allen’s filmmaking evolution in reverse: it starts as smart, existential black comedy and ends in broad, zany caricature. Seemingly so insecure directing the Doubt movie 18 years later, with its attention-seeking camera angles and soaring musical cues, Shanley here is a confident cinematic master; it’s an Allenish film not just in tone but also in its sophisticated, superwidescreen cinematography (by Stephen Goldblatt), as terrible a victim of pan-and-scan as Manhattan. The excellent cast features not just Tom Hanks at his youthful best and classic character actors in bit parts (Dan Hedaya!) but also Meg Ryan, in three roles in three hair colors in three acts as three love interests. Her versatility will impress even a jaded New York cinephile who long ago wrote her off as romcom bullshit. Henry Stewart (Feb 4, 8pm, at IFC Center’s “Celluloid Dreams,” with Shanley in person)

01/28/15 11:34am
01/28/2015 11:34 AM |

The Woman on the Beach (1947)

The Woman on the Beach (1947)
Directed by Jean Renoir
A steamy love triangle melodrama rendered as a despairing, expressionistic fugue, this quintessential film-noir was the French master’s last work in Hollywood, as well as the only screen pairing of Joan Bennett, femme fatale par excellence, with Robert Ryan, graven visage of mid-century America’s latent psychic turmoil. One of the cinema’s great what-ifs—retooled after an unsuccessful preview, Renoir’s original version is now thought lost forever—it remains, even in its compromised form, a singular testament to the director’s artistry. Clunky exposition and narrative gaps can’t obscure the feverish emotions inflecting image after image; no less an authority than Jacques Rivette pronounced it “pure cinema.” Eli Goldfarb (Jan 28-30, 1:30pm at MoMA’s “Acteurism”)