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)

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”)

01/21/15 11:00am
01/21/2015 11:00 AM |


eXistenZ (1999)
Directed by David Cronenberg
Staging an interdisciplinary war between the Realists and the gamers, Cronenberg is at his finest here since Videodrome, coalescing the hypersexual, the grotesque, and the visceral. Jennifer Jason Leigh is Allegra Gellar, a designer-on-the-run, and Jude Law is Ted Pikul, her cagey bodyguard—who just happens to be one of the few people without a MetaFlesh Game Pod, which hooks directly into your nervous system. Ted gives in, plugs in, and is empirically thrust into the game—an amniotic sac pulsating with absurdist hyperreality. Cronenberg’s characters are aware of their own characterhoods; it’s a collaborative reality. The game-urges and the effect of virtual life on our real lives are so cleverly simulated and boundlessly relevant nearly two decades later. Samantha Vacca (Jan 23, 24, midnight at IFC Center’s Cronenberg series)

01/14/15 1:00pm
01/14/2015 1:00 PM |


Touch Me in the Morning (1999)
Directed by Giuseppe Andrews
In the midst of starring in studio movies and Oscar bait (Pleasantville, American History X, The Other Sister, Detroit Rock City), twenty-year-old Andrews directed his first feature, which defies every filmmaking convention and breaks all the rules of good taste. Working with residents from his local trailer park, Andrews’ approach to cinema is deliberately awkward and primitive—think early John Waters by way of Bumfights. Touch Me in the Morning’s threadbare plot, in which young drifter Coney Island (Andrews) re-unites with his ex-con father, serves as a framework to explore every atrocity plaguing America’s underbelly—poverty, racism, drug addiction, misogyny, it’s all here. Presented as an absurdist comedy with no one but Andrews appearing to be in on the joke, the final product is a terrifying slice of Americana that predicts and predates Tim & Eric, Trash Humpers, and mumblecore, but exceeds them all in audacity and authenticity. Zach Clark (Jan 16, 22, 7:30pm; Jan 19, 10pm at Spectacle’s Andrews series; this week, the documentary Giuseppe Makes a Movie receives a run at Anthology Film Archives, along with two additional Andrews films)

01/07/15 12:17pm
01/07/2015 12:17 PM |

Edward G. Robinson, Loretta Young and Orson Welles in Welles' TH

The Stranger (1946)
Directed by Orson Welles
Time and Edward G. Robinson’s bullheaded Nazi hunter press in on small, standstill New England town, host to a cast of stock, quaint characters, a broken clock tower, and one fugitive Nazi holocaust mastermind (a grimacing, twitchy-eyed, lusterless Welles). Stylish, well paced, and touched with some terrific, craggy faces, not to mention a standout, fall-down ending, The Stranger is great as portrait of pressure and the violence it does—to bodies, hearts, and minds. Less and less Welles’s unknowing wife, Loretta Young flakes off in batty, delicious pieces. Too bad a mechanical plot and some middling performances chill the film from greatness, but that didn’t stop people from seeing it. In fact, The Stranger turned a profit when it hit theaters, a feat no other film the great auteur directed would ever again achieve. Jeremy Polacek (Jan 9, 10, 9:45pm at Film Forum’s Welles centennial)