Saturday, December 15, 2018

Ghost in the Noonday Sun (1974/1983)

The making of this film was documented by director Peter Medak in THE GHOST OF PETER SELLERS. In the doc Medak documents how star Sellers went about seeking to destroy the project because after getting the film set in motion he decided he didn't want to do it any more. The result is a legendary bad film that wrecked Medak's career. After seeing the documentary I searched out the "finished" feature to see if it was as bad as the documentary makes it out to be.

Based on a novel and filtered through the brain of Spike Milligan, GHOST tells the story of Dick Scratcher (Sellers) a cook on a pirate ship who kills the Captain after he buries the treasure and becomes captain because he has the map to the treasure. The trouble is the captain's ghost wipes the map clean and the pirates end up wandering for years trying to find it again. They are eventually helped by a boy who can see ghosts.

Messy beyond belief, the film was never completely shot because of Sellers' games, GHOST IN THE NOONDAY SUN isn't bad so much as incredibly dull. Basically everyone runs in circles for 90 minutes as things happen. Decidedly very Milligan -esque it helps if you are a fan of the legendary Goon Show or Milligan's own brand of bent humor. It is an acquired taste and even by his standards this film is a bit loopy. (Milligan who wrote the film was brought to the location to help rewrite the script but he simply wrote himself into the film, directed a few scenes and made it even more surreal and nonsensical.) Because sections were not shot there are narrative jumps, some of which are covered by title cards and some are just left hanging.

Not really bad, it's not really good either. The pacing is off, I'm guessing the result of problems in shooting and director Medak being limited in his editing choices. The humor is incredibly broad and often still manages to miss the target. yes it has some laughs but mostly we watch as people are silly.

While all of the cast other than Sellers comes off pretty good (Anthony Franciosa is incredibly good), its clear Sellers wasn't happy. He is mugging terribly and what could have worked in a five minute sketch crashes and burns in a 90 minute film.

Watching the film I kept waiting for something good or bad to happen. Nothing really did. Its clear there is, or was, or could have been something here but that  Peter Sellers happened and wrecked it...

...actually that's not fair, I think that on some level I think the film was kind of doomed from the script stage. Milligan, as funny and insane as he was also simply never had a tight enough grasp on reality to make a straight narrative work. Comedy or no he was the wrong person to write it.

In the end GHOST IN THE NOONDAY SUN is not much of anything. A grand footnote in the careers of most of the cast, it derailed Peter Medak's career for a while simply because he took the blame for the failure and was skittish about doing another big film. Is it worth seeing? If you are a fan of the stars and want to see everything they have done it is. Mostly though it's of interest linked to Medak's excellent documentary about the making of the film and as a warning of what happens when egos go unchecked.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Inoue at the Japan Society: The Stormy Man

It is hard to imagine a jazz critic appearing on American television to discuss rival drummers in a national jazz poll, but it certainly is fun to imagine. On the other hand, Jazz has had considerably more mainstream commercial acceptance in Japan during the immediate post-war years. It is still a bit of a stretch, but we can suspend our disbelief as bad boy drummer Shoichi Kokubu becomes a media sensation in Umetsugu Inoue’s The Stormy Man, which screens as part of Japan’s Music Man, the Japan Society’s weekend retrospective of Inoue’s musicals.

“Charlie,” the current #1 drummer, just broke up with his manager, Miyako Fukushima, both professionally and romantically. That leaves a vacant chair her band, the Six Jokers that needs to be filled pronto. Taking a chance, Fukushima bails out disorderly Kokubu, taking him directly from the overnight lock-up to the bandstand.

Of course, Kokubu rises to the occasion, really surprising everyone with his teen heartthrob vocals. He also makes quite the impression on Mary Oka, a nightclub dancer, who happens to be Charlie’s girlfriend. Inevitably, they become bitter rivals. Kokubu has all the initial advantages, including greater energy and talent. He also strikes a Faustian bargain with slimy jazz critic Toru Sakyo, who will champion his career in exchange for help wooing Fukushima. However, Sakyo will turn on the drummer when he starts his own relationship with Fukushima, threatening to sabotage the premiere of his virtuous little brother Eiji’s symphonic jazz tone poem (clearly based on Rhapsody in Blue). Yet, if you think Sakyo is mean-spirited, wait till you meet Kokubu’s ultra-judgmental mother, who thinks very little of his career choices.

Stormy is a delightfully lurid melodrama filled with music, gangsters, and angry young man angst. In many ways, it is an ode to the sights and sounds of Tokyo’s Ginza district, which looks like a total blast, but also more than a little dangerous, in an old school kind of way. This is definitely a jazz film, even though Shoichi’s vocals venture into the realm of jump-blues and Eiji’s composition approaching the sounds and textures of Stan Kenton’s progressive third-stream explorations.

This is also the film that launched Yûjirô Ishihara as a James Dean-esque teen idol, who relentlessly rages and seethes as the resentful drummer with mother issues. Ironically, he looks much younger than Kyoji Aoyama, portraying the unshakably sensible Eiji. Mie Kitahara is terrific bringing the sly attitude and show-stopping glamor as Fukushima, like a femme fatale, without the fatalness. In contrast, Nobuo Kaneko makes quite a slimy, clammy, forked-tongue impression as the manipulative Sakyo. You can think of him as a combination of the absolute worst traits of Tony Curtis’s Sidney Falco and Burt Lancaster’s J.J. Hunsecker in The Sweet Smell of Success.

There is a lot of violent gangster business going on in Stormy Man, but somehow Inoue still manages to keep it bopping along quite buoyantly. It looks colorful and splashy, whole sounding swinging and modern. The Ginza jazz life was probably never really like this, but it is fun to think that it was. Enthusiastically recommended for hip audiences, The Stormy Man screens this Saturday and Sunday (12/15 & 12/16), as part of the Japan Society’s Inoue musical series.

Santa Claus (2014) hits VOD Monday

SANTA CLAUS aka Le Père Noël shouldn’t have put a big ass smile on my face but it did. Let’s face it, it hits every single solitary cliché…and for some reason I really don’t care because I was utterly charmed.

The plot of the film has a little boy (Victor Cabal) who still believes in Santa, opening his bedroom widow and finding him (Tahar Rahim) standing there. The thing is that it isn’t Santa but a small time crook with larceny on his mind. The plan is to use the Santa get up to break into apartments and steal the valuables as everyone is out celebrating. Of course the pair end up falling in together and changing for the better.

Yes, it’s exactly what you think it is but it’s still utterly charming. Blame it on the season or whatever you like but I think it’s due entirely to Rahim and Cabal who are so damn charming together that you can’t help but falling in love with their adventures. You genuinely like the teaming that you’ll happily go with it where ever it goes…which is pretty much exactly where you think it will.

Does that make it a bad film? Oh hell no. Its entertaining as all get out though to be honest I know that if I saw this in the middle of summer instead of two weeks before Christmas I would have been less likely to fall under its spell.

That said- if you want something charming for the holiday season I recommend SANTA CLAUS which hits VOD on Monday.


Rethink in fantasy terms of the Legend of King Arthur. Intended to be the first of five films in a series it wobbled enough at the box office to doom any follow ups.

After escaping from a battle between his father and uncle as an young child Arthur drifts in a boat to London. There he grows up in a brothel where he has his own band of men. While in the midst of battle he pulls a sword from a stone and collapses from the swords power. Filled in on who he is by is evil Uncle, Arthur is then set for execution. He is rescued and then begins to lean of the power of the sword and to get revenge on his uncle.

Playing like a four hour film with half of it cut out KING ARTHUR has some great characters, some fantastic set pieces (the battles are great) but little in the way of sense. Way too much of the plot is missing that the film is almost impossible to truly comprehend. Who are these people? We really don't know. The result is that past a certain point we really don't care. Yes we love the action but we don't care about the people.

Personally I would love to know if there is some sort of longer cut of the film. While messy in the extreme,  there is enough of a frame work to make me think that this might have been something before someone took scissors to it.(It is light years ahead of the recent Robin Hood retread which had no workable script)

While not the complete write off that some have claimed, this is far from perfect but it is an acceptable popcorn film especially for a rainy day.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

January and February 2019 Repertory Film Calendar at Metrograph Announced [Pasolini, Kay Francis, Hou Hsiao-hsien, Teshigahara, and more!

January and February 2019 Repertory and Special Events Calendar Announced

Opens January 4

Pier Paolo Pasolini: A Future Life, Part 1
All 35mm!

A retrospective of the cinematic works of Pier Paolo Pasolini, poet, composer, public intellectual, and provocateur, will stretch across three calendars at Metrograph, but when thinking of where to start with this singularly brilliant filmmaker, there was only one logical place—at the end. Pasolini thought constantly of his own demise, and that of the earth, especially as, entering middle-age, he became increasingly influenced by Antonin Artaud and the Marquis de Sade. Setting out to make his film of de Sade’s Salò, Pasolini explained “The most sincere thing I could do at that moment was to make a film about a mode of sexuality whose joyousness is a compensation for repression—a phenomenon that was about to come to an end, forever.” It was, he said, a film that was to make him “A new director. Ready for the modern.” Three weeks before its premiere, however, Pasolini was dead, murdered on the beach at Ostia, a shadowy event believed by many to be politically motivated. Decades later, Pasolini looms larger than ever in in our cultural consciousness as one of the most radical, uncompromising artists who ever lived. “Death,” he once said, “is not being unable to communicate; but no longer being able to be understood.” He is speaking to us still. Titles include La terra vista dalla luna, part of the omnibus film The Witches (1967), Pasolini's "Trilogy of Life": The Decameron (1971), The Canterbury Tales (1972), and Arabian Nights (1974), as well as Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975).
Opens January 11

Kay Francis: The Queen of Pleasure 
First-Ever Retrospective Celebrating Ms. Francis' Legacy

A top box-office attraction in the 1930s and an idiosyncratic and can’t-take-your-eyes-off-her screen presence, Kay Francis was undisputed royalty on the Warner Bros. lot. The Oklahoma-born Francis was a tall, striking, raven-tressed beauty, the first infamous onscreen clotheshorse, a verifiable superstar whose face decorated scores of gushing fan magazines, though privately her life was far more risqué than the Pre-Code vehicles that established her fame, including comedies like Trouble in Paradise and Jewel Robbery(opposite frequent partner William Powell) or melodramas like One Way Passage, a doomed romance set on a champagne and martini-soaked trip set aloft an ocean liner, in which she was equally effective. Even at the height of her fame, Francis’ magnetism was never without a melancholy lining; she was oft-quoted to say that she couldn’t wait to be forgotten—and indeed her stardom would dim by the end of the ‘30s—but no performer so magnetic, in love, laughter, and tears, could ever really disappear, and so Metrograph is pleased to reintroduce a new generation to the woman who, in imitation of her charming speech impediment, was sometimes called “Wavishing Kay Fwancis.” Titles include Trouble In Paradise (Ernst Lubitsch, 1932), Jewel Robbery (William Dieterle, 1932), Wife Wanted (Phil Karlson, 1946), British Agent(Michael Curtiz, 1934), Cynara (King Vidor, 1932), Transgression (Herbert Brenon, 1931), One Way Passage (Tay Garnett, 1932), Stolen Holiday (Michael Curtiz, 1937), The Cocoanuts (Robert Florey & Joseph Santley, 1929), Let's Go Native (Leo McCarey, 1930), The Virtuous Sin (George Cukor & Louis J. Gasnier, 1930), and Girls About Town (George Cukor, 1931). 
Opens January 18

Hiroshi Teshigahara 
8-Film Retrospective and Shorts Program 

A towering crest of the Japanese New Wave, Hiroshi Teshigahara crashed down on the world of art house cinema in the 1960s. He is best known today for his films of this fecund period, particularly the four atmospheric, endlessly beguiling, avant garde-adjacent movies that he made working with novelist and screenwriter Kōbō Abe, unclassifiable works that explore the mysteries and vagaries of identity: Pitfall,Woman of the DunesThe Face of Another, and The Man Without a Map. Undeniably major as these awesome accomplishments are, however, they reveal only a portion of the creative genius of this multihyphenate artist, who worked as a painter, sculptor, designer, and Noh theater director in addition to his cinematic pursuits, and whose cinema exists at an intersection between the high international modernism of Antonioni, Bergman, and Resnais, and the traditional Japanese fine arts (his father was founder and master of the world-famous Sogetsu School of Ikebana now run by his daughter.) At Metrograph, you can discover the full measure of Teshigahara’s restless genius, including early shorts and extraordinary features about AWOL American GIs (Summer Soldier), a brilliant Catalan architect (Antonio Gaudi), and the famed face-off between a Zen monk and a warlord (Rikyu). The sum total shows a cineaste who is much more than his brilliant ‘60s run, and nothing less than a titan of Japanese cinema. Titles include Pitfall (1962), Woman in the Dunes (1964), The Face of Another (1966), Antonio Gaudi(1984), Rikyu (1989), Basara (1992), The Man Without a Map (1968), Summer Soldiers (1972), and a shorts program.  Presented with Teshigahara’s grandson, New York composer and artist Tristan Teshigahara Pollock, in-person.
Opens January 25
Hou Hsiao-hsien In the 21st Century
4-Film Retrospective Includes Imported 35mm Print of Café Lumière
Spending his formative years in Taipei, a distinctly modern city that had swiftly grown into a metropolis in the years following the Chinese Civil War, Hou Hsiao-Hsien has always been principally an urban filmmaker, his view of the life in the concrete jungle perhaps summed up in the title of one of his breakthrough movies: City of Sadness. As the city has changed, Hou the artist has changed with it, producing at the turn of the century one of his most radical departures, Millennium Mambo (2001), a film that found the director searching for the digital pulse of a new era with a new freewheeling style. This daring and still-misunderstood work will play with a trio of 21st century Hou films, movies in which the alienation and exhilaration of life in the anonymous contemporary cityscape is distilled into unforgettable images as only this poet of urban anomie can. Titles also include an imported 35mm print of Café Lumière(2003),  Three Times (2005) and Flight of the Red Balloon (2007)
Opens January 26

Produced by David O. Selznick
8-Film Overview of the Legendary Hollywood Producer

More than any single figure, David O. Selznick codified prestige-with-a-capital-P filmmaking during the Golden Age of the Hollywood studios, a creative producer in the truest sense who was renowned for his attention to detail, as exemplified by his novel-length memos. Selznick began his life in movies working for father Lewis J. Selznick’s production companies before moving to MGM, where he filled the enormous shoes of the studio’s legendary second-in-command, Irving Thalberg, and eventually became the son-in-law of studio head Louis B. Mayer. Selznick had the keys to the kingdom at MGM, but soon he was bucking for independence, and in 1935 went his own way with Selznick International Pictures, throwing himself into worrying and willing a string of enduring classics into being, including Rebecca (Alfred Hitchcock, 1940), and the highest grossing American film ever, Gone With the Wind (Victor Fleming, 1939). Overseeing every aspect of the filmmaking process on his movies, from writing to casting to editing to directing, Selznick in his brilliant career garnered ten Academy awards nominations. He also brought Hitchcock to America; gave his second wife, Jennifer Jones, her greatest roles; and, in the words of biographer David Thomson, “cared for every facet of making a film and had a greater sense of how to photograph individuals, how to use sets and music, and how to construct picture than many directors.” Let this retro stand as incontrovertible evidence that the “Selznick touch,” though hard to classify, was nevertheless very real—and close to a guarantee of movie magic. Titles include What Price Hollywood?(George Cukor, 1932), Dinner at Eight (Cukor, 1933), Spellbound (Hitchcock, 1945), Duel in the Sun (King Vidor, 1946), The Third Man (Carol Reed, 1949), and Portrait of Jennie (William Dieterle, 1948).
Opens February 8

Valentine's Day at Metrograph

Colliding cars, cannibalism, and a sentimental song at Rick’s Café—these are just a few of the ways that lovers have of expressing their emotions in our wild ride of a Valentine’s Day series, which finds space for loves queer and straight, spiritual and carnal, and everything in-between. A great date for a special someone, someones, or just yourself—and don’t forget, The Commissary will be serving an especially romantic prix fixe menu. Reserve in advance. Titles include Heaven Can Wait (Ernst Lubitsch, 1943),Moonlight (Barry Jenkins, 2016), Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942), Trouble Every Day (Claire Denis, 2001), Crash (David Cronenberg, 1997), and Querelle (R.W. Fassbinder, 1982).
Throughout January and February

Playtime is Metrograph’s regularly-recurring weekend matinee series of studio standards, animated adventures, and foreign-language frolics, kid-friendly in content but selected because their quality has been proven plain to moviegoers of all ages. This time around we’ve got adventures galore on the agenda, so come on down with Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (Charles Lamont, 1955), munch some marmalade with Paddington (Paul King, 2014) and Paddington 2 (King, 2018), and take a few hacks at the plate with Wonderboy (The Natural, Barry Levinson, 1984). Revisit the movies you know by heart, take a chance on something you’ve never heard of—and be sure to hang around to talk about your favorite scenes over brunch in the upstairs Commissary. Titles also include Beauty and the Beast (Jean Cocteau, 1946), Shaun the Sheep Movie (Mark Burton & Richard Starzak, 2015), Song of the Sea (Tomm Moore, 2014), and Inside Out (Pete Docter & Ronnie Del Carmen, 2015).
Throughout January and February

Late Nights at Metrograph
Introducing Late Nights at Metrograph, new to this calendar and a staple to every calendar going forward. A combination of established favorites, movies we’ve been dying to find an excuse to book, and cult curios playing every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, it’s a new way to end your day on a voluptuous cinematic experience—and don’t worry, the Commissary will still be serving food and lots of drinks from a special late night menu when you get out, so no need to go to bed hungry. Titles include Mind Game (Masaaki Yuasa, 2004), Ghost in the Shell (Mamoru Oshii, 1995), News from Home (Chantal Akerman, 1977),Weekend (Jean-Luc Godard, 1967), Trouble Every Day (Claire Denis, 2001), The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (Luis Buñuel, 1972), Branded to Kill (Seijun Suzuki, 1967), and Kaili Blues (Bi Gan, 2015). 
Throughout January and February
Academy at Metrograph
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Continues its Residency 
at Metrograph with Upcoming Winter 2019 Programming

Stephen Bogart Presents The African Queen on January 12 and
Eve's Bayou with Director Kasi Lemmons on February 9

ACADEMY AT METROGRAPH continues in January and February of 2019, with upcoming programming that includes The African Queen presented by Stephen Bogart on January 12, and Eve's Bayou, with director Kasi Lemmons on February 9.
The African Queen will be presented by Stephen Bogart, son of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, on January 12. One of  John Huston’s best-loved films and one of the most entertaining odd-couple pictures ever made, this action-comedy-romance, shot in Uganda and the Congo, teams Humphrey Bogart as a crass Canadian supply boat skipper and Katharine Hepburn as his bluestocking cargo, a prudish missionary who he’s transporting through c. 1914 German East Africa when war breaks out and all hell breaks loose. 

On February 9, Eve's Bayou will be presented by director Kasi Lemmons. One of the essential works of African-American cinema of the 1990s, and just selected for the Library of Congress' National Film Registry, Eve's Bayou is a film of rich, steamy sexuality and an incredible sense of place, that follows the loss of innocence that occurs when the daughter of a well-to-do Louisiana family (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) catches her father (Samuel L. Jackson) in a moment of infidelity. Boasting an impressive line-up of actresses, including living legends Lynne Whitfield and Diahann Carroll, Debbi Morgan, and Meagan Good, it’s a seductive tour de force in an atmosphere thick with voodoo, other Creole legends, and household magic.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) began a yearlong residency at Metrograph in July 2017, bringing exciting and entertaining programs to the big screen. Programs in ACADEMY AT METROGRAPH have and continue to feature onstage conversations with filmmakers and scholars of motion pictures, tributes, newsreels, rarely seen clips from past Oscar® ceremonies, and home movies from Hollywood legends.  This monthly series highlights unique archival elements, including recent restorations and film prints from the Academy Film Archive by celebrating classic moments from the Academy’s 90-year history.
January 5

Nico Baumbach Presents Jean-Luc Godard's Film Socialisme
Godard: “This movie was titled Socialism, at first, but it seemed to have too many connotations. Film Socialism is different: a philosopher wrote me 12 pages saying how wonderful it is to see ‘film’ alongside ‘socialism,’ since that has another meaning altogether, even hope.”

"His twin obsessions: film in its relation to the history of twentieth century politics, but also the possibility of an equality of images or images of equality, a film manifesto in the tradition of Vertov, “a smile that dismisses the universe.” Godard’s first feature shot entirely on video is about the death of both film and socialism and the signs of their persistence and potential. It features Patti Smith and Alain Badiou on a cruise ship, an intrigue about gold Stalin stole from Spain, a llama, a YouTube cat video, and ends with an attack on the idea of intellectual property. Required viewing for everyone living in the 21st century, whether or not you wish to participate in the promotion of my book, Cinema/Politics/Philosophy published by Columbia University Press." —Nico Baumbach, who will be on hand to present the film and sign copies of Cinema/Politics/Philosophy after the screening.
January 11

 The Unholy Three with Live Store by Gary Lucas

Maestro of the macabre Tod Browning (FreaksDracula) directs frequent collaborator Lon Chaney to a masterfully sinister—and occasionally quite moving—performance as a warped ventriloquist masterminding an underhanded Christmas Eve crime along with dastardly dwarf Harry Eales and strongman Victor McLaglen. This sinful syndicate will stop at nothing, including a cross-dressing turn by Chaney, to get what they want in this sleeper sickie, remade five years later as Chaney’s first talkie but never surpassed in this visually ingenious sideshow thriller, which has the added inducements of Mae Busch as a pulchritudinous pickpocket and a maniacal chimpanzee. Featuring live performance by Gary Lucas accompanying the film.
February 2

 Hilton Als on James Baldwin

In conjunction with God Made My Face: A Collective Portrait of James Baldwin at David Zwirner in January in February, the curator of that exhibition, author and scholar Hilton Als will present a selection of films and visual excerpts of Baldwin on screen. 

Pictures of Polite Society: Henry James at the Movies January 11 – 24 at the Quad

The Quad surveys the filmic adaptations of Henry James' baroque literary universe, from the loose to the faithful. With films by Jacques Rivette, Peter Bogdanovich, Jane Campion, William Wyler, Agnieszka Holland, François Truffaut, and more!

Series runs in conjunction with the release of The Aspern Papers, starring Vanessa Redgrave and executive produced by James Ivory, opening Fri January 11

“I glory in the piling up of complications of every sort,” declared novelist Henry James. He was speaking to his niece about his prose style, but he could easily have been acknowledging his sure hand at plotting out crossroads, conundrums, and class conflicts for his characters. James wrote his observational fiction from experience: reared in New York State—both in Albany and in Manhattan—he became keenly attuned to the mores he absorbed from his family’s lofty perch on the social ladder. An adolescence spent in Europe would affirm his aesthetic interests in cross-cultural currents on both sides of the pond, and this American abroad would ultimately make his home in England. His novels have attracted filmmakers and actors ever since his passing a century ago; they offer cinematic enticements that might begin with ornate costuming and settings that draw the eye but which then veer towards the heart as people wrestle with matters of love and propriety. On the occasion of The Aspern Papers, the latest in a rich history of James adaptations executive produced by James Ivory and opening Fri January 11, the Quad presents a range of interpretations of James’ highly subjective marrying of internal struggles and external forces.
Eduardo de Gregorio, 1982, Portugal/France, 96m, 35mm
The Bostonians
James Ivory, 1984, UK, 122m, DCP
Céline and Julie Go Boating
Jacques Rivette, 1974, France, 193m, 35mm
Daisy Miller
Peter Bogdanovich, 1974, U.S., 91m, 35mm
The Golden Bowl
James Ivory, 2000, U.S./France/UK, 130m, 35mm
The Green Room
François Truffaut, 1978, France, 95m, 35mm
The Heiress
William Wyler, 1949, U.S., 115m, DCP
The Innocents
Jack Clayton, 1961, UK, 100m, DCP
The Lost Moment
Martin Gabel, 1947, U.S., 89m, 35mm
The Nightcomers
Michael Winner, 1971, UK, 96m, 35mm
The Portrait of a Lady
Jane Campion, 1996, UK/U.S., 144m, DCP
Sérail (Surreal Estate)
Eduardo de Gregorio, 1976, France, 83m, 35mm
Washington Square
Agnieszka Holland, 1997, U.S., 115m, 35mm
The Wings of the Dove
Iain Softley, 1997, U.S./UK, 102m, 35mm
The Aspern Papers

Opens Fri January 11
Julien Landais, UK/Germany, 90m, DCP
Rife with deception, lust, and literary intrigue, this adaptation of Henry James’ 1888 novella stars a commanding Vanessa Redgrave as the ailing (but formidable) former lover of deceased poet Jeffrey Aspern—and the supposed recipient of a cache of his personal letters. Posing as a prospective lodger, conniving American editor Jonathan Rhys Meyers courts Redgrave’s niece (played by her real-life daughter Joely Richardson) in the hopes of gaining access to the mysterious—and potentially scandalous—contents of the missives. But is the past best kept in the past? Executive produced by James Ivory. A Cohen Media Group Release

The 1st IRANIAN FILM FESTIVAL NEW YORK is set to launch Jan 10–15th 2019 at the IFC Center!

Festival to highlight both classic art-house Iranian cinema and cutting-edge films by young Iranian filmmakers 
New Yorkers and cinephiles are in for a treat this coming January! The 1st annual Iranian Film Festival New York (IrFFNY) is set to launch at one of NYC’s top art-houses, the IFC Center (323 Sixth Ave at West 3rd Street) from Jan 10th–15th 2019. 

IrFFNY will present an annual selection of acclaimed and award-winning films from one of the world’s most vital and distinguished national cinemas to New York audiences. The festival aims to unite two strands of Iranian moviemaking – the classic art-house Iranian cinema that is known to cinephiles around the world, and new cutting-edge works that show the adventurousness and daring nature of younger Iranian directors. The classic strand features celebrated names such as Bahman Farmanara, Abbas Kiarostami and Jafar Panahi. 

The festival’s Opening Night selection will be the NY premiere of Bahman Farmanara’s TALE OF THE SEA (Hekayat-e Darya, 97 min) on Thursday, Jan 10th at 7pm. Following the screening, there will be a Q&A with the film’s writer / producer / director & star Farmanara. The veteran producer & director has been active in Iranian cinema since the 1970s, and the festival is proud to have him as its Guest of Honor. 

Dedicated to the late great Abbas Kiarostami, TALE OF THE SEA is the story of an ailing and reclusive writer (played by Farmanara) who after witnessing a violent murder, breaks down and spends three years in a mental institution. Upon release, he returns with his wife to his home by the sea, a place where past and present blur in delicate and deeply moving ways. The film also stars Fatemeh Motamed-Arya (Gilaneh, Men at Work) who is considered one of the most significant actresses of post-revolutionary Iranian cinema, and award-winning actress Leila Hatami (Asghar Farhadi’s Oscar winning film A Separation). The Hollywood Reporter calls Tale Of The Sea “Farmanara’s resonant elegy to the conclusion of an artistic era and his salute to a generation of Iranian writers, artists, musicians and filmmakers who are leaving the scene”. 
The festival will also present the NY premiere of Farmanara’s controversial comedy-drama I WANT TO DANCE (Delam Mikhad, 95 min), which was just released from a four-year ban in Iran. The film follows Bahram Farzaneh (played by Reza Kianian), a lonely writer with severe writer’s block who begins to hear rhythmic Persian dance music in his head after an accident, which leads him to be consumed by the irrepressible desire to dance. People think he has gone crazy and this bizarre new behavior creates many problems for him – both with the authorities and his family.  The film will screen on Saturday, Jan 12th at 6:30pm. A Q&A will follow with Farmanara after the screening. 

In addition, Farmanara’s striking political allegory TALL SHADOWS OF THE WIND (1978) – one of the most acclaimed films of the Iranian New Wave – will be shown on Monday, Jan 14th at 7pm, followed by a Q&A with the filmmaker.

On Friday, Jan 11th at 7pm, the festival will screen Mani Haghighi’s twisted dark comedy PIG (Khook, 108 min). Making its premiere in competition at this year’s Berlinale, this social satire stars Hasan Majuni as Hassan, a blacklisted director who hasn’t been able to make a film in years, forcing him into directing commercials. Hassan is doubly frustrated that his muse, the actress Shiva (played by Leila Hatami) has started to work with other directors. But most galling of all, a serial killer is going about beheading Iran’s finest filmmakers, and their severed heads are being discovered with the word “pig” imprinted on their foreheads… yet Hassan remains unscathed. Feeling like he’s being ignored, Hassan’s bad luck turns to worse when he becomes the prime suspect in this murder case.The hilarity and hijinks that follow are quite unlike anything else in Iranian cinema.

The festival’s Closing Night selection will be the North American premiere of Houman Seyedi’s SHEEPLE (102 min) on Tuesday, Jan 15th at 7pm. A violent action film about criminal gangs that has been compared to Brazil's CITY OF GOD as well as the films of Tarantino, SHEEPLE won the Audience Award this year at Iran's Fajr Film Festival where it was called “the most exciting genre film” by The Hollywood Reporter. The film stars Navid Mohammadzadeh (Best Actor winner, Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival) who is considered one the best new actors of Iranian Cinema.

Some other highlights from the festival program include the New York premieres of: 

Abbas Amini’s HENDI & HORMOZ (88 min), a tale of imperiled young love in coastal Iran that premiered at this year’s Berlinale and recently won Best Film & Best Director prizes at Toronto’s CineIran Film Festival. The film will screen on Friday, Jan 11th at 9:30pm

SLY (Märmouz, 90 min), which recently premiered at the Busan Film Festival, is a daring satire of the Iranian political system by director Kamal Tabrizi (“The Lizard”). The film stars Hamid Behdad (Best Actor, CineIran Film Festival), one of Iran's most acclaimed young actors. SLY will screen on Saturday, Jan 12th at 9pm.

First-time director Asghar Yousefinejad’s THE HOME, a Best Picture prize-winner in Iran that examines the tensions and deceptions in a family as they prepare to bury their just-deceased patriarch. The film will screen Saturday, Jan 12th at 4:45pm.

On Sunday, Jan 13th at 7:15pm, the festival is honored to present 3 FACES (Se Rokh100 min), the latest from Iranian master Jafar Panahi, who has continued to work despite being under an official ban from filmmaking for the last seven years. The film, which is his fourth feature he’s made since the ban was handed down, won the Best Screenplay award at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, and will be released by Kino Lorber next spring in the United States.

IrFFNY is co-founded and co-programmed by film critic Godfrey Cheshire, who has written extensively about Iranian cinema, and Festival Director and film distributor Armin Miladi who distributes Iranian films and runs the annual Iranian Film Festival of Australia, now in its 8th year. The festival is presented under the banner of Miladi’s company Daricheh Cinema.

Festival director / Co-founder / Co-programmer Armin Miladi said: 
“Despite political and economic challenges, 2018 has been a great year for Iranian Cinema on the international stage. I’m excited that after years of planning & preparation, and by presenting a mix of world-renowned Iranian auteurs alongside thrilling new talents, we are finally able to bring one of the best selections ever of contemporary Iranian Cinema to a wide audience in New York. I also deeply believe that through cinema and film festivals like IrFFNY, we can help build a meaningful worldwide platform for better positive cultural understanding between people & nations rather than the daily negative images & stories that the mainstream media often portray about countries like Iran.”

Co-founder / Co-programmer Godfrey Cheshire said: 
“Iranian filmmakers have always worked under very challenging conditions. Both before and after the country’s 1979 Revolution, film artists faced the paradoxical situation that the government both supported and censored cinema, enforcing an ever-changing raft of content restrictions. Of the three most prominent directors represented in the first IrFFNY, Farmanara and Kiarostami have had films banned in Iran, while Panahi was banned from making films for 20 years, an order he has defied by continuing to make them. Filmmakers have fought against the limits placed on them with their creativity. I believe New York audiences attending IrFFNY will be fascinated to see the various strategies that writers and directors have devised to push the envelope on subjects including politics (“Sly”), religion (“The Home”), intimacy (“Hendi and Hormoz”), gang violence (“Sheeple”) and even dancing (“Pig” & I Want To Dance”). The films in this year’s festival illustrate both the passion and the ingenuity that continue to distinguish Iranian cinema.”

The festival will also honor Abbas Kiarostami with a special presentation of two documentaries offering portraits of the late filmmaker. On Sunday, Jan 13th at 9:30pm, the feature-length film “76 MINUTES AND 15 SECONDS WITH ABBAS KIAROSTAMI,” by renowned cinematographer and Kiarostami collaborator Seifollah Samadian, will be accompanied by the New York premiere of TAKE ME HOME, Kiarostami’s final short film. 

The 30-minute film A WALK WITH KIAROSTAMI by Jamsheed Akrami (a scholar of Iranian cinema, film professor and critic) who was a longtime friend of Kiarostami’s, will be featured in the program IRANIAN CINEMA THROUGH THE LENS OF JAMSHEED AKRAMI on Sunday, Jan 13th at 5pm. This will also include clips from three feature-length documentaries by Akrami about Iranian cinema (Friendly Persuasion, The Lost Cinema, Cinema of Discontent), followed by a discussion between Akrami and critic Godfrey Cheshire. 

Additional films & events for the festival will be announced in the coming days.

Tickets for the festival are available at the IFC Center box office (323 Sixth Avenue) or online at
Tickets for the Opening Night screening of TALE OF THE SEA are $20/$15 IFC Center members. Tickets for other festival screenings are $17 adults/$13 seniors/$12 IFC Center members. 
A festival pass, good for admission to 10 festival screenings, is available for $125/$100 IFC Center members.
IrFFNY is an independently organized and nonpolitical event 
presented under the banner of Daricheh Cinema 
and has no financial ties to any government organization inside or outside Iran.
For the complete IrFFNY festival schedule, see below.
For the complete IrFFNY festival schedule, see below.
For film descriptions and further information, go to: 
Twitter & Instagram: @irffny

Iranian Film Festival New York SCHEDULE:

Odd Men Out (2018)

ODD MEN OUT is an odd  film. Nominally a seeming riff on RESERVOIR  DOGS the film swerves off into interesting territory only to end much too quickly leaving me to wonder if this is a proof of concept for a feature film.

The film has five bank robbers hustling into a motel room. Their job was partly successful in that they got the money, but the cops knew they were coming and now they are being hunted after a big shoot out. They are unsure what to do, more so after TV reports of the robbery suggest something more sinister is at work.

To be honest the first half of the the film is good but nothing special. While it is well done it suffers from being much to close to the Tarantino film mentioned above. All of the guys are in black suits and instead of colors everyone is wearing animal masks. It is only once the TV is turned on and the guys find out how badly things have gone south that the film comes into it's own. It's at this point that ODD MEN OUT begins to shine and to really suck us in...

...and that's the rub, by the time the film is truly standing on it's own the film has reached a point where either it is going to shoot off into feature film territory or have a hard time ending. The filmmakers decided to end the film with a turn that definitely ends things but doesn't give us all the answers nor is wholly satisfying.

Frankly I wanted more.

And that is the rub here- is this supposed to be a self contained film or is this a proof of concept?

As a short film, on it's own terms ODD MEN OUT is a good little crime drama that is probably a tad too close to RESERVOIR DOGS for it's own good. This doesn't mean it's bad only that as a short it's going to get some comments like mine, despite the fact that in the second half it picks up and goes somewhere else.

That the film is going somewhere else in the second half is what makes me think this could have been and probably have been a feature film that expands everything in the second half into something special. It is that second half shift that makes me a fan of the film.

I like the first half,  I really like the second and I love the thought that if you remove or delay the ending this could become a kick ass feature.

Luna (2014)

Dave McKean's LUNA took years to complete. Shot in 2007 it couldn't be completed until 2010 and than wasn't released until 2014.

Grant and Christine are still dealing with the death of their son right after his birth two years on. They take an invitation to visit their friend, and Christine's former lover, Dean who lives with his girlfriend Freya. Over the weekend the friends come together, break apart and find the reason why life goes on.

Domestic drama tinged with fantasy is a cinematic masterpiece. Very much the cinematic equivalent of director McKean's illustration and paintings LUNA is not just a domestic drama but a deeper mediation on life in general by a master artist. It is a stunning achievement which has left me unable to really do anything except stare at the screen and marvel.

Right before the release of LUNA I interviewed McKean in regard to his earlier film THE GOSPEL OF US. Not long after the review and interview were published that I found out about LUNA and I reached out him to see if there was a way for me to see the film. He said that there was not at that time because they were trying to work out a release deal for the US and to do so might complicate that. I said I understood having dealt with filmmakers who had similar problems. I then went into a waiting pattern which lasted so long that I completely missed the home video release of the film in the US.

I was curious why it took 3 years  for the film to get a release  and then I saw the film and I understood why, it is much more than just a straight forward drama and I don't think most people can really process what McKean has done with the film. Melding art with reality and dream he has made a film that works on both conscious and unconscious levels. Watching the film you are getting so much information aurally, visually and emotionally that its hard to know what to feel. We, as film goers, or even art lovers are not used to being played as McKean plays us.  Hollywood, and most of the filmmakers in the world...and even the artists in the world can't work on all the levels this film does.

Yes, the film is a domestic drama, but the threads don't play out as a typical drama. The dynamic between the characters has a weight of real friendship that you son't see in most films. Its not just a friendship because McKean says so but because we see how they inter act. Watching Christine and Dean talk about their shared past I could see the way I speak with my best friend Randi. Here in real life there is a closeness there that time has forged between Randi and myself, and it is something reflected in the on screen couple. Watching Christine and Dean on screen I saw the friendship that only comes from a deep love and shared experience. I don't think I've ever really seen that in a film before. I think that's because until LUNA there never really was a need to have characters be that real.

There is a dream logic to it all. Fantasies intrude on reality. Dreams are literally shared- At one point Grant sees his wife's dream when two horned twins come out of the wardrobe and project it on a screen. Grant asks at one point "Am I still dreaming?" because reality is malleable depending on if we are waking, dreaming, or pondering.

And to be honest I really haven't begun to sort the film out. Even with listening to the commentary track in the DVD there is still much I need to figure out and discover for myself.

There is much more to say, but I don't have the words. Just track the film down and see it for yourself. I will not speculate if you will like the film, however I am pretty sure that even if you don't you'll know that you'll have seen something meatier than 95% of other films made today.

A grand masterpiece and highly recommended.