Tuesday, October 31, 2017

When They Awake (2017) Portland Film Festival 2017

One of the twin opening night films at the Portland Film Festival this year WHEN THEY AWAKE is a wonderful look at the current state of indigenous music and how the newest performers are taking the traditional way of doing things and bring them to the world.

There is very little I can say about this film other than see it. Powered by a seemingly unending sonic engine of some of the best music of any sort out there WHEN THEY AWAKE not only rocks and rolls but just dances its way into your heart. I was hooked from the opening frame and I bopped in my seat until the final credit.

I loved this film.

While the film perfectly stands proudly on its own it would make a kick ass double feature with Catherine Bainbridge and Alfonso Maiorana ‘s RUMBLE about how the indigenous performers influenced modern music. One is past the other is the glorious present.

See this film

WHEN THEY AWAKE plays tonight and tomorrow at the Portland Film Festival.

Last Flag Flying hits theaters Friday

This is a repost of my review of LAST FLAG FLYING which opened the New York Film Festival.  Five weeks on I am still in love with the film and I still think it is one of the best films of 2017. If you want to cut to the chase just stop reading and go. If you need to know why keep reading.

There is a weird split with LAST FLAG FLYING in that it is a very messy film and yet the film will kick the living shit out of you as it leaves you quietly sobbing. This is not to say that it is a bad film, rather it's simply to say that like the men at the center of the film they are deeply broken but still have not lost their humanity or souls.

That the film is broken slightly isn't all that surprising considering its pedigree. The novel was written by Daryl Ponicsan in response to requests to write a sequel to THE LAST DETAIL film. He didn't want to write a second movie so he wrote a sequel novel. However when Richard Linklater decided to make a film of the book he couldn't use the character names so he changed them. He then folded the story to reset it so that he could bring in connections to the Vietnam war. The film then took a decade to reach the screen. According to Linklater and Ponicsan the film is essentially the novel.

The film opens as Doc (Steve Carell)  wanders into the bar owned by Sal (Brian Cranston in a role almost certain to get him an Oscar). Sal doesn't recognize Doc at first, but then suddenly the 30 years melt away and their shared past in Vietnam returns. They spend the night drinking, and in the morning Doc takes Sal to meet up with Mueller (Laurence Fishburne) a preacher in a nearby town. It is then that Doc springs his plan upon them, would they go with him to receive the body of his son who had been killed in Iraq. Thus starts a road trip that might bring closure to all their lives.

Watching the film one can't help but see there are problems with the film. Set in 2003 things appear that that shouldn't be there in that year. There is stilted and awkward dialog about the war in Iraq, about cellphones and some details that ultimately don't mean much. There is a "boo hiss" villain who wants to bury Doc's son at Arlington. And Sal's dialog can be a bit much. The bits are annoying, but if you can see past them there is a deeply moving here.

Operating on multiple levels LAST FLAG FLYING is a beautiful film about loss. Not just that of a son, but of our past. Choices made in the past haunt everyone and as a result everyone has to deal with something they lost, even if it is only their way through life.

There is a wonderful examination of the stupidity of modern warfare and all that it entails. By linking wars past with wars present we see the modern cycle of the destruction of our youth that has haunted the last 50 years. Why are we fighting? No one knows. What does the government really want? Again no one seems to know. While the dialog about the specifics of the present day war sounds awkward, the point isn't the details but the endless cycle.

Running rampant through the film is the notion of myth versus reality. Cranston's Sal always wants the truth to be told.  Doc's son supposedly died a heroic death, but the reality is different. Sal forces the truth out which extends the road trip-but at the same time a side trip along the way forces even Sal to ponder if a lie isn't sometimes better than the truth.

And there are the notions of God and religion that permeate much of the action...

Ultimately though the film works because the cast sells it. Cranston, an almost sure-fire Oscar contender, is big and bold and brash. He is a force of nature and that dominates everything for better and worse. He is a ball of anger, but inside he is a lovely man who just wants to make things right.

Laurence Fishburne is his equal as the man of God, Mueller. Unwillingly dragged on the road he is a beautiful counter balance to Cranston. One can easily forgive Linklater's branding of the pair as a kind of devil angel on Doc's shoulders simply because two minutes in we simply like the pair.

And then there is Steve Carell, the man at the center of the film. His is an incredibly understated performance. It is man lost in his own world, desperately looking for friends. He is largely silent for most of the film, and often off screen, so he isn't noticed but at the same time his occasional lines and deeply internal performance (its all in the eyes) holds the film together and results in our being rocked when he reveals his inner pain.

Through the work of these three fine actors the film reveals itself to have a loud resonate inner truth. We move through the tale not via the details but through the arc of their lives. Watching Carell, Fishburne and Cranston we realize that what we are watching is not the ebb and flow of fictional characters, rather we are seeing the ebb and flow of the humanity of the past half century and on some other level all of it.  The oft repeated line that we all grieve differently is repeated in the film a couple of times. LAST FLAG FLYING is a wake not only for Doc's son but all our children. It is a wake for our pasts, of our choices and our lives. It is a film about who tragedies break us apart- and bring us back together again.

In a weird way the film is on odd mix of big budget (relatively speaking) film and an inde one. The errors in the film are in the flash of Hollywood, while the soul, the truth is something you only see in inde cinema.

I was moved by the humanity and truth at the the core of LAST FLAG FLYING.  Actually I wasn't so much moved but driven to my knees and cried as my heart broke and was healed.

I love this film, flaws and all.

An absolute must see. Also one of the best and my favorite films of 2017

The Gray State (2017) opens Friday

David Crowley is considered a martyr in the eyes of the anti-government movement of the far right and lunatic fringe where people like Alex Jones dwell. Crowley was trying to make a film called THE GRAY STATE about the coming of the New World Order and creation of a tyrannical state in America that will crush all our rights. After shooting a trailer Crowley kickstarted enough money to fund writing the script which he then began to shop around Hollywood. Unfortunately sometime around Christmas 2014 Crowley and his family were found shot to death in their home. The conspiracy theorists said it was because he knew too much but there may have been something simpler and sadder at work here.

Twisty film is one that needs to be seen to the end in order to get it's full effect. Beginning as a portrait of Crowley as he makes the trailer the film seems to be angling to be about a conspiracy theorist who was killed to be silenced. However at a certain point the film pulls the rug out from under us and we begin to piece together what really happened.

This is not a portrait of a conspiracy but a very troubled young man who fought one too many battles. It is the sad story of a man needing help who didn't get it. We watch as the conspiracy theorists ponder what "all" the clues mean while at the same time director Erik Nelson quietly lays out everything in such away that we realize what was going on was something else. All we need do is see some of the videos that Crowley shot when he was alone or listen to the odd audio recordings to realize that he could do bad all on his own. As several of Crowley's friends say on camera this is the only way that makes any sense once you really see everything. Even the picture above-the flow chart of THE GRAY STATE is a clue that provides an "ah ha" moment.

To be honest I was deeply bothered by this film. THE GRAY STATE is a film that speaks volumes about things from conspiracy theory, to the effects of war on soldiers, to on line life, to filmmaking, to mental illness and death. Watching the film I was spun around so much that when I left the theater I didn't walk so much as stagger. I wasn't sure what the hell I just saw but I knew I wanted to see it again so I'd be able to really piece it together.

A definite must see who loves documentaries, true crime stories or just a really good film

Monday, October 30, 2017

A River Below (2017) Starts Friday

The question at the heart of River Below is one that is batted about in popular culture but it rarely actually seen in action in real life, namely how far will you go to save the thing you love? Would you be willing to do the most terrible thing imaginable if you knew it would change hearts and minds? On top of that would you be willing to deal with the consequences of your actions? It’s a thorny issue but it’s the compelling question that keeps us watching all the way to the end.

River Below is about the attempt to save the pink river dolphins in the Amazon river. Odd looking but absolutely charming animals they are rapidly disappearing thanks to the local fisherman killing them in order to use as bait for the Muto, a scavenger fish considered a delicacy, especially in Columbia. The killing is on a massive scale and were it not scattered across the entire Amazon would make the slaughter in the Japanese Blood Cove look like a calm day at a kids sand box.

The film follows Dr. Fernando Trujillo a biologist who has been championing the animals for over 20 years as well as Richard Rasmussen a TV show host for the Brazilian National Geographic channel and a TV superstar. When a graphic video surfaces of fisherman killing and butchering a dolphin for bait the debate exploded and the dolphins gained protection but what followed was unexpected- and that is the film.

While The River Below would be special if it just dealt with the fight to save the dolphins the fact that the film takes it further to explore the fallout of the conservation makes it something more. Far too many filmmakers would have just taken it only as far as the controversy surrounding the footage but here director Mark Grieco takes it a few extra steps showing the crippling effect saving the animals has on the local communities…and the monstrous horror that the scavenger fish being caught with the dolphins is loaded with mercury-to the extent it is going to wipe out generations of the people eating it.

I would like to discuss the twists and turns of the film but this is the sort of film you just need to see. Where this goes and how it plays out is deeply disturbing. It is also extremely thought provoking because it’s a film that makes you think about conservation and what it means on many levels. I don’t want to ruin the twists, because discovering them along the way force you to be slapped by what the revelations mean.

I really liked this film. I love that the film is a real life examination of the question of what it takes to save a species. While I won’t join several of my colleagues in the film community who called this the best film at Tribeca, I do think it’s a wonderful piece of filmmaking and it is highly recommended.

Fair warning as good as the film is, it is very graphic in its depiction of the death of the dolphins. The audience of critics at the screening audibly reacted multiple times. I say this because it makes clear why the footage changed the minds of a country. So if you don’t want to see very disturbing images stay away.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Inde Memphis runs November 1 to 6

The Inde Memphis Film Festival starts this week and to spark you into buying tickets here is some links to the films we’ve previously reviewed.

But don’t stop there, there are some fantastic other films floating around.

Coverage of the festival is going to be minimal owing to some things going on in the Unseen offices, however we have seen some of the films and links to or reviews are below:


The full list of titles and ticket information can be found here.

The Light of the Moon opens Wednesday

Stephanie Beatriz stars in Jessica M. Thompson's story of a victim of sexual assault trying to deal the fall out after the attack.

Heartfelt and occasionally moving film has me split between my head and my heart.

Emotionally the story of one woman's battle with the waves that rumble through her life as the result of an act of violence is nicely done. I like that it doesn't take the easy way out and doesn't follow what would be the typical course you would expect from an American film. There are nice little twists and turns here that keep it from ever becoming anything you can plot all the way to the end. I love it all always feels very real.

Intellectually I'm less enamoured of the film. How the film is shot works against the central drama since some of it plays out like an unremarkable TV movie. The film looks like we been here before with the shots in some sequences looking and ordered as if they were in a TV cop show. While it is never enough to kill the film it does cut the emotion of some scenes making what should have been a great film just a good one instead.

This review originally ran during the Greenwich Film Festival in June. While I still stand by the review, I find that despite my reservations that film has stayed with me since then. I've seen well over a two hundred films since then and I find that the film is still fixed in my memory and haunting my thoughts-especially with all of the talk  of sexual harassment in today's news reports.

To that end I would strongly suggest that you see THE LIGHT OF THE MOON for a film that will enlighten you and hang around when others have disappeared.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

The Portland Film Festival starts Monday

The Portland Film Festival kicks serious ass. While nowhere near as long lived as say something like the New York Film Festival , it has managed to become one of the best discoverers of hidden gems in the world. The films they show rock and even if you don’t like them you at least know why they chose to show them.

I started cover the festival three or four years ago and from the first taste I was hooked. The selection of films that I encountered just knocked my socks off… and every year they have done it again and again.

I don’t have a lot to say beyond that other than if you are near Portland and you love films you MUST go. It’s just an awesome festival that needs to be experienced.

I’m going to have coverage of a bunch of films through the festival a mix of capsules and fill on reviews, so keep checking back.

However if you need a cheat sheet as to what to see here are some suggestions:

First off here are some links to the films that we’ve already reviewed at other festivals. They are all good so go buy tickets and go.

D-LOVE (This is one of the most surprising and unexpectedly great films of 2017)
LIYANA (This is one of 2017's Best of the Best films-its an absolute must see)

As for the films with reviews yet to come in the next few days might I recommend:

SECRET SANTA- a surprisingly good horror comedy about an family gathering gone horribly wrong.

WHEN THEY AWAKE- if you liked RUMBLE about Native Americans in rock and roll, you'll want to see this look at the newest bunch of performers.

ZILLA AND ZOE is a potential family classic in the making that doesn't do things in typical Hollywood fashion.

FAKE BLOOD- mind warping documentary about two filmmakers begin a discussion of the effects of on screen violence and end up in fear for their lives when they dig up a real crime

OUT OF STATE- A look at three native Hawaiians who have been sent to a prison in Arizona where they turn to learning their cultural ways as a way of staying out of trouble. A great film and a perfect closing night one.

All the festival information can be found here.

Alice in Wonderland: An X-Rated Musical Fantasy

This adult version of the classic Lewis Carroll tale is much better than you might expect. Here Alice is a virginal librarian who falls down the rabbit hole and learns to love sex and her own self image.

Made at the time when adult films were creative endeavors with plots instead of just a series of sex scenes, this is a good looking little movie more akin to the low budget films of its day. Despite what you may think this film actually has a good script with funny jokes and good songs. Its an naughty little tale for adults. If you're wondering whether or not my recommendation is a good one or not consider that the film was pretty much only available in its non-hardcore version for the better part of the last three decades simply because the film stands up without the sex, which is how I first saw the film years ago on cable TV.

The relatively recent home video release on DVD put back the sex (in horribly grainy inserted clips) which makes it clear the removal of the shots was the best choice all around. If you're an open minded adult with a taste for something spicy I can heartily recommend this little film as a nice diversion (though ignore the hardcore insert shots)

Friday, October 27, 2017

Lost Face (2017)

Sean Meehan’s LOST FACE is thing of beauty. It is a beautiful cinematic rendering of a Jack London story that plays like a mini feature.

The film picks up at the moment that some Native Americans have overrun a stockade. They have attacked because the men inside it have been doing terrible things to them and stealing their furs. They have made short work of everyone except one man. When it comes time for him to be tortured and killed he offers the chief a great medicine if his life will be spared.

This film is like the best short films and stories, a perfectly contained tale. There is nothing we need to know beyond its run time. There are no loose ends or desire to know more. Unlike most short films I've run across this is not a mini-version of some feature film and we are so much better for it.

I can't say enough about the film on a technical level. Everything is spot on from the look and feel of the images, the music and especially the performances which carry you along to the end.

What makes this film so special is that Meehan has fashioned it in such a way that this is more than a historical drama. The story could work in any period and thus becomes something larger speaking about the foibles of human existence. I say tins because in preparing to see the film I reread the London story upon which it was based and while I found it very good, I also thought of it as being very mush of its time and not so much now. Meehan has made something that makes the story muc more untethered in history.

Highly recommended. LOST FACE is currently on the festival circuit

Submitted by Senegal: Felicite

Being a musician in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is not so different than in any other country, especially the lack of health insurance. This is even riskier in the rough-and-tumble DRC, which is not very democratic and nor much of a republic. A hit-and-run accident leaves a club singer’s son in desperate need of surgery, but she will have to rely on her wits and the mercy of others to raise the considerable hospital fees in Alain Gomis’s Félicité, Senegal’s first official foreign language Oscar submission, which opens today in New York.

You can hear a lot of life in Félicité’s voice when she sings in neighborhood clubs. It would be an exaggeration to say she has fans, but there are regulars like Tabu, who often come out to hear her—at least before he hooks up with an available woman who will go for his lines. Unfortunately, her world implodes when her son Samo is driven off the road. He requires surgery to keep his leg, but the $600 bill must be prepaid. Of course, that is a discouragingly sum for any workaday working class Kinshasan. For a musician, it is prohibitively onerous.

To make matters worse, Félicité even falls prey to a petty scam artist targeting distraught parents such as herself. Nevertheless, desperate times demand desperate measures, so Félicité borrows and begs from some of her worst enemies, including her ex-husband. She will ask from everyone in her social circle, but only Tabu the player seriously steps up. As Félicité agonizingly scrapes together the needed funds, an unlikely romance haltingly blossoms between them, even though she is fully aware Tabu has decidedly not changed his ways.

Félicité is a defiantly messy, undisciplined movie that could easily be trimmed by at least twenty minutes, but it packs a powerful punch. Véro Tshanda Beya Mputu is simply a revelation as Félicité. She is an intense presence during the straight dramatic scenes, but when she sings, all bets are off. In fact, the film’s most striking aspect is the way her vocal performances reflect her character’s state of mind. Her story is always right there in her song.

She also develops some appealingly ambiguous chemistry with Papi Mpaka’s Tabu. Despite their myriad flaws and mistakes, their budding relationship gives us all hope. Of course, the Kasai Allstars sound terrific essentially playing themselves. They have a really funky groove that sounds influenced by soul, R&B, and Highlife music. They never get to leave the bandstand, but the film wouldn’t work without them (according to the French-Senegalese Gomis, they were the reason he made the film in Kinshasa). Yet, Félicité also has distinctive counterpoint sounds provided by the impressively scrappy Symphonic Orchestra of Kinshasa, who perform Arvo Pärt’s Fratres with her classical chorale ensemble.

Frankly, Félicité could become one of those rare cases, where a soundtrack album could vastly outperform the film that spawned it. The head-bobbing rhythms of the Kasai Allstars are highly accessible and downright infectious, but the haunting Pärt rendition might be the tracks listeners return to most frequently. As a film, Félicité is a bit unruly, but you could say it mirrors the central character’s life. Gosh, does it ever force us to confront the realities her life, which is an experience that involves pleasure as well as pain—and it always sounds great. It is a grungy, street level film, but it is shockingly life-affirming. Highly recommended for general audiences and fans of Congotronics-style music, Félicité opens today in New York, at the Quad Cinema.

Night Dancing (2017)

Short little gem has a man seeing a woman dancing outside his window every night. He is not sure what to make of it or what to do.

Beautifully made film is a plea for us not to sit on the side lines but get up and be part of life.  While you can more or less deduce were this is going to go, you really don't mind going along simply because the images and the dancing are so lovely they carry you along.

Currently playing on the festival circuit NIGHT DANCING is recommended.

Akumyo: shima arashi (1974)

(This is a repost of a review I long ago put up at IMDB)

This is the final film in a long running series called, in English, Bad Reputation. I have no idea about how any of the other films are, but this one is pretty good.

Set in 1937, this is the story of Asakichi, who is played by Shiuntaro Katsu, best known as being Zatoichi in 26 films. Asakichi has been disowned by his father for gambling, so he heads off to make his living in cockfighting. He, in quick order, wins some money, takes up with a fallen geisha and quickly comes in conflict with the yakuza. Besting their top man, Asakichi, is drawn into the life of a yakuza despite his efforts to remain outside of it.

This is, for my Western eyes, is far from a predictable film. There are moments of tenderness that are followed by explosions of violence. Nothing happens neatly, every choice makes life more complicated. Nothing is as anyone expects it to be. Despite a slow pace, I was sucked into this movie. I wanted to see what happened next, which I think is the sign of good story telling. The choices our heroes are faced with seem real for the situation and its a pleasure to see how things move along despite their best efforts to control them.

The flaws in the film are few. Certainly this film moves at its own speed, which is fine, but I would have liked it to have been a bit more speedy. The other flaw is that Katsu seems a bit long in the tooth for his role. I really didn't notice it until there was talk of the draft and I wondered why anyone would care about a 43 year old guy (Katsu's real age at the time). This last point doesn't detract from the film, it just makes you wonder about how old these guys should really have been. (Then again the print I saw was subtitled fairly, there seeming to be more lines of dialog than subtitles on the screen.)

Definitely worth seeing if you like good films, especially ones that show you a different time and place.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

AFF ’17: Time Trap

Being hippies, Prof. Hopper’s parents are by definition trapped in time. In their case, it is also literally true. After years of looking, the archeology professors will finally stumble into the rift in the space-time continuum that swallowed them up. When he subsequently disappears, some of his students will follow along behind him in Mark Dennis & Ben Foster’s Time Trap, which screens during the 2017 Austin Film Festival.

After years of searching the desert, Hopper finally turns up his parents’ hippy van. Naturally, he ventures into the nearby cave in search of any traces, even though he must pass through an invisible but tangible barrier. Obviously, he is not coming back anytime soon, so Taylor and Jackie, two of the biggest brown-nosers in his class, head out looking for him. They will need wheels, so they hit up poor Cara, who has long carried a torch for Taylor. To give the film a bit of a Goonies flavor (which it even references), Cara brings her little sister Veeves, who in turn invites along the obnoxious Furby.

Since Furby is useless, they leave above be the lookout while they explore the cave. However, he apparently plunges to his death shortly thereafter. When examining his GoPro camera, they inexplicably find hours of him whining about being abandoned without food or water. Meanwhile, Prof. Hopper exits and re-enters after finding his students gear outside. It soon becomes all too clear there are other parties lost in the cave, above and beyond the wild west gunslinger Hopper encounters in the alternate entrance.

Time Trap really proves how much a professional grade cast can elevate what is essentially a half-baked B-movie. There is a lot of scampering about caves and running from Neanderthals, but the game ensemble largely convinces us this is a cosmically serious situation. The screenplay (solely credited to Dennis) also manages to take the Interstellar-esque time warp Macguffin and follow it to its most mind-bending logical extremes.

Rather refreshingly, Brianne Howey, Reiley McClendon, and Cassidy Gifford all seem reasonably together and down-to-earth as Jackie, Taylor, and Cara, respectively. Frankly, the only character who causes serious acid reflux is the cringe-inducing Furby, but Dennis & Foster axe him early in the second act.

Time Trap a definitely a kitchen sink film that features both provocative far-future speculations and chaotic subterranean bedlam. It makes you wonder what cheesy favorites like Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone and Prisoners of the Lost Universe might have been like, if they had 2010s digital technology available to them. Granted, Time Trap is a more inventive and polished, but it has a similar eagerness to please. Affectionately recommended for science fiction fans, Time Trap screens Saturday (10/28) and Wednesday (11/1) during this year’s Austin Film Festival.

Novitiate (2017)

As the seismic change of Vatican II ripples through the Catholic Church, a young woman begins her path toward becoming a nun.

Beautiful and beautifully made film with a lot on its mind NOVITIATE is a film that is going to crawl into you head and rattle around there for days. It’s a film about journeys of life and the soul that are forced to detour when life and circumstance get in the way.

This is a very much a spiritual journey. Cathleen, the young woman at the center of the film is comparable to some of the great questing characters in films such as THE RAZORS EDGE. Raised as a lapsed Catholic she finds a peace in the church as a child. Later when she is given a full scholarship to the local parochial school she begins to find a place where she thinks she belongs. Cathleen’s limited experience makes her think that, perhaps, she has found her path to God and acceptance. However while her path would not be a clear one under the best of circumstances, the changes brought by Vatican II will be adding additional bumps. This results in a journey that is so beautifully crafted that we are not only on the trip with her but moved as well.

NOVITIATE is a film where every character is in crisis. Writer director Maggie Betts has to be applauded since she doesn’t simply focus on Cathleen but all of the characters. Everyone is well drawn and everyone is forced to come to terms with the choices that they have made or have had forced upon them. From the nuns, the novitiates and even Cathleen’s mother, everyone arcs.

I love that the film gives us a real sense of what it must have been like back in 1964 when the Catholic Church reinvented itself. Not only do we get a chance to see what life was like in the final days before the change which throws everyone into crisis mode. The strict codes of behavior and often abusive ways practiced by some nuns make us ponder why anyone would chose the life. However, despite questioning some behavior there is a real “you are there quality” to it all which helps us to understand why the women have chosen to be nuns. We become one with them and so by the time the Mother Superior  reveals the full scope of the changes the Church is demanding, we are just as devastated by them as they are. Their hold as keepers of the faith has been diminished or wiped away and they are left broken.

Maggie Betts has crafted a film that is rich with plot threads and themes. It’s a film that you’ll want to see repeatedly not only because you will come to like the characters and will want to spend more time with them ,but also because Betts has so many balls in the air that you’ll want to see what she is has up her sleeve. There is a lot of food for thought, someting I found out when I sat down to write up the film and I kept wanting to discuss a new point only to realize that I didn’t take good enough notes to have caught everything that was being thrown at me. Actually what happened was going in I thought I knew what the film was, only to find it changed as it went along. Thematic elements that take center stage toward the end of the film are quietly there at the start and I missed them. I need another viewing or two to do the film justice.

While the film has much to recommend it, and I do recommend it highly, the film isn’t perfect. Occasionally Betts makes things a tad too clear cut or ducks down a well-worn plot path to get to where she is going. While far from fatal, the bumps make the film slightly scratched instead of perfect.

If you want a thoughtful, heartfelt and moving examination, of life, faith and our place in a changing world I highly recommend you give NOVITIATE a look when it opens tomorrow in theaters.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Journey Beneath the Desert (1960)

The best version that I've seen of the story of a group of men who find Atlantis under the Sahara. Here the time is "now" and the men are flying in a helicopter across the desert when they are rerouted around an atomic test site. The copter is forced down by a terrible storm and they take refuge in the caves of some rocks. Eventually the end up in Atlantis where they get mixed up in court and romantic intrigue.

There are a numerous versions of versions of this story going back to the early 30's. I've seen a few of them and the American release versions are either hampered by bad dubbing into English or by really bad acting (the 1940's version has a Queen who just awful). Here the acting and the dubbing are fine. The story, which can be very soapy is handled nicely buy legendary director Edgar Ulmer and you get a nice balance with the adventurous aspects of the tale. The look and the feel of the film is clearly similar to the sword and sandal films that were running rampant on the screens of the world at the time and it really works here, it gives Atlantis a nice feel.

Definitely worth a look see if you run across it, especially if you're a fan of the European adventure films of late 50's and early 60's.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Wexford Plaza (2016)

WEXFORD PLAZA is a hell of a movie. A small character study, it is nominally a comedy of sorts but its laughs are pained ones since the film is close to the bone of reality and many of the laughs are uncomfortable and ones many of us have lived.

The film follows a young woman named Betty who has gotten a job as a security guard at a dying strip mall. Hanging out with the losers who dwell there, Betty's life is going nowhere. When she ends up in an sexual encounter with Danny, a friendly bartender both of their lives spin out of control.

Director Joyce Wong has made one of the more intriguing films of the year. She has crafted a film that has no easy answers or point of view. Things are malleable as we see events from both Betty and Danny's points of view. Betty is both a young woman we feel sorry for and one who wants too much. Danny is both a loser and a guy trying his best who is thwarted at every turn. Wong upsets our expectations by not taking view of events. There is lots of shading which makes the film the sort that you'll want to see a second or third time just to see how it plays once you have the fully rounded picture of the character fro the start.

Wong also needs to be commended in not going the Hollywood way in the way events play out. Not everyone is witty, scenes play out in real life with pauses, silences and not a lot happening. This isn't to say the film is draggy or boring rather that its grounded in real life. People sit and drift off . People behave awkwardly. Its the awkward nature of some of events that give the film it's humor.

In addition to the humor the film has a great deal of bittersweet sadness. Both Danny and Betty are trying and hoping for more but can't We can see that things are going nowhere even if they can't. More importantly in playing ot in a realistic manner we see the reality of the modern connected age-the pained reality that no one is. Betty for all her connection in cyberspace still lives alone. Her encounters with Danny and others are awkward because she, nor many others, have any sort of social skills because they are more on line then in the real world. WHile not a sad film as such the film and it's characters will break your heart.

That the film works as well as it does is because of Reid Asselstine as Betty and Darrel Gamotin as Danny. Their performances are quiet and understated to the point of perfection. These are lives lived not characters performed.  There is a grace to their work that if there was any justice put them in the running for the Oscar however the Academy will sadly ignore this film because it isn't flashy or have a big named star baiting the members to give them the golden statue.

I really like WEXFORD PLAZA a great deal. While it is not for all tastes, reality doesn't work for some people, it is recommended for anyone who wants to go off Hollywood or for anyone who wants a damn fine film regardless of were you find it.

WEXFORD PLAZA opens in theaters Friday

Monday, October 23, 2017

Divine Order (2017) opens friday

I bet you didn't know that until the early 1970's women could not vote in Switzerland. They didn't have many rights either since the Divine Order of things was to defer to the men. DIVINE ORDER is a film about the vote to give women the vote in what one would think would have been a progressive country.

Focsing on a woman named Nora who lives in a small town the film is an account of how women who didn't think to much about politics became political and worked to get women the vote.

Tat may sound dry and bumpy, but the truth is the film is a charming tale of one woman, her family and her growing circle of friends at a moment where things changed. While the conclusion of the story may seem like a given one that is not the case. The truth of the matter is that nothing is certain and as the end credits state women were still fighting for ome rights until very recently.

That the film works as well as it does is thanks to the fact that the film is ultimately about characters. Unlike the recent SUFFRAGETTE which at times seemed to be about the poltis more than the people, DIVINE ORDER never leaves its characters. There is more going on than the right to vote, this about one woman and her friends looking to change their lives on all sorts of levels-even sexual. I laughed out loud and I was moved to tears.

This is a wonderful wonderful movie.

Highly recommended

Sunday, October 22, 2017


Second annual festival for kids features family-friendly selections from around the world, silent classics, thoughtful documentaries, and more 

 Plus special animation workshop and work-in-progress screening of footage from upcoming feature Ferdinand

I Kill Giants

New York, NY (October 18, 2017) – The Film Society of Lincoln Center announces the second edition of My First Film Fest, which aims to bring the singular excitement and vibrancy of the festival experience to burgeoning movie lovers, November 10-12.
This year’s lineup offers a bounty of selections appropriate for children of all ages—adults included. This weekend-long event brings action, adventure, and creativity to the Upper West Side, featuring under-the-radar titles from around the world, cartoon showcases, cherished anime features, as well as free educational screenings of films that promote cultural awareness and diversity.
Highlights include a work-in-progress presentation of upcoming animated feature Ferdinand, with the director in person and a special hands-on animation workshop; the U.S. Premiere of I Kill Giants, an exhilarating emotional odyssey based on the acclaimed comic-book series by Joe Kelly, with the author in person; the spectacularly gorgeous animated adventure Mune: Guardian of the Moon; a selection of the best short films from this year’s New York International Children’s Film Festival; a restoration of Charlie Chaplin’s personal favorite of his own films, The Gold Rush; dance drama Polina, about a ballerina following her dreams, with filmmakers Valérie Müller & Angelin Preljocaj in person; family favorite Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory on 35mm; and more.
Organized by Florence Almozini, Rufus de Rham, and Tyler Wilson.
Tickets go on sale October 26. Special family passes and ticket prices will be available! Learn more at filmlinc.org.
My First Film Fest 2 is sponsored by Go-Go Squeez and Noosa Finest Yoghurt, which will be sampled during the festival.
Acknowledgments:New York International Children’s Film Festival; UniFrance
The Best of the 2017 New York International Children's Film Festival: Kid Flix 2TRT: 77mExplore new worlds without leaving the theater! Kid Flix 2 includes a selection of shorts made up of audience favorites and award winners from the 20th-anniversary edition of New York International Children’s Film Festival, the nation’s largest film fest for kids and teens.
Ages 8 and upSaturday, November 11, 2:30pm
Outdoor Cinema
Tatiana Poliektova, Russia/Australia, 2014, 3mThe best cinema of all reflects what is right in front of us, in this homage to all things that capture our eye.
Shingo Usami, Australia, 2015, 10mA father and son work their way past loss to strengthen cultural bonds in the unlikeliest of places: the lunchbox.
Nino & Felix
Marta Palazzo & Lorenzo Latrofa, Italy, 2015, 8mNino and Felix, two boys thrown together by circumstance, must learn to work it out in fantastical fashion to find common ground.
Little Mouse
Ervin B. Nagy, Hungary, 2016, 7mEleven-year-old “Little Mouse” is a naturally gifted swimmer who earned a spot at the Bucharest Youth Championship. Will she have what it takes to out-lap the big kids?
Welcome to My Life
Elizabeth Ito, USA, 2015, 9mThe animated high-school challenges of T-Kesh, your average Monster-American teenager.
Sonia Cendón, Sara Esteban, Arnau Gòdia, Ingrid Masarnau, & Martí Montañola, Spain, 2016, 7mRoger is used to being the leading man in a stop-motion series. But when his good luck runs out on set, he must learn how to claw his way back…
Olga Osorio, Spain, 2016, 9mSummer, 1982. Teo claims he has found the fabled Einstein-Rosen Bridge through space and time. His brother Óscar doesn’t believe him… at least not for now.
Rhea Dadoo, USA, 2016, 3mIt’s about friendship and reflecting on personal journeys. Also, dogs!
Heads Together
Job, Joris, & Marieke, Netherlands, 2016, 21mThree friends must walk a day in each other’s shoes… and legs, and torsos.
The Gold Rush
Charlie Chaplin, USA, 1925, 35mm, 95mChaplin’s personal favorite among his films is a beautifully constructed comic fable of fate and perseverance, set in the icy wastes of the Alaskan gold fields. In this vast landscape packed with avalanches, wildlife, and prospectors, the incomparable Gentleman Tramp seeks his fortune, but faces more than he bargained for. The movie features some of Chaplin's most famous setpieces, including him elegantly cooking and eating his boot to fend off starvation, and performing a table ballet with two dinner rolls. The Gold Rush seamlessly blends action, slapstick, and sentiment, making it one of the most beloved of the filmmaker’s works. Restoration of the original 1925 silent film with a recording of Chaplin's score, reconstructed and conducted by Timothy Brock.Ages 6 and upFriday, November 10, 4:00pmSaturday, November 11, 12:30pm

I Kill Giants

Anders Walter, UK/USA, 2017, 104mSmart, rebellious, and unafraid to speak her mind, precocious teenager Barbara Thorson (Madison Wolfe) lives in two worlds. There is the turbulent reality of school and home, where she deals with bullying and parents who are out of the picture. And then there is the rich imaginary life she’s created, in which she is a fearless hunter of monstrous giants who threaten her town. But as Barbara’s fantasies turn increasingly dark, it becomes clear: the real demons are the ones she battles within herself. Based on the acclaimed comic-book series by Joe Kelly, this exhilarating emotional odyssey immerses viewers in the mind of a young woman taking on life’s challenges in her own way.
Ages 13 and upSaturday, November 11, 6:30pm (Q&A with Joe Kelly)

Miss Kiet’s Children

Peter Lataster & Petra Lataster-Czisch, Netherlands, 2016, 115mDutch with English subtitlesDutch elementary-school teacher Kiet Engels’s classroom is unique. Made up entirely of immigrant students, most of them refugees from the Middle East, it includes 9-year-old Haya, who rebels by spurning Dutch in favor of her native Arabic; Leanne, a bright 6-year-old Syrian girl overcoming bullying; and Jorj, a class clown whose antics conceal emotional scars. This empathetic, beautifully observed documentary chronicles the children’s stumbles and successes as they deal with both the ordinary challenges of growing up as well as the added pressures of adjusting to a new culture. Guiding them through it all is Miss Kiet, whose loving patience is a testament to the impact a good teacher can make. An Icarus Films release. New York PremiereMiss Kiet’s Children opens at Film Forum on December 13.Ages 10 and upSunday, November 12, 5:00pm

Mune: Guardian of the Moon

Alexandre Heboyan & Benoît Philippon, France, 2014/2017, 86mEnglish-dubbed versionThis rollicking animated adventure conjures a mythic world in which the sun and moon are controlled by ancient caretakers who have regulated their cycle for centuries. When Mune, a timid young forest creature, is appointed the new guardian of the moon, things quickly go haywire, as the sun is stolen and everything goes dark. Can Mune step up and bring light back to the world? A visual spectacular that makes striking use of both 3-D CGI and 2-D hand-drawn animation, this innovative French production brings to life a richly realized universe sure to capture the imagination of young viewers. Featuring the voice talents of Christian Slater, Patton Oswalt, and Ed Helms. A GKIDS release.
Ages 6 and upSunday, November 12, 3:00pm


Valérie Müller & Angelin Preljocaj, France, 2016, 108mFrench and Russian with English subtitlesBursting with dazzling dance sequences, this arresting tale of self-discovery charts a young woman’s journey to find both her place in the world and her own artistic voice. Growing up in Russia, Polina (Anastasia Shevtsova) studies classical ballet with one goal: to make it into the corps of the Bolshoi. But when she at last achieves what was supposed to be her dream, the headstrong Polina chooses instead to travel to France to train in modern dance. It’s the beginning of an odyssey that will open up new creative horizons while forcing her to rely only on herself. Juliette Binoche co-stars in this refreshingly real look at what it means to risk everything for a dream. An Oscilloscope Laboratories release.
Ages 13 and upFriday, November 10, 6:30pm (Q&A with Valérie Müller & Angelin Preljocaj)

Princess Mononoke

Hayao Miyazaki, Japan, 1997, 134mJapanese with English subtitlesHayao Miyazaki’s breathtaking epic spirits viewers away to a folkloric world of gods, demons, and magic. After he’s stricken with a fatal curse, a young prince journeys westward in search of a cure, only to find himself embroiled in an epic struggle between humans and animals—led by Princess Mononoke, aka San, a fierce warrior woman raised by wolves—for control of the ancient Deer God’s forest. Overflowing with imagination and visual beauty, this modern-day masterpiece stands as a singular achievement in animation: a morally complex, feminist fable with an impassioned message of ecological stewardship.
Ages 13 and upSaturday, November 11, 9:15pm

Revolting Rhymes

Jan Lachauer & Jakob Schuh, UK, 2016, 58mDid you know that Little Red Riding Hood was really a fearless wolf warrior? And that Cinderella’s Prince Charming wasn’t so charming after all? In this whimsical collection of new short animations based on the book by Roald Dahl, the big bad wolf himself narrates the real stories behind fairy-tale favorites, from “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” to “Jack and the Beanstalk.” Droll, clever, and just a touch twisted, these delightfully irreverent takes on the warm and fuzzy stories we all grew up with offer feisty female protagonists in place of shrinking-violet princesses. A GKIDS release.
Ages 6 and upSunday, November 12, 1:30pm


Bruce McDonald, Canada, 2016, 85mIt’s the summer of 1976. America is celebrating its bicentennial, AM rock rules the radio, and in Nova Scotia, Canada, closeted teenager Kit (Dylan Authors) is preparing to run away from home. Accompanied by his quasi-girlfriend Alice (Julia Sarah Stone) and guided by the spirit of Andy Warhol, Kit hitchhikes his way along the coast in search of adventure and his estranged, bohemian artist mother (Molly Parker). But a life-changing night and a series of hard-earned realizations soon force him to face what he’s trying to outrun. Shot in crisp black and white and set to a lovingly curated vintage soundtrack, this proudly offbeat road movie celebrates the joys of being different. A MUBI release.
Ages 13 and upSunday, November 12, 7:15pm

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory

Mel Stuart, USA, 1971, 35mm, 100mA perennial favorite for children and adults alike, this musical adaptation of Roald Dahl’s fanciful novel stars Gene Wilder as the zany, top-hatted recluse Willy Wonka. Against all odds, the indigent Charlie Bucket (Peter Ostrum) finds a winning ticket to tour the candy mogul’s factory and potentially earn a lifetime supply of chocolate. Chaperoned by his sickly Grandpa Joe (Jack Albertson), Charlie must compete against four more-privileged children, who, one by one, are forced out of the race, as their candy-related moral failures are put to song by the Oompa Loompas.
Ages 8 and upFriday, November 10, 9:15pm

Work-in-Progress Screening & Workshop: FERDINAND 

Total run time: 70mThis year's My First Film Fest is pleased to feature a work-in-progress presentation of Ferdinand, a new heartwarming animated comedy adventure from the creators of Rio and Ice Age, coming to theaters December 15. Following a sneak preview of footage from the upcoming film, director Carlos Saldanha will discuss the animation process and how his team brought Munro Leaf's beloved book to life. After this presentation (approximately 30 minutes), the animators of Ferdinand will hold an animation workshop for attendees.
Ferdinand tells the story of a giant bull with a big heart. After being mistaken for a dangerous beast, he is captured and torn from his home. Determined to return to his family, he rallies a misfit team on the ultimate adventure. Set in Spain, Ferdinand proves you can’t judge a bull by its cover. From Blue Sky Studios and Carlos Saldanha, the director of Rio and inspired by the beloved book The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf and Robert Lawson, Ferdinand features an all-star cast that includes John Cena, Kate McKinnon, Gina Rodriguez, Anthony Anderson and many more. A Twentieth Century Fox release.
Saturday, November 11, 4:30pm**Animation workshop to follow in the Furman Gallery


The Film Society of Lincoln Center is devoted to supporting the art and elevating the craft of cinema. The only branch of the world-renowned arts complex Lincoln Center to shine a light on the everlasting yet evolving importance of the moving image, this nonprofit organization was founded in 1969 to celebrate American and international film. Via year-round programming and discussions; its annual New York Film Festival; and its publications, including Film Comment, the U.S.’s premier magazine about films and film culture, the Film Society endeavors to make the discussion and appreciation of cinema accessible to a broader audience, as well as to ensure that it will remain an essential art form for years to come.
The Film Society receives generous, year-round support from Shutterstock, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. American Airlines is the Official Airline of the Film Society of Lincoln Center. 
For more information, visit www.filmlinc.org and follow @filmlinc on Twitter. 

6th Annual Key West Film Festival Announces Official Lineup, Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water as Opening Night Film

Critics Focus Program Features Curated Films from  
Los Angeles Times Film Critic Kenneth Turan and Time Out New York Film
Editor Joshua Rothkopf

October 18, 2017, New York, NY – The 6th Annual Key West Film Festival announced today its official 2017 lineup. As Florida recovers from the devastating effects of Hurricane Irma, Key West Film Festival organizers are hoping the event will deliver light and joy during a challenging time through the power of cinema by showcasing some of the medium’s brightest talents, past and present, through what is quickly becoming a critical stop on the fall festival circuit just as awards season gets underway.

KWFF presents its 3rd Annual Critics Focus program, which will feature Los Angeles Times Film Critic Kenneth Turan kicking off the festival by presenting Guillermo Del Toro’sThe Shape of Water accompanied by an exclusive video introduction from the director. Turan will be joined in a post-screening discussion by Time Out New York’s film editorJoshua Rothkopf who has chosen Richard Linklater’s Last Flag Flying to close the festival. Rothkopf will lead a discussion of the film following the closing night screening.

Director of Programming Michael Tuckman says, “As so many communities in the Keys have been torn apart this year by matters out of their control, we’ve sought to focus our programming on the theme of bringing communities together, no matter how disparate their interests may seem. We’ve espoused Key West’s motto of being ‘One Human Family,’ and the films in the program show us the strength we have when we don’t turn our backs on ‘others’ and instead simply come together for the communal experience of enjoying great cinema. Kenny and Josh’s selections for Opening and Closing night lead the way in this mission, and we couldn’t be more excited about this year’s program and participation.”

This year's Centerpiece film will be Luca Guadagnino's Call Me By Your Name, featuring a discussion with Rothkopf, Turan and Brian Brooks and Eugene Hernandez of the Film Society of Lincoln Center.

Other critics in attendance will include Eric Kohn of IndiewireShirrel Rhodes of the Key West CitizenAlison Willmore of Buzzfeed NewsDavid Fear of Rolling StoneJeffrey Wells of Hollywood Elsewhere, and Steve Dollar, participating in panel discussions and collaborating to award KWFF’s second annual Critics’ Prize.

The awarding of the second annual Golden Key for Costume Design will also take place, this time honoring Mark Bridges and featuring a screening of his 2011 Oscar winner The Artist. Deborah Nadoolman Landis, a Costume Design Governor of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, will present the award to him via satellite.

The festival will take place in Key West from November 15 through 19, and includes special event screenings and a curated selection of over 30 feature films encompassing narrative features, documentaries, foreign language cinema, LGBTQ cinema, and works by Florida filmmakers. The complete line-up is as follows:

The Shape of Water by Guillermo Del Toro, 2017. Opening Night
Last Flag Flying by Richard Linklater, 2017. Closing Night

Call Me By Your Name by Luca Guadagnino, 2017

I, Tonya by Craig Gillespie, 2017
Borg/McEnroe by Janus Metz Pedersen, 2017
The Leisure Seeker by Paolo Virzi, 2017

Mark Bridges

Anatomy of a Male Dancer by David Barba, James Pellerito, 2017
A River Below by Marc Grieco, 2017
Quest by Jon Olshefski, 2017
Dealt by Luke Korem, 2017
Brimstone and Glory by Viktor Jakovleski, 2017

Freak Show by Trudie Styler, 2017
After Louie by Vincent Gagliostro, 2017
Saturday Church by Damon Cardasis, 2017
The Fabulous Allan Carr by Jeffrey Schwartz, 2017
God's Own Country by Francis Lee, 2017

Dog Years by Adam Rifkin, 2017
Lucky by John Carroll Lynch, 2017
Abundant Acreage Available by Angus MacLachlan, 2017
World Narrative shorts showcase
Documentary shorts showcase

The Square by Ruben Ostland, 2017
Spettacolo by Jeff Malmberg, Chris Shellen, 2017
The Other Side of Hope by Aki Kaurismaki, 2017
The Divine Order by Petra Volpe, 2017
Scarred Hearts by Radu Jude, 2016

I Am Another You by Nanfu Wang, 2017
Love in Youth by Quincy Perkins, 2017
An American in Texas by Anthony Pedone, 2017
The Definites by Sam Coyle, 2017
Florida shorts showcase

A new program featuring films worthy of a second look
Dawson City: Frozen Time by Bill Morrison, 2016
Chasing Coral by Jeff Orlowski, 2017
50th Anniversary 4K restoration of Monterey Pop by DA Pennebaker, 1968

In addition to supporting local filmmakers through their Florida Focus showcase of films made in the Sunshine State and the 3rd Annual Brett Ratner Florida Student Filmmaker Showcase, KWFF organizers are committed to helping the community at large affected by Hurricane Irma and will be hosting a silent auction throughout the festival with a unique chance to win movie paraphernalia generously donated by film distributors and individuals including Sony ClassicsIFC FilmsMagnolia PicturesLionsgate FilmsNeon andAngela Bassett among others. All proceeds will go to help relief efforts in the state.

Festival venues include the historic San Carlos Institute, where the campaign for Cuba’s independence from colonial powers was planned in 1892.  The Key West Film Festival has equipped the San Carlos with DCP technology, and it will host gala screenings. Other screening venues include the Tropic Cinema, Key West Theater and the Studios of Key West.
Visit kwfilmfest.com for full program information, a schedule of events and travel and lodging details.

About the Key West Film Festival
Each year, the Key West Film Festival offers a diverse, entertaining, and artistically rigorous selection of films represented through a broad array of categories that offer opportunities for filmmakers, both aspiring and established, to commune and exchange ideas with each other while showing their work to audiences in an historic and artistically vibrant tropical paradise. Creativity, diversity, sustainability, and beauty are the cornerstones of the Key West Film Festival, an annual celebration of film and filmmakers, which is set to take place this year on November 15-19, 2017.


Highlights include a trio of films by unsung master Helmut Käutner, plus rarely screened works by Fritz Lang, Robert Siodmak, and others

The Haunted Castle

New York, NY (October 19, 2017) – The Film Society of Lincoln Center announces The Lost Years of German Cinema: 1949–1963, a 13-film series of under-appreciated and rediscovered gems from the postwar era, November 15-23.
Our sense of German film history is founded largely upon the prewar masterpieces by Fritz Lang, F. W. Murnau, and G. W. Pabst, and then the iconoclasm of the New German Cinema directors of the 1960s and ’70s, such as Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Alexander Kluge, Wim Wenders, Margarethe von Trotta, and Volker Schlöndorff. Less well-known are the films produced after the fall of the Third Reich and before the signing of the Oberhausen Manifesto in 1962, which jump-started a new kind of national cinema. Closer inspection of this in-between period reveals a wealth of eclectic and innovative filmmaking, featuring established masters (like Fritz Lang and Robert Siodmak) returning to Germany to conclude their careers, foreign directors passing through, and under-recognized talents (such as Helmut Käutner) reinventing the genre film. This series, presented in collaboration with the Locarno Film Festival and Goethe-Institut, spotlights this rich, unsung, and fascinating period and its exceptionally diverse body of films, capturing a generation’s effort to newly define German identity.
The Lost Years showcases three films by Käutner, responsible for “some of the most beguiling German films since the war” (The New York Times), including the revelatory Black Gravel, misunderstood as anti-Semitic and thus heavily re-edited upon release in 1961, and now screening uncensored in a new digital restoration; Sky Without Stars, a humanist heart-wrencher about lovers on either side of the Berlin Wall; and Redhead, a nuanced portrait of an unfulfilled housewife (German superstar Ruth Leuwerik) who seeks adventure only to find herself entangled in an international conflict.
Other highlights include Konrad Petzold’s The Dress, a still-timely adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale about a power-hungry leader, The Emperor’s New ClothesThe Devil Strikes at Night, Robert Siodmak’s 1958 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nominee; actor Peter Lorre’s sole directorial effort The Lost One, in which he plays a guilt-ridden Nazi-era scientist; and Kurt Hoffmann’s gonzo The Haunted Castle, which embodies a horror film, musical, and razor-sharp satire all at once.
Tickets go on sale November 2 and are $14; $11 for students and seniors (62+); and $9 for Film Society members. See more and save with the 3+ film discount package or All Access Pass. Learn more at filmlinc.org.
Organized by Dennis Lim and Dan Sullivan, and co-presented with Goethe-Institut. This program was selected from the retrospective curated by Olaf Möller and Roberto Turigliatto at the 2016 Locarno Film Festival, organized in partnership with the Deutsches Filminstitut, in collaboration with the Cinémathèque suisse and German Films.
A talk with critic and programmer Olaf Möller will take place at the Goethe-Institut30 Irving Place, on November 14 at 7pm.
FILMS & DESCRIPTIONSAll films screen at the Walter Reade Theater (165 West 65th Street) unless otherwise noted.
Black Gravel / Schwarzer Kies
Helmut Kautner, West Germany, 1961, 117mGerman with English subtitlesThe underrecognized Kautner’s best-known film is this rugged, paranoiac noir set in the West German village of Sohnen around the site of an American airbase in progress. A trucker, who illegally sells black gravel as a side hustle, unceremoniously reunites with a former lover who has moved to Sohnen with her new, American husband, only for them to accidentally off a younger couple. Naturally, a cover-up ensues. Kautner’s portrayal of the ongoing presence of anti-Semitism, even after Germany’s denazification, strangely landed it in hot water with the Central Council of Jews in Germany and led to a scene being cut; this new digital restoration, which premiered earlier this year at the Berlinale, returns the censored scene to this seminal yet too-little-seen work of postwar cinema. New digital restoration!Friday, November 17, 9:15pmSunday, November 19, 6:00pmThursday, November 23, 6:00pm
The Devil Strikes at Night / Nachts, wenn der Teufel kam
Robert Siodmak, West Germany, 1957, 35mm, 104mGerman with English subtitlesSiodmak returned to Germany in the mid-1950s following a long, successful run making influential noirs in Hollywood, and The Devil Strikes at Night is one of the undeniable standouts of his late period. Based on the true story of serial killer Bruno Ludke (played here by Mario Adorf), the film chronicles Ludke’s murderous exploits on the periphery of the Third Reich during World War II and the investigation into his crimes, led by an intrepid detective who encounters no shortage of resistance from the state as he searches for the culprit. The Devil Strikes at Night was West Germany’s nominee for the 1958 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, and it is still captivating today as a gripping and visually striking thriller that gives away to a sardonic indictment of political corruption. 35mm print courtesy of the Goethe-Institut.Wednesday, November 15, 4:30pmSunday, November 19, 8:30pm
The Dress / Das Kleid
Konrad Petzold, East Germany, 1961/91, 35mm, 88mGerman with English subtitlesIn this politically alert adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale The Emperor’s New Clothes (formally banned for ten years and shelved for decades until its completion in 1991), travellers Hans and Kumpan come to a city encircled by a gargantuan wall, in which strange things seem going on and a tyrannical, vain emperor demands that they craft a new wardrobe for him that will inspire fear and servility among his subjects. Petzold’s parable about the Berlin Wall and the despotism that kept it in place has taken on a new resonance in the USA and around the world in the age of refugees, border concerns and, of course, Trump’s wall.
Sunday, November 19, 2:00pmTuesday, November 21, 7:00pm
The Eighth Day of the Week / Ósmy dzień tygodnia
Aleksander Ford, Poland/West Germany, 1958, 35mm, 84mPolish with English subtitlesAleksander Ford finished editing this film in the FRG after it was shelved by censors in the People’s Republic of Poland (it wasn’t released in Poland until 25 years after its completion). This tale of two lovers concerns a young man (Zbigniew Cybulski) and woman (Sonja Ziemann) who escape the city to spend a few undisturbed hours together in the countryside; the ecstasy of their love gives way to the agony of modern life as everyday circumstances conspire to obstruct their path to romantic bliss.  Ziemann and Cybulski are magnetic, lending humor, compassion and dimension to this portrait of human connection amid communist Poland’s housing crisis.
Sunday, November 19, 4:00pmTuesday, November 21, 9:00pm
The Fair / Kirmes
Wolfgang Staudte, West Germany/France, 1960, 35mm, 102mGerman with English subtitlesIn this sober picture of social disorder in Nazi Germany, the body of an Wehrmacht officer who attempted to desert after having been ordered to execute women and children is discovered at the construction site for a fairground carousel in the Eigel fifteen years after his disappearance; panic grips the village’s residents, but his parents and his younger sister know all too well what his fate was… Staudte’s drama is a damning portrait of the sense of safety in denialism in the FRG, a measured and compelling reckoning with the inhumanity of the Nazi years and the collective refusal to fully come to terms with them after the fall of the Third Reich. 35mm print courtesy of the Goethe-Institut.Thursday, November 16, 9:00pm (Introduction by Olaf Möller)Friday, November 17, 2:30pm
The Glass Tower / Der gläserne Turm
Harald Braun, West Germany, 1957, 35mm, 105mGerman with English subtitlesOne of the most significant films of West German cinema in the 1950s, The Glass Tower stars Lilli Palmer as a tycoon’s wife who, no longer content merely to be one of her husband’s many possessions, turns to both adultery and her first love: the theater. A rich melodrama that slowly mutates into something like a courtroom procedural, this film offers an especially bold and critical portrait of Konrad Adenauer’s FRG as a locus of cold modernity with a stultifying rigid conception of beauty, harmony and freedom. The Glass Tower can be seen as a precursor to the later work of Rainer Werner Fassbinder in its sophisticated use of the tropes of melodrama to undertake incisive social critique.
Wednesday, November 15, 9:00pm (Introduction by Olaf Möller)Tuesday, November 21, 4:30pm
The Haunted Castle / Das Spukschloß im Spessart
Kurt Hoffmann, West Germany, 1964, 35mm, 101mGerman with English subtitlesThis hilarious satire of the FRG’s economic turnaround unexpectedly assumes the form of a kind of horror musical laden with special effects (with a score by the great composer Friedrich Hollaender, his last). Charlotte (Liselotte Pulver) inherits an old castle near Bonn—and a tremendous amount of debt. But, luckily for Charlotte, the castle is haunted by five ghosts who resolve to help dig her out of her financial hole. Their approach proves to be, shall we say, unconventional, and Charlotte comes to wonder whether this spectral assistance might be more trouble than it’s worth. The Haunted Castle is more than a whacky, entertaining curio; it’s also a sneakily political parable about Germany’s road to recovery following the fall of the Third Reich.
Saturday, November 18, 8:45pm
The Lost One / Der Verlorene
Peter Lorre, West Germany, 1951, 35mm, 98mGerman with English subtitlesIn his sole directorial effort, Peter Lorre (who also cowrote the film) plays a Nazi-era scientist who is forced to murder his fiancee after he discovers that she is surreptitiously selling data from his secret research to the enemies of the Third Reich. Lorre based his character on a real-life German scientist who committed suicide in a displaced persons camp, and his performance reverberates with echoes of his most iconic role, in Fritz Lang’s MThe Lost One is a chilling meditation on the legacy of violence and guilt with which Germany became saddled in the postwar period and a virtuosic achievement by its director/star/co-writer, cementing him as one of Germany’s all-time major cinematic figures. 35mm print courtesy of the Goethe-Institut.Wednesday, November 22, 9:00pmThursday, November 23, 1:30pm
Redhead / Die Rote
Helmut Kautner, West Germany/Italy, 1962, 35mm, 94mGerman with English subtitlesOne of Kautner’s final films before his turn to television is also among his most personal. Ruth Leuwerik stars as Franzizka, a woman who, on the cusp of 40, has grown terribly bored with her husband and their lifestyle; so she flees to Venice, stumbling into an affair with an Englishman. Soon, she discovers that he has a vengeful agenda stemming back to the Third Reich, and she finds her life in a state of upheaval once more. Kautner’s desire to tell postwar Germany bitter truths about itself anticipated the New German Cinema, and he said “[Leuwerik] who for many years was the immaculate lady of German society, the tender loving mother, was here a modern, broken figure, a secretary who lived with two men and fell prey to a third in Venice—that was something which people just didn’t want to see in her.” 35mm print courtesy of Deutsche Kinemathek.Friday, November 17, 5:00pmSaturday, November 18, 4:30pm
Roses Bloom on the Moorland / Rosen blühen auf dem Heidegrab
Hans Heinz König, West Germany, 1952, 35mm, 82mGerman with English subtitlesA gothic synthesis of the heimatfilm and the horror movie ripe for rediscovery, Roses Bloom on the Moorland follows the plight of a young village girl pressured by her family into spurning her childhood love and marrying a wealthy farmer. But our heroine’s plight comes to bear an eerie resemblance to a local legend concerning a brutish Swedish soldier’s misdeeds during the Thirty Years’ War… Featuring gloomy, atmospheric set design by the great German art director Max Mellin, this tale, pervaded by a sense of doom yet speckled with moments of unexpected grace, is an evocative condensation of the young FRG’s neuroses and everyday worries. 35mm print courtesy of the Goethe-Institut.Wednesday, November 15, 2:30pmWednesday, November 22, 7:00pmThursday, November 23, 8:30pm
Sky Without Stars / Himmel ohne Sterne
Helmut Kautner, West Germany, 1955, 35mm, 108mGerman and Russian with English subtitlesKautner’s signature film is a black-and-white, almost-neorealist story of love obstructed by the border separating the GDR and the FRG. Anna (Eva Kotthaus), an East German factory worker, sneaks over to the West, abducts her own son, and in the process meets and falls in love with a compassionate cop named Carl (Erik Schumann)—thus beginning a slow-burning romance filled with daring, unsanctioned visits to their respective sides of the Iron Curtain. Suffused by a sense of tragic fatalism, this absorbing tale of lovers on the run makes an affecting and persuasive argument about the terrible consequences of erecting walls between people. 35mm print courtesy of the Goethe-Institut.Friday, November 17, 7:00pmWednesday, November 22, 4:30pmThursday, November 23, 3:30pm
The Tiger of Eschnapur / Der Tiger von Eschnapur
Fritz Lang, West Germany/France/Italy, 1959, 35mm, 101mGerman with English subtitlesAfter his long and prolific Hollywood career, Fritz Lang (Metropolis) returned to Germany at the behest of producer Artur Brauner and embarked on an ambitious two-film project that would become known as his “Indian Epic.” The source material was the novel The Indian Tomb by Thea von Harbou (Lang’s ex-wife and former collaborator), a book Lang had initially been hired to direct as a silent film in 1921, before being fired and replaced by Joe May. In this, the first of the two films, Lang tells the story of a German architect (Paul Hubschmid) who arrives in India to build a temple for a Maharaja, whereupon he promptly falls in love with the Maharaja’s intended bride (Debra Paget), whom he narrowly saves from becoming the titular tiger’s latest meal. Impeccably directed on a modest budget, with a thrilling cliffhanger ending, Lang’s late-career triumph proves the old adage that the enemy of art is the absence of limitations. 35mm print courtesy of Deutsche Kinemathek.Saturday, November 18, 6:30pm
White Blood / Weißes Blut
Gottfried Kolditz, East Germany, 1959, 35mm, 88mGerman with English subtitlesA tense combination of military thriller and melodrama, directed by one of the most formally resourceful genre masters at DEFA, White Blood is a masterful reckoning with moral unease at the dawn of the nuclear age. A young military officer returns to the GDR after having spent some time in the USA and contracting incurable radiation poisoning. But the sole doctor who can help him is an enemy of his family and a staunch opponent of the atom bomb, and so this matter of life or death goes from being an existential struggle to a philosophical one. White Blood is a singularly gripping work and a profound historical snapshot of the international anxiety aroused by nuclear proliferation.
Wednesday, November 15, 7:00pm (Introduction by Olaf Möller)Tuesday, November 21, 2:00pm
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