Thursday, November 30, 2017

ADIFF ’17: Horace Tapscott, Musical Griot

He led the other Arkestra—the Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra. Obviously, Sun Ra was an influence, but unfortunately, the late, great Horace Tapscott never has a chance to discuss the man from Saturn in his long-awaited documentary profile. Barbara McCullough focuses more on his reminiscences of early days and formative influences in Horace Tapscott: Musical Griot, which screens during this year’s African Diaspora International Film Festival in New York.

Like many jazz legends, Tapscott originally hailed from Texas, but his family relocated to Los Angeles at the height of the Central Avenue scene. Sadly, Tapscott left the planet in 1999, but McCullough had been documenting him off-and-on for three decades, with a rotating crew that including future indie filmmaking luminaries, such as Charles Burnett and Julie Dash. Throughout the film, she concentrates on Tapscott’s music and memories, with one exception. Tapscott’s high school mentor, Dr. Samuel Browne emerges as a real hero and secondary subject of Griot, which is clearly what Tapscott would have wanted.

It is too bad Tapscott never recorded for a major minor label, unless you count a one-off for Flying Dutchman, because his music still sounds fresh today. Perhaps the closest comparison would be later Andrew Hill, because they share similarly open and challenging harmonies, but remain tethered to strong rhythms and reasonably structured melodies. Like Hill, he fit right in that sweet spot between modal hardbop and experimental free jazz.

Wisely, McCullough lets viewers hear plenty of Tapscott, including his compositions: “Lino’s Pad,” “A Dress for Renee,” “Raisha’s New Hip Dance,” “The Giant is Awakened,” “Sketches of Drunken Mary,” and “Ancestral Echoes.” By far, the best performances McCullough captured came from a trio gig at the Village Vanguard, featuring Andrew Cyrille on drums and Roberto Miguel Miranda on bass. It is definitely Tapscott’s film, but jazz fans will also be interested to hear from contemporaries like Don Cherry and Arthur Blythe.

There is some terrific music in Griot, as well as some highly dubious politics. The CIA is chartered to gather and analyze intelligence from international sources, so it is highly doubtful they had any interest in a jazz artist, especially since he was never signed to a major label. Regardless, Tapscott’s legacy is his music and it definitely holds up over time. Highly recommended, Horace Tapscott: Musical Griot screens this Saturday (12/2) at Teachers College, Columbia, as part of the 2017 ADIFF.

Another Wolf Cop (2017)

Borrowing plot points from the Rick Moranis Dave Thomas film STRANGE BREW, ANOTHER WOLF COP has Officer Lou Garou going after an evil millionaire who looking to save the town by  reopening the town's hockey rink/ brewery which he will use to produce Chicken Milk stout. Of course the stout is part of a plot by shape shifters to take control of the the town and the world.

ANOTHER WOLF COP is that rare great sequel that takes what worked in the first film and amps it up making a sequel that improves on its predecessor.

Walking the right line between serious and silly, the film and the characters treat what is happening as real while the filmmakers keep a light tone, the film puts a smile on your face from the first frame to the last. While the humor overwhelms any attempt at scares, the film remains firmly in the horror genre thanks to copious amounts of blood and guts which spill all over the place like a massacre at a hockey rink (which is something that happens here).

The humor is more often than not spot on with a steady stream of belly laughs sprinkled all through the film. Be warned the film is decidedly, and wonderfully, not politically correct.Nothing is off limits or particularly high brow, which is fine since they all pretty much land as intended.

Like the first film this second helping of wolfy goodness is a great deal of fun. Where the first film was enjoyable and left you cautiously wanting more (After all how far can you take the joke?) this sequel leaves you laughing and thrilled that there will be a sequel since its clear the filmmakers know how to handle the property.

I think his film maybe better than the first film since this time out the film doesn't need to have an origin story or set up characters, it can just get to the good stuff and go. And go it does tearing through it's story at breakneck speed. My only complaint is that the film itself moves so fast that it's over much too quickly, I would have liked more time with the characters. Then again it just makes me want a sequel all the more (I keep mentioning the sequel since it's promised in a mid credits sequence).

I can't express how much fun the film is and how much you'll enjoy it. Everyone on screen, including director Kevin Smith as the mayor, seems to be having a blast and it carries over to the film.

How good is the film?

A very convincing argument could be made that the film is  best cinematic sequel of the last few years. I could also see the film being held as the (exploitation) film of the year and ending up on some best of the year lists. It is a charming horror comedy that will delight fans of the first film and bring in more to the franchise.

ANOTHER WOLF COP hits theaters in the US tomorrow (information here- and check it because some showings are only one day)  and theaters in Canada Tuesday December 5

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (2016)

Second outing for Tom Cruise as Lee Child's hero has him helping a army investigator stay alive when evil contractors put a hit out on her life.

Pure popcorn film is full of great lines, sold action and complete nonsense as Cruise tears up the country in order to get justice and stay alive. Needlessly messy plot wise, not only are we following an all over the place contractors gone bad tale, but we also have to contend with whether Reacher as a daughter or not subplot. While it humanizes the killing machine it's a little too much for the film to support.

On the other hand the film doesn't really exist for the plot but the action and one liners and on that level the film is gangbusters.

A pure joy of a film, NEVER GO BACK is highly recommended to anyone who just wants to watch an action ballet.

Now Mr Cruise can we have some more please?

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Yuzo Kawashima x Ayako Wakao: Elegant Beast

The Maedas believe the family that schemes together, stays together. They are a lazy and rapacious bunch of deadbeats, embezzlers, and con artists, but they will meet their match when they cross paths with an even more manipulative seductress in Yuzo Kawashima’s Elegant Beast, which screens as part of Yuzo Kawashima x Ayako Wakao, the Japan Society’s series of newly 4K-restored Kawashima films, starring the great Wakao.

Rather than working a real job, Tokizo and Yoshino Maeda had their daughter Tomoko seduce the famous novelist Shuntaro Yoshizawa, from whom they immediately started borrowing money from, with no intention of ever paying him back. Thanks to Yoshizawa’s recommendation, their son Minoru landed a job with talent agent Ichiro Katori, whom he immediately started embezzling from. Fortunately, Katori’s books are so “irregular,” there is little chance he will go to the authorities. However, the Maedas are shocked and appalled to learn Minoru turned over at least half his skimmings to Yukie Mitani, Katori’s bookkeeper.

It seems Minoru is not the only one who has been redirecting funds her way. Katori, his outside account, and even the tax collector have fallen for her charms. One by one, they will all make their way to the Maeda flat (purchased by Yoshizawa to be his love nest with Tomoko, but appropriated by her parents), hoping to win back either Mitani or some of the cash they ill-advisedly bestowed on her.

Where has this film been all our lives? You will be hard pressed to find a more acidic and cutting social satire than Elegant Beast (a.k.a. Graceful Brute). The screenplay penned by auteur Kaneto Shindo is irrepressibly sly and unremittingly dark. Neither he nor Kawashima or Wakao take any prisoners in their skewering of the striving upwardly mobile post-war generation. Kawashima also keeps it lively despite the potential staginess of the single setting, through the inventive use of off-kilter camera angles and farcical traffic direction worthy of the Marx Brothers.

Wow, is Wakao ever something as Mitani. She ought to rank as one of the top ten femme fatales of all time, but Elegant Beast and most of Kawashima’s work in general is bafflingly under-screened outside of Japan. Likewise, Yunosuke Ito and Hisano Yamaoka make quite the picaresque pair as the unrepentant Maeda parents.

Elegant has all kinds of sharp edges, but it also has considerable visual flair, so it should be a real cinematic treat to see it on the big screen, in its pristinely restored glory. The Maedas are truly a nest of vipers, but they certainly are fun to spend time with. Very highly recommended, Elegant Beast screens this Saturday (12/2) and Sunday (12/3) at the Japan Society, as part of the Yuzo Kawashima x Ayako Wakao mini-retrospective.

It (2017)

Highest grossing horror film of all time, or some such nonsense, IT has been the point of a flood or recent Stephen King adaptations. Based on the half of the King novel the success has assured that the film will get a sequel that will finish the story.

For those who don't know IT tells the story of a bunch of kids who band together to fight an evil being who loves to take the form of a clown named Pennywise. The clown has been feeding on the children of the town for decades and as it starts the feeding cycle anew the kids fight back.

I am at a loss as to why the film has taken hold to the point of cinematic stardom. While the film is in no way bad the film as a whole never truly achieves true fear. Yes the set pieces are solid and there are moments of haunting beauty but the film's pace at times feels leaden and some moments don't have the pop they should.

I think the reason the film has become one of the year's big films is because of the dislike of clowns that many people have mixed with Bill Skarsgård's instantly iconic portrayal of the evil monster. Equal to and completely different than Tim Curry's original portrayal Skarsgard career is nor assured as everyone will cast him as the next monster.

While the film is good on it's own terms the story does kind of suffer from the removal of the second half of the story. Originally told in a call and response way with the now mixing with the then the story doesn't have the resonances the novel and the TV series had. I'm left to ponder if once the second film is done if the filmmakers will attempt to put it all together as one story.

Wortha look

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The Swindlers: Conning the Con Artist

In The Flim-Flam Man, George C. Scott often says “you can’t cheat an honest man.” That’s Hwang Ji-sung’s entire business plan. He is a con artist, who targets other con artists (including the respectable white-collar variety). Hwang has no end of possible targets, but there is one particular purveyor of Ponzi schemes he has his sights set on. The con is on and it is definitely personal in Jang Chang-won’s deviously entertaining The Swindlers, which opens this Friday in New York.

Jang Doo-chil is the Korean D.B. Cooper of pyramid schemes. He got away with billions and then faked his death in China, leaving behind thousands of ruined lives and at least ten suicides. Of course, to get away, he relied on highly placed corrupt officials in the Korean government. He also had papers forged by Hwang’s father, who was killed for his efforts, as a loose end. Since then, Hwang has sworn to kill Jang—and also shake loose some cash in the process.

That might sound like idle talk, but he is starting to get close enough to attract the attention of prosecutor Park Hee-soo. Hwang has already laid the groundwork to compromise a small-time real estate shark with direct links to Jang. Park wants in on the plan, so he puts his off-the-books team of not-so-reformed bunco artists at Hwang’s disposal. That includes a computer guy, Choon-ja, the designated femme fatale, and Ko Suk-dong, whom Hwang set up in one of his previous scams.

By the way, do not trust anybody. Sure, you’ve heard that before, but in this case, its warranted. It is amazing this is Jang Chang-won’s feature directorial debut, because he pulls of so much sleight of hand right before our eyes. It is also a minor miracle his attractive ensemble never starts breaking up, but they bluff their way through like consummate con artist professionals.

Of course, super-recognizable thesps like Park Sung-woong and Bae Sung-woo are total pros, who deliver in spades as the resentful Ko and Kwak Seung-gun, Jang Doo-chil’s trusted money man. Somehow, as Hwang, Hyun-Bin looks younger and edgier than he has in previous films like Confidential Assignment, so hey, good for him. Former K-pop star Nana also handles comedy and seduction with stylish flair as Choon-ja.

The Swindlers is the sort of film that totally plays viewers, but leaves them well satisfied by the experience. It is a good example of Korea’s emerging comparative advantage in caper movies, along with films like Seondal: The Man Who Sells the River and The Thieves. Logan Lucky was a genial film that critics hailed, but it is minor league small ball compared to The Swindlers. Very highly recommended for fans of Sting-style big con game movies, The Swindlers opens this Friday (12/1) in New York, at the AMC Empire.

Gentle Night (2017) is in contention for an Oscar nomination

With this film, Qiu Yang became the first Chinese filmmaker to win the Cannes Palme d’Or for best short film. Appreciative festival officials also claim he gave Cannes’ shortest acceptance speech ever: “****ing amazing.” His characters do not have a great deal to say either, but the film is still quite eloquent. Cai Zhuo might be stoic by nature, but she won’t sit quietly waiting for confirmation of the grimmest news a parent can receive in Qiu’s short film, A Gentle Night (trailer here), which screens as part of Shorts Program 1 during the 55th New York Film Festival.

Cai’s thirteen-year-old daughter Linlin never came home from school. She is not the sort of girl to run away from home, not that the cop handling their missing person report believes it or cares very much. He tells Cai and her less concerned husband to come back tomorrow, when the trail is cooler, but to bring her teacher with them. Of course, the pedagogue does not want to get involved. Feeling desperate and depressed, Cai starts walking the streets of their neighborhood, unsure whether it would be good or bad news if she discovers a clue to Linlin’s fate.

Loosely inspired by a real child disappearance in Changzhou, Gentle shares common themes with Qiu’s previous short film, Under the Sun. Both critique the “don’t get involved, mind your own business” attitudes prevalent in a consumerist Mainland culture increasingly divorced from traditional Chinese values. Whereas Sun depicts the grubby, exploitative behavior that gives rise to such sentiments, Night clearly establishes the resulting human cost.

Throughout Night, Cai is profoundly alone, like nobody would ever want to be. Li Shuxian’s performance might be quiet and taciturn, but it emotionally devastating just the same. Frankly, Li does not need many words to communicate her fundamental truth, over and over again.

As he did in Sun, Qiu and his cinematographer Constanze Schmitt often frame the characters at oblique angles, through open doorways and windows. Yet, instead of distancing viewers, it heightens the sensation of our eavesdropping on excruciatingly private moments.

They also perfectly capture a sense of eerie stillness of city life during the late night hours. Initially, the title sounds ironic, yet long dark nights of the soul are often hushed and placid for those not sharing in the crisis. Qiu depicts contemporary Chinese society in cold, unfeeling terms, but his film is deeply humanistic. Very highly recommended

Monday, November 27, 2017

Brotherhood of Blades 2: The Infernal Battlefield

Everyone hates the Jinyiwei Imperial Guard (assassins), a.k.a. the Northern Bureau. Nobody better understands why than Shen Lian. He has done things he is not proud and witnessed worse. His two former cronies are currently unaccounted for, so he will have to navigate another murky conspiracy largely on his own in Lu Yang’s Brotherhood of Blades 2: The Infernal Battlefield, which opens this Friday in New York.

Shen Lian does not have many friends, so it really irks him when he loses one to in-fighting with the rival Eastern Bureau agency. It seems they really do not want him investigating the murder of a government official who was responsible for inspecting the Emperor’s dragonboat, right before it sank. The Emperor was rescued just in time, but getting waterlogged did not do his delicate constitution any favors.

Thanks to his many sins, Shen has amassed a small collection of Bei Zai’s paintings, because his Buddhist monastery of choice gives them as gifts in gratitude of large donations, sort of like PBS tote-bags. Unfortunately, Bei Zai also happens to be a dissident painter, known for including sly commentary in her work. Even more inconveniently, she is deeply involved in a conspiracy against the Stephen Bannon-Harry Hopkins-like eunuch Wei Zhongxian, the real oppressive power behind the throne.

Consequently, the Jinyiwei captain is deeply conflicted when he is dispatched to dispatch her, especially when he sees she is played by Yang Mi. Despite his better judgment, he ends up killing his fellow officer instead. Of course, that really lands him in the soup when he learns the creep was Wei’s godson. He will continue to protect her, even when her co-conspirators blackmail him to commit treasonous acts, which he feels rather ambivalent about. Frankly, it is his survival instinct and a possible love for Bei Zai that will drive his decisions.

The first Brotherhood was a solid period action film, but the second is even stronger, ironically because it ditches the brotherhood and focuses on Shen Lian, partly making him out to be a Yojimbo-esque free agent and partly a High Noon-style lone wolf. Still, there are very definitely themes of Esprit De Corps and solidarity, especially with respect to Shen’s complicated relationship with his commander, Lu Wenzhao.

Once again, viewers will enjoy some nifty hack-and-slash action in Blades 2, but the relationships and intrigue really make it dance and sing. In addition to the awkward romance, Shen forges an unlikely alliance with Captain Pei Lun of the Southern Bureau, who was originally assigned to investigate him, which becomes the stuff of wuxia gold.

Returning as Shen, Chen Chang really ups the ante this time around. He still broods like a monster, but he also starts to lose his cool rather spectacularly. He also develops terrific chemistry with Yang Mi and Lei Jiayin as his unlikely allies, Bai Zai and Pei Lun. Zhang Yi is delightfully roguish and Machiavellian as Lu Wenzhao, while Xin Zhilei shows some impressive moves as Ding Baiying, the conspiracy’s liaison to Shen Lian, who is quite lethal with a blade.

Like any good franchise, Blades 2 has a stinger that teases a further sequel. In this case, it promises some rather baffling turn-of-events, but we’ll take it anyway, because the second is so much fun. It manages to be simultaneously tragic and action-packed, as well as cynical and sentimental, like all the finest wuxia films (and you can easily walk into it without having seen the prior film). Enormously satisfying, Brotherhood of Blades 2: The Infernal Battlefield opens this Friday (12/1) in New York, at the AMC Empire.

Shadowman (2017) hits theaters Friday

Richard Hambleton was once considered the very top of the art world in the late 70’s and early 1980’s above even poster boys Keith Harring and Basquiat. His Shadow men portraits across New York were the precursor to Banksy. Hambleton was all set to become a superstar- but his erratic behavior intensified by his drug addiction brought it all crashing down.

Uneven portrait of Hambleton is a mix of glorious art (I love his shadows and landscapes) and frustrating madness. The problem is that Hambleton for all is talent is an a prickly pear of a person (and that’s being kind). An SOB who follows his muse wherever it leads he runs rough shod over anyone who comes near him- all the while turning out art of the sort that makes you think he is divinely inspired. However he’s such a pain that you want to hit him.

Amazingly the film seems to be aiming toward an ending that says that Hambleton has died, but despite being an addict and having health problems (including a cancer that is eating away his face) he is still chugging along.

Give director Oren Jacoby points for making a film about a surly son of a bitch but take a couple back for not making him likable enough that you really want to spend time with him. While I like that there is no tacked on triumph at the end I’d have liked it more if we had just had a slide show of his art.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

The Fight (2017)

Nominated for an IDA Award for Best Short Documentary THE FIGHT tells the story of a group of disabled protesters who traveled over the Andes in Bolivia in order to fight for their right to exist. It seems the government had made no provision to help any of the people and they were largely left to fend for themselves. We watch as the protesters make their trip and prepare to engage with the police who set up lines of riot gear clad men to stop them.

Hard to critique, the film is best just seen for yourself (see below) the film highlights a great social injustice being perpetrated by the Bolivian government on it's people.

The film has resulted in some change in Bolivia for people with disabilities, and has been the subject of international media attention from CNN and The Guardian (who is hosting the film on their website). Hoever the fight isn't over  and the filmmakers are also now raising money on GoFundMe for Mickey, one of the leaders of the fight featured in the film for his medical bills for his life-saving surgery.

THE FIGHT can be viewed here

In This Corner Of The World : Manga vs Film

When the film version of  In This Corner Of The World played at Japan Cuts and theaters this past summer there was much praise for the film. People fell in love with the film’s beautiful art and gentle portrayals of the trials of life during wartime. Personally I was mixed on the film. While I could admire the art and handling of the war time subjects (its handling of the aftermath of the atomic bomb blasts is incredibly heartbreaking) the film didn’t completely work for me. Despite seeing the film two times I couldn’t quite figure out what the problem was. I didn’t think much of it and I filed my review and moved on.

And then not long after the collected version of  Fumiyo Kōno‘s original manga was released in the US I was asked if I wanted to review the manga. I instantly said yes and was handed a copy of the collected graphic novel.

Originally published between 2007 and 2009 in All Action Manga set in the 1940’s the novel tells the story of a girl named Suzu initially as child, in the opening chapters, before switching to her marriage and relocation to a town an hour or so outside Hiroshima to be with her husband’s family. We watch has Suzu grows up, is forced to deal with war’s hardships and try to find hope in the wake of the bombing.

I was moved by the tale. I lovely tale of hope and life the novel transcends being merely a war story to be a glorious look at family life. While it is most assuredly set in a specific time and place, it still manages to be razor sharp in its depiction of family dynamics. These characters are our family.

Reading the manga after seeing the film I was shocked at how much better the manga was. While the film is essentially the manga (and it is a close adaption running almost a solid two and a half hours) the manga scores over the film because it manages to slip in tiny details that make the story rise up from the page. The differences are not the difference of major alterations but simply things like additional lines of dialog that make it clear when and where we are. Other lines give a shading that doesn’t seem to be in the film. The Manga also is clearly marked as to the passage of time with each chapter marked by a month and date. We are aware of how old everyone is at what point in the story. Additionally if we are aware of our history we can match up the hardship to turns in the war. The final section of the bombing and the aftermath makes so much more sense on the page since the events aren’t compressed and we have room to breathe and consider.

The art of the manga isn’t the colored splendor of the film and we are better for it. Simple and a bit rough at times it beautifully puts us into Suzu’s world.And stripped of the color the story takes on a deep sense of nostalgia like looking at old photgraphs. It is a glorious example of how less is some times more.

I loved the novel. Despite knowing the story from the film it still moved me. Highly recommended.

Highly recommended In This Corner Of The World is Available from Seven Seas

A big thank you to JB for making this possible

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Justice League (2017)

Justice League is a surprisingly good film. While I liked Suicide Squad and Batman vs Superman I was kind of iffy on the prospects of Justice League. I mean BVS and Suicide were enjoyable messes they still were messes. I was afraid that the JL was going to go horribly wrong since it was setting up three heroes as well as continuing with three others. I shouldn’t have worried since they pulled it all together.

Picking up where Batman vs Superman left off the world finds it’s on the verge of being invaded by aliens. Not only are they buzzing about various locations they are appearing in mass in order to find three magical mother boxes which can reshape matter. With Superman dead Batman and Wonder Woman know they are out gunned so they look for other potential heroes in order to help. To that end they recruit Aquaman, The Flash and Cyborg.

Playing like one of the better first issues of a superhero comic, Justice League just moves like the wind. Running under 2 hours its full of sound and fury signifying a new franchise. Characters a built (Cyborg is finally a great character), rebuilt (Superman is not a dick and is finally a cool guy), fights happen and pithy lines are spoken. It’s pure motion on both physical and character levels that drive everything forward. It’s a popcorn film for the head and the heart.

While the film isn’t perfect, the film feels like it should have been longer and there is some evidence that the film changed directorial hands, the film still manages to be wholly satisfying as it moves the characters away from the maudlin darkness of the last two team up films. It’s a film that makes me want to see what comes next because the potential for something special is there.

I really like the film a great deal (and I thought the 3D was well done).

I do want to add that I’d like to see what the original cut was supposed to be. Scenes in the trailer and talk of partially completed sequences (allegedly a post credit sequence was filmed but not finished with two Green Lanterns) make me think that the film was headed toward being interestingly different.

Definitely worth a look.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Driftwood (2017)

Winner of the Jury Prize at Slamdance, Paul Taylor's DRIFTWOOD is a one of a kind film. A largely wordless two hander the film charts the course of a relationship between a man and a woman who appears on the shore near his home.

Allegorical film about interpersonal relationships especially those of the male female patriarchal variety DRIFTWOOD is going to delight some and vex and annoy just as many. Its is a film that left one either falls madly in love with or shuts off and moves on to the next thing. And as I say that I can hear the filmmakers, the PR people and the iTunes folks pulling their hair out of their heads. They may not like my saying that but it is the truth, you're either going to love the film or hate it.

After seeing the film and slightly uncertain of what I had just seen I went on line to see what other people had said about the film. The desire to engage in some sort of a discussion on the film was the result of needing to try and find a way to describe what I had just seen. The material from the filmmakers was intentionally sparse, so we are open to viewing events as we choose. In reading on the film I found that what it all means was open to interpretation.

Personally I'm not sure what I think of the film. I think it's a film with a great deal on it's mind but I'm still trying to sort out if it means anything. I know many people I respect have loved the film and have found great meaning in the film, but at the same time I'm not sure it's there. Details are sparse from the get go where we see a shadowy form walking, see the girls face and then find her laying in the back seat of a car  before we see her being put to bed. We then watch as the man serves her a meal and she is confused by the prayer. We are left to fill in all the details- which explains why the film's press material is so sparse.

It's in the details where the divide in the audience is going to come. Those who want real answers and spoon fed meaning are going to be bothered by the film's intentionally obtuse nature. They are not going to work with the film to try and divine their own meaning the film will be totally lost to them. On the other hand if you want a film that you have to engage with and wrestle with to make your own then you are going to love it.

I'm not sure where I stand on the film. I'm intrigued by it. I'm annoyed by it. I know it's trying to articulate something that is on its mind but I'm not sure it succeeds. Then again, as I said above, several people I know and respect have loved the film and have been moved by it.

Is it worth seeing? If you want something that is not Hollywood, not on the typical inde track yes absolutely. This is a film for anyone who wants to engage with their stories head on and wrestle them to the ground. Its a film that is not going to make you instantly feel like moving on to the next thing, it is film you'll want to ponder. Basically it's the sort of a film that Unseen Films was set up to highlight.

DRIFTWOOD is currently available exclusively on ITunes.

THE BEAST and PISTOL FOR DJANGO a Thanksgiving Turkey double feature

THE BEAST is by no means a truly horrifically awful western, but it is not a particularly good one. Klaus Kinski plays a sexual psychopath who gets a gang together to kidnap an heiress in the hope of getting her fortune. Things go horribly wrong.

The problem is that the film is shot so matter of factly that there is no excitement. An opening rape just sort of is there. There is no tension, there is nothing remotely like tension. The worst part is the English dub is awful. I love Kinski and will suffer through almost any film to see him but this is just a waste of time.

PISTOL FOR DJANGO is a lousy movie. More MST3K Material than something to watch straight-and I should know since I am an expert on crappy films. The film is about some brothers who rob a bank and are chased by other people who want the money but it’s so poorly and uncaringly done you’ll understand what a paycheck job is after seeing this. How bad is it? Watch the action sequences and watch how people look for places to die. Bang- I’m dead- wait where can I fall that won’t hurt. No one seems to care.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

ADIFF ’17: Kafou

The boss has three rules for the luckless losers he has hired to make a delivery. Never stop the car, never roll down the windows, and never, ever look in the trunk. However, this will not be a Haitian homage to Speed. The two knuckleheads barely travel ten blocks before they break all three rules. Of course, that leads to some huge problems, especially that last point, in Bruno Mourral’s Kafou, which screens during this year’s African Diaspora International Film Festival in New York.

Doc needs money for his sick mother, so he quickly agreed when Zoe promised him work with the local kingpin, Captain Fritz Bama. Unfortunately, Doc did not realize how difficult the jerky Zoe would be to work with. At least Bama placed him nominally in charge, causing considerable resentment in Zoe. The night was already off to a bad start (don’t worry, surely no dogs were actually harmed in the making of Kafou, right?), before Zoe peeked in the trunk and recognized the kidnapping victim trussed up inside.

Kafou (a voodoo reference) is exactly the sort of darkly comical gangster-caper drama that always plays well at festivals. There is indeed all kinds of cynical laughs and one-blasted-thing-after-another suspense, but its betwixt-and-between running time makes it a tricky film to program. The fifty-minute mark basically represents a state of half-pregnancy, but it certainly never drags, so give ADIFF credit for taking the plunge.

Jasmuel Andri and Rolapthon Mercure are terrific as Doc and Zoe. They are totally convincing getting on each other’s nerves and worse, while still being quite amusing in a meathead kind of way. However, Manfred Marcelin still regularly upstages them as the flamboyantly villainous Bama.

Mourral in collaboration with cinematographers Lucas Gath and Clément Maillet definitely give the film an evocative noir-city-at-night vibe. In some ways, it harkens back to vintage Tarantino, but it also has an absurdist edge to it. Genre fans and Haitian expats should find it well-satisfying but length could be an issue for some patrons, since it plays as a discrete program on its own, so take that into consideration. Highly recommended, Kafou screens Saturday night (11/25) at Teachers College, Columbia, as part of the 2017 ADIFF.

A buffet of cinematic turkeys for Thanksgiving

Syfy-esque disaster has Snow White's father, the king, eaten by a giant lizard and her step mother trying to kill her.

Dumb low budget film is the sort of thing you stare at in disbelief for any number of reasons largely to do with anyone thinking that anyone would actually want to see it. Another question would be why anyone would willingly be in it since I doubt it did anyone's career any good. this is the sort of thing that people probably were blackmailed into being in. I understand they wanted to make a quick buck from piggy backing on a Hollywood Snow White film, but at the same time did they actually think anyone would willingly watch it? I doubt even the Rifftrax guys would touch this.

Avoid at all costs

Seven friends travel to a remote abandoned farm that their college got real cheap to do research. Their they find an ancient book saw Evil Dead so you know what happens. Actually do yourself a favor and rewatch Evil Dead instead of this turkey. There ain't nothing new here.

Until I saw it listed on IMDB as a comedy I thought this story of cross dressing gay bikers was an awful serious film. Looking at as a comedy makes it less WTF, but at the same time its really not that good and very unfunny

So bad it's good (kind of) film about a doctor who makes an anti organ rejection drug which is stolen by a mad scientist who hs mad a frankenstein monster which is going around killing women. It contains nuerous WTF lines including a newscaster talking blandly about the ""a killing in the toilet at the international race"

And while I'm at it:



MOTHER (aka SOCIAL NIGHTMARE) with Daryl Hannah is a crap TV movie

DARKROOM is okay compared to the other crap

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

BAMcinématek & Romanian Film Initiative Announce the Lineup for Making Waves

The Romanian Film Initiative, BAMcinématek and the Jacob Burns Film Center
announce the lineup for the 12th edition of Making Waves: New Romanian Cinema,November 30-December 7 

Highlights include Bogdan Mirică’s FIPRESCI prize-winning DogsCălin Peter Netzer’s Silver Bear Winner Ana, Mon AmourAdrian Sitaru’s The FixerRomania’s entry to the Academy Awards® foreign language competition, and a spotlight on Anca Damian, one of the most compelling Romanian directors working today
New York, NY — November 22, 2017 — The Romanian Film Initiative, BAMcinématek, and the Jacob Burns Film Center are proud to present the 12th edition of Making Waves: New Romanian Cinema, to run November 30-December 7. The survey of new Romanian cinema has been hailed by the Wall Street Journal as having “helped define and establish the southeastern European country as a stronghold of socially incisive, independently minded personal cinema.”
New York’s longstanding Romanian film festival comes to BAMcinématek for the first time, with an exclusive program that features the award-winning works of a new generation of talents, including Bogdan Mirică’s Balkan Coen-esque thriller Dogs; a zany social comedy from second-time filmmaker Paul Negoescu, Two Lottery Tickets; and a quiet backwater drama from actor-turned-director Emanuel Pârvu, Meda or the Not So Bright Side of Things. The festival also turns a spotlight on Anca Damian, one of the most compelling Romanian directors working today, who has forged a singular path with her visually arresting documentary, narrative and animation hybrids or her intellectually challenging fiction films. The three-film showcase consists of  In Perfect HealthCrulic: The Path to Beyond, and The Magic Mountain.
“The national cinema of Romania continues to make waves internationally. We are proud to join forces with the Romanian Film Initiative to bring these critically acclaimed films to New York city audiences,” said Gina M. Duncan, Associate Vice President, Cinema, BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music).
“In complementary programming, the Jacob Burns Film Center showcases for the 5th year the best new releases of the year, seeing the return of audience darling Nae Caranfil, who gets to open this year’s festival with his new musical extravaganza, 6.9 on the Richter Scale,” writesMihai Chirilov, the festival’s Artistic Director. “International film festival highlights such as Adrian Sitaru’s The Fixer, Călin Peter Netzer's Ana, Mon Amour and Iulia Rugină’s Breaking Newsjoin the party, adding to the mix the tales of convoluted relationships and morally charged dramas that New Romanian Cinema has become known for. And so does a contingent of promising first-time filmmakers: Anca Miruna Lăzărescu, with her highly enjoyable Iron Curtain dramatic comedy The Trip We Took With Dad, the duo Cosmin Bumbuț and Elena Stancu, with their exquisite piece of anthropological cinema The Last Kalderash, and Șerban Georgescu and his mordant social satire Cabbage, Potatoes and Other Demons. This year’s program is a hell of a ride, with The Gambler by Ignas Jonynas on board — courtesy of this edition’s guest country, Lithuania. With its dash of black humor, it could easily pass as Romanian. Enjoy!”
Guests of this year’s festival include directors Anca Damian (this year’s director in focus), Adrian Sitaru (The Fixer), Iulia Rugină (Breaking News), Paul Negoescu (Two Lottery Tickets), Emanuel Pârvu (Meda or The Not So Bright Side of Things), director and DP Adrian Silișteanu (Written/UnwrittenThe Fixer), actor Anghel Damian (In Perfect Health), and producer Miruna Berescu (Meda or The Not So Bright Side of Things).
As well as introducing these filmmakers’ voices to U.S audiences, Making Waves aims to help them connect to, and network within, the American film industry. With this in mind, an industry event will also accompany the festival screenings and gala events.
Corina Șuteu, Festival President, says, “BAMcinématek is the ideal place to put new talent on stage, but also to start a meaningful conversation about the similarities and differences between the Romanian and American film industries. Having a strong platform and a reputation established in New York, Making Waves reinvents itself in 2017 at BAM.”
Making Waves was founded by the Romanian Film Initiative and is co-presented in partnership with BAMcinematék and the Jacob Burns Film Center. Co-founded in 2012 by Corina Șuteu, Mihai Chirilov and Oana Radu, the independent Romanian Film Initiative aims to preserve and enhance the festival’s critical and creative spirit. Leading support for the 12th edition of Making Waves is provided by The Trust for Mutual Understanding, the Filmmakers Union of Romania, and Blue Heron Foundation. Film Industry Talks is supported by the Administration of the National Cultural Fund of Romania.

December Engagements at the Quad: Andrey Zvyagintsev's LOVELESS, Oren Jacoby's SHADWOMAN, Noah Baumbach's THE MEYEROWITZ STORIES on 35mm + more

Upcoming premiere engagements at the Quad include: Andrey Zvyagintsev's powerful drama Loveless, Oren Jacoby's compelling doc Shadowman, and Noah Baumbach's poignant comedy The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) on 35mm!

Limited one week engagement: Fri December 1-7
Andrey Zvyagintsev, Russia/France, 127m, DCP
The preeminent chronicler of domestic discontent in contemporary Russia (Elena, Leviathan) returns with a harrowing portrait of a marriage on the rocks, depicted with commanding intensity. Boris and Zhenya have found new partners but still live together in their apartment with 12-year-old son Alyosha. But when he disappears, they seek the help of a local citizen’s group to find him, as Zvyagintsev observes a society in thrall to both Christian morality and modern technology. A Sony Pictures Classics release. In Russian with English subtitles.

Official Selection: Cannes Film Festival

“Devastating, finely layered… Zvyagintsev’s touch is light as falling snow or horsehair on a violin.” —The Hollywood Reporter

Opens Fri December 1 — Exclusive New York engagement
Oren Jacoby, U.S., 83m, DCP
Predating Banksy by more than a decade, the late Richard Hambleton sparked the street art movement in 1980s New York, alongside contemporaries Basquiat and Keith Haring, painting hundreds of looming, shadowy figures all over Manhattan’s public walls. Packed with rare archival footage of New York’s underground art scene, Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Oren Jacoby dives head first into the chaos of Hambleton’s life and creative process—from his meteoric rise to his struggles with addiction and free fall into homelessness, to his miraculous career comeback. A Film Movement release.

Official Selection: Tribeca Film Festival

“A fascinating true-life tale.” —The Hollywood Reporter

Limited one week engagement: Fri December 8-14
Samuel Maoz, Israel/Germany/France, 108m, DCP
For his second feature after the acclaimed Lebanon, Samuel Maoz follows a middle-aged Israeli couple grieving the abrupt death of their soldier son—until a shocking piece of news changes everything. Shifting tone, from wrenchingly painful to mordantly funny, Foxtrot is structurally daring and full of surprises, constantly upending what its characters—and its viewers—think they know. A surefire contender for 2018's Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, it’s a regrettably timely look at the madness of war. A Sony Pictures Classics release. In Hebrew with English subtitles.

Official selection: Venice Film Festival

“This is award-winning filmmaking on a fearless level.”—Variety

Opens Fri December 8—Exclusive New York engagement
Jonathan Olshefski, U.S., 104m, DCP
A veritable feat of vérité filmmaking shot over the course of a decade, Quest intimately follows a North Philadelphia family—music producer Christopher “Quest” Rainey, his wife Christine’a (aka “Ma Quest”), and their daughter PJ—and its perennial struggle to get by. Granted remarkable access by his endlessly compelling subjects, director Jonathan Olshefski makes the everyday extraordinary, capturing the doubts, hopes, frustrations, and joys over several tumultuous years of American life. A First Run Features release.

Official selection: Sundance Film Festival

“Outstanding… [a] living, breathing, stunning documentary.”—Variety

Birdboy: The Forgotten Children
Opens Fri December 15—Exclusive New York engagement
Alberto Vázquez and Pedro Rivero, 76m, Spain, DCP
One of the most striking and original hand-drawn animated films of recent years, this tonally unpredictable vision of life after the apocalypse was adapted by Alberto Vásquez from his own graphic novel. Following an industrial disaster, a group of animals—including a mouse, a rabbit, a fox and the titular bird—leave their home and deal with the criminal and the supernatural forces, while each individually facing their inner demons. A GKIDS release. Evening shows: In Spanish with English subtitles / Matinees: English-language version.

Screenings preceded by: Decorado (Alberto Vásquez, 11m): The world is a wonderful stage, but its characters are disgraceful. Winner of Best Animated Short Film at the Goya Awards.

“Among the many live-action dystopian visions of recent cinema, you’d be hard-pressed to find anything as original or surprisingly poignant as Birdboy.”

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)
Opens Fri December 22—Exclusive 35mm engagement
Noah Baumbach, U.S., 112m, 35mm
A cutting comedy-drama about fathers, sons, artists, and New York, The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) is one of Noah Baumbach’s funniest and most poignant films, featuring memorable performances by Ben Stiller, Dustin Hoffman, Adam Sandler, and Emma Thompson. Shot on gorgeously grainy 16mm, it’s also one of his most visually rich works, but until now has only been screened digitally in New York. The Quad is pleased to present the city’s first engagement on a beautiful 35mm print, offering the rare chance to watch one of 2017’s best the way in which it was intended to be seen. A Netflix release.

“Baumbach’s ripest and wisest film to date.”—The New Yorker

2012 (2009) Thanksgiving Turkey 2017

Scientists discover that in 2012 the world was going to end with a massive global shift. When the year comes John Cusack attempts to save his family from the impending doom.

There is no honest way to review this film. As a drama the film is laughably bad. Its simply awful and one of the worst in the truly awful pantheon of disaster films. If you've seen films like When Time Ran Out or some of the Japanese doomsday movies from the 1970's you'll have a good idea how bad this all is. Then again I can't see anyone wanting to see this for the sterling dialog.

As a showcase for special effects and destruction this film is amazing. If you've ever wanted to see California slide into the ocean here's your chance. Let me be honest the destruction in the film is incredible and way cool and is the reason to see this film. Its just about as far as you can go in showing the world being destroyed and still feel good at the end. Its amazing.

If you like cool special effects give this film a shot, but wait for home video where you can crank up your home theater and crack the walls. (the theater I saw this in has weak projection and low volume sound)

Mr Roosevelt (2017)

Struggling stand up comic rushes home to Texas in order to be there when her cat dies. Once there the she tries to reconnect with her old friends while staying at her ex's home where he lives with his new girlfriend.

Noel Wells MR ROOSEVELT is either going to thrill you or annoy you. An occasionally funny film, how you react to it is going to depend upon how you react to Wells lead character Emily. Emily is a walking collection of character ticks and low self esteem that one is forced to wonder how she has managed to get anywhere in life. While the traits would make for an interesting background character its hard to take in a lead because there doesn't really seem to be a real person attached to them. I was more annoyed than amused and it made it hard for me to root for our heroine. (She's the perfect character for a five minute sketch not a 90 minute film)

Despite its problems the film does produce some laughs.While decidedly not my taste in a comedy, it's a little too inde hip for my tastes there are some very funny one liners that may seem funnier because much of this is rather flat.  There are enough laughs to make the film worth trying but in the end this maybe best for fans of Ms Wells.

Mr Roosevelt opens in New York today while continuing in LA

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Ariela looks at A BETTER MAN (2017) DOC NYC 2017

When Attiya Khan was 16 she met a boy named Steve who was 18. They were together for 2 years, and lived together. He violently abused her. 20 years later she sits down with her abuser to talk about what happened and in hopes of him taking responsibility, and getting some answers. Attiya was scared of Steve for years after leaving him, having nightmares, PTSD, bad anxiety, and now here she is able to come face to face with him and talk to him about what happened all those years ago. It takes strength. It also takes strength for Steve to agree to have their encounters filmed. She speaks openly about the abuse he inflicted on her, they visit a domestic violence counselor together (as well as apart), and go back to the apartment and high school they attended.

I don't want to say much but the film was was definitely very heavy. At the beginning of the documentary, there is a warning that it might be too upsetting for some. Some of it was hard to listen to. It was honest and raw, and I'm still thinking about it a week later. I've never seen a documentary like it, and I recommend it, but given the context it might not be for everyone.

Bombshell : The Hedy Lamarr Story (2017) opens Friday

I saw BOMBSHELL when it played at Tribeca and fell in love with it. Actually all of the critics did and it was the one film at the festival that everyone loved and had on their must see list. Go see it.

BOMBSHELL is a great film. Its a loving portrait of a woman who basically changed the way the world works but whom history has pigeonholed as just being one thing- beautiful.

This film is the story of actress Hedy Lamarr, a woman who loved to tinker and invent. Invested with a curious nature by her father she found that people were more interested in her looks than in her mind. This resulted in numerous bad marriages because her husbands couldn't relate to the thing that really drove her, an undying curiosity. Oddly Howard Hughes could relate to what she wanted to do and during their brief affair he gave her the tools and equipment to tinker at home.

The focal point of the film was Lamarr's realization about how to encrypt radio transmissions. The ability to use alternating frequencies meant that signals could be sent and not intercepted unless you had the key. It was an invention that she patented and turned over to the government. However the people in the Navy refused to use it. Later on as Lamarr was bringing in millions of dollars in war bonds they outright seized it claiming it was the work of a foreign national. It was "forgotten" until the 1950's until the patent was used as the basis for radio guidance during the cold war- but still no credit was given to Lamarr. Credit eventually came in the 1990's when the man who worked on the guidance system in the 1950's said everything he did came from Lamarr's patent. If you want to know why this all matters it is because it's now the basis of cellphones and wifi communication.

The film is largely told in Hedy's own words. Using an interview she did in the 1990's the film expands upon it with talking heads of her family and the friends who knew her. Its a film that will move you- as it did the critics screening where applause erupted at the end- that may not mean anything but it was the only time in the 80 or so screenings I attended during Tribeca that the audience of critics reacted in anyway.

BOMBSHELL is a film that shows that women can be both smart and beautiful and that great ideas can come from unexpected places. It is a rallying point for anyone to do what they love because it may give great rewards. Watching the film one can't help but feel pissed off that the fact that Lamarr was one of the most beautiful women in the world at the time seemed to disqualify her from being a scientist. Should we even try to imagine what the world would have been if Lamarr has been allowed to chase her dream?

This is a film that needs to be shown in schools and to any kid of any age who has a dream that they want to follow. This is a film that needs to be seen as a warning about what happens when dreams are stifled. Yes she created something wondrous but she may have done more and history may have been changed even more.

This is one of the best films at of 2017. It is a must see when it plays at a theater near you or on American Masters on PBS down the road.

Abraham Lincoln (1930) Thanksgiving Turkey 2017

DW Griffiths first sound film is a static laugh fest.

Out dated when it was made the survives at all because there is something truly bizarre about Walter Huston's lead performance (His is the only performance in a film full of non performances). He seems to think that Lincoln was a goof ball and while on some level it's a charming portrait its unlike anything I've ever seen or read in a portrait of the 16th president. (Huston's size also seems to vary from scenes to scene depending on the actors around him for a truly odd effect)

The rest of the film is a throw back to the cinema pre-Birth of a Nation, with much of the scenes arranged in odd tableaux. To be certain part of it maybe the uncertainty of early sound equipment, however the result is like watching stuffed animals in a museum.

The script is awful. It zips through Lincoln's life faster then cliff notes pausing only for romance, jokes and the odd highlight. Only one scene works, Lincoln's legendary late night walking the halls of the White House. Its a sequence that is strangely poignant. The rest of this film is like watching a bad road accident.

Even allowing for the passage of 80 years I can't believe anyone ever took this film seriously. It's a turkey

Monday, November 20, 2017

Cradle of Champions (2017) DOC NYC 2017

The Golden Gloves amateur boxing tournament has turned out more champion boxers than any other event including the Olympics. The competition is so fierce that even great boxers of the caliber of Muhammad Ali and Floyd Patterson lost at one time or another in the Golden Gloves. Of all of the Golden Gloves tournaments held across the country the best known and most highly regarded is the one held in New York City. It takes boxers from across the Tri State New York area and has them compete for the glory and a necklace of actual gold gloves. CRADLE OF CHAMPIONS follow three fighters  as they begin the process of competing for the title of the best amateur fighter in New York,

The fighters are Titus Williams who has already won a multiple Golden Gloves Championships and who wants to win one more before turning pro. James Wilkins, an up and coming prospect with killer hands and Nisa Rodriguez who is going for her sixth Championship, something very few fighters, male or female who have ever done. We follow them over the course of the Golden Gloves season  as they go on their hopeful march to the finals (perhaps).

This is a great film. It is one one of the best films to have played at this year's DOC NYC. It is a you are there portrait of three fighters trying to better themselves not only in the ring but in life. Having been a Golden Gloves fan for  years I can assure you that what we see is what it's like. They hold nothing back and we see it all including the struggles many boxers face to do the thing they love.

One of the things that I love about the film is it very clear is that despite calls by some to end boxing, the gyms, the tournament and the sport itself are all vital to the survival of many of the fighters. Listening to the people talk about how the various boxing programs have changed the lives of thousands for the better is moving. The sport is not really just about fighting but finding discipline and a family who will help to keep kids and adults off the street and on the straight and narrow. It is a sentiment we see expressed by ex-fighter and trainer Teddy Atlas before one of the cards of boxing. His words were moving and I was touched seeing it play out over the course of the film's 100 minutes.

A full confession, this is the second review of the film I've written. Because of the large number of DOC NYC films  and how I wrote some of them up three reviews go lost this year. One I found a draft for however two others, CRADLE being one, I've had to go back and rewrite.

Before I rewrote the piece I decided to rewatch the film. I needed to take new notes and be more aware of the details of the film. Sitting down to do so I realized just how good the film really is. Freed of the need to have to watch it, retain everything before writing it up and rush on to the next film I found that CRADLE OF CHAMPIONS improved in my eyes as I saw it for what it is a great film. Seeing it a second time I realized that this is a film that I want to see again...and again.... not because I will ever again write on it but because the film is just so damn good. Director Bartle Bull hasn't made a just documentary, he has made a grand narrative. This is a film that is an uplifting film about three people trying to overcome circumstances. Its a narrative that doesn't stand on it's own but mirrors the mythic tales of antiquity that we still listen to because they help us chart our lives.

This is grand filmmaking.

Before seeing the film a second time I as a fan of the film, now upon seeing it a second time I am kind of in awe of it because it is so unexpected in how it's simply telling the tale has made something momentous.

Highly recommended, this was and is one of DOC NYC's best films.

Afterschool (2008) Thanksgiving Turkey 2017

I'm trying to figure out why this was shown at 2008's New York Film Festival. At the same time I'm so incredibly happy that I didn't see it there and over paid for the privilege to watch paint dry.

The plot of the film has an internet addicted teen at a prep school who is so disconnected with the world that the only thing real is what he sees in the You Tube clips or through his video recorder accidentally record the drug overdose of two of the girls in the school. We then watch as events play out.

Long dull shots framed off kilter so as to cut off peoples heads combine together to reveal a story about teen life that is so artificial that you'd have to have limited exposure to either children or the films about them to truly be shocked at revelations.

Alienation? Who would have thought? Drug Use? Amazing.Adults that are condescending and don't listen? Who knew? I kept waiting for something to happen, but nothing did.

When the overdose occurs, I'm not sure how long into the film, a good distance, I was bored so my sense of time was all screwed up, I figured that the film would pick up. It really didn't.

Honestly they sort of lost me with the opening montage of viral clips. One instantly got a sense of where it was going and what the filmmakers were going to be saying and the film didn't disappoint.

I thought for awhile that the off kilter camera was always from the hero's point of view and then I realized that not, his head was chopped off sometimes too.

Sometimes you wonder why a film can play something as prestigious as the New York Film Festival and not get a distribution deal or one that delays the release for a year or more, thats not the case here, its clear why no one picked it up, its dull and far from revealing. As I said at the outset the real question is how this dull little film ended up in any film festival at all.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

More Than Meets the Eye: William Wyler December 1-11

The Quad proudly presents New York's most extensive William Wyler retrospective in 15 years with 25 films—22 on 35mm!—from favorites Ben-Hur, Funny Girl, Jezebel, and Roman Holiday to rarely screened titles like The Liberation of L.B. Jones and A House Divided

In The American Cinema, Andrew Sarris grouped William Wyler in the dreaded "Less than Meets the Eye" camp, alongside Huston, Wilder, and Lean as “directors with reputations in excess of inspirations.” And what a reputation Wyler has: this consummate perfectionist worked for nearly half a century, from the silent age to the New Hollywood era, earning the most-ever Best Director Oscar nominations with 12 (and three wins). His name has become virtually synonymous with Hollywood craftsmanship and prestige; Wyler made unapologetically big movies about big themes with big performances. But a closer look reveals countless grace notes between the crescendos, and shows Wyler to be an acute chronicler of mid-century American life. He had the range of an accomplished journeyman, but whatever the genre, he proved a fluid stylist of startling invention. The Quad is proud to present New York's most extensive Wyler retrospective in 15 years, a much-needed reconsideration of this vital film artist.

Ben-Hur 1959, U.S., 212m, DCP
The Best Years of Our Lives 1946, U.S., 169m, 35mm
The Big Country 1958, U.S., 166m, 35mm
Carrie 1952, U.S., 118m, 35mm
The Children’s Hour 1961, U.S., 108m, 35mm
The Collector 1965, UK/U.S., 119m, 35mm
Counsellor-at-Law 1933, U.S., 82m, 35mm
Dead End 1937, U.S., 93m, 35mm
The Desperate Hours 1955, U.S., 112m, 35mm
Detective Story 1951, U.S., 103m, 35mm
Dodsworth 1936, U.S., 101m, 35mm
Funny Girl 1968, U.S., 151m, DCP
The Good Fairy 1935, U.S., 98m, 35mm
The Heiress 1949, U.S., 115m, 35mm
A House Divided 1931, U.S., 70m, 35mm
How to Steal a Million 1966, U.S., 124m, DCP
Jezebel 1938, U.S., 104m, 35mm
The Letter 1940, U.S., 95m, 35mm
The Liberation of L.B. Jones 1969, U.S., 102m, 35mm
The Little Foxes 1941, U.S., 116m, 35mm
Mrs. Miniver 1942, US, 134m, 35mm
Roman Holiday 1953, U.S., 119m, 35mm
These Three 1936, U.S., 93m, 35mm
The Westerner 1940, U.S., 100m, 35mm
Wuthering Heights 1939, US, 104m, 35mm