Wednesday, October 31, 2018

A Retrospective of Darius Khondji, Legendary Cinematographer, Begins Sunday November 18 at Metrograph

Beginning Sunday November 18, Metrograph will present a retrospective of legendary cinematographer Darius Khondji. Born in Tehran to Persian-French parentage, raised from a young age in France, and schooled at NYU, Khondji’s international upbringing would prepare him for an equally international career, working with some of the greatest living directors and helping them to express their visions through the language he knows with unparalleled fluency, that of the cinematic image. Through the years Khondji has worked with talents that include David Fincher, Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro, Wong-Kar Wai, and James Gray, and while his work for each is as distinct as the worlds they create, he brings to every film a compositional genius and a peerless attention to minute qualities of atmosphere, gifts which allow him to pick and choose his collaborators. To see his finest work united, as it will be in Metrograph’s vital retrospective, is to wander through the gallery of a modern master.
Treasure of the Bitch Islands (F.J. Ossang/1990/108 mins/35mm)
A phantasmagoric, definition-defying film from perhaps France’s premier underground filmmaker, Treasure of the Bitch Islands begins with the mysterious disappearance of an engineer who has discovered a new energy source, and follows a post-nuclear Ulysses’ voyage to find the substances used in the engineer’s formula, only to be harvested on an island of mad scientists and headhunters. An anarchic allegory with a punky sensibility, part Guy Maddin pastiche, part surrealist mix-and-match, and pure cult classic.

Delicatessen (Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet/1991/91 mins/DCP)
The first feature by Jeunet and Caro, who had only completed a handful of shorts when they stunned the world with this antic, stylish debut—a skewed, funhouse mirror vision informed by comic strips, gonzo animation, and silent comedy. In a post-apocalyptic cityscape, an unemployed circus clown finds himself privy to the secrets of a butcher’s shop that has resorted to cannibalism. Shot in hues of burnished gold by Khondji, this deliciously dark debut created an entire fallen world on a shoestring, becoming an art house phenomenon along the way.

The City of Lost Children (Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet/1995/112 mins/35mm)
Beginning with a Christmas Eve invasion by an army of nefarious Santas, Jeunet and Caro’s warped fairy tale follows a boy (Joseph Lucien) wandering the streets of a fog-shrouded harbor city populated by freaks and carnies, including the circus strongman One (Ron Perlman), and terrorized by Krank, the desiccant leader of a cult harvesting the dreams of kidnapped children. Eerie and imaginative, invested with unforgettable ambience by Khondji’s green-gilled nocturnal photography

Seven (David Fincher/1995/127 mins/35mm)
Fincher and Khondji together created a distinctly modern take on film noir style in this genuinely unsettling, hugely influential thriller, in which a duo of detectives (Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman) together pursue an at-large serial killer through a grim, shadowy cityscape where the rain never, ever stops falling. The journey takes them from a bleak, confined, warren-like urban environment to the blinding bright light of the desert—and a final, horrible revelation unlikely to be forgotten once seen.

Evita (Alan Parker/1996/135 mins/35mm)
Khondji’s lone film to date to be nominated for an Academy Award for cinematography, though he has enjoyed plentiful other deserved plaudits, Parker’s powerhouse musical from the concept album by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber was a vehicle for Madonna at the height of her diva superstardom, portraying the glamorous, powerful, and altogether larger-than-life First Lady of Argentina Eva Perón through her hard-scrabble youth, astonishing life, and early death. A rare attempt at making a movie musical on the grand scale with all the glitz of studio era Hollywood, loaded with show-stopping standards like “You Must Love Me” and “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina."
Alien: Resurrection (Jean-Pierre Jeunet/1997/109 mins/35mm)
Reuniting Khondji with his repeat collaborator Jean-Pierre Jeunet, this fourth film in the Alien franchise catches up with a cloned Lt. Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) some two hundred years after the last film, when the military-industrial complex has set its sights on breeding their own aliens—and what could possibly go wrong with that plan? Among Khondji’s references in pre-production were the unsettling paintings of Francis Bacon, whose use of uncertain light sources he sought to mimic.

The Beach (Danny Boyle/2000/119 mins/35mm)
A sort of Lord of the Flies for the jet-setting leisure class, Boyle’s adaptation of Alex Garland’s novel is a steamy thriller set in motion when Leonardo DiCaprio’s backpacking beach bum accepts an invitation to a pristine island in the Gulf of Thailand, his arrival in the fragile social ecosystem of permanent vacationers and marijuana farmers initiating a series of events that stir up trouble in paradise. As shot by Khondji, the paradisal green vegetation of the film’s early chapters give way to unnatural, sinister tones, as heaven on earth turns to a living hell.

Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait (Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parreno/2006/90 mins/DCP)
Following a firm formal conceit, this collaboration between Parreno and Turner Prize-winning filmmaker Gordon leads to one of the most distinctive and hypnotic sports documentaries ever made, using seventeen cameras—twelve 35mm, two 16mm, and two digital, two of which were equipped with zoom prototypes made by Panavision—to follow the every move of legendary French footballer Zinedine Zidane in real time through the length of a match between Real Madrid and Villareal on April 23, 2005. The result, given a consistent visual tone by Khondji, illustrates how essential every second is on the pitch, and the total concentration demanded by peak performance.

Funny Games (Michael Haneke/2007/111 mins/35mm)
Haneke’s English-language remake of his squirm-inducing, audience-indicting home invasion thriller of ten years previous employs a new cast—Naomi Watts and Tim Roth as the captive couple, Michael Pitt and Brady Corbet as the channel-surfing-damaged killers—to deliver the same savage deconstruction of screen violence. Khondji, following an established blueprint, still helps to make something that’s very much its own movie, an austere, anxious, and sometimes awful ordeal unlike anything else in cinema.

Amour (Michael Haneke/2012/127 mins/35mm)
For their study of an elderly couple—played by icons of French cinema Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva, both superlative—facing final separation by cruel death, Haneke and Khondji created a litany of framings that feel brittle in their composed beauty, each marked by an elegant exactitude and slowly suffocating airlessness. Hard and tender, this may be Haneke’s ultimate accomplishment—and, incidentally, a eulogy for the youthful dreams of the 1960s European art cinema.

The Immigrant (James Gray/2012/120 mins/DCP)
Marion Cotillard has one of her greatest roles as Ewa, a Polish Catholic immigrant newly arrived in Ellis Island, trying to find the means to free her sister from quarantine in a c. 1921 New York City that’s full of lures and snares, among them Joaquin Phoenix’s smalltime pimp and tinhorn impresario and Jeremy Renner’s Bowery illusionist. A richly-textured film of disarming depths of feeling, whose beguiling closing shot resonates long after the credits roll. “We effectively destroyed the film negative with various techniques,” said Khondji, “to achieve the desired emotional aesthetic of that era.”

The Lost City of Z (James Gray/2016/140 mins/35mm)
Gray left his native New York behind—way behind—for this long-discussed dream project about the real-life British adventurer Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam), who disappeared into the Amazon basin time and again looking for the whispered-of City of Z, accompanied by aide de camp Robert Pattinson. Why? “To look for what is beautiful is its own reward,” as one line has it—a statement of purpose if ever we’ve heard one, carried out brilliantly by Khondji, equally at home in the serene English countryside and in chest-deep, filthy river water.

Okja (Bong Joon-Ho/2017/120 mins/35mm)
The titular beast is a gentle, lumbering, lovable critter, a super pig bred by big business and then raised peacefully in the South Korean countryside by young Mija (Ahn Seo-hyun)—until pet and owner both are swept into a contest between animal rights activists and mercenary corporate forces. Tilda Swinton, Paul Dano, and Jake Gyllenhaal round out the ensemble cast of this dark science-fiction fable, a rare instance of Khondji shooting digital, which he does with typical panache and explorative freedom, screening here in a rare 35mm transfer.

Showtimes and Darius Khondji's in-person appearance details to be announced shortly. 

Piercing (2018) Ithaca Fantastik

This should be the last shade of grey you will ever need to see in the movies. To get rid of his murderous impulses, a new father plans to do a quickie murder out of town, but God and his intended victim laugh at his meticulous planning in Nicolas Pesce’s Piercing, which screens as a selection of this year’s Ithaca Fantastik.

Reed has been successfully fighting the urge to stab his newborn infant with an icepick, so good for him for being so responsible. Logically, he decides to get it all out of his system by murdering a S&M prostitute in an upscale but still seedy what-happens-here-stays-here hotel. His wife and baby seem to approve of this scheme, at least according to his highly suspect perception. As he awaits her arrival, Reed his envisioned crime in obsessive detail. However, the plan starts to when the unhinged Jackie is sent as a sub for the sub.

Technically, Jackie is still a submissive, but her thing seems to be deliberately riling up clients, so they will hurt her. She could very well be more than Reed can handle. She might also be unto him. If so, it is because it takes one to know one.

Piercing has some merit, but even though it is based on a Ryû Murakami novel, the whole premise of the loving father who is really a twisted psychopath feels really old hat by now. The assorted reversals are well played by Mia Wasikowska, but they are as predictable as the rhythm of metronome. Christopher Abbot also has such a weak presence as Reed, it is hard to believe he could overcome an infant with an icepick, let alone a full grown, potentially psychotic woman.

The scale model exterior shots and giallo homage flourishes are cool, but the film never surprises us. Instead, it leaves wondering was it really worth going through so much, just to reach this point? Still, it completely alters what mostly of us think of Wasikowska. Her performance is so electrically fierce, it nearly redeems the entire picture.

Pesce is also quite the stylist, but the voyeuristic experience he tries instills makes you feel slightly dirty for watching. Not recommended despite Pesce’ command of mood and style, Piercing screens Saturday night (11/3), as part of this year’s Ithaca Fantastic.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

A Retrospective of Actor/Director Bill Duke Begins Saturday, November 17 at Metrograph

Beginning Saturday November 17, Metrograph will present a retrospective of actor and director Bill Duke, where he will appear in-person. As a director, Duke has contributed a handful of tough, smart contenders to the modern canon, including the back-to-back brilliant A Rage in Harlem (1991) and Deep Cover (1992). As a mentor and humanitarian, he has cultivated young, black talent on the grassroots level through his Duke Media Foundation. As an actor, looming of stature and somber of visage, Duke needs only to walk into frame to take over a movie, notable recently for his standout scene in Mandy (2018). From playing a regally elegant gay pimp in Paul Schrader’s American Gigolo to anchoring some of the biggest and bloodiest action spectacles of the 1980s, Duke has had an extraordinary career in front of the camera, and a no less unforgettable one behind it—a towering screen presence, of towering accomplishments.

With special thanks to Brandon Bernath and Aaron Stewart-Ahn.

Films Starring Bill Duke

Commando (Mark L. Lester/1985/1990/DCP)
Schwarzenegger’s Delta Force colonel John Matrix (!) has retired from active duty, but when a gang of mercenaries looking for trouble kidnap his daughter (Alyssa Milano), they get more than their share at the business end of a rocket launcher. Duke cements his action star immortality as an ex-Green Beret in the employ of Dan Hedaya’s South American revolutionist, the grudge match between Duke and Arnie vaulting over the high bar of mayhem set by this extended firefight of a film. Come for the scorched earth vengeance, stay for the pithy one-liners!

Predator (John McTiernan/1987/107 mins/DCP)
When people use the term “80s action movie,” what they’re basically thinking of is this chef d'oeuvre of the type from Die Hard director McTiernan, a buffet of meme-famous biceps and heavy ordinance in which an American rescue team plunges into the Central American jungle, freely slaughtering enemies with superior firepower before finding themselves in the crosshairs of another alien invader. Schwarzenegger leads the team, backed up by an ensemble including Jesse Ventura and a scarily intense Duke, defoliating the forest with his minigun blazing.

Menace II Society (Albert and Allen Hughes/1993/97 mins/35mm)
A virtuoso debut that brought expressionistic style to the urban drama, the Hughes’s mordantly funny, shockingly savage Watts tragedy is an anecdotal telling of the life of street-smart Caine (Tyrin Turner) and his best friend, O-Dog—a breakout part for Larenz Tate, memorably introduced as “America’s nightmare: Young, black, and didn’t give a fuck.” Duke’s role as a police detective who grills the boys in relation to a shooting is small but splendid, and all but unforgettable. If you haven’t seen it, you know you done fucked up, right?

Mandy (Panos Cosmatos/2018/121 mins/DCP)
After Nicolas Cage’s pacific, reclusive life with his girlfriend Mandy is interrupted by the arrival of members of an apocalyptic cannibalistic cult, the Children of the New Dawn, he’ll have to pay a visit to his old pal, Caruthers (Duke), to pick up his trusty crossbow, sights set on revenge. Duke provides a moment of authority and gravity, just before this strikingly styled early ‘80s-set instant cult classic plunges into madness courtesy of Cage at his most frantic, feral, and fatally fierce.

Films Directed by Bill Duke

The Killing Floor (1984/118 mins/35mm)
Duke honed his directorial skills by working extensively in episodic television, but his very best moments in this period came courtesy of the American Playhouse series, for which he made this wrenching drama of the first Great Migration generation starring Damon Leake and Moses Gunn as two friends set at odds in World War I-era Chicago when one chooses to join an interracial union. The sheer excellence of Duke’s accomplishment, distilling a sprawling history of class and race in America into distinctly human-scale vessels, garnered The Killing Floor an invitation to Cannes.

A Rage in Harlem (1991/115 mins/35mm)
Duke taps into the spirit of novelist Chester Himes, adapted here, for this 1950s-set comedy caper produced by Forest Whitaker, who also stars opposite sex bomb Robin Givens, a gangster’s moll on the lam in Harlem, evoked as a vibrant, vividly colorful scene of street theater peopled by a cast of larger-than-life characters including Gregory Hines, Badja Djola, and Danny Glover’s neighborhood overboss Easy Money. Elmer Bernstein’s score provides some old Hollywood swing, while Duke directs with new school punch and panache.

Deep Cover (1992/107 mins/35mm)
Laurence Fishburne gives a matchless performance as a cop still burdened by the childhood memory of his father’s crippling addiction, his straight-arrow life is derailed when he’s recruited into undercover work investigating the Los Angeles cocaine trade. Duke has all the action-thriller twists and turns down cold, but adds an element to this violent neo-noir that few commercial directors would, situating his story in a fleshed-out social world that considers the generational legacy of poverty and the racial politics of the War on Drugs. Add to this some over-the-top gallows humor courtesy camp heavy Jeff Goldblum, and you’ve got the makings of a true tour de force.

Showtimes and Bill Duke's in-person appearance details to be announced shortly.

Vote November 6

Rampant: Joseon Zombies

Zombies have gone global. There are examples of the shuffling hordes in films from dozens of countries, but none has had the ravenous impact of Yeon Sang-ho’s Train to Busan. It might just be the best zombie movie since the original Night of the Living Dead, but his film is not radically dissimilar to Romero’s world or that of the Walking Dead. However, Kim Sang-hoon puts a distinctly Korean-spin on the genre, by turning fleshing eating zombies loose in a Joseon-era tale of courtly intrigue. The kingdom faces foreign, domestic, and undead peril in Kim’s Rampant, which opens this Friday in New York.

Technically, Prince Ganglim has been a hostage of the Qing emperor, but the wastrel playboy loved every minute of it. Much to his regret, he has returned to Joseon to protect the late crown prince’s wife and unborn son. Alas, the heir apparent martyred himself in front of the oppressive King Lee Jo (their father) to protect his rebellious followers. Logically, Ganglim must now be the crown prince, but nobody is happy about that prospect—least of all him.

Naturally, Prince Ganglim is rather put out when he is not met by a welcoming party that befits his stature. He is even more annoyed when a gang of assassins arranges a tardy reception. Arguably, the zombie attack is somewhat fortuitous, even though Ganglim probably could have handled them on his own. He might be a profligate hedonist, but the prince is also a skilled warrior. Regardless, the incident forces the Prince to get real, acknowledge the rampaging “demons,” and forge a reluctant alliance with the local rebel underground, including the attractive but contemptuous Deok-hee and the badass Buddhist Monk Daegil. Frustratingly, the king and his treasonous ministers are difficult to convince. Mostly, they prefer to keep their heads buried in the sand, but Minister of War Kim Ja-joon fully understands the demon apocalypse, which he intends to exploit for his own political gain, sort of like FDR deliberately allowing the Japanese sneak attack on Pearly Harbor—allegedly.

Hardcore zombie fans should understand there is not a lot of undead action in the first half of the film, but in this case that is a good thing, because it means Kim and screenwriter Hwang Jo-yoon invest the time to fully establish the political intrigue and royal family dysfunction. The Joseon court is not merely a colorful backdrop. The conspiratorial skullduggery and the zombie uprising are thoroughly intertwined, which is a major reason why Rampant is so satisfyingly cool.

Hyun Bin cuts the right figure for Prince Ganglim. There is no question he has the leading man look and the action chops, but he nicely brings out the Prince’s humanity over time. Jeong Man-sik shows a hitherto unseen shtickiness as Ganglim’s man-servant Hak-su, but he still manages to redeem himself at crunch time. In contrast, Jang Dong-gun is cold, clammy, and ruthless as Kim Ja-joon, but he never seems to enjoy being evil.

When the zombies attack in earnest, Kim Sang-hoon goes big, creating huge, inspired centerpiece sequences that combine zombie horror with martial arts sword play. This is movie magic at its finest. Yet, the awakening of the Prince’s sense of responsibility and idealism is also pretty stirring stuff. Comparisons with Yeon Sang-ho’s smash hit will be inevitable (especially since the publicity materials herald it as the new zombie film from the production company that brought you Busan), but Rampant really is its own film. Highly recommended for fans of zombie movies and action-historicals, Rampant opens this Friday (11/2) in New York, at the AMC Empire.

Distant Constellation (2017)

Distant Constellation is one of the wonderful surprises of the film year. A frequently beautiful look at the people living in a retirement home in Istanbul Turkey it presents us with our past and our future in a way that moves us.

Director Shevaun Mizrahi filmed the people in a home over several years, pausing to also film the buildings going up around it- essentially as we witness the past through the eyes of the residents we see the march of progress outside. From the description it would seem that on the face of it there isn’t a lot to the film- but within the stories of the people we meet we travel across the globe as trips are recounted, love lives are relived and history witnessed.

While much has been made of the fact that the residents recount tales of the Armenian genocide I found I was more intrigued by the smaller moments, the simply recounting of their lives and families. Yes the tragedy was affecting but hearing of their lives, say of eye problems, almost off-handedly made me connect to them as people. Early on as one resident with bronchitis talked of going to see the well-known “doctor, Mr Mario” while rolling his eyes brought me into the film because the film transcended being people on the screen to be like sitting having coffee with an older relative.

Somewhere along the way this film wormed its way into my heart and I began to hang on every word. The film stopped being about something and instead became the best sort of film, one where we hang out with friends. And I do mean friends because over the course of the film’s 80 or so minutes the people on screen become like friends.

Highly recommended.

Distant Constellation begins its theatrical run Friday at New York’s Metrograph before playing at other theaters.

Monday, October 29, 2018

A Retrospective of the Wildly Prolific Chinese Filmmaker Wang Bing at the Metrograph

Beginning Saturday November 17, Metrograph will present a five-film retrospective of Wang Bing, plus Old Men (Lina Yang, 1999), selected by the director. The films of Wang look after those left behind by the much-publicized story of China’s 21st century prosperity—the migrant workers traveling to the big cities and the rural poor barely getting by—but they sternly discourage the touristic eye or casual, cheap “compassion.” Wang makes films that, with their emphasis on duration and attention to the hard physical facts of poverty, disallow such noncommittal approaches; if you want to see hardship, he seems to tell us, you will have to pay a price of admission. Described by Andrew Chan in Film Comment as “A director intent on swallowing reality whole,” Wang generally works far from Beijing, a favorite locale being the remote Yunnan province, but his oeuvre gets at something central about modern China, seen straightforwardly and without sentiment by this radically original artist, steadfast in his vision and moral purpose.
Supported by the Beijing Contemporary Art Foundation.
Three Sisters (2012/153 mins/DCP)
Where Bitter Money sees the migrant worker experience through the lens of those who travel for work, the sorrowful, piercing Three Sisters looks at those who remain to subsist in the old, worn-out villages—in this case a trio of siblings sustaining themselves as almost-orphans, with a particular focus on the eldest, ten-year-old Yingying, who shoulders a more than adult-sized burden of labor, and who, vulnerable yet seemingly indomitable in her endurance, emerges as one of the most haunting documentary subjects of recent memory.
Saturday, November 17 - 1:00pm

'Til Madness Do Us Part (2013/227 mins/DCP)
Shot almost entirely within the confines of a mental institution in southwest China’s Yunnan province, this claustrophobic opus discovers almost medieval squalor in this modern bedlam, as well as implications that institutionalization is being used as a means to punish disfavored citizens and dissidents. One of Wang’s most difficult films in both form and subject and, for those who take up its challenge, one of his most richly rewarding, finding men and women clinging to the vestiges of humanity in barren, bleak climes.
Saturday, November 17 - 4:00pm - Q&A with Wang Bing to follow

Old Men (Yang Lina/1999/94 mins/DCP)
A quiet, observational film that embeds us among a community of senior citizens in a Beijing suburb—the most honored members of society according to the old Confucian system, but in modern China, increasingly marginalized and disposable. One of the first DV-shot nonfiction films to come from China, presaging the work of Wang Bing, and a prizewinner at Cinéma du Réel in 2000, making it a landmark in wider international recognition of independent Chinese documentary—a field in which women like Yang continue to fight for recognition.
Saturday, November 17 - 8:15pm - Introduced by Wang Bing

Ta'ang (2016/148 mins/DCP)
There is a war on in Myanmar, and in the country’s harsh, rugged northern borderlands, members of the Ta’ang minority are fleeing the conflict. Wang’s camera travels along with these determined refugees, capturing the almost lullingly routine sound of artillery reverberating through the mountains, the quiet fortitude of his subjects, and the further trials they will face on arriving in China. “A masterpiece depicting dignity in the face of dehumanizing displacement.”—Travis Jeppesen, Artforum. 
Sunday, November 18 - 1:00pm

Bitter Money (2016/152 mins/DCP)
To understand contemporary China, caught in a Great Leap Forward from feudalism into postmodernity, you can ask for no better guide than Wang Bing, whose films render the lives of the working poor and internal migrant Chinese down to their bare, harsh physical facts. In Bitter Money, Wang follows two teenage cousins journeying together to the city of Huzhou, seeking a better life and discovering only endless labor, abusive interpersonal relationships, and exploitation without recourse. Harrowing and massively humane.
Sunday, November 18 - 4:00pm

Fengming (2007/186 mins/DCP)
An outlier film in Wang’s filmography, Fengming is carried forward not by action, but by the human voice—specifically, the voice of the eponymous old woman, who in recounting her life story, from her early ardent socialism through the persecution that she and her family endured during the so-called Anti-Rightist Movement of 1957 and later the Cultural Revolution, also narrates the history of modern China. “Has a moral authority similar to that of the Holocaust documentary Shoah.”—Richard Brody, The New Yorker. 
Saturday, November 24 - 1:00pm

November engagements at the Quad

This November the Quad presents a 4K restoration of James Ivory's The Bostonians; Steve McLean's follow-up to Postcards From America (and his first film in nearly a quarter-century), Postcards From London; Claude Lanzmann's final work, Shoah: The Four Sisters, and more

The Bostonians

Opens Fri November 30 — Exclusive NY engagement of 4K restoration
James Ivory, 1984, UK, 122m, DCP
1876, Boston: At a Women’s Movement meeting, fiercely independent Olive (Vanessa Redgrave) becomes mentor to gifted young orator Verena (Madeleine Potter)—who also attracts the amorous attentions of Olive’s Southern cousin Basil (Christopher Reeve). The contesting demands of courtship and platonic love in this romantic triangle are further complicated by New York society matron Mrs. Burrage (Nancy Marchand), who tries to secure Verena for her son. The Merchant-Ivory team explores the subtle power struggles between sex and class at the heart of Henry James’s classic novel with delicate precision and a marvelous sense of social milieu. A Cohen Film Collection release

With James Ivory in person at select opening-weekend shows

"A rare delight, a high comedy with tragic undertones, acted to passionate perfection.”—Vincent Canby, The New York Times

First Run

Searching for Ingmar Bergman

Opens Fri November 2 — Exclusive NY engagement
Margarethe von Trotta, Germany/France, 99m, DCP
One of the key figures to emerge from the New German Cinema movement of the 1970s, Margarethe von Trotta was first inspired to become a filmmaker after seeing Ingmar Bergman’s landmark The Seventh Seal. As a tribute to the Swedish legend on the occasion of his centennial, she’s made this sensitive, generous documentary exploration, interviewing collaborators like Liv Ullmann and admirers like Olivier Assayas. It’s a rich insider’s look at what makes Bergman’s films so resonant, and reveals much of von Trotta herself in the process. In English, German, French, and Swedish with English subtitles. An Oscilloscope Laboratories release

Official selection: Cannes Classics, New York Film Festival

Our Margarethe von Trotta retrospective, The Political Is Personal, begins November 2.

“A valentine from one director to another.” —Variety

Postcards From London

Opens Fri November 9 — Exclusive NY engagement
Steve McLean, UK, 87m, DCP
A spiritual sequel to Postcards From America, which opened at the Quad in 1995, McLean’s first film in 24 years is a playfully anachronistic, neon-tinged romp through a vividly imagined Soho—and a crash course in homoerotic art history. Blessed with “the face of an angel,” Jim (Harrison Dickinson, Beach Rats) is recruited by a band of intellectually-inclined hustlers, but his new career as an escort turned muse is complicated by Stendhal Syndrome, a rare psychosomatic disorder that renders him utterly helpless in the presence of great beauty. A Strand Releasing release

Official selection: Outfest; BFI Flair

"Colorful… [a] fantasia of high art and bared skin.”—Variety

Shoah: The Four Sisters

Opens Wed November 14
Claude Lanzmann, France, 148m & 138m*, DCP
Starting in 1999, Claude Lanzmann made several films that could be considered satellites of Shoah, comprised of interviews conducted in the 1970s that didn’t fit into the final, monumental work. In the last years of the late filmmaker’s life, he devoted a film to four women from four different areas of Eastern Europe with four different destinies, each finding herself improbably alive after war’s end: Ruth Elias from Ostravia, Czechoslovakia; Paula Biren from Lodz, Poland; Ada Lichtman from further south in Krakow; and Hanna Marton from Cluj, Romania. “What they have in common,” wrote Lanzmann, “apart from the specific horrors each of them was subjected to, is their intelligence, an incisive, sharp and carnal intelligence that rejects all pretense and false reasons—in a word—idealism.” In English, French, German, and Hebrew with English subtitles. A Cohen Media Group release

*Screening in two parts

Official Selection: Venice Film Festival, New York Film Festival

Claude Lanzmann’s Cinema of Remembrance, a complete retrospective of the late filmmaker’s work, begins at the Quad November 9.

"Has the emotional impact and cinematic prowess of great drama."
—The Hollywood Reporter

The World Before Your Feet

Opens Wed November 21 — Exclusive NY engagement
Jeremy Workman, U.S., 95m, DCP
New York City has 8,000 miles of streets and avenues and one of its residents, Matt Green, has spent the last six years trying to walk every last one, covering each sidewalk, pedestrian lane, and hiking trail across the five boroughs. For the last three years of his quixotic journey, Matt—now an expert on the odd corners and history of our city— invited documentarian Jeremy Workman along for the walk. Executive produced by Jesse Eisenberg, the result is a stirring, inspiring ode to New York, curiosity, and the simple pleasures of a stroll outside. A Greenwich Entertainment release

With Jeremy Workman & Jesse Eisenberg in person at select opening-weekend screenings

Official selection: SXSW Film Festival

"Showcases sides of the city you rarely see in movies and that make it such a strange and fascinating place.” —The New York Times

Sicilian Ghost Story

Opens Fri November 30 — Exclusive NY engagement
Fabio Grassadonia & Antonio Piazza, Italy, 120m, DCP
In their gorgeous follow-up to Salvo, co-directors Fabio Grassadonia and Antonio Piazza build a dark, mesmerizing fairy tale around the true events of a horrific 1993 Mafia kidnapping. When rich kid Giuseppe mysteriously vanishes from his Sicilian village, his classmate Luna (who happens to be in love with him) is the only one brave enough to rebel against the town’s implicit code of silence. Stylishly (wide)lensed by Luca Bigazzi—with shades of Guillermo del Toro—this gripping fable seamlessly blends the real with the surreal. In Italian with English subtitles. A Strand Releasing release

Opening Night: Critics’ Week, Cannes Film Festival

“Superb.” —Variety

Back THE COLOR OF THE SUN a modern day update of The Little Prince Set in NYC

They are trying to get funding to make a modern day live action version of the classic THE LITTLE Prince set in NYC called THE COLOR OF THE SUN. I am intrigued. I am not quite sure how it will work but I'd like to see how it plays out.

If your curious here is the Kickstarter page with all the details. I'm curious enough to consider making a donation.

Bodied opens Friday

This is a repost of mt review from Fantasia earlier this year.

Privileged white kid Alan is working on his masters when gets drawn into rap battles.

Produced by Eminem and written and directed by Joseph Kahn BODIED is going to split audiences. Some people are going to fall all over the satire, the flashy filmmaking and word play and eat it up, while others are going to hate it with a passion if they don't just leave the theater (or since this is going to You Tube Red click- on a cat video).

I really didn't care for it and to be honest and after about 40 minutes was done and tuned out. Yea I thought the wordplay of the rap battles was wonderful, but outside of that the film seemed to be kind of obvious in what it's doing. I kept noticing the points it was trying to make instead of being carried along by the story. I never really cared.

It doesn't help that Kahn doesn't want us to really like Alan. While this allows him to approach some of his themes differently than if we cared for our hero, it also makes it really hard to connect with him and his plight. We don't connect and like the characters in the film we want to toss him out on his ass (or leave the theater), which is not what you want when you've made a film that's a long two hours.

To be honest I don't hate the film. It isn't bad, it's simply so artificially constructed that I never got connected. Yes, the discussions of racism, cultural appropriation, political correctness and pretty much every other theme and idea in the film are ones we should be having, but the fact that this film is intentionally in your face and is going to split it's audience is going to kind of defeat the purpose.

Yes, I understand the film, like Kahn's in earlier, and much better, film DETENTION, isn't a film for everyone, nor one where Kahn compromised. I love that the director has made a film with his own unique style and voice. But at the same time the fact that he is taking no prisoners means the the most of the people who should see the film never will.

As much as I really don't care for the film, I admire and applaud what it's doing, I just wish it was something I could applaud with the heart instead of just the head.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Making Montgomery Clift (2018) New Fest 2018

Robert Clift, the nephew of Montgomery Clift, along with Hillary Demmon, takes the  family archives, which includes pictures, home movies and hundreds or even thousands of hours of audio recording and fashions a film which will change everything you thought you knew about his uncle. No longer a man tortured by his sexuality, the film finds a man who loved life and who fought to make films he could be proud of. It is a towering achievement that not only brings the man out from the darkness but which makes his performances something greater.

Don't come into the film looking for a straight on biography of Montgomery Clift, that isn't this film. This is instead a look at Clift's reputation, a tortured soul who self destructed after a car accident and throws it out the window. In going through and presenting the information from inside the family and in the archives Clift reveals that pretty much everything we thought we knew was wrong. Actually it even changed his own mind about his uncle because he too believed the stories until the research revealed all the errors in the stories we take as gospel.

I don't know what to say except wow. Seeing this film made be completely think who Clift was. I really believed the tortured genius stories and discovering that that they aren't true changed everything. You realize just how good he really was. This is especially true with his performance in JUDGEMENT AT NUREMBERG  which I had always been told was simply him dismantling on screen. However, thanks to audio recordings Clift made with Stanley Kramer and his marked up screenplay you realize that it is not reality but is instead one of the most amazing performance you'll ever see.

I know the biggest discovery for many people is going to be the discovery that Clift had no problems with who he was sexually. He wasn't tortured by it, it was just who he was. The fact that he was happy  is one of the reasons he didn't sign a Hollywood studio contract because to do so would have forced him to get married and do fake publicity. He wanted none of that so he found a way to be freelance.

I love this film a great deal. I love that the film sets the record straight. I love that in doing so we get Clift back as a true actor. Revealing that he was okay being bisexual removes all of the subtext of the tortured and self loathing artist that colored all his films. Once more we can see his films as audiences did when they were first released as the work of supreme artist

 MAKING MONTGOMERY CLIFT is a masterpiece. It is one of the best films I've seen in 2018 and  it is one hell of a way to close out New Fest 2018 on October 30th. Highly recommended.

Seven Stages to Achieve Eternal Bliss By Passing Through the Gateway Chosen By the Holy Storsh (2018)

This is a repost of the Tribeca Film Festival review from back in April

A couple gets a great deal on an apartment and happily moves in- unaware that it was the place chosen by the religious leader, the Holy Storsh, to end his life and thus pass through the gate to paradise. As a result a steady stream of his followers appear at their door and insist on killing themselves in their bathtub so they too can follow in his footsteps.

This is a five minute sketch stretched to twenty times the breaking point as variations of the same thing happen over and over again (people show up, they fight to use the bathroom, die and the cops come). It runs out of steam almost at once. Even the variation of the couple becoming obsessed by the Storsh's teaching goes nowhere.

Sitting in the packed critics screening (possibly the most crowded I attended at Tribeca) there was almost dead silence (this is a comedy) and lots of walk outs. Only director Taika Waititi, as Storsh scored any sort of love. Honestly he should have directed this god awful mess since he could have made it funny or at least moderately bearable.

I hated this film as did pretty much everyone around me and we all kind of decided that from that point on we would sit only on the aisle seats for the rest of the fest so that we could walk out on a big stinker like this and not get trapped in the center aisle unable to step over our disbelieving colleagues who want to remain against all logic and reason hoping a turkey will turn into a dove.

Avoid at all costs

Saturday, October 27, 2018

KEEP AN EYE OUT (2018) Ithaca Fantastik 2018

Quentin Dupieux, the man behind RUBBER about an sentient car tire that goes around killing people and REALITY about people in Hollywood watching each other on TV comes KEEP AN EYE OUT a police comedy with and equally bent view of reality and refusal to to go in anything remotely like a straight line.

Nominally the story of a murder investigation it wanders all over the place from the start where a man in his undies conducts an .orchestra in a field. Why? No idea. Conversation take odd turns and characters reveal WTF things to each other for no real reason. Smoke comes a detectives chest as he smokes. It simply goes loopy at every turn.

Is it funny? Yes. Does it add up to anything? Beyond laughs and getting the gears of your mind going? I'm not sure. While I shouldn't knock any film where I laughed a lot when it ended all I could wonder was "Is that all?"  Don't get me wrong it is very funny at times but it feels ore like having an appetizer at a restaurant and then discovering that is your meal.(The film barely runs 73 minutes)

Worth a look, especially if you like off the wall comedy. KEEP AN EYE OUT plays at Ithaca Fantastik tomorrow.

Our New President (2018)

Hitting VOD Tuesday is the mind boggling and frightening OUR NEW PRESIDENT which charts the Russian government propaganda campaign against the US and for Donald Trump. Using news footage from Russian news sources the film shows how the Russian news services simply spewed out story after stories in an effort to wound the US political process because the stories got picked up by right-wing websites as wholly truthful.

It begins with a look at how Hillary Clinton was cursed because she looked upon a mummified princess in Russia and then charts the history of the Russian news services from before Putin combined them into one service, through their being made a tool of the government for propaganda (whats good for Russia is to be reported and will keep you alive the reporters are told outright), the creation of a global Russian slanted news channel and their attacks on everyone who wasn't Trump. Its both funny, because the "news" stories are just so damn loopy, and frightening because people, even in the US, actually believe the bullshit.

I was laughing for about ten minutes of the film and then I just stopped because it stopped being funny. Big Brother is writing the news and it's all coming from Russia.

The film is a clear indication of just how much the Russians are influencing our politics simply by broadcasting these wacky stories. Its plain to see and while I would love to show the far right the film so they could see where all their information is coming from I doubt they would believe any of it because they are so knee jerk reactive it wouldn't matter since the Russian way of seeing the world is now their way.

A terrifying must see film- OUR NEW PRESIDENT will scare the pants off you.

Chasing MacGuffin (2017) LaFemme International Film Festival

Somehow over the last year I’ve managed to miss Meeting MacGuffin despite it playing at numerous film festivals I’ve covered. No matter- I’ve seen it and now all I can say is I am dying to see the first film in the series (Hanging by a Thread) and I am looking forward to the next one in the series (The film ends on a cliffhanger of sorts)

Director Catay Plate’s film is set after humanity has literally fallen apart. Some survivors, known as the clothespin freaks decide to put the feet, hips and brains together to begin to bring humanity back in order to return balance to the world. As the freaks take the homies underground to see a ground hog to be rebuilt we get a lesson about what exactly happened.

Employing a style that is part Robot Chicken, part Jan Švankmajer, part Bothers Quay this film is a charming feral nightmare that sucks you in and drags you along. Watching the film I was at first hooked on the weirdness, then I became intrigued by the story and then I was really curious about the whole world where this was taking place. Long before the “To Be Continued” card appeared on the screen I was hoping that there would be a shot at more film set in the world on screen. As I stated at the top there is more, with a first part done and another to come.

What a complete joy. Yes it’s weird and strange and disturbing, but it is also full of life and ideas. At a time when many people are pondering if the earth would be better without humanity, here is a film that argues we are part of the balance. Its refreshingly hopeful.

I would love to discuss the thematic elements within it but I don’t feel I can until I can see all the films in the sequence since there is so much too chew on as is, I want to take in the whole meal.

As it is I kind of loved this film a lot. Highly recommended where ever you can see it.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Claude Lanzmann’s Cinema of Remembrance November 9-21 at the Quad

The Quad honors the indispensable oeuvre of the late Claude Lanzmann with a retrospective in advance of his final film Shoah: The Four Sisters

Titles include: Tsahal, Napalm, The Last of the Unjust, A Visitor from the Living, and a 35mm print of his monumental Shoah

Some filmmakers change cinema, others change consciousness. Claude Lanzmann made an impact on both. Lanzmann’s death this past July at age 92 leaves us his cinematic legacy as historian, keeper of the flame, educator, and—of paramount importance in these times—a truth-teller who exhorted others to do likewise. Born in France to immigrant Jewish parents, he and other members of his family fought in the Resistance during World War II; at age 18, he was smuggling arms. After the war, he became a journalist, professor, and writer who loomed large in France as a leftist intellectual. A number of his articles monitored the covert persistence of Nazism in Germany; the war may have been over, but he knew that vigilance must always be maintained. In his late 40s, he made his first documentary; the following decade would be consumed by work on his second, Shoah. The title is the Hebrew word for disaster or catastrophe, which Lanzmann felt better described “a crime that is without precedent in the history of humanity” than the phrase “the Holocaust.” The movie’s reception and impact went far beyond what any documentary filmmaker could have hoped for. All too aware that there was more to be done in the face of indifference and/or misinformation, Lanzmann persevered in his life’s work and continued for decades to add to the global discourse as well as the art of documentary.
Israel, Why
Claude Lanzmann, 1973, Italy/France, 185m, DigiBeta

The Karski Report
Claude Lanzmann, 2010, France, 49m, DigiBeta

The Last of the Unjust
Claude Lanzmann, 2013, France/Austria, 220m, DCP

Claude Lanzmann, France, 100m, 2017, DCP

Claude Lanzmann, 1985, France/UK, 566m, 35mm

Sobibór, October 14, 1943, 4 p.m.
Claude Lanzmann, 2001, France, 95m, DCP

Claude Lanzmann, 1994, France/Germany, 316m, DigiBeta

A Visitor from the Living*
Claude Lanzmann, 1999, France/Germany, 65m, DigiBeta

Shoah: The Four Sisters

Opens Wed November 14
Starting in 1999, Claude Lanzmann made several films that could be considered satellites of Shoah, comprised of interviews conducted in the 1970s that didn’t fit into the final, monumental work. In the last years of the late filmmaker’s life, he devoted a film to four women from four different areas of Eastern Europe with four different destinies, each finding herself improbably alive after war’s end: Ruth Elias from Ostravia, Czechoslovakia; Paula Biren from Lodz, Poland; Ada Lichtman from further south in Krakow; and Hanna Marton from Cluj, or Kolozsvár, in Transylvania. “What they have in common,” wrote Lanzmann, “apart from the specific horrors each of them was subjected to, is their intelligence, an incisive, sharp and carnal intelligence that rejects all pretense and false reasons—in a word—idealism.” In English, French, German, and Hebrew with English subtitles. A Cohen Media Group release

*Screening in two parts
Official Selection: Venice Film Festival, New York Film Festival

"Has the emotional impact and cinematic prowess of great drama.”
—The Hollywood Reporter

Shoah: Four Sisters – Ruth & Ada
Claude Lanzmann, France, 148m, DCP
In The Hippocratic Oath, Ruth Elias tells the story of becoming pregnant in the Theresienstadt ghetto during the war, making her a target for deportation. Sent to Auschwitz, her pregnancy comes to light—placing her in the care of the infamous Josef Mengele. The Merry Flea chronicles Ada Lichtman’s tragic journey from her Wieliczka hometown to Sobibor, where she became one of the few women selected for work in the camp—and who ultimately survived.

Shoah: Four Sisters – Hanna & Paula
Claude Lanzmann, France, 138m, DCP
As the wife of a professor who worked with Rudolf Kasztner—the head of the rescue committee that saved the largest number of Jews in the Holocaust—Hanna Marton’s devastating account in Noah’s Ark expresses guilt that her privileged status saved her life when so many others perished. In Bałuty, Paula Biren candidly recounts her days in the titular slum district of Lodz, where she became part of the German labor force overseen by Chaim Rumkowski, the Nazi-appointed president of the Jewish council of elders.

Spring Dreams: The Cinema of Huang Ji and Yang Lina at the Metrograph starting November 30

Beginning Saturday November 3, Metrograph will present "Spring Dreams: The Cinema of Huang Ji and Yang Lina," with the filmmakers appearing in-person. The mainstream Mainland film industry remains largely a boy’s club, but a few independent women directors work defiantly outside of the rigged system. Enter Huang Ji and Yang Lina, two stubbornly self-sufficient artists doing things their own way. Huang, drawing from her own life experience, has become the foremost cinematic chronicler of the daughters of the “left-behind” generation, negotiating a hostile environment that extends few protections to women. Yang, a dancer-turned-documentarian who had a small role in Jia Zhangke’s Platform (2000), broke through with the independent nonfiction classic Old Men (1999), and more recently has turned to fiction with the sensual ghost story Longing for the Rain (2013). “It’s difficult work because the authorities do not intend to give you the good soil to grow,” says Yang of her outsider’s practice, but the work of these remarkable filmmakers is proof that their sheer determination has brought forth an extraordinary harvest.
Part of the Creative China Festival 2018. Supported by the Beijing Contemporary Art Foundation.
Egg and Stone (Huang Ji/2012/97 mins/DCP)
A soul-baring autobiographical work drawing directly from director Huang’s own life, Egg and Stone is set in the rural Hunan province village of her youth, portraying the struggles of a 14-year-old girl, Honggui (Honggui Yao, leading an adept cast of nonprofessionals), living with an aunt and uncle, and left to come to terms with her blossoming sexual maturity without the benefit of parental guidance. Huang lovingly captures the textures of the world of her girlhood, while pulling no punches in portraying the routine misogyny and body shame of that same world.
Saturday, November 3 - 5:30pm  - Q&A with Huang Ji

Foolish Bird (Huang Ji/2017/118 mins/DCP)
Returning to the subject of China’s “left-behind children”—sent to live with relatives while their parents seek better paying work elsewhere—Huang crafts the intimate, troubling tale of Lynn (Honggui Yao, returning), a teenager trying to find her way in the dead-end Hunan province town where she lives with her grandparents, hemmed in on all sides by seemingly insurmountable social barriers, routine abuse of power, and the threat of sexual violence, her only refuge her friendship with another local girl, May (Fang Yao). Grimly grand, and as tough as the truth.
Sunday, November 4 - 1:45pm - Q&A with Huang Ji

Longing for the Rain (Yang Lina/2013/95 mins/DCP)
Yang had to shoot her fiction feature debut in Hong Kong, knowing that Chinese censors wouldn’t approve the subject matter of her erotically charged drama. Comfortable housewife Fang Lei (Siyuan Zhao) has achieved the “Chinese Dream” spoken of by Xi Jinping, but something is missing—something she can’t qualify until the vision of a consummate lover appears to her in dreams, and her craving for his touch begins to take over her waking life. A new gloss on the Chinese ghost story, a taboo acknowledgement of spiritual starvation in the nouveau riche middle classes, and a scathing indictment of patriarchal society.
Sunday, November 4 - 4:30pm - Q&A with Yang Lina

Old Men (Yang Lina/1999/94 mins/DCP)
A quiet, observational film that embeds us among a community of senior citizens in a Beijing suburb—the most honored members of society according to the old Confucian system, but in modern China, increasingly marginalized and disposable. One of the first DV-shot nonfiction films to come from China, presaging the work of Wang Bing, and a prizewinner at Cinéma du Réel in 2000, making it a landmark in wider international recognition of independent Chinese documentary—a field in which women like Yang continue to fight for recognition.
Saturday, November 17 - 8:15pm - Introduced by Wang Bing

The Buried Alive Film Festival has announced its full slate

The full schedule is now up for BAFF 2018 is up at the website and the Facebook page. We've got 7 features, 4 special event screenings, and a ton of shorts. To go with the already announced special events, we have added a special event screening of our friend James Bickert's Amazon Hot Box.

For the main features of the fest, there are 7 films varying in style and tone from absurdist comedy to documentary to extreme horror.

The opening night feature is Joe Badon's bizarre and intriguing The God Inside My Ear. On Friday, we get to share two of the special event screenings (The Golem and Amazon Hot Box), but not before The FP2 hits Atlanta in all of its unique and weird glory. We kick our international groove into full swing on Saturday with Spain's Framed and Japan's Violence Voyager, before the Taboo-La-La event with The Lost Boys hits the stage and we round out the night with midnight movie Dead by Midnight

On Sunday, the day kicks off with a reprise of the live Samahda soundtrack event screening of 1920's The Golem for the earlier birds in the crowd. The fascinating documentary Survival of the Film Freaks follows and the night wraps up with the WORLD PREMIERE of anticipated Todd Sheets future classic Clownado, a classic horror style film with all of the fixing you've come to expect from the warped mind of one Mr. Sheets

Top off these features and event screenings with tons of short films, split into several blocks for your viewing pleasure, as well as the return of the SINEMA CHALLENGE on Wednesday night before the official kickoff of the festival. There is so much genre madness crammed into this year's festival, we're bursting at the seams.

Tickets are $12 for each screening block of the festival, $10 for the Sinema Challenge screenings, and $120 for a full festival pass (an over $80 discount). You can purchase tickets at FilmFreeway by clicking here or visiting

We have such sights to show you, so we hope to see you all there!