16 Movies to See This Week: Fassbinder, Wexler, Varda + More

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***MONDAY, MAY 26***

WORLD ON A WIRE, R.W. Fassbinder
The Film Society of Lincoln Center 

“Made for German television, this recently rediscovered, three-and-a-half-hour labyrinth is a textbook example of a film many years ahead of its time. An adaptation of Daniel F. Galouye’s 1964 American novel Simulacron-3, World on a Wire is a paranoid, boundlessly inventive take on the future with dashes of Stanley Kubrick, Kurt Vonnegut, and Philip K. Dick. Made less than a decade after Alphaville(1965) and a quarter-century before The Matrix (1999), this satiric and surreal look at the world of tomorrow is a noir-spiked tale about a cybernetics engineer (Klaus Löwitsch) who uncovers a massive corporate conspiracy. As Fassbinder himself described it, World on a Wire is “a very beautiful story that depicts a world where one is able to make projections of people using a computer. Perhaps another, larger world has made us as a virtual one? In this sense it deals with the old philosophical model, which here takes on a certain horror.”

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BEWARE OF A HOLY WHORE, R.W. Fassbinder
The Film Society of Lincoln Center

“In this sui generis take on the “film about filmmaking,” a brutal self-critique inspired by the production of Whity, Fassbinder puts the blame for that shoot’s sturm und drang squarely upon himself. A cast, crew, and various hangers-on (including New German Cinema fellow travelers Werner Schroeter, Magdalena Montezuma, and Margarethe von Trotta; Eddie Constantine, as the film’s male lead; Fassbinder axioms like Hanna Schygulla, Ulli Lommel, and Kurt Raab; and Fassbinder himself as the film-within-the-film’s producer) congregate in a Spanish hotel bar and wait interminably for the arrival of their leather-jacketed man-child director (Lou Castel). The group then undergoes a series of skirmishes, psychosexual charades, and nonplussed power trips—in what may or may not be an accurate representation of Fassbinder’s behind-the-scenes methods.”

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EFFI BRIEST, R.W. Fassbinder
The Film Society of Lincoln Center

“Fassbinder’s take on Theodor Fontane’s tale of the rise and fall of a cosseted young 19th-century Candide is among his most visually ravishing. Married to a considerably older man (Wolfgang Schenck), gentle Effi (Hanna Schygulla) lives in a comfortable prison, a manor on the Baltic Sea staffed by servants whose chilly demeanor mirrors the house’s statuary. Too young and naïve to understand that breaking the rigid rules of her world might spell her doom, Effi falls for the handsome Major Crampas (Ulli Lommel) and, in the process, hurtles toward a tragic fate. Fassbinder films Fontane’s novel as both a deeply moving “woman’s picture” and a working metaphor for the plight of a subversive filmmaker working in an oppressive, reactionary society.”

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COLD IN JULY, Jim Mickle
IFC Center

“Michael C. Hall brings a shell-shocked vulnerability to his portrayal of Dane that contrasts perfectly with the grizzled “badasses” portrayed by Sam Shepard and Don Johnson. Directed with an excellent eye for the visual poetry of noir, this pulpy, southern-fried mystery is a throwback to an older breed of action films; one where every punch and shotgun blast opens up both physical and spiritual wounds. Cold in July is hard to shake as an east Texas summer.”

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***TUESDAY, MAY 27***

MEDIUM COOL, Haskel Wexler
Nitehawk

“It’s 1968, and the whole world is watching. With the U.S. in social upheaval, famed cinematographer Haskell Wexler decided to make a film about what the hell was going on. Medium Cool, his debut feature, plunges us into the moment. With its mix of fictional storytelling and documentary technique, this depiction of the working world and romantic life of a television cameraman (Robert Forster) is a visceral cinematic snapshot of the era, climaxing with an extended sequence shot right in the middle of the riots surrounding the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. An inventive commentary on the pleasures and dangers of wielding a camera, Medium Cool is as prescient a political film as Hollywood has ever produced.”

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THE BEACHES OF AGNES, Agnes Varda
IFC Center

“Many of the great directors from the very start of film—such as Charlie Chaplin and Erich von Stroheim—also star in their own movies, but the overt arts of self-portraiture and autobiography are rare in the cinema. Agnès Varda’s THE BEACHES OF AGNES, from 2008, brings together those fundamentally divergent impulses: the desire to tell the story of her life in more or less chronological order, to depict herself as she was at the time of the filming (on the eve of her eightieth birthday), to consider her own works, and to bring together the people she loves, whether in person or in memory. The result is her most audacious and original film—one for which she devised a distinctive form that starts out from the theatrical premise that she is, in effect, playing herself, and that makes use of elaborate stagecraft to bring inner and outer life into view.”

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THE IMMIGRANT, James Gray
The Film Society of Lincoln Center

“Young Polish immigrant Ewa (Marion Cotillard, in a thrilling performance), after being separated from her sister at Ellis Island, finds herself caught in a dangerous battle of wills with a shady burlesque manager (Joaquin Phoenix) in James Gray’s richly detailed period film. Working with the great cinematographer Darius Khondji (Se7en, Amour), Gray imagines 1920s Manhattan as a dusty, sepia-toned dreamworld, sometimes faintly luminous but often dejectedly burnt-out. The same could be said of the film’s heroes: after a charismatic magician (Jeremy Renner) starts to compete for Ewa’s affections, The Immigrant builds steadily to its devastating climax. A lovingly wrought portrait of Prohibition-era New York, the film is also a morally ambiguous, open-ended reflection on family loyalty, urban disillusionment, and the unpredictable twists and turns of human motivation. The Immigrant, based on the stories and experiences told to the director by his grandparents, is perhaps one of the last of its kind—a personal epic.”

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MAINE-OCEAN, Jacques Rozier
FIAF

“Rozier is the great unsung hero among French New Wave directors. His critically acclaimed and increasingly influential body of work remains largely unavailable outside of France.

This freewheeling film follows a disparate cast of characters first on a train from Paris, and then while they frolic on the Île d’Yeu. It is a wild send-up of class distinctions and social mores.”

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***WEDNESDAY, MAY 28***

FREE TALKS: KELLY REICHARDT
The Film Society of Lincoln Center 

“Set against the ravishing, threatened natural beauty of Oregon, the film tracks step by relentless step as quiet organic farmer Josh (Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network), high-society dropout Dena (Dakota Fanning, War of the Worlds, the Twilight saga), and adrenaline-driven ex-Marine Harmon (Peter Sarsgaard, Blue Jasmine) prepare, carry out, and then experience the shocking fallout of what they hoped would be an attention-grabbing act of sabotage. Feeling they have been pushed to the limit by disregard for the local ecosystem, the trio is about to see their own personal limits tested. American landscapes and narratives of the road are themes that run throughout director Kelly Reichardt’s films (River of Grass, Old Joy, Wendy and Lucy, Meek’s Cutoff), and now she brings her distinctive voice to the thriller genre.”

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JACOLBY SATTERWHITE SHORTS
BAM

“In this program of short films, BAMcinématek presents selections of work by performance art iconoclast Jacolby Satterwhite alongside recent Art21 New York Close Up documentaries revealing his process. In Satterwhite’s “uncommonly elastic imagination” (The New York Times), 3D animated characters perform wordless scenes of transformation and desire. Constructing digital worlds through stream-of-consciousness architecture, Satterwhite draws from a personal mythology that fuses familial obsessions, pop culture, and art history. Dressed in elaborate costumes adorned with electronic devices, Satterwhite’s avatar bounds from the screen in licentious live performances. His Reifying Desire series creates a virtual arena to explore the connections between his mother’s drawing and his current practice, and features music by Ghouls.”

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THE LIFE AND CRIMES OF DORIS PAYNE, Matthew Pond and Kirk Marcolina
Film Forum 

“Doris Payne is an unlikely recidivist jewel thief. At 83, she’s still elegant, charismatic, and articulate –- but with a 60-year career in crime, 32 aliases,10 birth dates, 11 social security numbers, and 9 passports. She’s successfully fleeced Tiffany and Cartier, escaped from custody in Europe with a hot 10-carat diamond, and passed herself off as Otto Preminger’s wife. We catch up with Doris Payne as she faces new charges that she’s taken a diamond ring from Macy’s in San Diego. Judge Brown sums it up: “She’s charming. She’s Santa Claus’s wife. She’s a thief.” A thief so singular in style and achievement, that Halle Berry has been in talks to play her in a biopic.”

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GEBO AND THE SHADOW, Manoel de Oliveiera
Anthology Film Archives

“An adaptation of a 1923 play by Raul Brandão, Portuguese master Manoel de Oliveira’s latest feature film gathers an All-Star team of European acting legends – including Claudia Cardinale, Jeanne Moreau, and Michael Lonsdale (a ubiquitous presence in the work of Truffaut, Duras, Rivette, and the lesser-known Marcel Hanoun, the subject of an extensive retrospective taking place simultaneously at Anthology) – as well as the no-less-gifted Oliveira-regulars Leonor Silveira and Luís Miguel Cintra. Oliveira is unequalled among living filmmakers for his devotion to the theater, and for his ability to honor the theatricality of the texts he adapts while still creating works that are highly cinematic and profoundly modern. GEBO AND THE SHADOW is a highly-focused, deeply melancholy demonstration of his art.”

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***THURSDAY, MAY 29***

JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS, Harry Elfont, Deborah Kaplan
BAM 

“Josie (Cook) and her Pussycats (Reid & Dawson) go from garage rock wannabes to pre-fab pop-stars, thanks to the engineering of a diabolical record industry exec. Plastered with ironic corporate logos, this candy-colored satire of 90s teenybopper culture “winningly channels the spirit of Frank Tashlin… A sly, sustained spoof of consumerism, infectious pop songs, and cute girls in tight pants” (Nathan Rabin, The A.V. Club).”

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POPULARITY IS SO BORING: PUNK SHORTS
BAM

“Riot grrrls, queer punks, and No Wave icons fly their freak flags in this shorts program, featuring films by downtown shock artists Richard Kern and Scott and Beth B, as well as Kleenex/LiLiPUT videos. Among the highlights are Kern’s You Killed Me First, starring downtown muse Lung Leg (cover girl for Sonic Youth’s 1986 album EVOL), and Black Box, a visual and auditory assault about torture and mind control featuring underground musician Lydia Lunch and artist Kiki Smith.”

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ACCIDENT, Joseph Losey
Film Forum

“A country home on a warm summer night; the sound of a sickening car crash; a startled horse; a white-clad woman with a feathery boa; a curious dog. A long Sunday that begins with guests, expected and unexpected, arriving for lunch, and then staying for supper, and then overnight; interspersed with clumsy tennis, near-silent walks through an idyllic countryside, drinkers upending their beer glasses to clear for the whiskey, and… “What room is everybody in?” A wispy, dreamlike reunion with an old flame, with the dialogue done in voiceover. Oxford don Dirk Bogarde’s mid-life crisis, struggling with the tensions, rivalries, lusts and distrusts shared with his students Michael York and Jacqueline Sassard, pregnant wife Vivien Merchant, and unpleasant bespectacled colleague Stanley Baker. Following The Servant, eventual Nobel laureate Pinter’s second Losey collaboration, ruthlessly eschewing exposition in adapting a novel by Nicholas Mosley, son of British fascist leader Oswald.”

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THE EIGHTH DAY, Marcel Hanoun
Anthology Film Archives

“As a result of the award received for UNE SIMPLE HISTOIRE in the 1959 Cannes Festival, Hanoun was given the opportunity to shoot a commercial feature film, with an established cast (including New Wave icon Emmanuelle Riva) and a substantial budget. In the end, he was horrified and alienated by the experience of industrial film production, seeing its hierarchies and financial pressures as irreconcilable with creative freedom, and he spoke dismissively of the result. Nevertheless, it’s a fascinating work, and a symbol of a road not taken for Hanoun.”

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