20 Films to See This Weekend: Cassavetes, HItchcock, Bogdanovich, + More

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Sundays may be a “wan, stuff shadow of a robust Saturday” or a day of “forced leisure for folks who have no aptitude for leisure,” according to Tom Robbins, but a weekend is still a weekend. The pleasure of a Friday night, the knowing the burdens of work week have a brief respite carry themselves into the following two days of leisure, and what better way to indulge in that leisure than heading to the cinema.

And this weekend, there are more than enough wonderful films showing around New York for you to disappear into. Whether it’s your favorite Bogdanovich film, the final Cassavetes, or the best of Ellen Burstyn, there’s surely something to satisfy every cinematic appetite. I’ve rounded up the best of what’s playing around the city, so peruse our list, and enjoy.

IFC CENTER

POISON IVY, Katt Shea Ruben (1992)

“Although marketed as a ‘home invasion’ thriller in the Single White Female vein — teenage nymphette Ivy (Drew Barrymore) wreaks havoc in the home of rich kid Cooper (Gilbert) by seducing her ex-alcoholic father (Tom Skerritt), supplanting her ailing mother (Diane Ladd), and generally ruining Coop’s life — there is more to POISON IVY than meets the eye. Distanced from the over-heated emotions and events by Coop’s naive voice-over narration (‘I guess you have to give up certain things when you take on a friendship’), we witness much of what happens at one remove. In this and other ways, Ruben subverts the salacious subject matter, while exploring the dangerously ambiguous relationship between anarchic wild child Ivy and emotionally neglected rich kid Coop (an understated, moody performance from Gilbert). Its willingness to take risks, and its insights into the frailties and confusions of teenage friendships (‘She might have been lonelier than I was’, reflects Coop at the end), lift the film right out of the rut.” (x)

THE GRIFTERS,  Stephen Frears (1990)

“The title refers to con artists like Roy Dillon (John Cusack), who makes a living palming dollar bills in bars, or Myra (Annette Bening), the feisty drifter who tries to steer him to the big time after a petty scam lands him in hospital. But the most ruthlessly survivalist is Roy’s mother Lily (Angelica Huston), employed by the Mob to work a ‘playback’ scam at racetracks, and liable to be beaten up or have a cigar stubbed out on her hand just to teach her a lesson. Lily is perceived as a woman of great tragedy, still possessed of the maternal instincts she needs to try to save her long-neglected son, imbued with a toughness that helps her overcome constant terror and loneliness, and sufficiently tainted by life to both desire and finally destroy her offspring… Anjelica Huston is quite astonishing; as Thompson is a kind of dime-store Dostoievsky, so Huston’s Myra seems straight from the pages of Euripides and Sophocles.”  (x)

GODZILLA: THE JAPANESE ORIGINAL, Ishiro Honda (1954)

“Rejoice, guy-in-rubber-suit fans! Sixty years after first trampling his way into the collective consciousness (and with a blockbuster reboot on the horizon), the primordial behemoth known as Godzilla returns… in a new DCP restoration. If you know only the Americanized version—dubbed into English and featuring Raymond Burr in awkwardly incorporated footage—this is your chance to see director Ishiro Honda’s pointedly allegorical Japanese original.”  (x)

NOW: IN THE WINGS ON A WORLD STAGE, Jeremy Whelehan (2013)

“Kevin Spacey, Sam Mendes and the Bridge Project Company go on the road in NOW: IN THE WINGS ON A WORLD STAGE. In over 200 performances, and across 3 continents, Kevin and the troupe reveal some of the most intimate moments behind the scenes of their staging of Shakespeare’s classic tragedy, “Richard III.” Their story and experiences weave around, and reflect on, excerpts from the play from their various locations, from Epidaurus to Doha, and provides a great opportunity for those who have never experienced Spacey on stage to witness his immersive and captivating interpretation of Richard III. NOW chronicles the first collaboration between Spacey and Mendes since both won Academy Awards® for their work onAmerican Beauty.” (x)

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BAM

THE KING OF MARVIN GARDENS, Bob Rafelson (1971)

“Bob Rafelson’s follow-up to Five Easy Pieces is another moody character study and one of the most uncompromising films of the 70s. Wheeling and dealing hustler Jason (Bruce Dern) convinces his introspective, downer radio-host brother David (Jack Nicholson) to join him in Atlantic City, where he’s engaged in some shady dealings with the mob to buy a Hawaiian island. Their doomed adventure is set against the bleakly beautiful ruins of the decaying resort town, captured by László Kovács’ luminous cinematography.” (x)

THE LAST PICTURE SHOW, Peter Bogdanovich (1971)

“Three teenagers (Bridges, Bottoms, and Shepherd) come of age in a dusty dying Texas town in this 1950s-set American New Wave landmark. Burstyn got her breakthrough (and an Oscar nomination) playing a past-her-prime housewife staving off boredom with an extramarital affair, while Bogdanovich conjures a vanished era of pool halls, jukeboxes, and revival houses in luminescent monochrome.” (x)

ALICE DOESN’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE, Martin Scorsese (1974)

“After her husband’s sudden death, New Mexico housewife Alice (Burstyn) chucks it all and hits the road to pursue her dream of a singing career. Burstyn won a richly deserved Best Actress Oscar for her remarkably open, relaxed performance in Scorsese’s seriocomic Southwestern road movie, which shifts poignantly between silver-screen fantasy and hard-bitten reality.” (x)

ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE, Jim Jarmusch (2013)

“This gorgeously shot cerebral horror film tells the tale of two fragile and sensitive vampires, Adam (Hiddleston) and Eve (Swinton), who have been lovers for centuries. Both are cultured intellectuals with an all-embracing passion for music, literature, and science—though Eve retains a sense of optimism about the future of civilization while reclusive Adam despairs. Because blood has been tainted by zombies (humans), Adam and Eve must consistently secure uncontaminated blood from hospitals or else they will perish. Their precarious footing is further threatened by the uninvited arrival of Eve’s carefree and uncontrollable little sister Ava (Wasikowska), who has not yet learned to tame her wilder instincts. Driven by sensual photography, trance-like music, and droll humor, Only Lovers Left Alive is a meditation on art, science, memory, and the mysteries of everlasting love.” (x)

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ANTHOLOGY FILM ARCHIVES

BIG TROUBLE, John Cassavetes (1986)

“THE IN-LAWS cross-bred with DOUBLE INDEMNITY, BIG TROUBLE finds beleaguered insurance agent Arkin, desperate to send his beloved triplets to Yale, jumping at a proposition from loopy housewife Beverly D’Angelo to help put her supposedly terminally-ill husband (Falk) out of his misery, and split the proceeds of his life-insurance policy. But as in THE IN-LAWS, Falk is not what he appears to be, and once again poor Arkin is drawn into a plot that gives him far, far more than he bargained for.” (x)

THE IN-LAWS, Arthur Hiller (1979)

“Middle-class dentist Alan Arkin is happy for his newly-engaged daughter, but not so sure about her fiancé’s father, CIA agent Peter Falk. Taking an immediate dislike to his new in-law, Arkin is soon drawn into a death-defying world of international espionage. Never certain what bothers him most – having to dodge flying bullets and fraternize with insane banana-republic dictators or having to put up with Falk – Arkin finds himself leaving his quiet life increasingly far behind.” (x)

RUMSTICK ROAD, The Wooster Group 

“In 2012, Anthology presented a work-in-progress screening of The Wooster Group’s extraordinary video reconstruction of their 1977 theater piece RUMSTICK ROAD, and now we’re overjoyed to host the theatrical premiere run of the completed version. At once an invaluable document of one of the high points of 1970s experimental theater, and a genuinely radical, astonishingly elegant re-working of the available footage, RUMSTICK ROAD transcends theatrical documentation to become a major work of experimental video in its own right.” (x)

SHOW & TELL: ALEXANDRA CUESTA

“Inspired as much by Walker Evans’s reticent street photography as by Bruce Baillie’s sensuous film poems, her work manages to strike a delicate balance between the mundane and the poetic, the material and the intelligible. Public places and urban landscapes are observed in their splendor and singularity through the abstract and vernacular figures of everyday life, exploring the constructions of space and structures of time that can be found in the order and disorder of people’s daily movements and environments.” (x)

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MoMA

THE CONVICTION, Marco Bellocchio (1991)

“Featuring a script cowritten by Bellocchio’s psychotherapist, The Conviction’s thesis about women, men, and rape remains hugely controversial. After hours in a museum, a woman and a man are seemingly locked in. We observe a stylized mating ritual, and at dawn they leave, each with a different story. She says it was rape. He claims consensual sex. The contentious court case that follows debates the psychosexual theories of the day. Many of the film’s challenging ideas prove relevant to today’s discussions around sexual harassment.”  (x)

CHINA IS NEAR, Marco Bellocchio (1967)

“The powerful follow-up to Bellocchio’s debut proves that a trenchant critique of bourgeoisie buffoonery and the social ambitions of the working class, combined with clichéd Western assimilation of political movements in a completely corrupt political system, is plenty comical in the hands of a master satirist. This beautiful black-and-white film gleefully exposes the sorry moral and financial state of three siblings who each try to con their way through life with no particular passion or knowledge, but with the lofty goal of keeping their privileged position. They are abetted by the egotistical squabbling of the working-class friends and foes around them, endlessly scheming in love and (class) war.” (x)

A LEAP IN THE DARK, Marco Bellocchio (1980)

“Judge Mauro Ponticelli (Michel Piccoli) has been living with his sister (Anouk Aimée) his whole life, but as she develops an increasingly serious mental illness he’s left uncertain how to care for her. With their relationship complicated by the introduction of a liberal young actor and an ever-present housemaid, A Leap in the Dark deftly traces the dynamics of familial and professional obligation, morality, and personal desire with a slow-burning ferocity that allows the actors to perform at the height of their power (Piccoli and Aimée both received best actor/actress prizes at the Cannes Film Festival).” (x)

MAGIC WORDS [BREAKING THE SPELL], Mercedes Moncada Rodríguez (2012)

“In the vein of Chris Marker’s finest essay films, Moncada Rodríguez’s Magic Words is both sweeping and deeply personal, exploring 40 years of Nicaraguan history with a voice that is equally erudite, poetic, and indignant. Tracing the fraught Sandinista revolution throughout the 1980s and its aftermath, Moncada examines the impact of grand ideologies, politics, and lingering memories on communities and individuals, in many ways still left raw and reeling. To echo a quote from Marker’s Sans Soleil, Moncada seems to demand: “Who says that time heals all wounds?” (x) 

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FILM FORUM

IDA, Pawel Pawlikowski (2013) 

“In the early ‘60s, before taking her vows at the convent, a young novice travels to Warsaw to visit her aunt, her only living relative. Revelations about Ida’s past throw her future into turmoil. Both witty and serious, IDA is as moving as it is entertaining in its layered take on human nature.” (x)

SWING TIME, George Stevens (1936)

“No one could teach you to dance in a million years!” After signing up for dance lessons(!), Fred Astaire – remembering his vows to girl-back-home Betty Furness – has “a fine romance” with Ginger Rogers. The pinnacle of the Astaire-Rogers series.” (x)

OTHELLO, Orson Welles (1952)

“As Othello lies dead, a horrified Iago is hoisted above the crowd in an iron cage — and then the play begins. Shakespeare’s classic of jealousy and retribution, as Moorish warrior Welles just can’t stop listening to the insinuations of Micheál Mac Liammóir’s Iago, in one of Welles’s most dazzlingly visual works, from its baroque Venetian beginning; to the windy, sun-splashed battlements of Mogador; to the stunning murder sequence in a Turkish bath (improvised when costumes failed to appear). Despite a chaotic shooting schedule, even by Welles standards (production spanned three years, several countries, and three Desdemonas; Suzanne Cloutier, the last, later married Peter Ustinov), it still took the Grand Prize at Cannes. Presented as part of “Celebrate Shakespeare 2014!,” commemorating the 450th anniversary of the Bard’s birth.” (x)

BLACKMAIL, Alfred HItchcock (1929)

“Blackmail displays many of the stylistic elements and themes with which Hitchcock would come to be associated: particularly a fascination with male sexual aggression and female vulnerability. Like the later Sabotage (1936) it features a woman who is protected from the Law by her policeman lover. It is also one of a number of Hitchcock’s films to feature a heroine who enters a dazed or ‘fugue’ state in which she acts mechanically and apparently without control of her actions – other examples are Murder! (1930), Sabotageand, more ambiguously, Vertigo (1958) and Psycho (1960).” (x)