Presenting our weekly guide to must-see movies in New York: from ‘Glorious Technicolor’ at MoMA to Celluloid Dreams at IFC Center, here are 13 films to see in New York this week.
***MONDAY, JUNE 22***
PATHER PANCHALI, Satyajit Ray
In a poor Bengal village, Mom tries to hold things together while dreamy Dad looks for work, daughter Durga is accused of stealing, aged “Auntie” (82-year-old former actress Chunibala Devi) eats more than her share, while the young Apu (8-year-old Subir Bandopadhyay) drinks it all in — including the memorable run through the field of waving grasses for his first sight of a train.
THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD, Michael Curtiz and William Keighley
Michael Curtiz’s Robin Hood is the definitive film version of this classic tale—Errol Flynn was born to play the folk hero—and is vital to the history of three-strip Technicolor. Although the Warner Bros. publicity machine crowed that “only the rainbow can duplicate its brilliance,” Sol Polito and Tony Gaudio’s visual design and color palette were in fact far more subtle and complex, as MoMA’s restoration painstakingly reveals. “That the movie stands up to such regular inspection is not just because of rippling action, the stained-glass Technicolor, or the fabulous Korngold score. It is because of Errol Flynn,” David Thomson writes. “Flynn does not deal in depth, but he has a freshness, a galvanizing energy, a cheerful gaiety (in the old sense) made to inspire boys.”
SONS OF LIBERTY, Michael Curtiz
Produced by Warner Brothers as part of a series of patriotic short subjects in the late 1930s, Sons of Liberty tells the story of businessman Haym Salomon, one of the major financial supporters of the American Revolution. With its distinguished cast and production team (including Curtiz and cinematographers Sol Polito and Ray Rennahan), the film is unusually polished.
***TUESDAY, JUNE 23***
AN UNMARRIED WOMAN, Paul Mazursky
It’s been one year since the passing of writer-director Paul Mazursky, one of the cinema’s funniest and most perceptive chroniclers of American middle-class life. Celluloid Dreams honors his legacy with this special 35mm presentation of his 1978 smash hit comedy, followed by a discussion on his life and work.
YOLANDA AND THE THIEF, Vincente Minnelli
Dave Kehr writes, “Vincente Minnelli, a superb pictorialist as well as a great director, let his imagination run wild, and the result is a captivating, dreamlike film composed of startling, outrageous, and sometimes sublime images. It has nothing to do with good taste—and that may be the secret of its peculiar appeal. It’s kitsch liberated, personalized, and intensified, to the point where taste drops out and the film becomes an act of crazy artistic courage.” Although Yolanda and the Thief was a commercial flop and the subject of derision for years thereafter—“It perhaps needs to be seen by anyone who wants to know what killed the MGM musicals,” Pauline Kael wrote with her poison pen—its fairy tale plot, about an heiress and the swindler who pretends to be her guardian angel, is articulated with a riotous visual splendor. With art direction and choreography inspired by Tiepolo, Miró, and Tanguy, especially in the dream ballet, Yolanda and the Thief took Technicolor’s already fantastical palette in thrillingly surreal directions.
AN AMERICAN IN PARIS, Vincente Minnelli
Vincente Minnelli’s canonical musical is an exhilarating interpretation of the Gershwin songbook, starring Gene Kelly as a bohemian expatriate living in Montmartre on the G.I. Bill, and painting in anonymity, while romantically torn between the beautiful and gamine Leslie Caron and his benefactress, the rich and stable art collector Nina Foch. The film’s climactic 17-minute ballet sequence, one of the most expensive and sophisticated dance numbers ever produced in Hollywood (and ingeniously photographed by John Alton), features Kelly and Caron in a pas de deux on sets that magically transform themselves into paintings by masters of French modernism, Dufy, Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, Rousseau, and Utrillo.
VALMONT, Miloš Forman
This stunning adaptation of Dangerous Liaisons revels in the over-the-top debauchery Choderlos de Laclos’ epistolary novel. The wanton tale of two aristocrats’ elaborate games of sexual intrigue comes to life in the details—from lavish sets to exquisitely costumed jugglers, peasants, and courtiers, alongside period piece mainstay Colin Firth.
***WEDNESDAY, JUNE 24***
MISTRESS AMERICA, Noah Baumbach
In this new comedy collaboration between writer-director Noah Baumbach and actor Greta Gerwig (Frances Ha), a lonely college freshman in New York (newcomer Lola Kirke) is having neither the exciting university experience nor the glamorous metropolitan lifestyle she envisioned. When she is taken in by her soon-to-be stepsister, Brooke (Gerwig)—a resident of Times Square and adventurous gal about town—she is rescued from her disappointment and seduced by Brooke’s alluringly mad schemes. Packed with effervescent performances and verbal and physical comedy, Mistress America is “one of Baumbach’s warmest and purely funniest films” (Scott Foundas, Variety).
APARAJITO, Satyajit Ray
As death depletes the family, Apu (now played by Smaran Ghosal) and his mother move to Benares, and the now-young man discovers electricity, the working of the heavens, the delights of poetry, and his entrance to University—as well as his own growing sense of responsibility for the mother who has always cared for him.
THE 5,000 FINGERS OF DR. T, Roy Rowland
The only Hollywood feature that Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss) had a direct hand in writing, designing, and scoring—and then disowning—The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T grew out of the author’s anti-fascist wartime cartoons for the New York daily newspaper PM. The riotously dark fairy tale alienated and confused most contemporary audiences: 500 boys are enslaved in an atomic-age concentration camp, the “Happy Hands Institute,” where the draconian Dr. T forces them to practice and perfect his piano masterpiece. But the film’s deliriously surreal visual conceits (call it Freudian Pop or Technicolor German Expressionism); Frederick Hollander’s frenetic score (which ricochets, in Spike Jonze fashion, from Tin Pan Alley to musique concrète); and Franz Planer’s exuberant choreography (“Men painted in putrid green and dressed in rags and suspenders prance over the stone blocks of their prison, tooting multicolored flutes,” the filmmaker Joe Dante notes) have since made 5,000 Fingers a cult favorite, inspiring the likes of Matt Groenig and Tim Burton.
***THURSDAY, JUNE 25***
SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN, Stanley Donen
Arguably the greatest MGM musical of all time—presented here in a rare dye-transfer 35mm print—Singin’ in the Rain is also a marvelous movie about moviemaking, set during Hollywood’s bumpy transition to the talkies in the late 1920s. A 28-year-old Stanley Donen (who began his career as a dancer) and Gene Kelly artfully capture bodies in motion through graceful camera movements and a wash of diaphanous colors during the film’s dreamily romantic sequences, and eye-popping yellows, greens, and reds to accentuate moments of comic absurdity, joy, or sexual tension.
APUR SANSAR, Satyajit Ray
Struggling writer Apu — now an adult and played by Ray’s perennial star Soumitra Chatterjee — ends up substituting in an arranged marriage with Sharmila Tagore — then 14, and a distant relative of Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, an important Ray influence — but even as love comes, tragedy looms; but Apu finds in his son the promise of new life.
THE I DON’T CARE GIRL, Lloyd Bacon
A celebrity beyond all measure in vaudeville America, Eva Tanguay commanded salaries equal only to Houdini, Caruso, and Jolson, and left screaming crowds and lovers in her wake. Memorably described by the English aesthete Aleister Crowley as “starry chaste…in her colossal corruption,” Tanguay is the subject of this Hollywood biopic musical. Though the strands of her devil-may-care career are more chaste than corrupt in the telling, the film succeeds brilliantly on the dance floor, with abstract, jazzy numbers choreographed by Jack Cole and Seymour Felix. (Look for an uncredited Gwen Verdon and Julie Newmar backing Mitzi Gaynor in the “Beale Street Blues” routine.) Fox studio head Darryl F. Zanuck reportedly cut some of the dance sequences, but thankfully preserved Gaynor’s feathery conflagration in “I Don’t Care.”
BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN, Sergei Eisenstein
Anthology Film Archives
Eisenstein’s constructivist montage and rigid, super-structured plot share equal weight with a seemingly spontaneous, inflamed emotion.