18 Films to See This Week: Derek Jarman, Bertolucci, Pennebaker + More

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***MONDAY, NOVEMBER 3***

TOUCH OF EVIL, Orson Welles
Film Forum

“An hour ago Rudy Linnekar had this town in his pocket. Now you can strain him through a sieve.” Police corruption and murder on the border, as Mexican narc Charlton Heston, on a Yankee honeymoon with gringa bride Janet Leigh, finds himself pressed into service by memorably bloated police chief Orson Welles when a car bomb vaporizes both businessman and blonde. With a legendary opening crane shot that follows the actors for blocks; dark-wigged madam Marlene Dietrich’s deadpan greeting to Welles (“You a mess, honey. You been eatin’ too much candy.”), as Henry Mancini’s pianola tune tinkles in the background; the Psycho-like frisson of Leigh’s morning-after view of Akim Tamiroff’s upside-down, tongue-distended kisser; and concluding with an elaborately intercut chase by Heston over, under, around and through the canals of Venice (California, that is), Welles’ first American film in a decade – and his last – is a festival of bizarre camera angles, mile-long shots and baroque lighting – stunningly photographed by Russell Metty.

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GLITTERBUG + PIRATE TAPE + T.G.: Psychic Rally in Heaven, Derek Jarman
BAM

Glitterbug

Assembling 20 years of home movies, Jarman’s intimate self-portrait is a vibrant record of an extraordinary life, featuring footage of the director at work on his films, Britain’s underground gay and punk scenes, and friends like William S. Burroughs, Genesis P-Orridge, and Tilda Swinton, all set to music by Brian Eno. 35mm.

Pirate Tape

Made in collaboration with Genesis P-Orridge’s Psychic TV, this rarely seen short follows William S. Burroughs through the streets of London. 16mm.

T.G.: Psychic Rally in Heaven

Eerily pulsating images of Throbbing Gristle are set to the band’s disturbingly nihilistic post-punk dirges in this experimental concert film. 16mm.

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IN THE SHADOW OF THE SUN + IMAGINING OCTOBER + QUEEN IS DEAD, Derek Jarman
BAM

In the Shadow of the Sun

Flaming red Super 8 footage of occult rituals are slowed down to a hypnotic crawl and set to an unsettling industrial score by Throbbing Gristle, resulting in a witchy brew of magic and mysticism. 16mm.

Imagining October

Assembled from Super 8 footage that Jarman shot in Moscow and set to music by Britten and Throbbing Gristle’s Genesis P-Orridge, this kaleidoscopic glimpse into pre-glasnost Russia is rife with references to Soviet art and politics. 16mm. 

Queen is Dead

This trio of music videos for three songs by the Smiths are swirling collages of violent, homoerotic, and anti-state imagery that heighten the doomy romanticism and political bite of Morrissey’s lyrics. 35mm.

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ATTENBERG, Athina Rachel Tsangari
MoMA

2010. Greece. Written and directed by Athina Rachel Tsangari. With Ariane Labed, Giorgos Lanthimos, Vangelis Mourikis, Evangelia Randou.

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LOST SOUL: THE DOOMED JOURNEY OF RICHARD STANLEY’S ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU, David Gregory
The Film Society of Lincoln Center

If Apocalypse Now hadn’t already established that going into the jungle with Marlon Brando to make a movie is a bad idea, this off-the-charts outrageous story of the dysfunctional production of the 1996 horror-movie remake of The Island of Dr. Moreau settles things. Here’s the recipe for how not to make a movie about a tropical island where a mad scientist creates half-human half animal mutants: take one visionary, decidedly weird, and in-over-his-head South African filmmaker (Richard Stanley), one tyrannical Hollywood burn-out replacement director (John Frankenheimer), one egomaniacal star (Val Kilmer), one 300-pound certified acting genius (Brando), then toss in a crew losing their minds, stir slowly, and voilà: an epic cinematic travesty for the ages. There’s hilarious first-hand testimony from cast members Fairuza Balk, Marco Hofschneider, and Rob Morrow plus assorted salty Australian production personnel, but with Frankenheimer and Brando dead and Kilmer not returning phone calls, the true star of the film is Richard Stanley himself, who tells all with admirable composure. Folks, you can’t make up this stuff up.

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***TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 4***

LAST TANGO IN PARIS, Bernardo Bertolucci
FIAF

A landmark film, Bernardo Bertolucci’s raw study of sexual passion stars Marlon Brando as a man in emotional exile following his estranged wife’s suicide. When he meets a young French woman, it’s the beginning of one of cinema’s most infamous affairs. This intimate, honest, and sometimes transgressive portrayal of a sadomasochistic relationship showcases one of Brando’s best.

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THE ANGELIC CONVERSATION, Derek Jarman
BAM

Jarman’s voluptuously romantic essay film sets erotically charged, slow-motion imagery of two men against the words of 14 of Shakespeare’s sonnets as read by Dame Judi Dench. The result is an ecstatically beautiful paean to desire and a ravishing feast for the senses that Jarman described as the work “closest to my heart.” 

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IMSS OKICHI, Tatsunosuke Takashima
MoMA

Kenji Mizoguchi is credited as “supervisor” on this rare Japanese genre film, which stars the stunning Isuzu Yamada (Osaka Elegy, Throne of Blood) as a professional criminal, part con woman and part martial artist, who falls in love with a young man from the straight world. Scholars have debated the extent of Mizoguchi’s contribution to the film; for David Bordwell, it has “some typically Mizoguchian scenes that dwell on chiaroscuro melancholy.” That, and an elaborately choreographed fight sequence that seems to anticipate Toshiya Fujita’s cult favorite Lady. 

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THE WAR ROOM, Chris Hegedus & DA Pennebaker
IFC Center

“‘The War Room’ was the name for Bill Clinton’s campaign center in Little Rock, Ark. Though the press wasn’t usually permitted inside this small warren of chaos, filmmakers D A Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus, managed to secure partial access and shot nearly 35 hours of footage there. At the center of The War Room are the two men who guided Clinton’s ship from the beginning: James Carville, the fiery, charismatic, expletive-spewing Cajun who manages the campaign with a mixture of Southern charm and unrelenting passion; and George Stephanopoulos, the brilliant, handsome Rhodes Scholar who, as communications director, calmly but surely mobilizes his staff to take the presidency.

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***WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 5***

THE LAST OF ENGLAND, Derek Jarman
BAM

Jarman’s face-melting cinematic collage delivers a snarling punk doomsday message to Thatcher-era Great Britain. Mixing the director’s own home movies with apocalyptic, weirdly beautiful images of violence, urban decay, and Tilda Swinton as a crazed whirling dervish, The Last of England is “visionary cinema at its best” (Jonathan Rosenbaum).

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THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI, Robert Wiene
Film Forum

“When will I die?”  “At first dawn.” The purest expression of Expressionism on film, and perhaps the first true horror classic, its influence on lighting, décor and atmosphere omnipresent to this day. In the seemingly right-angle-less village of Holstenwall (doors and windows sport impossibly sharp angles, walls are tilted, staircases assume eccentric diagonals, shadows are painted blotches), the carnival boasts the macabre act of Werner Krauss’s bizarrely made-up Doctor Caligari and his coffin-cradled, all-questions-answering Somnambulist, Cesare (Conrad Veidt, Casablanca’s Major Strasser) – but why is Hans von Twardowski dead the next day? Has Cesare kidnapped Lil Dagover while he’s still in his coffin? And in an obviously mad world, who is the madman? Seen over the years mostly in murky, incomplete copies, this new restoration, gleaned from materials in ten international archives, gives us perhaps the most complete version ever exhibited in this country – with its original color tinting and toning and even the carefully-designed original Expressionistic title cards – and at last a real sense of the phenomenon that electrified the film world.

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THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER, William Keighley
MoMA

By 1942, Sheridan’s proletarian sassiness was well enough established that she could teasingly play against type, here as a predatory Broadway actress (partly based on Tallulah Bankhead) who forces herself into the Midwestern home where a famously grouchy radio personality (Monty Woolley) has been confined because of a damaged hip. Bette Davis, Jimmy Durante, Billie Burke, Reginald Gardner, and Mary Wilkes costar in this adaptation of the Kaufman and Hart play.

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THE HARVEST, John McNaughton
The Film Society of Lincoln Center

CenterIn his first film in nearly 15 years, the director of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer harks back to the depravity that made his 1986 debut a horror milestone. But less based in reality, The Harvest is closer to a fairy tale from Grimm’s darkest corners. Maryann (an impressive Natasha Calis) moves in with her grandparents after she’s orphaned. Desperately lonely, the preteen sets out to befriend a neighboring deathly ill, bed-ridden boy (Charlie Tahan, also very good), despite the outright disapproval of his mother (Samantha Morton). Maryann’s persistence pays off, however, and during a series of secret visits she gradually uncovers some seriously sinister goings-on in the house… Morton as the boy’s overprotective surgeon mom is the stuff of great screen villainy—at once utterly monstrous and tragically desperate—so much so that she makes even frequent heavy Michael Shannon, as the more subdued dad, pale in comparison.

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ANOTHER MAN’S POISON, Irving Rapper
MoMA

With Bette Davis, Gary Merrill, Emlyn Williams. Producer Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., lured Bette Davis and her new husband, Gary Merrill, to England to film this little-seen independent production, a feebly plotted thriller that quickly becomes a chance for Davis to slip back into her high camp mannerisms fromAll About Eve, filmed one year before. As Janet Frobisher, a suspense novelist with a home on a misty moor, Davis has to deal with a murdered husband, a young lover (Anthony Steel), and her husband’s blackmailing partner in crime (Merrill), while an epicene local veterinarian (Williams) hovers about, suspecting foul play. Luckily, Davis also has a malleable director of her own choice, Rapper, who lets her get away with murder in more ways than one.

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***THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 6***

LOST HIGHWAY, David Lynch
Museum of the Moving Image

Rarely revived, Lost Highway may be one of David Lynch’s greatest films, blending elements of film noir, horror, surrealism, and nightmare logic in an enigmatic story about a free-jazz saxophonist who is framed for his wife’s murder and emerges in a new identity as a gas-station attendant. Screenwriter, novelist, and poet Barry Gifford co-wrote the script with Lynch after collaborating on Wild at Heart. His deep knowledge of film noir and B-movies adds greatly to the film’s atmosphere.
Filmmaker and Museum member Jonathan Caouette (Tarnation) will introduce Barry Gifford who will participate in a brief discussion before the screening.

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WAR REQUIEM, Derek Jarman
BAM

Set to Benjamin Britten’s devastating War Requiem, which combines the Latin Mass with text by WWI poet Wilfred Owen, this dialogue-free drama features tour-de-force silent performances from Nathaniel Parker and Tilda Swinton as a soldier and nurse. The potent combination of Britten’s elegiac music and Jarman’s feverish imagery yields a shattering emotional experience. 

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ANGST Gerlad Kargl
The Film Society of Lincoln Center

It’s said that “once a killer, always a killer.” And, indeed, for the unnamed psychopath at the center of Angst, 10 years of jail time for murder has done nothing to keep his demons at bay. The day he is released, he immediately feels the urge to kill again, and attempts to do just that with one of the first people he encounters. When that fails, he moves on to an isolated house, where a series of violent acts take place that are hard to watch but impossible to look away from. That’s partly because the killer, loosely based on real-life madman Werner Kniesek, is played by Erwin Leder with brilliant creepiness, and partly because the jarringly deglamorized violence is depicted with uncustomary realism. Angst might almost feel documentary-like if it weren’t so stylized—with stunning camerawork by Zbigniew Rybczynski, who also edited and co-wrote the script; score by one-time Tangerine Dream member Klaus Schulze; and direction by Gerald Kargl, who sadly never went on to make another film. Those with a cast-iron stomach and the necessary willpower can now see Angst on 35mm, and discover for themselves why Kargl’s film maudit, practically unseen in the U.S., has become a semi-legendary object well on its way to cult status, and why it’s been such a monumental inspiration for shock-cinema provocateur Gaspar Noé, who calls the film “one of the masterpieces of the decade.” A deeply disturbing yet spellbinding experience. (Warning: the film was banned in numerous countries and originally rated X.)

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NATIONAL GALLERY, Frederick Wiseman
Film Forum

London’s National Gallery, one of the world’s foremost art institutions, is itself portrayed as a brilliant work of art in this, Frederick Wiseman’s 39th documentary and counting. Wiseman listens raptly as a panoply of docents decode the great canvases of Da Vinci, Rembrandt, and Turner; he visits with the museum’s restorers as they use magnifying glasses, tiny eye-droppers, scalpels, and Q-tips to repair an infinitesimal chip; he attends administrative meetings in which senior executives do (polite) battle with younger ones who want the museum to become less stodgy and more welcoming to a larger cross-section of the public. But most of all, we experience the joy of spending time with the aforementioned masters as well as Vermeer and Caravaggio, Titian and Velázquez, Pissarro and Rubens, and listen to the connoisseurs who discourse upon the aesthetic, historical, religious and psychological underpinnings of these masterpieces.

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