19 Films to See in New York This Week: Truffaut, Fellini, Ray + More

Presenting our weekly guide to must-see movies in New York: from Truffaut at IFC Center and Fellini at Film Society to Satyajit Ray at Film Forum, here’s what you should see in indie theaters now.

***MONDAY, MAY 25***

THE LAST METRO, Francois Truffaut IFC Center François Truffaut’s THE LAST METRO is a dazzlingly subversive work. The film has the form of a more or less conventional melodrama, about a small Parisian theater company during the 1942-44 Nazi occupation, though the film’s methods are so systematically unconventional that it becomes a gently comic, romantic meditation on love, loyalty, heroism, and history. Not since Lubitsch’s To Be or Not to Be has there been such a triumphantly unorthodox use of grim material that usually prompts movies of pious, prefabricated responses… READ MORE  A HERO OF OUR TIME, Mario Monicelli The Film Society of Lincoln Center A year before breaking through with his celebrated farce Big Deal on Madonna Street, Mario Monicelli made the black comedy A Hero of Our Times, its title ironically reflecting the impoverished economy and morality of postwar Italy. Alberto Sordi (I Vitelloni) stars as Alberto Menichetti, a hard-charging boor who distrusts everyone he can’t manipulate. Emasculated at work and in the home he shares with his aunt, he resolves to exploit the affections of his widowed boss (Franca Valeri). Based on the best-selling novel by Vasco Pratolini and bolstered by a supporting cast of past and future talents, from Alberto Lattuada (director of Sweet Deceptions, also screening in this series) as the president of Alberto’s firm to spaghetti Western staple Bud Spencer (acting under his real name, Carlo Pedersoli). READ MORE  APARAJITO, Satyajit Ray Film Forum (1956) 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. Approx. 109 min. DCP. READ MORE  BREAD, LOVE AND DREAMS, Luigi Comencini The Film Society of Lincoln Center Middle-aged Antonio Carotenuto (Vittorio De Sica) arrives in the small mountain village of Sagliena to serve as town marshal and promptly takes a shine to local sweetheart Maria (Gina Lollobrigida), called “Frisky” by her male admirers. Maria has eyes for Antonio’s subordinate, junior policeman Pietro (Roberto Risso), who along with midwife-with-a-secret Annarella (Marisa Merlini) complete the zany love quadrangle. A classic example of so-called “pink neorealism”—still mindful of social themes but more whimsical, in line with improving economic conditions—Bread, Love and Dreams provides “La Lollo” with perhaps her most popular role, and offers a juicy acting showcase to legendary director De Sica. Oscar-nominated for its original story (a rarity for a foreign film, then as now), Luigi Comencini’s farce earned the Silver Bear at Berlinale and inspired three sequels starring De Sica as the bumbling police chief. READ MORE  APUR SENSAR, Satyajit Ray Film Forum (1959) 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. Approx. 105 min. DCP. READ MORE 

***TUESDAY, MAY 26***

MAD MAX, George Miller IFC Center “George Miller’s film is an outrageous exploiter drawing intelligently on everything from Death Race 2000 to Straw Dogs for its JG Ballard-ish story about a future where cops and Hell’s Angels stage protracted guerrilla warfare around what’s left of a hapless civilian population… this edge-of-seat revenge movie marks the most exciting debut from an Australian director since Peter Weir.” – Time Out (London) READ MORE  TOTO DIABOLICUS, Steno The Film Society of Lincoln Center The unassailable iconic Italian superstar Totò (nicknamed “The Prince of Laughter”) headlines this black comedy that’s like Kind Hearts and Coronets meets Danger: Diabolik. The Marquis di Torrealta is murdered by an assailant in all black, save for the name “Diabolicus” printed on his shirt. One by one, his siblings (and heirs)—a general nostalgic for the days of fascism, a youth-obsessed black widow, a twitchy surgeon, and a mild-mannered priest—come under scrutiny by the police, but just before any of their suspects can be arrested, Diabolicus strikes again. When the priest gives his inheritance money to the Marquis’s illegitimate son, the plot takes even twistier, more delightful turns. READ MORE  THE LAW OF THE TRUMPET, Augusto Tretti The Film Societ of Lincoln Center “Tretti is the madman that Italian cinema needs,” proclaimed Federico Fellini, for whom Tretti worked as an assistant on Il Bidone. His first film as director (sadly, he made only four) was The Law of the Trumpet, an absurdist comedy about Celestino (Angelo Paccagnini), a young ex-con who takes a job in a trumpet factory and falls for the lovely Maria (Eugenia Tretti), only to lose her to his boss, Mr. Liborio, upon learning that Maria’s father owns a brass mine. For the roles of Liborio and three other male characters, Tretti cast his neighbor Maria Boto, an elderly woman who explains in a prologue that she’s never seen a film in her life, before imitating Leo the MGM lion. A truly bizarre finale caps this singular work, whose fans included Michelangelo Antonioni. READ MORE A CRY FROM WITHIN, Deborah Twiss Anthology Film Archives A New York family abandons the city in search of a quieter life, but soon find themselves at the mercy of the spirit inhabiting their new home. READ MORE  THE MAGLIARI, Francesco Rosi The Film Society of Lincoln Center The late Francesco Rosi, deemed “the poet of civic courage” for such films as Salvatore Giuliano and Hands Over the City, directed this gritty account of displacement and life in the urban margins. Mario (Renato Salvatori of Rocco and His Brothers), a Tuscan laborer, arrives in Hanover, Germany, in search of work. He soon falls in with a gang of crooked cloth peddlers (“magliari”) led by the charismatic Totonno (screen legend Alberto Sordi in a standout performance), who takes Mario under his wing. Complications ensue when Totonno moves the outfit to Hamburg, where they clash with a rival Polish operation and Mario takes up with a powerful industrialist’s wife (English actress Belinda Lee, who died tragically two years later). Rosi’s genre hybrid explores the abuse of immigrant workers in ways that recall his avowed influences—American social-realist directors Jules Dassin and Elia Kazan. READ MORE  VERSAILLES ’73: AMERICAN RUNWAY REVOLUTION, Deborah Riley Draper FIAF Who rules fashion: New York or Paris? In November 1973, an incredible runway showdown set five American ready-to-wear designers against five French couturiers to answer just this question. Fought with sequins, fabrics, and supermodels, The Battle of Versailles is now fashion lore. READ MORE 


CRONACA NERA, Giorgio Bianchi The Film Society of Lincoln Center A mob boss wanted by the police (Gino Cervi) hides out in the home of an associate, aiming to reassemble his gang when the time is right. In the process, he develops feelings for his aide’s sister (María Denis) and begins to reappraise his life, but finds it difficult to extricate himself from his criminal ties. Leading man Cervi, best known for playing the Communist mayor in the Don Camillo series opposite Fernandel, offers a rich and moving characterization. Prolific director Giorgio Bianchi guides this modest but unexpectedly poignant tale of redemption and the cost of moving beyond the past. READ MORE  THE SWINDLE, Federico Fellini The Film Society of Lincoln Center Fellini’s fifth feature (following 1954’s immortal La Strada) again enlists Hollywood stars in a heartrending portrait of rootlessness and regret. Augusto (Broderick Crawford, Oscar winner for All the King’s Men) is the eldest of three itinerant con men, perpetrating grifts and chasing the good life until a meeting with his estranged daughter revives his nobler instincts. Among the director’s most socially conscious works—Augusto’s victims tend to be poor and gullible—Fellini draws exceptional performances from Crawford, Richard Basehart (La Strada’s Fool), and, in the smaller role of Basehart’s spouse, Fellini’s wife and muse Giulietta Masina. Highlighted by a memorable score from frequent Fellini composer Nino Rota. READ MORE  SHORTS III: POLAND’S WORKSHOP OF THE FILM FORM AND BEYOND BAM Established in 1970 as an academic club at the Film School in Lodz, the Workshop of the Film Form established the paradigm for investigations of “film as film” throughout the decade. Workshop members—many of whom became major figures in Polish art and cinema—undertook experiments that sought to release film structure from narrative and literary confines. Granting its members unprecedented artistic freedom and high-quality professional equipment, the WFF yielded one of the most adventurous bodies of work in Polish cinema. READ MORE  ESPIONAGE AGENT, Lloyd Bacon MoMA 1939. USA. Directed by Lloyd Bacon. With Joel McCrea, Brenda Marshall, Jeffrey Lynn, George Bancroft. Released by Warner Bros. a few months after Confessions of a Nazi Spy, Espionage Agent continues the studio’s campaign for active intervention in the brewing European war. The frankly didactic screenplay features McCrea as a fledgling American diplomat who marries a stateless refugee (Brenda Marshall, in her first film appearance), who soon reveals her inconvenient connections to a Nazi spy ring operated by the inevitable Martin Kosleck. McCrea’s career is ruined, but perhaps not all is lost—can they infiltrate Kosleck’s organization and expose the enemy agents operating in our midst? 16mm. 84 min. READ MORE 

***THURSDAY, MAY 28***

THE SIGN OF VENUS, Dino Risi The Film Society of Lincoln Center Sophia Loren had an early triumph as Agnese, a woman born under the titular sign, making her the effortless object of male desire in her town. Meanwhile, her typist cousin Cesira (Franca Valeri) earnestly pines for a husband, but cannot compete with Agnese’s charms. Before directing international hits Il sorpasso and Profumo di donna (the basis for Scent of a Woman), Dino Risi honed his expertise at human comedy with serious overtones on The Sign of Venus, which competed for the Palme d’Or at the 1955 Cannes Film Festival. Featuring Raf Vallone (who starred in Loren’s Oscar-winning Two Women) and Vittorio De Sica in a colorful role as a panhandling poet. READ MORE  SHORTS IV: MEDIUM EXPERIMENTS: FROM FILM BAM As early as 1965, video emerged in Eastern Europe as a protean moving-image medium that could open new technical and aesthetic frontiers to filmmakers, artists, and journalists. From early harbingers of the digital age shot on film to renegade works of video art from the 1980s, this collection of short works demonstrates the excitement that accompanied the new technology and its ability to cross boundaries like never before. READ MORE  SHORTS V: ARTISTS, COLLECTIVES, COMMUNITIES BAM This program showcases the fluid, genre-busting collaborations among artists in Eastern Europe and highlights how filmmaking strengthened the sense of community at a time of political uncertainty. Drawing from the talents of various underground cultural circles, these unofficial collectives produced highly innovative works that explore traditional and new artistic forms in an effort to carve out a space where socially critical ideas could be exchanged freely. READ MORE  LITTLE GIRLS AND HIGH FINANCE, Anonima Cocottes and Camillo Mastrocinque The Film Society of Lincoln Center Robotti (Renato Rascel), a law-abiding bank employee, discovers that someone has been embezzling money at his branch, but when he brings this to the attention of his superior, he’s offered a million dollars in cash to ignore it. Robotti rejects the offer and is promptly given a pink slip. But after meeting Jane (the stunning Anita Ekberg), he abandons his moral code and starts playing the stock market. At the peak of his success, he gains a majority share of the bank that fired him. Loosely based on a true story, this screwball comedy is underpinned by Rascel’s earnest performance. READ MORE  MUTUAL APPRECIATION, Andrew Bujalski IFC Center “Alan (Justin Rice) is a newcomer to Brooklyn and a musician in search of a drummer. A lot of them get bored of his approach, and he tells one candidate: ‘I like to keep it simple.’ You suspect writer-director Andrew Bujalski knows the feeling: the lovably lo-fi, brilliantly naturalistic technique showcased first in the colour Funny Ha Ha and now in the black-and-white MUTUAL APPRECIATION has seen him justifiably hailed as the great white hope of the American indie film. But, by conventional standards, nothing much happens in his movies: middle-class graduates hang out, flirting and flopping on each other and the furniture, their shambling, self-consuming conversations echoing their aspirational but faltering lives. The films benefit from charismatic leads – Rice, who can do a disconcerting stare or a megawatt smile as occasion demands, wandered into Funny Ha Ha covered in dirt, and that film’s star, Kate Dollenmayer, pops up here – and, despite their lackadaisical impression, the pictures are quite tightly structured: each scene covers emotional and narrative distance. Funny, forgiving, credible and deft, they offer much to appreciate.” –Time Out (London) READ MORE

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