23 Films to See This Weekend: Hellman, Linklater, Buñuel + More

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 Buñuel or Linklater, the essential Monte Hellman, or a noir crime classic, there is 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.

***FRIDAY, JULY 18***

TWO-LANE BLACKTOP, Monte Hellman
Nitehawk

Drag racing east from Los Angeles in a souped-up ’55 Chevy are the wayward Driver and Mechanic (singer-songwriter James Taylor and the Beach Boys’ Dennis Wilson, in their only acting roles), accompanied by a tagalong Girl (Laurie Bird). Along the way, they meet Warren Oates’s Pontiac GTO–driving wanderer and challenge him to a cross-country race. The prize: their cars’ pink slips. But no summary can do justice to the existential punch of Two-Lane Blacktop. With its gorgeous widescreen compositions and sophisticated look at American male obsession, this stripped-down narrative from maverick director Monte Hellman is one of the artistic high points of 1970s cinema, and possibly the greatest road movie ever made. – Criterion

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LET US LIVE, John Brahm
MoMA

Henry Fonda is in his saintly, everyman mode as a taxi driver whose plans to marry a waitress (a radiant Maureen O’Sullivan) are undone when eyewitnesses mistakenly identify him as a killer. Directed with inventive visual flourishes by the émigré filmmaker John Brahm (The Locket), Let Us Live reflects the socially conscious influence of Fritz Lang’s You Only Live Once while providing one likely source for Alfred Hitchcock’s 1957 The Wrong Man.

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BACK TO THE FUTURE, Robert Zemeckis
IFC Center

“Teenager Marty McFly’s dad is a hideous wimp, his mother a dipso, so he befriends mad scientist Dr. Brown (Christopher Lloyd). In a DeLorean time machine they travel back to 1955, the year his parents met in high school. But at that age, mom rather fancies her offspring more than his prospective father. Zemeckis takes obvious pleasure in solving not just the technical but also the emotional problems of time travel: how to avoid incest, how to unite your parents in order that you will be born, how to return to the future when both the car and the professor have blown a fuse, and above all how to avoid tampering with history. If this all sounds schematic, it shouldn’t: the movie has all the benign good nature of a Frank Capra.” – Time Out (London)

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http://youtu.be/HFK_i5r1WJk

DIRTY DANCING, Emile Ardolino
Museum of the Moving Image

Through unforgettable live performances of personal stories, Dana Rossi’s The Soundtrack Seriesshows us how much of our everyday lives are connected to music. For this installment, a screening of the beloved Catskills-classic Dirty Dancing (dir. Emile Ardolino. 1987, 100 mins. With Jennifer Grey, Patrick Swayze, Jerry Orbach) will be preceded by three intimate stories that reveal how that soundtrack played such a huge part in our individual lives—from developing an obsession with the soundtrack because seeing the movie was forbidden, to trying (and failing) to learn the big lift at summer camp. 

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THE SECRET OF THE WHISTLER, George Sherman
MoMA

The sixth and probably best of the Whistler films stars Dix as an aging trophy husband and strenuously “modern” artist. While waiting for his wealthy wife to die, he becomes infatuated with a heartless model (Leslie Brooks). Director George Sherman, who began in B westerns at Republic, stages the indoor action as if he were covering an outdoor spectacle, in grand, sweeping panning shots that seem to whip the characters toward their fate.

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DOUBLE PLAY, Gabe Klinger
Anthology Film Archives

Working with legendary producer André S. Labarthe – who co-created the long-running French television series CINÉMA, DE NOTRE TEMPS (CINEMA OF OUR TIME) – filmmaker Gabe Klinger set out to document the unique friendship between Benning and Linklater over the course of a few days in Austin and Bastrop, Texas, while the two filmmakers once again presented Benning’s films at the Austin Film Society, played baseball at Linklater’s home, visited old shooting locations, and shared memories over long meals and hikes. Combining this newly filmed material with extensive archival elements, DOUBLE PLAY contemplates the contrast between these two apparently dissimilar directors even as it persuasively reveals their affinities, both personal and artistic.

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http://youtu.be/x4hTSjfh7Y0

VIRIDIANA, Luis Buñuel
BAM

Following a 25-year exile, surrealist godfather Buñuel returned to Spain to direct this savagely sacrilegious, satirical masterpiece, which was decried by Franco, and features one of the director’s most audacious set-pieces: a re-creation of Da Vinci’s The Last Supper with beggars and thieves taking the place of the saints.

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BARRY LYNDON, Stanley Kubrick
MoMA

Kubrick’s evocative recreation of the 18th century is more sedate but more beautiful than his other films. The director, generally rooted in the not-always-pleasant contemporary world and an apprehensive future, seems to find solace in contemplating the distant and more agrarian past.

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OUT OF SIGHT, Steven Soderbergh
Anthology Film Archives

Appearing soon after the release of GET SHORTY (1995) and JACKIE BROWN (1997) (not to mention the lesser-known PRONTO and TOUCH, both from 1997), Soderbergh’s OUT OF SIGHT represented the crest of the wave of terrific late-90s Leonard adaptations. Leonard’s novels seem tailor-made for cinematic adaptation in so many ways, not least in providing innumerable great casting opportunities, and OUT OF SIGHT is a case in point: featuring juicy, indelible roles for a who’s-who of Hollywood stars and character actors, it’s one of Soderbergh’s finest and most sure-handed films.

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AMERICAN PSYCHO, Mary Harron
The Film Society of Lincoln Center

Christian Bale is sheer genius as Patrick Bateman, a suave Wall St. investment banker and blithe serial killer, in this hilarious yet unsettling satire on 1980s conspicuous consumption and yuppie narcissism, based on Bret Easton Ellis’s notorious novel.

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***SATURDAY, JULY 19***

JACKIE BROWN, Quentin Tarantino
Anthology Film Archives

Tarantino’s supreme achievement, and still hands-down his most fully accomplished, impressively understated film, JACKIE BROWN is also an ideal adaptation of Elmore Leonard. The master of pastiche, Tarantino here channels the gritty, low-key, human-scaled urban crime films of the 1970s, and the result is enormously satisfying, genuinely capturing not only the superficial trappings of the genre but the genuine flavor of a period in which crime films focused on texture, character, and process rather than sensation or spectacle. Tarantino’s privileging of dialogue and interaction over plot has never been put to such good use, and the film’s sublimely patient pacing, heartfelt affection for its characters, and refusal to indulge in cinematic fireworks, inspires an enormous nostalgia for a period rife with down-to-earth genre films. It’s also graced with a dreamy cast, featuring 70s paragons Pam Grier and Robert Forster, the finest, loopiest performance by De Niro in 25 years, and Sam Jackson at his very best.

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THE BIG HEAT, Fritz Lang
MoMA

Lang’s classic was one of the first films noir to take the genre out of the shadows and into the crisply sunlit world of 1950s suburbia. Glenn Ford is the maverick cop who, out to avenge the death of his wife, finds himself battling not an abstract notion of fate, but an all too concrete conspiracy of politicians and racketeers. With Gloria Grahame as the moll of a gangster (Marvin), who gives as good as she gets.

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TRISTANA, Luis Buñuel
BAM

After the death of her mother, an innocent young girl (Deneuve) is left in the care of middle-aged lech Don Lope (Rey). Sexually exploited by her guardian from an early age, she finally escapes with her beloved Horacio (Nero), only to be forced to return to Don Lope’s clutches when she loses a leg to illness. Roger Ebert has noted, “Power over human lives is a lifelong theme of Buñuel, that most sadomasochistic of directors, and Tristana is his most explicit study of the subject.”

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SLACKER, Richard Linklater
Anthology Film Archives

Linklater burst onto the scene with this radically de-centered, discursive film, one of the key works of 1990s independent American cinema. As dialogue-crammed as his debut feature was dialogue-free, SLACKER is a celebration of American weirdos of all shapes and sizes, and a symphony of verbal dexterity and inventiveness. A plotless, whirligig gallery of “paranoid conspiracy and assassination theorists, serial-killer buffs, musicians, cultists, college students, pontificators, petty criminals, street people, and layabouts” (Jonathan Rosenbaum), it marked the first (and in some ways still most memorable) manifestation of Linklater’s world of compulsive talkers and thinkers.

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SURREALIST SHORTS
Nitehawk

Nitehawk presents a screening of short films that come from the original surrealist cannon to accompany the Summer of Surrealism program featuring contemporary surrealist cinema. Screening iconic silent films – Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali’s Un Chien Andalou (1928), Man Ray’s L’Etoile de Mer (1928), Germaine Dulac’s La coquille et le clergyman (1928) and Maya Deren’s Meshes of the Afternoon (1943) – we cover the beginning of surrealism in cinema up to the beginnings of its influence in other styles of filmmaking.

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THE WHISTLER, William Castle
MoMA

I am the Whistler, and I know many things, for I walk by night . . .” So began the CBS radio program that ran from 1942 to 1955, an anthology of suspense tales narrated with bitter irony by the title character, a mysterious figure with access to the inner workings of fate. Adapting the program for a series of B movies, Columbia made the premise even more Kafkaesque by casting the fading star Richard Dix as a different character in each film—and often, it wasn’t until the end that the audience learned whether Dix was playing a hero, a victim, or a villain. In this first episode, directed by the young Columbia recruit William Castle, Dix is a businessman who, crushed by guilt over the accidental death of his wife, hires a hit man to take him out of his misery. But one thing the Whistler knows is that his wife is alive.

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THE TRIALS OF MUHAMMAD ALI, Bill Siegel
Museum of the Moving Image

The Trials of Muhammad Ali investigates its extraordinary and complex subject’s life outside the boxing ring. From joining the Nation of Islam and changing his name from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali, to his refusal to serve in the Vietnam War, to his global humanitarian work, Muhammad Ali remains an inspiring and controversial figure. Outspoken and passionate in his beliefs, Ali found himself in the center of America’s controversies over race, religion, and war. From Kartemquin Films (Hoop Dreams, The Interrupters), The Trials of Muhammad Ali examines how one of the most celebrated sports champions of the twentieth century risked his fame and fortune to follow his faith and conscience.

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NEW VOICES IN LATIN AMERICAN CINEMA
The Film Society of Lincoln Center

Fifteen years after the reawakening of Latin American cinema in the 1990s there is greater and more varied film production, more interconnectedness among national cinemas, more organized governmental funding, more young people studying film, and more film festivals in the region. However, it is exciting to see that the formal exploration and sense of urgency of those early films persists in the works of many new directors today, giving the region a sense of perpetual cinematic rebirth.  Join us as we explore the challenges of making a first and second film with some of the region’s young new talents. Co-presented with Cinema Tropical and New York Women in Film and Television.

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NORTH ON EVERS, James Benning
Anthology Film Archives

“NORTH ON EVERS…chronicles two motorcycle trips across the US – each from [Benning’s] home in the small town of Val Verde to NYC across the southern route, then back west by the northern route – during two successive summers. The first trip is presented as a handwritten text that scrolls from right to left across the bottom of the screen; the second is documented in image and sound recorded a year later, as Benning revisited the places and people he had seen on the original trip. By the time he returns to Val Verde, he and we have not only seen something of American place at the conclusion of the twentieth century, we have also considered dimensions of our shared history.” –Scott MacDonald, A CRITICAL CINEMA 5

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***SUNDAY, JULY 20***

DAZED AND CONFUSED, Richard Linklater
Anthology Film Archives

This ode to the raunchy, nostalgic high-school flick became an instant classic of the genre, thanks to Linklater’s wit, freedom, generosity of spirit, fine-tuned sense of period, mastery of open-form structure, and unparalleled ear for dialogue, not to mention his assembling of a perfect cast packed with great character actors and future stars (Matthew McConaughey, Ben Affleck, Parker Posey, Milla Jovovich, Joey Lauren Adams, Rory Cochrane, Adam Goldberg, Anthony Rapp, Wiley Wiggins, and many others). Hilarious, laid back, and ultimately even moving, it’s a truly timeless film – we may get older, but DAZED AND CONFUSED stays the same age.

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MYSTERIOUS INTRUDER, William Castle
MoMA

This Whistler entry (the fifth) finds Richard Dix ostensibly on the side of the law, as an opportunistic private detective playing the angles in a case involving a missing heiress and a cache of precious Jenny Lind recordings.

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LITTLE FOXES, William Wyler
Museum of the Moving Image

 Lillian Hellman’s juicy post-bellum Southern gothic drama of intrigue among the scheming members of the Hubbard clan features a dazzling, assured performance by Bette Davis. The role is suitably grand for this point in her career, and she brings to it the kind of size and power that not only enlarges the character but also deepens her. The deep focus photography is by Gregg Toland, who shot Citizen Kane the same year. 

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JOURNEY TO ITALIY, Roberto Rossellini
Museum of the Moving Image

This recently restored masterpiece about an unhappily married British couple who are touring in and around Naples seemed mundane to audiences at the time. But future New Wave filmmakers were thrilled. With its spontaneity and openness, it delivered cinema into “the very language of modern art itself” (Jacques Rivette). Ingrid Bergman, freed from her screen goddess image, achieves astonishing realism.

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