25 Films to See This Week: Godard, Pakula, Romero, Resnais + More

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***MONDAY, OCTOBER 27***

ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN, Alan J. Pakula
Nitehawk Cinema

Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford star as Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, two green reporters who stumble upon the connections of a burglary of the Democratic Party headquarters and a White House staffer. With the go-ahead from their editor and help from the notorious Deep Throat, they follow the money through the republican party and all the way up to the Nixon administration. Despite warning of their lives being in danger and reluctance  from other editors, the two are determined to make a story out of the presidential cover up. The rest, as we know, is Watergate history.

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CITIZENFOUR, Laura Poitras
IFC Center

In January 2013, filmmaker Laura Poitras was in the process of constructing a film about abuses of national security in post-9/11 America when she started receiving encrypted e-mails from someone identifying himself as “citizen four,” who was ready to blow the whistle on the massive covert surveillance programs run by the NSA and other intelligence agencies. In June 2013, she and reporter Glenn Greenwald flew to Hong Kong for the first of many meetings with the man who turned out to be Edward Snowden. She brought her camera with her. The film that resulted from this series of tense encounters is absolutely sui generis in the history of cinema: a 100% real-life thriller unfolding minute by minute before our eyes. Poitras is a great and brave filmmaker, but she is also a masterful storyteller: she compresses the many days of questioning, waiting, confirming, watching the world’s reaction and agonizing over the next move, into both a great character study of Snowden and a narrative that will leave you on the edge of your seat as it inexorably moves toward its conclusion. CITIZENFOUR is a major work on multiple levels, and a deeply unsettling experience. – New York Film Festival

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DANCING DREAMS, Rainer Hoffmann & Anne Linsel
BAM

In 2008, legendary choreographer and longtime BAM artist Pina Bausch assembled 40 German teenagers for a unique staging of one of her most iconic dance works, the complex and intimateKontakthof, created in 1978. Chronicling 10 months of a transformative rehearsal process, this captivating documentary offers a first-hand look at the working methods and clear-eyed vision of a true dance genius.

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GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES, Howard Hawks
MoMA

As a hard-working Hollywood chorus dancer, Chakiris appeared in several of the most famous musicals of the 1950s, though his most memorable (and conspicuous) appearance may be as one of the formally attired suitors beseeching Marilyn Monroe in “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend,” one of the four production numbers staged for the film by the brilliant choreographer Jack Cole. Chakiris introduces the film and shares memories of Monroe, with whom he also appeared in There’s No Business Like Show Business.

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THE SATANIST, Zoltan G. Spencer
Anthology Film Archives

“Unseen for over 40 years, what is believed the sole existing print of Zoltan G. Spencer’s 1968 film THE SATANIST has finally been uncovered. When a writer and his wife move out to the suburbs from the big city, they happen upon a woman who draws the couple into her world of sex magic and occult rituals. The woman soon reveals herself as a witch who works in tandem with a beautiful, raven-haired succubus to lure the innocent couple to a ceremony of sin and sacrifice. THE SATANIST is not a film for true occultists. Rather, Spencer uses these elements as aesthetic flourishes in what is ultimately a low-budget softcore porn with lingering, overlong sex scenes. But there is an undeniable magic in this simple film, with its meandering, light garage soundtrack and mesmerizing performances from its anonymous, uncredited actors.” –Herb Shellenberger

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BLOODFEAST, Herschell Gordon-Lewis
Anthology Film Archives

Honing his chops on commercials and industrials, Herschell Gordon Lewis tried to one-up Russ Meyer’s pioneering 16mm nudie cutie THE IMMORAL MR. TEAS by shooting his own, THE ADVENTURES OF LUCKY PIERRE, in 35mm. But for his breakthrough film, BLOOD FEAST, Lewis returned to the subject of his early industrial, CARVING MAGIC. A seminal splatter flick to which every drop of cinematic blood shed in its wake may be attributed, BLOOD FEAST chronicles a string of grisly ritualistic murders committed by caterer Faud Ramses, who sacrifices his victims to Egyptian goddess Ishtar. Bathtub stabbing, flogging, corpse grinding, limb boiling, and other atrocities had never before been so gleefully nor graphically portrayed. The Los Angeles Times’s Kevin Thomas called it “a blot on the American film industry…an insult to the intelligence of all but readers of horror comic books.” After turning out nearly thirty features over the next decade, Lewis returned to his roots as an advertising copywriter and direct marketing specialist.

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LIQUID SKY, Slava Tsukerman
IFC Center

Androgynous fashion models, dope dealing performance artists, UFOs and killer orgasms are just a few of the elements that made Russian director Slava Tsukerman’s Warholian sci-fi film an instant cult-classic upon its release in 1982. Most alluring to the LGBT crowd was co-writer and star Anne Carlisle, who brilliantly played both bisexual model Margaret and her skuzzy drug-addict nemesis Jimmy (the scene where both characters have sex is surely a first in film history). The film’s vision of New York City as the coolest, strangest, most exciting place on Earth was particularly appealing to a generation of artists, freaks and queers, including our guest presenter, Russian-American artist and writer Slava Mogutin who moved here after being exiled for his subversive and pro-gay writings and activism in 1995.

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***TUESDAY, OCTOBER 28***

NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, George A. Romero
Anthology Film Archives

Incessant media chatter is one of the defining characteristics of Romero’s debut, which features a group of individuals fortified inside a farmhouse outside Pittsburgh as the dead mysteriously return to life. Romero, who previously and for some time subsequently made many Pittsburgh television commercials, presents the media as a locus of vague disinformation and unsettling non-answers. Its racial dynamic is also unique in the context of industrial filmmaking, which was often whitewashed to avoid restricting market potential; its black protagonist reflects a progressive tide, while its essential pandemonium taps into the fraught undercurrent of a tumultuous year. Much as it has been said that often-overlooked and undervalued industrial films present an essential, and in some ways more realistic, view of contemporaneous society, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD is the quintessential evidence that so, too, can horror films.

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SHARK MONROE, William S. Hart
MoMA

William S. Hart’s combination of Western action and romantic drama made him one of the biggest stars of the 1910s and early 1920s. In this 1918 film, newly restored by MoMA, Hart is a ship’s captain in the Pacific Northwest who abandons his post to pursue a woman who does not love him (MacDonald) across the Klondike, eventually rescuing her from the grip of a white slaver. Hart’s direction emphasizes the stone-faced suffering his fans treasured; the cinematographer Joseph H. August, later known for his long collaboration with John Ford, contributes some striking night sequences. Preserved by The Museum of Modern Art with support from the Celeste Bartos Fund for Film Preservation and Barbara Wertz.

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PROVIDENCE, Alain Resnais
FIAF

On the eve of his 78th birthday, Clive Langham conceives his last novel as he reminisces about past experiences with members of his family. But is Clive more accurately depicting others or himself?

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MOON OVER BROADWAY, Chris Hegedus & DA Pennebaker
IFC Center

Chris Hegedus and DA Pennebaker bring their fly-on-the-wall camera backstage to take a fresh, eye-opening, no-holds-barred look at the big bang adventure of producing a Broadway hit. The Broadway show in question is “Moon Over Buffalo,” starring Carol Burnett and Philip Bosco, a comedy about a low-rent Lunt and Fontaine, hell-bent upon recharging their careers.
Cited by The New York Times as “the best documentary of the year,” the film features hilarious turns by its leading actors—and even funnier behind-the-scenes sequences, as everyone mounting this high-risk Broadway production goes into nail-biting overdrive.

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CARNIVAL OF SOULS, Herk Harvey
Anthology Film Archives

Harold “Herk” Harvey would already be a legend for his four-decade career at Lawrence, KS’ Centron industrial film company even if he hadn’t directed this cult favorite. Inspired by a fleeting roadside encounter with a decaying, outdoor ballroom near Salt Lake City, Harvey approached Centron writer John Clifford with the idea of structuring a low-budget horror around this unforgettable image. In Clifford’s script, a young woman who escapes a drag racing accident becomes haunted by chilling visions of a deathly figure. Light on dialogue and conventional plotting, CARNIVAL OF SOULS’ singular atmospherics are a contrast to the pragmatic didacticism of many of Centron’s educational films. Yet it conveys a workmanlike briskness and spirit of economy that speak very much to Harvey’s background as a prolific maker of useful cinema, and it’s rendering of the eerier side of the midwest is unparalleled.

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SPARK OF BEING, Bill Morrison
MoMA

Spark of Being, a close adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Gothic novel Frankenstein, explores the thematic interchangeability of three of the novel’s characters: the Captain, the Doctor, and the Creature. Spark of Being, which, as with all of Morrison’s films, is dialogue-free, features Frank Hurley’s original footage of Ernest Shackleton’s fated Antarctic expedition, along with a range of footage from other sources. Composite film screening.

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***WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 29***

GOODBYE TO LANGUAGE, Jean-Luc Godard
IFC Center

“The idea,” in Godard’s own words, “is simple. A married woman and a single man meet. They love, they argue, fists fly. A dog strays between town and country. The seasons pass. A second film begins…” But the result, in the master’s radical, joyously lo-def 3D tale, is something else entirely—a glorious, dizzying meditation on love and history, nature and meaning, as fresh and innovative as anything the 83-year-old legend has ever made. Jury Prize, Cannes Film Festival

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ROUND MIDNIGHT, Bertrand Tavernier
BAM

In conjunction with BAM and Greenlight Bookstore’s Unbound series and the launch of Herbie Hancock’s memoir Possibilities, BAMcinématek presents a special screening of Round Midnight. While living in Paris in the 1950s, an alcoholic jazzman (real-life saxophone great Dexter Gordon, who was nominated for an Academy award for his role in this film) befriends an enthusiastic fan who tries to save him from his self-destructive ways. One of the all-time great jazz pictures, Round Midnight radiates authenticity thanks to Gordon’s lived-in performance, thrilling musical appearances by legends like Bobby Hutcherson and Wayne Shorter, and Hancock’s Oscar-winning score. 

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HOMEBODIES, Larry Yust
Anthology Film Archives

When a Cincinnati tenement building is slated for demolition to make way for a swanky high rise, its aging residents lead a gruesome fight against the developers, city representatives, and construction contractors. With an almost all-elderly cast and minimal bloodshed, it is misleading to characterize HOMEBODIES as either an exploitation or horror film – yet it’s otherwise unclassifiable, perhaps recalling morbid Eastern Bloc comedies instead. The script, performances, dramatic merit, and staging are all top-notch for a regional independent production, and it ends on a uniquely poignant, metaphysical note. Yust was a prolific filmmaker at Wexler Films and Encyclopaedia Britannica, where he directed an adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s THE LOTTERY, noted as one of the best, greatest-selling, and most controversial educational films ever made.

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THEY DRIVE BY NIGHT, Raoul Walsh
MoMA

Sheridan’s breakthrough year finally came in 1940, with roles in five major films backed by a studio campaign to promote her as “The Oomph Girl”—a soubriquet Sheridan said always reminded her of an old man leaning over. She’s still in an ensemble cast here (but what an ensemble), and director Raoul Walsh is at last fully appreciative of her self-confidence and salty sense of humor.

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ABBY, William Girdler
Anthology Film Archives

A favorite among the small but devoted cult of fans surrounding William Girdler – an enterprising and prodigious director hailing from Louisville, KY, who directed nine features before his tragic death at age 30 – ABBY is often short-handed as “the blaxploitation EXORCIST rip-off” – a totally accurate, if somewhat incomplete, encapsulation of this hugely enjoyable low-budget chiller. BLACULA’s William Marshall stars as a priest studying the religious rites of Nigeria’s Yoruba people, eventually stumbling upon an artifact bearing the visage of Eshu, whom the film characterizes as a trickster sex god. Back in Louisville, the priest’s charming daughter-in-law Abby suddenly turns from church chorus leader into a vulgar, violent demon, sexually belittling her devout husband. When his father returns from Africa, it’s up to two generations of men-of-the-cloth to tie Abby down and bring the demons out. Unabashedly cheap and derivative, ABBY is also surprisingly earnest and compelling, benefiting particularly from the bonds among its excellent cast and Girdler’s thrifty but effective scares.

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TODO MODO, Elio Petri
MoMA

After he laid bare the rampant corruption, spiritual bankruptcy, and violent chaos of 1970s Italy—the notoriously grim gli anni di piombo (years of lead)—in films like Investigation of a Citizen above Suspicion and The Working Class Goes to Heaven, Petri transformed Sciascia’s metaphysical mystery novel, Todo Modo, into a defiant and lugubrious satire of the Christian Democrat Party. Volonté plays a thinly veiled caricature of party leader and power broker Aldo Moro, holed up with his cronies and rivals at a monastic retreat where they plot their political fortunes while being led by a Jesuit cleric (Mastroianni) in spiritual cleansings. Todo Modo struck too close to home—Alberto Moravia sneered at its Dantean depiction of the Italian ruling class “in a grotesquely apocalyptic setting, as a clique of dead souls in bodies only provisionally still alive”—and the film largely disappeared from view when, two years after its release, Moro was kidnapped and murdered by the Red Brigades. Now, thanks to a digital restoration by Cineteca di Bologna and the Museo Nazionale del Cinema di Torino, in collaboration with Surf Film, Todo Modo returns to its rightful place in the canon of political cinema.

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THE LIFE OF RILEY, Alain Resnais
Lincoln Plaza Cinema

In the English countryside, the life of three couples is disturbed by a character we shall constantly hear about but never see: the enigmatic George Riley. When general practitioner Dr. Colin inadvertently tells his wife Kathryn that his patient George Riley does not have more than a few months to live, he doesn’t know that Riley was Kathryn’s first love. Both spouses, who are rehearsing a play with their local amateur theatre company, convince George to join them. It allows George, among other things, to play strong love scenes with Tamara, who is married to Jack, his best friend, a rich businessman and unfaithful husband. A tearful Jack tries to persuade Monica, George’s wife who left him to be with Simeon the farmer, to go back to her husband in order to support him during his last months. George has a strange seductive power over Monica, Tamara and Kathryn, which highly upsets those men sharing their lives with the three women.

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***THURSDAY, OCTOBER 30***

HIROSHIMA MON AMOUR, Alain Resnais
The Film Society of Lincoln Center

This modernist masterwork began as a documentary commission from Daiei Studios, secured for Alain Resnais by producer Anatole Dauman. Resnais decided that the bombing of Hiroshima and its impact needed fiction, brought Duras onto the project, and worked with her to create a story—of a French film actress (Amour Oscar-nominated Emmanuelle Riva) who goes to Hiroshima to make a film and has an affair with a Japanese architect (Eiji Okada)—that would exist “in two tenses… the present and the past coexist.” Few films have had such a lasting, wide-ranging impact. Hiroshima Mon Amour is a devastating experience on every level: visually, sonically, emotionally, intellectually. Thanks to a new 4K restoration, it can now be seen and heard, once again, in its full glory. 

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THE LODGER: A STORY OF THE LONDON FOG, Alfred Hitchcock
Nitehawk Cinema

A Jack-the-Ripper type murderer called “The Avenger” is terrorizing London by targeting young blond women. How Hitchcockian! At the same time of these attacks, a mysterious man takes a room at the a family-owned boarding house and strikes up a relationship with the proprietor’s pretty blonde daughter. To thicken the plot, she’s engaged to a policeman hot on the trail of “The Avenger” who thinks her Lodger lover is the serial killer! Part of the restored newly restored “Hitchcock Nine” by the British Film Institute, The Lodger is considered the “first true Hitchcock film” and is, obviously, a thrilling way to kick start your Halloween.

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NORTHVILLE CEMETERY MASSACRE, William Dear & Thomas L. Dyke
Anthology Film Archives

Pitched between the countercultural comedown of late-60s Hopper, Peckinpah, and Avildsen and the 80s-90s hot-boiled garbage aesthetic of Jim Van Bebber, NORTHVILLE CEMETERY MASSACRE tells the story of beer-swilling, dope-smoking freedom riders waged in a war against the police. Detroit’s Scorpion Brotherhood motorcycle club agreed to play itself after being impressed by the filmmakers’ anti-drug film JUMP. In NORTHVILLE, they encounter a young drifter named Chris (his post-sync voiceover recorded by none other than Nick Nolte), who eventually hooks up with his suburban middle-class girlfriend for a roll in the hay at the bikers’ hideout farm. When the police attempt to siege the bikers, they end up beating Chris and sexually assaulting his girlfriend, who slips into a coma. Meanwhile, the same police convince the father of their victim that the bikers were responsible. Enlisting an eccentric professional hunter, the offending officer and the girl’s father team up to lay waste to the long-haired biker scum. It climaxes with a wake for a fallen rider that turns into a horrifically gory shootout far more spectacularly violent than any of the film’s influences.

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VERTIGO, Alfred Hitchcock
Film Forum

Acrophobic ex-cop James Stewart, hired to shadow seemingly death-obsessed Kim Novak, saves her from drowning in the shadow of the Golden Gate bridge, but not from a fall off a Mission steeple. But then, he meets her again – or does he? Hitchcock shrugged off collaborators’ objections to reveal the solution midway (“Do we want suspense or surprise?”) in what is essentially one of the screen’s most wrenching treatments of loss and – in Mr. Nice Guy Stewart’s tormented performance – of sexual obsession. In 2012, Vertigo bumped Citizen Kane from its longtime spot as the #1 movie of all time in the once-a-decade Sight & Sound poll.

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LISTEN UP PHILIP, Alex Ross Perry
Nitehawk Cinema

Anger rages in Philip as he awaits the publication of his sure-to-succeed second novel. He feels pushed out of his adopted home city by the constant crowds and noise, a deteriorating relationship with his photographer girlfriend Ashley, and his own indifference to promoting the novel. When Philip’s idol, Ike Zimmerman, offers his isolated summer home as a refuge, he finally gets the peace and quiet to focus on his favorite subject—himself.

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