20 Films to See This Week: De Palma, Argento, Burton + More

20 Films, New York

From IFC Center and BAM  to Film Forum and The Film Society of Lincoln Center, check out the 20 films to see this week around the city.



LBJ (1968, 18min)
79 Primaveras (1969, 25min)
Now (1965, 5min)
Hanoi Martes 13 (1968, 38min)
Ciclon (1963, 22min)


WESTERN, Bill and Turner Ross
The Film Society of Lincoln Center

Drug cartel violence and border politics threaten the neighborly rapport enjoyed for generations between Eagle Pass, Texas, and Piedras Negras, Mexico. In their trenchant and passionately observed documentary, Bill and Turner Ross render palpable the unease and uncertainty of decent, hardworking folk as they are buffeted by forces beyond their control, including senseless acts of torture, murders committed just outside their homes, and the temporary USDA ban on livestock trade. Drawing on archetypes of rugged individualism and community, Western focuses on Mayor Chad Foster, who presides over Eagle Pass with a winning, conspiratorial smile; José Manuel Maldonado, his kindly Piedras Negras mayoral counterpart; and Martin Wall, a cattle rancher whose Marlboro Man stoicism melts away in the presence of his young daughter, Brylyn. Western firmly positions the Ross brothers at the frontier of a new, compelling kind of American vernacular cinema.


IFC Center

Tim Burton put the goth back in Gotham for his hit 1992 sequel BATMAN RETURNS, which features a villainess who finds her strength through kinky black bondage wear, a theme song by goth queen Siouxsie and the Banshees and a script by black comedy genius Daniel Waters (HEATHERS). Though it was criticized by parental groups for being too dark, BATMAN RETURNS nonetheless struck a chord with a generation of “middle-American, tortured oddballs” like our guest presenter, performance artist and goth opera wunderkind Joseph Keckler, who remembers being “entranced by the deformed and power-hungry Penguin (Danny DeVito) and even more by the revelation of Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer): undergoing a vampire-like interspecies resuscitation, she transforms from the scattered, apologetic and subservient Selina Kyle to an oversexed vigilante, whip in hand. Still floating around in the collective unconscious of my generation, like trash in the sewers of Gotham, are fantasies of being with her and being her, of coming back to life with claws.” Join us for a fabulously fun screening!


DEATH LAID AN EGG, Giulio Questi
Anthology Film Archives

Giulio Questi’s giallo-on-acid, a pop art manifesto against mass production, takes the plot of Henri-Georges Clouzot’s DIABOLIQUE and turns it into something truly bizarre. Marco (Jean-Louis Trintignant) occupies the center of a love triangle involving his wife (Gina Lollobrigida) and her luscious niece (Ewa Aulin), at the high-tech chicken farm they run – and this busy man still finds the time to kill prostitutes on the side. This is poultry art at its best!


Anthology Film Archives

A musician accidentally kills the stalker who had been menacing him over the phone. The killing is witnessed by a masked figure, and soon the musician is being blackmailed. One by one everyone around him turns up dead, making him the prime suspect. In this final installment of the ANIMAL TRILOGY, Argento takes his visual stylistics and set pieces to another level. Long unavailable, the film is presented in a rare archival 35mm print. Starring Michael Brandon and Mimsy Farmer.




PARABELLUM, Lukas Valentina RInner
Film Society of Lincoln Center

A Buenos Aires office worker finishes his day, visits his father in a rest home, lodges his cat in a kennel, and cancels his phone service. (Did you overhear the news report of riots and social unrest on the radio?) The next day, he and 10 equally nondescript individuals are transported up the Tigre delta in blindfolds and arrive at a secluded, well-appointed resort for a vacation with a difference. Instead of yoga and nature walks, the days’ activities range from hand-to-hand combat and weapons instruction to classes in botany and homemade explosives. Welcome to boot camp for preppers, the destination of choice for the serious Apocalypse Tourist. Austrian filmmaker Lukas Valenta Rinner handles his material in his home country’s familiar style, with cool distance, minimal dialogue, and carefully composed frames, interpolating the action with extracts from the invented Book of Disasters, a must-read for anyone warming up for the collapse of civilization as we know it. People, are you in?


CHRISTMAS, AGAIN, Charles Poekel
Film Society of Lincoln Center

A forlorn Noel (Kentucker Audley) pulls long, cold nights as a Christmas-tree vendor in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. As obnoxious, indifferent, or downright bizarre customers come and go, doing little to restore Noel’s faith in humanity, only the flirtatious innuendos of one woman and the drunken pleas of another seem to lift him out of his funk. Writer-director Charles Poekel has transformed three years of “fieldwork” peddling evergreens on the streets of New York into a sharply observed and wistfully comic portrait of urban loneliness and companionship. While Christmas, Again heralds a promising newcomer in Poekel, it also confirms several great young talents of American indie cinema: actors Audley and Hannah Gross, editor Robert Greene, and cinematographer Sean Price Williams.


Anthology Film Archives

Jane (the queen of giallo, Edwige Fenech) is plagued by a recurring nightmare after losing her unborn child in a car accident. Her busy husband Richard (George Hilton) deals with it by plying her with pills, while her sister books sessions for her at the doctor. Things take a turn for the worse when the creepy blue-eyed man from her nightmares materializes in real life, and the upstairs neighbor enlists her in satanic rituals. Set in Swinging London, ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK is graced by Sergio Martino’s impeccable camera work and Bruno Nicolai’s terrific score.


Light Industry

Adynata and Mayhem, two crucial works of experimental film from the 1980s, pursue a radical aesthetic agenda not merely on the level of content, but of form. They stand as living, moving arguments for a film language that is not only critical but generative. Rejecting all manner of constricting binaries—East and West, male and female, heterosexual and homosexual—this is not merely a deconstruction of cinema but its reconstruction. “Film has depended on voyeuristic active/passive mechanisms,” Mulvey notes in the final lines of her essay. “Women, whose image has continually been stolen and used for this end, cannot view the decline of the traditional film form with anything much more than sentimental regret.”


TENEBRAE, Dario Argento
Anthology Film Archives

An American writer travels to Rome to present his new novel only to find himself implicated in a killing spree whose perpetrator is taking cues from his book. In one of his most personal films, the master of horror fires back at the wave of criticism that he was facing at the time. Featuring an outstanding score by Goblin (DEEP RED, SUSPIRIA), an infamous crane shot, and one of the most memorable chase scenes between man and dog ever filmed, this rare uncut 35mm print of TENEBRAE is not to be missed!




I AM CUBA, Mikhail Kalatozov

This retina-dazzling agitprop masterwork is Soviet filmmaker Mikhail Kalatozov’s delirious dream vision of the Cuban revolution, in which the Felliniesque decadence of Batista-era Havana gives way to the explosion of Castro’s guerrilla uprising. A head-spinning mix of Constructivist aesthetics and sensuous photography, I Am Cuba pulses with “some of the most exhilarating camera movements and most luscious black-and-white cinematography you’ll ever see” (Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader).


Film Society of Lincoln Center

Nadav Lapid’s follow-up to his explosive debut, Policeman, is a brilliant, shape-shifting provocation and a coolly ambiguous film of ideas. Nira (Sarit Larry), a fortysomething wife, mother, and teacher in Tel Aviv, becomes obsessed with one of her charges, Yoav (Avi Shnaidman), a 5-year-old with a knack for declaiming perfectly formed verses on love and loss that would seem far beyond his scope. The impassive prodigy’s inexplicable bursts of poetry—Lapid’s own childhood compositions—awaken in Nira a protective impulse, but as her actions grow more extreme, the question of what exactly she’s protecting remains very much open. The Kindergarten Teacher shares the despair of its heroine, all too aware that she lives in an age and culture that has little use for poetry. But there is something perversely romantic in the film’s underlying conviction: in an ugly world, beauty still has the power to drive us mad.


Nitehawk Cinema

Four sexy college girls plan to fund their spring break getaway by burglarizing a fast food shack. But that’s only the beginning. During a night of partying, the girls hit a roadblock when they are arrested on drug charges. Hungover and clad only in bikinis, the girls appear before a judge but are bailed out unexpectedly by Alien, an infamous local thug who takes them under his wing and leads them on the wildest Spring Break trip in history. Rough on the outside but with a soft spot inside, Alien wins over the hearts of the young Spring Breakers, and leads them on a Spring Break they never could have imagined.


Anthology Film Archives

A wheelchair-bound heiress is murdered, and a chain of killings ensue, as everyone who has a stake in the pie struggles to eliminate anyone standing in the way of the inheritance. The situation is complicated by a group of teens who decide to go camping by the lake on the estate. Widely regarded as a pioneer of the slasher sub-genre, Bava’s high-body-count murder mystery is one of his most influential works.


Anthology Film Archives

Dick (Ray Lovelock) and Ingrid (a teenage Ornella Muti) finance their carefree lifestyle by smuggling pornography from Scandinavia into Italy, but when they run out of money they resort to selling dirty pictures of themselves. Soon they are arrested and ordered to return to their country, but car troubles force them to make a pit stop at a villa where the apprehensive lady of the house (Irene Papas) is alone awaiting her husband. DIRTY PICTURES begins as a road film but slowly morphs into a chilling cat-and-mouse game. The result is a standout Giallo from prolific genre master Lenzi.




MERCURIALES, Virgil Vernier
The Film Society of Lincoln Center

With an eclectic assortment of shorts, documentaries, and hybrid works to his name, Virgil Vernier is one of the most ambitious young directors in France today, and one of the hardest to categorize. Taking a cue from Godard’s 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her, Vernier’s most accomplished film to date trains his camera on the Parisian suburb of Bagnolet, shadowing two receptionists (Ana Neborac and Philippine Stindel) who work in the lobby of the titular high-rise. As the girls drift from one enigmatic situation to the next—going to the pool, visiting a maze-like sex club, hunting for new employment—Vernier’s visual strategies and narrative gambits grow ever more inventive and surprising. Beautifully shot on 16mm by cinematographer Jordane Chouzenoux and set to James Ferraro’s haunting electronic score, Mercuriales is that rarest of cinematic achievements: a radical experiment in form that also lavishes tender attention on its characters.


CARLITO’S WAY, Brian De Palma
IFC Center

Named the Best Film of the 1990s by Cahiers du Cinema “’30s-style gangster tragedy about a man doomed to an early grave by his society and his own code. Carlito (Al Pacino) wants out of the rackets, but to get there he has to ‘play Bogart’, running a discotheque, and even then he can’t escape his friends — lover Penelope Ann Miller and lawyer Sean Penn… Pacino looks every inch a movie star, and De Palma provides a timely reminder of just how impoverished the Hollywood lexicon has become since the glory days of the ’70s.” – Time Out (London)


Anthology Film Archives

Florinda Bolkan (INVESTIGATION OF A CITIZEN ABOVE SUSPICION, DON’T TORTURE A DUCKLING) plays an interpreter tormented by a recurring dream about two astronauts stranded on the moon. She soon travels to a distant seaside town and checks in at a dilapidated hotel where, to her surprise, she runs into a series of strangers who seem to know her. Beautifully lensed by the great Vittorio Storaro, this psychological giallo from Luigi Bazzoni not only delivers in terms of style and mystery, but is also an intriguing character study thanks to Bolkan’s inspired performance. Also starring Klaus Kinski and familiar giallo child-star Nicoletta Elmi (DEEP RED, DEMONS).


Anthology Film Archives

Following a premonition, a clairvoyant woman (Jennifer O’Neil) tears down a wall in her husband’s country house and discovers a skeleton. Preyed upon by terrifying visions, she sets out to find the truth with the help of a psychologist (Marc Porel), only to realize that her own life might be in danger. One of Fulci’s tightest works, this rare parapsychic horror gem features a score by Franco Bixio, Fabio Frizzi, and Vince Tempera.



1956. USA. Directed by Arthur Lubin. Screenplay by Devery Freeman, Stephen Longstreet. With Ginger Rogers, Barry Nelson, Carol Channing, James Arness, Clint Eastwood. After 10 years as a freelancer, Rogers returned to her former home base, RKO, for this pleasantly feminist comedy Western—which suitably proved to be the last film released by the battered studio. Under Arthur Lubin’s direction, Rogers returns to her plucky, career-girl persona of the 1930s, complete with squeaky voice: she’s a saleswoman with the unenviable assignment of peddling barbed wire to the open-range ranchers of Texas. Carol Channing, in her first credited movie role, is her comically gangly assistant; as her love interest, Lubin cast his personal protégé, an impossibly handsome young Clint Eastwood. This is likely to be the last public performance of this vintage 35mm IB Technicolor print, which suffers from “vinegar syndrome” and displays some warping in its final minutes. 92 min.


Happy Birthday, Al Pacino

Still from Scarface (Universal)

The gangster of all actors turns 74  today. He’s been everything from a blood-thirsty Cuban drug lord in Scarface to a mob boss who inherited his dad’s title in the Godfather. No matter the role, Pacino never fails to impress. And, he looks pretty good for a man who will be turning 80 in just six years, if I don’t say so myself.

Celebrating the Magic of Al Pacino on His 73rd Birthday

In his book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, Peter Biskind writes that the 1970s was a time when "New Hollywood swallowed Hollywood." And when it came to the actors that made the generation come to life, a sea of gritty new talent stepped in, providing a sense authenticity and realism that echoed the incredibly hard-hitting films being made in rapid succession during the decade from young and emerging talent on the verge of making history. And at the top of that list was the frenetically passionate and incomparable Al Pacino, who in his long and winding career has worked with everyone from Francis Ford Coppola and Sidney Lumet to William Friedkin and Jerry Schatzberg and Brian De Palma. But, of course, it’s Robert Evans who takes the cake for giving Pacino the role that would catapult him into an icon with The Godfather—well, according to Evans.

So in honor of his 73rd birthday, let’s not only take a look back on some of the best moments in Pacino’s career, but a conversation Evan recalls having in The Kid Stays in the Picture between himself and lawyer Sidney Korshack, that led to the greatest  "sense of discovery“ casting ever. Enjoy.

“Sidney Korshak, please.”
“I need your help.” “There’s an actor I want for the lead in The Godfather.”
“I can’t get him.”
“If I lose him, Coppola’s gonna have my ass.” 
“Forty-eight hours ago he signed for the lead in a picture at Metro—The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight.”
“I called Aubrey, asked if he could accomodate me, move his dates around.”
“He told me to fuck off.”
“Is there anything you can do about it?”
“The actor…what’s his name?”
"Pacino…Al Pacino.” 
"Al Pacino.”
“Hold it will ya? Let me get a pencil. Spell it.”
“Capital A, little l—that’s his first name. Capitol P, little a, c-i-n-0.”
“Who the fuck is he?”
“Don’t rub it in will ya, Sidney. That’s who the motherfucker wants.”
“Where are ya?”
“At the New York office.”
“Stay there.” 
Twenty minutes later my secretary buzzed. “Mr. Aubrey’s on the phone, Mr. Evans.”
“You no-good motherfucker, cocksucker. I’ll get you for this.”
“What are you talking about?”
“You know fuckin’ well what I’m talking about.”
“Honestly, I don’t.”
The Cobra cut me off. “The midget’s yours; you got him.” Hanging up he horn on my ear. Immediately I called Korshack.
“Sidney, it’s Bobby.”
“Aubrey just called.”
“Pacino—I got him. What happened?”
“I called Kerkorian.” 
[Kirk Kerkorian at the time was the sole owner of MGM. He never involved himself  with the day-to-day running of the studio, a provision written in cement when Aubrey took the presidency. Kerkorian was totally involved in building his Las Vegas empire. The MGM Grand was near completion, but he was going through a financial crunch as construction costs were considerably over budget.]
“I told him Bobby needs some actor for The Godfather, that his schmuck Aubrey wouldn’t let you have him. He tells me—get this, Bobby—’Sidney, I’d do anything for you, you know that, but my deal with Aubrey is he’s got total control. It’s Aubrey’s call, I’ve got to say no in it.” The operator interrupted. “Mr. Wasserman’s on the phone, Mr. Korshak, says it’s urgent.”
"I’ll call him back in ten.”
“Well what?”
“What did he say?”
“Oh, I asked him if he wanted to finish building his hotel.”
“He didn’t answer, but he asked who the actor was. I told him. He never hear of the schmuck either. He got a pencil, asked me to spell it—’Capital A, punk l, capital P, punk a, c-i-n-o.’ Then he says, ‘Who the fuck is he?’ ‘How the fuck do I know. All I know, Bobby wants him.”
“That was it?”
“That was it!”
His other phone rang. He didn’t even say goodbye. That’s the inside, inside story of what eventually became—mind you, against my better judgement—possibly the greatest “sense of discovery” casting in cinema history.

Bobby In The Panic in Needle Park



Sonny Wortzik in Days Day Afternoon



Rocky Roma in Glengarry Glen Ross



Michael Corleone in The Godfather Parts I & II



Tony Montana in Scarface



Francis Lionel Delbuchi in Scarecreow


Roy Cohn in Angels in America



Frank Serpico in Serpico



Steve Burns in Cruising



Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade in Scent of a Woman

HBO’s ‘Phil Spector’: Eh, Mamet’s Done Worse

Last month we were all aflutter about the potential for HBO’s Phil Spector, starring Al Pacino as the bizarre music legend and Helen Mirren as the ailing attorney defending him on a murder charge, to be something so ridiculous that we couldn’t look away. Actually, it’s an okay if surprisingly unambitious film—and certainly not the worst thing for which writer/director David Mamet can claim credit.

Sorry, I think I’m still just angry about the politics of Wag the Dog. What were we saying? Oh yeah. Phil Spector suffers from that problem playwrights have where they film things that probably belong onstage: Mirren following a ranty Pacino around his castle and occasionally provoking the next riff with a plain statement of fact or bluntly phrased question. Drama!

Seriously it’s like, Pacino: [lengthy diatribe about “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” being the “best song ever released,” even though it was more than four minutes long]. Mirren: “Did you kill that woman, Philip?” Pacino: “THEY HATE ME BECAUSE I’M ESSENTIALLY JESUS CHRIST.” Pretty entertaining at first and then, wait, isn’t this just The Devil’s Advocate, somehow?

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The Poster for ‘Phil Spector’ Was ‘Shopped in Ten Minutes

Hey, y’all guys like my Photoshop skills? HBO called and were like, "Hey man, we’re in a bind, can you whip up a poster real quick for the new Phil Spector movie?" And I said, "Dude, I am slammed with work, but gimme fifteen minutes. By the way, how much is in your budget?" And my man over at HBO was all, "Uhhh, I can pay you seventy bucks." And I said, "SIGH. But deal. Need the cash. But throw in a signed Al Pacino headshot, will ya?" "Sure," my bud said, "but we’re all out of the Scarface ones."

[via Yahoo]

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Well This Phil Spector Movie Looks Perfectly Awful

Notwithstanding Al Pacino’s clearly spot-on portrayal of the mad music legend, HBO’s Phil Spector biopic is shaping up to be a goddamn glorious trainwreck. I don’t know how deep you’ve gone into David Mamet’s back catalogue but there are some really bizarre low cards in that deck—I’d go so far as to say House of Games almost ruined the great Joe Mantenga for me. So tread lightly, Helen Mirren fans.

The film seems to focus mainly on the objectively insane Spector’s various hairstyles—a sequence of wigs on Pacino that defies every computer-generated cinematic image with its rejection of verisimilitude. In these wigs, Pacino delivers unctuous lines like “First time you got felt up, guess what? You were listening to one of my songs,” but as though he were still performing in Heat.

But yes! Guns and Jeffery Tambor and wait a minute, is there even going to be a Phil Spector song in this Phil Spector movie? Ah, there it is—sweet pop music. As the soundtrack to mouth-foaming rants from Pacino, in a wig. Entertainment doesn’t get much more entertaining.

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Al Pacino’s Hair Reaches New Heights as Phil Spector

"He’s a freak. They’re gonna convict him of I-just-don’t-like you." So begins the first teaser for HBO’s Phil Spector, the David Mamet-helmed-and-written film about one of the most influential and successful music producers in history and his 2003 murder trial. And indeed, said trial, during which Spector was found guilty of the murder of Lana Clarkson (for which he is serving 19 years to life), transformed him in the public eye from one of the music industry’s most celebrated figures to one of it’s most reviled, a symbol of the dark side of the music world. The trial photos became a topic of conversation, in part due to Spector’s distinctive hairstyles.

Now, a teaser and press photos for the film, which premieres March 24th, have been released, and star Al Pacino seems pretty committed to the role. Pacino dons a number of Spector’s signature coifs, most notably his towering curly mop, which creates an eerie resemblance. And it doesn’t stop at the hair—he shouts all over the place, shoots guns in the studio and asserts himself as a musical genius. Alongside him is Helen Mirren, who plays his defense attorney and appears decidedly more composed. Watch.

‘Gangster Squad’ Is the Most January Movie Ever

Any seasoned cinephile is familiar with the January Movie: something genre-driven, with a kind of gray or bluish tint, that wouldn’t even register were it not released in the dead of winter, when we’ve already seen everything good but still don’t want to sit around the living room making conversation. Gangster Squad, I am pleased to report, takes this underwhelming formula to new heights lows middles.

First up, of course, you’ve got A-list talent wandering around doing laughable noir voices—Josh Brolin is a notch below Michael Shannon’s Boardwalk Empire growl, and Ryan Gosling landed near Al Pacino’s high-pitched Godfather. The ultraviolence is a Dashiell Hammett novel rendered as Itchy & Scratchy cartoon. Oh, and never have so many dudes fired WWII-era machine guns at people five feet away and missed entirely.

It’s Sean Penn who should be really pissed, though: easily the most impotent bad-guy super-mobster in half a century. The Terminator-like good guys (seriously, one of them is Robert Patrick, who played the T-1000) basically destroy his empire throughout the movie as he rages helplessly in a mansion and never comes close to exacting any adequate revenge. Plus, terrible makeup. And it looks like they ran out of money in the final fight scene, so it’s just a bunch of dark, grainy footage that Michael Mann may have cut from Public Enemies? All it was missing, really, was a labored nod to Chinatown. Just kidding! That’s in there, too. 

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Al Pacino to Star as Joe Paterno in Brian De Palma’s Upcoming Biopic

When I think of all of the stories that need to be put on the big screen, obviously, naturally, the first one to come to mind is that Penn State child-rape football scandal. Think about it! The gltiz, the glamour, the drama! And all of it directed by Brian De Palma, someone know for his incredibly somber, subtle films like Carrie, Sisters, and Snake Eyes. And who else to play Joe Paterno but living legend Al Pacino? What could possibly go wrong here?

DePalma will be reuniting with his own Scarface actor for a film tentatively titled Happy Valley based on a biography of the Penn State football coach by Joe Posnanski. The film will focus on Paterno’s "Shakespearian fall from grace" following the Penn State rape scandal. Deadline reveals why it looks to be a heavy-hitting film:

There are so many themes to deal with here, from Paterno’s rise and his loyalty to a football program he spent his life building, to the obvious question of how a molder of young men could possibly have stood silently by when told that one of his former coaches started a charity for underprivileged kids and used it as a way to ingratiate himself into vulnerable young fatherless boys for sexual encounters,? The failure of Paterno and university officials to act allowed Sandusky to continue molesting boys for years, which was borne out in court testimony leading to his conviction and incarceration. Posnanski was working on a book about Paterno and was well into it when the scandal broke. The book is as much about what made Paterno tick as anything else, and capturing complex characters is something Pacino does well. He played a conflicted pro football coach in Any Given Sunday, and Jack Kevorkian in the HBO film You Don’t Know Jack.

I just hope it ends with Paterno snorting a massive amount of cocaine. Go out with a bang, not a whimper: that’s the Brian De Palma way. 

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