14 Films To See This Week: Les Blank + More



Dry Wood

Blank’s vibrant document of Louisiana’s Creole culture and its Mardi Gras celebrations is “an almost continual round of barbecues, expositions on sausage making, and demonstrations of gumbo preparation where Blank gets so close to the action that he’s almost using his lens to stir the pot” (J. Hoberman).

Spend It All

Cajun music legends the Balfa Brothers, Marc Savoy, and Nathan Abshire are featured in this boisterous chronicle of Acadian life on the bayous of southwestern Louisiana.  



From directing duo Hélène Cattet & Bruno Forzani (AMER), comes this homage to the masters of classic Italian Giallo horror. Dan returns home to find his wife is missing. With no signs of struggle or break-in and with no help from the police, Dan’s search for answers leads him down a psychosexual rabbit hole. THE STRANGE COLOR OF YOUR BODY’S TEARS is a bloody and taut fantasia of suspense that leaves the viewer entranced in this highly original erotic thriller.



Leni’s debut film is an effort to combat the anti-German propaganda promulgated by the Allies. The director would go on to make Waxworks and several films in Hollywood. Silent, with German titles, English translation, and musical accompaniment.


Anthology Film Archives

In this comic jab at the American dream and the quest for success, Ginger Rogers has to choose between three suitors. THE DAILY WORKER called it “the screwiest and most delightful farce of the year” although THE NEW MASSES’ Joy Davidman faulted it for “male chauvinism.”

“Funny as well as fascinating, this wartime comedy about Ginger Rogers trying to choose among three suitors…boasts a few wild surrealist dream sequences about what marriage to each swain might entail, as well as many details that are highly evocative of the period.” –Jonathan Rosenbaum, CHICAGO READER


THE NAKED ROOM, Nuria Ibáñez
Anthology Film Archives

Among the most immensely powerful, exquisitely sensitive, and formally inspired documentary films in recent memory, THE NAKED ROOM takes place entirely within the confines of a pediatric therapist’s office in a Mexico City hospital, observing the initial consultations of a succession of deeply troubled kids, and brilliantly transforming this constricted space into a microcosm vast in its metaphorical dimensions. Not content to limit the physical scope of the film to the four walls of the therapist’s office, director Nuria Ibáñez focuses entirely on the faces of the children themselves, as they struggle to express their feelings of severe depression and trauma, and describe the situations that have brought them to this pass. Constructing the film almost entirely out of close-ups on the children, and relegating everything else – the doctor, the parents and guardians of the kids, the décor of the consulting room – off-screen, Ibáñez has created a film that is visually minimalist but that contains multitudes.





Sworn to the Drum

Blank captures the irresistible rhythms of Latin jazz in this exuberant documentary portrait of Cuban-born percussionist Francisco Aguabella, a master of the conga drum who recorded with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Dizzy Gillespie, and the Doors.

Hot Pepper

Blank turns the camera on “King of Zydeco” Clifton Chenier, a Louisiana legend who married Cajun and Creole musical traditions with jazz and R&B influences.



Hemingway’s novel, about an affair between an American ambulance driver and a British nurse during the Italian campaign, gets the ultra-romantic Borzage treatment—like his 7th Heaven (1927), it’s a simple love story set against the spectacular backdrop of war.



May was a pioneer director (and mentor of Fritz Lang) who, thanks to the Nazis, wound up in Hollywood. Homecoming is about German POW’s who escape Siberia, only to wind up back in Germany in the midst of a love triangle. (This print is missing the ending, which will be revealed to attendees.) Silent, with musical accompaniment.





MEMPHIS, Tim Sutton
IFC Center

Surrounded by lovers, legends, hustlers, preachers and a wolfpack of kids, a strange singer (singular recording artist Willis Earl Beal, who also wrote the score) drifts through this mythic city of ancient oaks, shattered windows and burning spirituality. Shown in frag- ments, his journey of self-discovery drags him from love and happiness right to the edge of another dimension.



New York-based artist Kehinde Wiley has carved out a place for the heroic African-American male figure in classical Western portraiture. In Jeff Dupre’s intimate documentary Kehinde Wiley: An Economy of Grace—which won the Jury Prize for Best Short Documentary at this year’s SXSW, the HBO Audience Award for Best Short at the 2014 Provincetown Film Festival, and the Goethe Director’s Award at the 2014 Reel Artists Film Festival—Wiley sets out to explore the female subject for the first time. For the film’s New York premiere, the acclaimed painter comes to BAMcinématek to discuss his work and give audiences a glimpse into his creative process.


HAT CHECK GIRL,  Sidney Lanfield

Directed by Sidney Lanfield. Screenplay by Barry Conners, Philip Klein, based on the novel by Rian James. With Sally Eilers, Ben Lyon, Ginger Rogers.


CHUNUK BAIR, Dale G. Bradley

This is a heroic account of the Wellington Regiment’s short-lived triumph during Winston Churchill’s ill-conceived Gallipoli campaign of 1915.


Labor Day Lovin’: Six Films That Will Make You Appreciate Your Job

Cap the Hawaiian Tropic, winterize the seersucker and hang up the Havaianas: The end of summer is upon us like a flannel sheet. But Labor Day is more than just back-to-school sales and the season’s last big cookout—it’s about workers. So take a moment to reflect on the social and economic contributions of the working class with some of the films that have given new meaning to the phrase "tough day at the office."

9 to 5 (1980)

The setup: Three office workers (Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton) seeks to get even with their sexist sleazeball boss (Dabney Coleman).

Line please: Dolly: If you ever say another word about me or make another indecent proposal, I’m gonna get that gun of mine, and I’m gonna change you from a rooster to a hen with one shot!

Critical commentary: Roger Ebert wrote that Dolly Parton "is, on the basis of this one film, a natural-born movie star, a performer who holds our attention so easily that it’s hard to believe it’s her first film."

Did you know? With box office sales exceeding $100 million, 9 to 5 is the 20th highest-grossing comedy film.

Training Day (2001)

The setup: Highly decorated yet brutal and corrupt L.A. narcotics detective (Denzel Washington) takes rookie (Ethan Hawke) on his first day of training, which involves murder, mayhem and PCP-laden marijuana.

Line please: Denzel: You disloyal, fool-ass, bitch-made punk.

Critical commentary: Roger Ebert described Denzel’s character as "the meanest, baddest narcotics cop in the city—a dude who cruises the mean streets in his confiscated customized Caddy, extracting tribute and accumulating graft like a medieval warlord shaking down his serfs."

Did you know? Bruce Willis, Tom Sizemore and Gary Sinise were offered the role that Denzel Washington eventually took on.

Clerks (1994)

The setup: A New Jersey convenience store retail clerk (Brian O’Halloran) slacks off on the job while the boss is on vacation.

Line please: Brian O’Halloran: I love your sexy talk. It’s so kindergarten. "Poo poo." "Wee wee."

Critical commentary: "The movie has the attitude of a gas station attendant who tells you to check your own oil." — Roger Ebert

Did you know? Shot for $27,575 in the convenience and video stores where director Kevin Smith worked in real life, the flm grossed over $3 million at the box office.

Brazil (1985)

The setup: A low-level government employee (Jonathan Pryce) daydreams about saving a damsel in distress while trying to function in Terry Gilliam’s retro-futuristic, hyper-consumerist dystopia.

Line please: Jonathan Pryce: Sorry, I’m a bit of a stickler for paperwork. Where would we be if we didn’t follow the correct procedures?

Critical commentary: "The most potent piece of satiric political cinema since Dr. Strangelove." — Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times

Did you know? Brazil was River Phoenix’s favorite film.

The Devil Wears Prada (2006)

The setup: A frumpy college grad (Anne Hathaway) gets a job working for an imperious fashion magazine editor (Meryl Streep) purportedly inspired by real-life U.S. Vogue editor Anna Wintour.

Line please: Meryl Streep: Details of your incompetence do not interest me.

Critical commentary: Rolling Stone‘s Peter Travers called Streep’s performance "a comic and dramatic tour de force."

Did you know? Though Anna Wintour wasn’t invited to the film’s premiere, she attended an advance press screening, dressed in (what else?) Prada.

Office Space (1999)

The setup: A worker (Ron Livingston) stuck in a mind-numbing cubicle job seeks way to escape his situation and get revenge on his boss (Gary Cole).

Line please: Ron Livingston: The thing is, Bob, it’s not that I’m lazy, it’s that I just don’t care.

Critical commentary: "If you’ve ever had a job, you’ll be amused by this paean to peons."  —  Susan Wloszczyna, USA Today

Did you know? Entertainment Weekly ranked this cult classic fifth on its list of "25 Great Comedies From the Past 25 Years."

Taking a Look Back at the Best of Barbet Schroeder on His Birthday


Born in Tehran in 1941, the son of a Swiss geologist and a German physician, Barbet Schroeder worked as a film critic with the influential French film magazine Cahiers du Cinéma and assisted New Wave pioneer Jean-Luc Godard on the 1962 film Les Carabiniers before releasing his opera prima in 1969: More. You may have been one of the 1.78 million American television viewers who saw his most recent directorial outing: a season three episode of Mad Men, "The Grown-Ups", which aired in 2009. To mark his 72nd birthday, take a look back at Schroeder’s long and successful career in celluloid.


More (1969)

Schroeder’s psychedelic directorial debut told the story of a couple addicted to heroin on the island of Ibiza, starring the adorable Mimsy Farmer and featuring a soundtrack written and performed by Pink Floyd.


La Vallée (1972)

In 1972, Bulle Ogier made a splash in Luis Buñuel’s masterpiece The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie. Less known is her other appearance that same year in Schroeder’s La Vallée, in which she plays the wife of the French consul in Melbourne. She goes into the New Guinea bush searching for the feathers of a rare exotic bird and ends up…(wait for it)…discovering herself. Pink Floyd was enlisted again to provide a soundtrack, which they recorded as the album Obscured by Clouds. Footage from the film was later incorporated in the 1980 horror film Hell of the Living Dead.



Barfly (1987)

Talk about a labor of love. Schroeder commissioned the original screenplay of Barfly—in which Mickey Rourke plays of Henry Chinaski, the perpetually drunk and down-and-out alter ego of poet Charles Bukowski—and then, as Roger Ebert reported, "spent eight years trying to get it made." Ebert noted that the director even "threatened to cut off his fingers if Cannon Group president Menahem Golan did not finance it." Thankfully for Mickey Rourke fans—and Schroeder’s own digits—Golan did.


Reversal of Fortune (1990)

Jeremy Irons won the Oscar and Golden Globe for Best Actor for his chilling portrayal of Claus von Bülow, the German-Danish socialite who was acquitted of murdering his wife, Sunny (played by Glenn Close). Schroeder was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director.



Single White Female (1992)

Ever since Jennifer Jason Leigh’s psychotic turn as Bridget Fonda’s new roommate suffering from Dependent Personality Disorder in Single White Female, looking for potential living partners through the want ads has been tinged with a wee bit of fear.



Kiss of Death (1995)

While David Caruso nabbed a Razzie Award nom for "Worst New Star" for his head-scratching turn as an ex-con trying to lead the straight life with his family in Queens, a muscle-bound Nicolas Cage (sporting a super-coiffed yet oddly sinister goattee) delivered the bizarro goods as a local crime boss/homicidal maniac. The Washington Post‘s Hal Hinson wrote that Cage "dominates the camera, stealing scenes by the sheer intensity of his inimitable strangeness."