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  • November 20, 2015

    Bulletin Board: The Forbidden Room; Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict; The Mirror; and more

    Bulletin Board: A roundup of screenings, discussions, and other film-related events

    STAFF FAVORITE: The Forbidden Room – Videology – November 27 8:00 PM

    Guy Maddin’s new fantastical film, The Forbidden Room, comes with a warning from the co-director himself: “Stay safe and enjoy!” Set up as a sort of demented matryoshka doll, the film anchors its narrative on a doomed submarine crew—who eat flapjacks for their supposed oxygen bubbles—as they slip through a hallucinatory dreamscape. Despite its experimental content, the film utilizes textbook three-act structure, with each act introduced and closed with an instructional about how to take a bath. Shot entirely in public at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris and Centre PHI in Montreal under a “lost cinema spell,” Maddin and his co-director Evan Johnson researched lost or unmade films from cinema greats and reinterpreted them into the short specters that appear on screen. In addition to The Forbidden Room, Maddin will launch his project, Séances, an interactive build-your-own-narrative website and app that allows for users to hold “séances” with the spirits of lost and forgotten cinema, in 2016.

    Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict – Film Society of Lincoln Center – through November 26

    For her second feature documentary, Lisa Immordino Vreeland profiles the life and influence of art collector and socialite Peggy Guggenheim. With a mix of archival footage, audiotapes, and interviews with fine art curators and Guggenheim herself, Vreeland explores the relationships this modern art heiress had with other icons such as Mark Rothko, Marcel Duchamp, and Max Ernst. In addition to painting a portrait of this extraordinary arts patron, this documentary also features clips from Maya Deren’s unfinished experimental short film The Witch’s Cradle (1943), which was shot in Guggenheim’s Art of This Century gallery.

    Sarah Halpern: The Changing Room – Microscope Gallery – through November 29

    Taking inspiration from classic Hollywood movies and books adapted to the screen, Sarah Halpern works with film, paper, music, and performance. Currently showing her second solo exhibition at the Microscope Gallery, Halpern uses still and moving images to remove characters and scenes from their usual context in an effort to illustrate new identities, relationships, and storylines. In combining text with 16mm film projected onto a laptop, she explores how technological changes have caused power shifts across different forms of media.

    Turkeys for Thanksgiving – BAMcinématek – November 20–29

    From November 20–29, BAMcinématek will be serving turkey. The 14 films in BAM’s Turkeys for Thanksgiving feast represent some of the industry’s greatest flops turned favorites, with films such as Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s Cleopatra (1963), Peter Bogdanovich’s At Long Last Love (1975), and (gasp) Victor Fleming’s The Wizard of Oz (1939), which The New Republic’s Otis Ferguson initially declared “weighs like a pound of fruitcake soaking wet.” Kicking off the series is Elaine May’s action comedy Ishtar (1987), which stars Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman as two delusional lounge singers. And be sure to leave room for the closing dessert, Francis Ford Coppolla’s quite literally luminous One from the Heart (1981).

    West Side Story Screenings with George Chakiris – SVA Theatre – November 22 at 5:00 pm

    SVA Theatre will screen the Academy Award-winning classic West Side Story (1961) this Sunday, November 22, with a special appearance by the film’s Oscar-winning actor, George Chakiris. Susan Haskins, co-host of PBS’s Theater Talk, will moderate a Q&A following the screening to discuss the star’s storied career on stage and in film. There will be a second screening on Monday, November 23, featuring a discussion with Chakiris moderated by critic, historian, and author Peter Filichia. A portion of the proceeds from the events will benefit The CHARGE Syndrome Foundation, which seeks to improve the lives of those affected by the syndrome.

    Print Screen: Discussion with Susan Howe and screening of The Mirror – Film Society of Lincoln Center – November 24th at 7:00 PM

    As part of the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Print Screen series, poet Susan Howe will introduce Andrei Tarkovsky’s seminal film, The Mirror (1975), which incorporates poetry read by Tarkovsky’s father, Arseny Tarkovsky, with imagery that oscillates from the abstract to the commonplace, replicating the sensation of memory. Following the screening, Howe, whose own poetry takes up historical and mythical themes akin to those in The Mirror, will discuss the film and her new collection of essays, The Quarry. Print Screen is a recurring series that places literature in conversation with film. Each event features an author and a screening of their choice, followed by a discussion and signing. The next Print Screen event will be December 10th with Garth Risk Hallberg.

    Reporting by Aaron Linskens and Brittany Stigler

  • November 13, 2015

    Staff Picks: Les dames du Bois de Boulogne at Anthology Film Archives; Paisan at the Guggenheim


    Anthology Film Archives
    JACK SMITH SELECTS (FROM THE GRAVE): Les dames du Bois de Boulogne
    November 14 at 5:15 PM
    November 27 at 9:00 PM
    November 29 at 3:00 PM

    On June 18th, 1940, General Charles de Gaulle, the leader of the Free French Forces, gave what would become one of the most important speeches in French history. Broadcast over France via BBC Radio in London, de Gaulle’s famous Appeal of 18 June urged the people of the recently fallen France to rise up in support of the Resistance in order to fight German occupation. Gaulle’s resounding call to resist rang throughout the remainder of the war until the Liberation of Paris in 1944.

    While René Clément’s La bataille du rail (1946) and Titus Vibe-Müller’s La bataille de l’eau lourde (1948) are perhaps the most commonly cited Resistance films, French director and film critic Jean Luc Godard argued that a truer representation of the Resistance can be found in films such as Jean Cocteau’s La belle et la bête (1946) and Robert Bresson’s Les dames du Bois de Boulogne (1945). During his presentation of Histoire(s) du cinéma at Cannes in 1997, Godard says of Bresson’s portrayal of Agnès (Elina Labouradette), the seemingly unfortunate cabaret dancer and foil of Hélène (María Casares), in the film’s final scene:

      I ask which character in a French film in 1942, at the time of de Gaulle, said, ‘I’m fighting.’ There’s only one: Elina Labourdette in Les dames de bois de Boulogne…If there’s a moment of resistance in French cinema, it’s not in La bataille du rail and later, and it’s not in Les visiteurs du soir. It’s earlier: it’s here.

    Indeed, Les dames du Bois de Boulogne is a film of resistance, as evidenced in Cocteau’s stabbing dialogue, the characters’ fight against a fate inspired by Diderot’s Mme de la pommeraye from Jacques le fataliste et son maître, and the steadfast stare of María Casares as she pursues revenge. Even Bresson’s directorial decision to avoid the extravagant mise en scène usually associated with studio productions signals his attempt to break away from the industry’s oppressive standards.

    Watching this poetic and quietly political film, one experiences the thrill of a redemption never quite satisfied. An anomaly in Bresson’s oeuvre, the melodrama of the film rests in the fact that there is no release, no ending that suggests the fight against fate is over.

    Les dames du bois de Boulogne screens at Anthology Film Archives November 14 at 5:15 PM, November 27 at 9:00 PM, and November 29 at 3:00 PM as part of their JACK SMITH SELECTS (FROM THE GRAVE) series, running November 13th–December 1st.

    Brittany Stigler

    Aesthetics of Poverty: Italian Neorealist Film: Paisan
    November 20 at 1 PM

    Most war movies depict how dire circumstances can break down but also ennoble a character or group to surpass their normal abilities. Paisan (1948), the second of Roberto Rossellini’s War Trilogy, does not present a linear story of battles fought and enemies defeated with an optimistic outlook for life after war. As a series of six episodes linked only by the backdrop of WWII, Paisan grapples with the atrocities of totalitarianism and genocide and the fallout of poverty, oppression, and prejudice.

    I first viewed Paisan at my university’s cinematheque as part of a series of war movies that did not showcase epic combat sequences. Just as Jean Renoir’s Grand Illusion (1937) explored the relationships between social classes during the First World War, Paisan illustrates how ideologies influenced social norms during WWII. While Grand Illusion radiates superb performances, Paisan, with its ensemble of nonprofessional actors, emits a raw arrangement of different characters swept up in terrible wartime circumstances. Instead of offering another permutation of good versus evil, these films revealed war’s ripple effect on social order across class, age, and race.

    While the language barrier is certainly a pivotal communication issue in Paisan, the subtle display of one character listening, sensing, and sympathizing with another infuses the film with real human moments and not cinematic virtuosity. With newsreel and a narrator as a transition between each episode, the movie blends documentary with fiction and love with politics while it rolls onward to an ending in which the war may cease but the suffering persists.

    Lacking a climax, the film instead builds with a climate of deprivation and despondency. While the authentic settings range from a ruined seaside castle to the bombed-out city of Naples, from the desolate Po River delta to an emotionally-tense Franciscan monastery, Paisan consistently exhibits a sense of futility and emptiness in the wake of war and dictatorship. These aspects made the film a benchmark of Italian Neorealist Cinema.

    The screening of the film accompanies the Alberto Burri: The Trauma of Painting exhibit at the Guggenheim. Burri, a former army medic and prisoner of war, had firsthand experience with the havoc caused by WWII and the rebirth of society in Europe. His work displayed at the Guggenheim embodies visceral qualities similar to those in Italian neorealist cinema. As part of an “aesthetic of poverty” film series, Paisan exhibits its own aesthetic freedom as Rossellini rebelled against critics, political figures, and other filmmakers who tried to impose conventions on how to portray reality in the cinema.

    Paisan screens at the Guggenheim on Friday, November 20 at 1 PM.

    Aaron Linskens

  • November 6, 2015

    Staff Picks 11/06–11/12: “To Save and Project” at the MoMA; “Lonely Places: Film Noir and the American Landscape” at the Museum of the Moving Image

    Photo: Woman on the Run. 1950. USA. Directed by Norman Foster. Courtesy UCLA Film & Television Archive

    Photo: Woman on the Run. 1950. USA. Directed by Norman Foster. Courtesy UCLA Film & Television Archive

    To Save and Project
    November 4–25

    For both cinephiles and sentimentalists alike, the Museum of Modern Art’s annual international festival “To Save and Project” is an indispensable cinema event that celebrates the continued efforts and triumphs of the MoMA’s film preservation initiative. Now in its 13th year, the festival, running November 4th through the 25th, presents a packed slate of around 75 newly preserved and restored films, many of which will be seen for the first time in New York City since the film’s initial theatrical release.

    Constituting a sizable portion of this year’s lineup, “The Unknown Orson Welles” perhaps offers the most highly anticipated moments of the festival. Introduced by Munich Filmmuseum director Stefan Droessler, the program features an illustrated lecture of Welles’s Shakespeare adaptations, complete with ephemera and a reconstruction of Welles’s unfinished television special of THE MERCHANT OF VENICE, along with his proposal for KING LEAR; scenes from THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND; and a new version of JOURNEY INTO FEAR, which includes footage previously only seen by European audiences.

    While the festival may center on lost Welles material, for many, its heart lies in the programming surrounding the indomitable force of cinema genius, Chantal Akerman. In remembrance of the late filmmaker, cinematographer Babette Mangolte and Cinémathèque Royale de Belgique director Nicola Mazzanti will introduce a digital restoration of Akerman’s masterpiece, JEANNE DIELMAN, 23, QUAI DU COMMERCE, 1080 BUXELLES. Additionally will present JE TU IL ELLE and SAUTE MA VILLE, which Mazzanti, in addition to JEANNE DIELMAN, worked closely with Akerman to restore.

    If taking up temporary residency in the MoMA’s The Roy and Niuta Titus Theaters is not an option for you, here are my top three films to check out this week:
    Photo: Profondo rosso (Deep Red). 1975. Italy. Directed by Dario Argento. Courtesy CSC–Cineteca Nazionale / RTI-Mediaset

    Photo: Profondo rosso (Deep Red). 1975. Italy. Directed by Dario Argento. Courtesy CSC–Cineteca Nazionale / RTI-Mediaset

    Photo: Profondo rosso (Deep Red). 1975. Italy. Directed by Dario Argento. Courtesy CSC–Cineteca Nazionale / RTI-Mediaset

    SHAMPOO (1975), USA
    Directed by Hal Ashby, with screenplay by Robert Towne and Warren Beatty.
    Friday, November 6, 8:30 PM

    With the unruly 1968 presidential election that ultimately brought Nixon into office as a backdrop, this post-Watergate social satire stars Warren Beatty as a restless Beverly Hills hairdresser who has an uncontrollable sexual hunger for his clientele. Presented as a 40th anniversary restoration, with introduction by Grover Crisp, Executive Vice President of Asset Management, Film Restoration and Digital Mastering, Sony Pictures Entertainment.

    PROFONDO ROSSO (DEEP RED) [original Italian release version] (1975), Italy
    Directed by Dario Argento, with screenplay by Argento and Bernardino Zapponi.
    Sunday, November 8, 5:00 PM

    Following his trilogy of Italian gialloi films, THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE, THE CAT O’NINE TAILS, and FOUR FLIES ON GRAY VELVET, Italian director Dario Argento’s PROFONDO ROSSO (DEEP RED) further solidified Argento as a master of physiological horror. Argento’s jarring and highly stylized cinematography work to hypnotize the audience as the story follows David Hemmings through a series of murders that unfold while he attempts to solve what he believes to be the murder of his psychic neighbor. Restored digitally by the CSC-Cineteca Nazionale with the collaboration of RTI-Mediaset.

    LIMITE (1931), Brazil
    Written and directed by Mário Peixoto.
    Wednesday, November 11, 4:00 PM and Thursday, November 12, 6:45 PM

    Until recently, LIMITE, the only film of the renowned Brazilian director Mário Peixoto existed to the public exclusively in badly worn prints; however, thanks to the meticulous work of The Film Foundation’s World Cinema Project at Cineteca di Bologna/L’Immagine Ritrovata Laboratory in collaboration with Cinemateca Brasileira, Arquivo Mário Peixoto, and the contemporary Brazilian filmmaker Waler Salles, audiences may now enjoy Peixoto’s meditative cinema experiment as it was intended. Set to themes by Igor Stravinsky, Erik Satie, and others, Peixoto’s film works to disassociate itself from any sort of temporal reality, drifting instead into a dreamlike state.

    This year’s festival is organized by Joshua Siegel and Dave Kehr. An entire schedule of screenings can be found at the MoMA’s website.

    Brittany Stigler

    Museum of the Moving Image Series
    Lonely Places: Film Noir and the American Landscape
    November 13–December 20

    Noir films contain a landscape that exists in living memory, not of an actual real-life experience for me, but of my earliest recollection of feeling genuinely moved by a movie. Most of the films I had seen in my formative years contained stories rooted in fantasy and imagination, and while entertaining, were also inaccessible at a certain point when I would halt midway down the rabbit-hole.

    Film noir was different. It was physical. It was palpable: the reek of cigarette smoke, the cold of a dark alley, the shade of a silhouette, the grumble of a voiceover. The chance to view these movies again on the big screen would truly be a feast for the senses as well as a refresher of how a narrative from postwar America remains timeless in showing how violence and temptation corrupt any individual.

    The Museum of the Moving Image provides such an opportunity with their upcoming series Lonely Places: Film Noir and the American Landscape, beginning Friday, November 13 with OUT OF THE PAST (1947). In this quintessential noir, Robert Mitchum’s character wanders through various physical environments as well as the troubled recesses of his own mind. Maybe he thought he was through with the past, but the past certainly isn’t through with him. Mitchum and the crime boss played by Kirk Douglas seem to be in an alpha-male face off, but it is really the femme fatale who pulls the strings.

    For a noir with more of a suburban dynamic, you could see THE RECKLESS MOMENT (1949) on Saturday, November 14. In Max Ophuls’ final Hollywood film, Joan Bennett plays an all-American housewife remaining quietly emotional in the face of stoic James Mason and through increasingly desperate circumstances involving her family life. The pace and use of space in Ophuls’ long takes and mobile camera create slow burning suspense instead of melodramatic cliches.

    The series runs on weekends until December 20 with 17 screenings of 15 different films from this long gone chapter of American cinema. Imogene Sara Smith, author of In Lonely Places: Film Noir Beyond the City and guest curator at Museum of the Moving Image, organized the series.

    Aaron Linskens

  • October 30, 2015

    Screen Notes: NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD Rundown

    In attempt to grease the gears that drive your desire for Halloween thrills and chills, and as general preparation for our special midnight Halloween broadcast of George A. Romero’s NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968), the following is a rundown of relevant and possibly interesting tidbits concerning this cult classic. Low on budget but high on body count, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD arguably paved the way for a swarm of aesthetically-similar independent films.


    Although Night of the Living Dead is thought by many to have launched the zombie genre, the word “zombie” is never used in the movie. Instead, the infected are referred to as “ghouls,” “those things,” and other terms by the characters.

    Unknown-1The material to simulate blood in NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD was Bosco chocolate syrup. There is no record of Bosco chocolate also being provided for craft services during the shoot of this movie.

    All told, the budget for the movie was only $114,000. The film was shot in black and white not to add atmosphere, but to save money on film stock since it was more expensive to shoot in color at the time.

    Actor/co-producer Karl Hardman (who played Harry Cooper, the father in the basement) also worked a number of other roles in NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD: makeup artist, electronic sound effects engineer, and set photographer for closing credits stills.

    The character of Ben was originally written to be an angry and rude truck driver, but actor Duane Jones was a well-educated, well-spoken man, and the part was ultimately re-written with that in mind. Jones was concerned with the depiction of another “Angry Black Man” cliché, and he lobbied for the removal of the scene in which his character hits Barbara.

    Unknown-2The music for the film was from a Capital Records Hi-Q stock music library, originally used in TEENAGERS FROM OUTERSPACE (1959). The filmmakers paid $1500 for the rights.

    As a publicity stunt, the Walter Reade Organization distributed the film with a $50,000 insurance policy against anyone who died of a heart attack while viewing it.

    Director George A. Romero stated that CARNIVAL OF SOULS (1962) was a major influence on the production of his movie. CARNIVAL OF SOULS was also a low-budget indie horror film, shot on a shoestring budget of $33,000. The crew consisted of director Herk Harvey and just five other people.Unknown-3

    Film critic Roger Ebert chronicled his first viewing of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, which was a 40-cent matinee screening of the film attended mostly by young children. He described how midway through the movie, the audience’s (namely children’s) reaction changed from being delightfully scared to unexpectedly horrified as the plot transitioned into more gruesome episodes—ghouls ripping apart and eating corpses, a daughter turning into a ghoul and stabbing her mother to death, and policemen shooting the ghouls and burning the carcasses. Ebert went on to criticize the fact that the Chicago Police Censor Board rated the movie for general audiences.

    NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD was produced before the Motion Picture Association of America film rating system went into effect.

    The Library of Congress selected the movie for preservation in the National Film Registry in 1999, despite being labeled as sadistic and exploitative upon its initial release.

    Unknown-4Nearly ten years passed between the release of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and its sequel DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978). For the sequel, director George A. Romero teamed with Italian producer Dario Argento, who at the time was known for his work in the giallo genre, which includes film and literature of slasher-type stories.

    Following the foreign distribution of DAWN OF THE DEAD (under the title ZOMBI), many unofficial remakes and knockoffs were produced and the genre took off.

    Romero planned to have all the main characters die in DAWN OF THE DEAD, as he had done in NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. Even with that in the script, he decided halfway through the shoot to keep some characters alive and to leave some sort of order in the world of the story. He maintains that this wasn’t a plot device to leave room for another sequel, but rather to simply keep a few characters that he liked alive.

    In an interview, Romero described how director Edgar Wright arranged a screening of his film SHAUN OF THE DEAD (2004) for him. Romero was living on an island off the coast of Florida. A man from Universal showed up at his door chained to a print of the film in a briefcase. Romero was then escorted to the local theater with a 40-watt bulb projector, and he watched the film before it was released to the public. Immediately after viewing, he called Wright and the film’s co-writer and star Simon Pegg and told them he thought their film was “dark” but “hilarious.”


    Aaron Linskens blogs and volunteers for Reel 13 / WNET. He was born on Halloween but does not consider himself to possess any insightful or revolutionary knowledge of horror, supernatural, or costume-related things.

    File photo of Aaron. Just kidding. Another still from NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD

  • May 15, 2015

    Richard Pena in conversation with filmmaker Chioke Nassor

    Reel 13 host Richard Pena and filmmaker Chioke Nassor talk about “How to Follow Strangers,” a film about a young man who fakes his own disappearance, inadvertently sparking the interest of a woman who shares his daily commute.

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