Wednesday, June 01, 2011

June revivals: first half

Hey all. Mike here with a list of revivals for the first half of June. But first, I attended a screening of Rollerball last weekend at the Walter Reade at Lincoln Center. Deserves a lot more respect then it gets. A politically charged sci-fi film, that uses the idea of a brutal sport to make its points. I'm sorry the actual sport scenes have covered the messages for some, and kept others from giving it a chance. This includes Facebook friends of mine who had the choice to attend because they were bored, had nothing else to do and chose not to. Hey, I said I was going and that you were welcome to come in and join me, that you missed out is disappointing but not my problem.

After the screening, the film's director, Norman Jewison, spoke about the film (not much) and his career, with his friend, Sony Picture Classics co-president Michael Barker. 2 pictures from the conversation are posted here. Among the highlights:

Norman was inspired to make Rollerball, by his disgust at how the NHL degenerated to a violence first sport. Then he read William Harrison's short story "Roller Ball Murder", and wanted to make it into a film. But it still required them to figure out how to play the actual sport of Roller Ball, explain to skeptical United Artists executives, then figure how to shoot it, and how, alongside the stunt coordinators, how not to kill anybody when shooting. this. And despite the rampant rumors, no one died while shooting the Rollerball scenes, just one broken leg.

Rollerball was well received in Europe, but was dismissed as just an overly violent film in America and barely found any audience, especially while Jaws in release at the same time.

Steve McQueen was very cool, but strange. He literally went away from sets for days during the full moon, and nobody knew where he went. When shooting The Thomas Crown Affair, they had to basis the shooting schedule based on the lunar cycle.

United Artists executives wanted Jewison to direct Fiddler on the Roof because they thought he was Jewish. When Norman told him he wasn't and asked why me, he felt UA head Arthur Krim covered by saying that he wanted the picture to have a universal appeal, not just play well only on Seventh Avenue (sorry, I'm paraphrasing and working off of memory).

Jewison was surprised by Fiddler's international success, but was stunned about how successful it was in Japan. When he asked how could they could relate to the story so much, the answer was basically "A father worrying about his five daughters is universally relate able.".

There was more, but you weren't there, so too bad. On with the list, here we go:

DOGTOOTH- Fri June 3 at 9:30- Rubin Museum of Art- 150 W. 17th st near 7th Ave.- It appears there's a new space where I can bring up revival screenings: the Rubin Museum of Art. Open in 2004, they claim to have a state of the art theater. Now this may not be the kind of film that needs state of the art equipment, but it's as good a film as any to try them out.

Dogtooth had a limited art house run last summer despite good to very good reviews, and came and went in Manhattan so fast you'd think it was never in theaters at all. But then it received a surprise Oscar nomination this year for Best Foreign Language Film, the fifth film from Greece to ever receive a nomination of any kind, and it received a major uptick in rentals via Netflix. But it's still pretty unknown in this country, and once the story is loosely described, the reaction is a general "huh"?

I've heard it described as both a drama and a dark comedy, but since I haven't seen it, I can't tell you which is more likely. A well to do family live in a mansion, where the father keeps his kids, one boy and two girls trapped on the grounds. Their vocabulary constantly changes, with meanings that are different then ours, like the sea means armchair, or flowers are zombies. They have a (self-created?) brother, who may have been destroyed by the evil forces that exist beyond the walls, and the parents browbeat them to stay obedient or else they'll meet their brother's fate. And the parents have kept this up, even though the kids are obviously at least thirty. But the only person who is brought in from the outside, a woman hired to relieve the brother's sexual needs, is tired of this job, and the three "kids" ideas and interpretations may overwhelm the parents. Ideas of what the upper class can get away with or thinks they can get away with because of their wealth/social status, as well as the idea of Nature versus Nurture, may very well play out in this film, and I'm curious to find out. This screening will be introduced by actress/writer/ producer Marisa Stefatos:

LA DOLCE VITA- Wed-Fri June 8-June 10 and Tues-Thurs June 14-16 at 7:40- Film Forum- A new 35mm restoration. A bored gossip columnist (Marcello Mastroianni) wanders through the hedonistic spectacle of modern Rome in Federico Fellini's epic, widely considered to be his most influential and entertaining film. Apparently I wrote this as an email to someone to try to draw them to this flick back in 2006. I'm not sure if I copied this from a revival house's website or not, but it was 5 years ago, I need to get this posted, and if you look at this list at any time and you never heard of La Dolce Vita, maybe I'm not for you. Oscar nominations for Fellini for Director and Original Screenplay, an Oscar for the Costume Design:

FEMALE TROUBLE for 7.50- Chelsea Clearview Cinemas- Thurs June 9 at 7 (with Hedda Lettuce) and 9:30 (without)- Chelsea Clearview Cinema- For those who like John Waters films, here's a Midnight cult-classic doozy from his 70's days. When the parents of Dawn Davenport (Divine) neglect to get the deviant high schooler the one Christmas gift she wants more than anything else in the world, a pair of cha-cha heels, she throws the tree over on her mother and leaves, only to have a sexual encounter with a slob (also Divine) who picks her up hitchhiking. Nine months later, she has a daughter, Taffy (Mink Stole). Dawn's life turns around when she marries Gator (Michael Potter), a hairdresser. Gator's employers the Dashers have a philosophy that "crime equals beauty," and they turn Dawn into their own private superstar, photographing her committing outrageous acts. Rated X for a reason. Your choice of seeing it either with Hedda Lettuce's comments both pre-film and during the film a la MST3K at 7, or comment free at 9:30:

NYFF OPENING NIGHT CLASSICS MOVIE MARATHON OF WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN, PULP FICTION, DOWN BY LAW, DAY FOR NIGHT, MILLER'S CROSSING AND RAN for free- Starting on Fri June 10 at 9- Elinor Bunin Monroe Film Center- The Film Society of Lincoln Center is opening a new theater, the Elinor Bunin Monroe Film Center on Friday June 10th. Located approximately across from the entrance to the escalator and staircase to the Walter Reade, it has 3 screens and a weekend-long series of films for free. But you can only get the tickets for free through the filmlinc website, starting on June 3rd. Some of the stuff, like Olivier Stone showing then talking about his Director's Cut of Alexander, get lost. And some of the stuff, like Kevin Smith introducing Valley Girl or Jason Reitman introducing Carnal Knowledge, I wish I had time for.

But the intriguing doable one for me, at least in part, is their marathon of films that opened previous editions of the New York Film Festival. You can do one film, a couple, or the whole marathon, and God bless you if you can because I won't. Here are the films in order of screening, sorry that I'm skipping descriptions for this section:

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown- 10pm

Pulp Fiction- 11:50pm

Jim Jarmusch's Down by Law- 2:45AM

Day For Night- 4:50AM

Miller's Crossing- 7:50AM

Akira Kurosawa's Ran- 9:30AM

THE HURT LOCKER- Mon June 13 at 8- MOMA- Finally, Kathryn Bigelow fulfills the promise of Near Dark. After stuff like Point Break and Blue Steel, I essentially gave up on her (I'm pretending that K-19 The Widowmaker doesn't exist.). But with The Hurt Locker, not only do we have a good war film and a very good drama, but we have the best action film in a long time. Great tension, following a bomb disposal unit in Iraq, where the second they leave their compound, anyone with a cell phone, or peaking out of a window, may be trying to kill them. And that's not counting the openly armed enemy.

But having a lead character, superbly played by Jeremy Renner (Oscar nominated), treating war like a drug, was fascinating. Ok, it's not war, it's adrenaline. Having an adrenaline junkie, taking over the lead of a team only wanting to get out safely in the last thirty days of their tour, in the environment I just mentioned. The "junkie" will do his duty, because it's not only his job, but it's where he can get his fix. But when the distinctions blur, and his comrades wonder whether they're considered less important than his fix, Then this film begins to rock. Yes, the film offers no explanation for his behavior, but because the character himself refuses to fully explain himself, not even to his wife, I'm fine with that.

I'm disappointed that I wasn't very successful in getting people to see it last summer, or after it received a lot of Oscar nominations, including Best Picture. I hoped after it won Best Picture Director and Original Screenplay, that The Hurt Locker will have finally found an audience. I'm mean, seriously, Summit Distribution knows how to sell a vampire fairy tale in Twilight, but they can't figure out how to sell this? Give me a break. Anyway, based on the number I know who still haven't seen The Hurt Locker, this hasn't really happened, even if it's available on DVD or having been screened a ton of times on Showtime. But unless you have a large screen TV, a Blu-Ray player and a good sound system, the screen at MOMA should do a fine job as an introduction:

Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN- Wed June 15 at 8- MOMA- An art house hit from 2002. From director Alfonso Curaon. Sort of a career reboot for himself, after the English language films A Little Princess and Great Expectations drew no audiences, and before he directed the third Harry Potter film and Children of Men. Co-written with his brother Carlos, this is kind of like Summer of 1942, where two young men experience a life and sexual awakening with an older woman. Combined with aspects of the road film, but less fairy tale-like than Summer of 1942. Those who don't follow Spanish-speaking cinema may not know Maribel Verdu except for Pan's Labyrinth, but this combined with Amores Perros served as a good introduction for us to Gael Garcia Bernal. Also a good introduction for us to Diego Luna in one of his earliest adult roles, years before Milk. Both Cuaron brothers received an Oscar nomination for their Screenplay:

Let me know if there's interest. Later all.

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