Thursday, June 20, 2013

June revivals: second half

Hi all, Mike here with a revival list for the rest of June. I wished this particular list was longer. But I'll be a little busy with plans that I made AFTER the Museum of the Moving Image put out their-growing-up-in-the-movies and Sony Pictures retrospectives. Neither retrospective is big, but I would have liked to post the likes of Searching for Sugar Man, No, The Goonies and Meatballs, and now I can't. Disappointing, oh well. Go to and decide on your own if you want to see any of these films. This list isn't too shabby however, so here we go

BEFORE THE REVOLUTION (1964)- Sat June 22, Mon June 24 and Thurs June 28 at 7:05 and 9:25- Lincoln Plaza Cinema- For the past month or so, Lincoln Plaza Cinema has been doing a series of classic Italian films, each one running for a week. Not every week, but every so often, and will continue until September. I didn't post it sooner, because I wasn't ready to deal with Umberto D. The story of an elderly man kicked out onto the streets because he wouldn't give up his lovable little dog. Oh hell no, I was on the verge of blubbering just reading the synopsis and seeing it now? Maybe another time, but not now.
So instead I'll tackle Before The Revolution, the second film from director Bernardo Bertolucci, from 1964. So you might be thinking, you can't handle a helpless old man and  his dog going homeless, but you can handle incest between an aunt and her nephew? Well it's not like we're dealing with a graphic depiction here, not from the early 60s we're not. Besides, there's more going on here than family relations. The nephew is engaged to a "bourgeois" girl, sympathetic to the Communist Party, and recovering from a friend's death/ possible suicide. The aunt is only somewhat older than the nephew; attractive, full of life and possibly emotionally disturbed. Not a ton of plot here. More use of cinematography here to tell the slim story and the changing face of Italy, depicting both growth and decay. An Ennio Morricone score also helps things move along. Hey, I'm willing to give it a try if you are.

TOKYO STORY- Sat June 22 at 6:10 and 8:40- Film Forum- Part of the Forum's Ozu retrospective. I didn't think I would have the time to attempt another one of Yasujiro Ozu's films, but apparently this one is possible. But only this one, Tokyo Story, from 1953 though not released in the U.S. until 1972. An elderly couple, accompanied by their youngest daughter, take a train trip to Tokyo to visit the oldest kids, as well the daughter-in-law of their late son. The parents end up dealing with culture shock by being in the big city, as well as selfishness and indifference from their busy middle-class kids and their families. Only the daughter-in-law, whether out of kindness or extreme loneliness, shows them any care. One of the other classics from Ozu's career, and like his other work, it really takes its time in telling the story, so much patience is required. A film that didn't suffer from any pre-shooting changes by the Occupation Forces, so Ozu could depict scenes of more typical Tokyo life as well as mourning of the war dead. If Late Spring is one of Ozu's major classics, then Tokyo Story can probably be considered his other classic:
THE JACKIE CHAN EXPERIENCE- Sun June 23, Mon June 24, and Wed June 26- Elinor Bunin Monroe Film Center at Lincoln Center- I can't believe I'm posting this. But it was brought up to me by someone with interest, so I will dutifully post. Lincoln Center's website has been pushing this Jackie Chan retrospective hard, playing the Harold Lloyd-meets-Bruce Lee-angle as hard as they could. This description has been in use at least as far back as 1981-82, when the syndicated Rich Little-hosted reboot of You Asked For It did a piece on him. Now I understand I'm a little late in the game with this, what with the retrospective having started around Tuesday, June 11th. But I'm in it now for what it's worth.
Note that this won't include any of his English language releases from the past 15 or so years, such as Shanghai Knights or the Rush Hour films. This also won't include his 1980s attempts to break into Hollywood: The Big Brawl and The Protector. Chances are, these films in this retrospective were only seen in the U.S. via home video, and possibly pirated video at that. The quality will be much better here, in Lincoln Center's newish Elinor Bunin Monroe Film Center.
Now I don't have a particular preference here. I'll just post what I'm available to do, by listing the titles, year, date of screening, and showtime. And for this retrospective, Lincoln Center has brought back their 3 for 20 dollar package, which can be purchased online (click the Jackie Chan link below and follow it to Buy Tickets or whatever they call it), or at the Monroe Film Center itself. I'm not sure if want to do that many films, but if you're a fan, go for it:
DRUNKEN MASTER 2- 1994- Sunday June 23 at 8
POLICE STORY (Sorry I don't have time for the other films in the Police Story trilogy)- 1985- Monday June 24 at 4:15 
ARMOUR OF GOD- 1986- Monday June 24 at 6:15
LITTLE BIG SOILDER- 2010- Wednesday June 26 at 4:30
CLUE for a $7.00 bar minimum- introduced by Annie Hart- Fri July 28 at 9:30- Rubin Museum of Art- A cheap screening of the 1985 comedy flop. Make sure you get to the Rubin no earlier than 6:45 if you want your ticket, and no later than 9 if you want a decent seat. But if you get there as early as 5:30, you can check out the Museum for free. I heartily recommend it, though you should eat prior to the screening elsewhere. The scant food offerings they have isn't worth the price.
Now as for the film itself, I have happy sentimental reasons to post it. It's no Citizen Kane, but it's fun. Compared to other films based on toys, like Battleship or Masters of the Universe, this is the Citizen Kane of toy films if you will: take that comment however you will. And if you know the board game, where a group of potential suspects try to find out which one of them killed Mr. Body, then you have the gist of the slender story. Though it doesn't give you an idea of the farcical style the story and jokes are told. 
This has a major cult following in L.A. In NYC, not so much. I don't know why I like the film so much. It has a good beginning, an extremely mixed middle and endings of varying quality. And we will be getting the version where all three endings were incorporated into the film, as opposed to three separate endings, as it was on its 1985 theatrical release. But I like it, no rational reason why. Just makes me laugh more often than not. Though its cast (Tim Curry, Madeline Kahn, Eileen Brennan, Martin Mull, Christopher Lloyd, Lesley Ann Warren, Michael McKean) sure helps. From director Jonathan Lynn of future My Cousin Vinny fame 
The film will be introduced by musician Annie Hart. Here's her bio, from the Rubin Museum's website:
Annie Hart is one-third of the synthesizer group Au Revoir Simone, known for their dreamy keyboard sounds. The band's songs have been showcased on such shows as Grey's Anatomy Ugly Betty, many major Hollywood pictures, and a Cheerios commercial.  When she's not hunkered down late nights writing songs or doing remixes, she enjoys making homemade kimchi, watching Freaks and Geeks, and being a mom.  Annie has been a fan of the movie Clue since it first appeared on VHS at the Gardiner Manor Mall.
ROSEMARY'S BABY- Sat June 29 and Sun June 30 at 4:30 and 7, and Tues July 2 at 7 and 9:30- Film Forum- A new DCP restoration of Roman Polanski's classic horror film. More psychological at times than what you may come to expect from a horror film, with not only some effective black comedy but you can also consider Rosemary's Baby a quintessential New York movie. Though whether it's scarier for Mia Farrow to have the Devil's baby in her womb, to be married to an actor, or to have a pixie haircut that doesn't work on her head, is up to you to decide. An Oscar nomination for Polanski's adaptation of Ira Levin's novel, an Oscar for Ruth Gordon for as one of the witches: 
ENTER THE DRAGON with a pre-film or post-film talk with Fab 5 Freddy and MC Yan- Sunday June 30 at 9:15- the Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- Part of Lincoln Center's New York Asian Film Festival, in time for the film's 40th anniversary. Among the best action films ever made, from 1973, released 6 days before Bruce Lee's death. Also one of the best films from that year, where stuff like American Graffiti, Day For Night, and The Exorcist are also deservedly held in high regard from that year.
Enter the Dragon, the first Hollywood backed Chinese martial arts film, could be dismissed as just an action film, but the elements of film noir, and quality of the fight scenes put this a step or two above most of the rest. Lee plays a Shaolin martial artist who infiltrates a martial arts tournament held on a private island by some Doctor No-type villain. Whether Lee goes because his Shaolin teacher tells him to handle an ex-student who has shamed the temple, or he's going to investigate a possible slavery/ drug operation on behalf of the British government, or he's seeking revenge for the death of his sister, or a combination of the three, depends on what version of the film is screened. For the record, Lincoln Center says it's showing the original U.S. cut, but I don't remember how much of what I just wrote is included, but the point is Lee's going to the tournament and it's not to make brownies.
The noir elements not only concern Lee's character seeking revenge, but the two other characters we get to know: John Saxon's character seeking a way to pay off Mob debts, and Jim Kelly's fugitive character, on the run after fighting racist cops. Both seek some form of redemption at this tournament, but none of them expect the true evil of the mysterious Mr. Han. But really it's about the fantastic fight scenes, some of whom get emotional payoffs that you don't find from other martial arts films of the era. Plus one final touch of noir in the great final battle between Lee and Han, with more than a little nod to Orson Welles' Lady From Shanghai.
As for Lee, he may not have been trained as an actor like Saxon, but he commands the screen in a cool, Steve McQueen kind of way. His character talks about learning a fight technique to the point where no technique is obvious, and in a way he succeeded here. Certainly does succeed in the fight scenes, and he doesn't overact like Kelly does. Thank goodness Kelly not only looks good but has two really good action scenes, because he pushes too hard in his dialogue scenes.
Kelly's appearance in the film is probably why Enter The Dragon is being screened at the Walter Reade in the first place. The nod to blaxplotation and bringing Kelly's character into the martial arts world, will be brought up, in a discussion of the "marriage" between Hip-Hop and Martial Arts movies. Now I don't know if they'll be an introduction, a post film discussion or both, but Fab Five Freddy and MC Yan will be there to handle it all:

That's all for now. R.I.P James Gandolfini. Concentrating on film as I do around here, I enjoyed you most as a Colin Powell-esque general in In The Loop, the brutal hitman in True Romance, your voiceover work in Where The Wild Things Are, and as a guilty/ guilt stricken cop in the forgotten Sidney Lumet film Night Falls on Manhattan. Never mind on Broadway in God of Carnage and of course The Sopranos. You will be missed, take care.

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