Thursday, November 13, 2014

November revivals: pre Thanksgiving edition

Hey all, Mike here with a bunch of revivals in November. Specifically revivals being screened prior to Thanksgiving weekend. I'll split the list into two sections. First, here are the films not being screened at Lincoln Center:

VERTIGO (1958)- Mon Nov 17 at 6:45 and 9:20- Film Forum- 209 West Houston St.- The return of Vertigo at the Forum. Now thru November 18th, though I can only attempt the 17th. A 4k digital restoration. Possibly the same glorious DCP restoration that premiered at the Forum a few years back. If you're the kind of person who looks at sites like this, than you're familiar with the Hitchcock classic. A tragic romance with poor guy Jimmy Stewart, going down the emotional Rabbit Hole of Doom as he falls for Kim Novack, and tries not to literally fall due to his vertigo. The story of obsessive love that has never been done better than this. Not on the big screen anyway.

A film that was ignored at best and derided at worst in its initial release, but attained instant classic status upon its 1984 re-release. a near permanent fixture on most AFI Top 100 lists. In some recent film articles listing best movies, Vertigo has made the leap to 1st or 2nd. Not quite sure about that, but on my own Top 40 for sure.
Now again, note that I haven't written much at all about the story itself. To paraphrase Martin Scorsese when he wrote about Vertigo, not only is Vertigo required viewing, it also requires a Personal Response. Your life experiences will determine how you will take it. I'm guessing anyone who looks at my lists has seen Vertigo before. Therefore, you jumped past following the plot and can get to the heart (figuratively and literally) of the story and how it connects with you. Now you have a week to see this, I'm only posting the possible days and times I could do it in theory: 

THE HOLY MOUNTAIN (1973) for a 10 dollar food/drink/bookstore purchase- Fri Nov 21 at 9:30- Rubin Museum of Art- 150 West 17th St.- If you haven't gotten enough this year of Alejandro Jodorowsky, what with his The Dance of Reality, the documentary Jodorowsky's Dune and Midnight screenings at IFC Center of El Topo, let's bring up a cheapish screening of The Holy Mountain. Jodorowsky's other Midnight movie will be screened at the Rubin as part of Cabaret Cinema. You use to have to pay 7 dollars for a drink at the bar to get your ticket. Now it's 10, but you can also purchase something at the bookstore or buy food and get a ticket as well as purchase something from the bar. Best to get there at or before 6:45 for your ticket, and decide to eat dinner and/or check out the glorious Rubin before 9:30.

Now as for the film itself, where a Jesus looking thief infiltrates the domain of an Alchemist, played by Jodorowsky. Once inside, the thief joins the Alchemist's crusade for . . . . something. Soon captains of industry, the masters and mistresses of their respective fields (politics, manufacturing, fashion, the arts, orgasm inducing- don't ask) soon join the Alchemist on his crusade. It's quite weird before all I just described, and it keeps getting weirder. Will it make a lot of linear sense? Eh. Is it boring? Hell no. Very much a Midnight movie screened at a reasonable time. Maybe you can interpret as something drug hazy, and one can certainly interpret attacks against organized religion and politics,  but I can't say one is pushed to feel a single overarching thing. Much like I wrote before that there's no film quite like El Topo, there's no film quite like The Holy Mountain, in a good way:   

PURPLE RAIN (1984)- Sat Nov 22 at Midnight- Landmark Sunshine Cinema- 143 east Houston bet 1st and 2nd Ave- A cheapish screening of the hit film from the summer of 1984. For the rest, I'll repost what I wrote the last time I listed it:

"Pauline Kael once said in the late 60's that the time then was ripe to create more musicals with the present (then) rock stars like Janis Joplin. That's what made the musicals of the 30s, 40s and 50s successful: they were populated with the top recording artists of the day (Doris Day, Rosemary Clooney, Crosby et. al.). That's what the studios could do: setup a musical with one or many of today's contemporary recording artists."

I think that fits in the case of Once, where you had recording artists doing their songs. And it certainly applies to Prince with this film. Can't imagine a good actor from that period pulling off these kind of songs, no matter who wrote them. Not the greatest film ever made, and not what you call great acting by Prince. But with performances of songs like "When Doves Cry", "Let's Go Crazy" and the title track, the sleeper hit of the summer of 1984 literally rocks whenever the music comes up. Watch how Prince went from successful rock act to icon status. Granted, he would later throw it away with crap like "Under The Cherry Moon" and "Graffiti Bridge", change his name to a symbol with no real meaning, and basically become strange to the point of uninteresting. But watching and listening to him here, anything seemed possible back then. Prince did win an Oscar for music, in a category that no longer exists.


For the rest of this list I'll post some options from Lincoln Center's Rainer Werner Fassbinder retrospective. There was one this summer that covered the first half of his career, and this one covers the rest. Films from 1975 on, where Rainer wasn't any less ambitious, but usually had a larger budget, more emotional maturity (relatively speaking), and a surer hand with the camera, the written word, and in the editing room. Not all films from the retrospective will be posted here. The only I'm not posting is his most successful and most accessible, The Marriage of Maria Braun. I really wish I had the time. One can pay for three films for the price of one and a half, but you have to be ready to commit to all three when purchasing at the box office. All films will screen at the Walter Reade site on 165 West 65th Street:

DESPAIR (1978/79)- Fri Nov 14 at 1:30-  A DCP restoration of one of Fassbinder's favorites. An English language adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov's novel from Tom Stoppard. From 1978, released in the U.S. in 1979. Dirk Bogarde is Russian Jewish immigrant Hermann Hermann, who is a successful chocolate manager. But things don't look good as his dumb wife is cheating on him, and he's facing bankruptcy as the Nazis rise to power. His own way out, in his mind, is to fake his own death by killing his doppelganger. Not a good time to begin losing your sanity, and if you don't know the rest, I'm not spoiling it for you. 

With Cinematography from Michael Ballhaus (Goodfellas, Last Temptation of Christ). Nominated for the Golden palm at Cannes. The biggest film Fassbinder ever made up to that point, and the favorite of his career. The film's financial failure supposedly crushed him for a while: 

LOLA (1981/82)- Fri Nov 14 at 6:30 and Mon Nov 17 at 9- Walter Reade- From 1981, released after Fassbinder's death in the U.S. in 1982. A dark satire, a variation of The Blue Angel. Set in 1957 during West Germany's economic boom, Armin Mueller-Stahl plays a building commissioner determined to clean up the town of Coburg. He's willing to take on all comers, despite the town's lack of desire for cleaning up corruption; it made us rich, so why bother changing things? Yet the commissioner is blind about the woman he falls in love with, a prostitute/ lounge singer named Lola (Barbara Sukowa). A woman who knows what she is, will not let the denigration of her job keep her from fighting for herself and her child. Another dark film from Rainer, yet with enough humor to keep things moving and keep the kick in the teeth ever so gentle. With good looking, warm (deceptively) Cinematography from Michael Ballhaus (Goodfellas, Last Temptation of Christ):

VERONIKA VOSS (1982)- Tues Nov 18 at 6:15- Walter Reade- One of Fassbinder's best as far as I'm concerned; his even darker variation of Sunset Blvd. But only a variation because Fassbinder also based this in part on the life of a German actress who enjoyed her greatest success while the Nazis where in power, but who had trouble finding work afterwards. A younger writer is enthralled with the older actress, but he can't save her from her demons, both from outside and within, as well as her chemical addictions. The film gained pathos here in the States with the similarities of addictions between the director and the title character, since it was released here mere months after Fassbinder's fatal overdose.  Certainly Rainer was a far higher functioning addict than his title character; his command of storytelling and depiction of time and space (and addiction) may never had been better. Throw in terrific Black and White Cinematography from Xaver SChwarzenberger (Lola, Lili Marleen) and a well cast lead in Rosel Zech, and you have a sad yet well crafted tale: 

LILI MARLEEN (1981)- Tues Nov 18 at 8:30- Walter Reade- Another big budget film from Fassbinder. Controversial in his native West Germany for depicting the time period in a kitschy, irresponsible manner. How dare he throw in Busby Burkley elements! Fassbinder was more interested in telling a love story, and would not let historical accuracy get in his way. More than a little reminiscent of Verhoven's Black Book. It was originally shot in English for American distribution, then dubbed in German. I don't know if there will be any subtitle reading or not for this. But anyway, I'm going to be a little lazy, and just cut and paste from MOMA's website from back in 2007:

Screenplay by Fassbinder, based on unproduced screenplays by Joshua Sinclair, Manfred Purzer; adapted from the autobiography of Lale Andersen. With Hanna Schygulla, Mel Ferrer, Christine Kaufmann. In Fassbinder’s only film set during the Third Reich, Schygulla, a fine singer, plays an emotional chanteuse who falls in love with her Jewish accompanist and becomes a recording star by performing “Lili Marleen,” the song that Goebbels derided and Hitler loved.

"A movie with a fantastic plot and very rich and energetic mise-en-scene. The feelings Fassbinder expresses in Lili Marleen are sweeter and more compassionate than any he has expressed before"
Andrew Sarris

THE THIRD GENERATION (1979)- Mon Nov 24 at 8:30- Walter Reade- A Fassbinder I haven't seen and I'm curious about. If you know the Oscar nominated German film The Baader Mienhof Complex, then you have an idea of where this film is going. But no romancing of these homegrown here in this 1979 Western German film as opposed to the 2008 film I just mentioned. The people depicted here didn't even found a group like the Red Army Faction. These are youngish men and women from well to due families, who would qualify for Monty Python's Upper Class Twit of the Year Award skit. These idiots may extol Marxist ideals, they may verbally attack consumerism and their Nazi collaborating parents/grandparents, but their kidnappings and terrorist attacks are more about looking cool and killing time then anything else. But they do have guns, a desire to commit terror attacks in country, and this makes them vulnerable to manipulation. Specifically, manipulation by security companies seeking more money and contracts to fund efforts to strike down said terrorist groups.

The film was hit with American critics, possibly only The Marriage of Maria Braun and Verionkia Voss had better reviews upon their American releases, though I'd have to go onto a site like Rotten Tomatoes to see if that has changed over the decades. But this kind of praise in Germany didn't come at all until Reunification, and even it took years and it seems it was muted. In Western Germany, this film was torn to shreds by critics and people sympathetic to groups like the Red Army Faction were beyond pissed. Fassbinder was considered a class traitor, and allegedly more than once was a projectionist screening this film was beaten.

The following analogy is not a great one, but the best one I can give, to allow you to imagine what a similar film here in the States would be like. Imagine one year after Inglorious Basterds, Tarantino made a film about a group of well-to-do Americans under 35 who are pro-choice, who bomb abortion clinics and post their deeds on social media because it's cool. Then imagine said group being manipulated to go after larger targets, like airports and sporting events. Then imagine said group spouting their beliefs but more interested in getting high and having sex. Then imagine said group being manipulated into such actions by security groups and a media conglomerate who see opportunities for contracts and profits by this group actions, and imagine a kind of federal cooperation so that the status quo can be maintained. Now imagine Tarantino hiring the kind of recognizable and bankable actors needed to draw an audience. No, I'm not talking about something like Syriana, I'm talking about a film people would actually be curious to see going in, and would leave pissed off.

Not the perfect analogy to The Third Generation, but it gives you the kind of firecracker Fassbinder set off in his country, that American critics and art house audiences fully supported. Decide for yourself. Not only am I including the link to the film on Lincoln Center's film site, but also Vincent Camby's rave review on the Times:

Let me know if there's interest, later all.

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