Today’s Year is 1971.

Today’s Top Tier selection is Duck, You Sucker (dir: Sergio Leone)

Also known, not nearly as widely, by two other titles, one duller (A Fistful of Dynamite), the other more poetic (Once Upon a Time…Revolution), than the accepted one, Leone’s 1971 epic usually gets low-ranked in the grand inventory, sandwiched as it is between the “Dollars” trilogy and the mighty (albeit unintended) finale, Once Upon a Time in America. Eccentric though it is, perverse though it is, “Duck” and “Sucker” in the title though it has, it’s here that Leone arguably strikes the most exquisite equilibrium between the grand, operatic style that has come to stand as his trademark, and his less talked-about side, the nuanced, reflective Leone that’s also a byproduct of his style. The film’s “minor” status needs to be soberly reassessed – it’s got what all of Leone’s best films have: vivid colors, dizzying widescreen compositions, a one-of-a-kind Ennio Morricone score. It is also one of the few films proportioned correctly to the scale of a Rod Steiger performance.

Like Duck, You Sucker? We recommend:

  • Strike (Sergei Eisenstein, 1925)
  • Los Olvidados (Luis Buñuel, 1960)
  • Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (Sam Peckinpah, 1973)
  • Hornet’s Nest (Phil Karlson, 1970)
  • Two Mules for Sister Sara (Don Siegel, 1970)

Today’s Netflix Instant recommendation is The Cat O’Nine Tails (Dario Argento, 1971)

While not as highly regarded as some of the films he would go on to make (Suspiria, Tenebre, Profondo rosso, others), this early thriller showed off Argento’s gifts for composition and his curiously unworldly depictions of spaces and their occupants. Like fellow countryman Leone (with whom he, and Bernardo Bertolucci, co-wrote the script for Once Upon a Time in the West), you should learn to enjoy the “dated”-ness of Argento’s best films, as it’s inextricable from their overall character.

Like The Cat O’ Nine Tails? We recommend:

  • Frenzy (Alfred Hitchcock, 1972)
  • Juliet of the Spirits (Federico Fellini, 1965)
  • Secret Ceremony (Joseph Losey, 1968)
  • Ministry of Fear (Fritz Lang, 1944)
  • Profondo rosso (Dario Argento, 1975)

Today’s New York City repertory pick is Silver Bullets (dir: Joe Swanberg), which plays at Brooklyn’s reRun Gastrpub Theater all week, starting tonight.

I already reviewed Silver Bullets for Slant Magazine this week – there’s a lot of context and build-up in the piece, given the director’s divisive reception (which seems to be edging toward the positive, at least recently), so I’ll avoid that here: What you should know is that Silver Bullets doesn’t go out of its way to satisfy conventional horror expectations; it would be hard even to call it a horror film in a way that the genre’s fans would recognize. The best approach is to tune into the way Swanberg processes some autobiographical elements by way of an increasingly fragmented spiral that juxtaposes horror tropes (mostly from the “behind-the-scenes” business of an indie horror film, within the main film, whose director is real-life indie filmmaker/Swanberg amigo Ti West, who made The House of the Devil, which featured Greta Gerwig, co-star/-writer/-director of Swanberg’s Nights and Weekends, so there’s that…) and many of the director’s favored themes (love, relationship turmoil, work, images and looking at images, etc). Full of evocative imagery and managed by elliptical editing, although Swanberg is still something of an acquired taste for some.

Like Silver Bullets? We recommend:

  • House of the Devil (Ti West, 2009)
  • Primer (Shane Carruth, 2004)
  • Bitter Moon (Roman Polanski, 1992)
  • Nights and Weekends (Joe Swanberg and Greta Gerwig, 2008)
  • Cat People (Jacques Tourneur, 1942)

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