Top 10 Films to See in New York, for the coming week: December 2 through December 8:
10) Forest of the Hanged – although his career spanned fifty years, the work of Romanian director Liviu Ciulei is an unknown quantity here in the US, mostly because Romanian cinema is an unknown quantity in the US. But his 1965 movie, a drama set during the First World War, won the Directing prize at Cannes. It plays today at 6 PM at Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater. You can expect stark, noirish black and white photography and ceaseless movement by the camera as well as in the frame, to offset the gritty realism of its subject. Bears comparison to Kubrick’s Paths of Glory and Joseph Losey’s King & Country, and Tarkovsky’s Ivan’s Childhood.
9) The Silver Cliff – Brazilian Karim Ainouz’s new film played the festival circuit – Cannes, Helsinki, Toronto – and has gathered a small following. It’s worth checking out the Museum of Modern Art’s “Contenders” series – it’s showing on Monday, December 5, at 7 PM. It’s a story of a family in crisis, but for reasons which remain cryptic – the pleasures of the film are in the director’s sense of duration, the moment, and his characters’ behavior. It’s worth taking a chance on.
8) Possession – Here are some films you wouldn’t think could go together: The War of the Roses, Scenes from a Marriage, Repulsion, The Brood, Alien, Suspiria, Moonlighting. And yet, Andrzej Zulawski’s Possession, which seems to have more sheer kineticism than Spielberg’s Tintin, will have Film Forum audiences grabbing at those film titles to try to get a handle on Zulawski’s best-known film, which is filled to the point of running over with freak-outs and violence and f/x work against a claustrophobic-realist, Polanski-influenced backdrop. Its one-week run begins today.
7) Tuesday, After Christmas – Like Abbas Kiarostami’s Certified Copy and Raul Ruiz’s Mysteries of Lisbon, Radu Muntean’s fourth movie had its US premiere at the 2010 New York Film Festival, but should be making a few critics’ top 10 lists for this year, as well. Its story of marital infidelity could not be more elementary, nor could its patient shooting style, employing without exception a series of long, almost motionless takes. What’s fascinating here is that Muntean’s widescreen photography captures actions, behaviors, and events that are performed on a different tempo entirely, a “life as it happens” kind of speed that isn’t overtly stylized, and allows the audience to tease out the intelligences and emotions of his characters without concealment, but also without resorting to over-emphasis. The result is a kind of musicality between two different, but complementary styles, which is more than enough to make Tuesday, After Christmas a worthwhile experience. It’s playing at the Walter Reade on Monday at 6 PM.
6) The Color Wheel – With this and Impolex, Alex Ross Perry is making a name for himself in independent film; what you can expect from the lo-fi sibling drama The Color Wheel is a classic brother-sister rivalry in which the traditional expectations of “mumblecore” dialogue are flipped and each character not only speaks what’s on their mind, but does so clearly, and in impatient, cocksure torrents. All without abandoning emotional truth – a melancholy movie at a screwball pace.”
5) Caitlin Plays Herself – In many ways 2011 is a “Joe Swanberg year,” with the filmmaker releasing literally a half dozen new features this year alone. Like the great Korean director Hong Sang-soo, Swanberg writes and shoots what he sees, starting with himself and those in his social and artistic sphere. With its temporal ellipses and slowly crumbling boy-girl romance, Caitlin is kind of a spiritual (rather than structural) cousin to Nights and Weekends, the 2008 movie he co-directed, co-wrote, and costarred in, with Greta Gerwig. What distinguishes Caitlin from his previous films is that Swanberg – almost as a lark – shoots the movie in a series of attractive, Tsai Ming-liang-like tableaux, with similarly lengthy takes. Featuring a lead performance of steely good humor by Caitlin Stainken, Caitlin Plays Herself begins a 1-week run at Brooklyn’s ReRun Gastropub theater, with the director and star making an appearance at tonight’s premiere.
4) The Strange Case of Angelica – Someone once said that almost all of Manoel de Oliveira’s films, at least starting in the 1970s, could be called Doomed Love, which is the name of his 1979 miniseries, and possibly one of his greatest works. The Strange Case of Angelica renders his themes of ill-fated love into a wisp of a ghost story, and a somewhat quietly comical one at that. What you can expect from Angelica is beautiful landscape and interior photography, showing off, as many of his films have done, the beauty of Portugal, and Lisbon on particular. But many, many of Oliveira’s films are also horror films, although they’re almost entirely bloodless – taking place in the head and the heart instead of before the eyes. For a director who, as many critics have written, is nearly as old as the cinema itself, his slight-seeming features are imbued with more personality and feeling than almost anyone else’s. The Strange Case of Angelica is showing at the Museum of Modern Art on Sunday at 5 PM.
3) White Heat – Raoul Walsh’s status as a great director is still being debated in a number of circles, which is only natural for a career as long as his was, and as varied – we’re still assessing its many phases, and he seemed to make one film of every imaginable type and style. Still, his most famous movie, which confirmed rather than granted James Cagney’s screen immortality, is also one of his greatest. White Heat is showing at the Museum of Modern Art’s ongoing “Auteurist History of Film” series, at 1:30 today.
2) The Tarnished Angels – 92Y Tribeca is doing a great job showing great films that haven’t quite attained the status of “official” classic, so while it’s understandable that the Sirk films we count as all-time masterpieces only includes Written on the Wind, All That Heaven Allows, and Imitation of Life, seeing The Tarnished Angels projected should change your mind. In an uncommon combination of black & white and CinemaScope, Tarnished Angels takes a fairly rote melodramatic set-up and raises it to a kind of astral plane of cheap, noirish melancholy. Disreputable content, operatic emotions, regal construction. 92Y is showing the film at 9:30 tonight, following Sirk’s 1958 WWII melodrama A Time to Live and a Time to Die, which plays at 7 PM. You can see both films for one admission.
1) Late Spring – Truly one of the greatest of all films, Ozu’s 1949 masterpiece is kind of his Rio Bravo – it seems the epicenter of his themes and aesthetic, and he remade it twice, the second time being his last film. Not only should this be part of any cinephile’s fundamental education, it’s the kind of film, like the cinema of Dreyer, Bresson, Hawks, Ford, and Hitchcock, that should accompany you throughout your life. See it on Wednesday or Thursday at the Museum of Modern Art, 1:30 on both days.