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No longer overshadowed as the sidebar to last fall's New York Film Festival, this touring North American retrospective of the rebellious Japanese New Waver circles back to Gotham, whittled down to 14 uncompromised gems that rally to youth culture, fierce eroticism, and left-wing politics. Boy and Cruel Story of Youth are required viewing, but wild experiences like Diary of a Shinjuku Thief, Violence at Noon, and my madcap fave, Three Resurrected Drunkards, all warm the soul like sake. BAM, 30 Lafayette Avenue, Brooklyn, bam.org

Sugar  April 3

A baseball film for people who don't care for baseball films, this compassionate and sharply observed drama from Half Nelson writer-directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck follows 19-year-old Dominican pitcher Miguel "Sugar" Santos (newcomer Algenis Perez Soto) as he's brought to the U.S. on the minor-league strength of his killer curveball. Introspective and socially conscious, the film tells an immigrant's tale without cheap sentimentality and deftly avoids underdog clichés while maintaining an exhilarating suspense on the field. Sony Pictures Classics, in limited release

High-tech improv: Sasha Grey in The Girlfriend Experience
Magnolia Pictures
High-tech improv: Sasha Grey in The Girlfriend Experience

In a Dream April 10

If you've ever visited Philadelphia and seen its omnipresent, far-out mosaic murals, then you know the obsessive architectural art of Isaiah Zagar. Winner of an Audience Award at last year's SXSW Film Festival, Jeremiah Zagar's eccentric and vivaciously fascinating portrait of his father is hardly a hagiography. In his clear-eyed pursuit to see what fuels Dad's creative process (including point-blank questions about his suicidal thoughts and mood swings), Zagar the younger exposes new chapters of unexpected familial drama. Cinema Village, 22 East 12th Street, cinemavillage.com

Satyajit Ray April 15–30

If there's one justification for a glossy crowd-pleaser like Slumdog Millionaire winning the Best Picture Oscar, it's the possibility that curious newbies might discover the rich, humanist legacy of India's greatest filmmaker. More than 20 of the Calcutta-born auteur's films are on hand—from the beloved Apu Trilogy to '60s and '70s rarities like Devi, The Big City, Two Daughters, and Chiriyakhana (The Zoo)—plus shorts, and a doc about the late virtuoso. The Film Society of Lincoln Center, West 65th Street and Broadway, filmlinc.com

Léon Morin, Priest

 April 17–23

Film Forum unveils a new 35mm print of Jean-Pierre Melville's 1961 witty, evocative, and, for him, unusually austere adaptation of Béatrix Beck's autobiographical novel, set in a Nazi-occupied French village. Sexual tension develops in the intense intellectual conversations between young Communist widow Barny (Hiroshima mon amour's Emmanuelle Riva) and the titular preacher (the breathlessly cool Jean-Paul Belmondo), whom she comes to respect for his radical questioning of authority, love, and even his own spiritual faith. Film Forum, 209 West Houston Street, filmforum.org

'The Films of Shirley Clarke' April 22­–28

An undervalued pioneer of cinema verité and avant-garde video who co-founded the Film-Makers' Cooperative (along with greats like Jonas Mekas and Stan Brakhage), Shirley Clarke created an iconoclastic body of work and "choreography of images" that are ripe for rediscovery. There's plenty to take in, from her dance-influenced early shorts and Cannes Award–winning first feature, 1962's The Connection, to her acclaimed docs on Robert Frost, Ornette Coleman, and the bespectacled African-American hustler who sings from Funny Face at the heart of 1967's unforgettably stark Portrait of Jason. Anthology Film Archives, 32 Second Avenue, anthologyfilmarchives.org

Treeless mountain

April 22

Korean-American filmmaker So Yong Kim follows up her hauntingly beautiful 2006 debut In Between Days with this poignant, impeccably shot, semi-autobiographical tale of two resilient Seoul sisters, six-year-old Jin (Hee-Yeon Kim) and even younger Bin (Song-Hee Kim). Indefinitely abandoned by their mother at their alcoholic aunt-in-law's home, Jin and Bin find gently upbeat pleasures in what little they've been given. Deceptively simple, and more uplifting than heartbreaking, the film is brilliantly adept at capturing the world from a child's perspective. Film Forum, 209 West Houston Street, filmforum.org

Tyson April 24

Will Mike Tyson be remembered as the youngest heavyweight boxing champ in the world, or will that feat forever be weighted down by personal baggage—the publicly imploding marriage, the prison sentence for rape, the freaky face tattoo, and the animalistic threats of eating children? In this sobering, sympathetic doc, American cine-maverick James Toback (Fingers, When Will I Be Loved), a longtime friend of Tyson's, intercuts the requisite number of archive clips with new, candidly self-loathing interviews of this deeply bruised pugilist. Sony Pictures Classics, in limited release

Julien Duvivier May 1–29

Perhaps best known for 1937's Pépé le Moko (here in a restored print), the late French screenwriter and director employed a dark poetic realism spanning melodramas and comedies, documentaries and thrillers, all represented in this 22-film retrospective. Expect four premieres (including a restored La Bandera and La Belle équipe with the auteur's preferred tragic ending) and rarities (such as both versions of Poil de carotte, 1925 and 1932). On May 14, composer Stephen Sondheim will introduce Un Carnet de bal, a sketch film he had intended to adapt for Broadway. MOMA, 11 West 53rd Street, moma.org

Big Man Japan May 15

Director-star Hitoshi Matsumoto's dementedly cool mockumentary takes a deadpan half-hour to introduce why Japan hates our sad-sack hero—a government employee who electrocutes his nipples to transform himself into a diapered giant that accidentally destroys property while protecting against increasingly outlandish monsters. It's fanboy-approved, sure, but unlike our typical superhero noisemakers of summer, there's clever artistry and narrative purpose behind the film's CGI effects, helping the film build to a hilariously convoluted climax and an ending to blow your (hopefully half-stoned) mind. Magnet, in limited release

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