By Alan Scherstuhl
By Charles Taylor
By Melissa Anderson
By Inkoo Kang
By Amy Nicholson
By Sam Weisberg
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Chuck Wilson
When Movies Mattered
September 16, 19–20, 26–28
Curated by indispensable film critic Dave Kehr, BAM's auteur-driven revival series features all 35mm prints of highlights from Kehr's titular new book, subtitled Reviews From a Transformative Decade. (From 1974 to 1986, his days at the Chicago Reader.) Among the picks are Hitchcock's wickedly funny swan song Family Plot, Otto Preminger's misunderstood adaptation of the Graham Greene espionage novel The Human Factor, and Manoel de Oliveira's modernist rarity Francisca.
Reminiscent of Gena Rowlands in Opening Night, Ellen Barkin gives the cagiest and most fiercely sardonic performance of the year as a freshly retired actress who finds she's too hard-bitten to steel herself any further from a sad, lonely world of merde. Abstractly but stunningly photographed in high-contrast black-and-white, Cannes-vetted filmmaker Cam Archer's seductive fever dream ambles forward and back through time (and an imagined sci-fi limbo) to portray its heroine's post-career vulnerabilities and faded memories of a doomed May-December affair.
Marriage, Italian Style
Vittorio De Sica lost his fifth Oscar nomination (after previously winning four for Best Foreign Language Film) with 1964's sneakily moving, Neapolitan battle-of-the-sexes comedy—a two decade-spanning click of "it's complicated" between cake-eating preener Marcello Mastroianni and his live-in mistress, Sophia Loren. A new 35mm print screens with another for The Temptation of Dr. Antonio, Federico Fellini's first work in color, which posits the fantasy: What would you do with a gigantic Anita Ekberg?
209 West Houston Street, filmforum.org
Vivid apocalyptic visions plague a blue-collar Ohio everyman in this riveting, slow-creeping cyclone of psychological, spiritual, and domestic dread, co-starring the deservedly ubiquitous Jessica Chastain as the paranoid lug's alarmed yet compassionate wife. All-consumed with protecting his family, even if it's from the schizophrenia that runs in his lineage, Michael Shannon is a knockout as the manically coiled bug-eye of the storm in his second potent go-around with Shotgun Stories writer-director Jeff Nichols.
Sony Pictures Classics, in limited release, sonyclassics.com
49th New York Film Festival
September 30–October 16
Cutting the ceremonial ribbon is Carnage—Roman Polanski's first film to play NYFF since his and the fest's 1963 debut—while Alexander Payne closes the curtain with The Descendants. Beyond the usual suspects (Cronenberg, Almodóvar, the Dardennes) and a 37-film centennial tribute to Japan's Nikkatsu studio, even the under-the-radar slate seems choice. (The wild card being Abel Ferrara's 4:44: Last Day on Earth, the raspy-voiced rascal's first NYC-shot feature in a decade.)
Martha Marcy May Marlene
Literally destined to become a cult classic, Sean Durkin's hazily hypnotic, impeccably shot and edited nerve-jangler stars a terrifically nuanced Elizabeth Olsen as the multi-eponymous damaged good, a former brainwashed follower of a softly menacing commune leader (Winter's Bone's John Hawkes). Fleeing after two years to live with and burden her long-estranged sister, M4 has an easier time losing her shit than she does reassimilating.
A defiantly anti-erotic tale of hopeless psychosexual liberation, Aussie novelist-turned-filmmaker Julia Leigh's elegant, arresting, and madly ambitious debut concerns an impulsive college student (Sucker Punch's Emily Browning) who becomes a belle de jour for a high-end escort agency. The fetish is that she's drugged through the night, her skeevy old johns allowed to do anything but penetrate, leaving her to find empowerment while totally unconscious. Some will argue the film is aloof, no-win pretentiousness; others, a subversive twist on feminist ideals.
The Other F Word
There's nothing rock-n-roll about the duties of fatherhood, but what if you spawn and your professional title still reads "punk rocker"? Andrea Blaugrund Nevins's boisterously entertaining and occasionally gut-wrenching exposé on anti-authoritarians in crisis focuses primarily on Jim Lindberg, two-decade veteran of skate-punk act Pennywise, whose bandmates can't see past their extended adolescence to why the father of three can't tour forever. Flea, Tony Hawk, Mark Mothersbaugh, some dude named Fat Mike, and others share their paternal angst.
209 West Houston Streetfilmforum.org
Lars von Trier might shoot his mouth off in press conferences, but the Danish provocateur's operatic new spellbinder—a gorgeous pageant and stirring portrait of depression and anxiety, set just before Earth is swallowed in a rogue planet's trajectory—may be his most restrained, clear-minded, visionary work, as well as the year's best film. Emotionally fragile sisters Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg command an inspired ensemble from a remote castle, where a disastrous wedding becomes a punch line to the indifference of fate.
The waggishly suave Jean Dujardin tap-dances his way into our hearts as a fading '20s movie star in this breezy, flirty, irresistibly clever salute to silent Hollywood. You kids today with your 3-D effects and your talkies might be put off by a luscious black-and-white spoof without spoken dialogue, but that's partly the point: OSS 117 director Michel Hazanavicius gracefully proves that technology ain't got nuthin' on good old-fashioned storytelling.
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