Unexpectedly revived thirtysomething years after its theatrical run, The Pied Piper
, Jacques Demy’s 1972 retelling of the Grimms’ tale, is more affecting than affected. Demy’s follow-up to his absurdist Donkey Skin is a dark and smoky affair that, although set in Germany during the Black Death summer of 1349, suggests something brainstormed in a St. Marks Place head shop. Pestilence brings out the worst in everyone, but Demy’s sympathies are against the rulers and with the outcasts—itinerant actors, a nutty religious pilgrim, a Jewish alchemist, and his crippled apprentice. As the eponymous piper who can heal the sick and summon the rats, folk whatzit Donovan is feyly inoffensive. Donald Pleasence plays an imperious baron, with the young John Hurt as his villainous son betrothed to the glad-handing burgomaster’s underage daughter. In the movie’s set piece, hundreds of rats invade this ill-omened wedding feast. Then the town goes mad—or maybe to hell. One reviewer described The Pied Piper as a medieval Willard; given its underlying seriousness and sensitivity to its own historical moment, it might be more deservedly characterized as a Disney version of Camus’s wartime allegory The Plague. February 2 through 8, Anthology Film Archives.
Also: No film composer has been more integral than the great Ennio Morricone. This three-week celebration, opening with a new print of Elio Petri’s 1970 political thriller Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion, includes a number of notable movies (The Battle of Algiers, Sam Fuller’s White Dog) as well as a spaghetti western mini-retro—not just the Sergio Leone classics but The Big Gundown, Death Rides a Horse, and Navajo Joe. February 2 through 22, Film Forum.
A small, extravagant oeuvre gets its due with Out There: The Cinema of Donald Cammell
. Supposed godson of the magus Aleister Crowley, Cammell (1934–96) shot the psychedelic James Coburn thriller Duffy (1968), co-directed Mike Jagger in the ultra-decadent Performance (1970), and contrived to have Julie Christie impregnated by a computer in Demon Seed (1977). The retro also includes two rarely screened later films, White of the Eye (1987) and, in its original cut, the delirious Wild Side (1995). February 2 through 11, Walter Reade Theater.
Two offbeat music docs selected and introduced by local critics: Jan Stuart with D.A. Pennebaker’s 1970 (and currently relevant) Original Cast Album-Company, followed by Leah Rozen with Dana Ranga’s 1997 East Side Story. February 4, MOMI.
There’s a one-room shrine in the International Center of Photography basement: Louise Brooks and the “New Woman” in Weimar Cinema has production stills from Brooks’s collection, a perpetual loop of Diary of a Lost Girl, some German fan magazines, and a few oddities— including Brooks trying out a curly hairdo for Pandora’s Box. Through April 29, ICP.