Ambitious as it is, the Whitney Museum’s Lights, Camera, Action: Artists’ Films for the Cinema runs off in a half-dozen directions. Douglas Gordon, the dean of film installation art, gets pride of place with his 2000 Feature Film. Other current gallery filmmakers include the Finnish Depressionist Eija-Liisa Ahtila and the unavoidable Matthew Barney. Back to the Stone Age for Joseph Cornell’s seminal (and still unsurpassed) Rose Hobart, as well as films by a host of photographers, painters, dancers, concept-artists, and of course, Andy Warhol. But why a mediocrity like Lonesome Cowboys? And why Samuel Beckett’s Film but nothing, for example, from Marguerite Duras? Curator Chrissie Iles challenges her own premise by including a raft of European filmmakers who have done the occasional installation while ignoring the substantial contributions from the “structural” tendency of what used to be called the New American Cinema.
Through April 1.
Also: A more coherent (or at least more focused) corollary to the Whitney show,
Seminal Cinema: Films from Wallace Berman & the Semina Circle brings together work produced by the Los Angeles underground of the ’50 and ’60s. Berman himself completed only one short film—the abstract image blast Aleph. It’s being shown in the context of work by kindred California filmmakers—Curtis Harrington, Christopher MacLaine, Larry Jordan, and Bruce Conner—as well Andy Warhol’s early L.A.-set Tarzan and Jane Regained . . . Sort of, which features Berman. February 8 through 11, Anthology Film Archives.
The estimable Alloy Orchestra performs their original scores under the rubric
Silent Films with Live Music. It’s a varied selection: Blackmail (Hitchcock’s last silent), The Eagle (a 1925 Rudolph Valentino swashbuckler), and Buster Keaton’s The General which with its fabulous locomotive chase seems particularly well suited to the orchestra’s noise music aesthetic. February 7 through 9, World Financial Center Wintergarden.
Coincidentally or not, the Museum of Modern Art’s annual non-fiction film festival
Documentary Fortnight Expanded continues with a cluster of films made in, around, or about the former Soviet Union: The Pipeline Next Door chronicles BP’s adventures in Kazakhstan. Pavlov’s Dogs is a Finnish look at Russia’s new leisure class. Further afield,
Kabul Ping Pong chronicles the Afghani capital and 37 Uses for a Dead Sheep probes the origins of Kirghizstan. Through March 2, MOMA.
Forrest Whitaker is a heavy favorite to claim his Oscar for The Last King of Scotland; here’s an opportunity to examine the real deal in Barbet Schroeder’s 1974 horror-comedy
General Idi Amin Dada. Andrew Sarris will introduce the Saturday screening.
February 9 and 10, Museum of the Moving Image.