Finally, Astoria’s Museum of the Moving Image drops its veil to reveal its new chassis, a nearly two-year-long architectural overhaul that substantially upgrades its standing exhibitions, its capacity for educational and video programs, and its position as the loveliest afternoon-killer in Queens. Most important, the screening schedule will be fattened up, beginning out of the gate this week with a motley six-week program of must-sees and new excavations.
A raft of newly unearthed and/or re-polished silents plant the flag, from John Ford’s Upstream (1927), a Murnau-at-Fox-era vaudeville pulpster hinging on knife-throwing performers, accompanied by a live vaudeville-style ensemble, to Gabriel García Moreno’s The Ghost Train (1927), a little-known Mexican silent thriller. A full program of Georges Méliès makes an appearance, supported by the live accompaniment of renowned found-object-instrument dynamo Sxip Shirey, who will perform alone and with household gadgets. Here’s also your only current opportunity to see Josef von Sternberg’s debut melodrama, The Salvation Hunters (1925), and to submerge yourself into the big-screen experience of maniac-auteur Marcel L’Herbier’s three-hour Emile Zola filmization L’Argent (1928), along with its simultaneously shot making-of doc, Autour de L’Argent (1929). But the retrophiliacs may jump higher for the thought-to-be-lost German adaptation of the 18th-century play Nathan the Wise (1922), a Weimar hymn to Muslim-Christian-Jew tolerance set in Crusade-era Jerusalem—imagine that—and one of the earliest victims of nascent Nazi censorship.
Other repolished humdingers range from Rossellini’s Open City (1945) to the 70mm resplendence of Tati’s Playtime (1967) and Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), two methodical reinventions of reality that go together like megalomania and money. Jaromil Jires’s cult fave Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (1970) offers a tipsy Czech countercharge of pubescent softcore and vampire anxiety. And the clock goes back to multiple noir torpedoes (Jacques Tourneur’s Out of the Past and Joseph Lewis’s The Big Combo) and lost Golden Age nuggets from Warners, like Archie Mayo’s The Mayor of Hell (1933), in which liberal gangster James Cagney takes over a corrupt juvenile reformatory, and William Keighley’s The Match King (1932), a veiled biopic of Depression-slammed monopolist Ivar Kreuger, who shot himself the same year the film was released.
Don’t overlook the freaky avant-garde onslaught, including an array of new-and-classic samplers, site-specific video installations, an evening of vintage Kuchars, a showing of Warhol’s Edie-loving Face (1965), and a rare and modest section—only 3.5 hours, mind you—of Gregory Markopoulos’s Eniaios (2004), an 80-hour ambient monster, the preservation of which won’t be finished until 2028. In the same spirit, and experimenting in his own mid-career fashion, Manoel de Oliveira’s Doomed Love (1978), at 4.5 hours, is demanding and unwieldy enough to require a pilgrimage.