Pocket your smartphones and close your laptops, New York. You live in the greatest filmgoing city in the world. (Settle down, Paris!) So there’s no reason not to give yourself over this fall to immersive pleasures on giant screens. If you missed the summer’s curated indies of BAMcinemaFest, you’ll have more chances to fill your eyes — and especially your ears — with theatrical runs for the mystically bluesy Willis Earl Beal-led folktale Memphis (September 5, IFC Center); the restored 1981 graffiti-and-Mingus tone poem Stations of the Elevated (October 17–23, BAM); and the stunning jazz-pianist biopic Low Down (October 24, limited release), co-starring John Hawkes, Elle Fanning, Peter Dinklage, and Flea.
See also: The 2014 Fall (Arts) Issue: An Index
When the devils come to play at the costumed end of October, don’t miss the Halloween edition of See It Big! (October 24–26, Museum of the Moving Image), featuring increasingly rare 35mm prints of horror staples like Poltergeist and The Bride of Frankenstein. More repertory thrills are to be had with new restorations of Orson Welles’s noir masterwork Touch of Evil and legendary German expressionist spooker The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (both October 31–November 6, Film Forum). Or head to Anthology for their “Industrial Terror” series (October 24–31)—pairing the work of iconic scaremongers like George Romero and Herk Hervey with in-house training commercials they made for money—or their 12-hour Day of the Dead marathon (November 1, noon till midnight) of as-yet-undisclosed cult shockers. Daniel Radcliffe waves his freak flag in Horns (October 31, limited release) as a distraught young man who sprouts supernatural nibs from his noggin after his girlfriend dies.
On the fertile nonfiction front, there’s Rory Kennedy’s surprisingly fresh re-examination of Saigon’s fall in Last Days in Vietnam (September 5, limited release) and Nadav Schirman’s The Green Prince (September 12, limited release), a real-life psychological thriller concerning the unorthodox collaboration between the son of a Hamas leader and the Israeli government. A prolific art forger’s intent and mental health are to be questioned in the fascinating puzzler Art and Craft (September 19, limited release), and the life, career, and marriage of sexploitation pioneer — or is he, too, an artist? — Joe Sarno are illuminated in A Life in Dirty Movies (September 19–26, Anthology). And vérité godfather Frederick Wiseman makes an inspiring canvas out of London’s National Gallery (November 5–18, Film Forum), which allows curators, conservationists, and other colleagues to expound in hands-off long takes.
Not rock ‘n’ roll enough for you? Then take it up with brooding Aussie rocker Nick Cave as he celebrates 20,000 Days on Earth (September 17–30, Film Forum) in this inventive docudrama. Welshman-cum-Chicagoan Jon Langford and his cult cowpunk collective get their due in Revenge of the Mekons (October 29–November 4, Film Forum), as does Britpop royalty Jarvis Cocker in Pulp: A Film About Life, Death & Supermarkets (November 19, limited release). For even worthier excuses to keep your devices dark, dig into the season’s brightest highlights below:
God Help the Girl
Whimsical, charming, and thankfully less precious than it sounds, Belle and Sebastian frontman Stuart Murdoch’s aspirational directorial debut is a naturalistic 16mm musical based on the lush, twee pop of the Scottish indie mainstays. Emily Browning stars as a mentally ill kitten who clicks with a nerdy lifeguard and drummer (Olly Alexander), and Hannah Murray’s rich girl, making a pop trio. The premise may be light on drama, but the big-hearted emotions are as infectious as the tunes. Amplify, in limited release, amplifyreleasing.com
Celebrating 50 years of Baltimore’s funniest, filthiest provocateur (appearing live throughout the series), this complete retrospective includes all 12 of Waters’s directorial features: Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble, early 16mm rarities from his personal collection, and more. There’s a free shorts program, a Polyester screening with scratch-and-sniff Odorama cards, and an eight-feature sidebar of darkly comic gems and perversities entitled John Waters Presents: Movies I’m Jealous I Didn’t Make. The Film Society of Lincoln Center, West 65th Street and Broadway, filmlinc.com
September 12-October 12
All 17 of the Taiwanese New Waver’s elliptical, sophisticated features will be projected on film in this traveling exhibition (entitled “Also Like Life”), from acclaimed faves like Flowers of Shanghai, Café Lumière, and Flight of the Red Balloon to such lesser-known pearls as Hou’s 1980 directorial debut, Cute Girl, and 1983’s Cinemascope musical The Green, Green Grass of Home. A special sidebar presents Olivier Assayas’s doc HHH: Portrait of Hou Hsiao-Hsien and other Hou-centric fare. Museum of the Moving Image, 36-01 35th Avenue, Queens, movingimage.us
September 26-October 6
Coinciding with the release of John Lahr’s biography, Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh, Film Forum showcases 14 of the illustrious dramatist’s adaptations, including a double feature of The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone and Sydney Pollack’s This Property Is Condemned, co-adapted by Francis Ford Coppola. A Lahr book-signing follows the opening-night screening of A Streetcar Named Desire, and Baby Doll co-star Carroll Baker will participate in a Q&A following the September 29 screening of Elia Kazan’s controversial classic. Film Forum, 209 West Houston Street, filmforum.org
September 26-October 12
Anchored by a bold and bound-to-be-thrilling trio of gala premieres (David Fincher’s Gone Girl, Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice, and Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman), the esteemed New York Film Festival offers vetted new features from beloved auteurs—Mike Leigh, Olivier Assayas, Mia Hansen-Løve, the late Alain Resnais—while keeping an eye on emerging young bucks like Damien Chazelle (Whiplash), Josh and Benny Safdie (Heaven Knows What), and Alex Ross Perry (Listen Up Philip). The Film Society of Lincoln Center, West 65th Street and Broadway, filmlinc.com
An ice-cold knockout at Cannes, Swedish auteur Ruben Östlund’s brilliantly perceptive and frostily funny drama snowballs into an emotional avalanche. At least, that’s what happens when a picture-perfect family of four at a French Alps ski resort are torn apart by a snowy landslide that does no bodily harm but reveals how selflessly, or otherwise, we react in a moment of fear. (Try imagining National Lampoon’s Vacation as directed by Ingmar Bergman.) Magnolia, in limited release, magpictures.com
Goodbye to Language
The real guardian of the 3D galaxy is Jean-Luc Godard, who proves with this densely aphoristic but startlingly playful experiment that there’s still more to do with the de rigueur multiplex gimmick than tossing projectiles. Commenting on the way we live and communicate today (and cinema, literature, politics, everything!) via an adulterous couple, a soulful dog, and an imaginative use of optics-challenging technology that had Cannes erupting in mid-screening applause, the French master, at 83 years young, ain’t done yet. Kino Lorber, in limited release, kinolorber.com
Expect to hear Jake Gyllenhaal’s name during awards season, and not just for losing 20 pounds to sink into the sociopathic skin of a freelance crime videographer and ruthless bottom feeder who waits by his L.A. police scanner to be first on the scene. Wickedly entertaining and authentically disturbing, writer-turned-director Dan Gilroy’s socioeconomic thriller offers perverse truths about the bloodletting cost of journalism as public tastes skew toward the cheap and sensational. Open Road Films, in limited release, openroadfilms.com
Story of My Death
Too tragicomically, singularly strange to be called merely an 18th-century costume melodrama or a philosophical allegory, Catalan auteur Albert Serra (Birdsong) presents this, to use his own description, “unfuckable” tussle between Enlightenment and Romanticism in the passing of two fabled deflowerers: giddily debauched, powdered dandy Casanova (Vicenç Altaió) and shadowy bloodsucker Dracula (Eliseu Huertas). Pensive and painterly, this challenging slice of cultural flamboyance finds a deadly seriousness in the dryly self-parodic. Anthology Film Archives, 32 Second Avenue, anthologyfilmarchives.org
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 3, 2014