Revenge of the Nerds
For the next three months, New York’s repertory redoubts will be transformed into the best kind of summer school: temples of knowledge that double as pleasure palaces. Anthology Film Archives salutes our foremost cine-essayist with “The Films of Thom Andersen” (June 3–12, 32 Second Avenue, anthologyfilmarchives.org); the complete retrospective features both Andersen’s rarely screened, minimalist early works (like 1965’s six-minute Melting) and his latest disquisition, The Thoughts That Once We Had, informed by poststructuralist godhead Gilles Deleuze’s writings on film. Uptown, MoMA showcases another intellectual powerhouse in flawless funnywoman Judy Holliday, who used her big brain — she had an IQ of 172 — to perfect the art of being dim-witted. Describing the actress’s talent as “the Moron’s Revenge,” critic Kenneth Tynan wrote, “There comes a moment in [her films] when, goaded beyond endurance by the blind, unreasoning intelligence of those around her, she explodes in protest, turning on her persecutors with a terrible cry of ‘Bluarrgh!’ ” Watch the smart dumb blonde retaliate in George Cukor’s Born Yesterday (1950), just one of several titles in MoMA’s “Modern Matinees: Summer With Judy Holliday” (July 8–August 31, 11 West 53rd Street, moma.org). From Holliday to “Holiday”: Another flaxen-haired divinity receives the retro treatment this season when Alek Keshishian’s Gen X treasure Madonna: Truth or Dare (1991) screens for a 25th-anniversary revival run at Metrograph (August 26–September 1, 7 Ludlow Street, metrograph.com). A chronicle of the Queen of Pop on her “Blond Ambition” tour, Keshishian’s documentary (the centerpiece of a Madge tribute that also spotlights her Eighties and Nineties work as an actress) reveals the savviest of entertainers behind the scenes — and always ruthlessly in control. — Melissa Anderson
‘Brian De Palma’
Brian De Palma has never shied away from a little id; his movies take the fears and perversions that lurked in Alfred Hitchcock’s subconscious and refurbish them with virtuoso cinematic excess. In honor of Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow’s new documentary-tribute to the director (opening at the Angelika Film Center on June 10), Metrograph restages his titillating bloodbaths with a complete retrospective. Classics like Carrie and Blow Out mix with underrated offerings, including Hi, Mom!, with a pre–Taxi Driver Robert De Niro as a pornographic stalker, and Mission to Mars, a misfire by every Hollywood standard but quixotically romantic in its operatic approach to science fiction. Metrograph, 7 Ludlow Street, metrograph.com — Peter Labuza
‘Tales of Cinema: The Films of Hong Sang-soo’
There’s a running joke about the South Korean director Hong Sang-soo that all his movies are the same: Men get drunk over bottles of soju before making flirtatious passes at women, all told with a static camera, strangely obtrusive zooms, and self-reflexive plotting. So this complete MoMI retrospective — which anticipates the theatrical release of Hong’s Locarno winner, Right Now, Wrong Then, opening on June 24 at the Film Society of Lincoln Center — should help reveal the subtle contour of each work. Definitely don’t miss HaHaHa, a subtly hilarious tale of two men recalling their vacations to the same town; the puzzle-piece narrative is as intricate as anything Christopher Nolan has ever dreamed up. Museum of the Moving Image, 36-01 35th Avenue, Queens, movingimage.us — P.L.
‘Luminosity: The Art of Cinematographer Mark Lee Ping-Bing’
Many of the greatest Asian movies of the past two decades owe their beauty to the Taiwanese cinematographer Mark Lee Ping-Bing, who applies his painterly sensibilities to distinct epochs: turn-of-the-nineteenth-century Shanghai (Flowers of Shanghai), Sixties Japan (Norwegian Wood), present-day Hanoi (The Vertical Ray of the Sun), WWI-era France (Renoir). This MoMA retrospective finally puts these works in conversation — including the DP’s most noted achievement, the Wong Kar-wai–directed In the Mood for Love, in which he fills the air of Sixties Hong Kong with intense romanticism, turning the streets gold and lingering over the smoke of cigarettes and the steam of noodles. Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53rd Street, moma.org — P.L.
Heaven Can Wait
Ernst Lubitsch’s only foray into Technicolor is a boisterous odyssey of one man’s sexcapades, told with macabre melancholy. Henry Van Cleve (Don Ameche) attempts to bargain his way into hell by recalling his lifetime of promiscuity; born in 1870s New York, the character comes of age as a lad chasing showgirls before settling into a compromised marriage to Gene Tierney. The Lubitsch touch of sophisticated lightness overlaying a bawdy sexuality is on full display in this 1943 work, with a parade of character actors (Charles Coburn, Marjorie Main, Eugene Pallette) adding their off-color personalities to the luminous Technicolor palette. Film Forum, 209 West Houston Street, filmforum.org — P.L.
A summer thriller hanging on a thin premise: Blake Lively must battle a very nasty shark. But behind the camera is Jaume Collet-Serra, who helped revitalize Liam Neeson’s career with the tautly constructed genre pieces Unknown and Non-Stop. Here, Collet-Serra reunites with DP Flavio Martínez Labiano to place Lively as a surfer marooned on a tiny rock only a quarter-mile from shore, a hungry shark circling her, waiting for its moment. Lively might not be an obvious casting choice for the role of an aquatic MacGyver, but this is exactly the kind of minnow premise that Collet-Serra can turn into a big splash. Sony Pictures, sonypictures.com — P.L.
‘Warren Oates: Hired Hand’
A stodgy, unassuming presence with unkempt curly hair, Warren Oates evoked the wayward ethos of the Seventies, much as Robert Mitchum did for the cynical Forties. As one of Oates’s earliest movies, Leslie Stevens’s 1960 Private Property, receives a new restoration, the Film Society is mounting a series to honor this unexpected icon of a tumultuous American decade. Monte Hellman’s Two-Lane Blacktop sets him against two rebels without a cause in a mythic race for the country’s soul, while Terrence Malick’s Badlands casts him as a young Sissy Spacek’s patriarchal menace and the impetus for a killing spree. And don’t sleep on William Friedkin’s 1978 Boston heist comedy The Brink’s Job, with Oates as a bazooka-obsessed nut. Film Society of Lincoln Center, West 65th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam, filmlinc.org — P.L.
Philip Roth novels have a reputation for being untranslatable to the screen. But James Schamus — the former Focus Features honcho and screenwriter of such acclaimed page-to-screen transfers as The Ice Storm and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon — has proved himself an adept tackler of difficult adaptations. Schamus makes his feature directorial debut here with an adaptation of Roth’s 2008 novel, starring Logan Lerman (The Perks of Being a Wallflower) as a Jewish college student in Catholic Ohio in 1951, where his romance with a suicidal shiksa (Sarah Gadon) sparks outrage. Roadside Attractions, Summit Entertainment, no website yet — P.L.
Matt Damon‘s star campaign has somehow survived nearly fifteen years — including a misguided though underrated side-quel with Jeremy Renner, The Bourne Legacy — to merit a fifth entry. But the intensely serious thriller franchise makes for a welcome return engagement, with sparse plotting that defers to chaotic action set pieces. Damon reteams with Supremacy and Ultimatum director Paul Greengrass for another crackerjack story about the amnesic spy’s duels with the CIA organization that now hunts him across the globe. The cast additions — newly minted Oscar winner Alicia Vikander, French superstar Vincent Cassel, and the gruff Tommy Lee Jones — make this one unnecessary sequel worth catching. Universal Pictures, universalpictures.com — P.L.
Kate Plays Christine
To be announced
In his previous movie, Actress, the documentarian Robert Greene turned the story of Brandy Burre — a real-life actress trying to return to work after committing herself for a number of years to family life — into a self-critical inquiry about the way we identify with narrative. In this pitch-black thriller, Greene follows the indie darling Kate Lyn Sheil as she investigates another role inspired by a true-to-life personality: Christine Chubbuck, a television news anchor who committed suicide on air in 1974. The meta-critical examination explores the ethics of re-creating history, touched up with Fassbinder-esque fictional sequences. Sheil and Greene push and pull as subject and filmmaker, creating both a visceral, stomach-churning experience and a disquieting moral inquiry. Grasshopper Film, grasshopperfilm.com — P.L.
Kubo and the Two Strings
With Pixar movies becoming more of a hit-or-miss proposition, Laika has emerged as an animation powerhouse with its unique style of stop-motion construction supported by densely visualized 3-D effects — an inventive mix of the practical and the imaginative. The studio behind Coraline and ParaNorman returns with this Japan-set fantasy about a child on the hero’s journey, fighting off the same ancient spirits that battled his samurai father. Supporting Laika’s imaginative splashes of color is a voice ensemble that includes Ralph Fiennes, Rooney Mara, Matthew McConaughey, and Charlize Theron. Focus Features, www.focusfeatures.com — P.L.
to be announced
A surprise hit out of the Berlin and True/False festivals, Mehrdad Oskouei’s documentary gives voice to a group of teenage girls in a Tehran detention center. Brimming with compassion, Oskouei searches with his camera to capture the indelible warmth hiding in each personality, waiting to be drawn out. In a report earlier this year from True/False, the Voice‘s Bilge Ebiri praised the movie: “By not hiding his empathy and concern, Oskouei subtly draws attention to the inherent imbalance of the viewer-subject exchange. Suddenly, we’re not just watching a movie, but reflecting on our own helplessness.” Cinema Guild, cinemaguild.com — P.L.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on June 1, 2016