Photo: Courtesy Film Forum
The title of Claude Sautet’s 1971 policier translates into English roughly as Max and the Scrap Dealers, and the plot is fittingly guileless. Earnest, somber detective Max (Michel Piccoli), learning that a crew of junk men are going to pull down a big heist, insinuates himself into the life of one of their girls (Romy Schneider), using pillow talk to gather intel on the upcoming job. Sautet frolics on Melville’s turf — trenchcoat cops, ruthless crooks, and women who run moral circles around both — but, contrasted against Melville’s famously fussbudget approach to composing and cutting, Sautet is clearly happier distinguishing the criminal set with loose, rowdy setups, often employing telephoto compositions to facilitate an atmosphere of spontaneity. Sautet spoke contemptuously of his policeman protagonist, whose attitude and decisions are a litmus test for viewers. With Bernard Fresson and Georges Wilson.
—Jaime N. Christley
Photo: Neon Tommy
The genetically derived South Asian musical influences that inspired 2015’s Morning/Evening persist in the opening tracks of Four Tet’s 2017 album New Energy. Variety informed by a twinkling organic playfulness appears to be the signature flavor palette of half-Indian Kieran Hebden, who has been producing music as Four Tet since 1998’s 36-minute, 25-second single “Thirtysixtwentyfive.” Beyond the meterless “Alap” and hammered-dulcimer glitter of “Two Thousand and Seventeen,” the harmonious laptop-wrangler covers nearly all bases an electronica fan might consider running: West Coast trance (assisted by Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith’s synth programming), transportive deep house, big bombastic beats, semi-liberated jazz, techno, and cosmic consciousness are elements of the glowing, flowing club style Hebden has perfected over the past few years and that should get heads nodding here.
Among moviegoers who try to keep up with French cinema, the more recent pictures made by post-New Wave avant garde–type Philippe Garrel tend to inspire either passionate defenses or impatient eye-rolling, with not much in between. Perhaps the biggest lightning rod is Garrel’s frequent casting of his son, Louis Garrel, an actor with a magnificently floppy tousle of hair and a sullen pout worthy of a disgruntled Roman god. Jealousy (2013) works because it’s not trying to do too much: Rendered in lustrous black-and-white by veteran cinematographer Willy Kurant (who shot Masculin Féminin for Godard), the picture feels intimate and concentrated, less fluttery than some of Garrel’s other pictures — it’s right at the intersection of direct and oblique, like a good haiku.
Akira Kurosawa’s samurai King Lear sets the standard for Shakespeare spectaculars. The title means “chaos,” although the epic compositions, mist-shrouded, color-coded armies, flaming fratricidal carnage, and juicy court intrigues of this 160-minute pageant are more suggestive of the filmmaker’s Olympic perspective. Grimly existential and characterized by a voluptuous sense of doom, the movie is filled with references to “this degraded age,” not all of them alluding to the 16th century.
Ex silent movie queen Gloria Swanson gives the performance of her career as delusional ex silent movie queen Norma Desmond in Billy Wilder’s searing, bitter, and funny portrait of Hollywood, arguably the director’s most impressive work. It’s the portrait of an actress who lives in a dream world that turns into a nightmare and a young screenwriter half her age (William Holden) who is engulfed by her madness.
Photo: Emel / Photo by Ebru Yildiz
Emel Mathlouthi, the Tunisian singer-songwriter responsible for the Arab Spring’s preeminent anthem — “Kelmiti Horra” (“My Word Is Free”) — headlines “Women’s Voices,” a celebration of Middle Eastern vocalists that also includes Jordan’s Farah Siraj and Sudanese singer-ethnomusicologist Alsarah and her Nubatones. Mathlouthi was inspired initially by Joan Baez, whose melodic resolve she combines with Massive Attack’s immediacy and Björk’s glitchy emotionalism. Raised in Jordan and Spain, Siraj is the subtly swinging, flamenco-tinged musical offspring of Ella Fitzgerald, Umm Kulthum, and Paco de Lucia. As with all these singers, her music deals with regional and religious conflicts. Alsarah arrived in Brooklyn via Yemen. Her self-described “East African retro pop” is rooted in the “songs of return” reflecting Nubian nostalgia for the Nile communities destroyed by the Aswan Dam during the Sixties.
John Hollenbeck’s Claudia Quintet both is and isn’t the chamber version of the drummer-composer’s Large Ensemble. Like his big band, Claudia — which also includes Drew Gress (bass), Matt Moran (vibraphone), Red Wierenga (accordion), and Chris Speed (saxophone) — is elliptically lyrical, densely ideated, yet surprisingly accessible. But the big band is like an ocean liner to Claudia’s sloop or, perhaps more accurately, a tightly wound Swiss clockwork of far-flung impulses and bad-ass improvisation, while still retaining the larger vessel’s emerging pleasures and spirited revelations. Together for more than two decades, Claudia has band telepathy and, in its leader, a bottomless source of ideas, both rhythmic and otherwise. The quintet’s latest album, Super Petite, concentrates on relatively short ‘n’ sweet tunes inspired by such notions as a Charlie Parker sax break, Newark International’s contraband-sniffing beagles, and Fox News.