Summer Film Guide: Rooftop Films and Spaghetti Westerns



June 20 through July 1

An undeniably essential collection of emerging indie talent (as recently vetted by Cannes, Sundance, SXSW, Rotterdam, and other prestigious stops on the festival circuit), BAMcinématek’s fourth annual showcase of new American cinema will cure your empty-souled-blockbuster blues. Opening with Mike Birbiglia’s self-referential comedy of anxieties Sleepwalk With Me, and ending on Don Letts’s deliciously anecdotal Rock ‘n’ Roll Exposed: The Photography of Bob Gruen, BAMcinemaFest’s eclectic lineup boasts a heaping handful of NYC premieres. Among the highlights are two provocative behavioral studies: Craig Zobel’s Compliance (a divisive procedural based on real events, about fast-food employees manipulated by phone to commit criminally invasive acts) and Rick Alverson’s transgressively brilliant The Comedy—an itchy critique of entitlement starring avant-garde comedian Tim Heidecker as one of Williamsburg’s overprivileged. Critic-turned-filmmaker Dan Sallitt’s potent coming-of-ager The Unspeakable Act busts romantic taboos in Ditmas Park, while Tim Sutton’s gorgeously lensed tone poem Pavilion wistfully evokes childhood summers of riding bikes and swimming in suburban Arizona. Double threats Brian M. Cassidy and Melanie Shatzky bring their nursing-home doc portrait The Patron Saints and their stylized narrative debut, Francine (with a grungy Melissa Leo as the eponymous animal-obsessed ex-con), both of which share the hypnotic pacing of So Yong Kim’s poignant For Ellen, starring Paul Dano as a screw-up rocker trying to gain custody of his daughter. Too somber for your mood? Then don’t miss Jonathan Lisecki’s Gayby, a hilariously bitchy but sweet comedy that serves as Gotham’s answer to Portlandia.

Brooklyn Academy of Music, 30 Lafayette Avenue, Brooklyn,

Rooftop Films

Through August 18

Exciting indie programming, live musical events, and a warm breeze in your hair: Rooftop’s 16th annual summer series again brings its expert showmanship to 45 outdoor screening events throughout the city. Watch for Caveh Zahedi’s The Sheik and I (a giddily feather-ruffling exposé of creative hypocrisy), Amy Seimetz’s vividly tense magic-hour psychodrama Sun Don’t Shine, and Elizabeth Mims and Jason Tippet’s artful and wonderfully candid Only the Young—which tracks the urgent yet aimless lives of two Christian teen skater pals in the California desert. Rooftop Films, various locations,

Jean Epstein

June 1 through 7

The first in Anthology Film Archives’ two-part survey focuses on the silent films of this visually innovative French filmmaker and avant-garde theorist, best known for his spooky 1928 adaptation of The Fall of the House of Usher and 1927’s equally haunting The Three-Sided Mirror. Recently restored and rarely screened, the series includes the impressionistic melodrama Cæur Fidèle and the meta-cinematographic Six Et Demi Onze. A panel of scholars will discuss Epstein’s early oeuvre following the June 6 screening of his Brittany fishermen quasi-doc Finis Terrae. Anthology Film Archives, 32 Second Avenue,

Spaghetti Westerns

June 1 through 21

Newbies to the sweaty, violent, mostly Italian-produced oaters of the ’60s and ’70s have no excuse to miss genre godfather Sergio Leone’s two masterpieces (The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly and Once Upon a Time in the West), but Film Forum’s 16-film program digs deep in the sand—or snow, if you count Sergio Corbucci’s wintry, mute-gunfighter epic The Great Silence. Wild cards include Kill and Pray (co-starring controversial auteur Pier Paolo Pasolini as a Mexican priest) and Yankee, directed by Caligula‘s Tinto Brass. Film Forum, 209 West Houston Street,

‘Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present’

June 13 through 26

Named for the MOMA retrospective on the Serbian performance-art sensation’s four-decade body of work, director Matthew Akers’s debut is a revealing look at Abramovic’s complicated relationships with both her audience and former lover/collaborator Ulay. From vintage footage of the now-65-year-old radical publicly whipping and cutting herself, to 2010’s main event—a three-month stone-faced sitting in front of curious, often obsessive museumgoers—the film warmly and perceptively makes a solid case for an answer to the question: “Is this art?” Film Forum, 209 West Houston Street,

New York Asian Film Festival

June 29 through July 15

Revel in the filth, fury, and freaky fun of the city’s wildest fest, as opening night kicks off with Hong Kong novelist-cum-filmmaker Pang Ho-cheung and his lewd, high-energy comedy Vulgaria. Oldboy star Choi Min-sik will be on hand to present his new Korean mob flick, Nameless Gangster, and a special sidebar dedicated to Taiwanese cinema includes the uncut, four-hour-plus Seediq Bale, a raw 1930-set drama that has been compared to Braveheart with countless beheadings. The series only gets weirder from there. The Film Society of Lincoln Center, 144 West 65th Street,


July 27

Hands down the funniest film of the year, Mikkel Nørgaard’s irreverent Danish comedy plays like a superior, and way grosser, version of The Hangover. (How ironic that Todd Phillips is soon producing an American remake!) Discovering that everyone except him knew about his girlfriend’s pregnancy, a nebbishy man-child—about to take a canoe trip to an exclusive brothel with his ultra-perverted pal—irrationally kidnaps her poor young nephew for the ride. From ill-advised threesomes to photographing little-boy penises, they don’t call them “gags” for nothing. Drafthouse Films, in limited release,

‘Red Hook Summer’

August 10

Do the Right Thing‘s pizza-delivery boy Mookie (Spike Lee) might make an early cameo, but don’t call Spike’s ambitious, uncompromising, and musically charged return to Brooklyn a sequel. When “fro-hawked” Atlanta teen Flik (Jules Brown) is dumped on his preacher grandpa Enoch (The Wire’s Clarke Peters) in the titular projects for the summer, the generational and ideological clashes become palpable, as do the community’s frustrations after the darkest of plot twists. Enoch offers up powerful sermons, though close your eyes, and it’s suddenly Spike at the pulpit. Variance Films, in limited release,

‘The Loneliest Planet’

August 24

Hiking through the stunningly shot Caucasus Mountains in the ex-Soviet republic of Georgia, Alex (Gael García Bernal) and his flame-haired fiancée, Nica (Hani Furstenberg), seem like the perfect hipster couple, until a subtle split-second choice irreversibly cracks the veneer. Julia Loktev’s marvelous, slow-burning follow-up to her minimalist thriller Day Night Day Night somehow manages to be both audacious and subtle: Awkward silences become deafening, and the spacious wilderness unsettles with a devastating claustrophobia. Sundance Selects, in limited release,