Saturday, April 25, 2015

Film Capsule: Ron Peck's Nighthawks (1978)

Nighthawks (1978)
Directed by Ron Peck

As the rain-soaked streets of London give way to the bustling interior of a neon nightclub, we happen upon a solitary man scanning the room for a partner to join not on the dance floor but in the bedroom. A geography teacher by day, the closeted Jim (Ken Robertson) takes to cruising the odd discotheque by night, and over a series of noncommittal one-night stands and compassionate conversations with a female coworker and confidante, we glimpse not only the wearying plight of our protagonist, but that of an entire culture pushed towards the margins and into a nocturnal sanctuary. In what’s now regarded as the first British film to paint an empathetic portrait of gay life in 70s, Peck shoots with a documentarian’s eye scenes of both communal empowerment and isolation. The film’s formal language (reverse shots, continuity editing, et cetera) betrays its fiction roots, but its sense of intimacy and of-the-moment milieu make it one of queer cinema’s most evocative documents. (Apr 25, 9pm at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s “Art of the Real”) [The L]

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Film Capsule: Éric Rohmer's Full Moon in Paris (1984)

Full Moon in Paris (1984)
Directed by Éric Rohmer

The fourth and most emotionally tumultuous of the elder statesmen of the nouvelle vague’s “Comedies and Proverbs” series leans closer to the moralistic than the humorous half its thematic epithet. An at times uncomfortable look at the nuances and negotiations inherent to romance, the film follows Louise (Pascale Ogier) and Rémi (Tchéky Karyo), an unmarried couple whose plan for living together grows complicated when the former chooses to keep her Parisian apartment as a pied-à-terre for nights of metropolitan partying. Meanwhile, Louise’s best guy and girlfriend (Fabrice Luchini and Virginie Thévenet) are both harboring secrets related to the couple which slowly tug at the seams of an already fraying relationship. Shot in Rohmer’s typically unadorned style, with an emphasis on dialogue and situational irony rather than decorous mise-en-scène, the film arrives very subtly at a climax all the more devastating for its inevitability. (Apr 17-30, showtimes daily at the Film Society of Lincoln Center; new DCP restoration part of “Éric Rohmer’s Comedies and Proverbs”) [The L]

Blu-ray Review: Carol Reed's Odd Man Out (1947)

A bit of on-screen text opens Odd Man Out, preemptively positioning the viewer's perspective in the direction of the film's characters rather than its politics. A not uncommon act of creative exoneration for a product of mid-century cinematic entertainment, the title card—which duly asserts the filmmakers' concern for "the hearts of the people" depicted, not the "struggle between the law and an illegal organization"—nonetheless situates the narrative at a universal level appropriate for a film of particularly human, psychological interests. Released in 1947 and directed by British journeyman Carol Reed, Odd Man Out is indeed a character study wrapped in the guise of a sociopolitical thriller, and a work which accordingly plays better when accentuating the moral and personal complexities of the former through the aesthetic prism of the latter, shedding the weight of topical investment even as the shadows of its influence hang literally and figuratively on the film's dramatic landscape.

The Eternal Frame: Art of the Real 2015

Last year’s inaugural edition of Art of the Real set a high bar for the annual series. With a conceptual imperative similar to that of the established likes of True/False and FIDMarseilles, the Film Society of Lincoln Center series instantly staked a claim alongside its contemporaries with a wide-ranging program of progressive work of both past and present vintage, rooted in the ideals of nonfiction but with only nominal regard for its narratives tenets and formal techniques. Co-programmed by Dennis Lim and Rachel Rakes, this year’s follow-up is equally liberal in its conception of nonfiction cinematic parlance, with an even larger investment in its contemporary iterations.

Anything Can Happen: Neither/Nor 2015

Now in its third year, the Neither/Nor sidebar of the annual True/False Film Festival has quickly become both a fundamental facet and essential rejoinder to the curatorial ideal of the program proper. Free of categorical imperatives, the festival’s binary brand has become over time a kind of shorthand for an often uncategorizable strain of filmmaking in which the ethos of nonfiction is consistently complicated by the visual language of fiction. The idea behind Neither/Nor is the reconstruction of a continuum between past and present iterations of this method, teasing out parallels between classic and contemporary storytelling modes while contextualizing the social and political particulars of bygone movements through their given cultural and cinematic milieus.

No Line on the Horizon: True/False 2015

Director Albert Maysles passed away on the evening March 5th, the opening night of the 12th annual True/False Film Festival. Many were shocked and all were saddened when news of his death began to circulate the following morning, and his name was understandably on the tip of many people’s tongues throughout the weekend: among other gestures both private and public, Actress director and T/F regular Robert Greene spoke of Maylses’ kindness and unquenchable creative drive, while Bret Morgan dedicated a screening of his new film, Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, to the filmmaker’s memory. There was something almost eerie about the timing of Maysles’ passing, due to the fact that, as one of the pioneers of the direct cinema movement (along with his late brother David and contemporaries Robert Drew, Frederick Wiseman, and D. A. Pennebaker), Maysles is in many ways responsible for the vision and curatorial ambition of a festival like True/False. And while I saw nothing over the festival’s four days that seemed directly indebted to Maysles—certainly not to the degree of such past T/F highlights as last year’s Approaching the Elephant—nearly everything managed to feel spiritually related.

Film Capsule: Walerian Borowczyk's Story of Sin (1975)

Story of Sin (1975)
Directed by Walerian Borowczyk

Story of Sin begins with a confession and ends with an assassination. Amidst these extremes, the Polish-born Borowczyk—in his only film produced in his home country—endeavors to locate an at once sumptuous and scandalous middle ground, bridging sources of both a literary and libidinous nature along the way. Based on Stefan Zeromski’s lurid serial novelization, the film follows Ewa, a tragically fated teen whose irrepressible passion for Lukash, a married young anthropology student, intertwines with issues of church and state to emotionally and religiously crippling effect. When Lukash departs for Rome, the clandestine couple’s tempestuous bond is further tested by the arrival of a newborn child and the dubious motives of a surly count whose sexual advances provoke Ewa to engage a nascent, murderous impulse. Richly composed and feverishly orchestrated, it’s an unapologetic melodrama, and one that’s equally concerned with the disabuse of faith as it is disquisitions of the flesh. (Apr 5, 6:45pm; Apr 6, 9pm at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Borowczyk retrospective) [The L]