Saturday, June 28, 2008

Assorted Screenings in NYC, June-July 2008

There are a few interesting or rare items on the NYC film calendars in the next few weeks. I haven’t seen everything I’m about to mention, so consider this post a heads-up for the adventurous.

  • Japanese director Naomi Kawase, who hasn’t had many NYC screenings, is getting some attention from Japan Society via its Japan Cuts series. Her 2007 feature Mogari no mori (The Mourning Forest) screens there on Wednesday, July 2 at 6:30 pm and Monday, July 7 at 6:30 pm; on the same program is Kawase’s 2006 documentary Tarachime. In addition, Japan Society has scheduled two programs of Kawase’s earlier documentaries: the first program screens on Thursday, July 3 at 6:15 pm and Saturday, July 12 at 3:30 pm; the second screens on Thursday, July 3 at 8 pm and Saturday, July 12 at 5:30 pm. Mogari no mori is the Kawase feature I like the least – I’m more enthusiastic about Sharasojyu (Shara) (2003) and Moe no suzaku (Suzaku) (1998) – but her short films are very hard to see, and my guess is that the dividing line between her fiction and documentary work is fuzzy. There’s a paragraph about Mogari no mori in my 2007 Toronto piece for Senses of Cinema.
  • The Tatsuya Nakadai retro at Film Forum contains two titles that I’ve been planning my life around ever since I saw the schedule. The biggie is the great Mikio Naruse’s 1957 Arakure (Untamed), which has a very good reputation, and which I didn’t think I’d ever get to see with subtitles. The other title is somewhat less promising, but still a must: Shiro Toyoda’s 1969 Jigokuhen (Portrait of Hell). Toyoda, a major director who is particularly good with actors, seems to have a spotty track record in his later part of his career, and this subject matter doesn’t sound as if it’s up his alley. But he followed Jigokuhen with the wonderful Kokotsu no hito (The Twilight Years) (1973), so I have hope.
  • BAM is showing Jacques Nolot’s excellent Avant que j’oublie (Before I Forget) on Sunday, June 29 at 4:30 and 9:15 pm as part of its Directors’ Fortnight series. The film will then have its theatrical premiere at the IFC Center on July 18. See that 2007 Toronto wrapup for a brief review.
  • NYC film buffs no doubt already have their sights on John Ford’s underrated The Horse Soldiers, playing at the Walter Reade on Sunday, July 6 as part of a William Holden retrospective. But they might want to stick around for the other film playing that day, John Sturges’s Escape From Fort Bravo. If my memory serves, it’s a worthwhile Western with nice hard-edged 1.33:1 compositions. Sturges directed a few other good films in the 50s and 60s, but this is my favorite. It screens at 3:30 and 8 pm, and The Horse Soldiers at 1 and 5:30 pm.
  • I’m hoping to poke around a bit in the Walter Reade’s upcoming Slovenian film series: the former Yugoslav republics harbored a number of good filmmakers about whom we know little. The only film in the series that I can recommend in advance is Janez Berger’s 1999 V leru (Idle Running), a smart comedy about indolent bohemian youth. It screens on Sunday, July 20 at 6:45 pm and Monday, July 21 at 3:30 pm.


Anonymous said...

I actually picked up the Slovenian series on assignment for the Voice, so I should have some intel on this by week's end.

Dan Sallitt said...

Cool - please pass along any tips, if it doesn't mean scooping yourself.

celinejulie said...

In the Slovenian Film Series, I saw only SPARE PARTS (2003, Damjan Kozole) and recommend it. It deals with the illegal immigration issue in an unsentimental way. I much prefer it to films like DIRTY PRETTY THINGS (2002, Stephen Frears). I think SPARE PARTS may make a good unintentional trilogy with THE PROMISE (1996, Jean Pierre + Luc Dardenne) and ONCE YOU’RE BORN YOU CAN NO LONGER HIDE (2005, Marco Tullio Giordana), which also deal with the same issue, but from different perspectives.

Dan Sallitt said...

CelineJulie - thanks for the tip. I liked the trailer for Spare Parts and had already been thinking about seeing it - now I'll make a greater effort.

Vadim said...

Tersely: ROOSTER'S BREAKFAST, OUTSIDER and SWEET DREAMS are all recommended, more or less. (They range from low-to-high '60s on the retarded 100-point scale.) I would strongly recommend staying away from VESNA and THE VALLEY OF PEACE, which pretty much have nothing to offer. I found DANCE IN THE RAIN pretty repellent, but it's certainly "distinctive." RAFT OF THE MEDUSA is only for people who can't get enough of '20s Futurist sloganeering.

Vadim said...

Oh, and WHEN I CLOSE MY EYES founders in the last 2/3. Until then it plays like a decently trashy DTV B-movie.

Dan Sallitt said...

Thanks for the scouting, Vadim. Unfortunately, your report means that I now feel obligated to see practically the entire retrospective, because the ones you unrecommended were the ones I'd already decided to see, and the ones you liked hadn't been on my radar.

I actually saw The Raft of the Medusa back when it came out, and I didn't enjoy it either. And I outright disliked Guardian of the Frontier.

Vadim said...

Heh. Well our taste overlap is inconsistent, so feel free to ignore. But the best of the bunch is OUTSIDER, if I could recommend just one. It's certainly not worth plowing through the whole slate.

Vadim said...

Dunno if this clarifies anything, but:

indieWIRE will have my interview with the ROOSTER'S BREAKFAST director up in short order, I believe. I run Slovenia. When you see any, could you be bothered to post? It would be great to trade notes with someone else who actually watched any of them.

Dan Sallitt said...

Okay - I'll post comments here. I saw If I Close My Eyes on opening night, didn't enjoy it much. It reminded me a lot of DePalma: really attractive compositions and a good sense of space, a tendency to work with genre conventions instead of characterization, a systematic ritualization of all action and gesture. I'm really not sure how this kind of film is supposed to work: it takes the form of a subjective experience, but in fact it works against letting the audience enter the characters' interior space. Is it somehow a meta-film about genre? I'm not sure that the "meta" aspects of genre are all that interesting.

I won't get back to the Walter Reade until Sunday.

Dan Sallitt said...

I pretended I was at an out-of-town film festival yesterday, and saw a whole bunch of Slovenian films.

Spare Parts: The visuals were sometimes appealing, but I didn't enjoy this film a lot. It wavered for a while between enjoying the subject matter's innate cruelty and lingering on its pathos, and neither mode appealed to me. The film got more interesting as the male protagonists became friends, but I don't think the film really got inside that friendship, or established it as more than a symbol of some vague national disorder being passed down the generations.

The Valley of Peace: I liked this better than you did, Vadim. Admittedly the acting was labored and the dialogue was a bit too on-message, but even so I found the kids plausible and affecting at times: the little girl, particularly, was at that Ponette age where acting is a serious game. More substantially, the movie had a nice sense of terrain and location. I really liked the bombed apartment that looked normal until the boy opened a door onto nothingness; really liked the Germans' approach to the cottage, with that white horse stirring in extreme long shot. The whole movie looked good, actually; and as it was all about a passage through landscape, Stiglic seemed to have the right skills for the job.

Vesna: I didn't make it through this one: it had a few nice moments of city ambience, but it was so determined to be trivial and predictable that its virtues were cancelled.

Idle Running: this film is even better than I remembered. The program notes mention Jarmusch, but I think a better comparison would be Hal Hartley – both he and Berger adapt Godard's riffs to a more behavioral, comic context. I'd forgotten that the film takes a daring formal gamble at its halfway point: that all-night breakup scene is not only a tour de force, but also a smart, indirect way to justify the protagonist's change.

The Outsider: I dunno, I didn't really like it, though it was watchable. I picked up a certain romantic swagger in the direction, a tendency to caricature peripheral figures, and a little too much willingness to use stock coming-of-age scenes. The most interesting aspect was the unusual sincerity of the protagonist's teenage love – but Kosak is more involved with the boy than with the girl, which perhaps reflects a bit of self-absorption in the project as a whole. The lead actor sure doesn't look sixteen, but he has a great face.

It's possible I won't get to any more films in the series.

Vadim said...

Thanks Dan. As far as When I Close My Eyes, I picked up the De Palma vibe as well; I think what's interesting here is the way heavy-duty political trauma becomes grist for the genre mill in a way that seems self-conscious. Astounded you liked The Valley Of Peace, but what the hell.

Saddened you didn't like the punk songs in Outsider, but hey, whatever.

Dan Sallitt said...

I didn't dislike the punk songs in Outsider. But the movie did seem vulnerable to the charge of romanticizing its own rebelliousness.

Vadim said...

There's a history of that kind of stuff in the ex-Soviet regions, isn't there? Vaclav Havel and the Plastic People of the Universe, so on, etc. Seems more political than anything.

Slow on the uptake, sorry. I've been crewing. And sorry I'm missing your show! I'm catching up on a doc preparatory to an interview I have to do Monday.