L’ATALANTE (Jean Vigo, 1934)
209 West Houston St.
September 21 - October 2
French auteur Jean Vigo made only three shorts and one feature before his death from tuberculosis and leukemia in 1934 at the age of twenty-nine, but his wide-ranging legacy continues. Film Forum pays tribute to his lasting influence on cinema with “The Complete Jean Vigo,” new 4K restorations of all of his works in addition to a new bonus. In Vigo’s fourth and final film, L’Atalante, his only feature, Swiss actor Michel Simon is spectacularly hilarious as an aging, somewhat decrepit first mate with a peculiar lust for life and cats. After barge captain Jean (Jean Dasté) and Juliette (Dita Parlo) get married in her small, tight-knit country town, they head for the big city of Paris on the long boat, L’Atalante, that he captains as his job. First mate Père Jules (Simon) and his young cabin boy (Louis Lefebvre) come along for the would-be honeymoon, attempting to make sure it’s a smooth ride, which of course it’s not. Juliette wants to enjoy the Parisian nightlife, Jean is a jealous, overprotective stick-in-the-mud, and Père Jules — well, Père Jules is downright unpredictable, pretty much all id, living life footloose and fancy free even if he doesn’t have much money or many true friends. When a love-struck bicycle-riding peddler (Gilles Margaritis) tries to woo Juliette, Jean grows angry, and an emotional and psychological battle ensues. But through it all, Père Jules just keeps on keepin’ on, never getting too concerned, confident that everything will work out in the end, because that’s what happens in life.
The son of anarchist Miguel Almereyda, who chose his last name because it is an anagram of the French phrase for “there is shit,” Vigo had been labeled a subversive for his first film, the twenty-five-minute À propos de Nice, and his third, the forty-one-minute Zéro de conduite (Zero for Conduct), had been banned. So he went a little more conventional, at least for him, with L’Atalante, rewriting with Albert Riéra an original script by Jean Guinée. The film is an insightful tale of love and romance, of wealth and poverty, of hard social conditions, focusing on a wacky man who has experienced a lot in his life, even though he looks like a bum, reminiscent of Simon’s brilliant portrayal of Priape in Jean Renoir’s Boudu Saved from Drowning. Whether putting on a puppet show, displaying his tattoos, getting his fortune read, or walking around with cats on his shoulders, Père Jules is one of the most endearing and memorable characters in the history of cinema, a unique figure who surprises over and over again, and Simon’s portrayal is just amazing; it’s hard to believe that he was only thirty-nine when he made the picture.
The highly poetic film, featuring a lovely score by Maurice Jaubert, also echoes F. W. Murnau’s Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans, only from a comic, often slapstick angle. After shooting was completed, Vigo’s already failing health took a turn for the worse, and a battle ensued over final cut involving the producers and editor Louis Chavance and cinematographer Boris Kaufman (Dziga Vertov’s brother, who went on to shoot such American classics as On the Waterfront and 12 Angry Men). Vigo died only a few weeks after L’Atalante was released. Film Forum is showing the restored director’s cut of L’Atalante from September 21 to October 2, along with “Vigo x 3,” consisting of À propos de Nice, the short documentary Jean Taris, and the restored director’s cut of Zéro de conduite. In addition, on September 30, Film Forum is screening Tournage d’hiver (Winter Shooting), a 2017 compilation of rushes and outtakes from L’Atalante and Zéro de conduite, narrated by film critic and historian Bernard Eisenschitz, who oversaw the restoration of L’Atalante.
There’s an intrinsic challenge about making a documentary about a photographer: How to portray the artist’s work, silent, still pictures of a moment in time, in a medium based on sound and movement. In Garry Winogrand: All Things Are Photographable, producer, director, and editor Sasha Waters Freyer attacks that issue by delving deep into many of Winogrand’s photographs, lingering on them as friends, relatives, and colleagues rave about his glorious images. “Well, what is a photograph? I’ll tell you what a photograph is. It’s the illusion of a literal description of how a camera saw a piece of time in space,” Winogrand said in a 1975 lecture at the University of Texas Austin, later adding, “All it is is light on surface.” Of course, in Winogrand’s case, it is much more than that; the black-and-white pictures he took with his trusted Leica M4 inhale and exhale at the exciting pace of real life. “It’s this observation of human behavior, of human activity, human gesture, the relationships between people, whether they know each other or not, how we behave in the world,” curator Susan Kismaric says. Writer Geoff Dyer calls Winogrand’s work a “psychogestural ballet,” while photographer Matt Stuart looks at photo after photo, pointing out “the dance” in each one. “When things move, I get interested. I know that much,” Winogrand, who passed away in 1984 at the age of fifty-six, says in his gruff voice. “He had no ambition for fame or celebrity. He was totally obsessed and possessed by photography,” his good friend, photographer Tod Papageorge, says. “It was work work work work work.”
Freyer traces the life of “a city hick from the Bronx,” from his boyhood, when he had polio, through three marriages and three children, from his fear of nuclear war to his love of the female form, from the streets of New York City to California and Texas. She weaves in audio and video from lectures and interviews, filmed and taped conversations with photographer Jay Maisel, and photos and home movies of Winogrand and his family. Freyer speaks with photographers Thomas Roma, Jeffrey Henson Scales, Leo Rubinfien, Laurie Simmons, and Michael Ernest Sweet, curator Erin O’Toole, gallery owner Jeffrey Fraenkel (who compares Winogrand to Norman Mailer), Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner, historian and critic Shelley Rice, and two of Winogrand’s ex-wives, Adrienne Lubeau and Judy Teller. There are also extensive quotes from legendary MoMA photography curator John Szarkowski. The film explores several turning points in his career, both good and bad, including the “New Documents” show with Lee Friedlander and Diane Arbus; his seminal work in 1964; “The Animals,” a series shot at the Central Park Zoo, where he would go with his kids; his color work; Public Relations, in which he examined the role and effect of the mass media; and his controversial Women Are Beautiful book, which was labeled as sexist and misogynistic.
Influenced by such photographers as Robert Frank, Walker Evans, and Dan Weiner, Winogrand could not stop taking pictures. He took so many — the thought of his working in the digital age is both thrilling and frightening — that he didn’t even develop thousands of rolls, leaving behind a treasure trove of material that Roma explains was misinterpreted by critics. “I would like not to exist,” Winogrand said. It’s a good thing for the rest of us that he did, sharing his unique view of the world, incorporating the chaos of his personal life into his remarkable pictures. Garry Winogrand: All Things Are Photographable, which features original music by Winogrand’s son, Ethan, and animation by Kelly Gallagher, opens September 19 at Film Forum, with Freyer participating in Q&As following the 7:00 shows on September 19 and 21. In her director’s statement, the Brooklyn-born Freyer writes, “In looking at Winogrand in all his multidimensional human complexity, I take aim at the ‘bad dad’ and ‘bad husband’ tropes in artist biography, seeking to undermine these as sources of triumph or artistic necessity. Winogrand was an artist whose rise and fall — from the 1950s to the mid-1980s — in acclaim mirrors not only that of American power and credibility in the second half of the twentieth century but also a vision of American masculinity whose limitations, toxicity, and inheritance we still struggle, culturally, to comprehend. The film ultimately invites a deeper consideration of Winogrand not only as a ‘man of his time,’ in the words of MoMA photography curator Susan Kismaric, but also as a man struggling to define himself simultaneously as an artist and a parent (as so many of us do).”
STATIONS OF THE ELEVATED (Manfred Kirchheimer, 1981)
209 West Houston St.
Thursday, September 20, 8:50
Series runs through October 20
In October 2014, thirty-three years after screening at the New York Film Festival, Manfred Kirchheimer’s Stations of the Elevated finally got its official U.S. theatrical release, in a gorgeous restoration that was shown at BAMcinématek and will be presented this week at Film Forum. In 1977, Manfred Kirchheimer, whose family escaped Nazi Germany in 1936, went to the Bronx and filmed graffiti-covered subway cars at the train depot and rushing across the elevated tracks, kids playing in a burned-out housing project, and giant billboards advertising hamburgers, cigarettes, alcohol, and suntan lotion. Shot on 16mm reversal stock, Stations of the Elevated is more than just a captivating document of a bygone era; it is a deeply poetic socioeconomic journey into class, race, art, and freedom of expression, told without a single word of narration or onscreen text. Instead, producer, director, editor, and photographer Kirchheimer (Colossus on the River, Bridge High with Walter Hess) shifts from the natural sound of the environment to a superb jazz score by Charles Mingus while cutting between shots of trains covered in tags and illustrations (and such phrases as “Heaven Is Life,” “Invasion of the Earth,” “Never Die,” and “Earth Is Hell”) by such seminal figures as Blade, Daze, Lee, Pusher, Shadow, and Slave and views of colorful billboards filmed peeking through the geometric architecture of the elevated railways and set against bright blue skies. Most often, the camera focuses on the painted eyes in the ads, looking right back at the viewer as they dominate the scene, evoking the optician’s ad in that famous novel of American class, The Great Gatsby. (The concentration on the eyes also predicts how Madison Ave. was watching the graffiti movement, eventually coopting the imagery into mainstream advertising.) Through this dichotomy of meaning and execution, Kirchheimer reveals similarities in artistic styles and how the elements influenced each other; a particularly telling moment occurs when a man is shown hand painting a billboard who could have just as well been spray painting a subway car.
Kirchheimer remains outside during the course of the forty-five-minute documentary, never venturing into the tunnels, capturing the elevated train lines as if they’re just another part of New York City architecture, which of course they are. And it’s especially powerful because it was made at a time when the city was in the midst of a severe economic crisis and rampant crime epidemic, as Mayor Koch sought to eliminate the scourge of graffiti, while Kirchheimer celebrates its beauty (and New York-ness) in this glorious little film. Stations of the Elevated, which elevates the station of subway graffiti artistry with an entrancing calmness, is screening September 20 at 8:50 in the Film Forum series “Hip Hop on Film 1979-1986” and will be followed by a Q&A with Kirchheimer and a live graffiti presentation by David “CHINO” Villorente. The series continues through October 20 with such other hip hop gems as Beat Street, featuring DJ Jazzy Jay, Kool Herc, Grandmaster Melle Mel, and Rae Dawn Chong, and the genre classic Wild Style, with director Charlie Ahearn participating in a Q&A after the 8:15 show on September 27.
OFFSIDE (Jafar Panahi, 2006)
MoMA Film, Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53rd St. between Fifth & Sixth Aves.
Tuesday, September 18, 7:00, and Sunday, September 30, 2:30, $12
Series runs September 16-30
For nearly thirty years, Iranian cinema has been an integral part of the international film world, with stellar works by such directors as Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Abbas Kiarostami, Asghar Farhadi, Bahman Farmanara, Jafar Panahi, and others. One thing many of these films have in common is cinematographer Mahmoud Kalari, who has shot some of the preeminent Iranian films, offering a new vision of the politically troubled country. MoMA is honoring the former photojournalist’s career, which includes more than five dozen feature films, with “The Eye of Iran: Cinematographer Mahmoud Kalari,” a series consisting of twelve of his major works, running September 16-30. On September 18 and 20, MoMA will be screening Panahi’s Offside, a brilliant look at gender disparity in modern-day Iran, filmed on location in and around Tehran’s Azadi Stadium with a talented cast of nonprofessional actors. Although it is illegal for girls to go to soccer games in Iran — because, among other reasons, the government does not think it’s appropriate for females to be in the company of screaming men who might be cursing and saying other nasty things — many try to get in, facing arrest if they get caught. Offside is set during an actual match between Iran and Bahrain; a win will put Iran in the 2006 World Cup. High up in the stadium, a small group of girls, dressed in various types of disguises, have been captured and are cordoned off, guarded closely by some soldiers who would rather be watching the match themselves or back home tending to their sheep. The girls, who can hear the crowd noise, beg for one of the men to narrate the game for them. Meanwhile, an old man is desperately trying to find his daughter to save her from some very real punishment that her brothers would dish out to her for shaming them by attempting to get into the stadium.
Despite its timely and poignant subject matter, Offside is a very funny film, with fine performances by Sima Mobarak Shahi, Shayesteh Irani, Ida Sadeghi, Golnaz Farmani, Mahnaz Zabihi, and Nazanin Sedighzadeh as the girls and M. Kheymeh Kabood as one of the soldiers. The film was selected for the 2006 New York Film Festival, but Panahi, who was supposed to attend the opening, experienced visa problems when trying to come to America and was later arrested by the Iranian government for his support of the opposition Green movement; he was sentenced to six years in prison and given a twenty-year ban on making new films, something he comments on ingeniously in 2012’s This Is Not a Film. “The Eye of Iran: Cinematographer Mahmoud Kalari” continues with such other Iranian films as Farhadi’s Oscar-winning A Separation, Kiarostami’s The Wind Will Carry Us, Makhmalbaf’s Gabbeh, and Kalari’s Cloud and the Rising Sun, his debut as a writer-director.
Louisiana-born, Los Angeles-based filmmaker Ramaa Mosley follows up her debut, the 2013 comedy The Brass Teapot, with the intense gothic thriller Lost Child. After serving two tours in the army, Fern Shreaves (Leven Rambin), upon the death of her father, returns to the dilapidated Ozarks home where she was raised. Suffering from PTSD — she insists she will never pick up a gun again — she has come back primarily to reconnect with her troubled, missing brother, Billy (Taylor John Smith). But instead she finds and takes in a mysterious young boy, Cecil (Landon Edwards), who appears to be living in the vast forest by her house. The polite ragamuffin child doesn’t say much about where he’s from, but when strange things start happening to Fern, Dr. Gill (Mark Ingalsbe) and dangerous forest-dwelling nut job Fig Karl (Kip Collins) warn her that Cecil is a tatterdemalion, a demonic figure literally sucking the life out of her. Fern becomes friendly with Mike Rivers (Jim Parrack), a sweet-natured bartender and child services worker who pooh-poohs the local folklore and thinks it best if Cecil continues to stay with her to avoid placement in foster care. But Fern is not used to making the right choices, either for herself or others, as events reach a fever pitch.
Mosley cowrote and produced the film with her Brass Teapot partner, Tim Macy, whose father lives in West Plains, Missouri, where Lost Child — originally titled Tatterdemalion — was shot, primarily with nonprofessional actors on an extremely low budget of $15,000. The film is beautifully photographed by Darin Moran, turning the forest into a character unto itself. Rambin, who played Glimmer in The Hunger Games and Athena Bezzerides on True Detective, gets deep into her role as Fern, who is desperately searching for some kind of family to hold on to, her eyes in almost constant motion. Arkansas native Edwards is exceptional as Cecil, reminiscent of Lucas Black in American Gothic, keeping viewers on edge as he harbors dark secrets. Named Best Narrative Feature at the 2018 Kansas City Film Festival, Lost Child — the title could describe several figures in the movie — evokes such works as Robert Mulligan’s The Other, Mervyn LeRoy’s The Bad Seed, Jodie Foster’s Nell, and François Truffaut’s The Wild Child while feeling wholly original. Mosley maintains a creepy, tense atmosphere every step of the way, investigating ideas of family and responsibility, enhanced by David Baron and Chris Maxwell’s subtle, revealing score and southern country-folk songs by Arkansas native Ashley McBryde. (The final song over the closing credits is sung by Rambin.) A twist on a familiar trope, Lost Child is fresh and contemporary while solidly connecting to our ancient human fears of the forest — and weird children.
SPIRITS OF THE DEAD (TRE PASSI NEL DELIRIO) (HISTOIRES EXTRAORDINAIRES) (Roger Vadim, Louis Malle, and Federico Fellini, 1968)
34 West 13th St. between Fifth & Sixth Aves.
Friday, September 14, 7:10; Friday, September 21, 7:00
Series runs September 14-27
The Quad gets right to the heart of the matter in the title of its new series, “Some Are Better than Others: The Curious Case of the Anthology Film.” Also known as an omnibus, anthology films are compilations of shorter works, often by master directors, on a specific theme. The Quad festival, running September 14-27, includes Aria, in which ten directors, among them Robert Altman, Jean-Luc Godard, Derek Jarman, Nicolas Roeg, and Ken Russell, make films inspired by opera pieces; the four-part 1945 British horror anthology Dead of Night; Lumière and Company, in which forty-one international filmmakers create fifty-two-second films using original equipment from the Lumière brothers; and Twilight Zone — The Movie, with Joe Dante, John Landis, George Miller, and Steven Spielberg revisiting classic episodes from the Rod Serling TV program. It is rare that all of the short films are of equal quality — hence, “Some are better than others” — and such is the case with the 1968 trilogy of Edgar Allan Poe stories, Spirits of the Dead.
The film begins with Roger Vadim’s Metzengerstein, in which a lush and lavishly shot Jane Fonda, in spectacular outfits and hairstyles, plays Countess Frederique de Metzengerstein, who has inherited a massive estate and rules it without any inhibitions — yet her devilish debauchery doesn’t quite satisfy her. After an accidental meeting with her calm, easygoing cousin, Baron Wilhelm Berlifitzing, portrayed by her brother, Peter Fonda, she tries to end a long-running feud with his family, resulting in some extremely peculiar moments of lust for him and, later, his horse. Vadim was married to Fonda at the time, adding to the incestuous titillation and bestiality that run through the tale, which was based on Poe’s first published short story.
In Louis Malle’s William Wilson, Alain Delon is the title character, an elegant cad who has been followed since childhood by his doppelgänger, who determinedly, and very publicly, rights his wrongs. The film, which is told in flashback as Wilson confesses to a priest that he has killed a man, features a chilling card game with a black-haired, ultra-serious Brigitte Bardot. Malle was not happy with the film, which he took on just for the money; thus, he acquiesced to certain elements because he was told to do so, from casting to certain plot points, going against his instincts. The three-pack concludes with Federico Fellini’s fiercely unpredictable Toby Dammit, adapted by Fellini and Bernardino Zapponi from Poe’s “Never Bet the Devil Your Head: A Tale with a Moral.” Fellini evokes La Dolce Vita and 8½ as British actor Toby Dammit (Terence Stamp) is lured to Rome to make a movie in exchange for a Ferrari. Amid bizarre interview segments, an absurdist awards ceremony, and meetings with his overbearing producers, Toby is haunted by a girl with a white ball (Marina Yaru).
Originally advertised as “Edgar Allan Poe’s Ultimate Orgy!,” Spirits of the Dead, narrated by Poe icon Vincent Price, is choppily edited and wildly uneven. The filmmakers deal with fear, fire, eroticism, passion, obsession, power, ennui, and death more directly than they do in their full-length works, but things are also often more unclear. Still, this is a rare chance to see these three shorts together on the big screen. And beware of what Poe wrote in his 1827 poem “Spirits of the Dead”: Thy soul shall find itself alone / ’Mid dark thoughts of the grey tomb-stone; / Not one, of all the crowd, to pry / Into thine hour of secrecy. / Be silent in that solitude, / Which is not loneliness — for then / The spirits of the dead, who stood / In life before thee, are again / In death around thee, and their will / Shall overshadow thee; be still. / The night, though clear, shall frown, / And the stars shall not look down / From their high thrones in the Heaven / With light like hope to mortals given, / But their red orbs, without beam, / To thy weariness shall seem / As a burning and a fever / Which would cling to thee for ever.” Spirits of the Dead is screening at the Quad on September 14 at 7:10 and September 21 at 7:00. The series continues with such other anthologies as Boccaccio ’70 (De Sica, Monicelli, Fellini, Visconti), Far from Vietnam (Klein, Ivens, Lelouch, Varda, Godard, Marker, Resnais), New York Stories (Scorsese, Coppola, Allen), and Seven Women, Seven Sins (Akerman, Cohen, Export, Gavron, Gordon, Ottinger, Sander).
French Institute Alliance Française, Florence Gould Hall
55 East 59th St. between Madison & Park Aves.
Tuesday, September 11 & 18, and Tuesdays in October, $14 (free on September 11), 4:00 & 7:30
Les Historiennes October 13, 30-$60, 7:00
FIAF pays tribute to French stage and screen star Jeanne Balibar with a two-month retrospective consisting of ten of her films, from 1997’s Mange ta soupe and 1998’s Only God Sees Me to a sneak preview of Barbara, her third collaboration with Mathieu Amalric. Despite the subtitle of the CinéSalon series, “Brilliant Quirky: Jeanne Balibar on Film,” the César Award-winning actress will actually be at FIAF as well, for Q&As following screenings of Jacques Rivette’s Tomorrow’s Another Day on October 2 at 7:30 and Barbara on October 9 at 7:30 — in addition to performing live in the one-woman show Les Historiennes in Florence Gould Hall on October 13, featuring Balibar reading essays by Anne-Emmanuelle Demartini, Charlotte de Castelnau, and Emmanuelle Loyer and discussing the profound impact the works have had on her life and career; the three historians will join Balibar in this Crossing the Line world premiere. The film series, which runs September 11 to October 30, also includes Pierre Léon’s L’Idiot and Raúl Ruiz’s Comedy of Innocence, with all screenings followed by a wine and beer reception. Don’t miss this opportunity to see one of the world’s most exquisite actresses in this exciting FIAF presentation.