This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001

TROPHY

Trophy

Trophy explores hunting and conservation of wild animals in African in surprising and complex ways

TROPHY (Shaul Schwarz & Christina Clusiau, 2017)
Quad Cinema
34 West 13th St. between Fifth & Sixth Aves.
Opens Friday, September 8
www.trophyfilm.com
quadcinema.com

In 2015, Minnesota dentist Dr. Walter Palmer shot and killed the beloved Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe, setting off international outrage about trophy hunting. Director Shaul Schwarz and codirector Christina Clusiau explore the much-reviled sport, with surprising results, in Trophy. The film, beautifully photographed in South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Namibia by Schwarz and Clusiau, can be extremely difficult to watch, but it is a must-see even though it includes several scenes of brutal animal shootings, including the harrowing killing of an elephant that cries out after it falls to the ground, its family nearby. But what starts out as a horrific look at hunters who pay seemingly ridiculous amounts of money to hunt the Big Five — it can cost upwards of half a million dollars to shoot a buffalo, leopard, elephant, lion, and rhino — quickly turns into a compelling study of conservation, poaching, and sustainability. “I know that a lot of people are confused how hunting and conservation go together,” Safari Club International Foundation president Joe Hosmer says. Despite a serious decline in the number of lions, elephants, and rhinos in the world since 1900 — the film points out that sixty percent of all wild animals have been lost since 1970 — some argue that hunting is necessary and that breeders are helping keep these animals from disappearing from the planet, while others claim just the opposite. “There’s a big industry in our country, not just the crocodiles — the lions, the sable, the buffalo. Everything has been bred for a purpose,” says Christo Gomes, hunting outfitter for Mabula Pro Safaris. “So, yeah, sure, some of them will be hunted. We as humans are going to eat it, we are going to use the skins; that’s the cycle of life.” Born Free USA CEO Adam Roberts explains, “You can just pick whatever animal you want from the menu that they offer you, see the price, and book the kill.” Ecologist and author Craig Packer sees both sides of the issue but can’t escape the basic idea that “canned hunting [is] not sport; it’s just killing.” South African Predator Association president Pieter Potgieter complains, “If we can’t get hunters to hunt our lions, we slaughter the lions and sell their bones.” Somewhere in the middle is South African wildlife officer Chris Moore, whose job is to find a balance between canned hunting, poaching, and animals that can destroy local families’ livelihoods. “Every single morning I look in the mirror because we’ve got to make sure that we don’t cross the bounds . . . that we can’t lose our humanity for humanity,” he says, acknowledging that some hunting is absolutely necessary to help both the animal population and the people, who are desperately poor, but adding, “We have to keep this fight going.”

Trophy

John Hume is on a virtual one-man crusade to protect the rhinos in Trophy

One of the central figures in the film is Buffalo Dream Ranch owner John Hume, the world’s largest rhino breeder, who has been selling off his vast assets to maintain the species. Every two years, Hume shaves off his rhinos’ horns so poachers won’t kill the animals in order to get the valuable objects; he firmly believes that the legalization of the rhino horn trade is essential to the survival of the animals. “The odds are stacked against them, and I’m always for the underdog. But more to the point, I got to know them, and they are the last animal in the world that deserves the persecution,” he says. “They don’t deserve it. They are the nicest, most user friendly animal that wants to stay this side of extinction.” Schwarz and Clusiau also follow Texas sheep breeder Philip Glass, a Bible thumper who comes from a hunting family and is seeking to score the Big Five. In describing a kill, Glass says, “And then you pull the trigger, and boom! You got him. And then all of that anticipation changes into a different emotion, of joy, and relief, and excitement, and anticipation, because you want to go over to him and see, what does he look like. What does he feel like. Where did he fall.” But it’s hard to feel much sympathy for the hunters as they clean up their kill, cover up the blood, and then pose for photographs over their trophy. As professional hunter Gysbert van der Westhuyzen, who leads trips in Namibia, says, “You have to work for your trophy. We believe here that if you want to hunt, it’s all in the foot, it’s walk and stalk. It’s also giving the animal a chance.” But he then tears up and heads off camera when asked if he ever gets attached to any of the animals he ultimately releases to be hunted. “There [are] animals you can’t let go of. You know, you will be playing with them and they become like a friend.” The film also includes a breeding auction, a look inside the Safari Club Convention in Las Vegas, a heated court case, and an intense debate over conservation between Hume and Born Free Foundation CEO Will Travers. But then you watch a hunter shoot a crocodile and yell, “It’s party time!” and it’s hard to think of anything other than what’s right in front of you. Schwarz (Narco Cultura) and Clusiau, who previously collaborated on A Year in Space and Aida’s Secrets, have done an outstanding job examining all sides of a surprisingly complex issue, which is about a lot more than just a dentist shooting a gorgeous beast and proudly posing with his victory. Trophy opens September 8 at the Quad with a series of Q&As with Schwarz and Clusiau on September 8 at 6:50 joined by producer Chris Moore and editor Jay Sternberg, September 9 at 6:50 with Time magazine photo editor Kira Pollack, and September 10 at 4:20 and then 6:50 with New York Times international photo editor David Furst.

COMPANY TOWN

Nicolaus Czarnecki

Crossett, Arkansas, pastor David Bouie leads fight against Koch Industries over environmental injustice and corporate accountability in Company Town (photo by Nicolaus Czarnecki)

COMPANY TOWN (Natalie Kottke-Masocco & Erica Sardarian, 2016)
Cinema Village
22 East 12th St. between University Pl. & Fifth Ave.
Opens Friday, September 8
212-529-6799
www.companytownfilm.com
www.cinemavillage.com


In Company Town, director, writer, and producer Natalie Kottke-Masocco and codirector, writer, and producer Erica Sardarian investigate the cancer cluster affecting Crossett, Arkansas, which has experienced an alarming number of men, women, and children suffering from the disease. Pastor David Bouie and others firmly place the blame on illegal dumping and sewage wastewater from the local Georgia-Pacific paper and chemical plant, which was purchased by Koch Industries, owned by controversial billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, in 2005. Kottke-Masocco and Sardarian spent nearly four years in Crossett, documenting the town’s fight against big business, an uphill battle all the way as it makes its case to the EPA, the Crossett Water Commission, ADEQ (Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality), the Arkansas Department of Health, and other organizations that are responsible for public health issues. “Koch Industries is one of the all-time champions of using the levers of political influence throughout the nation . . . and, yes, including Arkansas,” says investigative journalist and professor Charles Lewis. Former Obama administration environmental adviser Van Jones adds, “This is happening all across America; this is not just about one town. This is about a whole series of small towns in vulnerable neighborhoods that are being preyed upon by economic power and big polluters. They think they can get away with this. It is a century-defining problem, but it’s going to be resolved by little towns like Crossett fighting their way to some kind of justice.” The fight is led by Pastor Bouie, who refuses to take no for an answer as Crossett, the Forestry Capital of the World, uncovers the abuses by Georgia-Pacific and the “door-to-door cancer” occurring in the town of about 5,500 people, primarily of African-American heritage. Among those residents willing to go on camera and speak out against the plant that is also the financial lifeblood of the community are Jessie Johnson, Hazel Parker, Leona Edwards, young child and cancer sufferer Simone Smith, and former GP contractor Ken Atkins. They are joined by environmental scientist (and folk musician) Barry Sulkin; Elaine Shannon, editor in chief of Environmental Working Group; Huffington Post reporter Paul Blumenthal; research scientist Anthony Samsel; chemist Wilma Subra of the Louisiana Environmental Action Network; whistleblower Diki Guice, who only reveals his identity after he loses his job at GP; environmental law and policy expert Heather White; and Ouachita Riverkeeper Cheryl Slavant, who declares, “Everyone who lives in Crossett or works in Crossett is in danger.”

Nicolaus Czarnecki

A community comes together to fight environmental and corporate injustice in Company Town (photo by Nicolaus Czarnecki)

Company Town is one of those documentaries that reveals mind-boggling injustice, where the average person seemingly has no recourse against corporate greed and a government turning its back on them. When regional EPA administrators finally do come to Crossett to check out the residents’ claims firsthand, it is clear that Georgia-Pacific, which did not respond to requests from the filmmakers to participate in the film in any way, was warned in advance and has made some changes that last only a week. Despite evidence that families in eleven of fifteen homes on one block have members who have died from or are battling cancer, the various government organizations don’t find that unusual. Pastor Bouie, who is also a former GP employee and reserve deputy sheriff, is determined to never give up. “How many of us that have worked to keep the company going, keep the company in business, how many of us have to die? How many of our children and family members have to die in order to keep one job at this plant?” he says. And his wife, Barbara Bouie, states the situation very succinctly. “They know what they’re doing is wrong, and they need to correct it.” Unfortunately, there is still a long way to go. The film opens September 8 at Cinema Village, with the 8:00 shows Friday and Saturday night followed by Q&As with Kottke-Masocco and Sardarian along with producer Adam Paul Smith and cinematographer, editor, and producer Edgar Sardarian. The Friday night discussion will also feature New York State attorney general Eric Schneiderman and members of the cast.

PLUS ÇA CHANGE: FRENCH NEW WAVE IN THE NEW MILLENNIUM

Film Socialisme

Good luck figuring out what Godard’s Film Socialisme is about

FILM SOCIALISME (Jean-Luc Godard, 2010)
BAMcinématek, BAM Rose Cinemas
30 Lafayette Ave. between Ashland Pl. & St. Felix St.
Friday, September 8, 7:00 & 9:30
Series runs September 8-17
718-636-4100
www.bam.org

In the late 1950s and 1960s, the French New Wave exploded around the world, redefining cinema through independent production and the auteur theory, led by such innovative directors as Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut, Agnès Varda, Claude Chabrol, Éric Rohmer, Alain Resnais, and Jacques Rivette. Fifty years later, several of these filmmakers were still creating outstanding motion pictures, as evidenced by the BAMcinématek series “Plus ça change: French New Wave in the New Millennium,” running September 8-17. The twelve-film festival kicks off September 8 with Godard’s highly contentious and polemical Film Socialisme, his first work to be made fully in high-definition digital video. After watching the 2010 film, I was not quite sure what I had just witnessed. There was beautiful imagery shot by Fabrice Aragno and Paul Grivas, pretentious and funny literary dialogue and narration taken from such writers as Hannah Arendt, Jacques Derrida, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Walter Benjamin, appearances by punk icons Patti Smith and Lenny Kaye, and archival footage from old movies, divided into three sections: The first (“Such Things”) takes place on a cruise ship (that capsized a few years later), the second (“Our Europe”) at a gas station, and the third (“Our Humanities”) a trip through the Mediterranean, with stops at Egypt, Palestine, Odessa, Hellas, Naples, and Barcelona. There’s bullfighting, Stalin, Hitler, soccer, a llama, war, cats on the internet, and a girl reading Balzac’s Lost Illusions. There’s also anti-Semitism, with parts of the film inspired by Léon Daudet’s Le Voyage de Shakespeare and Godard using the name Palestine instead of Israel. In doing research on Film Socialisme to try to find out what I had seen — not usually a good sign for a movie — I found lavish five-star reviews, angry one-star condemnations, and a series of fascinating essays by Richard Brody in the New Yorker discussing, among other things, Stalin looting the Spanish treasury, Godard’s fondness for tennis, and the strange story of Willi Münzenberg. And of course, there are statements about life and cinema, truth and fiction. “You see, with the verb ‘to be,’ the lack of reality becomes flagrant,” one character says. “Liberty is expensive. But one can’t buy her with gold, and not with blood but with cowardice, prostitution, and betrayal,” another says. Film Socialisme comes to an abrupt end as the words “No Comment” take over the screen in a stark, bold sans serif font. ’Nuf said.

In addition to the below films, the series includes Resnais’s You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet and Wild Grass, Chabrol’s The Girl Cut in Two, Varda’s The Gleaners & I, Rohmer’s The Romance of Astrea and Celadon, and Rivette’s The Duchess of Langeais.

Jeanne Balibar is extraordinary in Jacques Rivette masterpiece

Jeanne Balibar is extraordinary in Jacques Rivette masterpiece

VA SAVOIR (WHO KNOWS?) (Jacques Rivette, 2001)
Saturday, September 9, 2:00, 6:30
www.bam.org

Jacques Rivette’s Va Savoir is a long, talky French movie about very beautiful, very complicated, sex-crazed men and women — and it just might be the master filmmaker’s crowning glory, a magnificent masterpiece that deserved its slot as the New York Film Festival’s opening night selection back in 2001. This erotically charged, very funny drama is set around a traveling theater company’s return to Paris to put on Pirandello’s As You Desire Me in the original Italian. Ugo (Sergio Castellitto), the director and costar of the play, is romantically involved with Camille (Jeanne Balibar), the lead actress, who visits her former lover Pierre (Jacques Bonnaffé), a philosopher with a thing for Heidegger, who is now living with Sonia (Marianne Basler), a dance instructor who is being chased by Arthur (Bruno Todeschini), a ne’er-do-well whose half sister, Do (Hélène de Fougerolles), has taken a liking to Ugo and offers to help him find an unpublished ghost play by Carlo Goldini, which her mother (Catherine Rouvel) just might have. Every minute of this film is pure magic, and at the center of it all is the fantastique Camille, an instinctual, graceful actress whom everyone — men and women — fall in love with, played by the fantastique, instinctual, graceful Balibar, whom audiences will fall in love with as well. French film enthusiasts should watch for Claude Berri in a small role. Lovingly photographed by William Lubtchansky and edited by his wife, Nicole Lubtchansky, Va Savoir is screening at 2:00 and 6:30 on September 9 in the BAMcinématek series “Plus ça change: French New Wave in the New Millennium.”

The Case of the Grinning Cat

Chris Marker goes in search of smiling felines in The Case of the Grinning Cat

THE CASE OF THE GRINNING CAT (Chris Marker, 2006)
Sunday, September 10, 2:00, 5:15, 8:30
www.bam.org

Legendary cat lover and filmmaker Chris Marker (La Jetée, Sans Soleil) goes on a search for a friendly feline in the slight, playful hour-long documentary The Case of the Grinning Cat. In post-9/11 Paris, when much of the world was proclaiming “We are all Americans,” Marker discovered a series of stenciled yellow cats showing up in odd places, from the sides of buildings to internet sites to classical works of art. After disappearing for a short time — causing Marker great frustration — they return as placards and masks at protest movements against U.S. imperialism and other causes. Although the film is fun to watch, it never quite connects all the dots. The Case of the Grinning Cat is screening at 2:00, 5:15, and 8:30 on September 10 in the BAMcinématek series “Plus ça change: French New Wave in the New Millennium.”

GOODBYE TO LANGUAGE

Jean-Luc Godard’s Goodbye to Language speaks for itself

GOODBYE TO LANGUAGE (ADIEU AU LANGAGE) (Jean-Luc Godard, 2014)
Saturday, September 16, 2:00, 4:30, 7:00, 9:30
www.bam.org
www.kinolorber.com

After the New York Film Festival advance press screening of Jean-Luc Godard’s 3D Goodbye to Language in 2014, a colleague turned to me and said, “If this was Godard’s first film, he would never have had a career.” While I don’t know whether that might be true, I do know that Goodbye to Language is the 3D flick Godard was born to make, a 3D movie that couldn’t have come from anyone else. What’s it about? I have no idea. Well, that’s not exactly right. It’s about everything, and it’s about nothing. It’s about the art of filmmaking. It’s about the authority of the state and freedom. It’s about extramarital affairs. It’s about seventy minutes long. It’s about communication in the digital age. (Surprise! Godard does not appear to be a fan of the cell phone and Yahoo!) And it’s about a cute dog (which happens to be his own mutt, Miéville, named after his longtime partner, Anne-Marie Miéville). In the purposefully abstruse press notes, Godard, eighty-three at the time, describes it thusly: “the idea is simple / a married woman and a single man meet / they love, they argue, fists fly / a dog strays between town and country / the seasons pass / the man and woman meet again / the dog finds itself between them / the other is in one / the one is in the other / and they are three / the former husband shatters everything / a second film begins / the same as the first / and yet not / from the human race we pass to metaphor / this ends in barking / and a baby’s cries.” Yes, it’s all as simple as that. Or maybe not.

Jean-Luc Godard has fun with 3D in GOODBYE TO LANGUAGE

Jean-Luc Godard has fun with 3D in Goodbye to Language

Godard divides the film into sections labeled “La Nature” and “La Métaphore,” cutting between several ongoing narratives, from people reading Dostoyevsky, Pound, and Solzhenitsyn at an outdoor café to an often naked man and woman in a kitchen to clips of such old movies as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and The Snows of Kilimanjaro to Lord Byron and the Shelleys on Lake Geneva. Did I say “narrative”? It’s not really a narrative but instead storytelling as only Godard can do it, and this time in 3D, with the help of cinematographer Fabrice Aragno. Godard has a blast with the medium, which he previously used in a pair of recent shorts. He has fun — and so do we — as he toys with the name of the film and the idea of saying farewell (he plays with the French title, Adieu au langage, forming such puns as “Ah, dieu” and “Ah, dieux,” making the most of 3D layering); creates superimpositions and fast-moving shots that blur the image, making the glasses worthless; changes from sharp color to black-and-white to wild pastel-like bursts of red, blue, and green; evokes various genres, with mystery men in suits and gunshots that might or might not involve kidnapping and murder; and even gets a kick out of where he places the subtitles. These games are very funny, as is the voiceover narration, which includes philosophy from such diverse sources as Jacques Ellul (his essay “The Victory of Hitler”) and Claude Monet (“Paint not what we see, for we see nothing, but paint that we don’t see”). And for those who, like my colleague, believe the film to be crap, Godard even shows the man sitting on the bowl, his girlfriend in the bathroom with him, directly referencing Rodin’s The Thinker and talking about “poop” as he noisily evacuates his bowels. So, in the end, what is Godard saying farewell to? Might this be his last film? Is he saying goodbye to the old ways we communicated? Is he bidding adieu to humanity, leaving the future for the dogs, the trees, and the ocean? Does it matter? A hit at Cannes, Goodbye to Language is screening September 16 at 2:00, 4:30, 7:00, and 9:30 in the BAMcinématek series “Plus ça change: French New Wave in the New Millennium.” You can check out the NSFW French trailer here.

BEACHES OF AGNES

Agnès Varda takes an unusual approach to autobiography in THE BEACHES OF AGNES

THE BEACHES OF AGNÈS (LES PLAGES D’AGNÈS) (Agnès Varda, 2008)
Sunday, September 17, 2:00
www.bam.org

“The whole idea of fragmentation appeals to me,” filmmaker, photographer, and installation artist Agnès Varda says in the middle of her unusual cinematic autobiography, the César-winning documentary The Beaches of Agnès. “It corresponds so naturally to questions of memory. Is it possible to reconstitute this personality, this person Jean Vilar, who was so exceptional?” She might have been referring to her friend, the French actor and theater director, but the exceptional Belgian-French Varda might as well have been referring to herself. Later she explains, “My memories swarm around me like confused flies. I hesitate to remember all that. I don’t want to.” Fortunately for viewers, Varda (Jacquot de Nantes, The Gleaners & I) does delve into her past in the film, sharing choice tidbits from throughout her life and career, in creative and offbeat ways that are charmingly self-effacing. Using cleverly arranged film clips, re-creations, photographs, and an array of frames and mirrors, the eighty-year-old Varda discusses such colleagues as Jean-Luc Godard, Chris Marker, and Alain Resnais; shares personal details of her long relationship with Jacques Demy; visits her childhood home; rebuilds an old film set; speaks with her daughter, Rosalie Varda, and son, Mathieu Demy; talks about several of her classic films, including La Pointe Courte, Cléo from 5 to 7, and Vagabond; and, in her ever-present bangs, walks barefoot along beaches, fully aware that the camera is following her every move and reveling in it while also feigning occasional shyness. Filmmakers don’t generally write and direct documentaries about themselves, but unsurprisingly, the Nouvelle Vague legend and first woman to win an honorary Palme d’or makes The Beaches of Agnès about as artistic as it can get without becoming pretentious and laudatory. The film is screening September 17 at 2:00 in the BAMcinématek series “Plus ça change: French New Wave in the New Millennium.”

SUMMER DOUBLE FEATURES! LITTLE FUGITIVE / SPEEDY

LITTLE FUGITIVE

Joey Norton goes on the adventure of a lifetime in Coney Island in underground indie classic Little Fugitive

LITTLE FUGITIVE (Morris Engel, Ray Ashley, and Ruth Orkin, 1953)
Film Forum
209 West Houston St.
Monday, September 4, 12:30 & 4:00
Series continues through September 5
212-727-8110
filmforum.org

Labor Day is the traditional end of summer, and Film Forum gets in on the fun with an inspired double feature of two Coney Island specials. Screening at 12:30 and 4:00, Morris Engel’s charming Little Fugitive is one of the most influential and important — and vastly entertaining — works to ever come out of the city. The underground classic won the Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 1953, was nominated for a Best Screenplay Oscar, and was entered into the National Film Registry in 1997. Written and directed with Ray Ashley and Ruth Orkin, Engel’s future wife, Little Fugitive follows the gritty, adorable exploits of seven-year-old wannabe cowboy Joey Norton (Richie Andrusco, in his only film role), who runs away to Coney Island after his older brother, Lennie (Richard Brewster), and his brother’s friends, Harry (Charlie Moss) and Charley (Tommy DeCanio), play a trick on the young boy, using ketchup to convince Joey that he accidentally killed Lennie. With their single mother (Winifred Cushing) off visiting her ailing mother, Joey heads out on his own, determined to escape the cops who are surely after him. But once he gets to Coney Island, he decides to take advantage of all the crazy things to be found on the beach, along the boardwalk, and in the surrounding area, including, if he can get the money, riding a real pony.

A no-budget black-and-white neo-Realist masterpiece shot by Engel with a specially designed lightweight camera that was often hidden so people didn’t know they were being filmed, Little Fugitive explores the many pleasures and pains of childhood and the innate value of home and family. As Joey wanders around Coney Island, he meets all levels of humanity, preparing him for the world that awaits as he grows older. Meanwhile, Engel gets into the nooks and crannies of the popular beach area, from gorgeous sunrises to beguiling shadows under the boardwalk. In creating their beautifully told tale, Engel, Ashley, and Orkin use both trained and nonprofessional actors, including Jay Williams as Jay, the sensitive pony ride man, and Will Lee, who went on to play Mr. Hooper on Sesame Street, as an understanding photographer, while Eddie Manson’s score continually references “Home on the Range.” Rough around the edges in all the right ways, Little Fugitive became a major influence on the French New Wave, with Truffaut himself singing its well-deserved praises. There’s really nothing quite like it, before or since. The 12:30 show will be introduced by Mary Engel, the daughter of Morris Engel and Ruth Orkin.

Harold Lloyd has a crazy time in Coney Island in Speedy

SPEEDY (Ted Wilde, 1928)
Film Forum
209 West Houston St.
Monday, September 4, 2:00
Series continues through September 13
212-727-8110
filmforum.org

In between the two showings of Little Fugitive is another delightful treat, Ted Wilde’s Speedy, with live musical accompaniment by pianist Steve Sterner. Much like the end of the silent film era itself, the last horse-drawn trolley is doomed in Harold Lloyd’s final silent film. Big business is playing dirty trying to get rid of the trolley and classic old-timer Pop Dillon. Meanwhile, Harold “Speedy” Swift, a dreamer who wanders from menial job to menial job (he makes a great soda-jerk with a unique way of announcing the Yankees score), cares only about the joy and wonder life brings. But he’s in love with Pop’s granddaughter, Jane (Ann Christy), so he vows to save the day. Along the way, he gets to meet Babe Ruth. Wilde was nominated for an Oscar for Best Director, Comedy, for this thrilling nonstop ride through beautiful Coney Island and the pre-depression streets of New York City. Film Forum’s second annual Festival of Summer Double Features continues through September 5 with such other sweet pairings as Panique and Peeping Tom, Point Blank and The Killers, and The Big Lebowski and The Last Picture Show.

LOOK NOW: THE UNIVERSE ACCORDING TO NICOLAS ROEG

Dont Look Now

John Baxter (Donald Sutherland) cradles his dead daughter (Sharon Williams) in Nicolas Roeg’s psychological horror masterpiece, Don’t Look Now

DON’T LOOK NOW (Nicolas Roeg, 1973)
Quad Cinema
34 West 13th St. between Fifth & Sixth Aves.
September 1, 9:00, September 3, 5:45, September 5, 6:55, September 7, 9:10
Series runs September 1-7
quadcinema.com

The Quad invites film lovers into the very strange cinematic world of eighty-nine-year-old British writer, director, and cinematographer Nicolas Roeg in the one-week series “Look Now: The Universe According to Nicolas Roeg,” beginning September 1. The eleven works in the series celebrate Roeg’s spectacular visual sense as well as his love of celebrity, the supernatural, and pop culture. The centerpiece of the Quad presentation is Roeg’s 1973 masterpiece, the haunting and harrowing psychological horror tale Don’t Look Now. Written by Allan Scott and Chris Bryant and based on a short story by Daphne du Maurier, the film is an extraordinarily rich and detailed study of a family trying to regain itself following the tragic loss of a young daughter. “Nothing is what it seems,” John Baxter (Donald Sutherland) says, alerting the viewer early on. In the opening, scene, Christine (Sharon Williams) and her brother, Johnny (Nicholas Salter), are playing outside, he in a blue jacket, riding his red bike over the green grass and through trees, she playing with a talking doll and red-striped white ball while wearing a red raincoat even though the sun is shining bright on a nearly cloudless day. Over Pino Donaggio’s gentle piano score, Anthony B. Richmond’s camera zeroes in on a puddle next to a pond, then editor Graeme Clifford cuts to a fire raging in a fireplace in front of which the children’s mother, Laura (Julie Christie), is reading about Lake Ontario and their father, John (Donald Sutherland), is looking at glass slides of a church in Venice he has been asked to restore. In one image of a stained-glass window, Christ, in a red robe, is cradling the lamb symbolizing sinners, while a figure in a red hood sits in a front pew, gazing up at it. The scene then shifts back to Christine in her red mac, seen reflected upside down in the pond. Johnny rides over a pane of glass, breaking it and falling to the ground. John looks up, sensing something. Laura reads aloud from her book. She innocently puts her hand to her mouth. Christine puts her hand to her mouth. John smiles at Laura. Johnny tries to fix one of the wheels on his bicycle. Christine throws the ball in the air. John tosses a pack of cigarettes to Laura. The ball splashes in the pond. John knocks over a glass. The ball swirls in the water. Red liquid oozes from the figure in the church slide. John feels something is wrong and heads outside. Johnny runs toward him. Christine, lying on her back, slowly submerges under the water. John rushes into the pond. Laura looks at the bloody slide. With a gasp, John dives under the water. Laura tosses the slide onto her book, Beyond the Fragile Geometry of Space. The blood spreads further across the slide as Donaggio’s music turns ominous. John lifts the lifeless body of his daughter out of the pond, letting out a heartbreaking howl. John is too late to save Christine. Laura sees what is happening and screams. Roeg cuts to a power drill marked with a red panel drilling into the wall of the church in Venice that John is renovating. It’s a spectacular scene, every second critical to the rest of the film and how it’s photographed and edited, dominated by the color red (along with sharp blues and greens), shattering glass, people falling, and water representing death as John and Laura try to put together the pieces of their devastatingly fractured life.

Dont Look Now

Laura (Julie Christie) and John Baxter (Donald Sutherland) try to get their fractured life back on track in Venice in Don’t Look Now

In a restaurant in Venice, the City of Canals, a pair of elderly sisters, Heather (Hilary Mason) and Wendy (Clelia Matania), stare at Laura and John. Heather, a blind woman with second sight, tells Laura that she can see Christine and that she is happy. Laura wants to believe her, but John is skeptical. The couple soon return to their hotel, where they engage in one of the most graphic sex scenes of its time, as Roeg cuts between their lovemaking and John and Laura getting dressed matter-of-factly afterward, the fiery emotion of their passion underscored by their practical desire to create another child. Meanwhile, a serial killer is on the loose in Venice, the victims being pulled from the canals. And John becomes obsessed with a figure in red he spots in the corners of the narrow streets and bridges of the city, wondering whether his dead daughter is trying to contact him. It all leads to an unforgettable finale of sheer genius. Viewers mustn’t look away from the screen for even a split second, as Roeg imbues each shot with power and meaning, from music and color to dialogue and cross-cutting, metaphorical clues and red herrings melding together, leaving nothing to chance.

Even the making of the film is filled with fascinating intrigue and classic stories. Wandering through Venice, Roeg came upon a church that was actually being renovated; coincidentally, it was named St. Nicolo dei Mendicoli, and there was already a sign on it that read “Venice in Peril.” When a stuntman refused to do a dangerous scene inside the church, Sutherland hesitantly did it himself, not knowing that the wire he was told would protect him was liable to break at any moment. For a long time it was rumored that the sex scene between Christie and Sutherland, which was added at the last moment, was not simulated but real, a claim vehemently denied by the participants (and one that did not make Warren Beatty too happy). Renato Scarpa, who plays the police inspector, could not speak English, so he performed his lines phonetically, not knowing what he was saying. And Roeg discovered Donaggio, a singer who had never composed a film score before, working on a gondola; Donaggio went on to compose the soundtrack for dozens and dozens of movies, including several for Brian De Palma. (Donaggio had already had a big hit with “Lo Che Non Vivo [Senza Te],” which Dusty Springfield turned into “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me.”) But all of that merely enhances what is already a remarkable film, one of the greatest psychological horror movies of all time, and one that begs to be watched over and over again because of its many intricacies and nuances. Roeg might be telling us not to look, but we can’t help ourselves. You’ll also never think of the color red again in quite the same way. In addition to Don’t Look Now and the below films, the Quad is also screening Bad Timing: A Sensual Obsession, Castaway, Far from the Madding Crowd, Insignificance, Eureka, and Petulia, with such stars as George C. Scott, Theresa Russell, Tony Curtis, Gene Hackman, Oliver Reed, Richard Chamberlain, Harvey Keitel, and Art Garfunkel, all either directed and/or photographed by Roeg.

Walkabout

Runaway siblings (Jenny Agutter and Luc Roeg) learn about life from an Aborigine (David Gulpilil, later to be seen in Peter Weir’s The Last Wave) in Nicolas Roeg’s Walkabout

WALKABOUT (Nicolas Roeg, 1971)
Quad Cinema
September 1, 4:50, and September 2, 3:10
quadcinema.com

Nicolas Roeg’s first solo project, as director and cinematographer, is a beautiful film about a teenage girl (Jenny Agutter) and her young brother (Roeg’s real-life son, Luc Roeg) lost in the Australian outback after their father (John Meillon) tries to kill them. The full ninety-six-minute version soars when the siblings encounter an Aborigine (David Gulpilil, later to be seen in Peter Weir’s The Last Wave) on a walkabout, living off the barren land to prove his manhood. The film was written by Edward Bond, based on James Vance Marshall’s novel. Agutter went on to star in such films as Logan’s Run, Equus, and An American Werewolf in London.

Performance

Mick Jagger and Anita Pallenberg show off their acting chops in Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg’s very strange Performance

PERFORMANCE (Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg, 1970)
Quad Cinema
Friday, September 1, 6:50, Sunday, September 3, 1:00, and Wednesday, September 6, 9:10
quadcinema.com

A British gangster on the run hides out with a psychedelic rock star in this strangely enticing film from writer-director Donald Cammell (The Demon Seed) and Nicolas Roeg (making his big-screen directorial debut as well as serving as cinematographer). James Fox didn’t know what he was getting into when he signed on to play Chas, a mobster who finds sanctuary with mushroom-popping rock-diva has-been Turner, played with panache by Mick Jagger. Throw in Anita Pallenberg, a fab drug trip, and the great “Memo to Turner” scene and you have a film that some consider the real precursor to MTV, some think a work of pure demented genius, and others find to be one of the most pretentious and awful pieces of claptrap ever committed to celluloid.

The Witches

Anjelica Huston has a wicked blast in Nicolas Roeg’s Roald Dahl adaptation, The Witches

THE WITCHES (Nicolas Roeg, 1990)
Quad Cinema
Saturday, September 2, 1:15, and Tuesday, September 5, 5:00
quadcinema.com

Executive producer Jim Henson’s feature-film swan song is an enchanting tale of a young boy who, upon encountering a witches convention led by the evil Grand High Witch (Anjelica Huston), is given a tail — well, actually, he’s turned into a cute little mouse. The witches have come up with a plan to rid the world of children by turning them all into rodents, and little Luke (Jasen Fisher) and old Helga (Mai Zetterling) are the only ones who can stop them. However, this is no Stuart Little (Rob Minkoff, 1999); based on a wicked story by Roald Dahl and directed by Nicolas Roeg (whose 1973 stunner, Don’t Look Now, dealt with a couple’s agony over their dead child), The Witches is definitely not for little kids. The cast also includes turns by such British faves as Rowan Atkinson, Jane Horrocks, and Brenda Blethyn.

The Man Who Fell to Earth

David Bowie made his feature-film debut in Nicolas Roeg’s The Man Who Fell to Earth

THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH (Nicolas Roeg, 1976)
Quad Cinema
Saturday, September 2, 5:15, and Sunday, September 3, 8:00
quadcinema.com

Nicolas Roeg’s adaptation of Walter Nevis’s 1963 science-fiction novel, The Man Who Fell to Earth, is a nearly unwatchable unmitigated mess, with gorgeous visuals and beautiful individual scenes getting lost in a narrative nightmare. Written by Paul Mayersberg, the 1976 film served as a vehicle for androgynous pop star David Bowie, in his movie debut, playing television-addicted Thomas Jerome Newton, a soft-spoken alien who has come to Earth to figure out a way to save his water-starved planet. He enlists the aid of attorney Oliver V. Farnsworth (Buck Henry, in hysterically thick bottle glasses) and college professor and scientist Dr. Nathan Bryce (Rip Torn) as he builds up his World Enterprises Corporation and develops an awkward, volatile relationship with hotel employee Mary-Lou (Candy Clark). Editor Graeme Clifford can’t assemble the many hackneyed scenes into any kind of intelligible narrative; even the numerous sex scenes, in which we get to see various naked women as well as Torn’s schvantz and Bowie’s thin white duke, get confusing fast. Shortly before his death in January 2016 at the age of sixty-nine, Bowie participated in a musical adaptation of the film and novel, Lazarus, that was equally strange if somewhat more successful.

HOMAGE TO JEANNE MOREAU: THE TRIAL

The Trial

Anthony Perkins stars as Josef K. in Orson Welles’s adaptation of Franz Kafka’s The Trial

THE TRIAL (Orson Welles, 1962)
Film Forum
209 West Houston St.
September 1-7
212-727-8110
filmforum.org

The Trial is the best film I have ever made,” Orson Welles told the BBC in a 1962 interview. While that might not be quite true — Welles already had Citizen Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons, Macbeth, Othello, and Touch of Evil on his resume — his free-form adaptation of Franz Kafka’s posthumously published 1925 novel is an extraordinary work that has only been increasing in critical stature since its 1962 release. The absurdist drama now can be seen in a new restoration playing September 1¬–7 as part of a two-movie Film Forum tribute to Jeanne Moreau that also includes Jacques Demy’s Bay of Angels; Moreau passed away on July 31 at the age of eighty-nine. Welles reordered the narrative and changed the ending in telling Kafka’s harrowing tale of Josef K. (Anthony Perkins), a low-level bureaucrat who suddenly finds himself in the midst of a mysterious existential ordeal, under arrest for an unnamed crime and facing an unknown fate. Welles begins the film with Kafka’s “Before the Law” parable, told by the auteur over “pin-screen animation” by Alexander Alexeïeff and Claire Parker. Later, Welles, as Albert Hastler, known as the Advocate, repeats the story to Josef, confirming that Welles the filmmaker is fully in control, serving as judge, jury, and executioner of everything we see and hear — and we indeed hear a lot of Welles, who dubbed the voices for many of the characters himself. At the end of the opening parable, Welles explains, “’Tis been said that the logic of this story is the logic of a dream . . . of a nightmare,” and the camera then focuses in on Josef in bed, where he’s about to be roused and placed under arrest.

Josef has no idea what he’s done, shocked to find Inspector A (Arnoldo Foà) hovering over him and three of his coworkers searching the room of his landlady, Mrs. Grubach (Madeleine Robinson). His teenage cousin, Irmie (Naydra Shore), is concerned for him, and his uncle, Max (Max Haufler), takes him to see Hastler to beg the powerful Advocate to handle Josef’s case. As he gets more caught up in the puzzling conundrums, he meets such oddball characters as the pitiful Bloch (Akim Tamiroff), another Advocate client; the Chief Clerk (Fernand Ledoux); the Examining Magistrate (Max Buchsbaum); the Courtroom Guard (Wolfgang Reichmann); a priest (Michael Lonsdale); and painter Titorelli (William Chappell), whose bizarre tree-house-like studio is surrounded by giddy young girls. The locations are spectacular; lacking the necessary budget to build sets, Welles was going to use vast, empty spaces, but instead he accidentally came upon the abandoned Gare d’Orsay train station in Paris, which featured immensely large rooms that evoked an endless Baroque warehouse. He also shot in a Stalinist apartment complex in Zagreb, Yugoslavia, which evoked the cold uniformity of the lives of its citizenry. Each set offers surprises for the viewer, beginning with Josef’s bedroom, which cinematographer Edmond Richard (Chimes at Midnight, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeisie) shoots at skewed, low angles, keeping everything off balance while the tall Perkins struggles to avoid hitting his head on the ceiling, trapped from the very start.

The Trial

Jeanne Moreau and Anthony Perkins play neighbors in Orson Welles’s The Trial

Josef goes on a metaphysical journey, accompanied by Tomaso Albinoni’s grand, emotional Adagio for Organ and Strings and jazzy noir, that takes him to Hastler’s bedroom, where the Advocate seems to spend most of his time sleeping, smoking, eating, and drinking instead of tending to his clients; a room stuffed with stacks of old, decaying files, as if there’s no longer any past; and an office with perfectly arranged rows and rows of robotic workers at desks. In a large courtroom, Josef picks up a law book, but it is thickly covered with dust, as if it hasn’t been opened in a long time, letting him know that justice is going to be hard to come by in this surreal world. He might think he is guilty of nothing, but in Welles’s conception of Kafka’s tale, anyone living within the constructs of this society is automatically implicated. Josef is also guilty of a certain kind of sexual misconduct with women; he is attracted to nearly every female he meets, whether single, married, or involved with another, including Burstner, Leni (Romy Schneider), Hilda (Elsa Martinelli), Miss Pittl (Suzanne Flon), and the court archivist (Paola Mori), stopping his supposedly desperate search for the truth to snag a kiss, a hug, or a possible quick roll in the hay, even if it complicates his mission. In so doing, Josef — and Welles, of course — condemns us all. “It’s the most autobiographical movie that I’ve ever made, the only one that’s really close to me,” Welles wrote of the film. “It’s much closer to my own feelings about everything than any other picture I’ve made.” That quote might indeed be true; despite all of the surreal absurdity in The Trial, there is something inherently frightening and believable about it, especially when viewed today, in a world dominated by surveillance, the surrender of private space, and a system of government with a rapidly deteriorating rule of law.

4 BY TERI GARR: ONE FROM THE HEART

Frannie (Teri Garr) and Hank (Frederic Forrest) try to hold on to their love in One from the Heart

Frannie (Teri Garr) and Hank (Frederic Forrest) try to hold on to their love in One from the Heart

ONE FROM THE HEART (Francis Ford Coppola, 1982)
BAMcinématek, BAM Rose Cinemas
30 Lafayette Ave. between Ashland Pl. & St. Felix St.
Saturday, September 2, 7:20, and Sunday, September 3, 4:30
Series runs September 1-4
718-636-4100
www.bam.org

New York, New York meets La La Land in Francis Ford Coppola’s romantic musical fantasia, One from the Heart. The film, which famously bankrupted the director and his Zoetrope Studios when it was released in 1982, is screening September 2 and 3 in the four-day BAMcinématek series “4 by Garr,” a quartet of movies starring one of the best actresses of the 1970s and 1980s, Teri Garr. Garr, who will turn seventy in December, got her start as a backup dancer in a bunch of Elvis Presley movies, then went on to make such popular pictures as Mr. Mom with Michael Keaton, Oh, God! with George Burns and John Denver, Close Encounters of the Third Kind with Richard Dreyfuss, and The Black Stallion with Mickey Rooney. But her career was cut short when she became ill in 1999 and was later diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She has made very few public appearances in the last ten years, since suffering a brain aneurysm, but she continues to fight the disease. This series reminds us all what a terrific actress Garr was, her quirkiness and infectious charm ever-present onscreen. In One from the Heart, she plays Frannie, who works at the Paradise Travel agency with her best friend, Maggie (Lainie Kazan). Frannie lives with Hank (Frederic Forrest), a would-be musician who owns a surreal junkyard, called Reality Wrecking, with his best friend, Moe (Harry Dean Stanton). With their dreams drifting further and further out of reach, Frannie and Hank spend the Fourth of July separately; Frannie is intrigued by local piano player Ray (Raúl Juliá), while Hank has the hots for circus girl Leila (Nastassja Kinski). Fireworks are on the way, just not necessarily what was expected. Written by Coppola and Armyan Bernstein, the film is lushly photographed by Vittorio Storaro, who previously worked extensively with Bernardo Bertolucci and won an Oscar for his cinematography on Apocalypse Now. Storaro drenches the screen in oversaturated blues, reds, greens, and pinks, creating a dreamlike neon atmosphere in which scenes sometimes converge in unusual ways.

Frannie gets carried away by in famous Francis Ford Coppola disaster

Frannie (Teri Garr) gets carried away by Ray (Raúl Juliá) in famous Francis Ford Coppola disaster

Tom Waits’s lounge-music score features duets with Crystal Gayle that both enhance the mood and propel the plot, which could use a little help. Coppola re-created the Vegas strip at Zoetrope, with no location shooting; production designer Dean Tavoularis and art director Angelo P. Graham transformed Sin City into a dazzlingly fake place, as if existing only in the main characters’ minds. The film cost $26 million to make and took in less than $1 million at the box office, a disaster that puts it firmly in the pantheon with Cleopatra and Heaven’s Gate. But seen thirty-five years later, One from the Heart is not quite the failure it is usually believed to be. The sets are spectacularly over the top, Storaro’s use of color — on Forrest’s face alone — is otherworldly, and Waits’s songs can serve as a good distraction at just the right times. There are still a whole lot of cringeworthy moments that make no sense — let’s not get started on the airport mess — but, as with Heaven’s Gate, it’s not nearly as bad as legend would have it. And some of it is downright delightful. Garr owns her role from start to finish, whether putting up a window display or being carried naked through the streets. Keep a look-out for cameos by Waits and Rebecca de Mornay, along with Coppola’s parents in an elevator. The BAM series runs September 1-4 and also includes Mel Brooks’s classic Young Frankenstein, in which Garr plays the sexy Inga; Martin Scorsese’s cult fave After Hours, with Garr as a retro waitress; and Sydney Pollack’s Tootsie, in which Garr earned an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress as actress Sandy Lester, who competes for the same role as her friend and teacher, Michael Dorsey (Dustin Hoffman).