We begin in New York. “Wisecracks ricochet at breakneck speed at the Footlights Club, the women-only theatrical boardinghouse in Midtown Manhattan that is the center of Gregory La Cava’s brilliant sober comedy Stage Door (1937), writes Melissa Anderson, noting that the film, screening Wednesday through Friday as part of MoMA’s series, Acteurism: Ginger Rogers, “crackles with zingers ad-libbed by a cast that includes Ginger Rogers, Katharine Hepburn, Eve Arden and Lucille Ball.”
Also writing for Artforum, Nick Pinkerton surveys the John Carpenter retrospective running at BAMcinématek through Sunday and the Film Society of Lincoln Center series Tell It Like It Is: Black Independents in New York, 1968–1986, on through Thursday. On a related note, Flavorwire‘s Alison Nastasi writes up a list of “50 Essential African-American Independent Films.”
MoMA’s Documentary Fortnight is on through February 27 and, writing for the L, Aaron Cutler recommends Project Shirley Clarke, to be presented by Milestone Films on Saturday, and talks with Nathalie Nambot and Maki Berchache (Burn the Sea), Irene Gutiérrez Torres (Hotel Nueva Isla), Kevin Jerome Everson (Park Lanes), Jean-François Caissy (Guidelines), Peter Bo Rappmund (Topophilia), Barbara Kopple (Hot Type: 150 Years of The Nation)—and with Wang Bing about Father and Sons, which Tom Paulus writes about in comparison with Lav Diaz’s Storm Children, Book One at photogénie:
Manny Farber once summarized the art cinema of the 70s, a cinema very much present in both Wang’s and Diaz’s films, as two types of structure: dispersal and shallow-boxed space. Dispersal (exemplified by the films of Jacques Rivette, who was of course influenced by Rossellini) stands for the ‘uncircled’ open frame, for the idea of ‘keeping the freshness and energy of a real world within the movie’s frame.’ The shallow-boxed space (exemplified by structural cinema, Straub-Huillet and Chantal Akerman) is ‘squared to the edges of the frame,’ ‘the formal-abstract-intellectualized content signifying a filmmaker who has intellectually surrounded the material.’ In rare cases—Straub-Huillet, the Akerman of Jeanne Dielman—this type of ‘very hard presentation of minimal visual information’ manages to create both ‘a feeling of cement blocks and extraordinary poetry.’ What Wang and Diaz have attempted to do in their most recent films is to harmonize the two structures: the two filmmakers at the same time want to keep things open, ‘uncircled’—if only because the films are by necessity only part, one chapter of a much broader story—, keeping their distance to allow reality to seep through, and to formalize the films according to an abstract aesthetic or intellectual schema. This is not impossible: Kiarostami has done it in most of his films from the 90s, the Straubs and Pedro Costa in some of theirs. But none of these films were documentaries: in Wang and Diaz the documentarian’s respect for his subjects clearly clashes with this encirclement.
From tomorrow through Friday, “Jim Jarmusch joins his rock band Sqürl to play live accompaniment to his favorite Man Ray films in a free program presented by Arts Brookfield as part of WNYC’s New Sounds Live concert series,” notes Steve Dollar in his roundup of local goings on for the Wall Street Journal.
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On Friday, the Japan Society presents Nagisa Oshima’s promo for Isuzu, It’s Me Here, Bellett (1964). “Starting with Yasujiro Ozu as advisor to the script, the credits include a slew of A-list film directors such as Heinosuke Gosho and Yoshitaro Nomura with a hip jazz soundtrack by jazz pianist and composer Hachidai Nakamura.” The screening will be preceded by eight experimental shorts by Osamu Tezuka.
Eric Rohmer‘s The Tree, the Mayor and the Mediatheque (1993) screens tomorrow at the French Institute Alliance Française and Indiewire presents a review by former Cahiers du Cinéma editor-in-chief Antoine de Baecque:
Rohmer has never done anything so simple. Not a single tracking shot, few camera movements, a few pans to reframe a character or a landscape. A film in which the style has become absolutely prosaic, to such a point that you could nearly forget it. On the other hand, the director has rarely mixed genres to this extent. From theatrical effects on the stage of a primary school to the real feeling of a documentary recording the confessions of an authentic farmer in Vendée, from scenes of Parisian life to walks through the bocage, from pillow talk to a musical’s happy end, the film offers its viewer a tour of a wide range of genres that is both gratifying and somewhat disconcerting.
There’s still tonight and tomorrow to catch up with Film Forum‘s John Boorman retrospective. In the Voice, Stephanie Zacharek notes that’s he’s best known for Point Blank (1967), Deliverance (1972) and Hope and Glory (1987), “three disparate, elegantly constructed pictures that almost any director would be proud to have on a résumé. But the movies the 82-year-old Boorman made before, after, and in between those extraordinary benchmarks fill in a grand and much broader story in this unicorn tapestry of a career.”
On Thursday, Origins of the Species, a wide-ranging survey of work by Lynn Hershman Leeson, will opens Bridget Donahue, “a new gallery on the Lower East Side being opened by a longtime director at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, the West Village gallery,” notes Randy Kennedy in the New York Times.
From Friday through March 23, Microscope Gallery will present The Given, “the second solo exhibition by artist James Fotopoulos at the gallery featuring new video, drawings and digital prints.”
Bay Area. With the Pacific Film Archive series Ready for His Close-Up: The Films of Billy Wilder on through February 28, Michael Guillén presents David Thomson‘s commentary on Some Like It Hot (1959), delivered at PFA on February 1, 2007.
On Friday evening, the San Francisco Cinematheque presents Inevitability of Forgetting: Films of Lewis Klahr.
London. For the Quietus, Mat Colgate talks with Goblin keyboardist Claudio Simonetti about Saturday night’s live performance at the Barbican of the soundtrack for Dario Argento‘s Profondo Rosso on the film’s 40th anniversary.
Paris. Currently on view a “stone’s throw from the Musée Rodin” through May 16, The Burghers of Vancouver is a video installation by Adad Hannah and Denys Arcand, a response to Rodin’s monument The Burghers of Calais (1885).
Vienna. The Austrian Film Museum’s series Asphalt. City People and Weimar Cinema, 1923-1933 is on through March 9.