2.March.2012: The Guardian’s Ben Child reports that after walking the red carpet as the Gaddafi-esque Admiral General Aladeen of the “Republic of Wadiyah,” Hugo star Sacha Baron Cohen took a pass on the ceremony itself. Oscar didn’t stand a chance against Baron Cohen: “Organizers had at one point last week threatened to withdraw [his] tickets over concerns that an appearance as…the central figure of the comic’s forthcoming film might prove inappropriately self-promoting for the event. Baron Cohen responded by releasing a video in character warning of ‘unimaginable consequences’ if he was not allowed to attend.”
A week after The Artist swept the award season, the Museum of Modern Art draws on its silent comedy holdings for “Cruel and Unusual Comedy Reprised.” “Nineteen-twenties Hollywood was, among other things, a wild party, and many of its movies were wild, too,” writes The New Yorker’s Richard Brody. “The scintillating antics and rough-and-ready productions that were left out of The Artist—the energizing originality that helped to make the Hollywood silent cinema a universal language—will be richly on display [during ‘Cruel and Unusual Comedy’].”
A plethora of silent comedies are also streaming on Fandor, including two of the films showing at MoMA: Mack Sennett’s The Knockout and Leo McCarey’s All Wet. The latter is one of ten McCarey films available on Fandor starring Charley Chase , the subject of a brief appreciation by David Cairns for The MUBI Notebook. “Charley Chase is, I suppose, fated to remain outside the first rank of silent comics,” he writes. “The problem is simply one of amnesia: a lot of people, even among hardcore cinephiles, simply don’t have time for anything outside the elite circle of the very best. That’s understandable: life is short and film history is both long and broad, but if you’re missing Chase you’re missing some serious hysteria in your life.”
Elliot Lavine’s first program of pre-Code Hollywood movies in fifteen years opens at San Francisco’s Roxie Theater tonight with a double-bill of the Howard Hawks Scarface and Mervyn LeRoy’s Three on a Match. Dennis Harvey runs down the whole series for The San Francisco Bay Guardian, and he’s particularly flabbergasted by Kongo, which he describes as “infinitely skuzzier” than Tod Browning’s notorious Freaks (also showing in the series). “It stars Walter Huston as wheelchair-bound ‘Deadlegs’ Flint. He’s used cheap magic tricks to appoint himself fearsome white-man ‘god’ amongst spear-carrying tribesmen in a ‘dunghill African outpost, all part of an elaborate, insidious plan to wreak vengeance on the rival who stole his wife and health long ago.”
French film critic Nicole Brenez’s roving program at Anthology Film Archive, “Internationalist Cinema for Today,” opens tonight with several radical films made between 1965 and 1970. Moving Image Source takes the series as an occasion to publish an essay Brenez co-authored with French director Philippe Grandrieux titled “Cultural Guerillas: The Fundamental Questions of a Cinema of Intervention.”
The incendiary debut of one of cinema’s most influential radicals, Pier Paolo Pasolini, is one of Fandor’s four new featured films this week. Critic Fernando F. Croce described Accattone as creating “a sui generis cinematic language of intensely conflicting forces, rough and delicate and fully worthy of its Bach chorales.” Also featured this week is Caterpillar, Kōji Wakamatsu’s harrowing vision of Japanese nationalism during the Second Sino-Japanese War; Marwencol, a less traditional representation of trauma and an imagined military past awarded Best Documentary of 2010 by the Boston Society of Film Critics; and Helen, which UK critic Mark Kermode described as “a haunting gem that has grown more mysterious with each viewing” when he named it one of his favorite films of 2009.