"Ah, the pungent odor, the fermented esprit, the sulfurous insanity of the New York Asian Film Fest!" exclaims Michael Atkinson, introducing his overview of the lineup in the Voice. "It's a new year for the city's favorite attack of the imported-irrational, and as always, the jejune state of the late-spring/early-summer box office gets a shot in the ass. The pulp is especially ripe this year, particularly from Japan, where manga-ness seems to have gone from a national pastime to a mass psychosis."
For R Emmet Sweeney, writing for TCM, "most of the revelations in this year's slate came in the NYAFF sidebar, Sea of Revenge: New Korean Thrillers, so I'll focus there." Michael J Anderson splits the difference, concentrating on Takashi Miike's Ninja Kids!!! and Na Hong-jin's The Chaser (image above). Time Out New York's got a slide of "titles worth cutting class for." Cinespect's Ryan Wells picks out a few highlights as well and also interviews NYAFF co-founder Grady Hendrix. Simon Abrams has an overview at the House Next Door and, in the Wall Street Journal, Steve Dollar considers the festival's ten-year run and quotes Hendrix, too: "Every year is our last. But, as corny as it sounds, the audience saves us every time." Tomorrow through July 14.
"[T]he necrophilic narrative of vulnerable Norma Jeane Baker, of the beautiful dead girl, of the candle in the wind, has threatened to obscure Monroe at her most alive," writes Melissa Anderson in the Voice. "BAMcinématek's 14-film tribute to cinema's most iconic blonde reminds us why we couldn't take our eyes off her: She generates a charisma, often sexual but sometimes beyond sex, so uncontainable and unclassifiable that it eclipses everything else around her." Marilyn! runs from tomorrow through July 17 and we have the series to thank for two pretty damn fine essays, Dan Callahan's for Alt Screen and Joseph Jon Lanthier's for Slant.
The Cinema of Jerzy Skolimowski is on through the weekend at the Museum of the Moving Image (see Ben Sachs and Ignatiy Vishnevetsky's interview and an earlier roundup here in The Notebook). Four Nights with Anna (2008), screens Saturday and Sunday and, for Jim Emerson, writing for Alt Screen, it's "one of the great movies about voyeurism (think Michael Powell's Peeping Tom, Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window, David Lynch's Blue Velvet, and Krzysztof Kieslowski's A Short Film About Love, to name a few). As such, it's also a movie about movie-watching and movie-making. As Leon ([Artur] Steranko), the conscience and consciousness of the film, observes the object of his desire, her window becomes his screen. Unlike James Stewart in Rear Window (but very much like Buster Keaton in Sherlock, Jr) he daringly crosses the void that separates them and enters her world through that permeable rectangle. Four times."
"Romanian director Cristi Puiu's follow-up to The Death of Mr Lazarescu, a bleak comedy following a dying man from hospital to hospital, is in some ways an even tougher movie," writes J Hoberman in the Voice. "Aurora, shown in the 2010 New York Film Festival, is a continuous search for meaning — a murder mystery, shot vérité-style, in which, for most of its three-hour running time, the only 'known known' is the killer's identity."
Manohla Dargis in the New York Times:
This is the second film in Mr Puiu's projected cycle, Six Stories From the Outskirts of Bucharest, a series about love, morality and human relations. (The cycle's title refers to Eric Rohmer and his Six Moral Tales.) He has said he sees Aurora as something of a counterpoint to Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans, the 1927 FW Murnau lyrical classic.
"Murnau's film is about his hopes concerning the relationship between a man and a woman, what that should be," Mr Puiu explained in one interview. "This film is about what I think is the relationship between human beings." He added that he doesn't "know what real life is like outside Romania, but in Bucharest, where I live, relationships are pretty brutal."
That may make Aurora sound like a dirge rather than a song, when it's not. Clocking in at an engrossing, immersive three hours, the movie is a mystery about the human soul. It's brutal in its particulars, with dreary streets, bleak houses, stray and (maddeningly) barking dogs and the grim, hard faces of men and women wearing masks bequeathed to them by Ceausescu. Yet the film is also marked with oddly funny, touching exchanges that waver between the ridiculous and the tragic (a mother chastising her child so harshly that she becomes absurd) and that are more generous about people than Mr Puiu's tough talk may suggest. His stare may seem at times pitiless, but there's compassion in his insistence on looking.
More from Richard Brody (New Yorker), Steve Erickson (Gay City News), Mark Jenkins (NPR), Nicolas Rapold (L), Carlos J Segura (Cinespect) and Scott Tobias (AV Club, B+). Earlier: Reviews from Cannes, including Daniel Kasman's. Through Tuesday at the IFC Center.
"From Maelström to Incendies, Denis Villeneuve has displayed a propensity for articulating the human impact of violence through a purposely flamboyant style that's discomfiting in its emotional candor and sincerity," writes Ed Gonzalez in Slant. "Before the Oscar-nominated Incendies cemented his reputation as a major film artist, the Québécois filmmaker made Polytechnique, an austere dramatization of the École Polytechnique shooting massacre that claimed the lives of 14 women on December 6, 1989. Though it's as schematic in construction as Incendies, the film doesn't grind along to a ponderous plot; it's unnerving abstraction of its subject matter more daringly relays Villeneuve's view of the human cost of gender warfare." More from Melissa Anderson (Voice), David Fear (TONY, 4/5) and AO Scott (NYT). At MoMA through Tuesday.
"Small Town Murder Songs is centered on the odd coupling of a kicking indie soundtrack and the somber setting of a small Ontario town dominated by a large Mennonite population," writes Alison Willmore at the AV Club. "The second feature from promising Canadian filmmaker Ed Gass-Donnelly (This Beautiful City), the film is as much music-video collection as crime drama: The interludes in which the songs swell into voluptuous prominence balance out a tale of crime and redemption so spare, it's almost abstract. It turns out to be an uncommonly powerful combination, the investigation of the rural area's first murder case taking on the heft of a religious parable, thanks to the music, elegant lensing, and Peter Stormare's fine lead performance." More from David Fear (TONY, 3/5) and Mark Holcomb (Voice). At Brooklyn's reRun Gastropub Theater for a week starting tomorrow.
Anton Perich's Muhammad Ali screens tomorrow evening at Anthology Film Archives. It's basically, as Nick Pinkerton puts it in the Voice, a "home video [that] conjoins two visits to Muhammad Ali's training camp in Deer Lake, Pennsylvania" in 1973 and 1974: "Digging these tapes up, Perich exhumes a time-capsule curio, if not buried treasure." More from Elise Nakhnikian for the L.
Between Two Worlds screens tonight at the IFC Center. Andrew Schenker in the Voice: "Working with directing/romantic partner Alan Snitow, [Deborah] Kaufman's essay film uses events such as the screening of a movie critical of Israel's occupation at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival or the proposed building of a 'Museum of Tolerance' in Jerusalem on the site of an ancient Muslim graveyard to reflect on essential dilemmas facing contemporary Jewish life."
IN SAN FRANCISCO
"'Watch out for Children' is the blanket title of Midnites for Maniacs' latest triple bill, this one playing Friday at the Roxie," writes Dennis Harvey for SF360. "It's also the ad line that was initially misapplied to this program's middle feature, a cult favorite that was poorly handled and barely released by its skittish studio. 1979's Over the Edge remains fairly obscure — a classic to some, unknown to everyone else — but it's one of the all-time great movies about real (as opposed to Hollywoodized) teenagers. It was an acknowledged influence on everything from rock soundtracks to subsequent 70s nostalgia flick Dazed and Confused and Nirvana's 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' video. Director Jonathan Kaplan and scenarist Tim Hunter will be present at this very rare theatrical revival."
More from Dennis Harvey, here in the Bay Guardian on Going South: American Noir in Mexico, running at the Pacific Film Archive from tomorrow through July 29: "The eight vintage black and white features in curator Steve Seid's program trace Yank protagonists' odysseys southward, often on the lam or otherwise under duress. Some never actually make it to Mexico, or just to those border towns fabled for lawlessness and licentiousness (if largely because northern money, cultural ignorance, and thrill-seeking encouraged criminal predation)." Image above: Jacques Tourneur's Out of the Past (1947).
Also in the SFBG, Cheryl Eddy on the North Korean film Centre Forward, "a 1978 curio that was digitally restored in 2010. Directed with limited artistic flair by Pak Chong-Song (according the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts' website, 'considered one of the DPRK's finest filmmakers'), this 75-minute, black-and-white propaganda piece weaves the tale of Comrade In Son, a gifted but inexperienced soccer player struggling to succeed on a team that recently upgraded its training regime from merely exhausting to sadistically brutal."
IN OTHER NEWS
The Summer 2011 issue of Film Quarterly features editor Rob White on Duncan Jones's Source Code and Lee Chang-dong's Poetry, Paul Julian Smith on Mohamed Diab's Cairo 678 and Ahmad Abdalla's Microphone, Gilberto Perez on Aleksandr Dovzhenko ("While Eisenstein theorized the 'montage of attractions,' Dovzhenko was arguably the better practitioner") and Edward Lawrenson on Béla Tarr's The Turin Horse.
Missing from Tuesday's roundup on new DVDs are yet two more releases from Criterion, both of them Louis Malle films, Zazie dans le métro (1960) and Black Moon (1975). Criterion's posted the accompanying essays by Ginette Vincendeau (Zazie and Moon), while Paul Matwychuk and Heather Noel discuss Zazie and, in Slant, Joseph Jon Lanthier finds Moon "a tad Malle-nourished." Meantime, the Playlist looks back on a total of five films by Malle.
"Margaret Tyzack, 79, a British actress perhaps best known to American audiences for her roles in the acclaimed BBC television series The Forsyte Saga and I, Claudius, died Saturday in London," reports the Los Angeles Times. "Among Tyzack's film credits are Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey and A Clockwork Orange and Woody Allen's Match Point and Scoop."