Long Shadows: The Late Work of Satyajit Ray opens this evening and runs through April 26 at the Film Society of Lincoln Center: "Of special interest is Home and the World [1984; image above], his final, wonderful adaptation of a work by his mentor, Rabindranath Tagore (whose 150th anniversary we celebrate this year), as well as his final, luminous work, The Stranger, an extraordinary summing up of so much of Ray's worldview graced with a sensational lead performance by Utpal Dutt." Plus, "we asked some friends of the Film Society: what film would you recommend seeing, and why?" Meantime, Paul Brunick posts a roundup on Distant Thunder (1973) at Alt Screen. Update, 4/20: Salman Rushdie for the FSLC on The Golden Fortress (1974): "The film is a true delight and the moment when the Golden Fortress is discovered — when it is revealed not to be a child's fantasy but a real place, shimmering on the horizon — is one of the greatest screen moments in this great film director's magnificent oeuvre."
Two notes on films not quite late enough to be included in the series: Marc Campbell presents a fantasy sequence running nearly ten minutes from Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne (1968): "Trippier than E.T. and every bit as weirdly wonderful as anything in Eraserhead, Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne is a 'head' film for all ages." And Criterion will be releasing The Music Room (1958) on DVD and Blu-ray on July 19.
"Jane Campion's movies have varied from Gothic romance (The Piano) to erotic thriller (In the Cut) to literary drama (Bright Star)," writes Dennis Lim in the Los Angeles Times, "but most of them center on willful, even difficult women. Her long line of prickly heroines, who tend to challenge or disregard societal pieties and are generally regarded by those around them as threats or annoyances, begins with the sisters Kay and Dawn in Sweetie, her 1989 debut, which the Criterion Collection is issuing in a Blu-ray high-definition edition this week. More than two decades since its Cannes premiere launched the New Zealand-born, Australian-based Campion onto the world stage, Sweetie has lost little of its mysterious charm and transgressive power." Four out of five stars from Glenn Heath Jr in Slant: "Natural forces war with repressed emotions in Jane Campion's Sweetie, where the wind in the trees signifies the obscured memories and potential salvation of a family mired in stagnation."
"Based on Barnsley-born Barry Hines's novel A Kestrel for a Knave (1968), produced by Tony Garrett and directed by Ken Loach, Kes, while unwaveringly focused on working-class marginality and crushed ambition, is not fundamentally pessimistic," argues Josef Braun. "Rather, its raison d'être lies in its authenticity, in granting its characters their due dignity by conveying their arduous lives and meager options for advancement with as much fidelity to the political realities of its era as possible."
More from Darrell Hartman in Interview: "In the 45-minute 'making-of' documentary that accompanies Criterion's new Blu-Ray reissue of Kes, Loach explains how 'observation' is the governing concept behind his filmmaking. He doesn't meddle with or force a story, and says he treats his blue-collar film subjects with the respect he would accord them in real life — no bright lights or intrusive close-ups. Loach makes the interesting point that there's something inherently critical in contrast lighting. In order to let the characters come alive, Loach posits, 'You just give them space to be who they are.' To be sure, the long and long-medium shots of Billy swinging a lure for his swooping bird tug at your heart in a way that a well-lit close-up never could." And more, too, from Graham Fuller for Criterion.
"One of the true curiosities of the cinema, Gerd Oswald's 1958 Paris Holiday has finally turned up in an acceptable widescreen transfer as part of Shout! Factory's hit-or-miss set The Bob Hope Collection, Vol 2," notes Dave Kehr. "Oswald, the elegant, German-trained director of such thrillers as A Kiss before Dying (1956) and westerns like Fury at Sundown (1957), seems like an odd choice to direct this functionally bilingual comedy starring Bob Hope and Fernandel… But Oswald negotiates the minimal plot with his usual care and concision, and creates an appropriately hushed, respectful atmosphere around an unexpected bit player — Preston Sturges, then dangling from the end of his rope as an exile in Paris, after his Hollywood career had evaporated. This would be Sturges's last contact with the cinema, and in his brief appearance he projects a wonderfully dignified, amused presence — a sly old lion in winter." More in his New York Times column.
"One of the cinema's most marvelous oddities (or two for the price of one), Der Tiger von Eschnapur and Das Indische Grabmal (both 1959) are films so luridly intense you think you may just be dreaming them," writes Philip Horne in the Telegraph. "Doubtless some will find these works uncomfortably 'Orientalist' — they're undeniably filled with the clichés of the romantic India of the 1920s (exotic dancers, sinister priests, sexual passion, torture, dungeons, lepers, gurus, elephants aplenty etc). But the comic-book blatancy of the genre trappings makes one want to postpone feeling any qualms, and mostly we're closer here to the delirious India of Powell and Pressburger's gloriously stylised, studio-shot Black Narcissus (1947) than to the more observed, actual subcontinent of Jean Renoir's superbly poetic, documentary-feeling, location-shot The River (1950). The trance-like pleasure of the storytelling, in fact, is quite majestic — and these unique films could even be felt to resemble late Shakespearean romance — The Tempest, Pericles, Cymbeline, The Winter's Tale — in their shrugging off of worries about realistic plausibility and [Fritz] Lang's profound reversion to the roots of creativity." R2 release from Eureka/Masters of Cinema.
DVD roundups. Jordan Cronk and Kathie Smith (In Review Online), Ed Gonzalez (House Next Door), Mark Kermode (Observer), Harley W Lond (Cinematical), Paul Matwychuk and Heather Noel, Noel Murray (LAT) and Stephen Saito (IFC).
The 2011 Short Film Competition: "Completing the list of the Official Selection of the 64th Festival de Cannes, and composed this year of nine films from nine different countries, the 2011 competition brings together a great variety of cinematographic concepts, differing in style, genre, length and national origin." Earlier: The Critics' Week and Directors' Fortnight lineups.
San Francisco's Artists' Access Television is celebrating the first five years of the ATA Film & Video Festival with Playback: 2006-2010, happening this evening at the Roxie.
On the other coast, Rooftop Films has announced the lineup for their 15th Annual Summer Series. It'll be one thing or another — screenings, live events, what have you — every weekend from May 13 through August 20.
IN OTHER NEWS
The new issue of La Furia Umana features — in English; there's more in Spanish and French — Nicole Brenez and Toni D'Angela's conversation with Monte Hellman, Jonathan Rosenbaum and Toshi Fujiwara on Cockfighter (1974), Maxime Renaudin on Hellman's work in general, an anecdote from Steven Gaydos and Hellman himself on Victor Erice's The Spirit of the Beehive (1973). Plus, "Some Thoughts on Film and Reality (About Road to Nowhere).
In the new Spring 2011 issue of Filmmaker, Scott Macaulay talks with Mark Ruffalo about his directorial debut, Sympathy for Delicious, and James Ponsoldt asks David Robert Mitchell about The Myth of the American Sleepover.