"A downbeat homage to bright-lights showbiz dramas, an epic orchestration that indulges in stubbornly obsessive riffs, Martin Scorsese's New York, New York (1977) seems to value awkwardness and indecision above all else," writes Dan Callahan for Alt Screen, and much of what follows is pretty rough medicine for those of us who love this film. "Coming off the success of Taxi Driver (1976), Scorsese secured a big budget and MGM sound stages for what was meant to be his tribute to and deconstruction of classic Hollywood musicals, but the tribute got lost somewhere in the deconstruction." The movie "plays out like some errant crossbreeding of Charles Vidor's Love Me or Leave Me (1955) and John Cassavetes's Minnie and Moskowitz (1971)."
It's screening as part of Hollywood Musicals of the 1970s and 1980s, Part 1: The 1970s, a series opening tomorrow at Anthology Film Archives and running through June 26. In his overview for the L, Nick Pinkerton dwells a bit on Pennies from Heaven (1981): "A pained story of pop treacle as spiritual sustenance during the breadlines era, Pennies stars Steve Martin, and was directed by former hoofer Herbert Ross from Dennis Potter's script, accordioning his own BBC miniseries. Ross keeps Potter's Brechtian conceit of characters broadcasting their souls through the warbled recordings they lip-synch, but the original homemade production numbers have blown up into show-stoppers, while designer Ken Adam and DP Gordon Willis decorate the 'real' Chicago with Walker Evans and Edward Hopper iconography. The resulting fantasia goes beyond Potter's tidy real-life/pop-heaven dichotomy: characters live and die half-in, half-out of a dream." Along with Bob Fosse's All That Jazz, "we find at the heart of these films the essentially 70s deconstructionist urge: The musical must be destroyed in order to save it."
Over in the Voice, Nick Pinkerton reviews another Anthology screening, Jacqueline Caux's The Colors of the Prism, the Mechanics of Time (tomorrow through June 23): "A mysterious title for what is, essentially, a series of polite calls on the surviving eminences of the (principally American) 20th-century musical avant garde. High points include a view of a rehearsing Terry Riley, and a chat with his fellow epic beard, La Monte Young, who indulges in some throat singing."
"Three nonfiction features in the Human Rights Watch Film Festival take 21st-century incarceration, and accompanying judicial abuses, as their focus," writes Bill Weber at the House Next Door. "Portraying American law enforcement in the war on terror as a galling dog-and-pony show, Better This World reveals the prosecution of a pair of naïve, youthful activists as a rigged spectacle reminiscent of federal infiltration of antiwar groups in the 1960s…. Love Crimes of Kabul is a blunt record of a handful of inmates at a women's prison in Afghanistan's capital, a facility where half of the detainees are held for the 'moral crimes' of adultery, premarital sex, or running away from their families." And "Luc Côté and Patricio Henríquez's spare yet demanding You Don't Like the Truth: 4 Days Inside Guantanamo presents excerpts of 16-year-old Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen apprehended after a deadly firefight in an Afghan village, being interrogated in 2002 at Guantanamo Bay by his country's intelligence agents, who transparently (and extralegally) attempted to gather evidence with which his American captors could prosecute him."
As Anthony Kaufman notes in the Voice, this year's festival, opening today and running through June 30, spotlights a "panoply of atrocities," including "mass killings in Guatemala and Colombia, sex trafficking in Eastern Europe, and the intractable madness of the Arab-Israeli conflict." For Stephen Holden, writing in the New York Times, though "the horrors of the world — including recent events like the unrest in Iran [in, for example, Ali Samadi Ahadi's The Green Wave, reviewed by Lauren Wissot at the House] — are explored in many of the films…, there are also heroes and people of courage and principle struggling against injustice, oppression and poverty. In the United States one of the most underappreciated forces for good, Harry Belafonte, is profiled in Susanne Rostock's documentary Sing Your Song, whose subject, now 84, is still a passionate, unbowed crusader for racial equality and social justice. Which is to say that the festival is not without its hopeful and inspiring stories of men and women who risk everything to stand up for what is right."
The Film Society of Lincoln Center posts a brief statement from festival director John Biaggi.
Tomorrow sees a 30th anniversary screening of Steven Spielberg's Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) at the Academy in Los Angeles, but I'm making note of it here in the New York roundup because tomorrow also sees a screening of Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation at UnionDocs in Brooklyn. You'll have heard about this one. Chris Strompolos and Eric Zala were 12 when they set out to remake Raiders shot by shot; it took them seven years to complete. And it's screening as part of the Northside Festival, happening from today through Sunday. The L has a playlist of highlights for you.
For more on the original Raiders, by the way, see Sharon Knolle (Cinematical) and Tom Shone.
NOT IN NEW YORK
"Part art show, part spectacle, part viewing library, Watch Me Move, the new Barbican Gallery show, tackles the complex, surreal and visually bountiful history of animation with the clear-eyed confidence of Buzz Lightyear setting out into space," writes John L Walters at the Eye blog. Creative Review's Eliza Williams adds that the exhibition "mixes familar names from the commercial world with pieces by contemporary artists who have been influenced by animation techniques."
In Berlin, the Babylon's Hitchcock retrospective kicks off tomorrow and runs through July 14.