Starting today, and through March 1, "a New York cinephile sick of hibernating with Netflix and Criterion can set out for Lincoln Center, where Film Comment Selects, now in its 12th edition, has become an essential annual gathering of provocative, overlooked and surprising films, some of which also turn out to be pretty great," writes AO Scott in the Times. "Unlike the other two high-profile annual Film Society grab-bags — the New York Film Festival in the fall and New Directors/New Films, a joint venture with the Museum of Modern Art that comes around in early spring — Film Comment Selects is a celebration of the ad hoc and the eclectic."
"We sort of do the lineup by the seat of our pants," Film Comment editor Gavin Smith tells Time Out New York's Keith Uhlich. "It's not all worked out on paper months ahead of time, and there is a kind of intuitive dimension to how we program. We really grab whatever we can, and it's often a surprise which films are included. As a result, the identity or the character of what we're doing tends to shift from year to year."
Tomorrow, J Hoberman will present Land Passion War of the Dead Christ Worlds, "based on 25 years of stunt projections and class presentations at NYU and Cooper Union. It's Doomsday USA, starring Asia Argento, Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning, Dennis Hopper, and the mind of Mel 'Mad Max' Gibson. With subtitles!" As a preview of sorts at the FSLC site, Violet Lucca has a good long talk with Hoberman and Ken Jacobs and briefly explains why: "In the upcoming issue of Film Comment, Hoberman writes about Joe Dante and Jon Davison's Movie Orgy, a touring series of screenings where two simultaneously running projectors would 'interpolate reedited TV shows, hygiene films, and newsreels.' Ken Jacobs also pioneered the use of multiple projections in his 24-hour long screening/performance A Good Night at the Movies. Hoberman, a former student and projectionist of Jacobs, was in the audience for A Good Night at the Movies 2, and later incorporated this technique into his own classes."
Lucca also talks with James Franco about My Own Private River, a re-working of Gus Van Sant's My Own Private Idaho (1991), that the ubiquitous actor/director/man-about-town will be presenting on Sunday: "After watching the film's dailies and outtakes with Van Sant, Franco edited together a new version combining footage from the original film and its unused residue."
At Twitch, Peter Gutierrez previews a good handful of highlights, including Mathieu Kassovitz's Rebellion: "Utterly gripping. Not quite political drama, not quite hostage thriller, but perfectly appropriating elements from each."
At the House Next Door, Andrew Schenker previews Michael Glawogger's Whores' Glory, "a revealing, troubling look into a trio of environments of prostitution," and Hirokazu Kore-eda's I Wish, which "reveals a profundity and a finely measured understanding of that thorny place where youthful naïveté runs into adult truths that belie the film's laid-back, playful tone."
And at the L, Joseph Jon Lanthier revisits Life Is Sweet (1990), in which Mike Leigh slithers out of high-concept realism and into the non-allegorical socio-political crawl spaces where a couple — played with nimble about-faces from bawdiness into crisis and back by Jim Broadbent and Alison Steadman — clings to the lowest rung of the middle class with purple-knuckled tenacity."
Updates, 2/20: "The Forgiveness of Blood unfolds as a parable about the follies of blood feuds," writes Andrew Schenker in Slant. "Of particular interest are the scenes of negotiation between representatives of the two families which give a feel of immersion in a particular place and its customs. But for the rest, [Joshua] Marston's film too often feels like an easy parable about the absurdities of a practice that doesn't take much effort to portray as inherently ludicrous. By focusing intensively on individual characters, the film wisely avoids giving its material a large-scale epic quality it can't sustain, but it also results in a project that lacks the complexity to register as more than a handsome little sketch." More from Nicolas Rapold in the L.
Kenji Fujishima at the House Next Door on the latest from Nanni Moretti: "Even at its messiest and most meandering, We Have a Pope exudes a refreshing warmth toward its characters, treating the religious traditions dictating their behavior not with spiky condescension but with affectionate amusement."
In Almayer's Folly, an "updated adaptation of the Joseph Conrad novel," Chantal Akerman "elides the politics and flattens the psychology in order to turn globalization's cultural dislocations — and its romantic agonies — into an archetypal experience," writes the New Yorker's Richard Brody.
Update, 2/21: In the annals of science fiction of [its] type, [Damir Lukacevic's Transfer (2010)] may not be on the exalted plane of its spiritual precursor, John Frankenheimer's Seconds," writes Kenji Fujishima at the House Next Door, "but Lukacevic's film satisfies, at a minimum, with a surfeit of intriguing ideas and delirious plot complications. Transfer offers an entertaining diversion, but [Adam Curtis's] All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace — in the sheer expansiveness of its vision, if nothing else — has the power to challenge one's view of the world."
Update, 2/22: Vadim Rizov reviews two selections at GreenCine Daily, the first being Alps: Confining Dogtooth almost entirely to one house helped Lanthimos establish a fixed number of rules and creating clear cause-effect relationships. Alps has more sets and less focus, pursuing goofy one-offs for their own sake. That wouldn't be a problem if these didn't sit side-by-side with ferocious acts that feel like gratuitous, already-familiar elements of the Lanthimos playbook, shock tactics for their own sake rather than logical elements of the narrative." [Update, 2/29: Nicolas Rapold talks with Lanthimos for the FSLC.]
The second is Fassbinder's Despair (1978), "about a man whose worst persecution nightmares come to life. The results surely qualify as one of the most lysergic takes, however oblique, on the Holocaust." [Update, 2/28: "Fassbinder brings Weimar-era decadence to life with vibrant derision and visual mystery," writes the New Yorker's Richard Brody.]
Updates, 2/24: "French filmmaker Eric Atlan's black-and-white Mortem has been billed as a 'metaphysical thriller' inspired by David Lynch and Ingmar Bergman," writes Ela Bittencourt at the House Next Door. "The more obvious comparison, however, would have been to French film noir. Mortem's opening scenes, in which two young women arrive by nightfall at an empty hotel, bring to mind Georges Franju's haunted Eyes Without a Face, based on Jean Redon's novel that also inspired Pedro Almodóvar's The Skin I Live In. In all three movies, bizarre experimentation, psychic or physical, and plot reversals ensue."
Update, 2/26: Alt Screen posts a huge roundup of original capsule reviews — a bit larger than capsules, actually: Nathan Lee on Almayer's Folly, Ken Russell's Altered States (1980) and Aleksandr Sokurov's Faust, Michael Atkinson on Alps and Morten Tyldum's Headhunters, Dan Callahan on Kenneth Lonergan's Margaret, Ingmar Bergman's Face to Face (1976) and Jean-Pierre Gorin, Michael Gottwald on Mortem and David Wain, and Mark Asch on The Forgiveness of Blood and Sara Driver's Sleepwalk (1986).
Update, 3/3: "Sara Driver's Sleepwalk ends at a curious impasse," writes Jesse Cataldo at the House Next Door: "Two key characters pass like ships in the night before settling into separate, oppositely composed shots, one defiantly asleep beneath the Brooklyn bridge, the other blindfolded beneath the Manhattan. It's a strange conclusion, but the perfect one for this loopy 78-minute reverie, which feasts alternately on the picture-postcard New York skyline and twinkling glimmers of downtown idiosyncrasy. Set in a mostly nocturnal lower Manhattan, the film is both a lucid evocation of place and a fantastical freeform trance, connected by an escalating series of bizarre incidents."
Update, 3/8: At Movie Morlocks, R Emmet Sweeney looks back in this year's edition.