"Robert Kaylor's 1971 documentary Derby is a quintessential movie about the American dream," writes Michael Joshua Rowin for Artforum. "The film centers on a young factory worker, Michael Robert Snell, and his pursuit of stardom on the professional roller derby circuit, but due to the proclivities of its eccentric subject — a handsome, 23-year-old husband and father of two who has not outgrown his wild adolescence — Derby is also a movie about harsh American realities. Since we never know whether Snell makes it, Kaylor's movie emphasizes the process of personal transformation rather than the goal of that transformation, and in so doing confronts the viewer with the sadness of a reinvention more deluded than courageous."
In 1972, Roger Ebert called Derby "one of the most engaging movies I have seen in a long time," and the year before, Jay Cocks wrote in Time, "It seems at first far too facile and fragile an idea for a full-length movie: the roller derby as a metaphor for America's competition, violence, degradation. Scenes of derby competition worked well in films like Petulia and Medium Cool because they were used as secondary symbols, episodes that were part of a more complex whole. But an entire feature devoted to the derby, its stars and its lifestyles?" Kaylor "confounds all expectations" and "uses a kind of modified neorealist technique in which real people re-enact real situations. The results are often stunning." Screens tonight at 92YTribeca with Kaylor's first documentary, Max-Out (1968).
Also tonight in New York, Where Does Your Hidden Smile Lie? (2001) screens at Anthology Film Archives. The New Yorker's Richard Brody: "Filming Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet at work in the editing room on their 1996 film Sicilia!, Pedro Costa offers an amazingly revealing study of the moviemaking process, an artistic manifesto on the wing, and a touching glimpse of an exceptional love story."
Same screen, but tomorrow: "Voulez-vous coucher avec God?, directed and written by Michael Hirsh and Jack Christie and produced with assistance of the Ontario Arts Council, stars the recently deceased Tuli Kupferberg as God, as well as the Old Testament patriarch Abraham," writes the Voice's J Hoberman. "As strenuously druggy, anarchic, and blasphemous as it is, this 1972 feature might have been one of the many post-El Topo movies auditioned as a midnight attraction by the old Elgin Theater and might even have caught on. Instead, it's having its belated local premiere this Sunday as part of Anthology's tribute to Kupferberg, beat poet, Fugs founder, and Voice contributor (mainly in the form of letters to the editor)."
And beginning tomorrow on the west coast: "The San Francisco Film Society honors [Ferzan] Ozpetek as part of its New Italian Cinema festival," writes Louis Peitzman in the Bay Guardian, "screening his most recent movie, Loose Cannons, along with some of his past work. For those unfamiliar with Ozpetek, this is a primo opportunity to get acquainted. And if you need added incentive, he has a knack for procuring plenty of Italian eye candy." The series runs through November 21.