Sean Penn has directed only a few films, and although his latest got skewered at Cannes, his others are unusually powerful, Hollywood but off-kilter. His first collaboration with Jack Nicholson, starring along with Anjelica Huston, is precisely that: a remarkably observed drama of revenge and guilt.
How else could we end our epic Herzog series except here, on Klaus Kinski’s ultimate ecstasy? One of cinema’s most insane undertakings—the crew literally had to drag a steamboat up a mountain—Herzog’s crowning masterwork is a sweeping ode to mankind’s quest to leave a footprint on an infinite world.
More Buñuel! Shot in brilliant Eastmancolor, Death in the Garden is one of the master’s most overlooked gems, a pulsating far-side-of-the-world adventure film alive with Buñuel’s surrealist gestures and subversive attitude. The star-studded cast includes Simone Signoret and Michel Piccoli.
This week’s double bill: Luis Buñuel in the jungle! Himself an exile several times over, he had his biggest flirtation with Hollywood success by shrewdly rendering Daniel Defoe’s desert island classic as a satire on the madness of civilization. His first film in color, shaded like a fever dream!
First gangs, then a corrupt preacher, and now drugs: The Stray Cat Rock series charged its tawdry thrills with the culture-of-the-moment. Wrapping the Vietnam War and psychotropic loot with the series’ usual roundelay of music, violence, and motorcycles, Machine Animal is a sinister blast of pop.
One of Italy’s big successes—including a Sundance Audience Award—this is dramedy Italian style. Male indecision over commitment, three generations of love, pregnancies, several affairs: it has it all, sometimes with laughs and sometimes without. No surprise Gabriele Muccino soon went to Hollywood.
The first in a trilogy planned by Krzysztof Kieślowski after his Three Colors films, the director’s untimely death passed his beguiling script to Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run). He and actors Cate Blanchett and Giovanni Ribisi create a completely unique film: spare but beautiful, moral and romantic.
Of all the (many) crazy ways Werner Herzog has made his films, this must be one of the strangest: for this story of madness and prophecy, made at his peak, he had almost all the cast act while under hypnosis. The result: bizarre, appropriately trance-like cinema that could be no one’s but his.
After his memory-clouded Purple Butterfly, Lou Ye opted for greater directness in his next romance, set among Beijing students during the 1980s. Featuring both Chinese film’s first full nudity and overt reference to the Tiananmen Square police action, he was banned from filmmaking for 5 years.
Our double feature this week are two sumptuous 20th century romances by 6th Generation Chinese director Lou Ye. He followed his Wong Kar-wai inspired hit Suzhou River with this gorgeous wartime love story that bends and warps time, memory, trauma and love between lovers separated by war and nation.
The Sarajevo-born, Toronto-based Igor Drljaca is a major talent to watch, having devoted his first two features to the emotional, dramatic and existential complexity of the lives of Yugoslavian ex-pats. His ambitiously atmospheric debut explores one such life, suffuse with the aura of a mystery.
Proof (if any was needed) that the quickly produced, unabashedly enjoyable pop-exploitation Stray Cat Rock films have fierce political undercurrents, the wild third entry isn’t just about clubbing, sex and motorcycles but miscegenation and racism. The unforgettable Meiko Kaji returns
Italian maestro Marco Bellocchio has never achieved the same recognition as his contemporary Bertolucci, despite his classic debut Fists in the Pocket. But this cinematic firebrand is even better, and his recent work exudes the risky energy and stylish bravado of a politically committed Scorsese.
5th Generation auteur Tian Zhuangzhuang (The Blue Kite) remakes Fei Mu’s 1948 Chinese classic with scrupulous respect and simmering, repressed emotion. Aided by one of the greatest of all cinematographers, Mark Lee Ping-bin, Tian has made a spellbinding, languorous and immersive masterpiece.
Famous for his “one for me, one for them” filmmaking dictum, this is definitely a “one for me” project for Steven Soderbergh, who returned to his playful indie roots in this wry and reflexive skewering of Hollywood. The cast is full of friends and cameos, ranging from Julia Roberts to David Fincher.
How did a flock of wild parrots find their way to San Francisco’s North Beach? We may never know, but Judy Irving’s winning documentary takes a compassionate look at this utterly special urban phenomenon along with the birds’ caretaker, Mark Bittner, finding echoes between these city residents.
You may know the lovely cinema of garage-rock auteur Aki Kaurismäki, but his brother Mika is in fact just as prodigious a filmmaker who dexterously and with pleasure jumps from genre to genre. Here’s his Finnish take on the buddy comedy road movie, proving Americans hardly have a claim on the idea!
Summer thankfully isn’t over yet, but we’re concluding our epic Summer Concert Series with a true icon. A very special portrait of an undefinably special artist, this appropriately unconventional documentary was shot over 11 years and offers a vivid, often off-the-cuff insight into a legend.
In Spanish director Sergio Cabellero’s Tiger Award-winning debut, Finisterrae, two Russian ghosts journey back to life. His equally audacious follow-up features an imprisoned performance artist, a trio of telepathic dwarves, and even more surrealist play. A director to watch—aghast and surprised.
After the success of the first Stray Cat Rock film, Lady Snowblood director Toshiya Fujita took over the next in the series. Pop sensation Meiko Kaji, second billed but scene stealing in the Delinquent Girl Boss, takes the lead in this jazzy and emblematically anti-conformist heist film.
What is now the luxury-hipster brand name Williamsburg was not long ago a poor, Latino neighborhood in seemingly out-of-the-way Brooklyn. This is an essential document of an era and area gentrification has nearly erased. Newly and lovingly restored by the New York Public Library and UnionDocs.
Part two of our Venice double bill goes to an arthouse classic powered by two titans of Italian cinema. Directed by Roberto Rossellini, with auteur Vittorio De Sica stepping in front of the camera to star, this 1959 Golden Lion winner is a work of carefully crafted intrigue and deep human nobility.
With the Venice Film Festival opening today, we present a double bill of films that took the top prize. The ever-controversial Kim Ki-duk won the 2012 Golden Lion (beating The Master) for this intense, provocative psychodrama. Definitely not for the faint of heart, it sent the fest spinning.
Can two become one? That is just one question asked this intimate and impressionistic look at by the art and life of Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV founder Genesis Breyer P-Orridge and his partner, Lady Jaye. Their aspiration to unite bodies and art is a paean as much to creation as it is to love.
Delinquent girl gangs invade MUBI! Oh yes: We’re featuring the Stray Cat Rock series of low-budget, high-ingenuity Japanese pop-exploitation. This is the one that started it all, directed by B-genre master Yasuharu Hasebe (Retaliation) and featuring pop stars Akiko Wada and Meiko Kaji.
From 1808 to 1984: French New Wave director Éric Rohmer always worked to capture the quintessence of his film’s characters and their era. We move from Germany’s romantic past to bracingly contemporary Paris in this rich, fresh and epoch-defining gem led by the utterly enchanting Pascale Ogier.
This week, a double feature contrasting two sides of beloved New Wave director Éric Rohmer. For one of only a few period films he made, Rohmer went to West Germany to adapt a 1808 novella by Kleist! Yet the film is a sumptuous joy, delving into past romantic relations just as complex as those today.
Shot fast on the heels of Nosferatu, using the same crew, star, and location, Woyzeck is a tight Herzogian psychodrama of civilized insanity and murder most foul. Filmed largely in long takes, it showcases possibly Kinski’s best performance: subtle, human, and ready to explode.