Archive for the ‘The Week Ahead’ category

The Week Ahead May 14-21: Try to resist the King of Cool

May 13, 2009

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Back by popular demand! Being Jewish in France examines the explosive Dreyfus Affair, the Vichy government’s collaboration with the Nazis, the absorption of Sephardic Jews from Arab countries in the decades after WWII. Director Yves Jeuland masterfully brings together an extraordinary constellation of French-Jewish voices and experiences. May 13-19

The King of Cool. Steve McQueen reigns the Film Society starting next Tuesday with a set of smoldering classics. If you’ve never seen the original Thomas Crown Affair, you ain’t seen nothing yet, people. But don’t miss the lesser-known gems: Nevada Smith allows the Western gunslinger in McQueen out in full force, and The Cincinnati Kid is, according to Time Out New York, the “best movie about poker ever made.”

If your latest game left you all cleaned out, biking is free. It’s Bike Month, and we’re celebrating it at the Film Society in a big way: enjoy two totally FREE events on sustainable transportation tonight and next Tuesday. And don’t forget to check out Bike Flick Picks from the Film Society’s resident cycle commuters.

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Staring tonight! The New York African Film Fest!

April 8, 2009

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The festivals just keep coming around here…tonight marks the start of the New York African Film Festival, a yearly celebration of African cinema. This year’s theme is “Africa in Transition,” and the vibrant offerings explore a multitude of different angles on the continent. The festival is truly a chance to see illuminating movies that you just won’t see anywhere else. A few examples:

Behind the Rainbow goes beyond the headlines about the dissolution of Apartheid in South Africa through the intimate and dramatic story of two political allies turned bitter rivals. Under Mandela, Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma loyally labored to build a non-racial state. Now their duel threatens the political gains they worked so hard to achieve.

Did you love The Wrestler? Get a totally different take on the underdog sports film with The Fighting Spirit. One town in Africa takes on the world as three boxers–two men and a woman–from a poor slum in Ghana fight their way to the glittering rings of New York and London for the biggest prizes in the business.

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The Importance of Being Elegant offers a news lens through which to view the costs of conspicuous consumption. It’s the story of one of the most unusual clubs in the world, the Société des Ambianceurs et Persons Élégants, whose members come from the Democratic Republic of Congo and have elevated fashion to the status of a religion.

Bronx Princess offers a bridge between two cultures via a headstrong 17-year-old girl who leaves her mother, an immigrant from Ghana, to reunite with her father in Africa. An exploration of heritage, family and independence from a personal point of view.

Sex, Okra and Salted Butter is a sharp comedy that tracks black life in Paris via Hortense, a 40-year-old nurse from Cameroon who leaves her very traditional African husband with the responsibility of raising their two kids after she strays into the arms of another man.

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Another compelling–and sometimes comedic–look into a turbulent chapter of recent South African history, Triomf tracks a group of poor whites in a housing project just before the 1994 general election.

See the full slate of New York African Film Festival films

On hipster-nihilsm, mumblecore and the proper way to drink sake: a conversation with Armond White

March 27, 2009

Recently, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Armond White, lead film critic for the New York Press, head of the New York Film Critics’ Circle and presenter of the Whit Stillman’s Metropolitan at the Critic’s Choice screening at ND/NF.

Mr. White is the sort of film critic both popular and occasionally reviled in circles of filmgoers and enthusiasts. Where all film critics might zig right, he zags left. He is as well known for his passionate defense of the art of film criticism as he is for his bombastic reviews of crowd favorites (recently Coraline, Hunger, Duplicity) often declaring “shit” where others might say masterpiece. And vice-versa. Films that he has championed included Meet Dave, Little Man, and most recently, The Transporter 2.

He is also famous for his coining of the term “hipster-nihilist,” a group he faults for many of the ills of American cinema, not-withstanding 2008’s The Dark Knight, a film he panned as “sentinel of our cultural abyss.” As a long-haired, relatively-bearded young-man with no particular religious tendencies, I had more than a thought for my safety as I sat down to speak with Mr. White.

I started off asking him why he chose Metropolitan.

“The same reason I write the way I write,” he told me. “I like individual voices, voices that haven’t been heard and that are authentic. You don’t see a lot of films from the perspective of privileged-WASP-20s debutantes and Whit portrays them sympathetically. It’s interesting to hear a different voice and I think that’s what I provide too.”

I asked him then about the New Directors/New Films festival (“Well, I’m presenting in it,” he told me.) and then is there were any New Directors he admired.

“I don’t know about ‘new directors.’ I like Jared Hess of Napoleon Dynamite better than Neil LaBute. Jared obviously speaks more from a moralistic Mormon experience, which is interesting and new, than LaBute,who presents himself as a Mormon, but who just likes to see people being awful to each other. I also like Charles Stone III of Drumline and Mr. 3000, some of the best American films in years.”

I told him that I too was a Neil LaBute hater, but that I hadn’t seen Drumline. But when I asked him about Kelly Reichardt or Lance Hammer or Ryan Fleck, he shut them down one by one, as “fakery”, admitting only of Ms. Reichardt that “at least she’s trying to have an aesthetic and hone it.”

Finally, I decided to ask him about a subject which I thought might get a kick out of him: the hipster-nihilist 20 and 30-somethings of the “mumblecore” movement.

“Those guys need to go watch some movies and grow up. There are only so many ideas for a movie. Instead of watching Eric Rohmer and finding some sort of aesthetic, they decide to make movies that are aesthetically vacant and boring. If they were at Columbia, where I teach, they might have learned something.”

“Am I a hipster-nihilist?” I asked him.

“I don’t know. Are you?” he replied.

I admitted I was at NYU Film School and that I also wrote criticism (in fact, that I had met him a couple times before). I asked him is he had any advice to young filmmakers or young critics like myself.

“Don’t make a movie until you’re 40,” he said.  “Then, you’ll have something to make a movie about. Of course, rules are meant to be broken. Also, no offense, but blogs aren’t film criticism. They’re a bunch of young people going on about things they’re not ready to talk about. I’ve been writing about movies since junior high. Did that make me a film critic then? No. You can’t put these kids on blogs in the same category as Pauline Kael or Andrew Sarris. You have to train at it, work at it. Till then, nope.”

And while a part of me felt a little downtrodden, being called “not a film critic”, another part of me saw the value in what he was saying. Because really, that’s what’s so fascinating about Armond White, what keeps my film-school-friends and I coming back week-after-week: even when you don’t like what he’s saying or disagree, well, he’s always got a point.

Our bottle of sake was almost out as I saw Mr. White with a full glass.

“Drink up,” I told him.

“You have to sip sake,” he told me, right after I’d downed a shot.

“Ah, man. Sorry,” I replied, embarrassed.

He shook his head, laughed and raised his glass. “Actually, forget that. Drink sake how you enjoy it,” he said and took his shot.

Cheers.

-Nicholas Feitel, ND/NF New Voice

Film Society Week Ahead March 12-18: More tips on making a Rendez-Vous

March 11, 2009

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Don’t miss these Rendez-Vous picks:

The Apprentice: Modern learning comes up against old-time methods in Samuel Collardey’s directorial debut, which nabbed him the prestigious Louis Delluc Award for best first film. With that particular French talent for creating works on the boundary between fiction and documentary, the young director effectively captures the sights, sounds, and rhythms of life on a family-run dairy farm. Thu March 12 at 8:45pm ~ Buy Tickets

The Other One is “…a portrait of female jealousy run amok in which Dominique Blanc plays a toxic control freak with Bette Davis eyes,” said Stephen Holden in The New York Times. In the film, Anne-Marie (Dominique Blanc) finds it much easier to navigate the New Paris landscape of neon-lit, mall-nested cafes, glass-enclosed high-rise office buildings, hermetically sealed buses and subways cars, and apartments regulated by an electronic cyberboxes than the terrain of her love affair with a much younger man. Sun March 15 at 5:30pm:  Buy Tickets

Shown to great acclaim at this year’s Venice Film Festival, Stella confirms Sylvie Verheyde as one of her generation’s most distinctive film talents. Léora Barbara displays great poise as a young girl coping with her working-class family’s meltdown. With Guillaume Depardieu as the charismatic charmer who befriends her. Thu March 12 at 1pm & 6:15pm ~ Buy Tickets

Fantastic French shorts: Tout Court is a program of seven prizewinning short films by emerging filmmakers provides an exclusive introduction to the next generation of French cinema. See them now and catch a potential Oscar winner of the future! Friday, March 13, at 4pm: Buy Tickets, Sunday, March 15, at 3:15pm: Buy Tickets

View Complete Rendez-Vous Schedule

Plus, New Directors/New Films tickets on sale this Friday!

The Week Ahead March 5-11: Rendez-Vous, C’est Magnifique

March 4, 2009

wamar51Oh la la! It’s another edition of Rendez-Vous with French Cinema. “The best in years” raves the New York Times’ Stephen Holden of the contemporary French film showcase that premieres intimate new works and impressive debuts from the crème de la crème of French directors. The series marks The Film Society’s return to the newly renovated Alice Tully Hall, with the opening night premiere of Christophe Barratier’s Paris 36.

Film Comment Selects Closing Night: The Hurt Locker. Tomorrow, catch Kathryn Bigelow’s smart retake on the action genre, and the closing night of the spectacularly eclectic, always provocative Film Comment Selects.

Film Society Week Ahead February 19-25: Oscar, Film Comment Selects and Laura Dern in fishnets

February 18, 2009

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Our Oscar Micheaux series wraps up with some more underrated rarities of pre-war black cinema, including Hallelujah!, directed by King Vidor, the first sound film featuring an all-black cast.

No need to fret about your movie picks when Film Comment Selects! That’s right, the yearly two-week series is here, and more provocative than ever. This week, see debut director Pablo Fendrik’s minimalist thriller The Mugger, as well as two renowned classic documentaries: Demon Lover Diary and Seventeen. Check out the whole line-up.

Another Film Society party is here: Saved from late night 80s cable/USA Up All Night/Z Channel quarantine and slapped right onto the big screen, it’s Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains! Come to see angst-ridden, pre-fame Diane Lane and Laura Dern in fishnets and then stay for the post-punk afterparty with DJs! Sponsored by Viva Radio. RSVP on Facebook or buy tickets.

Film Society Week Ahead February 12-18: Micheaux and a funny Valentine

February 11, 2009

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A different way to say I love you: Stella Dallas, Olive Higgins Prouty’s celebrated novel was most famously adapted for the big screen by King Vidor, in the Barbara Stanwyck weepie of 1937. This Valentine’s Day Eve, see the original, a classically elegant silent version that is by many accounts an even greater film.

Our Oscar Micheaux series continues, highlighting the little-screened achievements of this pioneer of pre-war black cinema. This week, catch The Girl from Chicago, a mystery that travels from Mississippi to the jazz clubs of Harlem, or the Louis Armstrong and Lena Horn-infused Cabin in the Sky.