Posted tagged ‘Walter Reade Theater’

TONIGHT! Orson Welles’s MACBETH: Shadows, Fog, and a Small Budget

July 18, 2009


In the hands of Orson Welles, Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” is an expressionistic, dream-like waltz through shadows and fog that comes across the screen as an aristocratic B-picture.

Macbeth is a film full of charming imperfections. Welles made the film cheaply and quickly in 23 days and utilized old stock sets and costumes, giving him intense limitations in adapting such a dense and highbrow piece of drama. At times the artifice is so glaringly noticeable – cardboard crowns, aluminum foil chain mail, plaster caves – that we cannot help but smile at the earnestness with which Welles and company deliver their lines. Yet, at the same time, Macbeth’s artificiality heightens our awareness of the divide between reality and fantasy, a central theme for Welles’s Macbeth, which is heavily played upon visually with murky fog and darkness. Does Macbeth, for example, actually see Banquo’s ghost or is he merely an imagined projection of Macbeth’s guilt? Is Lady Macbeth’s sleepwalking state more clearly connected to her true self than her waking body? And perhaps that cardboard crown sitting on Macbeth’s head after he becomes king can now become an object of the deepest irony as we know that Macbeth is only king in title but not in substance.


Perhaps the greatest stylistic device of Welles’s film, however, is the long take. Welles makes use of several incredibly long takes (up to a full reel at a time), at technique which speaks to the real-time dimension of theater, but which simultaneously allows purely filmic devices – perhaps Welles’s visual approximation of the harmony he wishes to attain between the two worlds (film and theater) in adapting Shakespeare. For example, though there are no cuts during these long takes, there are several changes in the framing of images and locations, as well as dramatic use of deep space and perspective. Instead of a character exiting the stage as they would during a play, the camera can now pan away from them to focus on a new character or setting. These techniques are not new to theater adaptations, though with Welles they are pushed to their extreme.

The most poignant shot of the film comes in the fifth act, during Macbeth’s oft-quoted soliloquy (Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player / That struts and frets his hour upon the stage / And then is heard no more) when Welles cuts to the central visual motif of the film: darkness and fog. It is a moment of pure poetry that speaks to the theme of the film – the light, dust, and darkness visualizing the impermanence and futility of Macbeth’s life – and simultaneously makes use of the nothingness provided Welles for the film’s budget.

Macbeth, with its obvious limitations and moments of brilliance, reminds us of the tragedy of Welles’s own career – one fraught with the grandness of vision clashing with the consistent inability to find funding. Despite all, however, Welles, like Shakespeare, will remain with us infinitely, beyond the shadows and fog that signified Macbeth’s quick and tragic passing.


Orson Welles’s Macbeth is playing at the Walter Reade Theater this Saturday, July 18th @ 7:00 PM, restored with Scottish accents as Welles originally intended.

– Kazu Watanabe

BREAKING! The Film Society enters the third dimension!

June 4, 2009

IMG_3447This may be old news to all of you Coraline fans, but it was a big day for those of us who inhabit the Walter Reade Theater and its environs. Yesterday afternoon, the kind folks at Dolby stopped by with a demo of their current 3-D projection technology. A few of the staffers were treated to show in which little animated flies hopped aboard the Apollo 11 space mission and U2 romps through a pyrotechnic concert setting. Bono actually touched me…well, in the completely synthetic, slightly trippy 3-D sense.

According to Dolby reps Tom Kodros and Paul Capuano, “Hollywood is hot for 3-D.” Which may be all well and good, but what does the technology mean for the types of specialty films that the Film Society is famous for? Probably nothing for quite a while, but it was interesting to see 3-D applications that go beyond the gimmicks that the technology has normally been associated with. What’s most exciting about 3-D is certainly its potential as an exhibition tool–to make the film-going experience more dramatic and dimensional, even if we’re not talk about about flying saucers bursting from the screen. And 3-D exhibition may not be so far off in the Walter Reade. According to the guys from Dolby, our digital projectors are already set up to run 3-D: all that’s required is an additional add-on kit.

Film Society: Crossroad of the World?

December 1, 2008

Feeling like you haven’t seen a good foreign film lately? Neither are we. The great, expansive year for world cinema has led to a record 67 films in the running for this year’s foreign language film Academy Award. A remarkable ten of them have screened at Film Society events. Don’t miss the eleventh next week in Spanish Cinema Now: Jose Luis Cuerda’s “Blind Sunflowers.”
And let us know which is your award-winner:

“Tony Manero,” Chile
“Dog Eat Dog,” Colombia
“The Class,” France
“Correction,” Greece
“Waltz with Bashir,” Israel
“Gomorrah,” Italy
“Tulpan,” Kazakhstan
“Under the Bombs,” Lebanon
“Rooster’s Breakfast,” Slovenia
“Blind Sunflowers,” Spain
“Kill Them All,” Uruguay

Smiles All Around

October 29, 2008


One of these things is not like the others…

A: The last has never asked anyone to smell his flower. 
Come see the foundation for all of our favorite Jokers in Young Friends of Film‘s chilling Halloween pic, “The Man Who Laughs.” Need more proof? How ’bout this phony, fan-made poster that was floated as a preview for “The Dark Knight”:
The original man who laughs

The original man who laughs


– Film Comment Selects your Halloween-night flick, “The Changeling.” Costumes welcome!
– Art takes its place in the revolution in Andrzej Wajda’s masterpieces “Man of Marble” and “The Conductor.”
– The first installment of the Film Society and New York City Opera co-production, Cinematic Opera/Operatic Cinema
– Bernstein and Mahler


Thursday, Oct. 30
7:30 YFF: The Man Who Laughs

Friday. Oct. 31
1:00 The Conductor
3:00 Man of Marble
6:15 The Maids of Wilko
9:00 Film Comment Selects: The Changeling 

Saturday, Nov. 1
2:00 Leonard Bernstein Program 10: Bernstein and Mahler, Part I
4:00 Leonard Bernstein Program 11: Bernstein and Mahler, Part II
7:00 The Promised Land

Sunday, Nov. 2
2:00 Cinematic Opera: Ivan the Terrible
7:00 Man of Marble 

All times p.m.

The Wajda Book Club and Jon Jost Onstage

October 22, 2008


Our tribute to groundbreaker Andrzej Wajda continues with a strong literary presence: the historic epic “Ashes” from Stefan Zeromski’s novel, Jerzy’s Andrzejewski and Skolimowski with their affecting comic screenplay in “Innocent Sorcerers,” “Siberian Lady Macbeth”—not Shakespeare, Nicolai Leskov’s book—and the Holocaust story “Landscape After Battle,” from Auschwitz survivor Tadeusz Borowski.

A particular highlight is two showtimes for the rarely screened “The Birch Wood,” an intimate, brother-against-brother take on the big themes: love and death. Wajda’s first close-up focus on a single relationship offers the director’s signature, captivating intensity at a fraction of his epics’ weight.

– Indie filmmaker Jon Jost onstage Friday night, with “Oui Non” and “Over Here.”
– Leonard Bernstein’s jazz legacy.


Thursday, Oct. 23
6:30 Innocent Sorcerers
8:15 Samson

Friday. Oct. 24
1:00 Everything for Sale
7:00 Two Films by Jon Jost: Oui Non
9:00 Two Films by Jon Jost: Over Here

Saturday, Oct. 25
2:00 Leonard Bernstein Program 7: Bernstein and the World of Jazz
4:00 Leonard Bernstein Program 8: New York Philharmonic Young People’s Concerts with Leonard Bernstein
6:30 The Birch Wood
8:30 Ashes

Sunday, Oct. 26
1:30 The Birch Wood
3:30 Hunting Flies
5:45 Pilate and Others
7:40 Siberian Lady Macbeth
9:40 Landscape After Battle

All times p.m.

Hidden Gems: Diary of a Shinjuku Thief

September 26, 2008

Don’t forget as you sip your cocktails following tonight’s Opening Night screening of “The Class” that the Film Society’s comprehensive tribute to Japanese trailblazer Nagisa Oshima kicks off Saturday morning. First day titles include the legendary “Cruel Story of Youth,” Oshima’s next-to-impossible to see first feature “A Town of Love and Hope,” “Night and Fog in Japan,” and a midnight screening of “In the Realm of the Senses.”

A highlight among these impressive titles is this audacious romp through the Tokyo night, an explosive conversion of crime, sex and revolutionary politics within the heart of Japanese youth culture that — with its indiscriminate timing, shifting settings, documentary inclinations and historical intelligence — is among Oshima’s most directly theatrical works. Continuing the dialogue he began in “Pleasures of the Flesh” and “Violence at Noon” on sexual frustration as “just one of the many sorts of frustration that go with the various forms of rebellion,” as Oshima said in a 1969 interview, “Diary of a Shinjuku Thief” is an advanced treatise on the revolutionary power and complex, multifaceted results of a single, simple, imaginative act.

New 35mm print!

Tickets still available:
Sat Sep 7: 7:00pm
Wed Oct 8: 7:00pm