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Québec Direct Cinema Movement At Anthology Film Archives in May 2016

Concurrent with the cinema vérité movement in France and the appearance of filmmakers like Robert Drew, the Maysles, and Ricky Leacock in the United States, the Québec Direct Cinema movement emerged in Canada in the 1950s and 60s, matches these other cinemtaic developments.

A host of filmmakers – including Michel Brault, Pierre Perrault, Gilles Groulx, Marcel Carrière, Claude Fournier, Bernard Gosselin, and others – developed and utilized new camera and sound technologies to make documentaries whose spontaneity, vitality, and formal innovations are still remarkable.

Abandoning the carefully composed, often scripted approach of earlier documentary films – in which reality was kept at a safe distance -- filtered via narration and controlled through rehearsal or even staging -- these filmmakers used the new technologies to throw themselves into the worlds they documented, and to respond in the moment to the rhythms and textures of lived experience.

Relative to their U.S. and French counterparts, and despite their proximity, these Québecois filmmakers are relatively under-recognized here in the United States.

In order to redress this, Anthology Film Archives (32 2nd Ave, New York, NY), in partnership with the Québec Government Office in New York and the National Film Board of Canada, presents 17 programs devoted to the Québec Direct Cinema from May 5 - 17, 2016.

Founded in 1970, Anthology's mission has been to preserve, exhibit, and promote public and scholarly understanding of independent, classic, and avant-garde cinema. Anthology screens more than 1,000 film and video programs per year, publishes books and catalogs annually, and has preserved more than 900 films to date.

Anthology now presents this extensive series to survey this enormously influential documentary filmmaking movement.

Featuring more than 30 films – many of them very rarely screened in the U.S. – and graced by appearances from filmmaker Marcel Carrière and scholar and curator Carol Faucher, this series represents an opportunity to explore one of the most remarkable chapters in the history of documentary cinema, and to gain great insight into the people, politics, and society of Québec from the 1950s to the early 1980s.

It all began at the National Film Board of Canada. Despite the NFB’s celebrated reputation since its foundation in 1939, its documentary production had become more conventional in the late 40s/early 50s, with its heavy equipment, scripted scenarios, and strict in-house guidelines.

The arrival of television in 1952-53, with its constant demand for films, pushed the NFB’s producers and filmmakers towards greater creativity, experimentation, and innovation.

Inspired by photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson and his artistic philosophy (“The Decisive Moment”), small crews of filmmakers set out with portable cameras and their often long-focus lenses, more sensitive film stocks, and lighter sound equipment, “to record life as it happens, unscripted, unrehearsed, to capture it in sync sound without asking [subjects] to pose or repeat [their] lines; …and to edit it into moving films that would make the audience laugh and cry…and change the world by making people realize that life is real, beautiful, and meaningful” (Wolf Koenig, 1967). 

Carrière and Faucher will be here in person for opening weekend, Friday, May 6 to Sunday, May 8.

Tickets: $11 general; $9 for students, seniors, & children (12 & under); $7 Anthology members.

For more info go to: www.anthologyfilmarchives.org

Québec Direct Cinema
May 5-17

Anthology Film Archives
32 Second Avenue
New York, NY 10003

Old School Kung Fu Fest 2016: Sammo Takes Manhattan

 

Now in it’s 6th installment, the Old School Kung Fu Fest presented by Subway Cinema, returns to New York on April 8 - 10th, 2016 at the Metrograph theater (7 Ludlow Street, NY, NY). This year’s festival focuses on films from the studio Golden Harvest, rivals of the seminal Shaw Brothers studio. The studio has nurtured the talents of Bruce Lee, John Woo, Michael Hui, Stanley Kwan, Jimmy Wang Yu, Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, Angela Mao and has had a hand in producing classics like Enter the Dragon, Cannonball Run, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (the non-Michael Bay one). Golden Harvest produced kung-fu films at their most manic and energetic, and this festival’s lineup reflects that:

 

  • Big Bullet
    1996, Dir. Benny Chan
    1996 was the end of one era of Hong Kong movies, and the beginning of another. The box office was in freefall, and people were trying new things because no one knew what worked. Benny Chan, previously known for his light comedies, wanted to try action and Big Bullet was his shot. Starring Lau Ching-wan (Full Alert) as a hard-nosed cop demoted to riding in a patrol van with a gang of misfits (including Jordan Chan, who’d score big playing a gangster in that year’s Young & Dangerous movies), his gang of losers runs afoul of a pair of baroque criminals played by Anthony Wong (The Untold Story) and Yu Rong-Guang (A Terra-Cotta Warrior) out to knock over Interpol Headquarters. Ridiculous? Sure, but it was a chance for Chan and action director Ma Yuk-Sing (The East is Red) to showcase their new brand of action that mixed high octane Hollywood boom-boom with Hong Kong’s complex action set pieces to deliver what feels like an 80s Hollywood action classic like Lethal Weapon with the “Mayhem” dial turned up to 11.

 

  • The Blade
    1997, Dir. Tsui Hark
    Missing out on seeing The Blade on the big screen would be like going to the carnival and not going on the gnarliest, biggest and wildest ride. A masterpiece by anyone’s standards, The Blade is Tsui Hark’s tribute to the martial arts films he grew up with. It’s a reimagining of director Chang Cheh’s landmark wuxia (swordplay) classic, The One-Armed Swordsman (1967), as a psychotronic phantasmagoria full of scars and tattoos, mutilation, amputation, sexual frustration, and sharp, heavy chunks of steel splitting muscle and breaking bones. Rapid cutting, berserker camera movement, frenetic choreography and compositions packed to bursting with rhythm, texture and detail, Tsui Hark’s revved-up ancient China roars away from the viewer like an out-of-control freight train, never saying what can be shown, never showing what can be said. Brains and eyeballs are battered and bruised and the audience has to run to keep up, but the experience of seeing one of the world’s best directors at the top of his game is indescribably ecstatic.

 

  • Enter the Dragon
    1973, Dir.  Robert Clouse
    The legendary martial arts film that cemented Bruce Lee as an international cinema icon, Robert Clouse’s Enter the Dragon is a punchdrunk ride through exploitation heaven that shaped the pattern for the thousands of martial arts movies that followed in its wake. Bruce plays a martial arts champ who goes undercover for British intelligence on the island of Mr. Han (longtime Hong Kong star Shih Kien) where he’ll fight in an underground tournament where the world’s best martial artists try to kill each other to earn a job with Mr. Han. Competing against him are American exploitation star John Saxon and blaxploitation hero Jim Kelly. Lee is especially hacked off that his sister (Hong Kong martial arts heroine Angela Mao) was recently beaten to death in the streets by Mr. Han’s bodyguard. Bruce Lee is a beautiful animal in this flick, burning like a supernova as he dishes out beatdowns and neck breakings like candy at a Shriner’s parade. This was his one shot to show the world why everyone should know his name, and he seizes it with both hands and takes a big, bloody bite out of it.

 

  • The Man From Hong Kong (aka The Dragon Flies)
    1975, Dir. Brian Trenchard-Smith, Jimmy Wang Yu
    In the first Hong Kong-Australian co-production, Inspector Fang of the Hong Kong Special Branch (Jimmy Wang Yu, The One-Armed Swordsman, 1967), goes to Australia after dope smuggler Kim Po Hung (Sammo Hung), with the intent of taking down Sydney mob boss Wilton (George Lazenby, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, 1969). Long before Jackie Chan would apply a similar format to his international crossover action films, such as Rumble in the Bronx, Golden Harvest and Australian action maestro, Brian Trenchard-Smith, showed him how to do it. Featuring a car chase that would give the one in Bullitt (1968) a run for its money, stunts by Sammo Hung and his team, an explosive finale, and laced with an earworm theme song (“Sky High” by Jigsaw that you have definitely heard before) this is how you do it when you want to make a swank, international action movie that feels as macho as drinking a can of lager while hang gliding through an exploding fireball.

 

  • Pedicab Driver
    1989, Dir. Sammo Hung
    Long unseen and unavailable on home video, until Warner Archive finally brought it to DVD this year, Sammo Hung’s action masterpiece is here and it wants to kick you through a wall. Set in 1950’s Macau, this action-comedy-drama-romance burns up the screen with old school intensity, and is sprinkled with appearances by a galaxy of big-name Hong Kong stunt actors and filmmakers. Yuen Biao and Corey Yuen get into a “light saber” duel with fluorescent light tubes! Eric Tsang hides! Sammo takes on Lau Kar-leung, and you won’t want to miss two of the world’s greatest action directors duking it out. As Lau Kar-leung tells Sammo: “Fatty, you’re crafty!” Then watch Sammo unleash infinite pain on super-kicker Billy Chow (the Japanese baddie in Fist of Legend (1994). Audience-pleasing, heart-pumping, nitro-burning moviemaking in what is arguably one of the best martial arts movies of the 1980’s.

 

  • The Prodigal Son (aka Pull No Punches)
    1981, Dir. Sammo Hung
    This posh WingChun epic is a masterpiece of Sammo Hung’s early career, and the last period kung fu film that he directed at Golden Harvest. Spoiled brat, YuenBiao, comes up against a true martial arts master, Lam Ching-ying, and begs to become his student. Lam’s not having it, and a series of savage throat locks ensue. Yuen Biao does backflips off the sprocket holes and Sammo Hung punches holes in the screen, but it’s Lam Ching-ying, as an asthmatic Chinese Opera diva, whose blistering fu scorches the emulsion and burns up the film. Unequaled in cinema history, this movie serves it up hot and fast. Lam Ching-ying died sixteen years later at the age of 44 and this movie is a ferocious tribute to the man who was Bruce Lee’s stunt double, and an iconic martial arts star in his own right.

 

  • Rumble in The Bronx
    1995, Dir. Stanley Tong
    It’s the candy-colored, DayGlo movie that finally broke Jackie Chan big in America, Rumble in the Bronx is like the 90’s Saturday morning cartoon of your dreams. The second time Chan teamed up with director-stunt coordinator, Stanley Tong (the first was Police Story III: Supercop), it’s really “Rumble in Vancouver” with the freshly-scrubbed Canadian wonderland standing in for the “dangerous” Bronx, and that sets the tone for this lighthearted riff on the Jackie Chan formula. Here he plays a cop coming to Bron-Couver for his uncle’s wedding, but he randomly runs up against diamond thieves, and winds up having to protect a local supermarket. It’s as goofy as it sounds, full of rampaging hovercraft, goodnatured gang members, kids in wheelchairs wishing their legs were “normal,” and some of the goofiest dialogue to ever come out of Hong Kong. On the other hand, it features Hong Kong’s great diva, Anita Mui, as the supermarket owner, some gravity-defying fight scenes from Jackie, and it’s peppered with Stanley Tong’s jumps and stunts — including a leap onto a hovercraft that broke Jackie’s ankle (he finished the movie with his foot in a cast painted to look like his shoe). The gooniest, most 90’s movie that Chan ever made.

 

  • A Terra-Cotta Warrior
    1990, Dir. Ching Siu-Tung
    Drawing inspiration from Kurosawa to Spielberg, A Terra-Cotta Warrior is a feast for the senses, and one of the most exquisite period fantasy films to come out of Hong Kong in the 90s, with its unique blend of romance, swashbuckling action, and comedy, thanks in equal parts to the screenplay by Lillian Lee (Green Snake, 1993, Rouge, 1988), action direction by Ching Siu-Tung, and breathtaking cinematography by Peter Pau (The Bride with White Hair, 1993). A collaboration between producer Tsui Hark (The Blade) and director Ching Siu-Tung that was two-and-a-half years in the making, A Terra-Cotta Warrior follows one of the First Emperor of China’s soldiers (Zhang Yimou) as he is accidentally awakened in the 1930s by Zhu Lili (Gong Li) after being encased alive in clay in the Emperor’s tomb as a punishment. At the time it was made, director-actor Zhang Yimou and his leading lady, Gong Li, were China’s power couple, and they shine in this one-of-a-kind rarely screened movie.

 

To learn more, go to: http://www.subwaycinema.com/oldschool16/

Old School Kung Fu Festival
April 8 - 10, 2016

Metrograph
7 Ludlow St.
New York, NY 10002

Restored Caligari, Music, & More at Kino!2016 Film Festival

 

Germany has made some of the most monumentally important contributions to cinema, and the Kino!2016 festival of German films looks back and looks to the future. Running April 7 - 14, 2016 at Cinema Village (22 E 12th St, New York, NY), Kino! 2016 will showcase twelve feature premieres plus the US premiere of the Short Export Made in Germany program. On Monday, April 11, there will be a special screening of a restored print of the silent classic The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, with live music accompaniment by DJ Raphaël Marionneau at Metrograph (7 Ludlow St, New York, NY).

Other films include:

  • B-Movie: Lust & Sound in West Berlin 1979 - 1989
    Dir. Jörg A. Hoppe, Klaus Maeck, Heiko Lange
    West Berlin was encircled by Communist East Germany and the city was in a state of emergency. But it was cheap to live and music producer Mark Reeder immediately felt a sense of belonging in the creative melting pot of West Berlin's post-punk underground music scene. Nostalgic yet inspirational, the documentary collages never-before-seen archival fragments and vividly brings back to life local icons of the time such as Gudrun Gut and Blixa Bargeld as well as many others who fleetingly came and went, from Tilda Swinton and Keith Haring to David Hasselhoff and New Order.

 

  • A Heavy Heart
    Dir. Thomas Stuber
    Herbert Stamm is a former professional German boxing champ with his glory days well in the past. Popular in the late 80s before the fall of the Berlin Wall, he continues to trade off his former fame as “The Pride of Leipzig” who almost made the Olympic team. Now, he struggles to make ends meet, working on weekends as a bouncer while he ekes out a living as a debt collector. Diagnosed with a fatal neurological disease, he has little time to right wrongs or to realize his remaining dreams but, above all, to reconnect with his estranged daughter, Sandra. Herbert’s abandonment of his family years before is still raw and she resists allowing him back into her life or introducing him to his young granddaughter. As his disorder begins to slowly ravage him, Herbert must not only confront a broken identity, aging and death, but also seek out the salvation to be found in second chances.

 

  • The Fassbinder Story (US premiere)
    Dir. Annekatrin Hendel
    When Rainer Werner Fassbinder was found dead at his home in Munich in 1982, he was only 36 years old. He had directed 44 films in 18 years. Even at the time of his death, he had been working on a new film. Fassbinder, who appeared as an actor in some of his own films, is arguably one of the most prolific figures in German film history. He is also indisputably one of its most controversial. When director Annekatrin Hendel embarked upon a documentary of this provocative yet charismatic giant of European cinema, the magnitude of the material produced by Fassbinder was both a blessing and a curse. Director Annekatrin Hendel will be speaking about the film as part of a panel at Deutsches Haus at NYU (42 Washington Mews, New York, NY).

There will also be a screening of the 1984 cult film Decoder at the Goethe-Institut (30 Irving Place, New York, NY) followed by a conversation with producer and screenwriter Klaus Maeck.

 

To learn more, go to: http://www.kinofestivalnyc.com/

 

Kino!2016
April 7 - 14, 2016

Cinema Village
22 E 12th St.
New York, NY 10003

Metrograph
7 Ludlow St.
New York, NY 10002

Goethe-Institut
30 Irving Pl.
New York, NY 10003

Deutsches Haus at NYU
42 Washington Mews
New York, NY 10003

 

New Directors/New Films 2016 Offers Surprises

Cameraperson

Once again The Film Society of Lincoln Center and The Museum of Modern Art join forces to complete another lineup for the 45th annual New Directors/New Films Festival (ND/NF), running March 16 - 27, 2016.

Since 1972, the festival has been an annual New York City spring event for cinephiles sometimes offering exciting discoveries from around the world. Other times it has confounded film fans. Dedicated to offering new works by emerging talent, this year’s fest screens 27 features and 10 short films.

Babak Anvari’s debut Under the Shadow opens the festival with a story of a mother and daughter haunted by a sinister, largely unseen presence during the Iran-Iraq War. It supposedly has a mounting sense of dread until its ominous finish. A breakout hit at Sundance, Indiewire’s Eric Kohn called it, “the first great horror movie of the year.”

Well, I missed it but not the closing night selection — Kirsten Johnson’s Cameraperson, a chronicle of the cinematographer-turned-director’s life through her collaborations with documentarians such as Laura Poitras, Michael Moore, and others. A disjointed memoir, Johnson’s first solo directorial effort offered snippets of films I’d would have rather seen than this doc, but it did display some outtakes of worthy films and for that alone, viewing her compilation was worth it.

It was one of nine festival features and four shorts directed by women, several of those made for a time well spent.

Films seen in New Directors/New Films are usually more of mixed bag than most of the festival featured at either MoMA or The Film Society — maybe because of the programming cross-pollination. That notwithstanding, there’s usually enough discoveries to outweigh the films that confuse or dismay.

And I missed several of the bigger buzz films such as Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg’s Sundance Grand Jury Prizewinner Weiner as well as Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Happy Hour, for which the main cast shared Locarno’s Best Actress award. But others caught my attention.

Disregarding those films which seemed far less than the guide’s description suggested, I was taken with the following three women-centric films.

The Fits
Anna Rose Holmer
USA, 2015, 72m
Though this debut feature isn’t entirely successful, it presents enough mystery and intrigue to engage a viewer long enough to take them to its conclusion. Detailing a transition from girlhood to womanhood, Holmer depicts 11-year-old Toni’s journey of discovery (Royalty Hightower) as a young boxer drawn to dancers training at the same rec center in Cincinnati. She joins one of the troupes, The Lionesses, and becomes immersed in their world. The film successfully conveys her challenge to become part of the group and then a mysterious, convulsive condition begins to afflict her team. Set within the intimate confines of familiar settings — the public school, the gym and its grounds — The Fits tries to intertwine two confusing story lines as one to some curious effect. This Oscilloscope release is worth looking into even with its flaws.


Kill-me-pleaseKill Me Please Mate-me por favor
Anita Rocha da Silveira
Brazil/Argentina, 2015, 101m, Portuguese with English subtitles
Anita Rocha da Silveira’s starts out with a predictable coming-of-age story that becomes something else entirely. Again intriguing but not quite successful, the film’s passive/aggressive sexuality turns from teenage angst to becoming some kind of strange slasher flick. Set in Rio de Janeiro’s Barra da Tijuca —a new upper-middle-class neighborhood of thoroughfares, malls, and white condos — a clique of teen girls become captivated by a series of gruesome murders. Bia (Valentina Herszage) really becomes obsessed and mayhem ensues. Though there’s nods to many classic such as Brian De Palma’s Carrie, Jacques Tourneur’s Cat People, and David Lynch’s entire oeuvre, da Silveira’s isn’t quite yet up to these stars of the genre.

Mountain / Ha'har
Yaelle Kayam
Denmark/Israel, 2015, 83m, Hebrew with English subtitles
In this Israeli production, a Jewish Orthodox woman, Zvia, lives on the grounds of an ancient cemetery with her four children and her disaffected husband, a Yeshiva teacher who pays little attention to her. Kayam's debut transforms this portrait of an isolated woman into something far more insidious. On a late night walk through the tombstones, Zvia encounters a group of prostitutes and their handlers -- she becomes fascinated with them, turning into a voyeuristic bystander to their sexual activities, even bringing them home-cooked meals in order to connect with them. Actress Shani Klein’s performance addresses clichés with a finesse that’s hard to describe.

New Directors/New Films 2016
March 16, 2016 – March 27, 2016

The Roy and Niuta Titus Theaters
The Museum of Modern Art
11 W 53rd St, New York, NY 10019

Walter Reade Theater
165 W 65th St.
New York, NY 10023

 

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