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Film Society of Lincoln Center Sings a "Sunset Song"

The Film Society of Lincoln Center’s yearly series, Film Comment Selects, now in its 16th iteration and running from February 17th through the 24th, has consistently been the strongest selection at this august institution of new works, barring the New York Film Festival. As in previous incarnations, this year’s edition features new films by many of the most outstanding filmmakers in the world now working. The current highlights include: the latest by veteran Italian director Marco Bellochio; Benoît Jacquot’s new version of Octave Mirbeau’s classic 1900 novel, Diary of a Chambermaid, previously adapted by both Jean Renoir and Luis Buñuel; and new features by the experimental Philippe Grandrieux as well as Aleksei German, Jr. Retrospective programs include spotlights devoted to controversial Polish director, Andrzej Żuławski — regrettably all in DCP — and to the underrated Charles Bronson, with  two features screening in 35-millimeter. A 1984 featurette directed by Ray Davies of the Kinks is also on the slate along with the wonderful musical, Golden Eighties, the closing night selection, by the recently deceased titan Chantal Akerman, both also presented in 35-millimeter.

The opening night film is certain to prove one of the most remarkable of the series: Sunset Song, the latest opus by the extraordinary Terence Davies, is a translation to the screen of the esteemed novel — a Bildungsroman about a young woman in rural Scotland in the period before and during the first World War — by Lewis Grassic Gibbon, a major figure of the Scottish Renaissance. While his first several films — through the beautiful The Long Day Closes —were autobiographical, the director has since embarked upon a series of remarkable adaptations from literary sources, perhaps most impressively in his magnificent version of Edith Wharton’s novel, The House of Mirth, which was notable in that he seemed to be at the furthest remove from his signature style that I’ve seen.
From the first moments of Sunset Song, one finds oneself, despite the unfamiliar setting, fully immersed in Davies’s distinctive world, with the filmmaker’s trademark slow tracking-shots and musical interludes alongside other characteristic formal and thematic motifs — for example, the figure of the protagonist’s monstrous father, here brilliantly embodied by the outstanding Peter Mullan. The total effect is both mesmerizing and deeply moving, The director gets the most out of his unfamiliar cast and evinces a complete mastery of the digital format. The final third or so of the film had the impression of diffuseness relative to the stunning first portion, but on one viewing this assessment can only be provisional and future screenings may prove this to be one of Davies’s finest achievements.

Romanian Film Series 10th Entry at Film Society

Aliyah Dada

The Film Society of Lincoln Center will be showcasing its tenth edition of Making Waves: New Romanian Cinema, co-presented with the Romanian Film Initiative, from December 2nd through the 7th at the Walter Reade Theater (165 W. 65th St, NY, NY). The emergence of such remarkable directors as Cristi Puiu, Cristian Mungiu and Cornelius Porumboiu (whose latest film, The Treasure, screens on Saturday, December 5th) has thrust Romania into the spotlight that Taiwan, Iran, and South Korea, for example, have emerged into, in recent decades.

This series is a welcome opportunity to see some of the best films that have emerged from the current milieu, as well as providing an opportunity to encounter work by neglected figures of the past — the current program will include a retrospective of veteran director Mircea Daneliuc, who will be appearing in person for a Q&A following the screening of his 1993 feature, Intimate Bed, presented in DCP at the Walter Reade on Wednesday December 2nd at 7pm, the Opening Night selection.

aferimThe director Radu Muntean is another significant personage in Romania’s New Wave; his latest feature, the excellent and disquieting, One Floor Below, portrays the quotidian world of a middle-aged man — sensitively played in a masterful performance by Teodor Corban — who withholds crucial information from the police concerning a murder investigation. Shot in an episodic, neorealist style and featuring superb naturalistic performances, this film eschews classical construction with a minimal reliance on close-ups, even if it resists the formal austerity often found in the work of his contemporaries. One Floor Below is notable for the ambiguity and open-endedness of its story’s presentation: the characters’ motivations are not explained and the viewer is encouraged to form his own conclusions about the events that transpire. The film screens at the Walter Reade on Thursday, December 3rd at 9pm and on Friday, December 4th at 4:30pm.
Radu Jude is another figure connected to the New Wave having been an assistant to Puiu and his new feature is the Closing Night selection, the extraordinary Aferim!, a caustic portrait of feudal Romania in 1835 about the mission of a sententious constable — played, in another bravura performance, by Corban — and his son to retrieve an escaped Gypsy slave, is even more unsettling than One Floor Below. Handsomely photographed in monochromatic widescreen, this is another work in a quasi-neorealist mode not very dissimilar to Muntean’s filmin its approach to storytelling and displays many of the same merits, such as impressive acting and a pointed ambiguity. Aferim! screens at the Walter Reade on Monday, December 7th at 8:30pm.
Making Waves: New Romanina Cinema
December 2 - 7, 2015
Film Society of Lincoln Center Walter Reade Theater
165 W. 65th St.
New York, NY 10023

Nobuhiko Obayashi Retrospective at Japan Society

With a body of work ranging from experimental short films, to candy commercials, to mind-bending horror, director Nobuhiko Obayashi has blazed a technicolored trail through Japanese cinema to the point where directors that came of age during the 70s and 80s are today known as “Obayashi’s Children.” Unfortunately the director has received little attention in the West until the last few years, when his premier 1977 film, House, garnered cult status and now makes regular midnight movie circuits. But House is only the tip of Obayashi’s cinematic iceberg, which is full of romance, adventure, self discovery, and reveling in the outlandish. The Japan Society (333 E 47th St. NY, NY) will be exhibiting Nobuhiko Obayashi: A Retrospective, from November 20 to December 6, featuring ten of his films, along with shorts and lectures from Obayashi.


House posterOpening the series on November 20th is a screening of House, a horror film that defies description and needs to be seen to be believed. I like to say it’s Evil Dead by way of Hello Kitty, with a soundtrack by Japanese pop-group, Godiego.The screening will include a Q&A with Obayashi himself, and a showing of his 1964 short film, Complexe.


I Are You, You Am Me (aka Exchange Student) is a twist on the Freaky Friday formula in which a teenage boy and girl switch minds. Along with being an examination of Japanese gender roles in society, the film is also a love letter to Obayashi’s hometown of Onomichi, located in Hiroshima.Along with more films, Obayashi will be doing a lecture and career retrospective, Nobuhiko Obayashi: A Conversation, on Saturday November 21.


Other films being screened include:

  • Haruka, Nostalgia
  • The Rocking Horsemen
  • Bound for the Fields, the Mountains and the Seacost
  • Beijing Watermelon
  • The Discarnates
  • Sada
  • Reason
  • Seven Weeks

Obayashi's films deal with themes of loss, nostalgia, coming of age and identity, but with a deftness to his craft and a zeal for practical effects and exceptional camera work that flips between "Old Hollywood" and Ozu at the blink of an eye. This is a not to miss series of films if you want to see one of the most interesting directors to come out of Japan.



To learn more, go to:


Nobuhiko Obayashi: A Retrospective
November 20 - December 6, 2015


Japan Society
333 E 47th St.
New York, NY 10017


Other Israel Film Fest 2015

The Other Israel Film Festival is currently underway in New York City. Running from November 5th to 12th at the JCC Manhattan (334 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY ) and at Cinema Village (22 East 12th St, New York, NY), the festival explores Israeli society, culture, and controversy through documentary and narrative film.

Closing the festival and having its New York City premiere, is Woman in the Sink, directed by Iris Zaki:

“At “Fifi’s”, a hair salon in the heart of Haifa’s Arab community, Iris Zaki installs a mini film set over the washbasin. While she washes their hair, Zaki speaks candidly and freely with the salon’s Arab and Jewish clients, who share their views on politics, history, and love. What emerges from these conversations is an honest and nuanced portrait of contemporary Israel.”

Other films at the festival include:


    Dir. Eyal Sagui Bizawe & Sara Tsifroni
    (60 min, Documentary, Israel, Hebrew & Arabic w/ English subtitles)
    A nostalgic look back at that old Friday afternoon ritual, when Israeli families of all backgrounds would gather to watch the week’s “Egyptian Movie” on Israel’s official TV station. Arab Movie takes us back to that fleeting moment when Israelis shared the same cultural heroes as everyone else in the Middle East, even as it raises disturbing questions about their relationship to their neighbors across the border.


    East Coast Premiere
    Dir. Mor Lushi
    (84 min, Documentary, Israel, Hebrew & English w/ English subtitles)
    One week after the Six Day War, a group of soldiers, led by renowned author Amos Oz, recorded intimate conversations with fellow soldiers returning from war. In these recordings, the men wrestled with their fears, taking an honest look at the moment Israel turned occupier. These recordings, censored by the Israeli army until now, are played back to the men 50 years later, revealing their confessions for the first time.
    Censored Voices opens in theaters on November 20, via Music Box Films.


    Dir. Oren Rudavsky & Joseph Dorman
    (135 min, Documentary, US, English, Hebrew, Arabic w/English subtitles)
    A feature-length exploration of one of the most influential, controversial, and urgently relevant political ideologies of the modern era. With origins in Europe in the late 19th century, Zionism was born out of the Jewish confrontation with modernity and persecution. Yet early on, Zionism faced opposition from Palestine’s Arab inhabitants, who saw it depriving them of their own national rights in a land they had inhabited for centuries. Now, amid unceasing religious conflict and tragic bloodshed, it is more crucial than ever for Americans to better understand the meaning, history and future of the movement.
    Colliding Dreams will open in New York at Lincoln Plaza in January 2016.


    Dir. Tarzan & Arab Nasser
    83 min, Narrative, France / Palestine, Arabic w/English subtitles
    In this Cannes film festival favorite, we take a look into the lives of a diverse group of women visiting a beauty salon on a hot summer’s day in the Gaza Strip. A bride-to-be, a pregnant woman, a bitter divorcée, a devout woman and a pill-popping addict all meet for some leisure time and pampering. But all is disrupted when a gang war erupts between Hamas and a local group, right in front of the salon, trapping the woman and raising the temperature and anxiety. Starring Hiam Abbass, Maisa Abdelhadi, and Manal Award.


    United States Premiere
    Dir. Helen Yanovsky
    (65 min, Documentary, Israel, Hebrew, Russian, & Arabic w/ English subtitles)
    The Jerusalem Boxing Club, which operates out of a bomb shelter in Jerusalem's Katamon neighborhood, is a meeting point for teens from all around the city. For many of these young people, the desire to excel and to win is nourished by the tough training and boundless love of Gershon Luxemburg, the club's manager and trainer, for whom boxing is not just another sport, but a way of life.


    New York Premiere
    Dir. Doron & Yoav Paz
    (81 min, Narrative, Israel, English)
    A horror film that takes us to Jerusalem, where two vacationing American teenagers decide to follow a mysterious archaeologist to the Old City. Their party is cut short when Jerusalem’s ancient gate to hell is opened, releasing a biblical apocalypse. Trapped between the city’s walls, the three travelers must survive long enough to find a way out, as the fury of hell is unleashed upon them.


    New York Premiere
    Dir. Anat Goren
    (65 min, Documentary, Israel, Hebrew, Amharic, Arabic, & English w/ English subtitles)
    A moving documentary that tells the story of Mussa, a 12-year-old African refugee living in one of Tel Aviv’s worst neighborhoods. Every day, Mussa is bussed to an upscale private school, where he silently navigates a privileged world, connecting with friends but refusing to speak. When Mussa’s mother is threatened with deportation, Mussa is left devastated, compelled to leave his father and friends behind.


    Dir. Jake Witzenfeld
    (81 min, Documentary, UK, Hebrew, Arabic, & English w/ English subtitles)
    The story of three gay Palestinian friends confronting their national and sexual identity in Tel Aviv. Khader is a “darling” from a prominent Muslim family living with David, his Jewish boyfriend. Fadi is an ardent Palestinian nationalist, in love with a Zionist. Naim yearns to confront his family with the truth about his sexuality. Determined to make a change, the three best friends form a group to fight for gender and national equality.


    New York Premiere
    Dir. Duki Dror, Chen Shelach
    (56 min, Documentary, Israel, Hebrew, Arabic, & English w/ English subtitles)
    In the midst of an ever-fraught political landscape, two women, one Israeli and one Palestinian, attempt the seemingly impossible: to build a business together. Fighting against anti-normalization currents and a male-dominated industry, the two combine forces to create a logistics company which helps Palestinian businessmen navigate the Israeli occupation. But while they help their clients, the divisions between the two threaten to tear their partnership apart. Can the bond between them overcome the impossible?


To learn more, go to:

The Other Israel Film Festival
November 5 - 12, 2015

JCC Manhattan
334 Amsterdam Ave.
New York, NY 10023

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


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