Goings On: Robeson, Miike, and More

New York. “The star of Lost Landscapes of New York is the city itself—or rather the city of dreams and memories,” begins Manohla Dargis in the New York Times. “Created by the archivist Rick Prelinger, this wondrous compilation turns old film fragments into a portal onto the past that seems further away with each new Starbucks. . . . In one flickering instant you see the New York of the original Penn Station (gone in 1964), in another you ride the Third Avenue Elevated, a railway that once ran the length of Manhattan like a zipper. Hovering over streets and sidewalks, it delivered multitudes while casting dappled shadows made for beauty shots and sometimes poetry.” The Museum of the Moving Image, in cooperation with NYU Cinema Studies and its Orphan Film Symposium, is presenting this participatory urban-history event on Sunday at the Skirball Center, whose site offers Dan Strieble’s appreciation of Prelinger’s work and further reading on this project in particular. 

On Tuesday, Light Industry presents René Allio's I, Pierre Rivière, Having Slaughtered My Mother, My Sister and My Brother . . . (1976). “If Robert Bresson had been a Marxist, he might have made something like this meticulous, ecstatic historical reconstruction of an 1835 murder case in rural Normandy,” writes the New Yorker’s Richard Brody.

The BAMcinématek series Strange Victories: Black Soldiers and World War II, on from today through Thursday, “takes its title from Leo Hurwitz’s 1948 film-essay on the postwar persistence of American racism,” notes J. Hoberman, writing for the New York Review of Books, and “includes government information films (Stuart Heisler’s 1944 The Negro Soldier), widescreen musicals (Otto Preminger’s 1954 Carmen Jones), and avant-garde movies (Julie Dash’s 1982 Illusions), as well as a rare screening of the Slovenian director France Štiglic’s Valley of Peace (1956), for which the expatriate John Kitzmiller won the Best Actor award at the Cannes Film Festival for his portrayal of a black GI in wartime Yugoslavia.”

With Takashi Miike, “the ethos is simple,” writes Tanner Tafelski in the Village Voice: “More is definitely more. Fittingly for someone who mixes and matches his approaches like a jazz musician riffing on a melody, Miike doesn’t even consider himself a filmmaker but rather an ‘arranger,’ as he told Tom Mes in an interview with Midnight Eye. One of this arranger’s most notorious and well-known works, Ichi the Killer (2001), begins a week-long run [today] at Metrograph, where it is being shown in a newly achieved 4K remaster of Miike’s ‘uncensored director’s cut.’” And at RogerEbert.com, Simon Abrams adds that “this perversely funny, and unsparingly disgusting genre-melting film now looks and sounds better than it has any right to.”

Also in the Voice,Alan Scherstuhl: “A lark, a fling, a protean evocation of life between cultures, 1965’s Shakespeare Wallah, the second Merchant Ivory production, remains a breezy and beguiling study, comedy, romance, elegy. There are even elements of documentary in the film’s depiction of a traveling British theater troupe that performs Shakespeare across India. . . . Just when you think you’ve pinned down what precisely Shakespeare Wallah is, it becomes something else before your eyes. (And your eyes are in for a treat, as this new restoration is gorgeous.)” Today through Tuesday at the Quad.

“MoMA’s annual end-of-year showcase,” The Contenders, on through January 12, “has always had a split identity,” writes Ben Kenigsberg in the NYT. “The programming combines previews of coming Oscar contenders (Call Me by Your Name [reviews]; The Shape of Water [reviews]) with encore screenings of the year’s breakout hits (Get Out, showing Wednesday), as well as revivals of some titles that simply deserve more attention. These include Eliza Hittman’s powerful quasi-coming-out story, Beach Rats (Nov. 29), and Bill Morrison’s extraordinary Dawson City: Frozen Time (Nov. 18), which uses rediscovered silent films to explore the history of Dawson, a Yukon gold-rush town that was also the last stop on a film-shipping circuit. Hundreds of forgotten reels were unearthed there in 1978.”

The Nitehawk Shorts Festival is on through Sunday.

Chicago. The Chicago Independent Movies & Music Festival, now on through Sunday, “almost three dozen feature films (plus a generous selection of music videos and shorts), including a wide-ranging retrospective devoted to director Penelope Spheeris,” notes Leor Galil, presenting the Reader’s round of thirteen capsule previews.

Also in the Reader,J. R. Jones notes that filmmakers with work featured in the traveling Eyeworks Festival of Experimental Animation have “rejected the corporate world of commercials and children’s entertainment to pursue their own visions. Based in Los Angeles, the festival favors ‘works made by individual artists, drawing on the lineage of avant-garde cinema as well as the tradition of classic character animation and cartooning,’ with two free programs on Saturday at Block Museum of Art.

Toronto. “From the 1920s to the 1940s, Oscar Micheaux was the most prolific, successful—and indeed only—African American writer-director-producer in American cinema,” writes Jesse Wente for the TIFF Review. “Although Micheaux’s films typically pattern themselves after Hollywood genres—musicals, crime thrillers, melodramas, etc.—they question, criticize or invert the ideological bases of those genres.” Body and Soul (1925), screening tomorrow afternoon with live accompaniment from jazz pianist Thompson Egbo-Egbo as part of the Black Star series, “features the screen debut of legendary actor and singer Paul Robeson” and “one of Micheaux’s most dramatic twist endings.”

Hastings, East Sussex. On Sunday, the Cinematologists present Michelangelo Antonioni’s La notte (1961) at Electric Palace.

Berlin. “Within the course of just a few years, the Sahel has become a region marked by dangerous connections between fundamentalist religion, terrorism, and politics.” From Monday through November 19, Arsenal presents an edition of AFRIKAMERA – Current Cinema from Africa focusing on the region.

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