Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker (1979), written by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky and based on their 1972 novel Roadside Picnic, screens tomorrow and Tuesday as part of The Strugatsky Brothers on Film, a series running through November 21 at Anthology Film Archives in New York, and sees a week-long run in Toronto starting Friday as part of the TIFF Cinematheque series The Poetry of Apocalypse: The Films of Andrei Tarkovsky, on through November 26.
In the Village Voice, Michael Atkinson notes that the Strugatsky series follows a week of films based on the work of Stanislaw Lem, but “the Strug series is a more savory affair; these brothers were testy Cold War cooperatives whose sanctioned novels are nevertheless structured around metaphysical uncertainty. . . . Maybe inevitably, given Soviet life, a strain of Beckettian/Kafkaesque existentialist frisson is baked into the state’s fiction and its various film adaptations, which sometimes feel less genre-faithful than simply disorientingly trippy. This unmoored quality is no mistake, given that Tarkovsky, the movies’ most ambitious metaphysician, looked to both Lem’s and the Strugs’ brands of philosophical sci-fi, converting mysterious paperback pulp into the most daunting of art films, and reveling above all in the stories’ collapse of reason. Fans of Stalker will recognize in the rest of the series a similar textual unwillingness to nail anything down.”
On Tuesday, Robert Bird, author of Andrei Tarkovsky: Elements of Cinema, will be speaking about the filmmaker in Toronto and, writing for the TIFF Review, Bird considers Stalker’s cameo in David Leitch’s Charlize Theron vehicle, Atomic Blonde: “For Raymond Bellour the Zone is an image in which dream is indistinguishable from memory; for Slavoj Žižek it is ultimately ‘the material presence, the Real of an absolute Otherness incompatible with the rules and laws of our universe.’ All of this would describe the passage between the two Berlins, so it is understandable that Atomic Blonde might want to activate Stalker’s sense of a forbidden, closed-off space that makes one confront one’s deepest desires and fears. But it could have used any number of other films to do so: it has been noted that Stalker follows the general scheme of The Wizard of Oz, which itself replicates a common plot in folk tales. Maybe the Zone is simply the cinema itself, a locus of experience formed of inquisitive human gazes and an uncannily impersonal machine gaze—the place one goes to see one’s innermost desires fulfilled, but only vicariously.”
Also in the TIFF Review, Azadeh Jafari: “Tarkovsky does not only evoke the passage of time in the forms of dreams, memories, and images of loved ones; he makes the viewer feel the pressure of time, time as a physical force. And this physical representation of time on screen is the key to the often overwhelming emotional affect of his films, which—though they are all deeply and sometimes cryptically personal, haunted by his singular memories, fears and regrets—continue to resonate with audiences all over the world. The splintered spatio-temporal field of his autobiographical masterpiece The Mirror  evokes the fractured, collage-like nature of our own childhood memories.” Screens this evening.
New York. Back in the Voice, Craig D. Lindsey previews Strange Victories: Black Soldiers and World War II, the BAMcinématek series running through Thursday: “The name of the series comes from Strange Victory (screening November 13), the radical filmmaker Leo Hurwitz’s cynical, 1948 critique of post-war America. Even though this hybrid doc ends with a Black fighter pilot trying to land a commercial flying job, Victory is more about Hurwitz showing how America’s continual oppression of other races—specifically Blacks and Jews—doesn’t make this place all that different than Nazi Germany. This hour-long film will be shown in conjunction with Illusions (1982), the first film piece from Julie Dash (Daughters of the Dust), with Lonette McKee as a light-skinned Black woman passing in plain sight as a white studio assistant in Hollywood, attempting, against the odds, to make sure military minorities get their silver-screen time.”
And Mallika Rao meets Madhur Jaffrey, who plays Manjula in director and screenwriter James Ivory and producer Ismail Merchant’s Shakespeare Wallah (1965). A new 2K restoration is at the Quad through Tuesday.
“Teen dreams reign supreme in Jack Arnold’s High School Confidential, playing today at MoMA as part of their exceptionally sleazy You Are Now One of Us: Film at Club 57 series,” writes Caroline Golum at Screen Slate. “The program boasts a stellar line-up of camp masterworks from the golden age of kitsch, with titles that run the gamut from foreign art house classics (Luis Bunuel’s El) and hard-boiled noir (Joseph H. Lewis’s The Big Combo) to heretofore misunderstood works of bold genius (Russ Meyer’s Beyond the Valley of the Dolls), with a special emphasis on strong looks from the Swingin’ Sixties (don’t miss the teeny-bopper concert doc The T.A.M.I. Show and Warhol’s Vinyl).”
The “slim but diverse line-up” of the India Kaleidoscope Film Festival, now in its second year at the Museum of the Moving Image, “culls, from all over the country, independent films that render stories of the mofussil with a distinctly regional idiom,” writes Devika Girish for Reverse Shot. Through tomorrow.
Ongoing: DOC NYC 2017.
Los Angeles. “Composer Annie Gosfield’s operatic adaptation of Orson Welles’s infamous radio drama War of the Worlds makes its Disney Hall debut featuring narration by the Alien queen herself, Sigourney Weaver,” writes Drew Tewksbury. “The otherworldly performance—which includes L.A. Phil players and opera star Suzanna Guzmán—is the brainchild of director Yuval Sharon, who recently won an esteemed MacArthur Fellowship, aka ‘the Genius Grant.’ . . . Like his other works that engaged communities, War of the Worlds also will be broadcast for free at three WWII-era air raid sirens throughout L.A.” Happens tomorrow afternoon and twice again on November 18.
On that same page in the LA Weekly, Nathaniel Bell recommends Leslie Goodwins’s The Girl from Mexico (1939), “the first in the popular ‘Mexican Spitfire’ series starring Lupe Velez,” screening Tuesday at LACMA, and Jonas Carpignano’s A Ciambra, which opens Cinema Italian Style 2017 at the Egyptian on Thursday—the rest of the series runs through November 21 at the Aero.
Ongoing: AFI Fest 2017.
Bay Area. Lawrence Jordan will be at the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center tomorrow afternoon to present and discuss a selection of his films. “Out of a light table and scraps of forgotten paper, Jordan, 83, has woven a career of wondrous animation,” writes Richard Von Busack for the Pacific Sun. “The former San Francisco Art Institute teacher’s work can be as ambitious as an adaptation of poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner narrated by Orson Welles. It’s also as small scale as his 1957 Waterlight, scenes taken from the deck of a California Maritime Academy ship, showing the way the sun over water looked 60 years ago.”
Chicago. This week’s “Crucial Viewing” according to the Cine-List includes two programs of shorts screening today at the Block Museum of Art as part of the Eyeworks Festival of Experimental Animation, J.G. Blystone’s The Last Man on Earth (1924) with live accompaniment by Dennis Scott, also today, as part of Silent Cinema at the Music Box, Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s Daughter of the Nile (1987), through Thursday at the Gene Siskel Film Center, and David Cronenberg’s Naked Lunch (1991), screening Thursday at Doc Films.
London. For Culture Trip, Lynsey Ford talks with Jo Botting, who’s curated Good at Being Bad: The films of Gloria Grahame, a retrospective running at BFI Southbank from Monday through December 30. Grahame, notes Ford, “is best remembered for portraying mesmerizing, often damaged or troublemaking women in a string of classic post-war film noirs, including Crossfire (1947), In a Lonely Place (1950), The Big Heat (1953), and Human Desire (1954). A mercurial combination of seductiveness, slightly tawdry glamour, and vulnerability, Grahame enjoyed a fruitful but often rocky four-decade career on film, stage, and television on both sides of the Atlantic.”
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