New York. Film Forum’s series, entitled simply Michel Piccoli, opens tomorrow and runs through March 22. “It’s surprisingly hard to think of an American equivalent for Piccoli,” writes Mike D’Angelo in the Village Voice. “He never exudes the wised-up, electrifying charisma of a Humphrey Bogart or a Robert Mitchum but is still capable of commanding the screen without seeming to do much of anything. Perhaps Gene Hackman is the closest analogue, though even Hackman tends to be showier than Piccoli ever gets. The performances showcased here—just seventeen, selected from the two-hundred-plus films in which he’s appeared—tend to be those in which he wholeheartedly trusts the material, embodying his character as simply and unfussily as possible. Very occasional outbursts of temper or passion only emphasize the general stillness. Most great actors compel you to watch them act, hoping they’ll thrill you. Piccoli merely invites you to witness him be.”
In Jean-Paul Melville’s Les Doulos (1962), “Piccoli plays big-time gangster Nuttheccio, set up and taken down by Jean-Paul Belmondo’s inscrutable Silien, a gangster with a police pal who’s looking to get out of the game,” writes Danielle Burgos. “Les Doulos features the most ideal death in all cinema. I won’t spoil it, but suffice to say it’s Melvillian, a sublime moment of personal romanticism, gallows humor, and nonchalance in the face of eternity.”
Also at Screen Slate, Chris Shields: “Italian provocateur Marco Ferreri may have reached his experimental zenith with the controversial 1969 film Dillinger Is Dead. . . . Piccoli is a businessman spending a quiet evening at home. He cooks, watches home movies, drinks, and cleans an old pistol. The absence of traditional drama, rather than inducing boredom, creates a giddy sense of expectation. . . . This is one of the most openly antagonistic films of all time.”
In the image at the top, we see Piccoli in Claude Sautet’s Les Choses de la vie (1970). J. R. Jones in the Chicago Reader last summer: “Sautet, adapting Paul Guimard's novel Intersection, ponders no less than the curse of free will in a world governed by chance. Pierre (Michel Piccoli), a middle-aged architect in Paris, can't make up his mind to leave behind his estranged wife, Catherine (Lea Massari), and teenage son, Bertrand (Gérard Lartigau), to move to Tunis with his young lover, Hélène [Romy Schneider]. Pierre has arrived at a crossroads in life, both figuratively and literally: speeding along a country road in his Alfa Romeo, he swerves to avoid a stalled truck in his path, and the car flies off the road, rolling in midair and finally expelling him onto the grass. Waiting for an ambulance, he flashes on people close to him and worries that if he dies someone will find and deliver to Hélène the kiss-off letter he's written but never mailed.”
With Point Counterpoint: Avant-Garde Film Scores, 1955–1973, “MoMA’s film department makes its contribution to The ’60s: The Years That Changed America, the citywide cultural festival organized by Carnegie Hall and inspired by the biographer Robert A. Caro,” writes Ben Kenigsberg in the New York Times. “The focus here is on a shift that the decade brought with the increasing use of avant-garde and modern classical scores. Each screening revolves around a particular composer or composers. The Hanns Eisler and Krzysztof Penderecki program (on Sunday and Monday), for instance, will include Night and Fog, Alain Resnais’s powerful half-hour postwar documentary on concentration camps, with music by Mr. Eisler, while the Toru Takemitsu program (on Monday) will feature Hiroshi Teshigahara’s eerie allegory Woman in the Dunes.”
The BAMcinématek series ¡Sí Se Puede! Pioneers of Chicano Cinema opens tomorrow and runs through March 22. “Urgent issues of representation ripple through the entire program,” writes Ela Bittencourt in the Notebook. “From Selena (1997), a biopic about a music star, Selena Quintanilla, directed by Gregory Nava and starring Jennifer Lopez, in which we watch Selena’s budding talent consistently protected and bolstered by her father’s loving yet adamant admonishing her to always ‘be who you are deep down,’ and so not to frown upon singing in Spanish, to [Lourdes Portillo’s Corpus: A Home Movie for Selena (1999)] chronicling the effect that Selena’s break into the music scene had on young Chicana women, who finally saw their own hopes reflected in the adored pop icon equally embraced by mainstream media.”
Cosmo Bjorkenheim at Screen Slate on Luis Valdez’s La Bamba (1987), in which Lou Diamond Phillips plays Ricardo Valenzuela, aka Ritchie Valens: “White cowboys might seem hostile to Ritchie's brown skin for a second, but he instantly bowls them over with the power of his voice and annihilates any trace of racist hatred.”
“When Gregory Nava and his co-writer, producer, and partner Anna Thomas set out to secure financing for El Norte , they deliberately avoided courting major studios so that they’d be more likely to keep their original vision intact,” writes Chloe Lizotte, also at Screen Slate. “Unlike other cinematic depictions of Latin American dictatorships that cropped up in the ’80s, El Norte doesn’t narrate the experience of a white audience surrogate, but centers on two teenage Guatemalan siblings (Zaide Silvia Gutiérrez and David Villalpando) who flee their village for the United States—the ‘North’ of the title—after their dissident father is murdered by the regime. . . . Often discussed in terms of its magical realism, El Norte’s staging of Enrique and Rosa’s dreams contributes to a central feeling of transience.”
The Tribeca Film Festival, whose seventeenth edition runs from April 18 through 29, will present “three headline events” as part of Tribeca Games on April 27 and 28.
Ongoing: Rendez-Vous With French Cinema runs at the Film Society of Lincoln Center through Sunday, Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Eight Hours Don’t Make a Day (1972–73) is at Film Forum through March 27, and Pacino’s Way is on at the Quad through March 30.
Los Angeles. In the LA Weekly, Nathaniel Bell spotlights screenings over the next few days of work by Carol Reed, George Pal, Michael Curtiz, and Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.
Austin. The SXSW Film Festival rolls on through Saturday and, for the New York Times, Mekado Murphy revisits some of this year’s “more notable moments.” Meantime, the entry on the awards has been updated with more quotes from and links to the latest reviews of the winners.
Seattle. For the Stranger, Charles Mudede talks with Dan Hudson, lead programmer of the Grand Illusion Cinema, which is “experiencing a renaissance. Opened in 1970, and saved from death by Northwest Film Forum in 1997, the Grand Illusion became its own nonprofit in 2004. During much of this history, it had a reputation for screening films that were considered too radical or experimental or rare for the standard art house crowd. These days, however, the Grand Illusion is more and more screening movies that, under normal circumstances, would have landed at a Landmark theater.” Says Hudson: “I just secured the new Wim Wenders film, Submergence, to open April 13, which stars James McAvoy and Alicia Vikander. This is certainly a title you might have seen at a Landmark theater, but now that they are all shuttered (besides the Crest), we've got the Seattle exclusive.”
London. The Third International Conference, Colour in Film, will take place at BFI Southbank on Monday and Tuesday and then at Birkbeck College, University of London, on Wednesday.
Ongoing: The first two of three exhibitions of work by Tacita Dean in London have opened today.
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