Beat poets, crown jewels, a lonely Hungarian, and a Senegalese bad boy are featured in some of the highlights of this year’s To Save and Project, the festival of film preservation currently running at the Museum of Modern Art in New York through February 6. Department of Film curator Josh Siegel is “particularly proud” of the program presenting three works from the early 1930s that were banned by the Nazis, “but I’m honestly just thrilled to be back in MoMA’s movie theaters watching gorgeous restorations of films,” some of which “I’ve only known in the past from dupey prints or horrible video transfers.”
The program Siegel singles out opens with Europa (1931), a twelve-minute adaptation of Anatol Stern’s 1925 futurist poem by Polish artists Stefan and Franciszka Themerson. When the Themersons fled Warsaw in 1938, the Nazis seized—and, it was believed, destroyed—Europa, but Germany’s Bundesfilmarchiv discovered a print in 2019. The new restoration premiered in London last fall, and Pamela Hutchinson, writing for the Independent, noted that Europa “uses graphic imagery to convey the horror of creeping fascism across the continent: a suited man gorging on rare meat, another swallowing newsprint. There are extreme, polarized closeups, screams of terror, photographic collages, a beating heart shown in X-ray, a crucifixion, and a First World War trench, punches and gunshots. Film threads through a camera, while fast edits evoke the tension of living in a climate of fear and hatred.”
The other two films in the program are Unemployed: The Destiny of Millions (1933), written, directed, and shot by Willy Zielke, and Kuhle Wampe, or Who Owns the World? (1932), directed by Slatan Dudow and written by Bertolt Brecht and Ernst Ottwald. The Nazis forced Zielke to rework his dire portrait of a nation in crisis into a pro-National Socialist screed, but the Munich Filmmuseum has reconstructed as closely as possible the filmmaker’s original vision. Kuhle Wampe, which centers on a family evicted from their Berlin apartment, is “the most purely Brechtian—deliberately unemotional acting, dissonant sound, and all manner of dramatic non sequiturs—of the playwright’s several film projects,” wrote J. Hoberman for the Village Voice in 2009. “It’s also the most radical example of the so-called New Objectivity—socially conscious, anti-expressive, quasi-documentary.”
Screening tomorrow, Me and My Brother (1965–1968) is the first feature directed by the late Robert Frank, who was known at the time primarily for The Americans, the then-controversial collection of photographs that had come out in the U.S. ten years before. Me and My Brother begins as a straightforward documentary. Poet Peter Orlovsky has arranged to have his brother Julius, a schizophrenic who rarely speaks a word, released from Bellevue Hospital. “The temperamental Peter drags his brother around bohemian lower Manhattan and across the country to readings in Kansas and San Francisco in a scenario that’s part On the Road, part Good Time,” writes Sarah Fensom for Screen Slate.
When Julius goes missing, Joseph Chaikin, who founded the Open Theater, takes over the role in passages blending improvisation and scripted dialogue cowritten with Sam Shepard and Allen Ginsberg. Christopher Walken, making his feature debut, plays Frank. Working with the Andrea Frank Foundation, MoMA intends to restore Frank’s entire filmography—with the exception of the 1959 short Pull My Daisy, which Anthology Film Archives is working on now, and Candy Mountain, the 1988 road movie that’s currently being restored in Switzerland.
Hungarian filmmaker Judit Elek had won awards in Berlin and Locarno for her documentaries when she made her first fictional feature in 1969. “A revelation!” exclaims the International Film Festival Rotterdam, which has programmed The Lady from Constantinople as one of six restorations in its Cinema Regained program. Manyi Kiss plays a lonely aging woman who “finds herself time and again in weird, awkward, outright surreal situations, including a funeral on a rooftop and an impromptu party full of strangers.”
The arrival of The Lady from Constantinople in New York comes as Metrograph wraps its series of films by Miklós Jancsó and just before Film at Lincoln Center presents a Márta Mészáros retrospective. Mészáros is “one of the great unsung living filmmakers,” says Siegel, and the Hungarian Film Archive, “led by my friend György Ráduly, is doing superlative restoration work on masterworks and rediscoveries of Hungarian cinema.”
Sunday’s eclectic program curated by NYU Orphan Film Symposium founding director Dan Streible includes Something Good—Negro Kiss (1898), which is probably the first instance of Black intimacy on screen; Hollis Frampton’s Public Domain (1972); and outtakes from James Baldwin: From Another Place, Sedat Pakay’s portrait of the writer shot in Istanbul in May 1970. Slava Tsukerman, director of the 1982 cult favorite Liquid Sky, will be on hand to introduce his first film, I Believe in Spring (1962). Talking to Style Weekly’s Brent Baldwin in 2020, Tsukerman noted that the short “won first prize at a Russian national festival of amateur film and was released in theaters. I believe this was first Russian independent film released, back then they called it amateur, but there was nothing amateur about it. This was 35 mm film.”
Next Tuesday, New Yorkers will have the opportunity to see on the big screen two of the nine films collected in Flicker Alley’s new box set, Cinema of Discovery: Julien Duvivier in the 1920s. Duvivier’s silent features are “often as visually dynamic and emotionally vibrant as even the best films of the era,” writes Derek Smith at Slant. The Mystery of the Eiffel Tower (1928) is a rollicking thriller, while The Divine Voyage (1929) is a drama about the exploitation of a coastal village by a greedy ship owner.
Smith finds that Duvivier “imbues The Divine Voyage with a unique blend of Catholic mysticism, gothic romanticism, and social realism, resulting in a beautifully transfixing film that draws as much from the pioneering political work of the Soviet montage directors as it does from such Jean Epstein masterpieces as The Faithful Heart and Finis Terrae. It’s an unusual film in Duvivier’s filmography, but one that shows his ability to push wholeheartedly into the poetic expressionism that he typically reined in throughout the rest of his work.”
Senegalese filmmaker Djibril Diop Mambéty was twenty-one when he made his first film, Badou Boy, in 1966. He made another short film, City of Contrasts, an impressionistic portrait of Dakar, two years later, and in 1970, he remade Badou Boy from the ground up. This is the version that has been freshly restored, and it’s “a slapstick chase film in which a hapless officer continually fails in his efforts to catch the bad boy of the title, a teenage delinquent who makes mischief across town,” writes Ben Kenigsberg in the New York Times.
Badou Boy is a “formally playful, extremely Godardian film,” writes Kenigsberg. “Driven by a funkadelic score, it waggishly nods to the postcolonial politics of Senegal and France, as when a news broadcast announces that Senegalese troops have invaded the French Riviera after a walkout at the two nations’ ‘conference for the creation of an African species of luxury dogs.’” Starting Friday, the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley will be screening a series of Mambéty’s films through February 20.
Alongside the new restoration of Orson Welles’s F for Fake (1973), MoMA will screen Ebrahim Golestan’s The Crown Jewels of Iran (1965), a fifteen-minute short commissioned by the Central Bank of Iran to celebrate the collection kept in the treasury. In his narration, Golestan was critical of the Persian kings of the past, and after the film was shown once to the Shah, it was immediately banned. “Some of the most iconic landscape photography in the history of Iranian cinema can be found within a minute after the opening credits, in which peasants of various ethnicities and tribes are quickly reviewed,” writes Ehsan Khoshbakht, who oversaw the restoration with Golestan. “Like a work of musical composition, a simple act of ploughing is spread across shots of various size and angle, creating an intimate visual symphony.”
In March, Film at Lincoln Center will pay tribute to Kinuyo Tanaka with a retrospective featuring all six films she directed as well as several she appeared in. As an actor, Tanaka worked with Yasujiro Ozu, Kenji Mizoguchi, Mikio Naruse, and Keisuke Kinoshita, and became, after Sakane Tazuko, the second woman in Japan to work as a director. MoMA describes Forever a Woman (1955) as an “astonishingly sober but heartbreaking portrait of the real-life tanka poet Fumiko Nakajo.”
This year’s To Save and Project will wrap with the launch of a weeklong run of Valerio Zurlini’s Indian Summer (1972). Alain Delon plays a failed poet who arrives in the seaside town of Rimini to teach at a high school for a few months, to drink and gamble the nights away, and to ignore his partner—particularly when he finds himself falling for a nineteen-year-old student. Indian Summer was a hit in Italy and played well in France, but it was overlooked in the States when it arrived in a brutally reedited cut. “Delon’s performance is one of his best,” says Siegel, “and Zurlini’s vision for the film can now be fully appreciated.”
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