This year’s To Save and Project, the Museum of Modern Art’s showcase of preserved and restored films, opened on Monday with the world premiere of the new restoration of Paul Leni’s silent horror comedy The Cat and the Canary (1927). If you missed what Margarita Landazuri calls “an inspired blend of German Expressionism and American razzmatazz,” you’ll have another shot at catching it on January 12. The festival’s nineteenth edition will wrap on February 2 with The Marriage Circle (1924), in which Ernst Lubitsch “turned a drawing-room farce into bittersweet chamber music,” as the New Yorker’s Richard Brody wrote in 2015.
Monte Blue plays a Viennese physician tempted to cheat on his wife (Florence Vidor) by the flirtatious Mizzi (Marie Prevost). As Guy Maddin pointed out in 2013, Blue, a much sought-after romantic lead in the 1920s, appears “anonymously as a doorman” in René Clair’s I Married a Witch (1942). The stars here, of course, are Veronica Lake and Fredric March. Maddin wrote that in Clair’s hands, the film brandishes “broad fantastic conceits—the immortality of witches, spirits that fly; and deciduous and decidedly horny transubstantiation—and quickly creates a shimmering preternatural world with understandable rules, in which romance can flourish with that intoxicating logic of music.”
After the Second World War, Yasujiro Ozu made two films that were “scabrous portrayals of a corrupt, demilitarized, firebombed landscape that swallows the vulnerable,” wrote Michael Atkinson in 2012. “It was as if Ozu needed to drain the war’s pus from his psyche.” MoMA is screening the second, A Hen in the Wind (1948), starring future director Kinuyo Tanaka as the wife of a soldier off at war and the mother of a young son who falls ill. When her husband returns and learns that she has resorted to prostitution to earn enough to care for their boy, he flies off the handle.
Guillermo del Toro calls Felipe Cazals’s Canoa: A Shameful Memory (1976) “one of the ten most important Mexican films of the second half of the twentieth century.” Canoa is based on the tragically real murders of two university employees who set out with three friends in 1968 to climb a mountain and never made it beyond a village where they decided to spend their first night. When Screen Slate founder Jon Dieringer included Canoa in his Criterion top ten, he wrote, “I can’t think of anything else that so successfully fuses dyed-in-the-wool radical filmmaking and horror.”
When Aravindan Govindan’s Thamp (The Circus Tent) was released in 1978, it was “admired by such luminaries as Satyajit Ray and Indian New Wave filmmakers like Mani Kaul, and Chidananda Dasgupta (India's first film theoretician and actress-filmmaker Aparna Sen's father),” writes Arun A. K. in the Notebook. Loosely plotted and mostly improvised, Thamp documents a circus troupe’s arrival and show in the southern Indian state of Kerala. “Beneath the simplistic facade of Thamp is an acute ethnographic portrait of Kerala's socio-cultural heterogeneity,” writes Arun.
Among the many highlights in the lineup are features from Luis Buñuel and Tod Browning as well as Reclaiming the LGBTQ Past, a program of three short films. The Cockettes, San Francisco’s famed hippie theater troupe, spoof the marriage of President Nixon’s daughter in Tricia’s Wedding (1971), and in the Village Voice,Stuart Byron called the film “hysterically funny.” Greetings from Washington, D.C. (1981) documents the first march on the capital for LGBTQ rights, and Death by Unnatural Causes (1990) features music by Arto Lindsay, Marc Ribot, and John Lurie.
Recently retired preservationist Scott MacQueen will discuss the challenges presented by the restoration of two films in the program, William Dieterle’s All That Money Can Buy, later reshaped and released as The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941), and William Cameron Menzies’s Invaders from Mars (1953), which was filmed in the obsolete Supercinecolor process. And speaking of obsolescence, preservationists James Layton and David Pierce will give an illustrated talk on the varieties of the widescreen experience that came and went before one, CinemaScope, finally took hold.
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