By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood August 20, 2012 at 8:23PM
THE MET LIVE IN HD: L'ELLSIR D'AMORE (2012) 155min
Now in its ninth year, the popular performance series THE MET: LIVE IN HD has brought the Metropolitan Opera’s world-class productions to a whole new audience via live video simulcasts skillfully captured with multiple high-definition cameras and beamed via satellite to cinemas around the world. As the curtain goes up on the Met’s 2012-2013 season with director Bartlett Sher’s new production of one of the greatest comic operas, Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore (starring Anna Netrebko and Matthew Polenzani and conducted by Maurizio Benini), NYFF presents a special edition of THE MET: LIVE IN HD, followed by a live, in-theater discussion with Met Opera General Manager Peter Gelb.
OLIVER STONE’S UNTOLD HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES (2012) 180min
Director: Oliver Stone
For much of his remarkable career, three-time Oscar-winning filmmaker Oliver Stone has set about exposing errors and omissions in the official record of such key moments in American history as the JFK assassination, the Vietnam War, and the Nixon administration. In his hugely ambitious new project, OLIVER STONE’S UNTOLD HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES. Stone puts nothing less than the entire 20th century under a microscope, with results that are sobering, surprising and sure to be controversial. Produced as a 10-part miniseries for Showtime (where it will premiere in November), we are thrilled to present this special sneak preview of UNTOLD HISTORY's first three chapters, which focus on the events leading up to America's entrance into World War II, the war itself, and the unjustly forgotten figure of former U.S. Vice President Henry Wallace. The screening will be followed by a panel discussion featuring Stone, co-writer Peter Kuznick, historian Douglas Brinkley (Rice University) and journalist Jonathan Schell (The Nation).
ONCE EVERY DAY (2012) 66min
Director: Richard Foreman
Since the late 1960s, the almost annual productions of Richard Foreman’s Ontological-Hysteric Theater have been among New York’s artistic highlights. A legend of the avant-garde theater, Foreman is also a passionate film fan, whose taste ranges from American avant-garde to Manoel de Oliveira. ONCE EVERY DAY marks his first foray into feature filmmaking in 35 years. Highly visual, complexly edited and without a traditional narrative, the film zeroes in on a group of 25 people acting out a series of semi-ritualistic behavior patterns. But their eccentric impulses are aborted in unpredictable ways with each attempt at action or development. According to the director, “The film slowly evolves a time-mosaic of reformatted consciousness.” Longtime admirers of Foreman’s work will see an intriguing adaptation of his unique theatrical style to the cinema. And for everyone else: Welcome to the extraordinary world of Richard Foreman.
THE PRINCESS BRIDE (1987) 98min
Director: Rob Reiner
Can it really be 25 years since a schoolboy sick with fever first lay in his bed and listened to his grandfather read him a magical tale of a beautiful maiden, a lovestruck farmboy, a vain Prince, a giant from Greenland, a Spanish fencing master, a six-fingered Count and a literal miracle worker? Few if any films of the 1980s have been more beloved by successive generations of moviegoers than this hilarious and enchanting storybook romance from director Rob Reiner (THIS IS SPINAL TAP) and legendary screenwriter William Goldman (BUTCH CASIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID), featuring a peerless comic cast that includes Cary Elwes, Robin Wright, Mandy Patinkin, Chris Sarandon, Christopher Guest, Wallace Shawn, Billy Crystal, André the Giant and Peter Falk.
Illuminating documentaries and essay films about movies and the men and women who make them.
CASTING BY (2012) 94min
Director: Tom Donahue
How, in fact, do all those wonderful men, women and children we see on the screen actually get there? As we learn in Tom Donahue’s revealing new film, that’s the contribution of casting directors, who trawl independent movies, Off-Broadway, Off-Off-Broadway, college theater and summer stock to come up with the new faces constantly demanded by the star-making machinery of the cinema. The film traces the evolution of the casting director beginning after WWII, citing the crucial role of the late Marion Dougherty, who moved from theater to television and eventually to Hollywood, and who perhaps more than anyone else professionalized the field. Interviews with major casting directors including Juliet Taylor, Lynn Stalmaster and Dougherty herself and many of the actors they discovered (including Jeff Bridges, Robert Duvall, Clint Eastwood and Al Pacino) give a rich sense of the work that goes on before the cameras start rolling.
CELLULOID MAN (2012) 164min
Director: Shivendra Singh Dungarpur
Imagine trying to preserve and protect the legacy of a national cinema that routinely turns out almost 1000 films a year. That became the mission of P.K. Nair, the founder and patron saint of the National Film Archive of India. Thanks to Mr. Nair’s efforts, precious Indian silent films have been discovered and preserved, as well as classics from all other periods. But Nair’s work didn’t stop there: the Archive also became a showcase for great films from all over the world. Shivendra Singh Dungarpur’s heartfelt tribute to P.K. Nair includes interviews with many leading figures of Indian cinema, who all attest to Nair’s importance for their artistic development. Beautifully preserved sequences from many of the classic films preserved by the Archive make CELLULOID MAN a celebration of Indian cinema as well as of the man who did so much to safeguard it for future generations.
FINAL CUT – LADIES AND GENTLEMEN (Final Cut - Hölgyeim és uraim) (2012) 85min
Director: György Pàlfi
An odds-on candidate for the greatest movie ever made, FINAL CUT is entirely composed of scenes from the greatest movies ever made. Spending over three years in the editing room, György Pàlfi created this extraordinary film by culling scenes from over 450 international films and assembling them into a kind of ramshackle narrative. Characters are born, grow up, fall in love, marry, and move into domestic life: Alain Delon exchanges glances with Marilyn Monroe, while Jackie Chan springs to the rescue of Jeanne Moreau. Pàlfi, director of such eccentric gems as HUKKLE and TAXIDERMIA, offers a history of the world as told by the movies.
LIV AND INGMAR (Liv og Ingmar) 82min
Director: Dheeraj Akolkar
She was 25, a new actress with a handful of films on her resume; he was 46 and widely considered one of the greatest living filmmakers. He invited her to work on a film called PERSONA, and the rest is cinematic history. Over twelve films in which he directed her, and two films she made based on his screenplays, Liv Ullmann and Ingmar Bergman formed one of the most remarkable and fruitful artistic collaborations ever. The intensity of their work on screen was matched by their passion off screen; they fell in love, and for about five years lived as a couple. Yet even after their romantic break-up they continued to be, as Bergman put it, “painfully connected.” Narrated by Ms. Ullman, Dheeraj Akolkar’s elegant film shows how much their relationship became the subtext—and perhaps in a few cases such as SCENES FROM A MARRIAGE, the actual text—for many of the masterworks they created together.
ROMAN POLANSKI: ODD MAN OUT (2012) 88min
Director: Marina Zenovich
The great success of Marina Zenovich’s ROMAN POLANSKI: WANTED AND DESIRED (2008) led to renewed interest in resolving the statutory rape case that caused Polanski to flee to Europe in 1978. Then, in September 2009, upon arriving in Switzerland to receive an award at the Zurich Film Festival, Polanski was arrested by Swiss authorities acting on a U.S. request for extradition. Back in Los Angeles, Polanski’s lawyers attempt to enter new evidence of judicial misconduct during his earlier trial, while in Switzerland Polanski waits under house arrest. Caught in the middle are Polanski’s wife, French actress Emmanuelle Seigner, and their children. With the same sensitivity and assuredness that distinguished her earlier film, Zenovich carefully lays out the various aspects of Polanski’s predicament, while exposing the various ulterior motives at work on both sides of the case.
ROOM 237 (2012) 102min
Director: Rodney Ascher
After the box office failure of BARRY LYNDON, Stanley Kubrick decided to embark on a project that might have more commercial appeal. THE SHINING, Stephen King’s biggest critical and commercial success yet, seemed like a perfect vehicle. After an arduous production, Kubrick’s film received a wide release in the summer of 1980; the reviews were mixed, but the box office, after a slow start, eventually picked up. End of story? Hardly. In the 30 years since the film’s release, a considerable cult of Shining devotees has emerged, fans who claim to have decoded the film’s secret messages addressing everything from the genocide of Native Americans to a range of government conspiracies. Rodney Ascher’s wry and provocative ROOM 237 fuses fact and fiction through interviews with cultists and scholars, creating a kaleidoscopic deconstruction of Kubrick’s still-controversial classic. An IFC Midnight release.
THE WAR OF THE VOLCANOES (2012) 52min
Director: Francesco Patierno
In 1948, a fan letter arrived for director Roberto Rossellini from Ingrid Bergman, one of Hollywood’s biggest stars; after a meeting in New York, Rossellini invited Bergman to Italy to work on a project. Meanwhile, Anna Magnani, one of Italy’s biggest stars and Rossellini’s longtime lover, was furious. When the Rossellini/Bergman project was announced as a tale set on Stromboli, one of the volcanic Aeolian Islands, Magnani quickly set up her own Aeolian project, financed by Hollywood, to be called VOLCANO. Italy’s tabloids simply went wild: the prospect of these two great divas battling it out with rival productions was breathlessly followed, especially as it became clear that the Rossellini/Bergman relationship was more than professional. Francesco Patierno has created an engrossing, revealing and highly entertaining chronicle of this cinematic battle royal.
101 (2012) 20min
Director: Luis Miñaro
An affectionate portrait of the 101-year old filmmaker Manoel de Oliveira during the shooting of THE STRANGE CASE OF ANGELICA
On the Arts
Music, opera, theater and magic are captured on screen in these films that reflect other performing arts through the prism of cinema.
BECOMING TRAVIATA (2012) 108min
Director: Philippe Béziat
The title of Philippe Béziat’s lovely film about the staging of Verdi’s masterwork at the Aix-en-Provence Festival in France could be said to have a double meaning. On the one hand, it refers to Met Opera favorite Natalie Dessay as she hones her articulation, gestures and movements on her way to incarnating Violetta, Verdi’s tragic courtesan. On the other, it captures the wonder that opera is: the way in which so many elements—musical, vocal, dramatic, choreographic, scenographic—come together to create a single aesthetic experience. Much more than a backstage look at the contemporary staging of a classic, the film captures the highly detailed work of both director Jean-François Sivadier and musical director Louis Langrée, lingering over notes and lyrics, trying to get the expression of their meaning to be as precise as possible, and the efforts by the singers to integrate their own performances into the production’s overall vision.
DECEPTIVE PRACTICE: THE MYSTERIES AND MENTORS OF RICKY JAY (2012) 85min
Directors: Molly Bernstein and Alan Edelstein
Few lives seem to have been as preordained as that of Ricky Jay. At the tender age of four he was already learning sleight-of-hand from his beloved grandfather, Max, an amateur magician. By seven, he was performing before audiences, and as he grew up he received lessons, advice and encouragement from many of the true giants of magic: Al Flosso, Slydini, Cardini, Francis Carlyle, and Roy Benson. So it’s little wonder that, now in his sixties, Ricky Jay is widely considered the world’s greatest magician, a performer whose one-man shows draw rave reviews and sold-out houses. Molly Bernstein and Alan Edelstein’s warm and fascinating portrait of Jay offers a rare glimpse into the very private world of professional magicians, an entertainment tradition that stretches back hundreds of years and yet continues to delight and astonish contemporary audiences around the world.
INGRID CAVEN: MUSIC AND VOICE (Ingrid Caven, musique et voix) (2012) 105min
Director: Bertrand Bonello
Part of the cinematic troupe of R.W. Fassbinder (to whom she was briefly married) and the ostensible subject of Jean-Jacques Schuhl’s fictionalized biography Ingrid Caven (winner of the Prix Goncourt), Ingrid Caven is perhaps best known an extraordinary musical performer, a kind of cabaret singer pushing the genre into the 21st century. Filmmaker Bertrand Bonello (HOUSE OF PLEASURES) attended one of her performances at the Cité de la Musique; he was so affected by it that he knew he just had to film her. Caven offers a rich repertoire of songs in French, German and occasionally English; at times, she dispense with words and simply plays with sounds. Her pieces range from traditional ballads to abstract performance pieces. Really a tribute from one artist to another, this is a unique opportunity to experience Ingrid Caven’s special magic.
PUNK IN AFRICA (2012) 81min
Directors: Keith Jones and Deon Maas
Countries: UK/South Africa/Germany
In 1976, as the Soweto Uprising was moving the anti-apartheid struggle into a more militant stance, another revolution of sorts was starting in cities across South Africa. Inspired from abroad but entirely filled with its own anger and outrage, punk rock exploded into a country where the Rolling Stones were banned from the radio; the bands—with names such as Wild Youth, Gay Marines and National Wake—in their clothing and hairstyles, their lyrics and their decibel levels, rocked the staid South African society with challenges to everything from censorship to lifestyle, from religion to racism. Deon Maas’s and Keith Jones’s fascinating chronicle captures the development of what became a second front in the battle against the apartheid state; the final part of the film looks at punk music in neighboring Zimbabwe and Mozambique, and the role it’s playing in those societies today.
THE SAVOY KING: CHICK WEBB AND THE MUSIC THAT CHANGED AMERICA (2012) 90min
Director: Jeff Kaufman
Born poor in Baltimore, Chick Webb broke his back as a boy and faced life as a hunchback dwarf afflicted with Spinal Tuberculosis. Someone suggested drumming as a kind of physical therapy, and Webb found his calling: running off to New York at only 16, he built the hottest jazz orchestra in America, whose home base was Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom, one of the rare places in America where Blacks and Whites could socialize together. The honor roll of artists discovered and mentored by Webb is extraordinary, but perhaps no star shines brighter than that of Ella Fitzgerald. Featuring interviews with those who knew or played with Webb, great period footage, as well as a firm sense of social and cultural history, THE SAVOY KING is a meditation on the transformative power of art as well as a monument to a great American artist.