The Best Old Movies on a Big Screen This Week: NYC Repertory Cinema Picks, September 21-27

nyc repertory cinema-born to win

Born to Win (1971)
Directed by Ivan Passer
For his first feature in the US Ivan Passer, the director of that slow-drip non-narrative Czech delight Intimate Lighting (1965), makes a movie about a Times Square junkie dodging the mob and undercover cops. Born to Win is shambolic and casual, but without any of the slack that those descriptors imply. Passer is a mix master of moods, blending and blurring them with grace. The mood mutation is partly due to Passer’s choice of actors. In this film, a haggard, tired, and hairy George Segal plays J—the born winner. Aside from California Split (1974), he has never been better than here. His J is a smooth talker, doling out a line of bullshit to score a line of smack.  And once you see Segal running around in a frilly pink robe, you can’t unsee it. The joy of scoring follows downbeat note after downbeat note as J’s friends melt away. Where today’s Sean Baker or the Safdie Brothers go for hyperbole and excess, Passer offers a sensitive and sincere, funny and sad portrayal of street hustling. Tanner Tafelski (September 22, 26, 7:30pm at the Spectacle’s “Bad2Worse”)