The Best Old Movies on a Big Screen This Week: NYC Repertory Cinema Picks, December 23-29

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The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums (1939)
Directed by Kenji Mizoguchi
Historical grounding aside, it’s impossible to completely cast away pre-existing interpretive lenses when watching a film. Accordingly, myriad interpretations have arisen regarding Story of the Last Chrysanthemums’s lack of close-ups, its ending, and the semantic purpose of its melodrama. Are gender roles fulfilled and/or celebrated, or does the decentering of actors in favor of sets and spaces function as a Brechtian distancing technique, encouraging us to critique what is presented? Really, though, the deep space cinematography, elliptical narrative, and tight choreography challenge the audience to forge its own path through the film. It’s worth wondering how our canon might be modified had Mizoguchi’s film traveled abroad before Citizen Kane, as its innovations are no less revelatory and are equally inseparable from its thematic weight. Forrest Cardamenis (December 25-31 at the Film Society of Lincoln Center; showtimes daily)

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