The Best Old Movies on a Big Screen This Week: NYC Repertory Cinema Picks, April 6-12

moonandthesledgehammer 1971

The Moon and the Sledgehammer (1971)
Directed by Philip Trevaylen
In the opening moments of The Moon and the Sledgehammer, the camera pushes aside branches and finds a clearing: the Page family residence, a few miles outside of London. Nobody’s home, so the camera has a look around, peering in for close-ups of the pianos, smithing tools and steam engine components scattered about the lawn, before the elderly Page patriarch emerges from the woods to deliver a ringmaster’s greeting. A tone of wonderment at a found object Trevelyan vérité-style but clearly pieced-together glimpses of Page—a circus clown turned self-sustaining woodsman, tinkerer and pipe organist—and his grown children, two feral gardener girls and two lost-boyish, passionately mumbling engineers, especially handy with old steam engines. Stray moments and pronouncements about sustainable lifestyles and overdependence on petroleum seem prescient—though the Page children are almost closer to the idiosyncratically socialized rural eccentrics in the phonetic dialogue scenes of a Victorian novel than today’s very in-the-know opt-outs. Ultimately this is family portrait, too specific and singular to be anything but a curio first and foremost. As a curio, though, it offers up gorgeously strange images, moments that take no set social rule, technological advance or natural relationship as a given. Mark Asch (April 9, 6:15pm at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s “Art of the Real,” introduced by filmmaker Ben Rivers)

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