The Best Old Movies on a Big Screen This Week: NYC Repertory Cinema Picks, July 27-August 2

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Of the Dead (Des Morts) (1979)
Directed by Jean-Pol Ferbus, Dominique Garny, and Thierry Zéno
What does death look like? How does it feel? These questions are raised in poetic form over the course of this film-long documentary journey, which was shot in six countries between 1977 and 1979. Faces of death (belonging both to humans and to animals) are glimpsed in date-specific religious ceremonies across Thailand, Nepal, South Korea, Belgium, and Mexico, while the mechanics involved in secular burials are explored in the United States. Bodies are shown being emptied of organs and sewn back together with new mysteries inside. Throughout, the afterlife appears as a territory of friends, and the dead and dying as active beings to be appeased for their living kin to find peace. Of the Dead has been grouped with contemporaneously made shock and exploitation films, but looking within this educational work’s contours leads to revelations of surprising gentleness. As people in rural and urban settings around the world speak about what it means to commune with the dead, we come to understand their work as a kind of lifelong self-preparation. Aaron Cutler (July 31, 3:30pm at Anthology Film Archives’s “Mondo Mondo”)

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