The Best Old Movies on a Big Screen This Week: NYC Repertory Cinema Picks, March 15-21

nyc repertory cinema-meeks-cutoffMeek’s Cutoff (2011)
Directed by Kelly Reichardt
In the past decade, Reichardt has established herself as one of the most vital working American filmmakers, consistently making intensely incisive, psychologically fraught works usually centering on women. But her most masterful film to date (and one of the best films of the decade) is her most atypical. Meek’s Cutoff, Reichardt’s only period film thus far, is an unsparingly sparse depiction of the real-life story about a wagon train that encounters a Native American while lost on the Oregon Trail. It is also her most daring work, using the vast desert landscapes in conjunction with a 4:3 aspect ratio to create an oddly claustrophobic and endlessly hypnotic experience. The film remains anchored in uneasy human moods courtesy of the uniformly exceptional cast, including Reichardt’s muse Michelle Williams and a wild-haired Bruce Greenwood, but what lingers most is the sense of place. It conjures an inescapable ambiguity that all comes together in one of the greatest endings in the history of cinema, one that radically, hauntingly recontextualizes everything that came before. Ryan Swen (March 18, 6:45pm at the Metrograph with Kelly Reichardt in person; Reichardt will also attend the 9pm screening of her 2016 film Certain Women)

nyc repertory cinema-galician caress

Galician Caress (of clay) (1961/1995)
Directed by José Val del Omar
The great Spanish experimental filmmaker Val del Omar sought new views from the ground up. He brought his camera to diverse locales around his nation with the goal of rendering their essences in ways that were extraterrestrial to the point of sublime. A Val del Omar film renders Nature and the human beings inhabiting it through extreme zooms, stop-motion, high-contrast lighting, printed negative reversals, and other expansions of conventional film language without once forsaking clarity or sympathy. His masterpiece is typically considered to be the film series Elemental Triptych of Spain, whose parts (each roughly twenty minutes long) represent three different sets of Spanish regions and elements. Val del Omar shot Galician Caress (of clay) after Water-Mirror of Granada and Fire in Castille. It was intended as the first film in the series, and remained incomplete at the time of his death.     

“Val del Omar works from myth, icon, and tradition,” says the Galician filmmaker Lois Patiño (Costa da Morte) about a film that opens with a dedication to Gallegos. “In Galician Caress (of clay), he approaches some elements that were (and still are) essential parts of Galician culture. We can reduce them to two—religion and stone—which Val del Omar mixes into one. Everything in the film works together to convey a spectral experience, one in which religious sculptures awaken into life and human beings turn into phantoms made of stone. Val del Omar approaches the emotional essence of Galicia and its people through an interest in the nation’s cultural and spiritual feel. His filmic poem’s open images express a sensation of transcendence in a way that achieves lasting beauty and resonance.”
The three parts of Elementary Triptych of Spain will screen at Anthology on 35mm in Val del Omar’s intended order together with a digital copy of series prelude Vibration of Granada. Series curator Lur Olaizola Lizarralde will introduce the March 17th screening, and the Spanish filmmaker, programmer, and researcher Ruth Somalo will present the screening on March 18th. Aaron Cutler (March 17, 7:30pm; March 18, 8:30pm at Anthology Film Archives’s Val del Omar retrospective)

nyc repertory cinema-whores glory

Whores’ Glory (2011)
Directed by Michael Glawogger
Whores’ Glory is a non-judgmental, eye-level representation of prostitution that gives a voice to those practicing the oldest profession. This is no standard talking heads doc, although that stylistic choice is both used and transcended. Rather, the late, great Glawogger (gone too soon at the age of 55 from malaria) presents the work and the workers as a triptych, globe-hopping across the world to three red light districts with a thriving market: the irreal neon glow of Bangkok, Thailand parlors; labyrinthine corridors in Faridpur, Bangladesh; and a Mexican border town, Reynosa, seemingly made up of bars, motels, and brothels. DP Wolfgang Thaler (this is his film as much as it is Glawogger’s) captures luxuriant shots, saturated with color and grain, and that either scans spaces or captures hookers in portraits. And filling out the soundtrack are ultra-chill tunes by CocoRosie, PJ Harvey, Tricky, and more. Tanner Tafelski (March 17, 7:30pm; March 23, 10pm at the Spectacle’s “Tricks of the Trade: True/False Portraits of Sex Work”)

nyc repertory cinema-Stop-Making-Sense

Stop Making Sense (1984)
Directed by Jonathan Demme
About halfway through Stop Making Sense, David Byrne dances with a floor lamp. He sways it to one side until it nearly topples over, then stumbles across the stage to catch it and repeat the process. His movements are cartoonish and clumsy but hypnotic, almost as if his body is temporarily possessed by the spirit of Charlie Chaplin. This impromptu floor lamp tango is one of many unexpected pleasures in this seminal concert film. Demme ditches the 80s MTV aesthetic of jump cuts, crowd shots, and flashy costumes for something decidedly more unconventional. Shot over the span of a three-day residency at LA’s Pantages Theater, the film opts for total immersion, switching between wide shots of the stage and lengthy, mesmerizing close-ups of the band. The editing produces a gleeful, childlike energy, punctuated at the end by the appearance of Byrne wearing an enormous grey business suit and looking like a wide-eyed kid playing grown-up. A.J. Serrano (March 18, 2pm, 4:30pm at the Metrograph, with Byrne Q&A following 2pm screening and introduction preceding 4:30pm screening; SOLD OUT, check @MetrographNYC on social media for any additional info)

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