NEW ARRIVALS TO METROGRAPH AT HOME
NEW YEAR’S NOIR
New Year’s Eve is an essentially optimistic ritual: a night that encourages people to imagine themselves washed clean of 12 months of accumulated grime and swear they won’t wind up so dirty at next year’s end. The world of noir is essentially pessimistic: men are either suckers or psychopaths; women are much-mauled playthings who can only hope to take control of their destinies by out-conniving the men; the deck is stacked against anyone with a whiff of conscience, and the house always wins. So why follow the giddy high of New Year’s champagne with our stiff noir chaser? Put it this way: if you go in expecting the worst, you might be pleasantly surprised.
Native Son, Never Fear, Scarlet Street,
Story of a Love Affair, The Chase, The Stranger, They Made Me A Fugitive
LUNAR NEW YEAR
The Lunar New Year blockbuster rollout is a treasured holiday tradition in multiplexes from Hong Kong to Shanghai to Taipei, but over at Metrograph we’re taking the occasion to celebrate the other side of Chinese cinema—films that challenge narrative convention and turn a critical eye on a changing society. Included in the series are favorites by Jia Zhangke, perhaps the greatest of the “Sixth Generation” Mainland filmmakers; Liu Jiayin’s two-part “home movie” epic Oxhide; and Lixin Fan’s documentary Last Train Home, which depicts, through the microcosm of one family’s journey, the massive annual homeward-bound migration of Chinese workers for the New Year.
A Touch of Sin, Mountains May Depart,
Last Train Home, Oxhide I, Oxhide II
troubled waters: four from gianfranco rossi
One of the most critically lauded nonfiction filmmakers to emerge in the last 30 years, Gianfranco Rosi has completed a total of five documentary features since his 1993 debut. The aspects of Rosi’s work that make it remarkable—the way he coaxes subjects typically wary of outsiders into revealing themselves, his capacity to look past the obvious in search of the essential—are things that take some time. Where many documentaries satisfy themselves with showing people, Rosi’s make the extra effort to see them. The difference, in these four films, speaks for itself.
Boatman, Below Sea Level,
Fire at Sea, Sacro Gra
standalones and limited engagements
A FAREWELL TO ARMS
Only a few years after Ernest Hemingway’s 1929 novel of love and war was a literary phenomenon, master of melodrama Borzage gave it this ravishing and transcendently romantic screen adaptation, with the role of Frederic Henry, an American serving in the Italian ambulance brigade in WWI, perfectly served by young heartthrob Gary Cooper.
THE BLUE ANGEL
The film that first paired von Sternberg and Marlene Dietrich, launching one of the greatest actress-director collaborations in the history of cinema, this masterful study of the folly of erotic obsession stars La Dietrich as cabaret headliner Lola Lola and Emil Jannings as the bourgeois Gymnasium professor who chases her charms into the lower depths.
In addition to engineering the film’s finely calibrated, Tati-esque set pieces, Suleiman brings a beautiful Buster Keaton deadpan to his role as one half of a couple trying to conduct an affair with a wall of military checkpoints standing between them, in this bittersweet depiction of Palestinian life under Israeli occupation.
FEAR AND DESIRE
Kubrick was an unknown 24-year-old industry outsider when his Fear and Desire premiered at the Venice Film Festival, but his debut feature—which follows a group of soldiers on a surreal journey to escape from behind enemy lines—is distinguished by the same genius for image-making that would later make him famous.
IN ANOTHER COUNTRY
Isabelle Huppert plays three variations on the role of a Frenchwoman abroad in Korea in her first venture into Hong’s peculiar, soju-soaked world, and is the connecting link between the elements of this triptych of glancing, awkward romantic encounters which move along at an amiable shuffle.
Tarkovsky’s penultimate film and his first shot outside the USSR channels the filmmaker’s own sense of displacement into the story of a homesick Russian musicologist (Oleg Yankovsky) doing research in Italy. He becomes fixated on the messianic ambitions of the holy fool (Erland Josephson) he encounters when visiting the Tuscan countryside, filmed here as a melancholy dreamscape.
root of evil
An unsettlingly weird tale from Whispering Corridors director Park Ki-hyung, in which a childless couple face a series of increasingly nightmarish, inexplicable occurrences.
sorry we missed you
A wider awareness of the human cost of unchecked capitalism in the wake of the 2008 GFC brought revived attention to Loach’s tirelessly impassioned, politically engaged cinema. Here, he shows the grim reality behind the false promises of the gig economy via the story of Ricky, a delivery driver whose impeccable work ethic does nothing to save him from his family’s mire of debt.
wife of a spy
Kurosawa’s deftly constructed domestic WWII-set drama, co-written with Drive My Car director Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, makes compelling cinema out of the complicated clash between moral, personal, and national responsibilities which arise when a woman begins to suspect that her businessman husband may be a US spy.
THE WOMAN WHO LEFT
Diaz’s Golden Lion-winning epic transposes Tolstoy’s tale of a prisoner’s release from an unjust imprisonment to the Philippines of the late 1990s, following Horacia (Charo Santos-Concio) as she returns, embittered by experience and sworn to revenge, to a world where much may have changed, but the outrageous social inequality responsible for her lost years remains.