COMING IN JUNE
late nites: hong kong goes international
Hong Kong cinema, by necessity, was made to travel. A city-state only slightly territorially larger than the five boroughs of New York City, Hong Kong boasts a hyperactive film industry that needed to cultivate audiences beyond its borders in order to survive and thrive. As such, its history is one of outreach, making movies that would screen for Chinese diaspora communities and for diverse audiences around the world, with a long record of international co-productions and globe-trotting shoots. Once the 1997 Handover of Hong Kong from the United Kingdom to the People’s Republic of China was decided on in 1984, many residents of the Fragrant Harbor, anxious about the future, started packing their bags. Among those who left town for a while were several of the reckless talents who’d helped to make Hong Kong’s popular cinema internationally renowned—John Woo being perhaps the most famous émigré—and who went to storm Hollywood, and give American movies a much-needed injection of raw energy. A tribute to a regional film culture that changed the face of world cinema, and a gift to film-lovers everywhere.
For a couple of decades, beginning with Jess Franco’s films of the early ’60s, the nation of Spain produced some of the most beautiful, terrible, and ingeniously perverse horror movies ever to taint cinema screens. These movies were tagged as Fantaterror: a portmanteau word combining Fantasy and Terror. The phrase never really caught on abroad, like the Italian giallo did—and many Fantaterror films share personnel and themes in common with the gleefully illogical giallo thrillers—while in Spain, these movies have sometimes been dismissed as a best-forgotten part of the puerile popular culture that reigned during the repressive dictatorship of Gen. Francisco Franco. But a closer look reveals a deeply rich, strange, and subversive cinematic tradition—its banner held high by such formidable talents as Paul Naschy, Narciso Ibáñez Serrador, León Klimovsky, and Carlos Aured—as well as a bounty of atmospheric oddities that explore almost every imaginable forbidden subject under the cover of genre. With two sexily secret screenings extending the program announced, it’s a heaping paella platter of bad objects; come dig in.
The African cinema that travels outside the continent tends to largely come from nations that were formerly French- and English-speaking colonies, but there is an equally rich and too often overlooked filmmaking tradition from Africa’s Lusophone countries—the six countries of the former Portuguese Empire, including Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, and Mozambique. This program shines a spotlight on the cinema that emerged from Lusophone Africa, including the Portuguese Creole-language films of Bissau-Guinean Flora Gomes. Films addressing the struggles of liberation from Portuguese rule as well as the challenges faced once liberation had been won, and films that themselves are triumphs in the fight for emancipation.
CINDY SHERMAN SELECTS
The title of Cindy Sherman’s breakthrough series of photographic self-portraits—“Untitled Film Stills,” taken from 1977 to 1980—should give some sense of how key the cinematic image is to her artistic practice. Drawing on images from a wide range of cinematic inspirations, from the B-movie to the arthouse film, Sherman’s “Film Stills” explored the relationship between the moving and still image, and could only be the work of an avid cinephile. On the occasion of Cindy Sherman: 1977–1982, a major exhibition at Hauser & Wirth New York, Sherman proves herself to be with this curated program of favorite films, mixing together cult chillers and undersung outlier works from Michael Powell, Michelangelo Antonioni, and Roman Polanski.
SPELL REEL: A FILIPA CÉSAR SHOWCASE
With a series of conspicuously brilliant short works and her 2017 feature debut Spell Reel, Portugal-born, Berlin-based César has emerged as one of the most exciting, rigorous, and conscientious practitioners of the essay film format since the deaths of Harun Farocki and Chris Marker, the latter a key influence on César. Central to her body of work, which includes 16mm films, videos, writings, and extensive pedagogical work, is the history of Portuguese colonial rule in Africa and the African Liberation Movement in Guinea-Bissau. In Spell Reel, for example, César documents the preservation of documentary works showing the country’s war of independence from a revolutionary perspective by Guinea- Bissauan filmmakers—two of whom, Sana Na N’Hada and Flora Gomes, we see embarking on the 2014 mobile tour that helped share their archive with Guinean audiences for the first time. Films displaying a rare diligence and openness to collaboration, concerning the excavation of cinema, the excavation of lived experience, and the link between the two.
PLAYTIME: STUDIO GHIBLI
weekends throughout june
Playtime, Metrograph’s weekend matinee series, returns with a tribute to the films of Studio Ghibli, the Japanese animation studio that, since its inception in 1985, has charmed audiences the world over with works of meticulous, charming craft, extraordinary imagination, and disarming emotional insight. Screened in the original Japanese-language versions with subtitles on Saturday matinees, and in their dubbed English versions on Sunday, and totally irresistible in any language.
MUFF DIVES: THE DYKE BAR IN CINEMA
This retrospective is devoted to films that immerse viewers, if only for a scene or two, in social spaces that are now perilously close to extinction: nightspots catering to queer women. Some of these movies were shot, however briefly, in situ in actual legendary lez bars (all of which are now shuttered); others in wholly fabricated lavender boîtes. Whether real or fictional, these clubs abound with promise, unpredictability, lust, and heartache—the inevitable result of bodies mingling, dancing, flirting, and more in close quarters.
Series curated and program notes written by Melissa Anderson, film editor of 4Columns. Special thanks to Thomas Beard, L. Franklin Gilliam, Erin Johnson, Sophia Larigakis, and Jenni Olson.
Weinraub’s intimate chronicle of a roving Black lesbian strip club in Los Angeles focuses primarily on its early-aughts peak, alternating dynamite performance footage with candid, unrushed conversations with Shakedown dancers, promoters, and regulars, including Ronnie-Ron, Shakedown Productions’ creator and emcee; Mahogany, the legendary “mother” of the community; Egypt, their star performer; and Jazmine, the “Queen” of Shakedown. “A visual ode to the ends, means, possibilities, and personas of [the underground strip club] and others like it: a loving but low-key look at a place where women can feel free, black, queer, and catered to.”—K. Austin Collins, Vanity Fair
Stephen Dwoskin arrived in London from New York in 1964, aged 25, with a trunk of 16mm films shot in the milieu of Andy Warhol and Jonas Mekas. He became known for a series of films in which the camera’s unblinking gaze is returned by his female subjects. Laura Mulvey wrote that he ‘opened a completely new perspective for me on cinematic voyeurism’. In the mid-70s, Dwoskin turned his gaze on his own body, disabled in childhood by polio, before making a number of personal documentaries about disability and diaspora. In the 2000s, with his mobility severely impaired, he embraced the possibilities of digital technology to return to the underground and the erotic obsessions that powered his extraordinary 50-year career.
METROGRAPH SELECTS: CAROLINE GOLUM
For the latest iteration of our ongoing series of select films, chosen specially by Metrograph Staff, Caroline Golum presents three personal favorites.
Caroline Golum is the Digital Content Manager for Metrograph At Home. If you watched a film on our rapidly-expanding platform of curated cinema at any point in the last six months, odds are good she’s the one who uploaded it. In her spare time she enjoys making, writing about, and watching movies.