Film Society of Lincoln Center
I’ll See You Again…
The Film Society is doing all of us a huge favor with its lavish summer series, an eclectic mix of new films and retrospectives. Best part? The inclusion of several films that were seen all too briefly earlier in the year. Frustrating? Yes! Often their one or two performances at FSLC’s mini-festivals were sold out. Or they had distribution, but weren’t going to turn up for months. Or—worse—they didn’t have distribution, and despite good reviews and passionate word of mouth they simply disappeared.
So, we are lucky. And lucky that, after decades of being constrained by only one theatre, FSLC now has the luxury of four screens to allow for both planning and spontaneity, direct response to popular opinion, and even for reviving forgotten or undervalued films that have been championed by its programmers. To widen the net, FSLC has recruited three heavy hitters—Florence Almozene, Jake Perlin, and Rachel Rakes—to join Director of Programming Dennis Lim in finding and scheduling the best of what was, what is, and what’s to come. The summer mix sports the annual Latinbeat (July 11 – 20); free outdoor screenings (Moonstruck, July 22) and a series of HD operas from the Met, (July 23 – September 1); plus filmmakers-in-person talks and surprises. The only way to keep up with what’s on the screens is to bookmark the Web site (http:/http://www.filmlinc.com) and learn how to navigate it to maximum advantage. Every day.
Before embarking on a list of favorites, there are two coming up in August for one week each that must be seen: What Now? Remind Me (beginning August 8) and Red Hollywood (beginning August 15). What Now?
is Joaquim Pinto’s deeply personal account of a year in Spain with his partner/collaborator Nuno, seeking prehistoric relics in local caves, working a farm, and struggling with the ravages of an experimental drug trial for AIDS. But it’s real agenda is the fully realized life of the mind, body, and heart that Pinto’s courage and humanity explores every day. It is painfully honest, occasionally funny, and always heartbreakingly beautiful.
The landscapes. The music. The depth and breadth of feeling. The way ideas are expressed in sound and image, and in the masterful editing that turns life into art. Pinto’s earlier work will be screened for a week as well, along with films by Ruiz, Schroeter, and others for whom Pinto was sound designer and producer. ( A Life Less Ordinary: the Films of Joaquim Pinto)
Red Hollywood is What Next?’s polar opposite: Thom Anderson/Noël Burch’s insider’s look at the way the film industry expressed (or condemned) left-wing agendas from the 1930s to the 1950s. Newly remastered and re-edited, the film offers not only an emotionally charged trip down Hollywood’s memory lane, but a potent overview of how, and why, America moved politically over the decades. Did these films follow the crowd or lead it? You can find your own answer to the question, along with some astonishing scenes written, played and directed by household names of the era. And, as with Pinto’s What Now?, Red Hollywood will be complemented by a week of films—Blacklist— (chosen by Anderson) showcasing the work of some of the biggest blacklistees (Ring Lardner, Jr., Dalton Trumbo, Joseph Losey) to survive—bloodied, but mostly unbowed—or not.
There’s no other way to say it: Steve James’ film about Roger Ebert’s life and times is stupendous. Granted total access by Ebert and his wife Chaz, James pulls no punches, and some of them are knockouts. James also knows his subject intimately and has the advantage of years of priceless archival on-air footage of Ebert (with and without his longtime sparring partner, Gene Siskal). But most of all he has a storyteller’s grip on the material that keeps you at full attention right up to the closing credits.
Life Itself opens with a sequence of anecdotes about Ebert that are funnier (individually and collectively) than any comic film I can remember. You simply can’t stop laughing. And just when your insides begin to hurt from the exercise, James gets down to the rest of the tale. All of it. Ebert’s voracious talents, tics, appetites and tastes. It is glorious. It is emotionally honest and, when confronting Ebert’s illness and its terrible consequences, deeply painful. But then, the way Ebert dealt with those consequences is just as deeply inspiring. So is the way he and Chaz met and married and made their singular life together. This is one hell of a movie about one hell of a guy, and certainly an Oscar nominee. But it’s not about awards. It’s about riding the rollercoaster that was Roger Ebert and not wanting to get off. Opens July 4 at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center.