Fall Arts Guide: NYC's repertory film scene boasts old New York, Capra, celluloid and more
Among the best repertory film series in NYC this fall include old subway movies at BAM, Capra at Film Forum and actual celluloid at the IFC Center.
Retro Metro (9/26-Oct. 5)
There are too many movies shot in New York City to count, but only a couple handfuls that deal with one of its biggest headaches: the subway system. BAM rounds up a pile of those that spend considerable time hanging on the MTA, offering views of the clean distant past, via the Harold Lloyd film “Speedy,” and the graffiti days of “Saturday Night Fever” and “Style Wars.” You’ll even get to marvel at how, in “The Warriors,” it only takes an entire late night to ride from the top of the Bronx down to Coney Island. Movie magic!
Also: A series on comedic and CGI-happy martial arts legend Stephen Chow (Oct. 6-12); one on puppets (Oct. 24-26); a 17-film look at Derek Jarman (Oct. 30-Nov.11); and a look at “Sunshine Noir,” i.e., noirs shot in Los Angeles (Nov. 26-Dec. 9).
Also Like Life: The Films of Hou Hsiao-hsien (through Oct. 17)
Museum of the Moving Image
A rigorous long take master equal to Andrei Tarkovsky and Bela Tarr, Taiwan’s Hou Hsiao-hsien demands the big screen. And since so few of his works are available on home video, this complete retro — all screened on film — is your only chance to see such hypnotic and curious works as “Goodbye South, Goodbye” and “A City of Sadness.” Along with often digging into his nation’s complicated, occupation-heavy past, Hou’s films also film people ways few else do, with main characters regularly buried in dense and/or dimly lit shots, forcing us to find another way to parse a movie.
Also: “Fist and Sword,” a look at martial arts both new and, though mostly through a doc, old (through 10/6); their usual “See it Big” series.
To Save and Project (Oct. 24-Nov. 22)
Museum of Modern Art
There’s more movies available to us, usually instantly, than ever before, but that only stresses how many remain missing or are in dire need of restoration. MoMA’s annual series, now celebrating its 12th, presents the latest films to be salvaged, and they’re always a diverse lot. This year kicks off with a sparkling new print of the 1929 silent film of “The Iron Mask,” directed by the fleet-footed Allan Dwan and starring Douglas Fairbanks — and, most excitingly, now featuring three revived spoken sequences not heard since its release.
Also: Retros on actress Ann Sheridan (10/1-11/21), Turkish filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan (10/29-11/5) and Robert Altman (12/3-1/15/15).
New York Film Festival (9/26-10/12)
Film Society of Lincoln Center
The Toronto International Film Festival was a little low-key this year, with few major premieres. Turns out NYFF got most of those. That most austere and carefully selected of fests scored the first looks at David Fincher’s “Gone Girl” and Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Inherent Vice,” the latter with Joaquin Phoenix as Thomas Pynchon’s druggy detective in 1969 Los Angeles. The acclaimed “Birdman,” with Michael Keaton as an aging actor who once played a winged superhero, also swings by, as do the latest from powerhouses like Olivier Assayas, Jean-Luc Godard and Alain Resnais, with his swan song.
Also: A series on modern long take/long film titan Lav Diaz (9/21-10/19); the second half of their Rainer Werner Fassbinder retro; and series on mountain film, new Romanian cinema and John Huston.
Celluloid Dreams (9/24-ongoing)
Film is dead, which is to say actually feeding pieces of film through a projector is becoming a rarity, even among cinephile-appeasing repertory houses. It will all one day be digital. Until then, IFC will be screening films that look better analogue and even scratchy and/or faded. The series kicks off, appropriately, with a film photographed by the recently late Gordon Willis, one of celluloid’s bestest friends. So go watch “Purple Rose of Cairo” and revel not only in one of Woody Allen’s most charming/melancholic fantasies, but in its grimy portrayal of Depression-era New York.
At his height, Frank Capra wasn’t just a film director; he was a populist demagogue, whose legions hung on his every word and wished him to run for office and set this country straight. Instead he kept making movies, like “Mr. Deed Goes to Town” and “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” that spoke of an idyllic America that could never be. But they were more nuanced than that, and there was more to Capra than these sprightly dramas. Even “It’s a Wonderful Life” is a dark piece of work — which he made after “Arsenic and Old Lace,” a madcap return to the genre with which he made his names: comedies.
Also: A series on the sometimes crazed film adaptations of Tennessee Williams, including a 35mm print of the nutso Taylor-Burton “Boom” (9/26-10/6); plus revivals of “Vertigo” (10/24-10/30), “Touch of Evil” (10/31-11/6), “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” (10/31-11/6) and “Only Angels Have Wings” (Nov. 7-Nov. 13)
Industrial Terror (Oct. 24-Oct. 31)
Anthology Film Archives
Everyone has to pay the bills, especially those who work in low-budget horror. George A. Romero, Herschell Gordon Lewis, William Girdler and more kept the lights on in part by making industrial films and commercials. And now you can see them. This series pairs one industrial film with a “proper” film by the filmmaker who labored on it, including the above.
Also: New films by underground legend Mike Kuchar (Oct. 17-Oct.18); documentaries by the great regional documentarian Tony Buba (“Lightning Over Braddock”) (Oct. 31-Nov. 6); a Day of the Dead/post-Halloween horror marathon, with titles kept from public knowledge till they screen (Nov. 1); and the second installment in their series on the Hollywood Blacklist (Dec. 4-Dec. 14)
Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge