Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Film Comment Selects 2013

Film Comment Selects
February 18-28, 2013
Film Society of Lincoln Center, New York, NY

The 13th annual Film Comment Selects series comprises a selection of films that haven’t been seen yet in New York or not in awhile. Alongside new films by Marco Bellocchio, Manoel de Oliveira, Michel Gondry and Kiyoshi Kurosawa are lesser-known or forgotten films by Ingmar Bergman, James William Guercio and Howard Zieff.

Isabelle Huppert in Marco Bellocchio's Dormant Beauty
Easily the most anticipated film of the series is Dormant Beauty, the latest from Marco Bellocchio, whose late-career resurgence began with the masterly My Mother’s Smile, which premiered at the 2002 New York Film Festival. Since then, he’s made such gems as Good Morning Night, The Wedding Director and Vincere, which showcased the great Giovanna Mezzogiorno as a woman literally driven insane after her affair with Benito Mussolini.

Another film showing that Bellocchio—a grand master whose 1965 debut was the still potent and blackly comic Fists in the Pocket—is unafraid to court controversy (especially in deeply Catholic Italy), Dormant Beauty stars Isabelle Huppert and Toni Servillo in a dramatization of a real-life case that, like Terry Schiavo, forced Italians to address the right-to-die movement.

Of the series’ other new films, Gebo and the Shadow proves that, at age 104, Portuguese director Manoel de Oliveira still makes static, undramatic and colossally vacuous movies, this time adapting a surrealist play by Raol Brandao to no noticeable point. From Uruguay comes Pablo Stoll’s 3, which studies the individual lives of an estranged family—separated mother and father, and typically confused teenage daughter—with glimmers of humor and insight.

Miss Lovely, director Ashim Ahluwahlia’s feverish portrait of low-rent Bollywood filmmaking, scores points for slippery visual and narrative ploys but ends up being scattershot and unnecessarily drawn-out. Conversely, Call Girl, based on a 1970s Swedish government scandal, is a riveting thriller-cum-psychological portrait of a teenage girl recruited into prostitution to service some very important men. Director Mikael Marcimain, who creates a credible ‘70s atmosphere, smartly shows events unfolding through the eyes of his young protagonist, Iris (the superb Sofia Karemyr).

Of the “revivals,” if James William Guercio’s 1973 Electra Glide in Blue is a dated but intriguing curio, Howard Zieff’s Hearts of the West (1975) is a delightfully subtle comedy that features such wonderful then-young actors as Blythe Danner and Jeff Bridges. Finally, there’s From the Life of the Marionettes, a dark, brooding psychodrama that Ingmar Bergman made in Germany during a self-imposed tax exile from his native Sweden. If this 1980 film pales next to his best work, it’s still a daring attempt to enter the mind of a murderer.

Film Comment Selects 2013

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