This week in New York, the Redrgraves joined Lincoln Center in taking a look at British film company Woodfal Film Productions’ work in the ’60s and director Milos Forman attended an AMPAS-sponsored screening of his 1984 Academy Award-winning film, “Amadeus.” Thursday night, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) joined with the Rio De Janeiro International Film Festival in presenting its 5th annual celebration of contemporary Brazilian film, “Premiere Brazil!,” with a well-placed screening of Tata Amaral‘s “Antonia,” the story of a quartet of girls who form a pop band to escape the favelas, which neatly encapsulates the two major themes–music and poverty–found throughout most of the program’s dozen films.
The festival’s centerpiece and lynchpin is Hector Banbenco‘s horrific 1981 neorealistic nightmare “Pixote,” the story of a young orphan (Fernando Ramos da Silva) and his small family of street kids in Sao Paolo who escape from a brutal reform school into the even more brutal streets, where they are reduced to a life of petty crime and prostitution, and occasional, accidental murder. It’s a film that is every bit as vivid now as it must have been upon its release 25 years ago, its resigned bleakness standing in vivid contrast to the thrill-a-minute video game “City of God,” Brazil’s most successful cinematic export of the past decade.
MoMA has paired it with a documentary about its making, “Pixote in Memorian” (and have continued honoring it with a screening of “Pixote” writer Jorge Duran‘s “Forbidden to Forbid“). The story of “Pixote”‘s inception, casting of actual slum children, almost accidental success, aftermath, and most hauntingly the story of da Silva himself were fantastic. Da Silva attempted to parlay his success as Pixote into an acting career until his aspirations were foiled by his illiteracy and general inexperience whereupon he returned to crime and was killed by police bullets before he was 20. “Premiere Brazil!” continues through July 23rd.
Redgraves Step Out for Lincoln Center Brit Cinema Fete
On Friday night, Lincoln Center launched its “Leading the Charge: Woodfall Film Productions and the Revolution in ’60s British Cinema” program. Woodfall Films married the sensibilities of its cofounders, expressing the ‘Angry Young Man’ aesthetic of despair and class consciousness of “Look Back in Anger” playwright John Osborne with the weightless verite of Living Cinema documentarian Tony Richardson. His relationship to the Redgrave family was acknowledged in an introduction by the first of three Redgrave siblings, Lynn Redgrave, for his 1963 Oscar Best Picture, “Tom Jones.”
“God rest you, Tony,” said Redgrave, who had her first role in that film as ‘Susan at Upton Inn.’ “You did so much for the British theater and British cinema, and then, by expansion, for the way that cinema is viewed today, because it changed from the moment that you began the extraordinary Woodfall Films.”
Richardson’s ex-wife Vanessa Redgrave and her brother Corin were the guests of honor (along with Lynn) at a cocktail reception on Monday night preceding 1968’s “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Richardson’s retelling of Keats’ awe-struck ode to the hundreds of British cavalry who knowingly sacrificed their own lives in a suicidal charge. Richardson wanted to shoot his war epic as unglamourously as possible, and chose not to let his actors wear makeup- a move Redgrave said proved unsettling.
“Makeup was out altogether… Some women thought ‘great,’ the younger ones, and some of the older ones rushed to the tent to get a cup of tea and get out their mascara,” said Redgrave before the film. “Tony had hired a terrific set of makeup artists, and their job was to keep the actresses from finding a hiding spot and putting on their mascara.” As with other Woodfall film productions, one has the feeling while watching of actually being amongst the action, a feeling enhanced by the casually working-class language spoken by the actors.
“In the past,” continued Redgrave, “actors weren’t allowed to use their own voices. They had to learn a kind of ‘high English’ to be allowed to get on the stage or be in a film, and so this was a revolutionary moment.” The series continues through July 26.
“Rock Me ‘Amadeus'”
A different way of rethinking history was on display later Monday night at the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences 59th Street theater, which hosted a special screening of Milos Forman‘s 1984 Best Picture winner “Amadeus” with a panel that followed, including a number of the film’s cast and crew, with Forman and lead actors Tom Hulce and F. Murray Abraham joining. Abraham won the Academy Award for his part as Antonio Salieri, the venomous court composer who’s envy of Mozart‘s greatness leads him to torment and murder the genius.
Forman recalled attending a preview screening of Peter Schaeffer‘s play in London, where he was told in a taxi what the play was about. “If the taxi was not moving, I would get out. In Communist society, they LOVE to play films about composers, because they compose music and don’t say anything subversive. These were the most boring films I had ever seen in my life.”
Nonetheless, he was wowed, and swore to make an expanded version of this into a movie. “I didn’t want known faces–I wanted people to believe this is Mozart, this is Salieri, not ‘this is Marlon Brando playing Salieri,'” said Forman, explaining his relatively unknown choice of cast.
Abraham explained that the film has had lasting effects on his career. “Because of that film, people think that I know something about music. I get invited all over the world to narrate things with orchestras. I don’t know shit about music. It’s the power of film.”
Forman’s new film, “Goya’s Ghost” opens tomorrow in New York.
Coming This Week:
MoMA hosts an astoundingly strong lineup of films in its tribute to Rialto Pictures, including Melville’s “Army of Shadows,” Bressoon’s “Au Hazard Balthazar,” and Godard’s “Masculine/Feminin.”
Opening This Week:
“Cashback” (July 20), directed by Sean Ellis. Distributor: Magnolia. Official website
“Sunshine” (July 20), directed by Danny Boyle. Distributor: Fox Searchlight. Official website
“Goya’s Ghosts” (July 20), directed by Milos Forman. Distributor: Samuel Goldwyn Films. Official website
“Introducing the Dwights” (July 20), directed by Cherie Nowlan. Distributor: Warner Independent Pictures. Distributor website
“Your Mommy Kills Animals” (July 20), directed by Curt Johnson. Distributor: Halo 8. Distributor website