By Andy Lauer | Indiewire November 13, 2009 at 6:31AM
"Jerry Lewis: Clown prince of arrested development or the most cerebral Hollywood funny man since Buster Keaton?" asks the Village Voice's J. Hoberman. "Either you find Jer's manic outbursts funny, or you don't, but there's no disputing his ambition." Audiences in New York have the chance to decide for themselves as Anthology Film Archives presents "Directed by Jerry Lewis," showcasing several of the comedian-director's films through November 19.
Over at The L Magazine, Mark Asch discusses Lewis' 1961 sendup of Tinsletown, "The Errand Boy": "Jerry Lewis's cross-eyed, pained schtick tests (often testily) the limits of our sympathy for the loser underdog. His put-upon characters pull faces to demand our attention, force a decision as to whether they're pitiful or pathetic; if early Adam Sandler ever struck you as the declawed version of something, this is it."
"If you've never seen the original 'Nutty Professor,' you'll be surprised at how funny — and modern — it is," writes Elizabeth Weitzman in the New York Daily News. "The same could be said for many of the movies on this bill, including Lewis' directorial debut, 'The Bellboy,' and the underseen, but frequently hilarious, 'Errand Boy.'"
The retrospective comes on the heels of film critic Chris Fujiwara's new book "Jerry Lewis," which the New Yorker's Richard Brody calls "essential reading." You can read an excerpt of the book at Moving Image Source.
Also in New York, the Asia Society kicks off a retrospective of the films of Taiwanese auteur Tsai Ming-liang. "Faces of Tsai Ming-Liang" presents five of the director's films, including a screening of his latest, "Face," which premiered earlier this year at Cannes. Meanwhile, Harvard Film Archives is simultaneously presenting a retrospecitve of Tsai's work in Cambridge, MA.
"The cinema of Malaysia-born, Taiwan-based director Tsai Ming-liang can be accurately described as an acquired taste," observes Time Out New York's Keith Uhlich. "There’s no shame in limited appeal, though it’s always heartening for those of us who love this mostly festival-feted auteur’s work when a few more acolytes join the fold. Asia Society’s retrospective “Faces of Tsai Ming-liang” is a welcome primer, but the grab-bag nature of the series is slightly disappointing, since Tsai’s films benefit from being seen in close-together chronology."
Interestingly, the New York Press' Simon Abrams offers an almost totally opposite view on how best to appreciate the director's work: "It’s fitting that the Asia Society should whittle down Taiwanese director Tsai Ming-Liang’s filmography down to what they deem to be his bare essentials, leading up to 'Face,' his latest and certainly one of his best films. Tsai’s films are about mundane phantoms, invisible people that exist in the same places as one other but rarely at the same time. A complete week-long retrospective of Tsai’s work shouldn’t be done since none of his characters in any given film can fit into the same spot, let alone the same frame-of-mind. To respect the films’ spare vision of sexual mystery and longing, you have to be a little selective in choosing which ones best fit together."
Read more about the cinema of Tsai Ming-Liang over at the Auteurs.