For residents of New York, there are a number of imperatives this week. New Yorkers: Go see Kent Mackenzie‘s lost masterpiece “The Exiles” at the IFC Center! Go meet David Gordon Green, the director with the strongest authorial voice of his generation, and see some of the films that have influenced him! And go get a Brazilian!
Mackenzie’s “Exiles” Finally Premieres
On Friday night, the IFC Center saw a theatrical premiere 47 years in the making with Kent Mackenzie’s 1961 film “The Exiles”, a verite-style account of one long night in Los Angeles’ extinct Bunker Hill neighborhood, where American Indians gathered together, drank, fought, gambled and occasionally reminisced about life on the reservation. Mackenzie creates such a lovingly detailed portrait of the neighborhood that viewers feel they could find their way around it, if only it still existed.
It’s an overwhelming artistic accomplishment, well ahead of its time. One could imagine it released this year, as a throwback to the work of Terrence Malick or Charles Burnett, and yet it predated both directors by well over a decade. Offering a glimpse into the lives of its American Indian cast, the film also presaged the New Wave in figuring out what was formalistically possible in a narrative film.
The film is being released by Milestone, fresh off the success of the re-release of Burnett’s similarly lost masterpiece “Killer of Sheep“. Burnett himself was on hand to introduce the film’s first screening, saying “When I saw this film, I saw a lot that I can identify with. The same filmmakers who influenced him were the ones I admired as well. …. The black and white photography is just amazing. The Bunker Hill area that he was filming in, I was very familiar with. I used to go to the same market, ride on the Angel Flight. It’s all gone now, but it’s brought back a lot of old emotions and feelings. What a wonderful film.”
“The Exiles” plays at the IFC center through July 17th. New Yorkers will have another change to see it at BAM in September, and Milestone will be slowly releasing the film throughout the country.
“Premiere Brazil” at MoMA
On Thursday night, the Museum of Modern Art goes south of the border with its 6th annual “Premiere Brazil” series, copresented with the Rio De Janeiro Film Festival. “This is one of the most popular shows here at MoMA, a joyful summer experience,” says curator Jytte Jensen. “Every year we think maybe this year should be the last, because there can’t keep on being all of these great films that don’t get exposure in this country, films that are deserving, but every year there are.”
The series started in 2003, as a reciprocal exhibition; members from the Rio Film Festival came to New York for the series, and Jensen went to their festival to discuss film preservation and showed several films MoMA had restored, as well as to curate a sidebar for the festival. “We are hoping to go down there again this year to show a film MoMA has co-produced, Isaac Julien‘s “Derek“, about Derek Jarman,” says Jensen.
“This year, as with the past few years, there’s an abundance of films about music,” says Jensen. “Among these, we have our first world premiere, ‘The Man Who Bottled Clouds‘, about songwriter and congressman Humberto Teixeiro…” Jensen also points out the strength of the Brazilian comedies. “A lot of comedy doesn’t travel well, but there’s something about the thoughtfulness of Brazilian humor, it really translates to American audiences.” Comedic highlights include opening night film “Estomago: A Gastronomic Story,” (Jensen: “A wonderfully made film about sex, food, and the quest for power”), and “Basic Sanitation“, Jorge Furtado‘s depiction of the misadventures in sewer construction.
The distinctly Brazilian sensibility in cinema, according to Jensen, comes from a love of outsiders. “There has always been a fascination with people who are different, people who don’t exactly fit into society’s norms. It’s such a huge country, there are so many different kinds of people, I think people are attracted to individualism. It’s just such humane cinema.”
Premiere Brazil continues through July 28.
BAM Goes Green
It’s killing me that I’m going out of town this weekend, as BAM is presenting one of the more exciting programs in recent months with “All The Real Americans: The World of David Gordon Green“, a full mid-career retrospective of the young auteur’s feature films, together with some of his more direct influences, opening on Thursday night with this year’s shattering, and under-appreciated “Snow Angels“, which sees Green working his hypnotic humanistic magic on a collection of depressed souls in Pennsylvania, rather than his usual southern naifs.
“When I was figuring out the program,” Green told iW, “I thought it would be interesting to show some of my direct influences, films that I draw from. Also, self indulgently, I wanted to play a bunch of movies I hadn’t seen on the screen, or with an audience.” This meant that the program doesn’t feature work by Green’s most obvious influence, Terrence Malick. “I’ve seen ‘Badlands‘ and ‘Days of Heaven‘; at too many art houses to count. But Malick also wrote ‘Gravy Train,’ which I’ve only seen off a print, with 3 nerds in an archive at Eastman in Rochester, but I wanted to see what it would be like with a whole theater of people who don’t know what they’re getting into- it’s one of the wildest movies you’ll ever see. Or something like ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock,’ I’ve only seen it on the Criterion DVD, never on the big screen, and it’s such a beautiful movie.”
“For that matter, it’s not like anybody’s pulling ‘Tango and Cash‘ out of the archives,” says Green. “I saw it 5 times when it came out. It’s really the pinnacle of the 1980s copy buddy movie, when Hollywood was just jam-packing these things with every cliche and and concept in the book…. It’s one of the main influences in my new movie.”
Oh yeah, the new movie! “Pineapple Express,” Green’s visit to the land of Apatow (complete with Seth Rogen and James Franco as stoners in trouble with a gang of drug dealers) is the most anticipated lowbrow/highbrow hybrid since Paul Thomas Anderson directed Adam Sandler; next Thursday’s screening at BAM will be the first public screening.
“BAM is just a great venue,” says Green. “It’s such a diverse group of folks in Brooklyn…there’s something from every crowd in there. I’m really excited to see how everybody reacts to the film, I can’t wait to sit through it. It’s heaven for a person like me, who likes to play to the audience, and also sit and eat popcorn with them.”
“All The Real Americans” runs at BAM through July 24.