Celebrating its 40th anniversary, New York’s Film Forum has announced its summer 2010 slate, which includes Dover Kosashvili’s “Anton Chekov’s The Duel,” Jessica Oreck’s “Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo,” Emmanuel Laurent’s “Two In The Wave,” Johan Grimonprez’s “Double Take,” Kate Davis & David Heilbroner’s “Stonewall Uprising,” Pedro Gonzalez-Rubio’s “Alamar,” Vikram Jayanti’s “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Phil Spector,” Tamra Davis’s “Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child,” Marco Amenta’s “The Sicilian Girl,” and Yael Hersonski’s “A Film Unfinished.”
The complete schedule, with descriptions of the films provided by Film Forum, is listed below. For more information visit their website.
April 28 – May 11
Anton Chekhov’s The Duel
Directed by Dover Kosashvili Produced by Donald Rosenfeld & Mary Bing
USA / 2010 / 95 Minutes / In English / High Line Pictures
Save Shakespeare, Chekhov is the literary giant whose work is most frequently adapted for the screen. Based on his eponymous 1891 novella, THE DUEL gives life to a classic Chekhovian tale: the young ne’er-do-well aristocrat vs. the arrogant man of science; the attraction of a manipulative, narcissistic mistress vs. the life of the mind and of principled action. Gambling, alcohol and flirtations consummated in an impossibly beautiful countryside hold obvious attractions for Laevsky. But he’s brought up short when financial ruin and his mistress’s sexual dalliances lead to a violent denouement. Dover Kosashvili, director of LATE MARRIAGE, assembles a brilliant ensemble cast of British actors who strike just the right balance between intrigue and that particularly Russian brand of ennui we associate with Chekhov — but which today might elicit a prescription for Celexa.
May 12 – 18
Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo
Produced & Directed by Jessica Oreck
USA / JAPAN / 2009 / 90 Minutes / In Japanese with English subtitles / Argot Pictures
What is it about the Japanese and bugs? Inside a Tokyo pet shop, a little boy delights in selecting his new pet, a rainbow beetle (cost: $57). Japanese aesthetics — whether textiles, architecture, gardening, graphics, brush painting or haiku — all reflect a highly refined appreciation for both the diminutive and the transient. BEETLE QUEEN explores the world of Japanese insect-lovers, from the sublime (families who visit the countryside to hear choruses of crickets or experience the yellow-green flashes of light emitted by thousands of fireflies) to the ridiculous (beetle cartoon images that infest the zeitgeist). With unabashed humor and tremendous originality, Jessica Oreck looks at the religious, literary, and philosophical underpinnings of a nation’s entomological obsession. Warning: You may look more kindly upon your roaches after viewing.
May 19 – June 1
Two in the Wave
Produced & Directed by Emmanuel Laurent Written & Narrated by Antoine de Baecque
France / 2009 / 93 Minutes / In French with English subtitles / Lorber Films
The French New Wave crashed onto international shores when Francois Truffaut’s debut feature, THE 400 BLOWS, premiered at Cannes in 1959, followed quickly by Jean-Luc Godard’s equally thrilling BREATHLESS, based on a Truffaut story. The two filmmaking rebels, great friends and fellow graduates of the Cahiers du Cinema, for which both wrote extensively, hailed from different sides of the tracks: Truffaut, a poor reform school boy, and Godard, a Swiss haute-bourgeois. Both cast Jean-Pierre Leaud in many of their movies (for Truffaut, as his alter-ego, Antoine Doinel) and led the movement to save Henri Langlois’s job at the Cinematheque Francaise in ’68. TWO IN THE WAVE poignantly melds revealing period footage of both men (and of Leaud, torn between father-figures) with scenes from some of their greatest films, as it moves inexorably toward their bitter falling-out. [Of note: The 50th anniversary restoration of BREATHLESS opens on Film Forum’s repertory screen May 28.]
June 2 – 15
Written & Directed by Johan Grimonprez
Belgium / Germany / The Netherlands / 80 Minutes / In English / Kino International
“If you meet your double, you should kill him.” – Alfred Hitchcock. “An ingenious hybrid, DOUBLE TAKE is part mock-documentary, part conceptual provocation, and altogether a thought-provoking, hugely entertaining piece that does for Alfred Hitchcock what Orson Welles did for himself in his myth-making F FOR FAKE. Using a zippy assemblage of TV and newsreel material, artist/filmmaker Johan Grimonprez muses on Hitchcock’s persona and humor, reading his films of the late ’50s and early ’60s against the climate of Bomb-era political anxiety. Leaves viewers to draw their own conclusions about identity, filmmaking, power and paranoia, but the film’s love of Hitchcock – artist, public face, TV clown – is unmistakable and very infectious.” – Jonathan Romney, BFI London Film Festival
June 16 – 29
Produced & Directed by Kate Davis & David Heilbroner
USA / 2010 / 82 Minutes / First Run Features
“It was the Rosa Parks moment,” says one man. June 28, 1969: NYC police raid a Greenwich Village Mafia-run gay bar, The Stonewall Inn. For the first time, patrons refuse to be led into paddy wagons, setting off a 3-day riot that launches the Gay Rights Movement. Told by Stonewall patrons, Village Voice reporters and the cop who led the raid, STONEWALL UPRISING compellingly recalls the bad old days when psychoanalysts equated homosexuality with mental illness and advised aversion therapy, and even lobotomies; public service announcements warned youngsters against predatory homosexuals; and police entrapment was rampant. A treasure-trove of archival footage gives life to this all-too-recent reality, a time when Mike Wallace announced on a 1966 CBS Reports: “The average homosexual, if there be such, is promiscuous. He is not interested in, nor capable of, a lasting relationship like that of a heterosexual marriage.” At the height of this oppression, the cops raid Stonewall, triggering nights of pandemonium with tear gas, billy clubs and a small army of tactical police. The rest is history.
June 30 – July 13
The Agony and the Ecstasy of Phil Spector
Produced & Directed by Vikram Jayanti
USA / UK / 2008 / 102 Minutes
Legendary pop music genius, record producer Phil Spector created the “wall of sound” behind some of the greatest hits of the ’60s: Be My Baby, He’s a Rebel, Da Doo Ron Ron, You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling, to name just a few. Today he is imprisoned serving 19 years-to-life for the murder of B-movie actress Lana Clarkson. During his first trial (a hung jury), Spector gives a rare freewheeling interview to Vikram Jayanti, filmed at his castle, seated before the white piano which he bought with John Lennon, for Imagine. He lucidly holds forth on his life and work: his father’s suicide when he was a child; the process through which he achieved his distinctive sound; his friendship with Lennon; and his case that (despite Paul McCartney’s position), he salvaged the Beatles’ album, Let It Be. Then there is Spector’s curious enmity toward Tony Bennett and Buddy Holly (“he got a postage stamp even though he was only in rock ‘n’ roll three years”), and a grandiosity that has him likening himself to Bach, da Vinci, Michelangelo and Galileo. And, yes, there is an endless parade of hairstyles and flamboyant outfits. “A hell of an exclusive but a work of art itself.” – Andrew Billen, The Times (London)
July 14 – 20
Directed by Pedro Gonzalez-Rubio
Mexico / 2009 / 73 Minutes / In Spanish & Italian with English subtitles / Film Movement
A love story between father and son, man and nature, water and sky, ALAMAR is set in the turquoise waters of Banco Chincorro in the Caribbean, home to thousands of species of fish and Mexico’s largest coral reef. Living somewhere on the cusp between fiction and documentary, the film tells the story of a young boy whose divorced parents (an Italian mother and Mexican father) make him a child of two worlds. The strikingly handsome Jorge, muscled, tattooed and mustachioed, transports the urban kid to this natural paradise to teach him to dive for lobster, and fish for barracuda, spending days on a tiny fishing boat and nights in a reed-roofed cabin that floats atop the water. Egrets and crocodiles are their neighbors in this aquatic Neverland.
July 21 – August 3
Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child
Produced & Directed by Tamra Davis
USA / 2010 / 90 Minutes / Arthouse Films
The meteoric rise and fall of Jean-Michel Basquiat, born 1960. In the crime-ridden NYC of the 1970s, he covers the city with the graffiti tag SAMO. In 1981 he puts paint on canvas for the first time, and by 1983 he is an artist with “rock star status.” In 1985 he and Andy Warhol become close friends and painting collaborators, but they part ways and Warhol dies suddenly in 1987. Basquiat’s heroin addiction worsens, and he dies of an overdose in 1988. The artist was 25 years old at the height of his career, and today his canvases sell for more than a million dollars. With compassion and insight, Tamra Davis details the mysteries that surround this charismatic young man, an artist of enormous talent whose fortunes mirrored the rollercoaster quality of the downtown scene he seemed to embody.
August 4 – 17
The Sicilian Girl
Directed by Marco Amenta
Italy / 2008 / 110 Minutes / In Italian with English subtitles / Music Box Films
Based on the true story of Rita Atria and Judge Paolo Borsellino. ONE GIRL AGAINST THE MAFIA, a documentary by Marco Amenta, played in 2002 at Film Forum. THE SICILIAN GIRL is his dramatic retelling of Rita Atria’s story: how a 17-year-old Sicilian whose father and brother were both Mafia members (and victims) breaks the vow of silence that enshrouds that world, and gives evidence to famed anti-Mafia judge Borsellino. Drawing upon Rita’s extensive diaries, the filmmaker tells her story, beginning in Sicily in 1985. A small child experiences her beloved father, Don Michele, as a respected member of the community, a man to whom neighbors turn for help when a rapacious landlord orders their eviction. Soon after, he’s shot dead in the sun-drenched village square as his daughter looks on. Six years later, her brother is murdered. In court, Rita’s words are denounced as “the ravings of a fanatical adolescent bent on revenge.” But are they?
August 18 – 31
A Film Unfinished
Directed by Yael Hersonski
Israel / 2010 / 89 Minutes / In English, Hebrew, German, Polish & Yiddish with English subtitles / Oscilloscope Laboratories
Since the end of WWII, one copy of a 60-minute (unfinished) propaganda film, shot by the Nazis in the Warsaw Ghetto in May 1942, labeled simply “Ghetto,” sat undisturbed in an East German archive. A FILM UNFINISHED presents the entire film, carefully noting fictionalized sequences (e.g. dozens of Jewish patrons at an elegant restaurant; a luxurious funeral cortege). The film’s documentary footage is of an entirely different nature: corpses on sidewalks, beggars pacing the streets, children ravaged by hunger. The film includes a revealing interview with the only cinematographer identified with the production, as well as scenes in which now-elderly former residents of the Warsaw Ghetto review footage and occasionally recognize their neighbors. This is a film of enormous import: it documents some of the worst horrors of our time and the efforts (however imperfect) of the perpetrators to recast those events to suggest an entirely different scenario.