Black and white film night: M eine stadt sught einen morder (Fritz Lang, 1931)

M_Fritz_LangSunday June 26th 2016, Black and white film night: M eine stadt sught einen morder. (Fritz Lang, 1931). Door opens at 8pm, film begins at 9pm. Free admission.

The horror of the faces: That is the overwhelming image that remains from a recent viewing of the restored version of “M,” Fritz Lang’s famous 1931 film about a child murderer in Germany. In my memory it was a film that centered on the killer, the creepy little Franz Becker, played by Peter Lorre. But Becker has relatively limited screen time, and only one consequential speech–although it’s a haunting one. Most of the film is devoted to the search for Becker, by both the police and the underworld, and many of these scenes are played in closeup. In searching for words to describe the faces of the actors, I fall hopelessly upon “piglike.” […Lees verder]

Black and White movie night: The Heart of a Dog (1988)

The_Heart_of_a_DogSunday May 29th 2016, Black and White movie night: Black and White movie night: The Heart of a Dog (Vladimir Bortko, 1988). 136 minutes, in Russian with English subtitles. Door opens at 8pm, film begins at 9pm. Free admission.

The film is set in Moscow not long after the October Revolution where a complaining stray dog looks for food and shelter. A well-off well-known surgeon Phillip Phillippovich Preobrazhensky happens to need a dog and lures the animal to his big home annex practice with a piece of sausage. The dog is named Sharik and well taken care of by the doctor’s maids, but still wonders why he’s there. He finds out too late he’s needed as a test animal: the doctor implants a pituitary gland and testicles of a recently deceased alcoholic and petty criminal Klim Chugunkin into Sharik. Sharik proceeds to become more and more human during the next days. After his transition to human is complete, it turns out that he inherited all the negative traits of the donor – bad manners, aggressiveness, use of profanity, heavy drinking – but still hates cats. He picks for himself the absurd name Poligraf Poligrafovich Sharikov, starts working at the “Moscow Cleansing Department responsible for eliminating vagrant quadrupeds (cats, etc.)” and associating with revolutionaries, who plot to drive Preobrazhensky out of his big apartment. Eventually he turns the life in the professor’s house into a nightmare by stealing money, breaking his furniture, a water ballet during a cat chase and blackmailing into marriage a girl he met at the cinema. The professor with his assistant are then urged to reverse the procedure. Sharikov turns back into a dog. As Sharik he does remember little about what has happened to him but isn’t much concerned about that. To his content he is left to live in the professor’s apartment. […Lees verder]

Black and White movie night: La Vie de Bohème (1992)

La_Vie_De_BohemeSunday April 24th 2016, Black and White movie night: La Vie de Bohème (Aki Kaurismäki, 1992). In French with English subtitles. Door opens at 8pm, film begins at 9pm. Free admission.

La Vie de Bohème manages to mine more impact from the simple fact of movement than most movies can get even with a flurry of mobile shots and onscreen action. The title of the original novel translates to “Scenes from the Bohemian Life”, a title which could just as easily apply to a painting or set of paintings as it does to a film or collection of writings. Kaurismäki’s deep-focus shots are filled with the attention to detail and design that defines many of the greatest directors of onscreen comedy: Jerry Lewis, Frank Tashlin, and Kaurismäki’s contemporary Roy Andersson among them.

Unlike their color scenery and elaborate contraptions, however, (Andersson in particular is capable of a how’d-he-do-that craft in the tradition of stage magic) Kaurismäki’s compositions create the impression of a series of still lives in which his characters move tentatively about. The first shot captures the poet Marcel Marx (Andre Wilms) rummaging about in a heap of trash before he commits a violent pratfall, picking himself up with a bemused demeanor as he mutters about the predicament. What did he think would happen? […Lees verder]