Will Groucho go the way of his namesake Karl into the dustbin of
history? Not as long as there are New Year's Day hangovers and Marx Brothers
Triple Features at the Brattle Theatre. Some quotes to savor are "You can't
fool me! There ain't no sanity clause!" from A Night at the Opera (1935 | 1:30
+ 7:30 pm) ; "If I hold you any closer, I'll be in back of you," from A Day
at the Races (1937 | 3:30 + 9:30 pm); and "Don't worry - this isn't the first
time I've been in a closet," from the rarely screened A Night in Casablanca
(1946 | noon + 5:45 pm).
If he's not the best contemporary Chinese
director, he's at least the most controversial. The Museum of Fine Arts'
retrospective of the films of Lou Ye continues with Purple Butterfly (2003), which is set in Shanghai during World War II. A woman is
dismayed when her Japanese lover joins the Imperial Army and her brother is
murdered by Japanese fanatics, so she joins the resistance group of the title,
only to have fate put her loyalties to the test.
One of the biggest boons of the Dogme 97 movement, Danish
actress Paprika Steen is as intense and piquant as her name would suggest. In
Martin Zandvliet's Applause
(2009), she plays Thea Barfoed, an actress just out of rehab. With her life in
ruins, Thea tries to get it back together by playing Martha in a production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
- a role that proves an inspired, if unwise, choice.
Jonathan Kesselman's The Hebrew Hammer (2003) might be the
cinematic equivalent of Adam Sandler's "The Chanukah Song." Adam Goldberg plays
the super-agent of the title, a kind of circumcised Shaft who's hard pressed to
take out Santa's evil son (played by Andy Dick) after the would-be Kringle
knocks off his dad, takes his place at the sleigh, and vows to ruin the
holidays for Jew and gentile alike.
If the holidays are getting you down, rest assured that
life is treating you better than Michael Haneke treated his characters in
Time of the Wolf (2003). Isabelle Huppert stars as a materfamilias who returns home from
vacation and finds that the social order everywhere has broken down and people
have resorted to barbarism.
Master of the screwball comedy Preston Sturges
gets in the Yuletide spirit, sort of, with Christmas in July (1940), in which an office clerk thinks
he's won $25,000 in a slogan-writing contest for Maxford Coffee. (His entry: "If
you can't sleep, it isn't the coffee - it's the bunk.") Friends and neighbors
rejoice, and he spends a fortune on gifts.
Slowly but surely, Joe Dante's Gremlins (1984) is becoming a
holiday classic alongside It's a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Carol, and Bad Santa. A
dotty inventor goes Christmas shopping for his son and buys an adorable
creature in Chinatown. But when the operating
instructions are violated, what was once cute becomes very dicey indeed.
Jean-Luc Godard seemed to have buried himself in a Marxist
ideological hole until he lit up the screen again with his weird, poignant, and
lush Every Man for Himself/Sauve qui peut (la vie) (1980). Ostensibly a film about sexual and economic relationships as well as
every other aspect of human life, it contains perhaps the most hilarious and
disturbing depiction of sex in the age of mechanical reproduction in cinema.
Özer Kızıltan's Takva
(2006), an exquisite drama about how money corrupts the pious property manager
of a Sufi temple in Istanbul,
is one of the finest cinematic explorations of the uneasy truce between the
secular and spiritual worlds. It screens as part of the Goethe-Institut's "Across Borders: The Atelier Ludwigsburg-Paris,"
and that's reason enough to check out this presentation and panel discussion on
film education featuring local academics and representatives of that renowned
European graduate film program.
The thing about CGI effects is that they dispel one's
willing suspension of disbelief in the wonders they simulate. We'll bet that '50s
audiences watching the feats of the giant alien robot Gort in Robert Wise's The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) - feats that were put on screen the old
way - really believed that some day we'd have humanoid machines with undying
loyalty who could evaporate tanks.
Every year, we need a film that serves as a complement
to (or an antidote for) It's a
Wonderful Life and A
Christmas Carol. This year, the Coolidge Corner Theatre is obliging with
in which, with demented and innocent puerility, Will Ferrell plays a human
child raised among Santa's helpers in the North Pole who goes in search of his
Those intrigued by the glimpse of F.W. Murnau's work on
offer in the Harvard Film Archive's current Weimar series will want to take in
his masterful Hollywood debut, Sunrise (1928). A tale of greed,
desire, and folly, it features stunning visuals as Murnau's camera moves with
the freedom and grace that his characters so tragically lack, and Berklee students
will be accompanying it with live music as part of the Coolidge Corner
Theatre's "Sounds of Silents" series at 290 Harvard St, Brookline | December 6 @ 7 pm | $20;
$17 students, seniors | 617.
Hey, it's only a
ally and a model secular Muslim nation. Turkey also turns out some
wonderful movies, many of which show up in the annual Boston Turkish Film Festival Competition, which, now in its 15th year,
features a fascinating assortment of shorts and documentaries vying for the
festival's top prizes.
Perhaps the most innovative work in the art of the moving
image takes place in TV commercials, as is evidenced by those chosen for the
Art and Technique of the American Commercial Award, the winners
of which are entered into the Museum of Modern Arts Film Archive. They will be
screening in a program that takes place
at 7:30 pm, followed at 8:30 pm by another selection of ads from the Winning British Commercials 2010
One of the more civilized tools of social change is
cinema, and the Boston Latino International Film Festival is doing its part to calm the recent anti-immigrant hysteria by showing movies
about the immigration experience. It opens today with Theo Rigby's documentary short
"Without a Country," in which an undocumented Guatemalan family are arrested
after living in the US
for 17 years as productive, law-abiding citizens.