“The Wages of Fear” at MoMA and Film Forum (Dec 08-22)

by on December 8, 2011Posted in: Essay

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Tuesday Editor’s Pick: The French Connection (1971)

by on September 14, 2011Posted in: Editor's Pick

Playing Wed Sept 14 thru Thurs Sept 22 at 1:00, 3:15, 5:30, 7:45, 10:00 at Film Forum [Program & Tix]


Why does Film Forum pull this out every few years? Cause its awesome we guess (and on this occasion, its an appropriate cap-off to the “NYPD” festival).


Budd Wilkins for Slant:

Four decades after its initial release, William Friedkin’s Oscar-sweeper The French Connection remains an electrifying achievement, drawing its high-voltage forward momentum from the collision of semi-documentary procedural, with its based-on-real-events verisimilitude, and downbeat rogue-cop revisionism. Shooting in actual locations wherever possible, and availing themselves of the featherweight handheld cameras that enabled the development of the Direct Cinema movement, Friedkin and cinematographer Owen Roizman put the grit into “gritty authenticity.” But that’s only half the equation. Ernest Tidyman’s script tweaks buddy-cop stereotypes by compelling the audience to identify with a bigoted and obsessive loose cannon whose actions grow increasingly questionable, and subverts the tidy moral resolution demanded by genre convention, reflecting a darker, more ambivalent worldview, simultaneously hearkening back to the post-WWII high tide of film noir and resonant with Vietnam-era anxieties and tensions.


Friedkin cites Costa-Gavras’s 1969 political conspiracy thriller Z as an influence on his storytelling art and pseudo-documentary aesthetic, and it’s easiest to spot the connection in the pessimistic title cards that precede the end credits: More or less everyone involved in the smuggling operation gets off with a wrist slap, save the fall guy, Devereaux, the only one to do hard time, while mastermind Charnier escapes the country, going scot-free. In turn, The French Connection‘s influence has been multifarious, putting its stamp on everything from John Frankenheimer’s underrated 1975 sequel and producer-turned-director Philip D’Antoni’s unofficial follow-up, The Seven-Ups (also starring Roy Scheider and Tony Lo Bianco), to the Spike Jonze-directed Beastie Boys video “Sabotage,” an affectionate homage-spoof of the barrage of gritty ’70s cop shows that followed in Friedkin’s wake.


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Monday Editor’s Pick: Cruising (1980)

by on September 5, 2011Posted in: Editor's Pick

Playing Mon Sept 12 at 1:15, 5:05, 9:00 at Film Forum [Program & Tix]
*Dbl Ftr w/ BAD LIEUTENANT (Abel Ferrara, 1992)


Ten years ago Film Forum had to cancel their “NYPD Festival” double bill of Cruising and Bad Lieutenant after the events of September 11. Allegedly, when Film Forum Repertory programmer Bruce Goldstein informed William Friedkin of the disturbing timing, the Cruising director responded with somber silence.


When the film was re-released in 2007, however, critics were anything but quiet…


Kim Morgan for The Sunset Gun:

Oh how misunderstood and unjustly hated Cruising was. Friedkin went through hell for this picture and the stigma remains, just watch the documentary The Celluloid Closet during which the film is discussed as a blight on homosexual progress. And worse, the cause of gay bashing. But I’m with Camille Paglia on this one. Paglia has called the film a work of “underground decadence that wasn’t that different from The Story of O or other European high porn of the 1960s.” It’s better than high porn, but it certainly plays sexually shocking, even today. Others have come around, and the movie is enjoying a re-release at 2007’s Cannes Film Festival and on DVD). Goddamn finally. Again, accused of stereotyping and insensitivity to gays, this taut, finely scored and bravely acted (by Al Pacino) picture finds straight police detective Pacino going undercover in the subterranean gay subculture of leather bars and S&M to capture a (yes) gay serial killer. As Pacino struggles with his identity and sexuality, the picture goes far beyond ideas concerning sexual preferences and practices (we learn a few things about the handkerchief system, for instance) and truly explores all those gnarled secrets simmering under certain men. And the sounds of rubbing leather and footsteps have never been so gorgeously ominous. I can’t even imagine this picture, with this big of a star being made today.


Andrew O’Hehir for Salon:

Viewed from almost three decades’ distance, “Cruising” now looks like a masterly work of psychological disorientation, guilty only of a certain insensitivity — in putting the most extreme imaginable example of gay sexual subculture into a mainstream film — but innocent of any homophobic intention. Pacino’s performance as the undercover cop who gets drawn into the leather underworld (how far he gets drawn in, we mostly have to guess) is extraordinary and sensitive, and the film’s frank depiction of the pre-AIDS night world of gay Manhattan remains shocking. No one would get away with it now, or even try.


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