Alfred Hitchcock, 1963, USA, 119m
More than two decades after releasing back-to-back Daphne du Maurier adaptations with Jamaica Inn and Rebecca, Alfred Hitchcock returned to the well, commissioning writer Evan Hunter to collaborate on a feature-length screenplay loosely based on a du Maurier short story from 1952. Tippi Hedren stars in her first credited screen role as Melanie, a glamorous San Francisco socialite who, after a pet shop meet-cute with a charming lawyer (Rod Taylor), impulsively follows him to the small coastal hometown where he’s visiting his young sister and their stern, watchful mother, Lydia (Jessica Tandy). During Melanie’s stay, the town’s residents begin to witness mysterious, increasingly disturbing behavior from the local bird population, most notably the menacing swarms of gulls, crows, and sparrows that begin to materialize—and that soon proceed to wreak violent havoc. This late-career tour de force exemplifies the master of suspense’s virtuosic command of mood and tone, and remains one of the most influential and enduringly enigmatic horror films of all time.
Saturday, April 15 at 5:30pm
Closely Watched Trains
Jiří Menzel, 1966, Czechoslovakia, 92m
Czech and German with English subtitles
Just one year before his sophomore film, Capricious Summer, would open the sixth New York Film Festival, 28-year-old Jiří Menzel made his feature debut with the story of Miloš (Václav Neckář), a newly minted train dispatcher learning the ropes at a small outpost in occupied Czechoslovakia as World War II draws to a close. The film follows Miloš in his efforts to lose his virginity and win the affections of an attractive colleague. He is egged on by an older fellow dispatcher, Hubička (Josef Somr), whose involvement with the local resistance movement is inextricably linked, for Miloš, with the promise of sexual initiation. The winning warmth and deceptively gentle humor of Menzel’s storytelling ultimately give way to a bittersweet lament for innocence lost and the ambivalence of wisdom in this foundational classic of the Czechoslovak New Wave, adapted from the novel by Bohumil Hrabal.
Friday, April 14 at 6:00pm
Thursday, April 20 at 8:00pm
Cowards Bend the Knee
Guy Maddin, 2003, Canada, 64m
Originally commissioned by a Toronto gallery as an installation comprising 10 six-minute short films, each viewed separately through a peephole, Cowards Bend the Knee unfolds in feature form as a thrilling gesture of wry, self-deprecating, and unflinchingly honest introspection. Drawing inspiration from Greek tragedy and the gauzy black-and-white aesthetic of silent cinema, this unapologetically expressionistic first installment of Maddin’s quasi-autobiographical “Me Trilogy" centers on a fictionalized Guy Maddin (Darcy Fehr). He is reimagined as a Winnipeg hockey player who, after his girlfriend dies following a botched abortion, finds himself navigating increasingly convoluted familial and romantic commitments against the backdrop of his own self-defeating (and unmistakably Freudian) personal neuroses.
Stump the Guesser
Guy Maddin, Evan Johnson, and Galen Johnson, 2020, Canada, 19m
Surreal superimpositions, Dutch angles, strobing abstract animation, and thunderous title cards collide in this tale of a carnival mindreader who finally meets his match, told as a raucous hodgepodge of tropes derived from Soviet silent cinema. Expanding a strange universe created by Guy Maddin alongside frequent collaborators Evan Johnson and Galen Johnson, Stump the Guesser is a bizarrely humorous and modernist dystopian fable packed with incest, guessing milk, real crabs, and more.
Friday, April 14 at 4:00pm
Wednesday, April 19 at 8:30pm
Defending Your Life
Albert Brooks, 1991, USA, 111m
In Albert Brooks’s deftly witty vision of purgatory, the writer-director-actor reimagines the pearly gates as a cross between heaven-by-way-of-L.A. and a performance review. After advertising executive Daniel Miller (Brooks) dies in a car accident, he wakes up in Judgment City, a sun-dappled, all-you-can-eat plane of existence where he must defend his earthly behavior before a corporate tribunal to assess whether he can enter a new, bigger-brained celestial phase, or must be reincarnated on earth to try all over again. Defending Your Life is a fiercely sharp, deceptively breezy continuation of Brooks’s offbeat comic vision of modern anxieties, embellished with droll and understated observations of New Age yuppiedom, with delightfully memorable performances from Meryl Streep as Daniel’s romantic interest, Rip Torn as grinny defense attorney Bob Diamond, and Shirley MacLaine (“Oh my God”).
Sunday, April 16 at 6:00pm
Invention for Destruction
Karel Zeman, 1958, Czechoslovakia, 83m
Czech with English subtitles
In this delightfully imaginative mix of live action and animation, pirates kidnap a professor and his assistant in order to steal his design for a new weapon of mass destruction, with which they plan to take over the world. Czech legend Karel Zeman brings his 19th-century Jules Verne tale to life as if it’s a book with engraved illustrations, using live sets, stop-motion, cel animation, matte backgrounds, and detailed linework to rival a piece of op art. The tale stirs together Verne’s flights of fancy—including a wondrous submarine and a looming volcano hideout—with a droll sense of gallantry and derring-do. The playful details of the film, alternately known as The Fabulous World of Jules Verne, are best appreciated on the big screen. Restored as part of Čistíme svět fantazie/Restoring the World of Fantasy, a joint project of the Czech Film Foundation, the Karel Zeman Museum, and Czech Television in cooperation with Universal Production Partners (UPP) and with the support of the Ministry of Culture and the State Fund for Cinematography of the Czech Republic.
Sunday, April 16 at 4:00pm
Thursday, April 20 at 6:00pm
Nicholas Ray, 1954, USA, 110m
Critically dismissed in its own time, Nicholas Ray’s radical repurposing of the Western genre has since been reappraised and championed as a visionary allegorical treatment of sexual politics and the Hollywood blacklist, described by admirer Martin Scorsese as “an intense, unconventional, stylized picture, full of ambiguities and subtexts that rendered it extremely modern.” Joan Crawford is electrifying as the headstrong saloon owner Vienna, whose unexpected reunion with a former lover (Sterling Hayden’s titular ex-gunslinger turned musician-for-hire) coincides with the eruption of long-simmering resentments among their fellow residents in an isolated Arizona cattle town, many of whom are suspicious of Vienna’s outsider status. Ray’s mastery of genre mechanics is on full display here, even as he deploys those mechanisms in service of unprecedented thematic and stylistic interventions.
Sunday, April 16 at 8:30pm
A Matter of Life and Death
Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, 1946, U.K., 104m
English, French, and Russian with English subtitles
In this pioneering collaboration between Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger, and their longtime cinematographer, Jack Cardiff, a dashing young World War II airman (David Niven) chats up—then bares his soul to—a beautiful radio operator (Kim Hunter) even as his plane dives to earth. The movie takes a turn from Technicolor wartime melodrama into a meditation on the worth of a life and the righteousness of a death, and those are weighed in a chilly, monochrome heaven and in an operating room where surgeons work to save the pilot’s damaged brain. Featuring indelible supporting performances by Raymond Massey, Roger Livesey, Robert Coote, Marius Goring, and Richard Attenborough.
Friday, April 14 at 8:00pm
Jacques Tati, 1967, France/Italy, 124m
English, French, and German with English subtitles
After the success of Mon Oncle in 1958, Jacques Tati became fed up with his signature Monsieur Hulot character. Slowly, he inched his way toward a new kind of cinema—a supremely democratic film starring “everybody,” in which the wonders of modern life would relinquish their functionality and become a ravishingly beautiful backdrop to pure human delirium. Playtime’s massive set, known as Tativille, was built in Saint-Maurice, in the southeast corner of Paris, complete with its own power plant and approach road and two entire buildings whose amenities included a working escalator. At the end of the road, there lay ignominy and bankruptcy—and one of the great masterpieces of postwar French cinema.
Sunday, April 16 at 1:30pm
Tsai Ming-liang, 1997, Taiwan, 115m
Mandarin with English subtitles
After spontaneously agreeing to play a drowned corpse in a film, a young man (Lee Kang-sheng) develops chronic, inexplicable neck pain. Meanwhile, his mother embarks on an affair with a pornographer, his father spends free evenings pursuing chance sexual encounters at a local bathhouse, and the family’s shared apartment keeps suffering from mysterious plumbing issues… Tsai Ming-liang’s third feature is at once overtly metaphorical and deeply committed to the ebb and flow of everyday life: a film about individuals in crisis that builds patiently to a devastating emotional climax.
Wednesday, April 19 at 6:00pm
Wake in Fright
Ted Kotcheff, 1971, Australia, 108m
“Will ya have a drink, mate?” Ted Kotcheff (First Blood) offers a sweaty, beer-soaked, outsider vision of the Australian outback that pushes the idea of aggressive hospitality to its nerve-breaking edges. Gary Bond stars as an urbane schoolteacher who arrives in the rough mining town of Bundanyabba and ends up going on a days-long, self-destructive bender thanks to the unrelenting generosity of the town locals (including Donald Pleasence). Featuring outlandish psychedelic sequences, documentary footage of a brutal kangaroo hunt, and a menacing, dehydrated visual palette, Wake in Fright is a visceral and long-overlooked gem of the Australian New Wave that unravels like a feverish nightmare.
Saturday, April 15 at 8:00pm
Tuesday, April 18 at 8:00pm
The Wolf House
Cristóbal León and Joaquín Cociña, 2018, Chile/Germany, 75m
Spanish and German with English subtitles
Evoking Colonia Dignidad, an infamous torture colony operating during the Pinochet regime, The Wolf House is an animated film unlike any other, an exquisitely handcrafted surrealist docu-horror-fairy tale about one of Chile’s darkest periods. When María, a young girl newly escaped from a community of German religious extremists in southern Chile, takes shelter in a mysterious house in the woods, she finds herself plunged into a dreamlike rabbit hole of frighteningly mutable surfaces and substances. Using stop-motion techniques and combining elements of various fables, photography, drawing, sculpture, and stage performance, Joaquín Cociña and Cristóbal León have created a nightmarish shapeshifter of a film.
Cristóbal León and Joaquín Cociña, 2021, Chile, 14m
Spanish with English subtitles
Winner of the Orizzonti Award for Best Short Film at the Venice Film Festival, this animated stop-motion film narrates the unearthing of corpses for an expiatory ritual that seeks to free Chile from its authoritarian and oligarchic past.
Tuesday, April 18 at 6:00pm