Food represents the highest of arts and the basest of cruelties in this cinematic banquet. Gabriel Axel's Oscar-winning Babette's Feast, adapted from a short story by Isak Dinesen, tells the moving story of a French housekeeper with a mysterious past who brings quiet revolution in the form of one exquisite meal to a circle of starkly pious villagers in late-nineteenth-century Denmark. It's paired with an outrageously decadent masterpiece from Peter Greenaway, who stages a modern Jacobean revenge tragedy in a lavish restaurant, where a brutal gangster (Michael Gambon) holds court while his wife (Helen Mirren) sneaks away to her paramour. With vivid cinematography by Sacha Vierny and a hypnotic Michael Nyman score, The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover culminates in a memorably gruesome feast.
Monday, April 23
Observations on Film Art No. 18: Staging and Performance in Ivan the Terrible, Part II
Sergei Eisenstein's final film, a two-part biopic of the notorious Tsar Ivan IV, is one of the revolutionary director's boldest experiments in film form, frequently departing from the codes of cinematic realism. In this month's episode of Observations on Film Art, a Channel-exclusive series that takes a look at how great filmmakers use cinematic devices and techniques, scholar David Bordwell examines Eisenstein's concept of "expressive movement," and shows how the director uses it to stage elaborate set pieces that incorporate the languages of painting and dance.
Tuesday, April 24
Tuesday's Short + Feature: Ghost Trip and Kings of the Road
These spare, existential road movies take in vast landscapes in stunning black and white. Bill Morrison's eerie Ghost Trip, a rare "fiction" film from an artist best known for his use of archival material, follows a mysterious driver on an American odyssey from coast to coast, passing through deserts, casinos, and graveyards along the way. Then, the capstone of Wim Wenders's Road Trilogy accompanies a film projector repairman and a depressed psychologist as they roam aimlessly from one movie theater to another across a melancholy Germany still haunted by war.
Wednesday, April 25
An Actor's Revenge: Edition #912
A uniquely prolific and chameleonic figure of world cinema, Kon Ichikawa delivered a burst of stylistic bravado with this intricate tale of betrayal and retribution. Set in the cloistered world of nineteenth-century kabuki theater, the film charts a female impersonator's attempts to avenge the deaths of his parents, who were driven to insanity and suicide by a trio of corrupt men. Ichikawa takes the conventions of melodrama and turns them on their head, bringing the hero's fractured psyche to life in boldly experimental widescreen compositions infused with kaleidoscopic color, pop-art influences, and meticulous choreography. Anchored by a magnificently androgynous performance by Kazuo Hasegawa, reprising a role he had played on-screen three decades earlier, An Actor's Revenge is an eye-popping examination of how the illusions of art intersect with life. SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: A rare 1999 Directors Guild of Japan interview with director Kon Ichikawa, conducted by film critic Yuki Mori; and an interview with critic, filmmaker, and festival programmer Tony Rayns.
Thursday, April 26
Adventures in Moviegoing with Adam Gopnik
This month's guest curator, author and longtime New Yorker contributor Adam Gopnik, is a writer of omnivorous interests. For his selection of favorite films, he handpicked gems such as Jacques Demy's The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and Jean Cocteau's Orpheus, and then sat down with Antonio Monda, artistic director of the Rome Film Festival, to discuss a lifetime of moviegoing. From watching European cinema on television with his family, to seeing Singin' in the Rain during his adolescence in Paris, to his first date with the woman he would go on to marry (they saw Jean Vigo's achingly romantic L'Atalante), Gopnik chronicles his infatuation with cinema, a medium whose storytelling methods he often seeks to emulate in his own writing.
Friday, April 27
Friday Night Double Feature: Tokyo Drifter and The Long Good Friday
This gangster-movie double bill finds two career criminals attempting to go straight, only to get sucked back into the underworld. In Tokyo Drifter (1966),Seijun Suzuki's delirious pop-art riff on the yakuza genre, reformed hit man Tetsu gets called back from retirement to do battle with a rival gang, resulting in an onslaught of giddily stylized action. Then, a magnetic Bob Hoskins stars in John Mackenzie's The Long Good Friday (1980) as a vicious London mob boss whose best-laid plans to cross over into legitimate business get blown to smithereens over the course of one agonizing, bloody day.