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Film Comment Selects 2006

Click here for a Full Review of Workingman's Death
Please note: Mini-Review of Kekexili: Mountain Patrol coming soon!

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Ce Jour-là / That Day

Raul Ruiz, Switzerland, 2003; 105m

Wed Feb 15: 1:45; Fri Feb 17: 2:50 & 7:15; Mon Feb 20: 8

Take an Agatha Christie-esque Ten Little Indians premise, turn it on its head and shake it very hard, up, down, and sideways. Facing financial difficulties, industrialist and family patriarch Michel Piccoli conspires to bump off his guileless, harmlessly mad daughter (Elsa Zylberstein), heir to his wife’s vast fortune, by arranging for the escape of a psychotic killer (Bernard Giraudeau) confined in a nearby asylum. The predominant tone is pure farce, with the bodies piling up while the heroine remains blissfully oblivious. The narrative revisits Ruiz’s political primal scene, replaying the Chilean coup d’etat as slapstick.

Everlasting Regret

Stanley Kwan, China/Hong Kong, 2005; 108m

Wed Feb 15: 4; Sun Feb 19: 8:15; Mon Feb 20: 3:30

A discreet saga unfolding over some 30 years, Everlasting Regret follows the romantic fortunes of a Shanghai beauty queen (Sammi Cheng) from the postwar era to the dawn of China’s economic modernization in the early Eighties. Kwan avoids melodrama and sentimentality as he focuses in on the unfolding predicament of his heroine, aided by William Chang’s stylized production design.

Stranded in Canton

William Eggleston, U.S., 1974/2005; 76m

Wed Feb 15: 6:30

In Attendance: William Eggleston will introduce the film. Copies of classic Eggleston books will be available for purchase and will be signed by the artist following the screening.

More than 30 years ago, America’s greatest living photographer, William Eggleston, shot 30 hours of video in and around Memphis. Eggleston and Robert Gordon recently distilled this footage into a 77-minute deeply personal vision of the Memphis demimonde. Filmed in the city’s bars and streets, Stranded in Canton makes us aware of the chaos outside the frame of every Eggleston photograph.


Battle in Heaven

Carlos Reygadas, Mexico, 2005; 120m

Wed Feb 15: 9:30

Opening with a scene not suitable for description, Carlos Reygadas’s follow-up to Japon was the designated scandal of last year’s Cannes Film Festival. This grotesque and increasingly surreal vision of contemporary Mexico, with its extremes of poverty and wealth, is like a Bosch painting come to life.


La Domaine perdu / The Lost Domain

Raul Ruiz, France, 2004; 106m

Thurs Feb 16: 1:30; Sat Feb 18: 7:15; Tue Feb 21: 2:15

Ruiz’s follow-up rumination on time, mortality and longing for wholeness is a sad, mysterious and somewhat noble film that shifts between 1930s and 1970s Chile and England during WWII. Chilean Max (played at ages 18, 20 and 71 by Grégoire Colin, and at 51 by his father Christian Colin) retains a lifelong vision of his hero, a French aviator named Antoine (FranCois Cluzet) who keeps finding himself behind the controls of an airplane without remembering how to operate it. A triumph of makeshift invention, the film sustains its delicately sad tone from beginning to end.

Shanghai Dreams

Wang Xiaoshuai, China, 2005; 119m

Thurs Feb 16: 3:45; Fri Feb 17: 9; Mon Feb 20: 1

Winner of the Cannes Film Festival Jury Prize, this quietly devastating coming-of-age story set in a steel town in 1980s rural China marks a return to form for Wang. The film provides fascinating glimpses of Chinese youth culture and tacit class divisions between the proletarian locals and the town’s discontented urban exiles. Wang’s delicate handling and visual intelligence neatly sidestep both melodrama and the clichés of dingy Sixth Generation realism, while retaining a vivid sense of milieu and landscape.

One Night

Niki Karimi, Iran, 2005; 99m

Thurs Feb 16: 9; Fri Feb 17: 1

Iranian bus service being at best infrequent, a young woman eventually accepts a lift from a passing motorist. The rest of the film is made up of a series of rides with different men. The “car film” is a staple of Iranian cinema, yet in actress-turned-director Karimi’s One Night it takes on new life.

Eli, Eli, Lema Sabachtani?

Shinji Aoyama, Japan, 2005; 107m

Fri Feb 17: 5; Sun Feb 19: 6

The latest film from the director of 2000’s Eureka, this playful riff on viral-apocalypse sci-fi is set in 2015 Japan in the grip of a disease that induces suicidal impulses in its victims. Two experimental musicians may have found the key to a cure; they believe that the ambient sounds they record and process into ear-filling feedback loops will destroy the virus. The title of the film allegedly reiterates Jesus’ final words in Aramaic as he hung upon the cross.


Días de Campo / Days in the Country

Raul Ruiz, Chile, 2004; 89m

Sat Feb 18: 1; Thurs Feb 23: 2:30

Ruiz’s first Chilean feature in 30 years, Días de Campo stars Marcial Edwards as Don Federico, a man trying to write a novel in his country estate who is interrupted when he hears radio news reports of his own death. In the writing process he crosses paths with his younger and older self, and re-experiences the death and resurrection of his mother. The film is a fugue composition that offers a melancholy interaction with time itself.


Ernest Abdyshaparov, Kyrgyzstan, 2005; 102m

Sat Feb 18: 2:45; Wed Feb 22: 4:45; Fri Feb 24: 1

Grand prize winner of the Marrakech Film Festival, Saratan is set in a remote Kyrgyzstan village where nothing is quite right. An oppressive sense of ennui fills the air as the locals, about a decade into their Central Asian independence, are having trouble coming to grips with their post-Soviet condition. But guess what? This one’s a comedy. Very funny and very poignant, it’s the kind of genuine artistic anomaly that could have easily slipped beneath the radar.

Workingman’s Death

Michael Glawogger, Austria, 2005; 122m

Sat Feb 18: 4:45; Tue Feb 21: 6:30

Click here for a Full Review of Workingman's Death
Consisting of “Five Pictures of Work in the 21st Century,” plus a final coda in Germany, Workingman’s Death grapples with the reality (and surreality) of manual labor. Depicting an array of workmen and their settings— unemployed miners scavenging for coal in an abandoned Ukrainian mine, Indonesian laborers hauling sulphur down the slopes of a volcano, Pakistani ship breakers tearing apart a beached oil tanker for scrap metal, and a frenzied open-air Nigerian slaughterhouse— this globetrotting documentary will make you think twice before you start complaining about your lousy job.


Billy O’Brien, U.K./Ireland, 2005; 95m

Sat Feb 18: 9:30; Sun Feb 19: 2; Tue Feb 21: 4:30

While trying to birth a calf, farmer John Lynch discovers that there's something 'weird and pissed off' inside his cow. First-time director Billy O'Brien mixes strains of science fiction and Cronenberg-style biological panic in a relentless horror film that never gets distracted from the business at hand.


Yorgos Lanthimos, Greece, 2005; 95m

Sun Feb 19: 4; Mon Feb 20: 6; Wed Feb 22: 2:45

Following a spate of murders in an off-season resort town, a plainclothes cop, a photo-store clerk, and a hotel maid come together to stage a series of outlandish murder re-enactments. A distinct air of perversity hangs over this nameless trio’s cryptic “performances.” Lanthimos is a talent to watch.


Masahiro Kobayashi, Japan, 2005; 82m

Tue Feb 21: 9; Wed Feb 22: 1 & 9:30

A young female humanitarian aid worker returns to Japan after being held hostage in Iraq, but instead of being celebrated for her bravery, she is excoriated for embarrassing her country. Her boyfriend deserts her, her father and mother lose their jobs, and that’s not the end of it. Kobayashi’s heroine is played with gusto by the impressively defiant Fusako Urabe.

Digital Short Films by Three Filmmakers

Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Shinya Tsukamoto & Song Il-gon, Thailand/Japan/Korea, 2005, 110m

Thurs Feb 23: 4:30; Fri Feb 24: 9:45

For the past five years the Jeonju International Film Festival in Korea has financed an ongoing project that invites a trio of notable up-and-coming Asian filmmakers to make a short film with digital technology and total creative freedom. This latest edition features:

Haze, Japanese cult filmmaker Tsukamoto’s experiment in uncanny claustrophobia.

Magician(s), directed by Korea’s Song, in which the boundary between past and present dissolves during a reunion of the former members of a rock band.

Wordly Desires, is Tropical Malady director Apichatpong Weerasethakul return to the jungle for a film within a film about the shooting of a love story by day and a music video by night.

The Forsaken Land

Vimukthi Jayasundara, Sri Lanka, 2005; 108m

Fri Feb 24: 3:10 & 7:35

This Cannes prizewinner for best first feature is a spare, poetically fragmented and haunting look at life in the Sri Lankan hinterlands in the aftermath of decades of brutal civil war where the specter of violence still stalks the land. The film’s pervasive sense of hopelessness and disconnection conveys the way in which war blights the lives of all involved long after the fighting ends.


Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Japan, 2005; 115m

Fri Feb 24: 5:20; Sat Feb 25: 9

The cult director of Pulse and Cure returns to the horror genre for this quietly creepy ghost story. Seemingly more straightforward than Kurosawa’s previous genre outings, Loft is strong on atmosphere and mounting unease, but as usual Kurosawa has a few improbable twists up his sleeve.

Kekexili: Mountain Patrol

Lu Chuan, China/U.S., 2004; 90m

Sat Feb 25: 7

This China/U.S. co-production is based on a true story about a band of volunteer environmentalists desperately trying to defend the lives (and commercially lucrative pelts) of the endangered Himalayan antelope. This nature-versus-man-versus-everything story, rendered in jaw-dropping ’scope, reaches a climax as savage (and ineffable) as the landscape itself.


An Evening with Elaine May

Sun Feb 26: 7

The Film Society of Lincoln Center is proud to present An Intimate Conversation between Mike Nichols and Elaine May about May’s directorial career, followed by a screening of Ishtar. This evening was produced by the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Tony Impavido, producer, special events.

Ticket prices: $75 FSLC members, $85 non-members


A New Leaf

1971; 102m

Sat Feb 25: 2; Tue Feb 28: 1

A New Leaf is one of the finest and funniest directorial debuts in Hollywood history. Walter Matthau, perceptively cast against type, is an old-money WASP who finds himself bankrupt. May herself is a ditzy heiress with a passion for botany and a fondness for Mogen David Extra Heavy Malaga, in whom Henry sees his financial salvation. The film is blessed with many brilliantly funny scenes, but its comic peak is a peerless bit of slapstick: the writer/director/star trying to get into and out of a nightgown on her wedding night. —Kent Jones, editor-at-large and associate director of programming of the Film Society of Lincoln Center.


The Heartbreak Kid

1972; 106m

Sat Feb 25: 4:15; Sun Feb 26: 1

This gut-wrenching tale, about an upwardly mobile New York Jewish boy (Charles Grodin) who marries within the faith only to meet the shiksa of his dreams on his Miami honeymoon, is told in the coolest manner imaginable — every perfectly observed interaction plays out so smoothly and quietly that the full impact of the story is that much more devastating when it hits you during the film’s final plaintive moments. Few movies have been better cast. Grodin’s brilliant performance was career defining, and it was with this movie that Cybill Sheperd became the iconic 70s golden girl. And if Walter Matthau’s slow burns in A New Leaf are things of rare beauty, Eddie Albert’s belong in a museum. But The Heartbreak Kid wouldn’t have been possible without May’s daughter, Jeannie Berlin, as the haplessly gauche, grating, and pitiful Lila. Few directors would dare to cast their own child in such a role, and few actresses could bring so much life to a character that is, in the end, the embodiment of bad luck.-- Kent Jones, editor-at-large and associate director of programming of the Film Society of Lincoln Center.


Mikey and Nicky

1976; 119m

Sun Feb 26: 3:15; Tue Feb 28: 3:15

The saga behind Mikey and Nicky is legendary: a lengthy production on the streets of Philadelphia during which a million feet of film was shot in the pursuit of spontaneously generated raw drama; 18 months in the editing room; May and Peter Falk kidnapping the footage to keep it away from prying studio execs; a botched and desultory 1976 release; and May’s preferred version finally seeing the light of day a decade later. The film is utterly without precedent: red-hot and behaviorally alive in a way that few films can match, yet dramatically drum-tight (it’s one of the rare great American films that observes the unity of time principle), with a shattering, genuinely tragic conclusion.--Kent Jones, editor-at-large and associate director of programming of the Film Society of Lincoln Center.



1987; 107m

Why was this hilarious film, one of the only ones to reflect the loopiest aspects of the otherwise unfunny Reagan era, judged a debacle of world-historical dimensions? How could someone as reasonably intelligent as Roger Ebert deem it “a lifeless, massive, lumbering exercise in failed comedy.” First of all, everyone was on the lookout for the next Heaven’s Gate at the time. Second, the object of May’s satire was so rarefied that it went all but unnoticed: that peculiar mixture of cluelessness and narcissism that afflicts many show business creatures, including the then-sitting president. Dustin Hoffman and Warren Beatty are Rogers and Clarke, a transcendentally awful musical comedy team who find inspiration in the unlikeliest sources. Their stalwart manager (Jack Weston) secures them a hotel gig in the fictional nation of Ishtar, where they are quickly embroiled in the local revolution when they fall for a local revolutionary (Isabelle Adjani). Did it cost loads of money? Of course it did, and it was well spent, because every comic moment, from the musical numbers to the blind camel to the vultures arriving “on spec,” is perfectly realized. It also looks terrific, thanks to Vittorio Storaro. -- Kent Jones, editor-at-large and associate director of programming of the Film Society of Lincoln Center.

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