Hot Town, Summer Films in the City

This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.

The New York Sun

For a cinephile in summertime, it’s hard to escape the gaze of the giant Tom Cruise billboards receding into the horizon.

There are some places to seek solace, however, starting with BAM’s massive Antonioni retrospective (June 7 to 29). It’s ennui the way it was meant to be experienced. In addition to a new print of “Zabriskie Point” (June 23), a week-long run of “Blowup” (June 7, 9, 10 & 12), and another opportunity to catch the restored version of “The Passenger” (June 29), the series will feature a number of rarities, including “Chung Kuo Cina” (June 19) – Mr. Antonioni’s three-part, 3 1/2-hour documentary on the Cultural Revolution – and early, unavailable films like “The Lady Without Camelias” (June 22), a movie about moviemaking that’s ponderous, by Mr. Antonioni’s standards, only in atypical ways.

If spending June brushing up on revivals sounds depressing, it’s worth noting that the summer’s new-release bin is filled to the brim with retreads – “new” movies that are really more like recycled celluloid.”Superman” will return (June 30), along with the “X-Men: The Last Stand” (May 26), “The Omen” (June 6, or 6/6/06), and Kevin Smith’s New Jersey convenience store “Clerks II” (August 18). Even rep houses seem to be on repeat cycle: From July 12 to 25, the Walter Reade will host Heroic Grace Part 2,a sequel to the traveling martial arts series that played there in 2003; by July, though, that series itself may play like old news, following the pervasive action of New York Asian Film Festival (June 16 to July 1), which features ninjas, gangsters, and “The Great Yokai War,” a fable-ish adventure from Japanese workhorse Takashi Miike.

There are, indeed, retreads that could be couched under the heading “variations on a theme”: Logophiles still itching for satiation after “Spellbound,” “Bee Season,” “Akeelah and the Bee,” and the Scrabble documentary “Word Wars” can seek out “Wordplay” (June 16), a look at New York Times crossword puzzle editor Will Shortz and his denizens of fans. Woody Allen cranks out another London-set Scarlett Johansson vehicle in “Scoop” (July 28).

Courtesy of Michael Mann, “Miami Vice” (July 28) is back – and Colin Farrell, that paragon of macho blankness, is the new Don Johnson: Partially shot in high-def digital video, the movie, at least from its trailer, suggests a pictorial cousin to Mr. Mann’s “Collateral.” Likewise, Michel Gondry’s “The Science of Sleep” (August 4) plays like a bipolar, splatter-paint variation on his “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” following a daydreaming artist (Gael Garcia Bernal) who finds himself trapped by his own illusions. With its penchant for unhinged imagery and incidental claymation, “Science” begs to be put on a double bill with Jan Svankmajer’s “Lunacy” (Film Forum, August 9), the Czech animator’s spectacularly demented Poeand Sade-inspired allegory.

Michael Haneke fans newly minted by last year’s “Hidden” can now selfflagellate with New York’s most comprehensive retrospective yet on the director at Anthology Film Archives (July 14 to 23), a filmmaker whose formal precision is matched only by his condescension toward his viewers. For an equally misanthropic – but more ingeniously exact – auteurist vision, there’s a Stanley Kubrick series at the Museum of the Moving Image (June 3 to July 8), ominously announced, like most Kubrick series, as “near complete.” (Kubrick’s largely suppressed first feature, 1953’s “Fear and Desire,” won’t be there.)

Another one that feels marginally superfluous is Viva Pedro,a series of eight Pedro Almodovar films that begins at Lincoln Plaza on August 11, with repeats at the Quad two weeks later. With the director’s reported return to austerity, “Volver,” opening in the fall, it might be an ideal time to take another look at his earlier films – “Law of Desire” (1987) or even “Live Flesh” (1997) – to remember the period before his extravagant sentimentality evolved into mannerism.

Speaking of inchoate auteurs: MoMA is hosting A Work in Progress: The Films of James Mangold (June 4 to 29), this year’s incarnation of an annual series honoring up-and-coming filmmakers. (It’s a worthy objective, but showing Mr. Mangold’s “Walk the Line” and “Identity” at MoMA’s Titus 1 is a little like booking “Poseidon” at Film Forum.) Compensating mightily, MoMA has also programmed a Dada on Film series (June 24 to August 12), which coincides with a museum exhibit featuring many of the same artists, and its annual, indispensable To Save and Project lineup, which this year includes Otto Preminger’s glorious widescreen “Bunny Lake Is Missing” (May 20) See it before it gets remade with Reese Witherspoon next year.

Catch Kubrick again – or at least “A Clockwork Orange” (July 22) – at BAM’s series on great screen villains, titled Of Villains, Bad Asses, and Other Mean Spirits (July 13 to 30). Some selections are obvious (“Dracula,” “Psycho,” and “Kiss of Death” on July 13, 15 & 20), some less so – is “All Eve Harrington of “All About Eve” (July 27) a Mean Spirit or a Bad Ass? In a few years, the reptiles in “Snakes on a Plane” (August 18) might also have qualified, although given the film’s bizarre cult status – and the premature co-opting of its title as slang-“Snakes” may jump the shark even before it opens.

Another candidate for cult canonization may be Richard Linklater’s return to rotoscope animation, “A Scanner Darkly” (July 7), adapted from a Philip K. Dick novel and starring Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder (or at least their Crayola’d-over images). It’ll be a trippy counterpart to Walter Reade’s Russian Fantastik series (August 9 to 22), a selection of Slavic fantasy films from the silent era through this year’s “Night Watch.”

Of course, there are comedies aplenty, including “The Break-Up” (June 2),”Nacho Libre” (June 16), and – great Odin’s raven! – the quasi-“Anchorman” follow-up “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” (August 4). But the purest infusion of movie joy this summer will doubtless be Film Forum’s Essential Wilder centennial celebration (June 30 to July 20), which not only has the usual suspects – “Some Like It Hot” (July 2), “The Apartment” (July 16), and “Sabrina” (July 19) – but also rare screenings of his cynical-verging-on-fermented “Ace in the Hole” (July 14 & 15): Jan Sterling’s hilariously punning one-liners (“I’ve met a lot of hardboiled eggs in my life, but you – you’re 20 minutes”) may invoke pangs of nostalgia among patrons of Film Forum’s current B noir retrospective.

Another cynic with an occasional gooey center, Robert Altman will serve up his film version of “A Prairie Home Companion” (June 9), an uncharacteristically warm ensemble film in which Mr.Altman and Garrison Keillor find common ground in their mutual love of showmanship and stock companies. Also mellowed out is Larry Clark, whose shockingly unprurient “Wassup Rockers” (June 23) is an affectionate – if occasionally preposterous – look at the lives of a group of skateboarding teenagers chilling in South Central, and later Beverly Hills. The biggest infusion of humanism, however, may come from the Museum of the Moving Image’s Frank Borzage, Hollywood Romantic (July 15 to August 20).

The festival circuit unloads a few lost children from France this summer, including Andre Techine’s “Changing Times” (June 16), a story of romantic reprieve starring Gerard Depardieu and Catherine Deneuve; Laurent Cantet’s “Heading South” (July 7), a murky look at solipsistic middle-aged women vacationing in 1970s Haiti; Patrice Chereau’s “Gabrielle” (July 12), an antic adaptation of a Joseph Conrad short story starring Pascal Greggory and the always phenomenal Isabelle Huppert; and “Time to Leave” (July 14), a Douglas Sirk-inspired tragedy from Francois Ozon, who, like his idol Rainer Werner Fassbinder, puts a gay spin on Sirk’s themes.

The Human Rights Watch Film Festival (June 8 to 22) is a social-issue perennial, and elsewhere, several political docs – including Tribeca Film Festival laureate “The War Tapes” (June 2) and Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross’s “The Road to Guantanamo” (June 23) – will round out this year’s cine-advocacy quotient. There are also at least two scheduled screen treatments of September 11, 2001 – one overt, Oliver Stone’s potentially provocative “World Trade Center” (August 18), and one tangential, the ensemble movie “The Great New Wonderful” (June 23), directed by Danny Leiner of “Dude, Where’s My Car?” fame.

This year’s outdoor film series at Bryant Park kicks off on June 19 with Hitchcock’s “The Birds” – which provides an apt metaphor for the legion of movies pecking their way into theaters this season.

The New York Sun

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