Michael Joshua Rowin

  • film September 14, 2011

    Angel Eyes

    LITTLE KNOWN OR SCREENED in the United States, the work of Spanish experimental filmmaker Adolpho Arrietta is more than ready for discovery and appreciation. An upcoming Arrietta retrospective at Anthology Film Archives will hopefully encourage both.

    Arrietta was born in Madrid in 1942 and began shooting movies as a teenager. A trio of short, thematically linked 16-mm black-and-white films called the “Angel Trilogy” garnered him his first recognition in the 1960s and continues to be his most highly regarded work. The first in the series, The Crime of the Spinning Top (1965), consists of an

  • film July 20, 2011

    Water World

    PETER BO RAPPMUND’S PSYCHOHYDROGRAPHY is exactly what its title portends: a psychological portrait of water. Following the Los Angeles Aqueduct from its source in the eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains to the city (more than two hundred miles), and then from the Los Angeles River to its endpoint at the Pacific Ocean, the hour-long HDR digital video recombines visual and aural elements—both natural and industrial—to graph the massive technological harnessing of water, turning it into a pulsing, strobing kaleidoscope of the mind’s eye.

    Rappmund’s main tool is time-lapse photography, usually the hallmark

  • film July 11, 2011

    Culture Shock

    DAN O’BANNON may not be a household name, but when he died two years ago at the age of sixty-three he left his fingerprints on two of the most famous science fiction and horror films of the last thirty-five years: Star Wars (1977), for which he did computer effects, and Alien (1979), for which he wrote the script. He was something of a jack-of-all-trades: For Dark Star (1974)—his as well as director John Carpenter’s feature film debut—O’Bannon served as co-writer, editor, production designer, special effects supervisor, and star.

    “Shock Value,” an upcoming BAM retrospective, displays the full

  • film June 09, 2011

    Crop Circles

    THE HISTORY of labor-conscious cinema abounds with landmarks in cinematographic beauty, The Grapes of Wrath (1940) and Days of Heaven (1978) among the most notable. This is far from coincidental. Any film dealing with agricultural work will likely capture the relationship between man and landscape, a relationship that is often shot through with cruel irony: How can splendiferous settings be home to poverty and exploitation?

    Thai director Uruphong Raksasad’s quasi documentary Agrarian Utopia stretches this irony to the breaking point. For here is an undeniably stunning work of visual art, a premiere

  • film March 01, 2011

    Of Two Minds

    IT’S BEEN AWHILE: Certified Copy marks Iranian legend Abbas Kiarostami’s first feature-length fiction film to receive American distribution since Ten in 2002. Since that time, the director has mostly directed shorts and documentaries, a notable exception being Shirin (2008; not released theatrically in the States), a film that consists entirely of fictional female moviegoers reacting to a fictional medieval romance playing offscreen. Shirin works by way of ironies, containing within its uncompromising, anticommercial form a decidedly commercial piece of entertainment.

    Certified Copy is the complete

  • film February 16, 2011

    Tricky Dick

    A TERRIFIC MOMENT occurs halfway through Norman Mailer’s nonfiction novel The Armies of the Night (1968) when, writing in the third person, Mailer interrupts an account of his participation in the 1967 march on the Pentagon to introduce an important bit of information: All along, including during his subsequent arrest, he was being followed by a camera crew. At the head of that crew was Dick Fontaine—a ubiquitous figure in the 1960s—whose resulting Will the Real Norman Mailer Please Stand Up? (1968) possesses a journalistic immediacy and experimental drive manifest throughout the bulk of the

  • film January 11, 2011

    Silent Majority

    EMERGING FROM ARDUOUS, dangerous, in-the-trenches work, Chinese filmmaker Zhao Liang’s documentary investigations open onto profound problems in China that are often kept hidden by the country’s authorities. His interest is in the banal mechanics of systematic oppression: His remarkable debut Crime and Punishment (2007), for instance, provides a rare look into the People’s Armed Police, a branch of law enforcement similar to the military in its regimented lifestyle and coldly abusive administration of “justice.” The emotional frustration and dehumanization of young PAP men working in an isolated

  • film January 07, 2011

    Inside Out

    AT A TIME when milquetoast Williamsburg postgrad circles are the subculture most visibly represented on New York City art-house screens, it might be worth recalling Abel Ferrara, grimy poet laureate of the Koch and Dinkins eras. Working his way from grindhouse and exploitation—his directorial debut 9 Lives of a Wet Pussy (1976) was an out-and-out porno—to violent crime dramas and character studies (King of New York [1990] and Bad Lieutenant [1992]), Ferrara was, at the height of his powers, the city’s most ferocious, uninhibited chronicler of its underground networks and appetites.

    The past decade

  • film December 20, 2010

    Nun Left Standing

    TEENAGE CÉLINE VEL HADEWIJCH (Julie Sokolowski) lives in a rural nunnery where she expresses her devotion to God by eating virtually nothing and standing for hours in the pouring rain. After being expelled for her extreme renunciation and self-infliction, she flounders in the secular world: Her government official father’s palatial domicile and lack of parental affection leave her cold, while a friendship with impulsive juvenile delinquent Yassine (Yassine Salim) stops short at romance due to her “marriage” to Christ. A conspicuous emptiness consumes Céline until she meets Yassine’s older and

  • film December 06, 2010

    Acting Out

    BEGINNING WITH HIS baby-face embodiment of filial angst and eruption in Marco Bellocchio’s debut Fists in the Pocket (1965), the career of sixty-seven-year-old Colombian expat Lou Castel has intermittently dovetailed with minor highlights of the past five decades of New Wave–influenced European art cinema (Fassbinder, Wenders, Ruiz). Fists in the Pocket is the most well-known example, though for its abbreviated Castel series the French Institute Alliance Française has chosen to emphasize his French work from the 1990s onward: in Philippe Garrel’s The Birth of Love (1993), in Olivier Assayas’s

  • film November 09, 2010

    Papa Was a Rolling Stone

    ROBERT KAYLOR’S 1971 documentary Derby is a quintessential movie about the American dream. The film centers on a young factory worker, Michael Robert Snell, and his pursuit of stardom on the professional roller derby circuit, but due to the proclivities of its eccentric subject—a handsome, twenty-three-year-old husband and father of two who has not outgrown his wild adolescence—Derby is also a movie about harsh American realities. Since we never know whether Snell makes it, Kaylor’s movie emphasizes the process of personal transformation rather than the goal of that transformation, and in so

  • film October 29, 2010

    Tour de Force

    ON THE RELATIVELY warm Sunday morning of October 10, a group of hard-core cinephiles assembled on Seventh Street in Manhattan to extend the epic journey of Ken Jacobs’s six hour–plus magnum opus Star Spangled to Death (1956–60/2003–2004). Organized by UnionDocs, which three weeks earlier had inaugurated its fall 2010 series with Star Spangled, the gathering was accompanied by a walking tour, led by Jacobs, through various East Village sites that provided the memorable locations for his film, itself an experimental odyssey incorporating found-footage highlights and detritus of American culture

  • film October 22, 2010

    Triumph of the Spirit

    JAPANESE CINEMA possesses a rich history of films about insanity, barbarism, and ghosts: Teinosuke Kinugasa’s A Page of Madness (1926), Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon (1950), and Kenji Mizoguchi’s Ugetsu (1953), among the most prominent. A surprising entry to add to the list is Kaneto Shindô’s Kuroneko (Black Cat), an expressionistic fable of civil war–torn twelfth-century Japan and its decadent samurai class. By 1968, the year of the film’s release, Shindô had built his reputation on sober, realistic studies of social issues (Children of Hiroshima [1952]), primitive survival (The Naked Island [

  • film October 01, 2010

    Faces of Death

    IN THE QUASI DOCUMENTARY S&Man (2006), J. T. Petty—director of independent and straight-to-video horror films such as Soft for Digging (2001) and Mimic: Sentinel (2003)—studies the psychological underpinnings of his chosen genre from within. Rather than charting the trends and evolutions of horror throughout cinematic history, Petty focuses on the most extreme purveyors of contemporary underground fetish horror: crude, bargain-basement productions that aim for ever greater realism while catering directly (sometimes via fan requests) to the bloodlust of their cultish audience.

    Petty includes “what

  • film September 21, 2010

    First Class

    A PARAGON OF “THEY DON’T MAKE ’EM LIKE THAT ANYMORE” CLASSICISM, The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) was David Lean’s first epic, the quasi genre with which the British director would become synonymous even after a significant decade and a half helming prestige-play (Brief Encounter [1945], Summertime [1955]) and novel (Great Expectations [1946], Oliver Twist [1948]) adaptations. To watch Bridge now is to realize how much tastes have changed and how far standards have fallen in the past fifty-plus years: While the serious adult epic has gradually been replaced by the adolescent action-adventure

  • film September 17, 2010

    Slow and Steady

    FIFTY-SOMETHING ULLA (Ulla Edström) lives in an isolated cottage on the Stockholm archipelago, her life punctuated by routine, including the walk she takes every morning through a leaf-rustling woods to the sea where her day begins with a brief, nude swim. She keeps a diary, and through it we learn that she’s a widow; she talks to friends on the phone and fills the house with the constant report of news radio, but otherwise her loneliness is interrupted only by visits from daughter Elin (Elin Hamrén) and her boyfriend Marcus (Marcus Harrling).

    This is the extremely skeletal plot of The Anchorage

  • film September 06, 2010

    Modern Life Is Rubbish

    SIMULTANEOUSLY CELEBRATED and overshadowed, My Uncle (1958) represents the peak of pantomime genius Jacques Tati’s career and yet earns a place in his sparse filmography as a transitional film. Located in between the earthy yet moribund “traditional France” satirized in Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday (1953) and the insulated postmodern fun house of 1967 debacle/masterpiece Playtime, the setting of My Uncle depicts the former world giving way to the latter, with outdoor markets and quaint three-story walk-ups slowly being replaced by automated houses and efficient industrial plants. The contrast is

  • film August 16, 2010

    Truth in Advertising

    IN MAY 1942, a Third Reich film crew arrived at the Warsaw Ghetto, the largest of the Nazis’ heavily guarded urban enclosures designed for the separation, containment, and inhuman deprivation of Jews before their ultimate transfer to extermination camps. It was there that this unit shot an unfinished propaganda film titled Ghetto, footage of which was first discovered in 1954 in an East German film vault. To this day, despite the Third Reich’s meticulous record keeping, little is known about the production.

    Israeli director Yael Hersonski has now made this document the center of A Film Unfinished

  • film August 11, 2010

    B Cool

    WITH THE ONGOING blockbuster season continuing to crowd out healthy B movies at the box office, the sequel to last year’s successful “William Lustig Presents” series at Anthology Film Archives provides desperately needed alternatives. Former exploitation filmmaker and current head of cult DVD label Blue Underground, Lustig once again revives forgotten genre treasures, largely made in the 1970s, a decade in which tough, action-oriented flicks were often economical and ingenious rather than bloated and uninspired. (For a quick compare-and-contrast, see Sylvester Stallone’s steroid-era The Expendables

  • film August 04, 2010

    There Will Be Blood

    AS EVIDENCED BY BAMcinématek’s thirty-three-film program “Bela Lugosi’s Dead, Vampires Live Forever,” blood-sucking fiends have long been ideal subjects for filmmakers experimenting in uncharted stylistic territory. F. W. Murnau’s Nosferatu (1922) inaugurates Bram Stoker’s famous character on-screen by marrying a Romantic, somnambulant atmosphere with the eerie, startling camera techniques of German Expressionism, while Carl Theodor Dreyer’s sui generis Vampyr (1933) plumbs vampire mythology to find disorienting spatial configurations and oddly unstable perspectives (including, unforgettably,