Tony Pipolo

  • film June 05, 2019

    Hope Against Hope

    LINCOLN CENTER’S ANNUAL “OPEN ROADS” SERIES, now in its nineteenth edition, is a precious opportunity for New Yorkers to see new Italian cinema. Over the years, my experience has been that, even when the quality varies, this national cinema rarely avoids pertinent subject matter and, in the case of narrative films, consistently provides stellar performances. One anxiety that emerges loud and clear this year is a lack of hope, and the dismal future that working-class Italian youth face. Given the conviction and heart of these films, it’s hard to conclude that the concern is the obsession of just

  • film January 09, 2019

    Trial Runs

    THE ANNUAL FIRST LOOK SERIES at the Museum of the Moving Image provides an opportunity for adventurous New Yorkers to see international movies not likely to show up elsewhere. Among the must-sees in this year’s edition, which opens January 11, are three titles focused on Russian history, past and present. Sergei Loznitsa’s Donbass (2018), the opening-night feature, with the director present, is a somewhat absurdist rumination on the civil war that continues to plague Ukraine. Conflating contrived situations with newsreel-worthy facts in mosaic-like fashion, the movie is composed of long-take

  • film November 16, 2018

    Brush Folks

    TWO NEW FILMS ABOUT ARTISTS offer contrasting approaches to the biopic, a genre arguably subject to greater scrutiny of its claims to truth than any other. Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s Never Look Away coerces biographical details to augur the future genius of its painter protagonist, scrambling events to connect the dots and keep the story moving. Repudiating such conventions, Julian Schnabel’s At Eternity’s Gate is a deeply personal portrait of painter Vincent van Gogh, its handheld camera immersing us almost physically in the man’s anguished compulsion to paint in a way no previous film

  • film November 01, 2018

    The Soprano

    IN THE FALL OF 1971 AND THE SPRING OF ’72, the American-born soprano Maria Callas conducted ten master classes at the Juilliard School of Music at Lincoln Center in New York. Responding to a tiny announcement in the New York Times, I paid the registration fee, along with some equally devoted friends, and each week we sat amid artists, musicians, and other fans for what would become one of the most exhilarating and indelible experiences of my life. The moment Callas walked onstage, she blew out of the water every trite stereotype of the demonic, temperamental diva that dogged her relentlessly—the

  • film October 03, 2018

    Strangest Things

    A LOONY FAIRY TALE opens this year’s “Projections” sidebar of the Fifty-Sixth New York Film Festival. Gabriel Abrantes and Daniel Schmidt’s Diamantino alludes to the immigration crisis, cybernetics, gender-bending, political corruption, internet crime, and global sports mania, yet it remains fanciful to the end, replete with a bevy of villains and a too-good-to-be-true hero, who gives the film its title. Diamantino Matamouros (Carlo Cotta), like Wagner’s Siegfried, is, as English comedian Anna Russell’s hilarious spoof described Siegfried, “very brave, very handsome, and very stupid.” Soccer

  • film May 30, 2018

    Heart and Soul

    IN ADDITION TO HOSTING the American premiere of what may be the best new film of 2018 from anywhere, this year’s Open Roads at the Film Society of Lincoln Center pays tribute to four key figures of the past. Roberto de Paolis’s film Pure Hearts (about which, more below) is, at the very least, a sign of hope that the Italian cinema that gave rise to the beloved the Taviani brothers (Paolo and the recently deceased Vittorio), maverick director Marco Ferreri, and the elegant but largely underappreciated actress Valentina Cortese—not to mention the formidable masters who preceded them—still lives.

  • film May 10, 2018

    All Work and No Play

    IF THERE IS A SINGLE, OVERRIDING THEME in Tony Zierra’s Filmworker (2017), it is that the life of Leon Vitali, the subject of this documentary, has been more or less divided between the twenty-odd years before he met Stanley Kubrick and the nearly fifty years since. Every talking head in the film, including Vitali’s, testifies to this fact, so much so that it makes us question the reality of every aspect of the man’s life that is not related to Kubrick. Late in the doc, for example, we hear Vitali’s children voicing not very happy memories about their father’s psychological (when not physical)

  • film March 07, 2018

    Young Folks

    SPUNKY YOUNG WOMEN FACING UNCERTAIN FUTURES leave their marks on this year’s “Rendez-Vous with French Cinema” series at the Film Society of Lincoln Center—two in the smashing directorial debuts by Léonor Serraille (Montparnasse Bienvenüe [2017]) and Léa Mysius (Ava [2017]), and a third in Bruno Dumont’s refreshingly offbeat Jeannette, The Childhood of Joan of Arc (2017). Ava is about a thirteen-year-old girl (Noée Abita) whose imminent blindness prompts her to seize what comes with reckless abandon before darkness sets in. At first a pouty Mouchette, she takes up with Juan (Juan Cano), a migrant

  • film February 09, 2018

    Final Cut

    ONE OF THE WORLD’S most prolific filmmakers, the late, great Raúl Ruiz is on view again at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, which is presenting part two of the retrospective it began in December 2016, one of the highlights of the year. This round offers such rarities as The Insomniac on the Bridge (1985), The Blind Owl (1987), Comedy of Innocence (2000), and Mammame (1986)—a film record of Jean-Claude Gallotta’s nine-person dance performance. It also includes Night Across the Street (2012), Ruiz’s final film, and a weeklong run of Time Regained (1999), his adaptation of Proust’s In Search of

  • film February 05, 2018

    Dark Comedy

    THIS YEAR is the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of Ingmar Bergman. It is being celebrated with a retrospective at Film Forum in New York and multiple events throughout the year at the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley—a wonderful opportunity for film buffs to acquaint or reacquaint themselves with one of the giants of film history. From the mid-1940s through the mid-1950s, Bergman wrote screenplays and directed more than a dozen movies. But after the international success of the elegant comedy Smiles of a Summer Night (1955)—the source of Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music—followed

  • Valeska Grisebach’s Western

    IN THE VERY FIRST SHOT of Western, a German/Bulgarian production written and directed by Valeska Grisebach and released this month, a tall, lanky, casually dressed man crosses a street, walks toward the camera, and enters a building. The shot, like the man, seems nondescript—typical, in fact, of the film’s unfussy demeanor and in keeping with its working-class atmosphere. It’s representative of a style and a territory that this director blends with uncanny skill. Like the work of Argentinean filmmaker Lucrecia Martel, Grisebach’s films are few and far between, but each leaves an indelible

  • film January 03, 2018

    Readers and Writers

    DOCUMENTARIES AND MOVIES that trouble the line between fiction and nonfiction have become increasingly present at film festivals. And as was true of the avant-garde of the 1950s and 1960s, which embraced everything from psychodramas and diary films to lyric flights and reflections on the medium, no one word or phrase encompasses the varieties of nonfiction cinema. Yet the strongest entries in both nonfiction and the avant-garde at this year’s First Look series overshadow the few narrative films included.

    Some might consider docudrama the best word to describe Pawel Lozinski’s You Have No Idea

  • film November 22, 2017

    Unprofessional Pride

    IT’S HARD TO IMAGINE a more eclectic group of films sharing a single series than those being screened by the Film Society of Lincoln Center under the umbrella title “The Non-Actor.” From Sergei Eisenstein’s October: Ten Days That Shook the World (1928), F. W. Murnau’s Tabu: A Story of the South Seas (1931), and Roberto Rossellini’s Germany Year Zero (1948) to Shirley Clarke’s The Cool World (1963), Andy Warhol’s Vinyl (1965), Ousmane Sembene’s Black Girl (1966), Straub-Huillet’s Othon (1970), and Pedro Costa’s Colossal Youth (2006), the range is nothing if not bold. In addition to outright

  • film October 11, 2017

    Wave After Wave

    PHILIPPE GARREL WAS NOT YET A TEEN when the French New Wave first hit the shores of international cinema in 1959, and like many filmmakers over subsequent decades he would be heavily influenced by its leading lights, Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut. Garrel made his first film in 1964 and, in the fifty years since, has written and directed more than thirty others, but has never achieved the reputation of his mentors. It was not until the late 1970s that his cinema assumed the distinct, quasi-autobiographical quality that remains his strength.

    Earlier stabs at allegory and symbolism had mixed

  • film September 28, 2017

    Night and Day

    THIS YEAR’S NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL pays tribute to actor Robert Mitchum, whose career began in Hollywood’s golden age, weathered the demise of the studio system, and continued with the rise of television and the birth of the miniseries—125 movies in all between 1943 and 1983. Known primarily as the quintessential noir tough guy with the moony countenance in the genre of the 1940s, he was a bit player in many B movies before his breakthrough performance in William Wellman’s The Story of G.I. Joe (1943), the only film to earn him an Oscar nomination. G.I. Joe kicks off the retrospective, followed

  • film September 25, 2017

    Irony of Ironies

    NEAR THE END of Finnish artist Jaakko Pallasvuo’s Filter, screening at this year’s Projections sidebar of the New York Film Festival, a man wonders, “Why am I watching this movie?” It’s a question we’ve all asked ourselves countless times and one we assume programmers of film festivals wrestle with as they decide what merits attention. Given the current political climate, it’s not surprising that many works in this year’s Projections were selected in light of growing concerns about the expanding list of endangered species—not only of the racial, gender, ethnic, and environmental varieties, but

  • film August 23, 2017

    Pointe Break

    THOUGH POLINA IS DESCRIBED AS A DANCE FILM, it is by no means typical of the genre. Like its titular protagonist, who rejects a career as a Bolshoi ballerina in search of something more vital to her life, the film does not follow the lead of its estimable predecessors. Unlike The Red Shoes (1948), it is not about a ballerina under the spell of a tyrannical impresario. Nor is it like the first episode of Vincente Minnelli’s The Story of Three Loves (1953), which echoes the same fatal attraction leading to the death of the heroine—played by the glorious Moira Shearer in both films. And though it

  • film June 28, 2017

    Hollywood Medium

    BEFORE HE WAS ELECTED the fortieth President of the United States in 1980—after two failed candidacies—Ronald Reagan acted in fifty-three Hollywood movies. Equally at ease in comedies, westerns, and war films, he seemed on the verge of stardom for his role as a double amputee in Kings Row (1942) when he was called up for active army duty. Though he resumed his career after the war, he would never become a top box-office star. Nevertheless, when asked by an interviewer near the end of his second term how he reconciled his acting career with his presidential role, he wittily remarked that he could

  • film June 09, 2017

    Ice Age

    BILL MORRISON’S DAWSON CITY: FROZEN TIME is the best new movie in town and the best movie of the year thus far. Though its title would suggest a focus on the mysterious fate of a little-known city, Morrison’s latest output actually functions on several planes and tells many stories, all of which spring from the accidental discovery in 1978 of hundreds of 35-mm film reels, decades after they served as landfill in a subarctic swimming pool: yet another bizarre reason that 75 percent of all silent films are lost.

    In fact, these films were buried for a number of reasons. Two years past their initial

  • film May 30, 2017

    Church Folk

    IT’S A PLEASURE TO REPORT that at least half of this year’s selections in the Open Roads series of New Italian cinema would make any film festival worth attending.

    Edoardo De Angelis’s Indivisible is a flashy opening feature, with its tale of twin teenage girls physically joined at the hip, but it also underlines the powerful forces of church and family that remain critical elements in Italian movies. Both themes are as inextricably bound in this film as the twins themselves (played by Angela and Marianna Fontana), whose condition is exploited by a father who parades them around Naples to sing