Michael Cimino, Heaven’s Gate, 1980, 35 mm, color, 216 minutes.

THE UNCUT HEAVEN’S GATE (1980) moves like a valedictory processional into the movie past—a funereal journey that waltzes across an Eastern prologue steeped in The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), then heads due West into the then-recent anti-Establishment territory of Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973) and McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971), rumbling on through the classical heroic landscape of Shane (1953) and a hundred other rugged, slightly less Arthurian oaters. Destination: a winsome, full-bore naïveté straight out of D.W. Griffith, part lingering Victorian idyll, part horse-opera Intolerance, part Birth of a Nation in reverse—the miscarriage of America’s ideals as capitalist cattle barons trample the hopes and rights of immigrants, women, and anyone stubborn or foolhardy enough to stand in their way.

“It’s getting dangerous to be poor in this country,” Jeff Bridges’s character (an unfortunately recessive sidekick role) muses, but Heaven’s Gate became legendary first as an ecstatically out-of-control production that went so far over budget it bankrupted United Artists. Ordered drastically cut by the panicky studio after a disastrous premiere, it was received by unsympathetic critics as a monument to directorial hubris and folly—a sturdy, medium-scale drama ostensibly about the 1890 Johnson County War in Wyoming that had managed to balloon into a four-hour, prairie schooner Cleopatra. But as the decades have gone by and the controversies faded, Heaven’s Gate has become the beneficiary of some revisionist hindsight, a burnished testament to crazed ambition, with cinephiles regarding it as a misunderstood masterpiece restored to its rightful length and place in history.

The new Criterion Blu-Ray will certainly continue that trend: Shot for shot, vista for sky-blue vista, this may be the most pictorially beautiful film to fixate on this side of Lawrence of Arabia. (Even a bloody cow carcass dragged over a muddy enclosure leaves a painterly stain.) And like Lawrence, it has a noticeably cavalier attitude toward history, an even sketchier approach to character psychology, and a gleeful willingness to sacrifice narrative coherence for stunning set pieces. The irony is that it was the so-called traditionalist David Lean who layered on the absurdity, rampant abstraction, and Englishman-who-fell-to-earth perversity: Couched in the rousing adventure-throwback spectacle were quivering premonitions of Sergio Leone’s nihilist spaghetti westerns and David Bowie’s tortured brow. Heaven’s Gate tried instead to will its way back into the nineteenth century, creating a stereoscopic portrait of a closing frontier which superimposed an insanely meticulous verisimilitude on top of comely stock figures (a triangle of stalwart lawman, romantic killer, and the whore with a heart of gold they both love) and a tangle of movie mythologies. Kris Kristofferson, Christopher Walken, and Isabelle Huppert are deployed like sharp-dressed paradigms (“You’ve got style, Jim. I’ll give you that.”) in a living diorama where they turn into frieze-frame daguerreotypes right before your eyes.

Michael Cimino, Heaven’s Gate, 1980, 35 mm, color, 216 minutes.

If director Michael Cimino could have shot it in 3-D, I’m positive he would have: It’s not so much that he wanted to put the viewers in the action as transport them to a moment in lost time when an American Eden was on the cusp of being forever wiped out by rapacious business interests. If Sam Waterston’s satanic head of the Stock Grower’s Association were any more villainous he’d have to go looking for orphans to tie to the railroad tracks—he’s a double-whammy figurehead who talks like an aristocratic Eastern fop and looks rather like a young, sniveling Joe Stalin. The tension in the film is between the intensely detailed, expressive, but defiantly static mise-en-scène and a familiar Old Hollywood–informed script that Raoul Walsh or Howard Hawks would have shaped up into a taut, one-hundred-minute hell-for-leather ride with Gary Cooper, Ingrid Bergman, and Jimmy Cagney. Cimino’s only true concession to the New Hollywood zeitgeist is duration and the overarching sense of doomed endeavor—here the cavalry charges in to save the hired killers from the proletarian resistance—along with vaguely more explicit politics that aren’t so different from your typical sentimental Capra little-people-vs.-the-big-bullies broadside.

The frustration many feel with Heaven’s Gate has to do with the way it seems to drag its feet over the breathtaking scenery, trying to postpone the foreordained narrative rendezvous with disaster. There isn’t the kind of steady drive toward resolution that people expect from a big picture; instead Cimino wants to extend the beautiful “moments” into little self-contained refuges from the inevitable ruthless disillusion to come. A kind of perfect innocence hangs over the scenes of Huppert frolicking naked or the square dance at the wooden roller rink or wagon train of stoic immigrants; even Richard Masur’s death scene, the harbinger of so many assassinations and tragedies to come, is staged on a high ridge of Paradise, where a gang of serpents materialize and gun the poor Irishman down.

Was there waste, folly, and delusion built into the movie? Of course. But Heaven’s Gate had its own unwavering, half-mad lyrical integrity, a sense of imaginary place that is unsurpassed in American cinema, and some fine actors doing nothing in particular with a flinty panache that is hard to beat. Think of the scenes where Huppert is suddenly transformed into a six-shooter-wielding Annie Oakley horsewoman, riding into the teeth of battle like some ten-year-old’s fantasy of Joan of Arc. Preposterous on one level, but on another there’s a cockeyed nobility that really touches the spirit of Griffith and the Gish sisters. There’s an awful lot of that floating around inside the giant unnatural history museum that is Heaven’s Gate.

Howard Hampton

Heaven’s Gate is now available on Blu-Ray and DVD from the Criterion Collection.

Jem Cohen, Museum Hours, 2012, HD video, color, 107 minutes.

THE VIENNALE TURNED FIFTY THIS YEAR, and as befits an event that shuns red carpets and festival politics-as-usual, it did not make too big a deal of the milestone. While Vienna’s international film festival is not above populist concessions—this edition’s included a tribute to Michael Caine and Ben Affleck’s Argo as opening-night film—it does not by any means cater to all tastes. As festivals the world over succumb ever more to industry pressures and sponsorship demands, the Viennale’s longtime director, Hans Hurch, has repeatedly stressed the importance of programming without strings. (“On the one hand I’m a very diplomatic guy, but on the other hand I can be very Stalinist,” he told Sight and Sound last year.) For its half-centenary, this most coherent of European festivals simply played to its strengths, offering a range of retrospectives that ran deep and broad, and a deftly chosen sample of the past year’s most consequential films, with evening slots at the largest venue, the seven-hundred-plus-seat Gartenbau, accorded to the likes of Miguel Gomes’s Tabu, Kenneth Lonergan’s Margaret (winner of the international critics’ prize), and Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel’s Leviathan (anointed by an audience jury assembled by the local daily Der Standard).

A film festival program that seeks to be polemical inevitably steps on some toes, and Hurch’s occasionally combative relationship with the local film industry erupted last month into a public skirmish with the director Ulrich Seidl. Denied prime-time screenings for the first two movies in his Paradise trilogy (the latter of which just won a top prize at Venice), Seidl withdrew them both, citing Hurch’s habit of sidelining Austrian cinema. In Seidl’s absence, the highest-profile Austrian film was the American director Jem Cohen’s Museum Hours, set largely within Vienna’s venerable Kunsthistoriches Museum. Cohen’s film had its world premiere in Locarno earlier this year, but the sold-out Vienna screening felt like a homecoming. (Executive producer Patti Smith marked the occasion with a charmingly underrehearsed acoustic performance, interspersed with readings from her memoir Just Kids, at the ornate, intimate Metro cinema.) Revolving around the friendship that develops between two lonely middle-aged people, a kindly museum docent (Viennale staffer Bobby Sommer) and a distracted visitor (Canadian singer Mary Margaret O’Hara), Museum Hours is many things in one, among them a city symphony from an outsider’s perspective and, as such, a testament to the act of seeing anew. Not unlike a John Berger essay, Cohen’s ever curious, supremely generous film asserts the role of art as a living thing, premised on human relationships and encounters with the world, with the potential to transform how we see and indeed how we live.

James Benning, Easy Rider, 2012, HD video, color, 95 minutes.

Festival regular James Benning returned this year with further confirmation that his switch to digital three years ago has only energized the onetime celluloid purist. His new Easy Rider is a remake of the hippie-culture monument in much the same way that his Faces, from last year, reframed the John Cassavetes classic: a duration-based metonymic exercise that interacts in surprising and provocative ways with the viewer’s memory of the original. Both pilgrimage and desecration, Benning’s Easy Rider, in which each shot matches the length of a scene in Dennis Hopper’s 1969 film, is one of his richest (and wittiest) recent works: a road trip through the movie’s locations that questions the mythology of landscape and the meaning of counterculture. Another new Benning work, The War, culled from Internet videos of anarchic interventions by the Russian political art collective Voina, was pulled from the festival at the group’s request. The War, which Benning showed at a private screening, performs a simple trick of separating image and text, much as in his 2010 performance Reforming the Past, a reinterpretation of his earlier North on Evers. In The War, explanatory context and English subtitles are withheld, and eventually provided over a black screen at the end; the disjunction exaggerates and enriches the act of ascribing meaning to the startling documentary fragments.

Retrospectives are far from an afterthought at the Viennale, where a discerning attendee is likely to see more old films than new ones. The Austrian Film Museum hosted a concurrent Fritz Lang retrospective, but there were also spotlights on lesser-known names. Alberto Grifi (1938–2007), whose epochal 1970s real-life drama Anna, codirected with Massimo Sarchielli, has found new admirers since its restoration last year, was the subject of a welcome focus. Grifi’s work ranged from found-footage experiments (La verifica incerta) to sci-fi allegory (Dinni e la normalina). But the heart of his remarkable oeuvre can be found in his ’70s political videos, eruptions of self-reflexive vérité that drew on and fed into the energy of the times. Lia (1977), a counterpart to Anna, is a nearly half-hour single take, much of it devoted to a young woman’s impassioned monologue at an “anti-psychiatry counter-conference” in Milan, mounted in opposition to an establishment event. Parco Lambro Juvenile Proletariat Festival (1976), commissioned as a document of a Woodstock-like rock festival, turns into a chronicle of an impromptu protest over food prices, culminating in the mass looting and cooking of the poultry supplies (“the socialization of the chickens”). These extraordinary documents of their historical moment speak to Grifi’s uncanny sensitivity to the currents of thought and feeling swirling around him, his live-wire responsiveness to ideas as they form and life as it happens.

Another eye-opener: a sidebar of films by the Portuguese filmmaker Manuel Mozos, drolly and fondly introduced at his screenings by his younger colleague and dogged champion Miguel Gomes. Something of a forgotten man and missing link in post-Salazar cinema, Mozos has had a stop-start, catch-as-catch-can career, one that is perhaps (as Gomes suggests) emblematic of a film culture that has survived and in many ways thrived despite neglect and isolation. Among Mozos’s documentaries is a national-cinema survey from 1996 whose tentatively punctuated title, Portuguese Cinema…(?), speaks volumes. (It opens with João Bénard da Costa, the late director of the Cinemateca Portuguesa, declaring that “Portuguese cinema has never existed.”) Stalled for years, Mozos’s great work, Xavier, came close to becoming a lost film and, little seen outside Portugal, very nearly remains one. It was completed in 2002, but shot in 1991, not long after Pedro Costa’s O Sangue, and features the same wonderful actor, Pedro Hestnes (who died last year), in the title role as a troubled youth whose world is closing in on him. At once deadpan and dreamy, rich in everyday detail but also given to romantic stylization, Xavier is an odd and indelible movie: Its ellipses may be a function of its difficult production or indications of how its drifting protagonist experiences his life. Either way, it’s a work of bone-deep melancholy, a young man’s film that bears the scars of age.

Dennis Lim

Left: Imamura Shôhei, Ningen Johatsu (A Man Vanishes, 1967), 16 mm, black-and-white, 130 minutes. Right: Imamura Shôhei, Outlaw-Matsu Returns Home, 1973, digital video, color, 47 minutes.

THE GREAT IMAMURA SHÔHEI (1926–2006) effected a tactical withdrawal from the film industry at the end of the 1960s. The first sign that he wanted out had come several years earlier, in 1965, when he quit the major Nikkatsu and began producing his movies through his own independent company. The second title from Imamura Productions was Ningen Johatsu (A Man Vanishes, 1967) and it was a real mold breaker, not least because he persuaded a coalition of independent movie theaters in Tokyo and other cities to help pay for it. The film had no obvious aesthetic precedent in Japan or anywhere else. It presents itself as a piece of investigative journalism, a documentary reportage, but the lines of inquiry turn into a garden of forking paths and the film ends up questioning its own veracity. The Godardian dictum that cinema is truth at twenty-four frames per second doesn’t hold much weight here.

One feature film later, Imamura abandoned fiction and commercial distribution altogether. He once told me that his retreat from the mainstream was provoked by the filming of Kamigami no Fukaki Yokubo (Profound Desires of the Gods, 1968). Shooting in indolent, tropical Okinawa, he’d become so laid-back that he lost track of time and budget. But his actors and crew rebelled against the protracted shoot, and the whole experience became an unhappy one. This was probably not the whole truth; the fact that he’d already made A Man Vanishes proves that he was already finding the chore of constructing narratives too constraining. Whatever the case, between 1969 and 1979 he shot nothing but documentaries and quasi documentaries. The final phase of his career, of course, brought him two Palmes d’Or in Cannes and secured his lasting reputation.

All of Imamura’s documentaries focus on the aftermath of the Pacific War—the period when he got through his college years in the rubble of Tokyo by dabbling in student theater and hanging out with small-time yakuza, hookers, occupation-force GIs, and black marketeers. His subsequent cynicism about Japan’s former imperial ambitions (not to mention the “economic miracle” of the 1960s) fueled an interest in casualties of the war—the Japanese soldiers and “comfort women” who had chosen to stay in Southeast Asia rather than return to Japan after the defeat. Imamura himself took what we’d now think of as the Michael Moore role: an on-screen traveler-interviewer, less pudgy and sure of himself than Moore, but certainly no less intrepid.

In Malaysia he encountered the demure but destitute seventy-four-year-old Zendo Kikuyo, who was tricked into selling herself into sexual slavery when she was a young woman; she was from Japan’s most despised caste and now feels no connection with the “motherland” that exploited her youthful naïveté. In Thailand he encountered the embittered ex-soldier Fujita Matsuyoshi, nicknamed “Matsu the Untamed” after a movie hero, who similarly felt abandoned and rejected by the country that had sent him to war. From the many women and men he met, Imamura picked these two for invitations to revisit their birthplaces in Japan and documented their trips in Karayuki-san, the Making of a Prostitute (1975) and Outlaw-Matsu Returns Home (1973). As he follows them around, it becomes obvious that Imamura is less interested in their inner feelings than in using them as living indictments of Japan’s postwar materialism.

Comparable ambiguities arise in A Man Vanishes, the film that launched Imamura down this path. The film ostensibly sets out to investigate the phenomenon of individuals who simply disappear from their homes, jobs, and social circles, specifically by helping a woman named Hayakawa to track down her missing fiancé. Imamura soon twigs that the missing man absconded precisely to get away from Hayakawa, a virtual catalogue of bad character traits, but goes on filming (sometimes with a hidden camera) to observe her growing crush on Tsuyuguchi, the actor he has hired to pose as a professional investigator. It transpires that Hayakawa is also interested in Imamura himself, and so the director finally collapses the project in on itself by revealing the elements of fiction he has used to his unsuspecting protagonist. Imamura made the film without access to the lightweight cameras and sound recorders and fast film stocks pioneered by Richard Leacock and his associates in New York in the mid-’60s, and the result is as astonishing as it is rough-and-ready. Imamura’s genius in this period was to marry his political critique of Japanese society with his conceptual and technical innovations. He found himself rethinking the ontology of the film image itself.

Tony Rayns

Anthology Film Archives is hosting a weeklong theatrical engagement and retrospective of A Man Vanishes and documentaries by Shôhei Imamura from Thursday, November 15–Wednesday, November 21.

Pier Paolo Pasolini, The Decameron, 1971, 35 mm, color, 111 minutes.

PIER PAOLO PASOLINI’S so-called Trilogy of Life, which Criterion is reissuing today on Blu-Ray and DVD, consists of The Decameron (1971), The Canterbury Tales (1972), and Arabian Nights (1974). The explicit sexuality of these adaptations was what got everybody talking at the time, but what sets his medieval tales apart from his other work is that they represent Pasolini the filmmaker (he was also a poet, novelist, and critic) at his most optimistic.

These were Pasolini’s most commercially successful films, and they were gleefully raunchy without being anywhere near as stomach-turning as Salò (1975), his subsequent and final film, a scatological torture-fest that’s in a category all its own. (Pasolini was murdered, in circumstances that have never been fully explained, a few weeks before its release.) The Trilogy of Life’s pre-Enlightenment folktales were a perfect match for Pasolini’s idiosyncratic approach to filmmaking. With these canonical proto-novels, he had more license than ever to reject cinema’s storytelling conventions in favor of the looser, more poetic syntax he’d always preferred and argued for in his writings. Imagine a medieval artist using a movie camera for the first time and you’ve got an idea of Pasolini’s naive realism: The close-ups on characters are almost always frontal, the quivering long shots expressive without feeling composed at all. Watching the Trilogy of Life, one wonders at times whether this is how Chaucer might have filmed his England, Boccaccio his Tuscany.

Pasolini occasionally interrupts the flow of pranks, courtships, punishments, and acts of love and revenge with careful reconstructions of tableaux by the likes of Giotto, Breughel, and painters of Rajput miniatures. As schizophrenic as it sounds, his blending of naturalism and mannerism, the refined and the primitive, results in a fascinating pastiche—“one language citing another,” in the words of scholar Sam Rohdie—and a sincere, rather than winking, acknowledgment both of Pasolini’s predecessors and of the artifice inherent in any work of cinema.

The Canterbury Tales is rightly regarded as the sloppiest of the three films. In a documentary included in the new Criterion edition, Pasolini admits that editing it was “madness” and that he “wasn’t in the best frame of mind” to bring Chaucer’s ribald tales to life. It might have been interesting, against the gray English backdrop, had Pasolini tried his hand at some of the more somber stories. But he had embraced the Trilogy from the beginning as a celebration of the body uncontained by capitalist and bourgeois codes. The absence of morality was the point.

The selectivity at work in Pasolini’s loose adaptations is perhaps most evident in Arabian Nights; inspired by The Thousand and One Nights, it lacks a single reference to Islam. (In the two films set in Europe, as Tony Rayns points out in his superb audio commentary, the censorious church is always present.) Perhaps Pasolini should have widened his scope a little—if not to prevent left-wing critics from panning the film as escapist, which they did, then to acknowledge a debt of sorts. After all, were it not for the Islamic scholars who gathered these spellbinding tales or the fanciful European translations (including Pasolini’s) that followed, they might never have survived. Thankfully, they did, in abundance, and Pasolini was free to make their many forms and colors his own. Thus his Arabian Nights opens with a direct quote: “Truth lies not in one dream, but in many.”

Darrell Hartman

The Decameron, The Canterbury Tales, and Arabian Nights are now available on Blu-Ray and DVD from Criterion.

Shirley Clarke, Portrait of Jason, 1967, 35 mm, black-and-white, 105 minutes. Comparison of previous version and 2012 Milestone restoration (courtesy Milestone Film & Video).

ABOUT SHIRLEY CLARKE’S Portrait of Jason (1967), Ingmar Bergman remarked, “The most fascinating film I’ve ever seen.” You definitely might agree, if you were able to see this masterpiece of film portraiture. An eclectic experimental filmmaker, Clarke set out to beat Warhol at his own game—and she did. In Portrait of Jason, the titular gay, African-American hustler/cabaret performer/maid-or-butler-as-needed seizes the opportunity that Clarke offers—to perform for the camera and thus become immortal. Clarke filmed Jason Holliday over the course of a single drunken twelve-hour night and then edited the footage down to standard feature-film length. As he becomes increasingly inebriated and is wounded by needling offscreen questions and comments, his defenses crumble and his masks fall apart. But in the end the humanity of Jason Holliday, a talented, outrageously funny, feeling human being, endures. If the film (and Jason’s own determination) hadn’t made him unforgettable, what Clarke did would have been unforgivable.

In other words, this is a powerful, radical document, and it must be preserved—exactly what Milestone Film & Video’s Dennis Doros and Amy Heller are attempting to do. Right now the only way to see Portrait of Jason in the US is when the Museum of Modern Art hauls its print out of the vault, which happens infrequently. (Or, you might be lucky enough to have, as I do, a duped-down VHS. Mine is no longer playable.) Milestone has already restored and rereleased two of Clarke’s earlier features, The Connection (1961) and Ornette: Made in America (1985). The restoration of Portrait of Jason is well underway, its cost estimated at $100,000. The Academy Film Archive has contributed $25,000. Milestone can afford to put up $50,000, and it is trying to raise $25,000 by December 10 at 4:16 PM EST on Kickstarter. Over $10,000 has already been pledged. Goodies are offered for each contribution level. It only costs $50 to have your name listed in the end-credits, which is a pretty cheap way to make yourself part of a masterpiece. Milestone promises to release Portrait of Jason in theaters and on BluRay and DVD in 2013. It will also be shown on the Turner Classic Movies channel—I hope on Ingmar Bergman night.

Amy Taubin

Milestone Film & Video’s Kickstarter campaign for the restoration of Portrait of Jason can be accessed here.

Portrait of Jason: Before and After Preservation.

Michael Roemer, Nothing But a Man, 1964, 35 mm, black-and-white, 95 minutes. Left and right: Duff Anderson and Josie (Ivan Dixon and Abbey Lincoln).

ONE OF THE GREAT American independent films and one of the great films about how racism defines African American masculinity, Nothing But a Man (1964) is as convincing and emotionally agonizing as it was when I first saw it at the New York Film Festival in 1964. Formally, the film absorbed the Neorealism that had dominated European cinema, particularly in Italy, since World War II, and which continues to energize emerging national cinemas through what now is dubbed “observational cinema.” The subject matter and point of view that made it seem “foreign” when it was first released—especially in relation to social uplift movies about racial difference—still testifies to the ugliest aspect of America, the racism that was exposed by the civil rights movement and which has never been “cured,” as the political discourse of the recent election proved.

Nothing But a Man is the work of two white filmmakers, Michael Roemer and Robert Young, who met at Harvard in the late 1940s. Roemer directed, Young wrote the script and was in charge of the cinematography, and both coproduced the film along with Robert Rubin. It was made on the cheap, but its spare visual beauty is the result of Young’s sensitivity and skill and also the support of DuArt Film Laboratories, which was run by Young’s brother Irwin Young and which was a crucial resource in the development of the American Independent film movement. When Nothing But a Man was restored, rereleased, and added to the Library of Congress’s National Film registry in 1993, Roemer commented that had there been black fiction-film directors of the caliber of Spike Lee working in the mid-’60s, he would not have directed the script, and that the aspects of black culture he failed to capture because he hadn’t experienced them from the inside—the humor, for one thing—bothered him every time he looked at the movie.

No matter, since the galvanizing, unsparing performance by Ivan Dixon more than compensates for any distance Roemer felt. Dixon plays Duff Anderson, a railroad worker who leaves his relatively well-paid and protected union job when he falls in love with Josie Dawson (Abbey Lincoln), a college-educated preacher’s daughter who teaches in a segregated primary school in a small Alabama town near Birmingham. Despite the opposition of Josie’s parents and the anger Duff feels toward her father, who “stoops” to every white man from the school principal to drunken dropouts and teaches his congregation to do likewise, Duff and Josie marry, and Josie soon becomes pregnant. Duff gets a job at a sawmill, but, accused of being a union agitator, he’s fired and blackballed from every decently paying job in town. Unable to earn a living and unwilling to turn a deaf ear to insults and threats, he takes out his rage on his wife.

Roemer’s most dramatic directorial choice is to shoot close and keep the narrative largely within Duff’s point of view. Locked into his subjectivity, one feels in one’s own gut the humiliating and enraging experience of being forced to deny your humanity for the sake of preserving your life. What is most powerful about the script and Dixon’s tight-lipped performance is that it makes us aware that Duff’s rage cuts two ways. His fury is directed both at the racist power structure and at himself for being less than a man. The film is complicated, being as much a father-son story—Duff has an alcoholic dad and a young son living separately in hopeless poverty in Birmingham—as it is a story about a marriage that may or may not be able to withstand the economic blight and emotional devastation of racism.

In Birmingham, at the same time as Nothing But a Man was made, Martin Luther King Jr., having delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, still marches. The first orders for school desegregation have incited a wave of white violence, including the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, in which four little girls are killed. Roemer and Young made a deliberate decision to keep all this out of the movie. The impact of civil rights will not reach small towns in the South like the one where Duff and Josie live for many years. Indeed you could have taken a camera to Birmingham in 1964, just as the filmmakers did, and seen no sign that “change is gonna come.” The film is toughest for not holding out that hope to Duff, although small seeds have been planted, perhaps through his experience as a black unionized worker. It is left for us to hope that in the future they will grow.

Amy Taubin

Nothing But a Man runs through Thursday, November 15 at Film Forum in New York. Filmmaker Michael Roemer will introduce the 7:30 PM show on Friday, November 9.