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Tuesday, December 20

Alain Resnais at FIAF
What’s Showing Today? Tuesday, December 20
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French Institute Alliance Française‘s tribute to the early short films of four giants of French cinema concludes this week with Alain ResnaisLe chant du Styrène. Commissioned by the French company Pechiney—and perhaps titled in reference to Song of Ceylon, Basil Wright’s ambitious experiment in documentary form made on the Ceylon Tea Propaganda Board’s dime—this might be the most beautiful and radical industrial film ever made.

Opening with images of plastics simultaneously singing to life and dying—they were apparently melted and played in reverse to achieve the former effect, which is shockingly organic given plastic’s somehow essential lifelessness (hence the word’s hilarious and terrifying ability to evoke a future devoid of meaning in The Graduate)—the film likewise proceeds to tell its story in reverse, charting the molding of its final form back to the material’s origin in petroleum, even the imagination of its inventor. With narration written by Oulipo co-founder Raymond Queneau, a contemporary of Georges Perec and Italo Calvino, it shares some philosophical affinities with the consideration of plastics in Barthes’s Mythologies, published two years earlier, upon which he detects endless wonder—”a perpetual amazement, the reverie of man at the sight of the proliferating forms of matter, and the connections he detects between the singular of the origin and the plural of the effects. … the very itinerary of plastic gives him the euphoria of a prestigious free-wheeling through Nature.” And given Queneau’s interest mathematics and patterns, its no surprise that the movie somehow manages to actually explain a shit load about how plastic is made. Whoa!

This is also a remarkable showcase for the gorgeous colorful photography and graphical compositions of Sacha Vierny, the great cinematographer renowned for his collaborations with Resnais and Peter Greenaway. Given that most of the work Vierny and Resnais were doing around this time was in black-and-white (both the other short films and features like Hiroshima, Mon Amour and Last Year at Marienbad), it’s interesting to consider how this film’s obvious affinity for boldly delineated color schemes points to the work Vierny did with his later collaborator.

Le chant du Styrène screens alongside Michel Leclerc‘s 1980 documentary Une approche d’Alain Resnais, révolutionnaire discret, which includes interviews with Resnais collaborators like Alain Robbe-Grillet. And Resnais, Robbe-Grillet and Vierny’s masterpiece Last Year at Marienbad begins a weeklong revival run at Film Forum Friday.

Also Recommended

As too-cool as I’d like to be for tonight’s Martin Scorsese introduction and Q&A (The Film Society of Lincoln Center‘s emphasis), that’s pretty cool. Every film critic’s close, personal friend “Marty” will speak alongside Mean Streets, admission currently standby only.

And some very wonderful folks including director Javier Solórzano Casarin will be speaking after the New York premiere of immigration activist documentary Elvira at the The Americas Society. Mexican Elvira Arellano was working at O’Hare International Airport when she was arrested during post-9/11 crackdowns ostensibly conducted to weed out terror suspects. After convicted of social security fraud and fighting to remain in the U.S., she was eventually deported and separated from her American-born son. Elvira is presented as part of the Indocumentales/Undocumentaries US-Mexico Interdependent Film Series, and it’s FREE with RSVP.

Today

Anarchism on Film at Anthology Film Archives
Series Details

  • Born in Flames (Lizzie Borden). Details. 16mm. 1983. 80 min. 7 pm.
  • Journeys From Berlin/1971 (Yvonne Rainer). Details. 16mm. 1980. 125 min. 9 pm.

Spanish Cinema Now at The Film Society of Lincoln Center
Series Details

  • Double Steps (Isaki Lacuesta). Details. 2011. 90 min. 2 pm.
  • The Rocket from Calabuch (Luis García Berlanga). Details. 1956. 93 min. 4 pm.
  • The National Shotgun (Luis García Berlanga). Details. 1978. 95 min. 9:30 pm.

50 Years of the New York Film Festival at The Film Society of Lincoln Center
Series Details

  • Mean Streets (Martin Scorsese). Details. Scorsese intro and Q&A. 35mm. 1973. 112 min. 6:30 pm.

Elvira (Javier Solórzano Casarin) at The Americas Society. Details. 2009. 65 min. 6:30 pm. FREE with RSVP
Spanish Cinema Now at The Film Society of Lincoln Center
La chant du Styréne (Alain Resnais) with Une approache d’Alain Resnais, révolutionnaire discret (Michel Leclerc) at French Institute Alliance FrançaiseDetails. Short by and documentary about Alain Resnais. 1957/1980. 72 min. 12:30, 4 and 7:30 pm.
Jacob Robinette’s Dreams & Intoxications and Fair Use at Spectacle TheaterDetails. 8 & 9 pm.

Ongoing

Sleepless Nights Stories (Jonas Mekas) at Anthology Film ArchivesDetails. Video. 2011. 114 min. 6:45, 9:15 pm.
Deep End (Jerzy Skolimowski) at BAMcinématekDetails. 35mm. 1970. 90 min. 4:30, 6:50 and 9:15 pm.
Khodorkovsky (Cyril Tuschi) at Film ForumDetails. 2010. 111 min. 1, 3:15, 5:40 and 7:40.
The Wages of Fear (Henri-Georges Clouzot) at Film ForumDetails. 35mm. 1953. 148 min. 1, 3:50, 6:40 and 9:30 pm.
Addiction Incorporated (Charles Evans Jr.) at Film ForumDetails. 2011. 102 min. 1, 3:15, 5:40, 7:50 and 10 pm.
Possession (Andrzej Żuławski) at Film ForumDetails. 35mm. 1981. 123 min. 9:45 pm.

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