21st February “On the Town”
One of the great American musicals, made in 1949 and directed by Stanley Donan and Gene Kelly.
Three sailors on a 24-hour pass — Gabey (Gene Kelly), Chip (Frank Sinatra), and Ozzie (Jules Munshin) — decide to soak up the sights and sounds of New York. Each one finds romance within those 24 hours: Gabey with aspiring dancer Ivy Smith (Vera-Ellen), Chip with lady cabbie Hildy Esterhazy (Betty Garrett), and Ozzie with paleontology student Claire Huddesten (Ann Miller). That’s all, right? Wellll….Ivy passes herself off as a celebrity, but she’s actually a kootch dancer in Coney Island. Claire and the boys inadvertently topple a dinosaur replica at the Museum of Anthropological History. And Hildy breaks any number of speeding laws attempting to get the lovers together and straighten out all misunderstandings. Adapted from the Broadway musical by Betty Comden, Adolph Green, and Leonard Bernstein, On the Town is one of the freshest, most exhilarating musicals turned out by the old MGM regime. The stars’ verve and camaraderie are contagious, and the songs are staged by legendary musical director Stanley Donen and Kelly himself with wit and innovation. Highlights include the opening “New York, New York” number, shot on location and flat-cutting from one image to another at a dizzying pace, and Gene Kelly and Vera-Ellen’s “”Miss Turnstyles Ballet.””
21st March “The Hedgehog”
Directed by Mona Acheche, who also wrote the screenplay, this is a heart-warming story of love, life, and the beauty of unexpected friendships. Inspired by the beloved New York Times bestseller, The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery, The Hedgehog is the timely story of Paloma (Garance Le Guillermic) a young girl bent on ending it all on her upcoming twelfth birthday. Using her father’s old camcorder to chronicle the hypocrisy she sees in adults, Paloma begins to learn about life from the grumpy building concierge, Renée Michel (Josiane Balasko). When Paloma’s camera reveals the extensive secret library in Renée’s back room, and that the often gruff matron reads Tolstoy to her cat, Paloma begins to understand that there are allies to be found beneath the prickliest of exteriors. As the unlikely friendship deepens, Paloma’s own coming of age becomes a much less pessimistic prospect.
11th April “The Third Man”
One of the great thriller movies, this English film directed by Carol Reed has a screenplay by the master of literary drama, Graham Greene. In this Cold War spy classic, Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten), a third-rate American pulp novelist, arrives in postwar Vienna, where he has been promised a job by his old friend Harry Lime (Orson Welles). Upon his arrival, Martins discovers that Lime has been killed in a traffic accident, and that his funeral is taking place immediately. At the graveside, Martins meets outwardly affable Major Calloway (Trevor Howard) and actress Anna Schmidt (Alida Valli), who is weeping copiously. When Calloway tells Martins that the late Harry Lime was a thief and murderer, the loyal Martins is at first outraged. Gradually, he discovers not only that Calloway was right but also that the man lying in the coffin in the film’s early scenes was not Harry Lime at all–and that Lime is still very much alive (he was the mysterious “third man” at the scene of the fatal accident). Thus the stage is set for the movie’s famous climactic confrontation in the sewers of Vienna–and the even more famous final shot, in which Martins pays emotionally for doing “the right thing.” Written by Graham Greene, The Third Man is an essential classic, made even more so by the insistent zither music of Anton Karas. The film is currently available in both an American and British release version; the American print, with an introduction by Joseph Cotten, is slightly shorter than the British version, which is narrated by director Carol Reed. Nominated for several Academy Awards, The Third Man won Best Cinematography for Robert Krasker.
9th May “Lust, Caution”
Academy Award-winning director Ang Lee adapts this Eileen Chang story set in World War II-era Shanghai that details the political intrigue surrounding a powerful political figure named Mr. Yee (Tony Leung) in Japanese-occupied Shanghai. Spanning the late ’30s and early ’40s, the movie introduces us to Hong Kong teen Wong Chia Chi (Tang Wei), a shy college freshman who finds her calling in a drama society devoted to patriotic plays. But the troupe’s leader, Kuang Yu Min (Wang Leehom), isn’t just a theater maven — he’s a revolutionary as well, and he’s devoted to carrying out a bold plan to assassinate top Japanese collaborator Mr. Yee. Each student has an important role to play, and Wong puts herself in a dangerous position as Mrs. Mak; she befriends Mr. Yee’s wife (Joan Chen), and slowly gains trust before tempting him into an affair. While at first the plan goes exactly as scripted, things suddenly take a deadly turn and Wong is emigrated from Hong Kong. Later, in 1941, the occupation shows no signs of ceasing and Wong is simply drifting through her days in Shanghai. Much to her surprise, the former actress finds Kuang requesting that she resume the role of Mrs. Mak. Now, as Wong again gains intimate access to her dangerous prey, she must struggle with her own identity in order to pull off the performance of a lifetime.
20th June “La Peau Douce (Soft Skin)”
Francois Truffaut directed this simple tale of revenge and adultery which features an exceptional musical score by Georges Delerue. The story concerns a love affair between successful literary magazine editor Pierre Lachenay (Jean Desailly) and alluring airline stewardess, Nicole Chomette (Francoise Dorleac). They meet on a flight to Lisbon, where Pierre is scheduled to deliver a lecture. When he returns to Paris, they continue their affair, but find it is difficult to set up their clandestine trysts, so Pierre arranges a lecture trip to Riems, where they can be together. In Riems however, Pierre finds it difficult to keep the affair a secret from his lecture sponsors. Upon his return to Paris, his wife Franca (Nelly Benedetti), suspicious her husband is having an affair, quarrels with Pierre, who leaves her and asks Nicole to marry him. Nicole refuses his proposition and Pierre attempts to reconcile with his wife. But Nelly, with a gun in her bag, is en route to surprise Pierre at his favorite restaurant for a final confrontation
18th July “Ride the High Country”
This Sam Peckinpah-directed feature outing was intended as the cinematic swan song for both Randolph Scott and Joel McCrea; while McCrea would unexpectedly emerge from retirement, this 1961 western serves as an excellent valedictory for both men. The time is the early 1900s, when the Old West was slowly and stubbornly giving way to the new. McCrea plays Steve Judd, an ex-lawman living on the fringes of poverty but maintaining his dignity and honesty. Hired to escort a gold shipment from the wide-open mining town of Coarse Gold, he engages his old pal Gil Westrum (Scott) to help him. But Gil hasn’t Steve’s integrity, and he and his young saddle pal Heck Longtree (Ronald Starr) hope to talk Steve into helping them steal the gold. En route to Coarse Gold, the three riders spend the night at the farm of a religious fanatic (R.G. Armstrong), whose daughter Elsa (Mariette Hartley in her film debut), chafing at her father’s loud piety, is planning to elope with her boyfriend Billy (James Drury). The next day, Elsa insists on joining up with the group so she can marry Billy at Coarse Gold, leading to numerous complications and, of course, a final shoot-out that allows Steve and Gil to reconcile their differences and pave the way for the film’s elegiac finale. Released at the tail end of the western genre, and virtually thrown away by MGM, Ride the High Country feels like an elegy for the western itself — and Peckinpah himself would go on to revise western conventions with such later efforts as The Wild Bunch (1969) and Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973).
15th August “My First Wife”
Classical music DJ John Hargreaves neglects his wife Wendy Hughes, who responds by entering into an illicit romance. Upon finding out, Hargreaves leaves Hughes, but doesn’t want to tell his parents; they’d never liked Hughes, and he isn’t in the mood for a chorus of “I told you so”s. What is already painful for Hargreaves is amplified when his dying father, suspecting that something’s wrong, lectures his son on the sanctity of marriage–even a bad one. Director Paul Cox used the Australian My First Wife as a kind of catharsis, to purge himself of ill-will concerning the bust-up of his own marriage. The film won three Australian academy awards, including one for the reluctantly revelatory Cox.
19th September “I’ve Loved You So Long”
Their relationship fractured when older sister Juliette is sentenced to 15 years in prison, two siblings wage an emotional battle to rebuild their relationship, overcome the secrets that keep them apart, and finally express the thoughts that have lain dormant for well over a decade. The moment Juliette was convicted, her parents declared that they wanted nothing to do with her. Now, after 15 years behind bars, Juliette is a free woman and in desperate need of a human connection. When Juliette’s younger sister, Léa, is approached by a prison social worker and asked if she would be willing to provide her recently paroled sibling with a place to live, she doesn’t hesitate to open her doors and share her home. But Léa is happily married with two adopted daughters, and her husband, Luc, is uneasy with the arrangement. Still, the house is large, the couple is used to having company, and the two young girls are thrilled to have a new aunt. As Juliette gets settled, Léa does her best to make her feel welcome. Likewise, Léa’s colleague Michel and emigrant couple Samir and Kaïsha also offer to help Juliette readjust to life on the outside. Along the way, Juliette slowly begins to emerge from her shell and Léa realizes just how much she missed her sister. Perhaps if she can put aside her feelings of guilt long enough to truly understand her sister’s plight, these two strangers can finally remember what it means to be family,
17th October “Goodbye Lenin”
A dedicated young German boy pulls off an elaborate scheme to keep his mother in good health in this comedy drama from director Wolfgang Becker. Suffering a heart attack and falling into a coma after seeing her son arrested during a protest, Alex’s (Daniel Brühl) socialist mother, Christiane (Katrin Sass), remains comatose through the fall of the Berlin wall and the German Democratic Republic. Knowing that the slightest shock could prove fatal upon his mother’s awakening, Alex strives to keep the fall of the GDR a secret for as long as possible. Keeping their apartment firmly rooted in the past, Alex’s scheme works for a while, but it’s not long before his mother is feeling better and ready to get up and around again.
14th November “A Separation”
Set in contemporary Iran, A Separation is a compelling drama about the dissolution of a marriage. Simin wants to leave Iran with her husband Nader and daughter Termeh. Simin sues for divorce when Nader refuses to leave behind his Alzheimer-suffering father. Her request having failed, Simin returns to her parents’ home, but Termeh decides to stay with Nader. When Nader hires a young woman to assist with his father in his wife’s absence, he hopes that his life will return to a normal state. However, when he discovers that the new maid has been lying to him, he realizes that there is more on the line than just his marriage