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February Films: Psychodrama, Pandaemonium, and ‘Jubilee’

 

“In-Person Reenactment” identifies a new sort of psychodrama, movies in which people reenact past experiences for the camera. This provocative series, programmed by Ivone Margulies, includes celebrity biopics, Cesare Zavattini’s neo-realist experiments, documentaries by Claude Lanzmann and Rithy Panh, and Jean Rouch’s avant-garde ethnography; it opens with the unclassifiable Abbas Kiarostami hall-of-mirrors Close-Up. Anthology Film Archives, February 1–13.

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The seven programs of “Poets of Pandaemonium: The Cinema of Derek Jarman and Humphrey Jennings” juxtapose works by two wildly disparate British painters-turned-filmmakers, both of whom died tragically mid-career. The results are stimulating as when, for example, Jennings’s optimistic wartime documentaries Listen to Britain (1942) and Fires Were Started (1943) are paired with Jarman’s monochromatic monologue Blue (1993) and exuberantly queer punk Jubilee (1978). Museum of the Moving Image, February 8–17.

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A throwback to the revolutionary formalism of the 1920s, I Am Cuba was Soviet director Mikhail Kalatozov’s delirious paean to the Cuban revolution—or maybe a belated tribute to Sergei Eisenstein’s incomplete Que Viva Mexico. The movie, showing in a new restoration, is relentlessly visual, promoting a permanent state of vertigo, while memorializing, as if in granite, the hopes, hysteria, and Tropicana doo-wop of 1963. Fraternal project or not, Cubans initially hated the film, co-written by Yevgeny Yevtushenko and the future Cuban filmmaker Enrique Pineda Barnet; it was discovered and embraced by cinephiles in three decades later. Film Forum, February 15–21.

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Another, more official Soviet restoration, Sergey Bondarchuk’s seven-hour-plus adaptation of Tolstoy’s War and Peace gobbled up the national film budget—it’s thought to be the most expensive movie in history, with a cost that today would be some $700 million—and won the 1969 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. Literary critics found it vulgar (Bondarchuk is no Tarkovsky) but this monumental spectacle out-DeMilles DeMille, if not James Cameron. Film Society of Lincoln Center, opening February 15.

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Landmark examples of a little-known but highly regarded European cinema are sampled in “From Vault to Screen: Portugal.” The series begins with the great Manoel de Oliveira’s 1941 homage to Jean Vigo (and exercise in neorealism), Aniki-Bóbó, and, among other lesser-known local classics, has films by two leading filmmakers of Portugal’s current generation, Pedro Costa and Miguel Gomes. National Gallery (Washington D.C.), February 23–March 9.

Category: Film