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July Films: Seventies New York, Andrzej Zuławski, Uncanny Science Fiction, and Yvonne Rainer

Opening with Midnight Cowboy, the forty-four-film series “Ford to City: Drop Dead” celebrates New York at its 1970s scuzziest. In addition to canonical Fun City films (The French Connection, Taxi Driver, and Dog Day Afternoon), the series includes harder-to-see fare: Elaine May’s comic psychodrama A New Leaf, Czech émigré Ivan Passer’s Born to Win, the ferocious Blaxploitation film Across 110th Street, and Chantal Akerman’s great city symphony News from Home. Film Forum, July 5-27.

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An underground corollary of sorts to “Ford to City,” “Go Nightclubbing!: Downtown New York 1977-80” draws on the archives of video artists Pat Ivers and Emily Armstrong, who spent their nights making performance tapes of and conducting interviews with the punk and No Wave bands of the late 1970s, as well as the jazz great Sun Ra. Originally shown on cable TV, their Portapak documentaries may be the definitive record of CBGB’s, the Mudd Club, Danceteria, and other Lower Manhattan dive scenes. Anthology Film Archives, July 14 – July 16.

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Also from the Seventies, Andrzej Zuławski’s L’important c’est d’aimer (That Most Important Thing: Love) has its US theatrical premiere forty-two years after it was made in France. Having been invited to leave his native Poland, Zuławski conceived a tale of romantic obsession in which a callow young pornographer, infatuated with a washed-up, as well as indifferent, movie actress (Romy Schneider), wangles her a part in a ludicrously avant-garde production of Shakespeare’s Richard III (with no less a maniac than Klaus Kinski in the title role). At once unspeakably sordid and unexpectedly transcendent, it features Schneider’s career performance and is a must for Kinski fans. Opens July 14 at the Quad.

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Even weirder things may be found in the astonishing series “Future Imperfect: The Uncanny in Science Fiction.” The seventy movies run the gamut from forgotten genre features (the technophobic Colossus: The Forbin Project) and obscure auteur films (Richard Lester’s apocalyptic comedy The Bed-Sitting Room, Andrzej Wajda’s adaptation of Stanislaw Lem, Roly Poly) to hard-to-see avant-garde films (Mike Kuchar’s wonderfully titled The Craven Sluck, Michael Snow’s simply wonderful digital extravaganza, *Corpus Callosum) to some of the twenty-first century’s strongest, least appreciated releases (the verité alien film Under the Skin, the anime Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence). Given the show’s range it’s almost impossible to go wrong. Museum of Modern Art, July 17-August 31.

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Back once more to the 1970s, “Talking Pictures: The Cinema of Yvonne Rainer revisits the period when Rainer, already a renowned downtown dancer-choreographer, became perhaps the most influential American avant-garde filmmaker of the decade—making highly personal and political features like Film About a Woman Who… and Kristina Talking Pictures that created a new form of cinematic psychodrama. Film Society of Lincoln Center, July 21-27.

Category: Film