March Films: A Canary Islands Policier, a New Oddball Western, and a German Historical Memoir
Romanian director Corneliu Porumboiu’s latest film, The Whistlers (which is to say his latest epistemological game), is a perverse policier that occasionally suggests a glitzy international caper film. As deadpan as Porumboiu’s previous comedies (notably the great Police, Adjective) it uses the whistling language indigenous to the Canary Islands as a way for its characters to elude total surveillance. Film Forum and Film at Lincoln Center, opening February 28.
A major excavation job, “Biograph/Edison: Restorations and Rediscoveries from the Collection” presents fourteen programs of rare one- and two-reelers, most made before the end of World War I. Among the highlights are shows devoted to Mack Sennett’s pre-Keystone Biograph, Edison social dramas, films starring (and by) the African-American vaudeville star Bert Williams, and Biograph comedies written by Anita Loos, among them her 1913 satire, A Cure for Suffragettes. Museum of Modern Art, March 4–25.
Nearly a decade after her great Meek’s Cutoff, the independent filmmaker Kelly Reichardt has made another oddball Western. Two backwoods loners join forces to start a successful baking business that is unfortunately predicated on the milk they pilfer from a wealthy neighbor’s cow. At once wistful and gritty (and often quite droll), First Cow reminds us that the American frontier was a burial ground, not only for murdered Native Americans but hapless dreamers as well. Angelika Film Center and AMC Lincoln Square, opening March 6.
A transfixing 218-minute assemblage of documents, diaries, letters, and landscapes made by a native of the no-longer extant German Democratic Republic, Thomas Heise’s historical memoir-cum-three-generational family history, Heimat is a Space in Time, is something like a deconstructed Ken Burns documentary—although the main influence may be the avant-garde dramatist Heiner Müller, with whom Heise worked. Hewing closely to the historical record, Heimat is scrupulously fragmented, as visceral as it is cerebral. Anthology Film Archives, March 13–19.
This year’s “New Directors/New Films” is an international smorgasbord of first and second films: Ukrainian and Austrian sci-fi, a Romanian documentary about a nightclub fire, two Mexican thrillers, a Senegalese family drama, a Spanish ghost story, and a French queer romance (starring the great Barbara Sukowa) along with harder to characterize movies from Colombia, Denmark, South Africa, and Tamil Nadu. Film at Lincoln Center and the Museum of Modern Art, March 25–April 5.