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Still from Nenette and Boni

March Films: Claire Denis, László Nemes, and ‘Climax’

 

Climax, the latest audience assault from cine-provocateur and dedicated misanthropist Gaspar Noe, is a technical tour-de-force, an unabashed act of aggression, and a surprisingly resonant exercise in what might be termed visceral moral philosophy. A vigorous dance rehearsal segues into an LSD-fueled orgy of bad behavior and mad disinhibition. Proceed with caution. Alamo Brooklyn, opening March 1.

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The second installment of  “William Fox Presents: More Restorations and Rediscoveries from the Fox Film Corporation” is a trove of late silent, early sound rarities, many by Fox stalwarts Frank Borzage, John Ford, and Raoul Walsh. Standouts by lesser-known directors include Rowland Brown’s snappy gangster yarn Quick Millions and William K. Howard’s Grand Hotel at sea, Transatlantic, notable for its deep-focus cinematography. Museum of Modern Art, March 1–26.

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Lurid and often so outré as to verge on the avant-garde, the independently-produced Depression-era films in “Forbidden Fruit: The Golden Age of the Exploitation Picture” are cautionary tales of sex, childbirth, and rampant drug abuse. Unregulated by Hollywood’s production code, these movies toured as roadshows. Their titles—Test-Tube Baby, Child Bride, Marihuana: Weed With Roots in Hell, “She Shoulda Said ‘No!’”—give a good indication of their carnival flavor. Film Forum, March 1–30.

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China’s premiere director Jia Zhangke takes a mordant tone in his latest film Ash is the Purest White—a crime melodrama spanning some 15 years in which his longtime star and muse Zhao Tao plays the daughter of an old militant who, also a child of the new China, becomes a minor gangster’s moll. As always with Jia, the local color is extraordinary and so are the performances. China changes, but Zhao’s character, tough and sardonic, remains loyal to her code. The Quad and Film Society of Lincoln Center, opens March 15.

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Sunset, Hungarian director László Nemes’s follow-up to Son of Saul, his remarkable account of an Auschwitz sonderkommando turned holy fool, is necessarily less harrowing but nonetheless compelling. Set in Budapest on the eve of World War I, it’s the story of a young orphan who returns to the city of her birth to reclaim her inheritance, a posh department store, and, in a series of long tracking shots, goes down the rabbit hole of an empire on the edge of apocalypse. The Quad, opens March 22.

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“Strange Desire: The Films of Claire Denis” is the veteran French director’s largest US retrospective to date. Over the course of her career, Denis has filtered gross-out horror, Melville’s Billy Budd, and the wreckage of French colonialism through the prism of her distinctively lush, lyrically fragmented style. The retro includes her first English-language film, High Life, a characteristically idiosyncratic take on sci-fi, scheduled for release in early April. BAM, March 29–April 9.

Category: Film