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March Films: Julio Bracho, ‘Taipei Story,’ Martin Scorsese

The Mexican prestige director Julio Bracho (1909-1978) is nearly unknown outside his native land—perhaps because his films are distinguished less by his personality than an interest in filmed theatricality—and overdue for discovery. The seven-film retrospective “Between Twilight and Dawn: Julio Bracho and the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema” opens with Another Dawn (1943), an anti-fascist noir comparable and in some ways superior to Casablanca. Also recommended: The Pharoah’s Court (1944), a Theater of the Ridiculous-style Biblical travesty choreographed by Anna Sokolow, and Shadow of the Caudillo (1960), a banned political thriller that turned out to be Bracho’s last significant film. March 1-9 at MoMA.

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Another historical rediscovery, Thomas White’s Who’s Crazy?which had its theatrical premiere last year, over fifty years after it was made—is a semi-improvised slapstick comedy featuring members of the avant-garde Living Theatre, temporarily without their leaders Julian Beck and Judith Malina, and a soundtrack by the “free jazz” exponent Ornette Coleman. While the actors project a stoned frenzy, the even more liberated soundtrack, which had an independent life as an LP, showcases Coleman at a particularly productive period in his career. Film Society of Lincoln Center, March 10-16.

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Olivier Assayas’s latest movie, Personal Shopper, is a good thriller and a silly ghost story—despite the writer-director’s sense of social media as a new form of spiritualism. It’s also a vehicle for Kristen Stewart, without doubt the cinephile actress de jour, and a bit of a promo for the Swedish painter Hilma af Klint, who has been posthumously elevated from Theosophical eccentric to the mother of abstract art. IFC Center, opening March 10.

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An early feature by the late Taiwanese director Edward Yang, Taipei Story (1985) is a stylish Antonioni-esque drama of urban alienation, set among the affluent Western-oriented professional class in newly modernizing Taipei and concerning an angst-ridden couple, played by Yang’s Taiwanese new wave colleague Hou Hsiao-hsien and the pop singer Tsai Chin, later Yang’s wife. BAMcinématek, March 17-23.

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Riffing on the memoirs of female hobo Bertha Thompson, Martin Scorsese’s first Hollywood movie, Boxcar Bertha (1972), produced by Roger Corman, is a frolicsome footnote to the post-Bonnie and Clyde cycle of quasi countercultural, Depression-era crime stories. Barbara Hershey gives an avid performance in the title role, often in a state of semi-dishabille. Museum of the Moving Image, March 25-26.

Category: Film