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.
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.
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.
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.
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.