May Films: The World’s Fair, ‘Pasolini,’ Barbara Rubin and the New York Underground
Motion pictures were born as a fairground attraction, a relationship that gets its due in “Films for the Fair: The World’s Fair & the Cinema.” Promotional films made to demonstrate new products or techniques at expositions are brought together with documentaries on and movies set in these enchanted realms, from Mabel and Fatty Viewing the World’s Fair At San Francisco (1915) to Elvis Presley’s trip to Seattle’s Century 21 Expo, It Happened at the World’s Fair (1963). Anthology Film Archives, May 8–19.
Ten days into the Museum of Modern Art’s near-complete Abel Ferrara retrospective, the rambunctious New York filmmaker’s fictional homage to another maverick director opens for a brief, belated commercial run. With an extremely credible Willem Dafoe in the title role, Ferrara’s 2014 Pasolini is set in November 1975 and focuses on the last day of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s life—a suavely frantic mosaic filled with intertextual references and the presence of Pasolini’s favorite Ninetto Davoli, now aged and playing the theatrical polymath Eduardo De Filippo. Metrograph, May 10–16.
Věra Chytilová’s accomplice in making the anarchic masterpiece Daisies (1966) gets a retrospective of her own with Ester Krumbachová: Unknown Master of the Czechoslovak New Wave. A costume and set designer and scriptwriter, Krumbachová was a major contributor to movies as varied as Jan Němec’s adaptation of Arnošt Lustig’s concentration-camp thriller Diamonds of the Night (1964), Vojtěch Jasný’s bitter saga of postwar collectivization, All My Compatriots (1969), and Jaromil Jireš’s phantasmagorical Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (1970). Also included: Daisies, the follow-up collaboration with Chytilová, Fruit of Paradise (1970) and Krumbachová’s lone directorial credit, The Murder of Mr. Devil (1970). Film Society of Lincoln Center, May 24–29.
Chuck Smith’s documentary Barbara Rubin and the Exploding New York Underground chronicles a legendary counterculture figure. Barbara Rubin made the underground’s most sexually explicit movie, Christmas on Earth, before she was out of her teens. The organizer of pioneering light shows and mixed media events, Rubin was also the underground’s prime networker—introducing Ginsberg to Dylan and hipping Warhol to the Velvet Underground. In the late Sixties, she found religion and, having embraced Hasidism, died in a French village after giving birth to her fifth child in 1980. IFC Center, opening May 24.
This galvanizing thirty-five-film series “The Hour Of Liberation: Decolonizing Cinema, 1966–1981” showcases what used to be called “Third Cinema.” Featuring such incendiary landmarks as The Battle of Algiers (1966) and The Hour of the Furnaces (1968), the program is heavy on West Africa (four films by Ousmane Sembène), Brazil, and Cuba; it also includes films from India (Mrinal Sen), the Philippines (Kidlat Tahimik), and even Northern Ireland (Arthur MacCaig’s The Patriot Game). Film Forum, May 24–June 13.