November films: Stanisław Lem, Postwar German Rediscoveries, “Black Soliders and World War II,” and more
1945: A few months after Hungary’s liberation by the Red Army, a small village is driven mad by the sudden appearance—or is it reappearance?—of two orthodox Jews. The black-and-white cinematography is stunning and the acting is impressive—for all the tumult, the film, directed by Ferenc Török, has a powerful restraint. At Film Forum, November 1-14.
“Stanisław Lem on Film” and “The Strugatsky Brothers on Film”: The distinguished Polish writer of science fiction Stanisław Lem has inspired films by Andrzej Wajda, the Brothers Quay, and most famously Andrei Tarkovsky, whose 1972 Solaris was credibly remade by Steven Soderbergh thirty years later. All are screening, along with the ambitious Czech production Ikarie XB-1 (an influence on 2001); The Congress, the Israeli director Ari Folman’s follow-up to Waltz with Bashir, a half-animated free adaptation of The Futurological Congress; and several lesser-known Polish features. Anthology is following up immediately with six films, by Tarkovsky, Aleksei German, Aleksandr Sokurov, and others, adapted from work by Russia’s leading science fiction writers, the Strugatsky Brothers. At Anthology Film Archives, November 1-11 and November 10-21.
“Strange Victories: Black Soldiers and World War II”: A mix of documentaries and features, this 10-film series focuses on the experience of African-American soldiers fighting the war against fascism in a segregated Army. The series, which takes its title from Leo Hurwitz’s 1948 film-essay on the postwar persistence of American racism, includes government information films (Stuart Heisler’s 1944 The Negro Soldier), widescreen musicals (Otto Preminger’s 1954 Carmen Jones), and avant-garde movies (Julie Dash’s 1982 Illusions), as well as a rare screening of the Slovenian director France Štiglic’s Valley of Peace (1956), for which the expatriate John Kitzmiller won the Best Actor award at the Cannes Film Festival for his portrayal of a black GI in wartime Yugoslavia. At BAMcinématek, November 10-16.
“The Lost Years of German Cinema: 1946-1963”: Largely terra incognita, West German cinema before Fassbinder was distinguished by films made by returning exiles, Fritz Lang and Robert Siodmak, as well as a number of strong, critical movies, some of them international hits, by Helmut Käutner, who began his career under the Nazis. The major rediscovery of this series may be Käutner’s corrosive and controversial Black Gravel (1962), a melodrama set in the aftermath of Germany’s defeat, which has been recently restored. At the Film Society of Lincoln Center, November 15-23.
The Terminator: Were the 1980s the last period when popular Hollywood movies consistently had something to say? A sleeper hit in the aftermath of Ronald Reagan’s 1984 reelection, this dystopian, technophobic time-travel crash-fest, shot in a style suggestive of Jack Kirby’s comic books, made James Cameron’s career, boosted Arnold Schwarzenegger’s, and more than holds its own against the current crop of digitally-enhanced superhero films. At the IFC Center, November 22-25.