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November Films: Welles, ‘Wanda,’ and Wang Bing

 

 

Marking both aspects of the German director-actor’s career, “Margarethe von Trotta: The Political Is Personal’’ includes three of the movies she made with R.W. Fassbinder (among them, his 1971 meta-film Beware of a Holy Whore), as well as five of her own features (notably the 1986 epic Rosa Luxemburg with Barbara Sukowa in the title role) and the 1975 Heinrich Bölls adaptation The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum, which she co-wrote and co-directed with her then husband Volker Schlöndorff. Quad, November 2–8.

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Some four decades in the making, Orson Welles’s posthumously completed hall-of-mirrors The Other Side of the Wind is most simply described as a chaotic dark comedy about an aged director (John Huston) attempting to make a comeback in the new Hollywood of the 1970s, just like Welles. The movie is alternately brilliant and exasperating, sometimes at once; the conditions under which it was made are explicated in an informative companion documentary by Morgan Neville, They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead. IFC Center, opening November 2.

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Celebrating the centennial of the actress turned filmmaker, “Ida Lupino 100” showcases the two sides of this impressive talent. Born into a family of British music hall stars, Lupino was a versatile performer who—simultaneously sensitive and hardboiled—could play comic ingénues, as well as prostitutes and gangster molls. The series features three movies she made with the ace Warner Bros. director Raoul Walsh (High Sierra, They Drive By Night, and The Man I Love), as well as all seven of the largely independent features she directed, mainly in the 1950s, including new restorations of her tennis melodrama Hard, Fast and Beautiful (1951) and spare, scary film noir, The Hitch-Hiker (1953). Film Forum, November 9–22. 

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China’s leading documentarian (and arguably its most important working filmmaker) Wang Bing has devoted himself to leisurely fly-on-the-wall films about migrant laborers, sewing factory workers, and the rural poor of Yunnan province. This three-day, two venue show, timed for Wang’s fifty-first birthday, includes his early interview with a Cultural Revolution survivor, Fengmeng (2007), and four more recent films—the portrait of abandoned children Three Sisters (2012), the mental hospital exposé ‘Til Madness Do Us Part (2013), the sweatshop saga Bitter Money (2016), and a report on Burmese refugees, Ta’ang (2016)—all showing at Metrograph. Lincoln Center is presenting Wang’s epic drama of social dislocation, West of the Tracks (2002); his latest film Dead Souls (2018), an eight-hour recording of former reeducation camp inmates; and, as an installation, 15 Hours (2017), a single shot taken in a Chinese garment factory. Metrograph November 17–24, and Film Society of Lincoln Center, November 16–18.

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Barbara Loden’s electrifying and unrelenting Wanda, the 1970 first feature that she wrote and directed in which she played an unmoored barfly who drifts into crime, remains a landmark of the American new wave. It’s showing with The Frontier Experience (1975), one of the two short subjects that depressingly were the only other films Loden was able to make before her death in 1980. BAMcinématek, November 23–25.

Category: Film