September Films: ‘Blue Velvet’ Restored, a Silent Epic, and Vito Acconci
The cinematic drama of the Reagan presidency notwithstanding, 1980s Hollywood produced only a handful of great movies. Blue Velvet, David Lynch’s mad psychosexual expose of weird doings in a bucolic small town was one—compared by some to Reagan’s favorite vehicle, Kings Row. It’s showing in a new 4K restoration. IFC Center, opening September 4.
Long unseen and worth revisiting, Joseph Losey’s 1976 French-language feature Mr. Klein is an oddly posh vision of occupied Paris that ends with the mass deportation of the city’s Jews. The iciest of French actors, Alain Delon stars as a well-off art dealer obsessed with a mysterious Jewish doppelgänger. Pauline Kael panned the movie as alternately oblique and obvious. But that oscillation can be seen as a strength—it’s a historical reconstruction with a modernist tone, evoking both Kafka and Borges. Film Forum, September 6–19.
A poet turned performance artist and one of the key New York cultural figures of the 1970s, Vito Acconci was also a pioneer maker of self-starring Super-8 movies and videos—many of which could be described as single-action films or conceptual psychodramas. Among other things, Acconci (who died in 2017) anticipated much current installation art. This extensive retrospective of newly restored film and tapes is being presented in a space designed to further immerse spectators through the simultaneous use of slide projections and additional video monitors. Anthology Film Archives, September 5–15.
Loro (Them), Paolo Sorrentino’s baroque, tawdry, cartoonish, appropriately Fellini-esque evocation of the 2008 comeback staged by Italy’s media-mogul prime minister Silvio Berlusconi may be more for Italian than international audiences, but given that Berlusconi-ism has a contemporary relevance far beyond Italy, the movie is hardly provincial. Toni Servillo (who played a previous prime minister, Giulio Andreotti, in Sorrentino’s last political satire, Il Divo) is uncanny as the perpetually smiling seducer-cum-salesman who was postwar Italy’s most successful politician. IFC Center, opening September 20.
Although directed by a German, Franz Osten, the 1928 silent spectacle Shiraz: A Romance of India—filmed on location with an all-Indian cast—is less an exercise in outsider exoticism than a monument to national pride, inventing a fanciful backstory for the Taj Mahal. The restoration is enhanced by Anoushka Shankar’s percussive score, performed by a traditional ensemble infused with strings and a Moog synthesizer. BAMPFA (Berkeley), September 21, October 18, November 17 and 29.