Each week, Now in Rep Cinema compiles the best repertory and art house screenings, special presentations, lectures, and limited engagements.
Monday June 20, 9 p.m.
Wednesday, June 22, 4 p.m.
Friday June 24, 9:15 p.m.
|Man Bites Dog
TIFF Bell Lightbox
Saturday June 25, 11 p.m.
Before they started collecting Oscars on this side of the new millennium for adaptations of Cormac McCarthy novels and John Wayne flicks, Joel and Ethan Cohen worked a little closer to what could be feasibly considered the fringes of American cinema.
After the success of 1987s Raising Arizona, the Coens set about scripting what would eventually come to be Miller’s Crossing. Story goes that they struggled with the script, even taking pause to write the entire screenplay for Barton Fink (their follow-up to Miller’s Crossing and a film, incidentally, about a frustrated playwright attempting to hack out screenplays). Watching Miller’s Crossing now, it’s easy to see how much work they poured into it. Densely populated and reasonably complex, especially when weighed against their early flicks (Arizona and their 1984 debut, Blood Simple, both fairly straight-ahead road-revenge movies, albeit wildly different in tone), Miller’s Crossing was easily the most ambitious film the Coens had attempted to date.
Starring Gabriel Byrne as Tom Reagan, a shrewd gangster living in a no-name Prohibition-era American city, Miller’s brings its noir-cinema influences to bear with a light touch that, at the time, seemed wholly uncharacteristic for filmmakers coming off a movie where Nicolas Cage is pursued by a stogie-chomping bounty hunter on a motorcycle while attempting to steal some diapers. Byrne attacks the character with hardboiled aplomb, convincingly playing two mob bosses (Albert Finney’s Leo O’Bannon and Jon Polito’s Johnny Caspar) against each other. There’s also a nice motif of fedora caught in an updraft (well before American Beauty did the whole floating plastic bag thing) and a subplot untangling a homosexual love triangle between John Turturro (who turns in what still might stand as a career-best performance), Steven Buscemi, and J.E. Freeman.
Regrettably, the Coens’ modest gangster epic dropped the same year as a little film called Goodfellas. It’s certainly possible that Scorsese’s picture monopolized American audiences’ appetite for a dense mob picture. And certainly, Miller’s lacks the gore and Harry Nilson soundtrack of Goodfellas. Whatever the case, the Coens film flopped hard at the box office. But you know what box office failure means in cases like this, don’t you? That’s right: instant “cult classic” cred.
Also Unspooling…Turning 32
Did you know that the NFB shows movies for free? Like, all the time? If you go in and take two seconds to sign up, you can sit at those futuristic viewing booths and watch almost any NFB produced movie for nothing. And, often, they screen movies on the bigger screens, also for free. This Wednesday, the gift-givers at the Mediatheque are screening Robbie Hart and Luc Côté’s Turning 32. The follow-up to Turning 16, 32 catches up with a cast of characters from around the world to probe the shared experience of being human. It’s kind of like those 7 Up movies, but in multiples of twelve.
Bridesmaids, eh? In a summer marked by disappointments (The Hangover Part II and, especially, Green Lantern), it’s shaping up to be the most pleasant surprise. Granted, it’s gross-out gags don’t really work, and it suffers the bloat of most Apatow-produced comedies-that-are-also-about-things, but it’s also super funny. Mostly because Kristen Wiig is super funny: she can do much more than just a spot-on Kathy Lee Gifford impression. It also has Tim Heidecker in it, making everyone uncomfortable just by being there. And a great joke about a guy named Bill Cozby (with a zed). What’s not to like? Nothing! In case you missed it the first time around, it’s entering its second run at the Fox this week.
Man Bites Dog
There are dark comedies, and then there’s Man Bites Dog. In this 1992 Belgian mockumentary, a camera crew follows Ben, a disarmingly amicable serial killer, as he combs the city, raping, killing, and ballasting corpses. As Ben’s crimes become more random and grisly, the crew mutates from fly-on-the-wall documentarians to active participants in Ben’s crimes. In this respect, it poses a couple interesting question about the relationship between documentarian and subject. But most importantly, Man Bites Dog is just a grisly, deeply cynical, ultra-black comedy that makes American Psycho look like American Graffiti.