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The Reeler Blog

MoMA, Miranda, Meals and More

A promotional still from The Gang's All Here, screening Saturday at the Museum of the Moving Image

By Miriam Bale

There was a seasonal shift last week, and now that New York is bright and blustery -- but not so cold that all you want to do is nest -- it's especially nice weather for moviegoing. Programmers at revival houses are well aware of this; this week everything is a highlight. At this time last year it was the same story: When I wasn't watching Rossellini TV movies in Midtown, I was trying to see everything Rivette ever made in Queens, all while nursing a permanent post-holiday party hangover and desperately searching for sustenance in Astoria. I miss it.

There is potential to reenact the experience this Saturday, Dec. 1. You could replicate Rivette's running times by catching a triple feature at the Walter Reade (get obsessive with Pasolini) or Museum of Modern Art (get touched by Lubitsch), but I've got a better idea: Let me be your guide and set up a package tour -- including snack breaks -- that recreates last year's cinematic insanity.

We'll ease into it with a light and flawless musical. Ernst Lubitsch helped develop the musical form that Rivette later deconstructed, and one of Lubitsch's best -- The Smiling Lieutenant, with Maurice Chevalier -- is playing at 2 p.m at MoMA. Afterward, pay tribute to the director's Kraut-roots by grabbing a wurst with cabbage at the excellent Hallo Berlin Juicy Food Stand around the corner on 54th Street. Or, since our next stop is Queens, go to Delhi Palace in Jackson Heights for crazy bright flavors and a pink rose lassi. You'll need that color appetizer before stepping into the fuscia and cobalt blue fantasy world that Busby Berkeley created in The Gang's All Here, screening at 6 p.m. as part of the Museum of the Moving Image's Glorious Technicolor! series.

Lavish femininity meets phallic worship in the movie's memorable banana dance with Carmen Miranda. It's sex scene as extravaganza, with a cast of dozens. No one got away with more than Berkeley. Through actually mounted on a crane, the tilting, lurching camera throughout the film feels personally (and drunkenly) held by Berkeley himself. Floating heads, red mouths disassociated from bodies and brown dimpled knees move through the screen not just kaleidoscopically but with the same tight control over bodies, textures and colors as if a ballet (though one appropriately garish for the movie house).

This itinerary is technically a fantasy because the next film, Pasolini's Porcile, is in the Upper West Side at 7:20. (You may have to catch another screening.) While Rivette showed you what insanity looked like, Pasolini shows you the inside view. The structure of Porcile alternates between two stories, one in a non-defined primitive past, and the other focusing on postwar industrial Germany; both plots aim towards disturbing, but can’t help but be amusing along the way. Jean-Pierre Léaud and Anne Wiazemsky are hilarious as a bourgeois German couple who live and speak disconnectedly. " 'Bid you farewell' as they say," she tells him. " 'Sooner or later' as they say," is his reply. Pasolini often places each of the pair in isolation, tight in the frame, which contrasts nicely with the look of the film's parallel narrative. In these other sections, usually viewed from a great distance, anonymous men wander the hills while fighting wars and eating each other. Both subject matter and heavy-handed symbolism are unappetizing, so I'll refrain from a restaurant recommendation for this one.

Seduced and Abandoned is a regular feature about repertory cinema highlights in New York. Miriam Bale programs the monthly series The Movie Night Disco at Frank's Lounge in Fort Greene.

Posted at November 27, 2007 10:47 AM

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