MoMA’s Introduction on Hanare goze Orin (Ballad of Orin): One of the most sublime color films ever made, Ballad of Orin follows the hardscrabble life of a wandering outcast goze (blind female musician) in early 20th-century Japan. Cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa and director Masahiro Shinoda interviewed surviving goza of the time to capture “a sense of the ideal beauty that these blind women had inwardly visualized.”
Film Society Lincoln Center’s Introduction on First Reformed: Paul Schrader’s newest film, about a middle-aged pastor named Toller (Ethan Hawke, in a truly extraordinary performance) who is shocked out of his self-inflicted torment when he is called to minister to a troubled young environmental activist and his wife (Philip Ettinger and Amanda Seyfried), is as deeply personal as it is politically and spiritually urgent. The film also stars Cedric the Entertainer as the leader of the megachurch that oversees Toller’s 250-year-old landmarked structure and his ever-dwindling congregation. Schrader has created a potent cinematic experience, a carefully constructed, beautifully crafted communion with one lonely soul that allows us to gaze right into the eye of modern media- and money-fueled horror.
Film Society Lincoln Center’s Introduction on Series Visconti: A Retrospective: A leader in the neorealismo movement who also worked with international stars like Burt Lancaster, Helmut Berger, Alain Delon, and Dirk Bogarde, Visconti produced an oeuvre of modest and humane dramas as well as decadent, sprawling historical spectacles. Deftly aware of the subtle and rich means of cinematic expression, he uniquely imposed the narrative customs of opera and the novel onto film, yet remained sharply attuned to the social and political climates of the 20th century.
Film Society Lincoln Center’s Introduction on The Leopard: With fastidious attention to period detail, Visconti evokes a gilded world fading into oblivion, his camera gliding over baroque palazzos, magnificent banquets, and ornate ceremonies. It all culminates in a majestic, dusk-to-dawn ball sequence that is as poignant as it is breathtaking.
Film Society Lincoln Center’s Introduction on Rocco and His Brothers: Visconti’s rich and expansive masterpiece has an emotional intensity and tragic grandeur matched by few other films. The director turned to Giovanni Testori, Thomas Mann, Dostoevsky, and Arthur Miller for inspiration, … …. In one beautifully realized scene after another, we observe a tightly knit family coming apart, one frayed thread at a time. … … One of the defining films of its era, Rocco and His Brothers has been beautifully restored, and Giuseppe Rotunno’s black and white images are as pearly and lustrous today as they were always meant to be.
Film Society Lincoln Center’s Introduction on White Nights: Visconti’s adaptation of a classic short story by Dostoevsky is a ravishing romantic reverie in incandescent black and white. Marcello Mastroianni is the lonely flâneur who meets and falls in love with a fragile young woman (Maria Schell) amidst the fog-shrouded night world of the Tuscan canal city of Livorno. The resulting tale of all-consuming love and loss is a swooning dream vision elevated to the nearly operatic by Visconti’s rapturously stylized direction.
Film Society Lincoln Center’s Introduction on Death in Venice: Opening with the otherworldly image of a steamship emerging ghostlike from inky blackness and closing with one of the most transcendent denouements in all of cinema, Visconti’s exquisite adaptation of Thomas Mann’s novella is a piercing meditation on mortality, sexuality, beauty, and the longing for youth. … … Visconti’s painterly compositions enter the realm of the sublime thanks to the tension-swelling, never-resolving strains of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony.