City of Lost Souls
Friday Nov. 20th, 7:30 pm at Union Docs: $9
Juliet Jacques, the author of Trans: A Memoir, which accounts for her own experiences transitioning from male to female and her life from childhood up to her present 30-something self, will be on hand to present City of Lost Souls, a “trans musical spectacular.” Filmed in 1982, it provides an early look at identity politics and trans identity years before there was mainstream understanding of what it means to be trans. The film is such an early example of gender exploration that it’s lacking in recognizable “transgender” language– in fact, the word is never mentioned in the film (though there are instances of its use at that time).
Made by West German filmmaker Rosa von Praunheim (she assumed the name “Rosa,” or “pink,” as a symbol of the Nazis’ pink triangle policy), City of Lost Souls is a surreal but sparkly story starring Tara O’Hara and Angie Stardust. It has a punk edge to it thanks to Jayne County (formerly Wayne County), an underground sensation and regular on the CBGB circuit. (See the clip below.)
Jacques has chosen the film as a means of discussing the need for a trans canon, a history for trans people that is separate from the cisgender viewpoint, which has proven basically forever that its incapable of fully understanding let alone accurately conveying the trans experience. With increased trans visibility comes the increasingly urgent need for a defined cultural milieu. Following the screening, the writer will talk about how the film has influenced her own work, as well.
City of Lost Souls offers a farcical take on the genre of musical (thank god, because otherwise ugh), in which an American performer moves to Berlin in hopes of finding a cabaret scene where she will be understood and accepted.
Tuesday Nov. 24th, 7 pm at Film Society at Lincoln Center: $18
Here’s your opportunity to catch a rare screening of what’s often described as Tarkovsky’s most personal film. As part of Print Screen, the Film Society’s series in which authors screen films that have somehow inspired or influenced their writing, poet and essayist Susan Howe will show The Mirror and field a discussion related to her recently released collection of essays, The Quarry.
Howe’s book is also a somewhat personal take on the format, with a carefully selected group of writings old and new that offer a window into the inspiration for her career as a whole. The connection to Tarkovsky’s film runs deep as well– Howe’s father fought in Europe during World War II, and The Mirror focuses on the many major upheavals of the 20th century in Russia and the impact these grand historical forces had on three generations of a family. The film stars members of Tarkovsky’s own family, including Arseny, his father, who provides voice-over narration.
As with much of Tarkovsky’s work, The Mirror is a saga (though it rings in at just under two hours, which is pretty much the blink of an eye in Tarkovsky time) and one that offers lingering shots. These meditative qualities work to slow down time to a crawl and allow the viewer to meditate on the beauty that can be found in otherwise banal scenarios. But this is Tarkovsky, so The Mirror plays with time in a myriad of other ways as well. Memory is a major theme of the work, and one that’s expressed through a non-linear, stream-of-consciousness approach to convey the recollections of Arseny, a dying poet. Tarkovsky plays with color and lighting to help viewers untangle and become tangled in the complex web of history.
Premieres Friday Dec. 4th, 10 am at Angelika Film Center: $14
From Paolo Sorrentino, the director of The Great Beauty, comes Youth, a sort of part II to the first film that offers a Northern European take on the theme of getting old. Instead of a lush, Mediterranean backdrop draped in eye-popping golds and jewel tones plucked straight from a Dolce & Gabbana runway show where everyone seems to be glowing with a dewey, youthful tan (achieved by way of plastic or otherwise), Youth brings us far from the earthiness of The Great Beauty. Instead, we find ourselves elevated to a tight-lipped, carefully-placed-spectacles kind of place that’s big on daily regimes: a Swiss spa town. It’s all minerals and cold, wet stone here.
The story follows Fred (Michael Caine), a retired composer and his close friend, Mick (Harvey Keitel) to the Alps as they get away to soak up some mineral water and get rubbed down. Fred starts to realize that maybe he’s let himself go– he’s super out of shape and doesn’t feel the need to write music any longer. Mick, however, is writing what he thinks could be his last screenplay. Both play off one another, musing about the meaning of life and the consequences of experience. And because this is Sorrentino we’re talking about, the old men are somehow still getting laid by beautiful, young women.
At first, Youth looks to be a cross between a Thomas Mann novel and a Diane Keaton/ Jack Nicholson rom-com. Which is the stuff of franchises and, you know, whatever. At least it’s something you can go see with your mom to make her happy. But bring in Sorrentino’s penchant for the surreal and his commitment to hypnotic cinematography and gorgeous sets (he’s drawn comparisons to Fellini for his aesthetic sensibility) and we’re betting this one will be just as much fun as The Great Beauty.
Friday Nov. 20th through Thursday Nov. 26th at IFC Center: $14
In this Turkish film (which James Franco declared is the “best film of the year”), five super-close sisters are legit frolicking in their school uniforms, splashing around on the beach and having the best freaking time ever. Things are chill. They’re teens, they’re tweens, and they don’t give two fucks. Then suddenly, things are not so chill.
A neighbor tattles on the girls for violations of “ladylike” behavior and their conservative family reacts by basically imprisoning them, grounding them from all things with the potential to corrupt (cell phones, boys, fun). But instead of keeping their heads down and minding their family’s attempt to mold them into obedient young women, the sisters team up and resist the patriarchal influences coming at them from all angles. One sister declares that she’ll scream if her family tries to “marry me off again,” she’d rather be with the boy she loves than marry a stranger.
There are scenes where the girls’ hair is flying in all directions and they’re literally bucking with freedom (hence the title). Together, as young women in support of one another, they become stronger. Franco hints at a Virgin Suicides connection, so get ready to be sorely depressed by a tragic turn. The director will be on hand at the opening screening tonight, Friday, Nov. 20, at 7:40 pm and at the same time on Saturday, Nov. 21.