Sean Egan, Senior Producer, Film Exhibitions and Projects
High Flying Bird. 2019. USA. Directed by Steven Soderbergh
March Madness and the NBA have been cancelled, but if you’re a hoops junkie (or just someone who enjoys a well-made film), check out Steven Soderbergh’s High Flying Bird. It’s the best movie out there about the business of sports and it was all shot on an iPhone. (But trust me, it doesn’t look like your TikTok.)
Zodiac. 2007. USA. Directed by David Fincher
When David Fincher came to MoMA to present Zodiac in 2013, I proudly told him the studio sent us a pristine 35mm copy of the film for our screening. He laughed and said we should be projecting it digitally. Luckily for everyone, this modern masterpiece is now streaming digitally on Netflix, and I’ll happily report that it holds up to repeat viewings. It’s an obsessive film about being obsessed, and Fincher’s depiction of a city riddled with anxiety at the hands of an unseen and unknown killer may strike viewers as eerily familiar.
The Last Seduction. 1994. USA. Directed by John Dahl
John Dahl’s The Last Seduction is a nasty little noir that originally premiered on HBO in 1994 before becoming a home-video hit later that year. The film launched the Linda Fiorentino renaissance of the mid 1990s and she’s excellent as Bridget, an ice-cold con artist holed up in a small town with her eye on a new mark (Peter Berg).
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. 2014. USA. Directed by Ana Lily Amirpour
Our always forward-thinking curators selected Ana Lily Amirpour’s A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night as the opening night film of the 2014 edition of New Directors/New Films, our annual film festival that introduces New York audiences to the work of emerging filmmakers from around the world. They realized this Iranian vampire Western (shot in Los Angeles in beautiful black and white) heralded a new voice on the international film scene. Don’t miss your chance: this genre mashup leaves the Criterion Channel at the end of the month.
Anne Morra, Associate Curator, Department of Film
The Talented Mr. Ripley. 1999. USA. Directed by Anthony Minghella
A tense, visually beautiful cat-and-mouse game set in Venice and some other luscious Italian cities. Tom Ripley (Matt Damon) is hired by playboy Dickie Greenleaf’s (Jude Law) family to find out what has become of their errant son.
Roman Holiday. 1953. USA. Directed by William Wyler
A black-and-white love letter to the Eternal City, starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck. Hepburn, a sheltered European princess who longs to experience life and fall in love, meets a dashing American journalist (Peck) who grants her wish. Their dash around Rome on a Vespa is a consolation for anyone who longs to sit at a café drinking an espresso, walk around the Forum, or visit St. Peter’s Square.
Summertime. 1955. USA/Great Britain. Directed by David Lean
Amazon Prime/Criterion Channel
Miss Jane Hudson (Katharine Hepburn), an American secretary from the Midwest, has saved up her money for this once-in-a-lifetime European trip. She arrives in Venice and is gobsmacked by this unusual city. Jane wants to give in to the unconstrained Italian ways but is too uptight to relax, even though she’s staying at a canal-side pensione where other American travelers are having a great time indulging in the sights, art, food, and drink. It isn’t until she meets a handsome, mysterious antiques dealer (Rossano Brazzi) that she lets go. The cinematography by Jack Hilyard makes La Serenissima come alive.
Carson Parish, Theater Manager, Department of Film
News from Home. 1977. France. Directed by Chantal Akerman
An essential diary of transitions and dislocation: New York City itself stands in for all of the conflicting emotions of solitude and desire. Babette Mangolte’s camera elevates Akerman’s letters to her mother from prosaic to poetic.
Nighthawks. 1981. USA. Directed by Bruce Malmuth
Malmuth’s 1981 action thriller is chock-full of hokey NYC thrills and chills. With soaring cinematography, inept plot devices, a maximum-ham central performance from Sylvester Stallone, and a steely villain in the late Rutger Hauer, Nighthawks is the best way to see pre-Giuliani New York.
Chocolate Babies. 1996. USA. Directed by Stephen Winter
The first major production from Stephen Winter, a perpetual upender of queer cinema, Chocolate Babies is an outlandish, effervescent portrait of queer New Yorkers at the height of the AIDS crisis. For all its rip-roaring flair, the film’s emotional core still packs a tender wallop.
Olivia Priedite, Senior Program Assistant, Department of Film
The Beach Bum. 2019. USA. Directed by Harmony Korine
A notorious hedonist of the Florida Keys, Moondog (Matthew McConaughey) may not seem like he has his priorities straight, but right now it feels like he is onto something. Life is meant to be enjoyed, poems are meant to be written, cheap beer is meant to be drunk, and money isn’t everything. Harmony Korine’s latest film has an unabashed air of making the most out of our time on Earth, whatever that means to you.
The Birdcage. 1996. USA. Directed by Mike Nichols
One of cinema’s greatest offscreen pairs—director Mike Nichols and writer Elaine May—reunite for the uproarious 1996 smash success, featuring the inimitable comedic duo of Nathan Lane and Robin Williams. In sun-drenched South Beach, Miami, drag-club impresario Armand (Williams) with his partner and star queen Albert (Lane) must try to impress their son’s fiancee’s conservative right-wing parents. Heartfelt hilarity ensues.
Brittany Shaw, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Film
Stop Making Sense. 1984. USA. Directed by Jonathan Demme
Amazon Prime/Criterion Channel
I’m already aching for the time we can all safely be together again, dancing, sweating, and singing. Until then, we have Jonathan Demme’s classic Stop Making Sense, which euphorically captures the Talking Heads’ 1983 performances at Hollywood’s Pantages Theater. The world is frightening right now, so give yourself the gift of these 100 ecstatic minutes. I dare you not to dance in your living room. (And, if you have the means, find a way to support your favorite living artists during this dark time when most musicians are out of work. Buy their music!)
Always for Pleasure. 1978. USA. Directed by Les Blank
Joy and the spirit of community course through Les Blank’s 1978 vérité ode to New Orleans. While the Mardi Gras
celebrations may have you dreaming of post-quarantine life, soul singer Irma Thomas’s red beans and rice recipe is perfect for these housebound days. Blank’s documentary helps us remember that community care takes many forms—right now, it means separation. Soon, we hope, we can return to the celebrations.
Corpo Celeste (Heavenly Bodies) 2011. Italy/Switzerland/France. Directed by Alice Rohrwacher
I was lucky to catch Alice Rohrwacher’s profoundly moving directorial debut, Corpo Celeste (Heavenly Bodies), during her recent MoMA retrospective. I left our theater soul-rattled. Do you believe in miracles?
La Frances Hui, Curator, Department of Film
A Brighter Summer Day. 1991. Taiwan. Directed by Edward Yang
Anguish fills the air in this melancholic tale set in 1959 Taipei. While political repression terrorizes the world of adults, children and teenagers form gangs and engage in senseless violence to overcome fear. Edward Yang’s masterfully crafted saga, inspired by a true crime, dives deep into the psyche of a bygone era.
Happy Hour. 2015. Japan. Directed by Ryusuke Hamaguchi
Four female friends in their 30s navigate the turbulence of work, home, romance, and divorce. Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s acute sense of pace infuses the film—at over five hours long—with immersive, spellbinding moments, revealing magic and grace in the most mundane experiences.
Sophie Cavoulacos, Assistant Curator, Department of Film
The work of Genesis Breyer P-Orridge
On March 14, legendary performance artist and industrial music pioneer Genesis Breyer P-Orridge passed away. At the helm of the COUM Transmissions artistic collective, and the bands Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV, P-Orridge’s art and life has left an indelible mark on alternative art and music. Check out essential viewing in Marie Losier’s intimate portrait The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye (2011) and Tony Oursler’s Synesthesia: Genesis P-Orridge (1997–2001). Bonus: 8 Ball Radio’s dream tribute show, recorded over this past weekend.
Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles. 1975. France/Belgium. Directed by Chantal Akerman
To get used to the new, slowed-down rhythm that awaits us in the coming weeks, what could be better viewing than Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975), which created a spellbinding cinematic language from a Belgian woman’s domestic space and repeated daily tasks? It’s been a touchstone for artist Christopher Williams’s conceptual cooking show show Supplement (2003), currently available in 53 of its 332 mins on Youtube, and they make a great double bill.
The New Directors/New Films Archive
Catch up on ND/NF titles from past editions—from last year to last decade—with Honeyland (Ljubo Stefanov, Tamara Kotevska), Closeness (Kantemir Balagov, for anyone who loved Beanpole), or Viola (Matias Piniero). I also love this look back at ND/NF lineups going back to the first edition—depending how long you’ve been a NYC cinephile. some of your favorites might now be found in the “classics” section of your platform of choice.
In addition to these picks on your usual streaming services, check out these free curated artist’s cinema platforms that bring us adventurous work and a way to connect over the course of the year. And don’t forget this new newsletter!
Jason Persse, Editorial Manager, Creative Team
Three Days of the Condor. 1974. USA. Directed by Sydney Pollack
Low-level intelligence analyst Robert Redford, having stumbled upon yet another of the nefarious conspiracies plaguing 1970s American cinema, is on the run from crooked agents in New York City. Redford’s Stockholm-syndrome romance with Faye Dunaway hasn’t aged well, but a supporting turn by the late Max von Sydow as a phlegmatic assassin is a master class in the virtues of understatement.
Wet Hot American Summer. 2001. USA. Directed by David Wain
Every imaginable trope of the already ridiculous 1980 summer camp subgenre—adolescent romance, dumb pranks, slobs-vs-snobs rivalries, the inevitable training montage—is taken to insane new lows in this gleefully profane satire. Little loved during its brief theatrical release, Wet Hot American Summer is a rare cult hit in the post-VHS era, thanks in no small part to a murderer’s row of comic actors, including Amy Poehler, Elizabeth Banks, Paul Rudd, and nearly every sketch-comedy veteran of The State.
The Beatles: Eight Days a Week. 2016. USA. Directed by Ron Howard
Ron Howard’s raucous survey of the Beatles’ touring years lets you join throngs of screaming, weeping Beatlemaniacs while maintaining a safe social distance. Pulled together from rare live footage, including some never-before-seen film that was literally found under a bed, it captures the Fab Four’s lightning-quick transformation from hard-working rock band to “more popular than Jesus.”
Isabel Custodio, Content Producer, Creative Team
Black Narcissus. 1947. Great Britain. Directed by Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
If you feel like you need to indulge in how frustrating it can feel to “socially distance,” try out Black Narcissus, which follows a group of nuns who attempt to open a school and hospital on an isolated mountain in the Himalayas. As the mountain climate poses serious challenges, their relationships begin to fray, threatening their faith and leading to surprising twists and turns. With stunning cinematography by Jack Cardiff and vibrant Technicolor, how can you go wrong?
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. 2018. USA. Directed by Peter Ramsey, Bob Persichetti, Rodney Rothman
If you’re looking for something the whole family can watch that will still keep the adults entertained, this Spider-Man adaptation is the way to go. Its animation captures the elements that make comic books special and fun to read, and as a one-off story, you don’t need to have seen 20 other movies for it to make sense. It’s heartwarming, suspenseful, and has a great sense of humor.
Transit. 2019. Germany. Directed by Christian Petzold
If you’re looking for an introspective approach to navigating a crisis, consider Transit. Director Christian Petzold’s modern take on Anna Seghers’s 1944 novel follows a refugee who acquires a new identity to escape an unnamed fascist regime. Stakes are high as each traveler he meets scrambles to harness government resources to find freedom and peace of mind.