‘Ratcatcher,’ ‘Mississippi Masala,’ ‘Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song’ among Revivals lineup for the 59th New York Film Festival
Film at Lincoln Center announces Revivals for the 59th New York Film Festival (September 24 – October 10, 2021). The Revivals section showcases important works from renowned filmmakers that have been digitally remastered, restored, and preserved with the assistance of generous partners.
“We are delighted to share this year’s particularly strong Revivals lineup,” said Florence Almozini, FLC Senior Programmer at Large. “The section showcases groundbreaking works by John Carpenter, Mira Nair, Melvin Van Peebles, Nina Menkes, Wendell B. Harris Jr., Michael Powell, and more, in masterful restorations. One of the biggest satisfactions of programming Revivals within this festival is looking back at cinematic treasures of the past and seeing their continuity and relevance with today’s cinema. We think this selection is both a celebration and a thought-provoking adventure, and we hope audiences will enjoy exploring it, whether they are seeing these films for the first or 20th time.”
The Revivals section connects cinema’s historical significance and present-day cultural influence through a selection of world premieres of restorations, rarities, and more. Highlights from this year’s slate include two world premieres: a vibrant restoration of Michael Powell’s Bluebeard’s Castle and a 4K restoration of John Carpenter’s taut Los Angeles crime thriller Assault on Precinct 13. Additional highlights include Nina Menkes’s The Bloody Child, an innovative deconstruction of the war film; Márta Mészáros’s Golden Bear–winning Adoption; Mississippi Masala, Mira Nair’s incisive examination of race relations featuring a breakout performance by Denzel Washington; Melvin Van Peebles’s Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song, hailed by Huey Newton as the “first truly revolutionary Black film ever made”; Christine Choy’s Who Killed Vincent Chin?, a stirring, absorbing elegy for justice unserved; Christopher Petit’s Radio On, a road trip like no other, with an incomparably atmospheric soundtrack featuring the likes of David Bowie, Devo and Kraftwerk plus an eclectic array of appearances including Sting and Lisa Kreuzer; Songs For Drella, the evocative concert film by Lou Reed and John Cale, directed by legendary cinematographer Ed Lachman and recorded at the Brooklyn Academy of Music; Jack Hazan and David Mingay’s Rude Boy, following Ray Gange’s (as himself) radical ascent from sex-shop employee to roadie for The Clash against the backdroup of the rising British right wing; Govindan Aravindan’s Kummatty, a watershed achievement in Parallel Cinema; Sarah Maldoror’s Sambizanga, a harrowing portrait of anti-colonial struggle; Wendell B. Pierce Jr.’s Sundance Grand Jury Prize–winning debut, Chameleon Street; and James Baldwin: From Another Place, Baldwin’s reexamination of well-established attitudes about modern society when living in a different country. Revivals also includes the feature debuts of two trailblazers of independent cinema, born a generation apart: Lynne Ramsay (Ratcatcher) and Joan Micklin Silver (Hester Street).
The Revivals section is programmed by Florence Almozini and Dan Sullivan with program advising by Gina Telaroli.
NYFF59 will feature in-person screenings, as well as select outdoor and virtual events. In response to distributor and filmmaker partners and in light of festivals returning and theaters reopening across the country, NYFF will not offer virtual screenings for this year’s edition.
Proof of vaccination will be required for all staff, audiences, and filmmakers at NYFF59 venues. Further details about this process will be announced in the coming weeks. Additionally, NYFF59 will adhere to a comprehensive series of health and safety policies in coordination with Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and state and city medical experts, while adapting as necessary to the current health crisis. Visit filmlinc.org for more information.
Presented by Film at Lincoln Center, the New York Film Festival highlights the best in world cinema and takes place September 24 – October 10, 2021. An annual bellwether of the state of cinema that has shaped film culture since 1963, the festival continues an enduring tradition of introducing audiences to bold and remarkable works from celebrated filmmakers as well as fresh new talent.
Márta Mészáros, Hungary, 1975, 87m
Hungarian with English subtitles
Márta Mészáros’s fifth feature, which won the Golden Bear at the 1975 Berlin International Film Festival, follows 43-year-old Kata (Katalin Berek), a tough yet lonely factory worker who wishes to have a child with her married lover. But she soon crosses paths with Anna (Gyöngyvér Vigh), a young girl who has been in and out of homes for “troubled” teenagers, and their quickly cultivated bond leads Kata to conclude that she could be ready for single motherhood and that she should try to adopt. Beautifully lensed, vividly traced, and defiantly unsentimental, Adoption finds Mészáros bringing her own documentary background to bear on this masterful parable about female self-actualization in 1970s Hungary. A Janus Films release. New 4K digital restoration undertaken by The Hungarian National Film Fund and approved by director Márta Mészáros.
Assault on Precinct 13
John Carpenter, USA, 1976, 91m
World Premiere of 4K Restoration
John Carpenter’s taut L.A.-set thriller chronicles a small group of cops, administrators, and crooks holed up in a decommissioned police station and their efforts to survive the night when a merciless street gang shows up seeking revenge for a loss in their ranks. With the lines of communication to the rest of the city cut off and a dwindling supply of guns and ammunition with which to fend off the hordes of killers outside, it’ll take an unlikely alliance for this motley crew to make it out alive. The soundtrack of Assault on Precinct 13 alternates between gunfire and silence, tense conversations and Carpenter’s own blaring synths, yielding an evocative aural backdrop for a stark, elemental tale of survival in the face of impossible odds. A CKK Corporation release. New 4K restoration from the original camera negative by Deaf Crocodile Films.
The Bloody Child
Nina Menkes, USA, 1996, 86m
Nina Menkes’s third feature is a visionary deconstruction of the war film, a fragmentary and hallucinatory investigation into the psychic currents that converge around a single moment. Drawn from a Los Angeles Times article, The Bloody Child centers on a Gulf War veteran who is arrested in the Mojave Desert while digging a grave for his wife, whom he has apparently murdered. What follows is an a-chronological succession of fragments: of time, of the man’s interiority, and of the culture shared by his fellow soldiers. Featuring a cast that includes Menkes’s sister Tinka and real-life servicemen, The Bloody Child is a haunting meditation on violence and its consequences upon the interiorities of those who enact it on behalf of the state. An Arbelos Films release. New restoration by The Academy Film Archive and The Film Foundation, with funding provided by the Hobson/Lucas Family Foundation.
Michael Powell, West Germany, 1963, 60m
German with English subtitles
World Premiere of Restoration
The second-to-last feature directed by Michael Powell without his co-Archer Emeric Pressburger, Bluebeard’s Castle is an adaptation of Béla Bartok’s expressionist opera (which itself featured a libretto by the Hungarian film theorist Béla Balázs), produced for West German television. Bass-baritone Norman Foster stars as the titular wife-killer as he takes on a new bride (the Uruguayan mezzo-soprano Ana Raquel Satre). At the time of its 1918 premiere, Bartok’s opera was thought to be nearly unperformable due to the sheer abstraction of its onstage action; Powell and production designer Hein Heckroth use that abstraction as a glorious pretext to craft a vividly colorful, intensely stylized mise en scène, indelibly visualizing the psychodrama of Bartok and Balázs’s take on the Bluebeard folktale. Restored by the BFI National Archive and The Film Foundation in association with The Ashbrittle Film Foundation. Restoration funding provided by the BFI National Archive, The Louis B. Mayer Foundation and The Film Foundation.
Wendell B. Harris Jr., USA, 1989, 94m
Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 1990 Sundance Film Festival, Wendell B. Harris Jr.’s debut feature endures as a brilliant satirical examination of the place of race and class in the performance of American social life. Harris himself stars as William Douglas Street Jr., a real-life con man from Detroit who, disillusioned with working for his father, sets about reinventing himself—and then again, and then again—successfully impersonating a vast succession of journalists, lawyers, athletes, and even surgeons in the process. Harris’s film boldly shape-shifts to match its subject’s own chameleonic transformations, yielding not just a landmark work in American independent cinema but also a singular meditation on the mutability of American identity that’s dense with aesthetic and political ideas. An Arbelos Films release. New 4K restoration by Arbelos Films.
James Baldwin: From Another Place
Sedat Pakay, Turkey, 1973, 12m
This gorgeously filmed document finds James Baldwin in Istanbul musing about race, the American fascination with sexuality, the generosity of the Turks, and how being in another country, in another place, forces one to reexamine well-established attitudes about modern society. New 35mm print, preserved by the Yale Film Archive through a grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation, with additional thanks to Cinema Conservancy.
Joan Micklin Silver, USA, 1975, 89m
Among the great cinematic portraits of Jewish life in America, Joan Micklin Silver’s debut feature is anchored by her own screenplay (adapted from Abraham Cahan’s 1896 novella Yekl: A Tale of the New York Ghetto) and an unforgettable, Oscar-nominated performance by Carol Kane. Kane stars as Gitl, one half of an Eastern European Jewish couple alongside Yankel (Steven Keats). Upon arriving in New York’s Lower East Side in the late 19th century, Gitl finds that Yankel, who’d come over to America before her and their young son Yossele, has acclimated to their new country fairly well—but he has also begun an affair with a dancer, and Gitl finds herself in an unenviable situation in a strange new place. Hester Street meticulously reconstructs this bygone haven for Jewish immigrants to masterfully paint one woman’s journey to assimilation and her arrival at the crossroads of tradition and modernity. A Cohen Media Group release. Restored in 4K in 2020 from the 35mm original negative by Cohen Film Collection at DuArt Media Services.
Govindan Aravindan, India, 1979, 90m
Malayalam with English subtitles
Embodying a watershed moment in Indian film history, Govindan Aravindan’s fourth feature is one of the great achievements of the Parallel Cinema, of which Aravindan was a key member—a movement which also included such masters as Satyajit Ray and Ritwik Ghatak. A poetic work informed by folklore and early cinema alike, Kummatty tells the tale of a trickster “bogeyman” who descends upon a village in Malabar year after year, drawing children whom he transforms into animals through sorcery. Aravindan’s camera synthesizes mythology and documentary, alchemically conjuring a singular kind of magical realism through the glorious accumulation of sensually photographed details and a delightful array of Méliès-esque cinematic sleights of hand. Restored by The Film Foundation’s World Cinema Project and Cineteca di Bologna in association with General Pictures Corporation and the Film Heritage Foundation at L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory. Funding provided by the Material World Foundation.
Mira Nair, UK/US, 1991, 118m
Denzel Washington stars opposite Sarita Choudhury in Mira Nair’s second fiction feature, which endures as a seminal screen romance of the 1990s. Choudhury is Mina, a Ugandan Indian from Kampala whose family leaves Uganda after the implementation of Idi Amin’s policy of forcefully expelling all Asians from the country. They wind up in Greenwood, Mississippi, living with relatives and trying to reconcile the trauma of their involuntary exile with assimilating to American culture. Some 17 years pass before Mina falls for a self-employed carpet cleaner, Demetrius (Washington), and their romance puts them in conflict with the local Black and Indian-American communities—not to mention Mina’s family. At once a powerful parable and a deeply personal work, Mississippi Masala remains an incisive examination of race relations and the tension between passion and tradition. A Janus Films release. New 4K digital restoration undertaken by The Criterion Collection and supervised by director Mira Nair and cinematographer Ed Lachman. The NYFF59 Revivals presentation of Mississippi Masala is sponsored by Turner Classic Movies.
Christopher Petit, UK/West Germany, 1979, 104m
A sui generis deconstruction of the road movie, Christopher Petit’s Radio On rates, by any measure, among the coolest films of the late 1970s. Its plot is minimalist: a man (David Beames) drives from London to Bristol upon learning of his brother’s suicide, seeking to learn more about the circumstances of his death. But this journey grows increasingly strange as he crosses paths with a succession of eccentric characters (including memorable appearances by Sting and Lisa Kreuzer). Shot by Wim Wenders collaborator Martin Schäfer, Radio On’s spare, hypnotic beauty is propelled even further by its incomparably atmospheric soundtrack, featuring Kraftwerk, David Bowie, Devo, Robert Fripp, and others. A Fun City Editions release. Restored by the BFI and Silver Salt Restoration from 4K scans of the original Ilford black and white 35mm negative and 35mm fine grain elements preserved in the BFI National Archive.
Lynne Ramsay, UK/France, 1999, 93m
Lynne Ramsay’s brilliant career was launched with this, her debut feature, a raw yet lyrical meditation on childhood set in 1970s Glasgow. After his friend is accidentally drowned during some boyish roughhousing, poor young James (William Eadie) comes to terms with his guilt over the death and struggles to make sense of the abject squalor and cruelty of his environment. An unsentimental, surprising, and richly evocative work suffused with haunting imagery and unvarnished performances, Ratcatcher is one of the signature cinematic debuts of the late 1990s, a film that scours the urban decay of working-class Glasgow to unearth the hopes and dreams of its marginalized residents, however bleak their current circumstances. A Janus Films release. New 4K digital restoration undertaken by The Criterion Collection and supervised by director Lynne Ramsay and cinematographer Alwin Küchler.
Miklós Jancsó, Hungary, 1966, 87m
Hungarian with English subtitles
Miklós Jancsó’s breakout film was this spellbinding drama set in the aftermath of the 1848 Hungarian Revolution. After the Hapsburg monarchy succeeds in suppressing Lajos Kossuth’s nationalist uprising, the army sets about arresting suspected guerillas, who are subjected to torture in an effort to extract information about outlaw highwayman Sándor Rózsa’s band of partisans, still waging armed struggle against the Hapsburgs on the outside. Jancsó’s camera stays in constant, hypnotic motion, taking in the developing dynamics and antagonisms between the prisoners and their captors, meditating upon and exalting its characters’ resistance and perseverance in the face of brutal, authoritarian repression. A Kino Lorber release. Restored in 4K from its original 35mm camera negative by the Hungarian National Film Archive.
Jack Hazan & David Mingay, UK, 1980, 133m
One of the great rock movies and an absorbing, richly detailed document of the United Kingdom as it exits the 1970s and enters the 1980s, Jack Hazan and David Mingay’s film follows Ray Gange (essentially playing himself) as he quits his Soho sex-shop gig to hit the road with one of the most exciting, influential bands on the planet: The Clash. Accompanying them to such iconic performances as the 1978 Rock Against Racism concert in London’s Victoria Park and in the studio for the recording of Give ‘Em Enough Rope, Ray finds himself amid the swirling winds of change as musical subcultures rise to push back against the ascendant British right wing. An unforgettable film portrait of a place, a time, and a band, Rude Boy is still as cool and galvanizing as it was at its 1980 Berlinale premiere. A Metrograph Pictures release. The restoration, grading, and remastering of Rude Boywas produced by Mark Rance for Watchmaker Films, London. The audio was restored and remastered by Matt Bainbridge at Blue Cat Productions, London. The restoration process was supervised and the final masters were approved by Jack Hazan.
Sarah Maldoror, Angola/France, 1972, 102m
Portuguese with English subtitles
A searing, indelible portrait of anti-colonial struggle in 1970s Africa, Sarah Maldoror’s adaptation of a novella by the Angolan writer José Luandino Vieira was banned by the Angolan government until the country obtained its independence from Portugal in 1975. Sambizanga follows Maria (unforgettably and alluringly portrayed by Cape Verdean economist Elisa Andrade) as she tries to pick up the pieces after her husband, a secret anti-colonial activist, becomes a political prisoner. Co-written by Maldoror’s husband Mário Pinto de Andrade (himself a leading figure in the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola), Sambizanga is a forceful, stirring evocation of the Angolan population’s plight before the revolution and their intensifying political consciousness during it. Restored by The Film Foundation’s World Cinema Project and Cineteca di Bologna at L’Image Retrouvée in association with Éditions René Chateau and the family of Sarah Maldoror. Funding provided by Hobson/Lucas Family Foundation. This restoration is part of the African Film Heritage Project, an initiative created by The Film Foundation’s World Cinema Project, the Pan African Federation of Filmmakers and UNESCO—in collaboration with Cineteca di Bologna—to help locate, restore, and disseminate African cinema.
Songs for Drella
Ed Lachman, USA, 1990, 55m
Lou Reed and John Cale perform their titular album dedicated to Andy Warhol in this stripped-down, evocative concert film by legendary cinematographer Ed Lachman. Written and recorded three years after Warhol’s death, the album’s lyrics embody an ambitious synthesis of points of view: Warhol’s own; an omniscient perspective on the events of his life and the current events that served as the backdrop for his life; and finally, Cale and Reed’s own impressions of their late friend and collaborator. Lachman films their performance with a disarming directness and cinematographic restraint, permitting the seductive atmosphere and unvarnished beauty conjured by this masterpiece from two Velvet Underground pioneers to stand in powerful relief. 4K scan from original 16mm A & B roll negatives supervised by Ed Lachman. Soundtrack transferred from the original artist approved 24-bit film mix master courtesy of Rhino Entertainment, a Warner Music Group Company.
Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song
Melvin Van Peebles, USA, 1971, 97m
Among the all-time great American independent films, Melvin Van Peebles’s visionary third feature marked nothing short of a cinematic revolution. “Dedicated to all the Brothers and Sisters who had enough of the Man” (as announced by one of the film’s opening title cards), Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song stars Van Peebles as Sweetback, an orphan abandoned in an LA brothel in the 1940s who grows up to become a sex-show performer. During a run-in with the LAPD, Sweetback saves a Black Panther from a brutal assault by the police but finds himself on the lam, beginning a picaresque journey in which he encounters Black militants, hippies, biker gangs, old flames, and the clergy as he tries to flee to Mexico. A frenetic work of restless invention with an iconic soundtrack (courtesy of a then-unknown Earth, Wind & Fire), Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song was hailed at the time by Huey Newton as the “first truly revolutionary Black film ever made… [and] presented to us by a Black man.” A Janus Films release. 4K digital restoration approved by filmmaker Mario Van Peebles.
Who Killed Vincent Chin?
Christine Choy, USA, 1987, 82m
Not so much a documentary murder investigation as a meticulously constructed meditation on the race relations, economic forces, and failings of the American legal system that comprised the backdrop for the murder of a Chinese-American automotive engineer in Detroit in 1982, Christine Choy’s Who Killed Vincent Chin? remains a stirring, absorbing elegy for justice unserved. Drawing from interviews with Chin’s family and friends and Chin’s killer, automotive assembly-line worker Ron Ebens, along with a wealth of archival footage, Who Killed Vincent Chin? paints a complex and tragically relevant portrait of an America roiled by socioeconomic unease, the crisis of the automotive industry (Ebens wrongly believed Chin to be Japanese during their terrible encounter), and the prevalence of xenophobia. A Janus Films release. Restored by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Film Archive and The Film Foundation, in association with the Museum of Chinese in America. Restoration funding provided by the Hobson/Lucas Family Foundation, with additional support provided by Todd Phillips.