Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Midcentury Medieval: 'Comedy, Italian Style' Begins May 26

From Pier Paolo Pasolini's chapter of the omnibus film THE WITCHES (1967)

In the Italian comedies of the sixties we find medieval obsessions — love, sex, class, religion, fate and honor — wedded to the shiny, modernist surfaces of midcentury cosmopolitan culture. The obstacles faced by our protagonists are the daunting challenges of modern life, and the tools they are equipped with are the attitudes of generations past--hence the comic tension that is the beating heart of these films. In the course of this series we encounter some of the archetypes of the Italian narrative tradition: the ruined baron who must make a marriage of convenience, the Casanova with a gnawing emptiness inside, the true lovers who must overcome familial obstacles, the brother who guards his sister’s virtue like his own treasure, the thief who was not cut out for the job, and many more. These films are joyous, beautiful, brilliant and very, very funny.

Please join us at the AFS Cinema over the next month to experience these films as they were meant to be seen.

Pietro Germi, Italy, 1961, 35mm, 105 min. In Italian with English subtitles

Marcello Mastroianni has never been funnier than in this epochal Italian comedy from director Pietro Germi in which he plays a titled (and poor) member of a noble family who is unsatisfied in his marriage and spends his life fantasizing about his wife’s attractive cousin. Full of surreal and ribald touches. One of the great classics of the genre.

IL SORPASSO 5/28 & 6/1
Dino Risi, Italy, 1962, DCP, 105 min. In Italian with English subtitles

Writer/director Dino Risi’s international hit follows an uptight young law student (Jean Louis Trintignant) as he is absorbed into the orbit of a handsome, carefree older rogue (Vittorio Gassman) and they embark upon a spontaneous cross-country voyage. During the course of the film, Trintignant’s initial admiration for his companion ripens into something more complex and revelatory. A complex, novelistic, and bittersweet film.

Various directors, Italy, 1962, Digital, 208 min. In Italian with English subtitles

During the European arthouse cinema boom of the ‘60s, some producers discovered that they could get good (and commercially viable) results by hiring big name directors and stars to make short films about an agreed upon theme, which could then be packaged into a feature. BOCCACCIO ‘70, purporting to show modern stories that might captivate the titular ribald moralist, is perhaps the best of these. With directorial contributions by Federico Fellini, Mario Monicelli, Vittorio De Sica and Luchino Visconti. Starring Sophia Loren, Anita Ekberg, Romy Schneider and Tomas Milian.

Various directors, Italy, 1967, 35mm, 110 min. In Italian with English subtitles

One of the more unusual Italian omnibus films. This time the common thread to all the chapters is actress Silvana Mangano, who displays her versatility in comedic chapters Directed by Luchino Visconti, Mauro Bolognini, Piero Pasolini (a major highlight), Franco Rossi and Vittorio De Sica. She is joined by a first class roster of co-stars including Clint Eastwood, Alberto Sordi and Annie Girardot. A bizarre, wonderful and rarely screened film.

MAFIOSO 6/15 & 6/17
Alberto Lattuada, Italy, 1962, 35mm, 105 min. In Italian with English subtitles

MAFIOSO is nearly a companion piece to DIVORCE, ITALIAN STYLE, with its’ themes of the unsavory sides of traditional conflict resolution clashing with modern Italian values and, well, the law. Comedy star Alberto Sordi plays Sicilian expat Antonio, who has risen up through the ranks at his northern Milanese car factory but is overdue for a family visit to Sicily, where he’ll introduce his conservative peasant family to his northern cosmopolitan wife and their two young children. The return home is a comedy of clashing values that takes wildly unexpected turns, and Sordi’s character is achieved to perfection as the country boy made good who goes to absurd lengths, and stretches the limits of truth, to impress the home team while keeping the peace with his family and his wife.

Mario Monicelli, Italy, 1960, DCP, 106 min. In Italian with English subtitles

While not a household name, Mario Monicelli was one of the true masters of the Commedia All’Italiana, combining the astute observational power of a born ironist with the comedic abandon of a man drunk on the possibilities of cinema. THE PASSIONATE THIEF takes place over the course of a single New Year’s Eve in which we are introduced to a suave pickpocket (Ben Gazzara), his elderly lookout man (Toto), and the old man’s dream woman, a brash and blonde-wigged movie extra (Anna Magnani) who throws their plans into chaos. 

AFTER THE FOX 6/29 & 7/1
Vittorio De Sica, Italy/UK, 1966, 35mm, 103 min. In Italian and English with English subtitles

This film, a magnificent love child of the greatest comic minds of Rome, New York and London, is a self-aware spoof of the mid-century Italian cinema boom (as well as a shining example of it). Peter Sellers is brilliant as an Italian criminal genius and master of disguise who conceives a masterful plan to rob a gold shipment by posing as an eccentric film director in the mold of Fellini. Written by the odd couple of Neil Simon and Cesare Zavattini and directed by Vittorio De Sica, this is a roaringly funny movie.

Friday, May 19, 2017

The AFS Cinema Opening is Just Around The Corner: New Photos!

As many of you who are reading this doubtless already know, the long anticipated reopening of the AFS Cinema is coming very soon with the first public screenings starting on Friday, May 26. Check out the entire, packed calendar here.

Not only has the AFS Cinema added a second theater, we have reconfigured the lobby, ticket area, concession offerings, and event space. Now, for the first time, we have photos of these finished or nearly-finished spaces. Hope to see you in person there soon for one of the many screenings or other partner events. We're looking forward to sharing a few cold beers and some hot popcorn with you.

This is the bar!

Here's the "Polish Wall," named after the Polish posters from AFS Artistic Director Richard Linklater's personal collection. A frequent pastime is trying to guess which film each poster represents. These are only a few of the posters in the space.

Here's a POV shot from the new Theater 2 auditorium. Sight lines have been configured for subtitled films, because we're going to show a few of those.

Here's a front view of the same auditorium

These are 35mm prints. We'll be playing a lot of them.

You can support AFS by buying our awesome merchandise, including a selection of books that we think you'll like.

Here's the bar again, with a few thirsty members of the AFS Cinema team for scale. They collectively bring many years of experience and are looking forward to making your moviegoing experience as pleasurable as possible.

Thanks to David Brendan Hall for the photographs.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Watch This: DEVO: The Men Who Make The Music

Today, composer/performer/visual artist Mark Mothersbaugh turns 67 years old. It's a good time to reflect on how pervasive his influence has been on the popular arts. His band Devo emerged from small-town Ohio with a fully formed aesthetic that was part cultural critique and part art movement. They were also a really solid rock band. That they were able to reach so many corners of society with a brand of music that is built on a pretend (but maybe not) philosophy of De-Evolution, is maybe even more impressive than the way punk broke out of CBGBs and the London scene, both of which were situated in major media capitals.

Devo always had a strong sense of the importance its film and visual assets. Even if you only know a few Devo songs, you can probably close your eyes and picture the hats and jumpsuits. Appropriately enough, Mothersbaugh has been a sought after film composer as well, writing scores for a large number of films and television shows.

Here is the 1979 Devo propaganda film DEVO: THE MEN WHO MAKE THE MUSIC, co-directed by Mothersbaugh. At the time, this was seriously cutting edge in its influences and angle. To its credit, it is still deeply weird and entertaining.

Friday, May 12, 2017

AFS Viewfinders Podcast: AFS Programmers Lars Nilsen & Holly Herrick on the New AFS Cinema

It's been a busy week at AFS. With the help of our capable team we have announced the opening of our new two-screen theater, the AFS Cinema. In only a few weeks we will resume our regular programming, only this time with the addition of many more screenings and a first run screen which brings the best new release art-house films to you.

We're very excited about this major step and are eager to see everyone we know at screenings in the upcoming weeks.

The newest AFS Viewfinders podcast is a special one. AFS Director of Film & Creative Media Holly Herrick joins me as we discuss our upcoming slate of films, and what we're most looking forward to.

Listen to that podcast here, or search for the AFS Viewfinders podcast on iTunes.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Austin Eater Gets the Scoop on the New AFS Cinema Food & Bev Menu

Today, Austin Eater published a nice overview of the initial menu offerings at the new AFC Cinema.

Fans of Smokey Denmark sausages, Antonelli's cheeses, beers from Austin Beerworks, Live Oak and Adelbert's, and Stumptown coffee should rejoice. Also, and this is no small thing, the popcorn offerings have been given a lot of thought and we think you're going to like our take on this movie theater staple. Eater calls it "upscale popcorn" but that makes it sound like a yacht or something. It's really more like "the best popcorn we've tasted."

Read the whole piece here.

Monday, May 1, 2017

More Photos of the AFS Cinema Renovation in Progress

The art deco doors remain unchanged

A few more photos of the AFS Cinema construction project have made their way to this desk and I wanted to share them with everyone. These were taken about three weeks ago, during a visit we staffers made to the space.

Last month, we shared some photos from earlier in the process, but this gives a much clearer idea of the how far along the space is coming. Soon we will have new screens, seats and technical upgrades complete. Before you know it we'll be announcing our opening slate of films. See you soon.

Here's a shot of the lobby facing away from the front doors. The bar has been replaced with a lower-profile area that doubles as a concession and ticket counter.

Here is the bare interior of the new theater 2. It has had the floor surface redone completely to improve visibility, particularly for subtitled films, and a built-in stage now rises from the floor

Lastly, it probably won't break anybody's heart to learn that the restrooms are being completely redone. Here is a shot of the womens' restroom after removal of all previously existing facilities

Cine Las Americas Starts This Week


Cine Las Americas is an annual tradition here in Austin. Now in its 20th year, Cine (as we customarily abbreviate it) brings us films that the other fests do not. It runs from Wednesday May 3 to Sunday May 7 at three locations, the Blanton Museum, the Santa Cruz Theater on East Seventh Street, and the Mexican American Culture Center.

Since this festival focuses on Latin-American, American Indigenous and Iberian films, and since the programmers are so good, we see an entirely different perspective on today's international film scene than we could get from other film fests, which generally focus elsewhere when compiling their programs. When we attend Cine, it's like getting a big package of letters from places we miss and don't hear from nearly enough.

The program is too big and varied for us to unpack here in its entirety. You should plan to spend a little time with this schedule and plan your festival. Remember that one third of the fest's screenings are absolutely free, so you can enjoy the fest even without a badge, but badges and individual tickets for screenings are available too, and are a bargain.

We at AFS are usually given the honor of choosing a film to co-present at the festival. This year the choice was just too difficult, so the team there gave us a chance to co-present two films. All AFS members may attend these two screenings free of charge by presenting a current membership card at the door.

The first, LA TIERRA Y LA SOMBRA (LAND & SHADE), screens on Thursday, May 4 at the Blanton. We have been following the career of Colombian writer/director César Augusto Acevedo for a few years now, and we presented the film LOS HONGOS, which he wrote, in 2015. In this, his feature directorial debut, he takes us into his native land's sugar cane country for a story of an old farmer who comes home to a family he left many years earlier.

The second could scarcely be more different, A CIDADE ONDE ENVELHEÇO (WHERE I GROW OLD), which screens on Saturday, May 6 at the Blanton, is a Brazilian/Portuguese coproduction. It is a portrait of youth culture focusing on a pair of young women from Lisbon who are living a slacker lifestyle in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. One begins to feel the tug of her homeland, and the other is caught in a conflict between her friendship and a desire for new horizons of her own. This minutely observed, leisurely film does what so many of the best Cine films do, it transports us to a milieu we may not have even been familiar with. It gives us new faces, new streets and new rhythms, as it tells a story that is old as time itself.

These are just two of the many films that will screen at Cine Las Americas this year. See as many as you can and join us in what has become one of our favorite spring pastimes.