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Lou Reed's Berlin

(2007, 85 mins, Blu-ray Disc)
Director:
CAST Lou Reed, Sharon Jones, Antony Hegarty, Emmanuelle Seigner

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The doomed love story of addicts Jim and Caroline, Berlin’s 10 songs cycle through the couple’s initial drug-euphoric enchantment, their violent betrayals, their fatal collapse. In 1973, it was largely considered a flop. Today, it looks more like a masterpiece.

"Reed had never performed Berlin live in full until 2006, with a landmark five-day stretch at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn. Director/artist Julian Schnabel brought cameras to commit the performance to celluloid; the record’s original producer, Bob Ezrin, was enlisted to oversee. Redemption all around.

The result is Lou Reed’s Berlin, a concert film by technicality, a cinematic trance in practicality. True to its source material, this is a mood piece. From the noisy cabaret confusion of wistful opener "Berlin" to the affecting coda "Sad Song," we are adrift in a live Lou Reed performance that Schnabel has captured in grainy-film reverie, all flickering silhouettes, soft-focus flourishes, and dreamy sepia tones.

Onstage, the band stands before a backdrop that Schnabel made to evoke the residential hotel where Caroline lives in "Lady Day"—beneath a tawny-green pattern, Lou looks imprisoned by mildew fractals and water stains. Projections also flutter behind him, interpretive scenes shot by Schnabel’s daughter Lola that end up interspersed within the film’s final cut. This is where we meet Caroline, a carefree, grinning, drooly-mouthed blonde with bicep bruises and high eyes, played–or, more accurately, mimed—by French actress Emmanuelle Seigner…

Then there are the tremendous back-up singers, retro-soul queen Sharon Jones and Antony Hegarty, the androgynous canary. And as for that atmosphere, Schnabel somehow magically makes the subdued hues of St. Ann’s feel like a grand loft space." –Camille Dodoro, Village Voice

Muscle Shoals

(2013, 111 mins, DCP)
Director:
FEATURING Aretha Franklin, Greg Allman, Bono, Clarence Carter, Jimmy Cliff, Mick Jagger, Etta James, Alicia Keys, Wilson Pickett, Keith Richards, Percy Sledge, Steve Winwood, Rich Hall, The Swampers.
Classification: G

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Located on the banks of the Tennessee River, Muscle Shoals, Alabama is the unlikely breeding ground for some of the most creative and defiant music in American history.

Under the spiritual influence of the "Singing River" as Native Americans called it, the music of Muscle Shoals is some of the most important and resonant of all time. "I’ll Take You There," "Brown Sugar," "When a Man Loves a Woman," "I Never Loved A Man the Way That I Loved You," "Mustang Sally,” "Tell Mama," "Kodachrome," and "Freebird" are just a few of the tens of thousands of tracks created there.

At its heart is Rick Hall who founded FAME Studios. Overcoming crushing poverty and staggering tragedies, he brought black and white musicians together to create music that would last for generations while also giving birth to the unique ‘Muscle Shoals sound’ and the rhythm section ‘The Swampers.’

In this movie legendary artists including Aretha Franklin, Greg Allman, Bono, Clarence Carter, Jimmy Cliff, Mick Jagger, Etta James, Alicia Keys, Wilson Pickett, Keith Richards, Percy Sledge, Steve Winwood and others bear witness to the magnetism and mystery of Muscle Shoals and why it remains a global influence today.

"Propelled in equal measure by its gorgeous music and rich anecdotes, it’s joyous, uplifting – and as funky as the music at its heart." David Gritten, Daily Telegraph

"A terrific film… a must see for even the most casual of music fans.. a stunning, soulful achievement." Jason Gorber, Twitch

"Will appeal to just about everyone." Katherine Monk, Canada.com

Woody Allen: Everyone Says I Love You

(1996, 101 mins, Blu-ray Disc)
Director:
CAST Edward Norton, Drew Barrymore, Alan Alda, Goldie Hawn, Julia Roberts, Woody Allen, Natalie Portman, Tim Roth, Natasha Lyonne, Gaby Hoffmann, Lukas Haas

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Edward Norton and Drew Barrymore stroll hand in hand around a fountain, then burst into a deliciously sloppy rendition of ’Just You, Just Me’, and immediately we’re right into it, and you can’t imagine why it’s taken Woody Allen so long to get round to reviving the musical.

Romantic, nostalgic and decadent as Fred Astaire, this might as well be an old movie, for all its relevance to here and now. The plot - a frippery about the affairs of an extended upper-class family - transports us from Manhattan to Venice and Paris, a sneak preview of the itchy foot Allen would indulge over the next decade. Yet unlike some of the cosmopolitan films that followed this one never feels cynical or self-serving; indeed, it feels like the work of a younger, more open-hearted man. The musical standards are beautifully orchestrated, staged with wit and invention, and enthusiastically performed, particularly by Norton, Tim Roth and Goldie Hawn, three stand-outs in a charming, sweet-natured divertissement. Enjoy yourself (it’s later than you think).

"A delightful and witty compendium of the film maker’s favorite things." Janet Maslin, New York Times

"It would take a heart of stone to resist this movie." Roger Ebert

Good Ol' Freda

(2013, 86 mins, Blu-ray Disc)
Director:
CAST Freda Kelly, The Beatles

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Freda Kelly was just a shy Liverpudlian teenager when she was asked to work for a local band hoping to make it big. Though she had no concept of how far they would go, Freda had faith in The Beatles from the beginning, and The Beatles had faith in her. History notes that The Beatles were together for 10 years, but Freda worked for them for 11. Many people came in and out of the band’s circle as they grew to international stardom, but Freda remained a staple because of her unfaltering loyalty and dedication. As the Beatles’ devoted secretary and friend, Freda was there as history unfolded; she was witness to the evolution - advances and setbacks, breakthroughs and challenges - of the greatest band in history. In Good Ol’ Freda, Freda tells her stories for the first time in 50 years. One of few films with the support of the living Beatles and featuring original Beatles music, the film offers an insider perspective on the beloved band that changed the music industry.

"A satisfying and moving experience." Ernest Hardy, Village Voice

Model Shop

(1969, 95 mins, DCP)
In English
Director:
CAST Anouk Aimee, Gary Lockwood, Alexandra Hay

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Demy’s first (and only) Hollywood movie looks better every time you check back in with it. Model Shop spans a twenty-four-hour period in the life of George Matthews (Gary Lockwood, just off of 2001: A Space Odyssey), a moody young man of middle-class privilege in Los Angeles. He’s quit his secure but unrewarding architecture job and fallen into an aimless existence with his dissatisfied, wannabe model girlfriend Gloria (Alexandra Hay), when creditors come calling for his cherished vintage MG. In a seemingly listless attempt to stave off this eventuality, George wanders in his car in search of $100 to pay off its re-possessors, but along the way he catches sight of a pensive yet elegant Frenchwoman in a car dealer’s parking lot and decides to follow her. It turns out to be Lola (Anouk Aimée), the recently-divorced title heroine of Demy’s 1961 feature debut, now working in a “model shop” where men can photograph women in private sessions in a variety of intimate backdrops, with an implied liaison afterwards. She’s trying to make enough money to return to France to her daughter. It’s Lola in LA, in other words, a

"A marvel of tone and decor…forges the impossible bridge between Quentin Tarantino’s in-jokey cinematic universe of intertwined characters and events, and the recently-completed Before trilogy of Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, and Ethan Hawke." Next Projection

"One of the great movies about LA." Geoff Andrew, Time Out Film Guide

Woody Allen: Shadows and Fog

(1991, 85 mins, 35mm)
Director:
CAST Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, Madonna, John Malkovich, Kenneth Mars, Julie Kavner, Jodie Foster, John Cusack

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Not Woody’s most beloved film, to be sure, but this curious all-star hommage to German Expressionism is both a uniquely perverse enterprise and a real hoot. It’s a Kafkaesque comedy based on Allen’s earlier one-act play, unpromisingly titled "Death". Allen himself plays Kleinman, a clerk in an unnamed central European country who is reluctantly pulled into a vigilante hunt for a serial killer. The same night he befriends a young woman (Mia Farrow), who has run away from the circus. It’s not long before suspicion falls on Kleinman, of course. Orson Welles always claimed he considered "The Trial" to be a comedy, and Allen certainly seems to be of like mind. The astonishing black and white cinematography by Antonioni’s regular DP, Carlo di Palma, evokes many of German’s cinema’s foundational works, and ensures that whatever else it may be, Shadows and Fog is certainly one of Allen’s most visually striking movies.

Demy Monde: Une chambre en ville

(1982, 90 mins, DCP)
In French with English subtitles
Director:
CAST Dominique Sanda, Richard Berry, Danielle Darrieux, Michel Piccoli, Fabienne Guyon

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During a workers’ strike in Nantes in 1955, steel worker François Guilbaud rents a room from a sympathetic widow. He has a pregnant girlfriend but falls out of love with her when he meets Edith Leroyer, a beautiful, working class girl who is unhappily married to a rich but impotent and neurotic merchant. Edith likes to walk around town naked with only a fur coat on, as a tarot card reader told her she would find love with a passing sailor. Every line of dialogue is sung

"Jacques Demy’s highly personal aesthetic coincided with public taste exactly once, on the 1963 The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, which became an international success. But later audiences never quite accepted Demy’s conception of a musical cinema, which combines location shooting, naturalistic narratives, and psychologically complex characters with the high stylization of sung dialogue. When released in France in 1982, A Room in Town died at the boxoffice, yet it is one of the most beautiful, assured, and cinematically inventive films of its period, a stylistic tour-de-force that doesn’t distort and destroy the real (as did Diva) but inflects and accentuates it, that brings out the lyricism, nobility, and tragedy inherent in ordinary situations. […]

The epic, social background provides a counterpoint (literally, because the strike, too, is carried on in song), to the intimate domestic tragedy of the foreground, where the same broad issue (the relationship of workers and bourgeoisie) is replayed. But the simple material is not played simplistically: though Demy offers melodramatic figures of good (the innocent girl friend) and evil (Sanda’s husband, the cruel owner of a small electronics shop, played with operatic fury by Michel Piccoli), the emotional center of the film is an apparently marginal figure, the landlady, magnificently incarnated by Danielle Darrieux, who must witness the conflict, divided between her affection for Berry and her love for her daughter, between the romantic fulfillment that Berry promises and the financial security provided by Piccoli.

All of the expressive tensions of Demy’s cinema are focused on her: a sober acceptance of reality undermined by a yearning for the absolute, an epiphaic romanticism in tragic collision with incontrovertable facts. With Jean-Francois Stevenin." Jonathan Rosenbaum

"This unheralded latter-day masterpiece has been infuriatingly hard to see since its fleeting theatrical release in France. [Michel Colombier’ contributes a wall to wall score often staggering in its intensity and romantic longing." Mondo Digital

"A masterly effort to understand what is profound, what lies beneath, life’s melody." Armond White, New York Film Critics Choice

"Une chambre en ville is unquestionably a daring experiment in cinematic form, and possibly the most honest and revealing of all Demy’s films." Jamie Travers, French Film Guide

Twenty Feet From Stardom

(2013, 89 mins, DCP)
Director:
Classification: PG

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Millions know their voices, but no one knows their names. Morgan Neville shines a spotlight on the untold true story of the backup singers behind some of the greatest musical legends of the 21st century. Triumphant and heartbreaking in equal measure, the film is both a tribute to the unsung voices who brought shape and style to popular music and a reflection on the conflicts, sacrifices and rewards of a career spent harmonizing with others. These gifted artists span a range of styles, genres and eras of popular music, but each has a uniquely fascinating and personal story to share of life spent in the shadows of superstardom. Along with rare archival footage and a peerless soundtrack, 20 Feet From Stardom boasts intimate interviews with Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, Mick Jagger and Sting to name just a few. However, these world-famous figures take a backseat to the diverse array of backup singers whose lives and stories take center stage in the film.

"Nails the sense of joie de vivre these extraordinary artists put into every note-a tribute to doing it for the love of the expression over stardom that provides incalculable amounts of inspiration." David Fear, Time Out New York

"You may never hear the Rolling Stones’s Gimme Shelter the same way again after hearing Jagger’s and Clayton’s separate accounts of the recording of the song." Liam Lacey, Globe & Mail

"I have rarely seen a movie that better expressed the revivifying nature of music." Peter Rainer, Christian Science Monitor

Woody Allen: Crimes and Misdemeanors

(1989, 104 mins, 35mm)
Director:
CAST Martin Landau, Woody Allen, Alan Alda, Mia Farrow, Anjelica Huston, Claire Bloom, Sam Waterston, Jerry Orbach

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"The eyes of God are on us always." Judah Rosenthal (Landau) is a respected and successful ophthamologist, a philanthropist with a wife, grown kids, and a mistress (Huston) who is becoming more than a nuisance. Frightened that she will ruin him, Judah contemplates the unthinkable, a crime that will resolve the problem once and for all…

Meanwhile, across town, documentary filmmaker Cliff Stern (Woody Allen) reluctantly embarks on a PBS profile of his vastly more successful brother-in-law, a smug and superficial sitcom creator (Alan Alda at his most unctuous). Cliff’s distaste for the job is offset by the presence of associate producer Halley (Mia Farrow), a divorcee who shares his taste for old movies.

Expertly weaving between comedy and tragedy ("if it bends, it’s funny; if it breaks, it isn’t," as Alda’s egomaniac is fond of saying), this is one of Allen’s finest movies, a dark, somber film that grapples with the philosophical implications of our own, seemingly in-built ethical limitations. The week of its release, the New York Times invited three religious experts to reflect on the film!

Shot in a wintery New York by Ingmar Bergman’s regular DP, Sven Nykvist, Crimes and Misdemeanors is a kind of corrective to the far warmer and more forgiving Hannah and Her Sisters. Writing in 2005, Roger Ebert placed both among Allen’s four best films, alongside Annie Hall and Match Point.

"His best and most courageous work to date." Stanley Kauffman, New Republic (1989)

Demy Monde: The Young Girls of Rochefort

(Les jeunes filles du Rochefort)
(1967, 120 mins, Blu-ray Disc)
In French with English subtitles
Director:
CAST Catherine Deneuve, Francois Dorleac, Gene Kelly, George Chakiris, Danielle Darrieux
Classification: PG

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Shot in a seaside town transfigured into a Demy dream world with white and pastel buildings and a charming square (40,000 square metres of Rochefort’s facades had to be repainted to achieve the colour scheme), The Young Girls of Rochefort stars Catherine Deneuve and Françoise Dorléac (Deneuve’s real-life sister, who died in a car accident shortly after the completion of shooting) as musically inclined twin sisters Delphine and Solange, whose mother Yvonne (Danielle Darrieux) pines for the memory of her former fiancé, the unfortunately named Simon Dame (Michel Piccoli). The three women, and the men who desire them, cross paths, fail to connect, misunderstand and misconstrue each other, but in the triumphant finale, as in a Handel opera, discover that love is indeed attainable.

Demy’s exuberant tribute to Hollywood musicals fills the widescreen frame with sisters in matching Boeing-sized bonnets, lovesick sailors in butt-hugging bell-bottoms, songs both gay and grisly (one about an axe murder), a dinner party in which the conversation flows in a ceaseless stream of Alexandrines, and Gene Kelly suavely embodying An American in Rochefort (he supplied his own wonderful choreography). Lush, lovely, light-hearted, afloat on a cloud of tulle and rue, The Young Girls of Rochefort is its own Easter parade. "I wanted to make a film where the prevailing sentiment was joyous," Demy said. "One where the audience left the cinema feeling less gloomy than when they went in."

"Masterpiece. My favourite musical." Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader

"Nothing rivals the musical in its ability to externalise emotions like love, longing and ecstatic joie de vivre… for Demy’s lovers, there really is heaven on earth." Geoff Andrew, Defining Moments in Movies

"The movie equivalent of finest vintage Champagne." Trevor Johnston, 1000 Films to Change Your Life

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