Werner Herzog's hypnotic Lessons of Darkness, consisting almost entirely of decontextualized images of oil fires, showed as part of the 2013 Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Film Festival's "More Reel" program that "focus[ed] on documentary and narrative films that creatively blur boundaries between fact and fiction." And, since everyone likes a good Minnesota connection, Herzog issued something of a manifesto on the subject while speaking at the Walker in 1999.
Though superficially they amount to little more than a German off-brand retelling of Bram Stoker's Dracula story, the two Nosferatus (or should that be Nosferati?) represent the unqualified apex of the vampire genre, vastly superior to anything bearing the officially-sanctioned Dracula name. F.W. Murnau's 1922 Nosferatu: Symphony of Horror is one of the pillars of the canon of film, truly one of the small handful of greatest ever made. Werner Herzog's 1979 remake Nosferatu: Phantom Der Nacht could hardly be considered a disappointment even by those lofty standards, centered around a tremendous performance by Klaus Kinski. Truly a cinemaphile double-feature for the ages.
Modern minds are boggled by the fact that the Monkees sold more records in 1967 than the Beatles and the Rolling Stones combined. Which makes Harold Lloyd a sort of curious genremate of theirs, having been more popular with contemporary audiences than either Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin. But before we judge historical audiences too harshly, remember that Kevin James' Zookeeper made about twice as much money as There Will Be Blood.
But, I digress. Lloyd's Safety Last! may not equal the artistic pinnacles of either Keaton or Chaplin, but it is a tremendous entertainment, and the climactic stunt of Lloyd climbing straight up the side of a skyscraper (including, as he hangs from the hands of the big clock high above a crowd of onlookers, one of the most famous images in the history of movies (many more people know the image than know Lloyd's name)) is definitely Keaton-worthy. Thanks to Criterion Collection for giving their special loving treatment to this lesser known classic.
The Walker will be screening (one of) Andrei Tarkovsky's masterpiece(s) in October. The screening is being held in conjunction with Geoff Dyer giving a reading from his new book Zona: A Book About A Film About A Journey To A Room. Dyer is not timid with his praise of Tarkovsky's film, saying "It's not just one of the greatest films of all time, but one of the greatest works of art." Similarly superlative is no less a luminary than Ingmar Bergman, who adds, "My discovery of Tarkovsky's first film was like a miracle. Suddenly, I found myself standing at the door of a room the keys of which had, until then, never been given to me. It was a room I had always wanted to enter and where he was moving freely and fully at ease. Tarkovsky is for me the greatest, the one who invented a new language, true to the nature of film, as it captures life as a reflection, life as a dream." Tarkovsky himself wants you to know that you're headed for deep water, however, "I am categorically against entertainment in the cinema: it is as degrading for the author as it is for the audience."
By all means, check out the DVD from the library if you prefer. But, a screening of a real, live 35mm print of such a film is a difficult thing to pass up.
The Criterion Collection is getting into the Halloween spirit, too, putting out a beautifully restored print of 1944's Ray Milland/Ruth Hussey haunted house picture The Uninvited. It's cinematography was nominated for an Academy Award and Wikipedia tells me it was the first Hollywood film to portray ghosts as a real supernatural occurance other than in comedy.
Criterion has really hit a home-run with this 27-disc set of the complete series of Zatoichi films. If you're unfamiliar with the character of Zatoichi, he's a blind masseur who wanders around feudal Japan fighting bad guys and winning the affections of many pretty ladies. Played through the whole series by the great Shintaru Katsu, his iconic status in Japan is something akin to a more dignified James Bond. Criterion's press release wants you to be aware that "The films that feature him are variously pulse-pounding, hilarious, stirring, and completely off-the-wall." Just so you know.