Here we go, one last time, with more favorite films from the cinephiles at Opening Ceremony at the Ace Hotel This week we have two of our most opinionated staffers as well as a contribution from our special OCNY guest film critic, gillian tozer. As per usual, it’s all here: the weird, the beautiful, and the funny. The complete library of Criterion Collection DVDs is available in store, and remember to shop all of our picks ONLINE.
Gillian is a long-time fan of this atmospheric mystery film from Australian director Peter Weir. Picnic at Hanging Rock first became a part of my video vernacular when I was probably way too young. But for me it was an inescapable visual smorgasbord, played at any occasion and most sleepovers, as I used to live just ten minutes away from Hanging Rock itself. I grew up in Mount Macedon about an hour out of Melbourne.” The dreamy, natural environment that Gillian called home certainly plays a central role in Picnic at Hanging Rock. Based on the novel by Joan Lindsay and set in 1900, the film follows the students that attend an all-girls school run by the snobbish Mrs. Appleyard (Rachel Roberts). Whilst picnicking at Hanging Rock, a number of girls and one instructor are inexplicably drawn to the rock formation and vanish. The mysteries are best to be discovered; benign in their quietude and terrifyingly beyond understanding. Seductive in its beauty, Weir’s film conveys a disquieting sense of the unknown that permeates through every repressed desire. Gillian can’t get enough of the film’s eerie aura, but that’s not even why she loves Picnic at Hanging Rock. “I love this film for its accurate depiction of the area; the country sounds and color palette,” she says, “I love the costumes, the dreamlike sequences, the soundtrack and of course the divine girls.”
Best special feature: The long awaited director’s cut, with a new widescreen transfer and a new 5.1 surround mix.
The premise for Sean’s pick, Night On Earth, is as simple as it is delightful: five cities, five taxi cabs, one simultaneous, world-wide experience. “It reminds me of all the strange, funny and memorable things that happen when living in a large city,” says Sean. Jim Jarmusch’s irresistibly likable film is broken into five segments, each one varying in style and tone. Starting in Los Angeles and ending in Helsinki (with New York, Paris and Rome in between), each vignette is uniquely representative of the city it occurs in. New York shows an immigrant taxi driver shakily learning how to drive his car (whilst getting to Brooklyn, no less). In Rome, an oddball cabbie picks up a priest and hilariously transforms his cab into a confessional. The film is often outrageous, but remains instantly relatable. “I can't say that I've experienced the exact situations as the characters in the films,” says Sean, “but some conversations I've had with taxi cab drivers are definitely reminiscent.” "Night On Earth" is a micro-portrait of global cities and the many fascinating strangers that inhabit them.
Best special feature: Q&A with Jarmusch, in which he responds to questions sent by fans.
The Spirit of the Beehive was originally recommended to Nora by OCNY’s resident film buff, Robin. Nora recalls, “He made me promise not to stream it online since it deserved to be watched in the best possible quality.” Thankfully for Nora, the Criterion Collection has restored a stunning high-definition digital transfer of director Víctor Erice’s haunting classic. Six-year-old Ana (Ana Torrent) lives with her family in a small Castilian village in the aftermath of the Spanish civil war. After seeing Frankenstein in a traveling movie show, Ana’s fascination with the story grows in her imagination. “I love the way you feel totally immersed in the 1940’s Spanish countryside and this child’s imagination,” says Nora, “Ana reminded me of myself as a child in a way.” Made towards the end of the Franco regime, The Spirit of the Beehive tells a national story on a domestic scale by portraying the emotional dissolution of a small family in a fractured, barren landscape. Erice’s film uncannily captures the duality of childhood; Ana’s imagination is one of terror and awe, isolation and beauty.
Best special feature: The Footprints of a Spirit, a documentary featuring director Víctor Erice, producer Elías Querejeta, co-screenwriter Ángel Fernández-Santos, and actor Ana Torrent.