31 Films to See This Weekend: David Lynch, Stanley Kubrick, Satyajit Ray + More

Sundays may be a “wan, stuff shadow of a robust Saturday” or a day of “forced leisure for folks who have no aptitude for leisure,” but a weekend is still a weekend. We wait for the pleasure of a Friday night, knowing the burdens of the work week have a brief respite, and what better way to indulge seeing some great films—be it new to you treasures or your favorite classics. And this weekend from BAM and MoMA to The Film Society of Lincoln Center and Nitehawk Cinema there are more than enough wonderful films showing for you to happily disappear into. Here are 31 films that have us running straight to the theater.

***FRIDAY, MAY 22***

BLUE VELVET, David Lynch
IFC Center

“Jeffrey (MacLachlan) is the contemporary knight in slightly tarnished armour, a shy and adolescent inhabitant of Lumberton, USA. After discovering a severed ear in an overgrown backlot, he embarks upon an investigation that leads him into a hellish netherworld, where he observes – and comes to participate in – a terrifying sado-masochistic relationship between damsel-in-distress Dorothy (Rossellini) and mad mobster Frank Booth (Hopper). Grafting on to this story his own idiosyncratic preoccupations, Lynch creates a visually stunning, convincingly coherent portrait of a nightmarish substratum to conventional, respectable society. The seamless blending of beauty and horror is remarkable – although many will be profoundly disturbed by Lynch’s vision of male-female relationships, centred as it is on Dorothy’s psychopathic hunger for violence – the terror very real, and the sheer wealth of imagination virtually unequalled in recent cinema.” – Time Out 

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THE PROFESSOR, Valerio Zurlini

The Film Society of Lincoln Center

A hirsute Alain Delon stars as Daniele, a tragically hip poetry and literature professor who travels to Rimini for a four-month teaching assignment with his suicidal wife, Monica (Lea Massari), in tow. During his tenure at the school, Daniele goes out of his way to connect with his students, encouraging them to smoke in class and flirting with the more attractive girls. He spends his free time gambling with locals, and begins an ill-fated affair with one of their barely legal girlfriends, Vanina (Sonia Petrovna)—who also happens to be one of his students. Alida Valli (The Third Man, Suspiria) appears as Vanina’s mother.

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PORTRAYING THE HUMAN CONDITION: THE FILMS OF MASAKI KOBAYASHI AND TATSUYA NAKADAI, Masaki Kobayashi
Museum of the Moving Image

Legend has it that the director Masaki Kobayashi (1916–1996) discovered the young actor Tatsuya Nakadai working as a shop clerk in Tokyo and, casting him in a small part in his film The Thick-Walled Room (1953), gave Nakadai his first role, initiating one of the most legendary collaborations in all of Japanese cinema. “Nakadai embodied postwar individualism and youth culture—in his clear enunciation and strong, deep speaking voice and in his expressive body movements, facial mobility, and willingness to convey deeply felt emotions, rather than repressing them on behalf of an outworn notion of samurai dignity,” wrote film historian Joan Mellen. This perfectly suited Kobayashi, a pacifist who had suffered for his convictions during World War II. Summarizing his work, he said “All of my pictures are concerned with resisting entrenched power. I suppose I have always challenged authority.” Nakadai, returning to Museum of the Moving Image for the third time, now realizes a dream of revisiting his collaborations with Kobayashi, including their anti-war masterpiece, the ten-hour trilogy The Human Condition.

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SWEET DECEPTIONS, Alberto Lattuada
The Film Society of Lincoln Center

Alberto Lattuada, who co-directed Fellini’s debut, Variety Lights, made this perceptive drama that defies coming-of-age clichés. Seventeen-year-old Francesca (Il Sorpasso’s Catherine Spaak) wakes up one morning nursing a crush on family friend Enrico (Christian Marquand), a much older architect. She cuts school and spends the day observing lovers, contemplating whether to act on her feelings, which ultimately lead her to the hillside town where Enrico is restoring a villa. A tender portrait of burgeoning adulthood, not about sexual improprieties but about self-discovery. Spaak’s sensitive performance is matched by a supporting cast that breathes life into each character, however fleetingly illustrated.

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THEY SHALL HAVE MUSIC, Archie Mayo
MoMA

McCrea does little more than his mandated duty as a Samuel Goldwyn contract player in this curiosity, a souvenir of the days when high culture was considered a cure for all social ills. John Howard Lawson, the commissar of Hollywood’s Communist Party, cowrote the screenplay, in which a street urchin (Gene Reynolds) implores the famed violinist Jascha Heifetz to come to the aid of a Lower East Side music school operated by Walter Brennan (in a Stokowski wig). Other innovative plot elements include a wicked stepfather (Arthur Hohl), an evil capitalist (Porter Hall), an adorable mutt, a 10-year-old piano prodigy (the future Diana Lynn), a stolen Stradivarius, and the professor’s daughter (Andrea Leeds)—who is lovely enough to attract a sympathetic musical instrument salesman (McCrea). Yet Heifitz unflinchingly remains Heifitz, gamely providing five solos.

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RASHOMON, Akira Kurosawa
Museum of the Moving Image

Dir. Akira Kurosawa. 1950, 88 mins. 35mm. With Toshiro Mifune, Machiko Kyo, Masayuki Mori, Takashi Shimura. Akira Kurosawa’s groundbreaking narrative experiment is rightly remembered for its fragmented story, in which a rape and murder are told from four different points of view. Yet the film would never have had the impact it did if not for the stunning cinematography by Kazuo Miyagawa, who harnesses nature—rain, wind, sunlight, and trees—for unforgettable and evocative imagery. The film also made a star of Mifune, who combines menace and sex appeal.

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APUR SANSAR, Satyajit Ray
Film Forum

Struggling writer Apu — now an adult and played by Ray’s perennial star Soumitra Chatterjee — ends up substituting in an arranged marriage with Sharmila Tagore — then 14, and a distant relative of Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, an important Ray influence — but even as love comes, tragedy looms; but Apu finds in his son the promise of new life. Approx. 105 min. DCP.

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MEN IN WAR, Anthony Mann
Anthology Film Archives

Korea, 1950. Stranded without support or radio contact, Lt. Benson (Robert Ryan) makes the decision to lead his men forward into what he hopes will be friendly territory. As dangers mount, and the only fellow G.I.s they encounter are a traumatized colonel and his unpredictable protector (Aldo Ray), the platoon’s journey begins to seem more and more like a death march. Abandoning the widescreen expansiveness of his westerns in favor of claustrophobic medium shots, tense close-ups, and images of bombed-out landscapes, Mann likewise emphasizes the long, drawn-out pauses in between the action in order to create a war film that is both experiential and abstract.

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Johnny Guitar, Nicholas Ray
Anthology Film Archives

The delicate balance of a small Arizona town is thrown into chaos with the arrival of Johnny Guitar (Sterling Hayden), the mysterious man-for-hire of local saloon owner Vienna (Joan Crawford). Already distrusted by local leaders thanks to her relationship with troublemaking ex-lover the Dancin’ Kid, and loathed by her arch-enemy Emma Small (Mercedes McCambridge), Vienna finds herself at the center of a witch hunt when the Kid and his gang pull off a bank robbery in her and Johnny’s presence. At once a dreamlike anti-McCarthy allegory, a realistic romance, and a layered look at the links between the personal, political, and sexual, JOHNNY GUITAR remains one of the great American films and Yordan’s most famous credit.

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***SATURDAY, MAY 23***

THE LAST METRO, Francois Truffaut
IFC Center

“François Truffaut’s THE LAST METRO is a dazzlingly subversive work. The film has the form of a more or less conventional melodrama, about a small Parisian theater company during the 1942-44 Nazi occupation, though the film’s methods are so systematically unconventional that it becomes a gently comic, romantic meditation on love, loyalty, heroism, and history. Not since Lubitsch’s To Be or Not to Be has there been such a triumphantly unorthodox use of grim material that usually prompts movies of pious, prefabricated responses…

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BANDITS OF ORGOSOLO, Vittorio de Seta
The Film Society of Lincoln Center

After 10 short documentaries that surveyed Italy’s poorest workers, Vittorio De Seta made his feature debut withBandits of Orgosolo, a rough-hewn study of survival in the highlands of Sardinia. Shepherd Michele (Michele Cossu, a nonprofessional and native of the region) ekes out a meager living with his brother until bandits arrive on the island and kill a policeman. Mistaken for a member of their gang and accused of murder, Michele must flee to the mountains where he’s driven to dire acts. Winner of numerous prizes at the 1961 Venice Film Festival, De Seta’s post-neorealist narrative (which he also shot) recalls Visconti’s elemental La Terra Trema, and moved Martin Scorsese to observe: “It was as if De Seta were an anthropologist who spoke with the voice of a poet.”

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DAYS OF GLORY, Giuseppe de Santis, Mario Serandrei, Marchello Pagliero, Luchino Visconti

The Film Society of Lincoln Center

Noted by Martin Scorsese in My Voyage to Italy but seldom screened in the U.S., Days of Glory marked the first documentary on the German occupation of Rome and Italian resistance in the waning years of World War II. Commissioned by the Allies’ Psychological Warfare Branch, the film was shot over two years by four soon-to-be major figures in postwar Italian cinema, with Luchino Visconti covering the trial of Fascist police chief Pietro Caruso, who organized the Ardeatine massacre of 300 Italian prisoners as reprisal for a partisan attack. With just one prior directorial credit, Visconti was entrusted with eight cameras and captured such eruptions as the murder of a prosecution witness mistaken by the mob for Caruso. A harrowing companion piece to Rome, Open City and a crucial record of Italy’s wartime experience.

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DR. STRANGELOVE: OR HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB, Stanley Kubrick

Nitehawk Cinema

Only Kubrick could make a strange, weird, and brilliant black comedy centering around nuclear weapons in the Cold War era that would still resonate more than fifty years after its initial release. Dr. Strangelove tells the story of an unhinged Air Force general Jack Ripper supercede presidential approval to launch a nuclear bomb over the Soviet Union and the room full of politicians and generals trying to stop a nuclear apocalypse. The thing that makes it great is that it’s a comedy, a jet black comedy. And, as with any Kubrick film, it’s best to just see it on the big screen.

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A LIFE FOR NOTHING, Masaki Kobayashi
Museum of the Moving Image

In Strike a Life for Nothing, Kobayashi tells the story of a gang of yakuza running a smuggling operation out of the Easy Tavern, reuniting for the last time with Nakadai, who plays thug enforcer Sadahichi “the Indifferent.” As government agents close in, the hardened gangsters adopt pickpocket Tomijiro (Yamamoto) and help him buy his girlfriend (Sakai) from out of a brothel. This rarely screened film is a masterfully paced character study in moody black-and-white, and the final chapter in Kobayashi and Nakadai’s storied collaboration.

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EVIL’S COMMANDMENT, Riccardo Freda
The Film Society of Lincoln Center

Horror films were banned by Italian Fascists for decades, but when Riccardo Freda pledged to produce a chiller in only 12 days that would squeak by the censors, the first Italian horror film of the sound era was born. A reporter (Dario Michaelis) investigating the serial murders of young Parisian girls (attributed to a killer known as “The Vampire”) becomes involved with an old duchess and her beautiful niece (Gianna Maria Canale). He eventually unearths a fiendish plot involving virgin blood and some truly demented assistants. Shot in black-and-white CinemaScope by Mario Bava, who took over direction when Freda stormed off the set, the film (released under numerous titles, including Lust of the Vampire) anticipates volumes of Euro Horror—with a rapid aging sequence that predates David Bowie’s in The Hunger by a quarter-century.

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PEEPING TOM, Michael Powell
Museum of the Moving Image

Initially reviled, but now considered a classic study of cinematic voyeurism, Michael Powell’s 1960 masterpiece is about a young photographer obsessed with killing women and filming their final contorted expressions. Martin Scorsese has described it is a film that “says everything that can be said about filmmaking, [and] the process of dealing with film.”

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EDGE OF DOOM, Mark Robson
Anthology Film Archives

Tenement dweller and floral store employee Martin Lynn (Farley Granger) has but one wish: a big funeral for his beloved mother. And he’s determined to get it, especially since the neighborhood church refused to bury his alcoholic, suicidal father not long ago. One of Yordan’s darkest scripts, EDGE OF DOOM is set in a world ruled by desperation, navigated by an anti-hero fueled by resentment towards a most unlikely Hollywood villain: the Catholic Church. Val Lewton veteran Mark Robson is at the top of his post-SEVENTH VICTIM game in this rarely-screened, blasphemous noir.

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THE DARK SIDE TO LOVE, John Carr
Anthology Film Archives

Towards the end of his life, Yordan cranked out scripts for a series of bizarre, low-budget genre films. Three were shortened and compiled in the infamous anthology NIGHT TRAIN TO TERROR, including THE DARK SIDE TO LOVE, a delirious distillation of Yordan’s darkest propensities towards sex and violence. A wealthy gadabout takes on a carnival worker as a kept woman…who does porn films on the side…which are seen by a medical student…who tracks her down…only to get involved in a game of Russian roulette in which a giant beetle counts as a bullet. And there’s much, much more. Set taste and logic aside for this strange, offensive, and hypnotic UFO – supposedly based on an Erskine Caldwell novel! – and be sure to look for Yordan’s self-indicting cameo as a dirty old man.

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BURDEN OF DREAMS, Les Blank
Museum of the Moving Image

Perhaps the most compelling behind-the-scenes movie ever made about a film production, thanks to the mesmerizing personalities of director Werner Herzog and his deranged star Klaus Kinski, Les Blank’s documentary shot on the set of Fitzcarraldo (1982) reveals the obsessive inner character of one of cinema’s most rigorous artists and the savage, awe-striking terrain of the South American jungle.

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NO DOWN PAYMENT, Martin Ritt
Anthology Film Archives

Blacklisted from television in the early 1950s, leftist director Martin Ritt was given the chance to move into feature work by 1956, and followed up the progressive politics of EDGE OF THE CITY with this searing suburban drama. Set in the newly developed “Sunrise Hills,” NO DOWN PAYMENT focuses on four young couples whose backyards form a Four Corners of barely-suppressed alcoholism, racism, failure, and rage. Neither tired tract nor ‘scope soap opera, NO DOWN PAYMENT posits its characters’ struggles as part of a larger system of prescribed roles and empty promises, and remains one of the more startling portraits of post-war America to come out of 1950s Hollywood.

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THE FIANCÉS, Ermami Olmi
The Film Society of Lincoln Center

Ermanno Olmi, perhaps best remembered for 1978’s The Tree of Wooden Clogs, achieved early acclaim with his third feature, The Fiancés. As if to bridge the gap from his prior film, Il Posto, Olmi opens with a dance-hall sequence in which a doleful protagonist—factory worker Giovanni (Carlo Cabrini)—faces the weight of his choices. Giovanni has been offered a promotion, but it means relocating from Milan to far-off Sicily for 18 months and leaving behind his longtime fiancée Liliana (Anna Canzi). There he finds loneliness and isolation among the mainland transplants and anxiety over his future with Liliana. Adding Antonioni-esque alienation to essentially neorealist content (using nonprofessional actors), Olmi tenders a work both melancholy and lyrical, which Kent Jones calls “by far his most beautiful foray into modernist territory, simply because it feels so homegrown.”

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***SUNDAY, MAY 24***

LOST HIGHWAY, David Lynch
IFC Center

“This 1996 feature was Lynch’s most audacious break from conventional narrative since Eraserhead. The enigmatic plot, shaped like a Möbius strip, concerns a jazz musician (Bill Pullman) who inexplicably changes into a much younger garage mechanic (Balthazar Getty) after possibly killing his wife (Patricia Arquette). The wife seems to have been reincarnated as a gangster’s girlfriend (Arquette again), who pursues the mechanic… this beautifully structured (if rigorously nonhumanist) explosion of expressionist effects has a psychological coherence that goes well beyond logical story lines, and Lynch turns it into an exhilarating roller-coaster ride. With Robert Blake (as Arquette’s eerie doppelganger), Gary Busey, Lucy Butler, Robert Loggia, Jack Nance, and Richard Pryor in a somewhat out-of-kilter cameo.” – Jonathan Rosenbaum

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BLACK ORPHEUS, Marcel Camus
BAM

“Feverish with hip-swiveling hustle, exploding local color, and sleeve-worn heart” (The Village Voice), this landmark film transports the Greek legend of Orpheus and Eurydice to Rio de Janeiro during Carnival. With a legendary samba and bossa nova score by Luiz Bonfa and Antonio Carlos Jobim, Black Orpheus won the 1960 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.

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ROME 11:00, Giuseppe de Santis

The Film Society of Lincoln Center

An overlooked entry in the neorealist canon, Rome 11:00chronicles the buildup to and aftermath of a true-life event that encapsulates the dearth of opportunities in postwar Rome. Two-hundred women answer an ad for a secretarial position that, though menial, offers the hope of self-improvement. As the applicants crowd the staircase waiting to be interviewed, individual stories emerge. But their newfound fellowship evaporates with the disclosure that not all of them will be seen by management, and the ensuing chaos leads to tragedy. Directed by Giuseppe De Santis (whose Bitter Rice portrayed the female workforce in a rural setting), Rome 11:00 offers a vivid cross section of lives still stricken by war years later, from streetwalkers to fallen nobles to the offspring of struggling pensioners.

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HARAKIRI, Masaki Kobayashi
Museum of the Moving Image

In Harakiri,set in the early seventeenth century when the oppressive reign of the Tokugawa shogunate had just begun, Kobayashi uses the period film to repudiate the tradition of unthinking obeisance to established power structures in Japanese society. Nakadai plays well beyond his years as the aging samurai Hanshiro Tsugumo, who sets out to avenge the death of his son-in-law in a ritual suicide presided over by the disdainful Iyi clan. Film historian Joan Mellen called this “the most vibrant expression of [Kobayashi’s] belief that life is not worth living unless injustice is confronted with unrelenting force and single-minded purpose.”

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KWAIDAN, Masaki Kobayashi
Museum of the Moving Image

“One of the most meticulously crafted supernatural fantasy films ever made” (David Ehrenstein). A departure into absolute artifice shot almost entirely on studio-constructed sets, Kwaidan consists of four tales, each drawn from the foreigner Lafcadio Hearn’s collection of Japanese ghost stories compiled in the nineteenth century. Nakadai appears in the second segment, “The Woman of the Snow,” as a woodcutter who takes refuge from a snowstorm and awakens to find himself at the mercy of a female ghost, whose icy wrath he only seems to escape. A work of uncanny beauty, it won Kobayashi the Special Jury Prize at the 1965 Cannes Film Festival.

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PATHER PANCHALI, Satyajit Ray
Film Forum

In a poor Bengal village, Mom tries to hold things together while dreamy Dad looks for work, daughter Durga is accused of stealing, aged “Auntie” (82-year-old former actress Chunibala Devi) eats more than her share, while the young Apu (8-year-old Subir Bandopadhyay) drinks it all in — including the memorable run through the field of waving grasses for his first sight of a train. Approx. 125 min. DCP. 

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THE BRAVADOS, Henry King
Anthology Film Archives

A silent stranger (Gregory Peck) comes to town, seemingly with no purpose, until he reveals that the four men set to be hanged the next morning killed his wife while robbing his ranch. Determined to witness justice, the farmer refuses all entreaties to leave while the anxious town waits for the hangman. THE BRAVADOS plunges deep into the moral muck and never cops out, presenting Peck as an anti-hero whose desire for vengeance brings out the darkest in the man. Finding their story in the skies, Henry King and his regular cinematographer Leon Shamroy provide stunning ‘scope vistas and stylized night photography that make this masterful western one of the most underrated of the 1950s.

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APARAJITO, Satyajit Ray
Film Forum

As death depletes the family, Apu (now played by Smaran Ghosal) and his mother move to Benares, and the now-young man discovers electricity, the working of the heavens, the delights of poetry, and his entrance to University—as well as his own growing sense of responsibility for the mother who has always cared for him. Approx. 109 min. DCP.

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STUDS LONIGAN, Irving Lerner
Anthology Film Archives

“A major American film, one that surpasses Orson Welles and Stanley Kubrick and can stand alongside Alain Resnais’s HIROSHIMA MON AMOUR…. [A] brilliant film, a modern movie; revolutionary.” –Glauber Rocha

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DAY OF THE OUTLAW, Andre de Troth
Anthology Film Archives

In the barren, snow-covered landscape of Bitters, Wyoming, cattle rancher Blaise Starrett (Robert Ryan) carries out an ongoing feud with local farmers, focusing most of his rage on the husband of an ex-lover. Before he can act, the town is taken over by a band of bank robbers led by AWOL cavalryman Jack Bruhn (Burl Ives), whose control over the situation grows as a hostile storm further isolates the area and leaves the townspeople with seemingly no option but to wait. Painted in a harsh, high-contrast palette of pure whites and blacks, de Toth’s final western is a perfect blend of landscape and psychology, offering a bleak portrait of individuals cut off from civilization by both choice and circumstance.

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