From Iconic Witches to Otherworldly Dancers: The 12 Best Films Playing in New York This Week

From Museum of the Moving Image to the Film Society of Lincoln Center, check out the 12 movies you should be seeing in theaters this week.

***TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 16***

COLLATERAL, Michael Mann
BAM

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An LA cab driver (Foxx) becomes the unwitting chauffeur to a cold-blooded hit man (Cruise) on a killing spree. Mann films the LA night world as a Korean neon dreamscape, cinema’s first in hi-def, while delivering a riveting dual-character study as he explores the increasingly complex relationship between Cruise’s stone-faced, sarcastic killer and Foxx’s repressed cabdriver in midlife crisis.

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NEVER OPEN THAT DOOR, Carlos Hugo Christensen
MoMA

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More noir films have been made from the stories of Cornell Woolrich than of any other writer, and though it is rarely shown in the United States, this is one of the best. In “Someone’s on the Phone,” Angel Magaña plays a man bent on avenging the death of his sister, driven to suicide by gambling debts. In “The Hummingbird Comes Home,” Roberto Escalada plays a racketeer who brings the gang to his boyhood home to lay low after a robbery. Originally intended as a three-part anthology of Woolrich tales, Never Open That Door was released separately from the 73-minute If I Die Before I Wake, also adapted by Casona and Christensen. Benefitting from the incredible cinematography of Pablo Tabernero, this is one of the most evocative Woolrich adaptations ever produced, featuring several masterful sequences of sustained suspense. Said Buenos Aires film reviewer Horacio Bernades, “Rarely has an Argentine film been more purely cinematic than this.” 

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AFTER THE CURTAIN,  Emelie Mahdavian
The Film Society of Lincoln Center

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In Emelie Mahdavian’s After the Curtain, four female dancers battle shifting cultural norms and face increasing disfavor in the Post-Soviet, predominantly Muslim nation of Tajikistan. The women weigh their love of art against economic hardship, loneliness, and social reproach in this intimate portrait, which also celebrates the rich dance and music culture of a Central Asian country largely unknown in the West.

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FEELINGS ARE FACTS: THE LIFE YVONNE RAINER, Jack Walsh
The Film Society of Lincoln Center

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In the 1960s, Yvonne Rainer revolutionized modern dance as a co-founder of Judson Dance Theater. There, she introduced everyday movements into the dance lexicon, creating “Trio A” and other influential pieces that initially left audiences perplexed but inspired a devoted following. In the ’70s and ’80s, Rainer turned to film, introducing narrative techniques to avant-garde works and consequently turning the genre on its head. This revealing documentary is her story. From her bohemian upbringing to her private and public life as a radical artist, Rainer broke all the rules and created new ones only to reinvent herself time and time again. At 80 years old, she still looks at dance with an explorer’s heart, choreographing pieces that continue to defy assumptions about art and performance.

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LE JOLI MAI, Chris Marker
FIAF

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Students, stockbrokers, poets, and construction workers discuss their lives during a moment of peace between war and cultural revolution. Told in impromptu interviews shot on the streets of Paris, this legendary collaboration between Lhomme and Chris Marker captures the attitude of the city in May 1962. 

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***WEDNESDAY, FEBRARY 17***

BLACK SUNDAY, Mario Bava
BAM

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Bava commenced his career-long exploration of perverse sexuality in this delirious and flamboyantly romantic adaptation of a ghostly folk tale by Gogol. Widely considered his best film, it also stars a wickedly sensual Barbara Steele as a witch who’s killed and returns from the crypt two centuries later to wreak revenge—launching her career as the ultimate horror actress.

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THE CITY OF THE DEAD, John Llewellyn Moxey
BAM

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A young innocent (Stevenson) travels to a fog-shrouded Massachusetts village to research the town’s history of witchcraft only to find herself marked as the virgin victim of blood-hungry Satanists. Boasting a marvelously menacing performance by Christopher Lee, this overlooked chiller drips with gothic atmosphere thanks to the evocatively eerie black-and-white photography. The alternate title? Horror Hotel. The tagline? “Just ring for doom service!”

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***THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 18***

HAXAN: WITCHCRAFT THROUGH THE AGES, Benjamin Christensen
BAM

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Beat visionary William S. Burroughs narrates this condensed, 1968 version of Benjamin Christensen’s 1922 proto-exploitation exposé on the sordid history of the occult. Burroughs’ deadpan commentary, combined with the free jazz freak-out score (featuring Zappa collaborator Jean-Luc Ponty on violin), enhances the trippiness of the film’s bizarre, Bosch-influenced visuals.

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***FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 19***

PINA, Wim Wenders
Museum of the Moving Image

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Never has modern dance come to more vivid, spectacular cinematic life than in Wenders’s 3-D portrait of the work of the trailblazing German choreographer Pina Bausch. Her every sinuous and sensuous move, realized onscreen by a troupe of stunningly talented performers, becomes an event unto itself in this visually rich celebration, which requires a big screen to be fully appreciated.

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THE WITCHES, Nicolas Roeg
BAM

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Nicolas Roeg brought Roald Dahl’s deliciously dark children’s book to the screen with its sinister undercurrents fully intact. Anjelica Huston delivers a fabulously camp performance as an evil sorceress who plans to turn all of England’s children into mice, unless a young boy can stop her. The dazzling puppet effects—including Huston’s hideously gnarly hidden face—are courtesy of producer Jim Henson’s Creature Shop.

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COSMOS, Andrzej Żuławski
The Film Society of Lincoln Center

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Andrzej Żuławski’s first film in 15 years, a literary adaptation suffused with his trademark freneticism, transforms Polish writer Witold Gombrowicz’s novel of the same name into an ominous and manic exploration of desire. Witold (Jonathan Genet), who has just failed the bar, and his companion Fuchs (Johan Libéreau), who has recently quit his fashion job, are staying at a guesthouse run by the intermittently paralytic Madame Woytis (Sabine Azéma). Upon discovering a sparrow hanged in the woods near the house, Witold’s reality mutates into a whirlwind of tension, histrionics, foreboding omens, and surrealistic logic as he becomes obsessed with Madame Woytis’s daughter Lena (Victoria Guerra), newly married to Lucien (Andy Gillet)—in other words, he finds himself starring in a Żuławski film. The Polish master’s auspicious return bears his imprimatur at all times. Winner of the Best Director prize at this year’s Locarno Film Festival.

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THE THIRD PART OF THE NIGHT, Andrzej Żuławski
The Film Society of Lincoln Center

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The first feature by Andrzej Żuławski immediately established his emotionally charged, fast-and-furious style. Drawing from the biography of his father, particularly his experiences in Nazi German-occupied Poland, the film follows a fugitive whose reality implodes when he witnesses the murders of his family, propelling him into a nightmarish world filled with doppelgängers, fluid identities, pervasive dread, and an enigmatic Nazi vaccine laboratory. In all its fantastic and macabre glory, The Third Part of the Night is a delirious portrayal of the chaos wrought upon the psyche by the horrors of war, and one of the most remarkable directorial debuts of all time. New digital restoration courtesy of the Polish Film Institute.

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