The 16 Best Films to See in New York This Weekend: Akerman, Suzuki, Rivette, Cassavetes + More

Presenting our weekly guide to must-see movies in New York: from Jacques Rivette at BAM to John Cassavetes at Nitehawk, here are 17 films to see in New York this week.

***FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 13***

BRANDED TO KILL, Seijun Suzuki
The Film Society of Lincoln Center

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This fractured film noir is the final provocation that got Suzuki fired from Nikkatsu Studios, simultaneously making him a counterculture hero and putting him out of work for a decade. An anarchic send-up of B-movie clichés, it stars Joe Shishido as an assassin who gets turned on by the smell of cooking rice, and whose failed attempt to kill a victim (a butterfly lands on his gun) turns him into a target himself. Perhaps Suzuki’s most famous film, it has been cited as an influence by filmmakers such as Quentin Tarantino, Jim Jarmusch, Park Chan-wook, and John Woo, as well as the composer John Zorn, who called it “a cinematic masterpiece that transcends its genre.”

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TOKYO DRIFTER, Seijun Suzuki
The Film Society of Lincoln Center

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Tasked with making a vehicle for actor-singer Tetsuya Watari to croon the title song, Suzuki concocted this crazy yarn about a reformed yakuza on the run from his former comrades. The film is mainly an excuse to stage an escalating series of goofy musical numbers and over-the-top fight scenes. Popping with garish colors, self-parodic style, and avant-garde visual design, Tokyo Drifterembodies a late-1960s zeitgeist in which trash and art joyfully comingle. “With influences that range from Pop Art to 1950s Hollywood musicals, and from farce and absurdist comedy to surrealism, Suzuki shows off his formal acrobatics in a film that is clearly meant to mock rather than celebrate the yakuza film genre” (Nikolaos Vryzidis, Director of World Cinema: Japan).

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AMARCORD, Frederico Fellini
MoMA

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Screened with an additional 10 minutes of silent outtakes edited by Giuseppe Tornatore (Cinema Paradiso), this Italian theatrical version ofAmarcord—unlike the English-dubbed U.S. release—highlights Fellini’s use of multiple narrators and points of view. Filmed in Fellini’s seaside hometown of Rimini, where he made I Vitelloni in 1953, this affectionately grotesque fantasia about provincial life during the Fascist 1930s is filled with his usual gallery of broadly sketched eccentrics—the village idiot, the overripe mamma, the buffoonish collaborator—seen through a filter of personal reminiscence (the title means “I remember”) that makes this one of his most deeply felt films. And while its vaudevillian pleasures remain undimmed across the 42 years since it won an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, Amarcord is also a trenchant meditation on Italy’s national character, reflecting Fellini’s observation that “fascism and adolescence continue to be . . . permanent historical seasons of our lives.” 

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OUT 1: EPISODES 7 & 8, Jacques Rivette
BAM

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Over eight episodes, a cast of French New Wave icons improvise a spellbinding tale involving two theater troupes rehearsing Aeschylus, a female con artist (Berto) who seduces her victims, and a deaf-mute (until he speaks) busker (Léaud) on a quest to uncover a mysterious secret society. As the characters’ paths crisscross and the film’s puzzle-box structure grows ever more elaborate, a portrait of post-May 1968 Paris and its dashed dreams emerges. The result is a cinematic experience unlike any other, in which, as Rivette himself put it: “the fiction swallows everything up and then self-destructs.”

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JOHNNY GUITAR, Nicholas Ray
Film Forum

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“How many men have you forgotten?” “As many women as you remember.” In a dusty Arizona town, Joan Crawford’s pants-wearing, gun-toting saloon owner (“Down there I sell whiskey and cards. All you can buy up these stairs is a bullet in the head. Now which do you want?”) stands to rake in the dough when the railroad comes through. But when the stage is robbed and a rancher murdered, the townspeople ready a noose for her more-than-friend The Dancin’ Kid (Scott Brady), with insanely jealous cattle baroness Mercedes McCambridge (years later the voice of the Devil in The Exorcist) hell-bent on having Crawford join him. Enter Joan’s old flame Sterling Hayden, as the eponymous Johnny, who, despite preferring guitar-play over gun-play – and up against bad guys like Ernest Borgnine and Ward Bond – does what a man’s gotta do. Nick Ray’s baroque, emotionally tormented Western, photographed in “gorgeous Trucolor by Consolidated” (and looking better than it ever deserved in this new 4K restoration), bursts at the seams with sexual tension and anti-McCarthy allegory. American reviewers scratched their heads (British critic Gavin lambert deemed it one of the silliest films of the year), but it was immediately embraced by the young critics of Cahiers du Cinéma – among them future directors Eric Rohmer (“Ray is the poet of love and violence”), Jean-Luc Godard (“here is something which exists only in cinema”), and François Truffaut (“dream-like, magical, delirious… the Beauty and the Beast of the Western”). High praise indeed for a Republic Pictures oater!

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***SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 14***

ZIGEUNERWEISEN,  Seijun Suzuki
The Film Society of Lincoln Center

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Named the best film of the 1980s in a poll of Japanese film critics, Zigeunerweisen takes its title from a recording of violin music by Pablo de Sarasate. The piece haunts the film’s two main characters: Aochi, an uptight professor at a military academy, and his erstwhile colleague Nakasago, who is now a wild-haired wanderer and possible murderer. The movie’s plot is a metaphysical ghost story involving love triangles, doppelgängers, and a blurred line between the worlds of the living and the dead. “Underlying the teasing riddles,” writes film critic Tony Rayns, “is an aching lament for the sumptuous hybrid culture of the 1920s that was swept away by the militarism of the 1930s.” Print courtesy of the Kawakita Memorial Film Institute.

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KAGERO-ZA, Seijun Suzuki
The Film Society of Lincoln Center

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According to film critic Tony Rayns, Kagerô-za “may well be Suzuki’s finest achievement outside the constraints of genre filmmaking.” In this hallucinatory adaptation of work by the Taisho-era writer Kyoka Izumi, a mysterious woman named Shinako invites Matsuzaki, a playwright, to the city of Kanazawa for a romantic rendezvous. While Matsuzaki is on his way, his patron Tamawaki appears on the train, claiming to be en route to witness a love suicide between a married woman and her lover. Matsuzaki suspects that Shinako is Tamawaki’s wife, and the trip to Kanazawa may spell his doom. Like Zigeunerweisen before it, reality, fantasy, life, and the afterlife blend together in Kagero-za—most spectacularly during the grand finale, in which Matsuzaki finds his life morphing into a deranged theatrical extravaganza. Print courtesy of the Japan Foundation.

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OUT 1: EPISODES 1 & 2, Jaques Rivette
BAM

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Over eight episodes, a cast of French New Wave icons improvise a spellbinding tale involving two theater troupes rehearsing Aeschylus, a female con artist (Berto) who seduces her victims, and a deaf-mute (until he speaks) busker (Léaud) on a quest to uncover a mysterious secret society. As the characters’ paths crisscross and the film’s puzzle-box structure grows ever more elaborate, a portrait of post-May 1968 Paris and its dashed dreams emerges. The result is a cinematic experience unlike any other, in which, as Rivette himself put it: “the fiction swallows everything up and then self-destructs.” New restoration courtesy of Carlotta Films US.

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JEANNE DIELMAN, 23, QUAI DU COMMERCE, 1080 BRUXELLES, Chantal Akerman
MoMA

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One of the most influential films of the 1970s, Chantal Akerman’sJeanne Dielman describes, with meticulous detail, three days in the life of the title character, a middle-aged single mother and part-time prostitute (the magnificent Delphine Seyrig) who manages her clients with the same impersonal efficiency with which she washes potatoes. The film’s careful color scheme, lost in most circulating prints, has been restored digitally from the original 35mm color negative by Belgium’s Cinémathèque Royale.

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OUT 1: EPISODES 3 & 4, Jacques Rivette
BAM

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Over eight episodes, a cast of French New Wave icons improvise a spellbinding tale involving two theater troupes rehearsing Aeschylus, a female con artist (Berto) who seduces her victims, and a deaf-mute (until he speaks) busker (Léaud) on a quest to uncover a mysterious secret society. As the characters’ paths crisscross and the film’s puzzle-box structure grows ever more elaborate, a portrait of post-May 1968 Paris and its dashed dreams emerges. The result is a cinematic experience unlike any other, in which, as Rivette himself put it: “the fiction swallows everything up and then self-destructs.” New restoration courtesy of Carlotta Films US.

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THE HOT ROCK, Peter Yates
Film Forum

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 A group of unlikely jewel thieves attempt – repeatedly – to heist a rare diamond from the Brooklyn Museum in this caper comedy starring Robert Redford, George Segal, Paul Sand and a scene-stealing Ron Leibman. Written by Oscar-winning screenwriter William Goldman (based on the Donald E. Westlake novel). With a quirky, jazz score by Quincy Jones,  fabulous early ‘70s New York City locations, and a supporting cast including Zero Mostel, Moses Gunn, and Christopher Guest in his film debut. 

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***SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 15***

CAPONE CRIES A LOT,  Seijun Suzuki
The Film Society of Lincoln Center

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In this surreal comic confection, a traditional naniwa-bushisinger moves to Prohibition-era San Francisco. He goes in search of Al Capone, whom he mistakenly believes is president, hoping to impress the gangster with his singing and to popularize the art form in the States. Filmed mostly in an abandoned amusement park in Japan, Suzuki’s vision of 1920s America is an anarchic collage of pop-culture images, from cowboys to Charlie Chaplin. One reason Capone is so rarely seen is that it reflects the racial attitudes of the time in which it is set by including, for example, a minstrel band in blackface. Such discomfiting images are balanced by scenes featuring an actual African-American jazz ensemble that joins the film’s hero in jam sessions mixing blues, jazz, and naniwa-bushi. Print courtesy of the Japan Foundation.

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A TALE OF SORROW AND SADNESS,  Seijun Suzuki
The Film Society of Lincoln Center

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Nearly a decade after being fired by Nikkatsu Studios, Suzuki returned to the director’s chair with this titillating tale of a model who is groomed to become a professional golfer as a publicity stunt. When she turns out to be good at the sport, her success leads a deranged fan to hatch a blackmail scheme. “Riddled with the director’s wildly non-conformist use of non-contiguous edits, unhinged shot composition, and violent splashes of colour, crazed and chaotic and for too long buried in the sand bunkers of obscurity, this long-overlooked work simply cries out for revival” (Jasper Sharp, Midnight Eye). Print courtesy of the Japan Foundation.

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OUT 1: EPISODES 5 & 6, Jacques Rivette
BAM

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Over eight episodes, a cast of French New Wave icons improvise a spellbinding tale involving two theater troupes rehearsing Aeschylus, a female con artist (Berto) who seduces her victims, and a deaf-mute (until he speaks) busker (Léaud) on a quest to uncover a mysterious secret society. As the characters’ paths crisscross and the film’s puzzle-box structure grows ever more elaborate, a portrait of post-May 1968 Paris and its dashed dreams emerges. The result is a cinematic experience unlike any other, in which, as Rivette himself put it: “the fiction swallows everything up and then self-destructs.” New restoration courtesy of Carlotta Films US.

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THE KILLING OF A CHINESE BOOKIE, John Cassavetes
Nitehawk Cinema

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Los Angeles always feels personal when John Cassavetes sets it as the background for his films. In his stylistic noir vision, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, the city becomes a landscape where morals and masculine identity are tested after the unhealthy appetite of gentleman’s club owner, Cosmo Vitelli (Ben Gazzara), puts him in an impossible situation. Having to answer to his angry loan sharks, he must choose how far he’ll go in order to appease the gangsters. Cassavetes gives L.A. a surreal and gritty atmosphere here; it’s a city you certainly don’t want to mess with.

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THE PARALLAX VIEW, Alan J. Pakula
Film Forum

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Reporter Warren Beatty digs into the cover-up of a political assassination at Seattle’s Space Needle and finds a super-secret right-wing organization at the source, in Pakula’s ominous descent into post-Watergate paranoia, shot by the great Gordon Willis (THE GODFATHER). “Beatty gives possibly the best performance of his career… One of the high points of the New American Cinema.” – Alex Cox, The Guardian (UK) I.B. Technicolor 35mm print courtesy Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research.

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