Barry Jenkins's Moonlight and Medicine for Melancholy screen alongside a selection of the director's inspirations
Jenkins in person January 5
The Film Society of Lincoln Center announces Illuminating Moonlight, a selection of major works of queer, black, and international art cinema handpicked by Moonlight director Barry Jenkins, January 4-9.
With the ravishing, unforgettable Moonlight, which made its New York premiere at the 54th New York Film Festival, Barry Jenkins has established himself as one of today’s major voices in independent American filmmaking. This series brings together Jenkins’s two features (including his ripe-for-rediscovery debut, Medicine for Melancholy) and a pair of his shorts with a selection of films that informed the making of his latest, handpicked by the director himself.
His selections are, like Moonlight, stylistically sensual, compassionate portraits of outsiders, and include Killer of Sheep, Charles Burnett’s landmark of African American cinema and “milestone of eloquent understatement” (Wesley Morris, The Boston Globe); Carlos Reygadas’s quietly devastating domestic drama Silent Light; Nagisa Ôshima’s Gohatto and Claire Denis’s Beau travail, both striking meditations on repression and release; and masterpieces by two of cinema’s foremost empaths: Wong Kar-wai’s Happy Together and Hou Hsiao-hsien’s Three Times, which served as a direct inspiration on Moonlight's triptych structure.
Illuminating Moonlight also features two of Jenkins’s short films—A Young Couple, a documentary companion piece to Medicine for Melancholy, and his student film, My Josephine—as well as shorts by Kahlil Joseph and Phil Collins. Taken together, the films in this series serve to contextualize Jenkins’s work and offer insight into the making of a modern masterpiece.
Barry Jenkins will appear in person on January 5 for a conversation following Moonlight at 6:30pm, and will introduce Medicine for Melancholy at 9:30pm.
Tickets will go on sale Thursday, December 21 and are $14; $11 for students and seniors (62+); and $9 for members. Tickets for the Moonlight special screening featuring a conversation with Barry Jenkins are $18; $13 for members. Plus, see more and save with the 3+ film discount package. Learn more at filmlinc.org.
Organized by Dennis Lim.
Special thanks to A24, Kahlil Joseph, the Institut Français, and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery.
Films & Descriptions
All films screen digitally at the Walter Reade Theater (165 W. 65th St) unless otherwise noted
Claire Denis, France, 1999, 35mm, 92m
French, Italian, and Russian with English subtitles
Claire Denis’s loose retelling of Billy Budd, set among a troop of Foreign Legionnaires stationed in the Gulf of Djibouti, is one of her finest films, an elemental story of misplaced longing and frustrated desire. Beneath a scorching sun, shirtless young men exercise to the strains of Benjamin Britten, under the watchful eye of Denis Lavant’s stone-faced officer Galoup, their obsessively ritualized movements simmering with barely suppressed violence. When a handsome recruit wins the favor of the regiment’s commander, cracks start to appear in Galoup’s fragile composure. In the tense, tightly disciplined atmosphere of military life, Denis found an ideal outlet for two career-long concerns: the quiet agony of repressing one’s emotions, and the terror of finally letting loose. Print courtesy of the Institut Français.
The Meaning of Style
Phil Collins, Malaysia/UK, 2012, 5m
Malay with English subtitles
British-born filmmaker Phil Collins intersperses images of Malaysian skinheads idly lounging, reading magazines, and playing cards with a more confrontational scene unfolding on the streets of Penang. Courtesy of Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York.
Friday, January 6, 9:00pm
Saturday, January 7, 5:00pm
Nagisa Ôshima, Japan, 1999, 35mm, 100m
Japanese with English subtitles
Nagisa Ôshima returned, fourteen years after his previous feature, Max mon amour, with a final film. Like the scandalous In the Realm of the Senses (NYFF14), Gohatto deals with the anti-authoritarian sway of sexuality, a nearly taboo topic in Japan at the time of its release. The setting is a 19th century samurai school, where an impossibly handsome new recruit (Ryûhei Matsuda) spreads trouble and desire through the ranks of enlisted men and officers alike (among them Beat Takeshi). Filmed in a stately, burnished style, Gohatto is a late-life statement from one of the genuine masters of the medium. An NYFF38 selection.
Friday, January 6, 7:00pm
Saturday, January 7, 9:00pm
Happy Together / Chun gwong cha sit
Wong Kar-wai, Hong Kong/Japan/South Korea, 1997, 35mm, 96m
Mandarin, Cantonese, and Spanish with English subtitles
Leslie Cheung and Tony Leung Chiu-Wai are lovers from Hong Kong adrift in Buenos Aires in Wong Kar-wai’s haunting, pungent tale of exile and love turned sour. Winner of the Best Director award in Cannes, Wong’s sixth feature is a straightforward, intimate work—a rich and atmospheric meditation on relationships that whirls from tango bars to Taiwan, from black-and-white to color, from desperation to hope. Lensed by Wong’s longtime collaborator Christopher Doyle, Happy Together beautifully captures the vivid colors, the crisp images, and the reflective and restless moments of love. An NYFF35 selection.
Wednesday, January 4, 9:00pm
Saturday, January 7, 7:00pm
Killer of Sheep
Charles Burnett, USA, 1978, 35mm, 83m
A masterpiece of poetic realism, Charles Burnett’s landmark UCLA thesis film is a haunting, almost documentary-like chronicle of 1970s black life in Los Angeles’ Watts neighborhood. A series of nonlinear episodes form a portrait of the dead-end life of Stan, a slaughterhouse worker struggling to provide for his family and resist the corrupting influences that surround him. Amidst urban blight, Burnett finds indelible, magic images—a young girl wearing a hound-dog mask, boys leaping from rooftop to rooftop, a couple slow dancing to Dinah Washington’s “This Bitter Earth”—captured in evocatively grainy black and white and set to a soundtrack that moves from Paul Robeson to Rachmaninoff.
Until the Quiet Comes
Kahlil Joseph, USA/UK, 2013, 4m
Joseph’s spellbinding and ethereal collaboration with Flying Lotus shares several crucial motifs with Moonlight—most notably, the prone body submerged in radiant water.
Wednesday, January 4, 7:00pm
Sunday, January 8, 8:45pm
Medicine for Melancholy
Barry Jenkins, USA, 2008, 88m
Shot in luscious sepia tones, Jenkins’s feature debut considers what it means to be young, black, and bohemian in rapidly gentrifying San Francisco. Wyatt Cenac and Tracey Heggins exude chemistry as Micah and Jo, two hipsters whose one-night stand stretches into a 24-hour odyssey through the city. In between bike rides and underground dance parties, Micah grapples with his identity as a black man in an overwhelmingly white indie scene, while Jo questions her commitment to her white boyfriend. Intimate, engaging, and gorgeous to look at, Medicine for Melancholy ponders big picture questions—about race, class, housing—while never losing sight of the human story at its center.
A Young Couple
Barry Jenkins, USA, 2009, 13m
In this documentary short—a companion piece to Medicine for Melancholy—the director interviews his friend John and John’s girlfriend Jenny, stumbling upon a frank and moving portrait of a modern relationship.
Wednesday, January 4, 4:30pm
Thursday, January 5, 9:30pm (Introduction by Barry Jenkins)
Monday, January 9, 9:15pm
Barry Jenkins, USA, 2016, 110m
Barry Jenkins’s three-part narrative spans the childhood, adolescence, and adulthood of a gay African-American man who survives Miami’s drug-plagued inner city, finding love in unexpected places and the possibility of change within himself. Moonlight offers a powerful sense of place and a wealth of unpredictable characters, featuring a fantastic ensemble cast including André Holland, Trevante Rhodes, Naomie Harris, and Mahershala Ali—delivering performances filled with inner conflict and aching desires that cut straight to the heart. An NYFF54 selection. An A24 release.
Barry Jenkins, USA, 2003, 8m
Arabic with English subtitles
Jenkins’s student film pairs kinetic and distinctly post-9/11 imagery with a confessional voiceover in which a young man named Aadid talks about the laundromat where he works the night shift and the affinities between the co-worker for whom he pines and Napoleon Bonaparte’s first wife, the titular Josephine.
Thursday, January 5, 6:30pm (Q&A with Barry Jenkins)
Silent Light / Stellet Licht
Carlos Reygadas, Mexico/France/Netherlands/Germany, 2007, 35mm, 139m
Plautdietsch with English subtitles
Having established a reputation as something of a bad-boy provocateur with his first two features, Japón and Battle in Heaven, Mexico’s Carlos Reygadas made an unexpected about-face with this austere drama set in a modern-day Mennonite community on the outskirts of Chihuahua. Filmed entirely in the German-derived Plautdietsch language and starring a cast of mostly nonprofessional actors, Silent Light weaves a poetic and affecting tale of a marital and spiritual crisis, revolving around the affair between married farmer Johan (Cornelio Wall Fehr) and a neighbor woman (Maria Pankratz), while Johan’s wife (Miriam Toews) suffers, knowingly, in silence. An NYFF45 selection.
Thursday, January 5, 3:30pm
Sunday, January 8, 6:00pm
Monday, January 9, 6:30pm
Three Times / Zui hao de shi guang
Hou Hsiao-hsien, France/Taiwan, 2005, 35mm, 139m
Mandarin and Min Nan with English subtitles
Hou Hsiao-hsien’s rapturously beautiful 2005 feature is a triumph about the melancholy play of time and memory. The action is broken into three different love stories, each set in a different era — 1966 pool hall, a prosperous 1911 brothel, and contemporary Taipei — but starring the same leads, the impossibly glamorous Shu Qi and Chang Chen. While these stories deliberately echo his earlier works, Hou uses them to chart the transformation of Taiwanese life, love, and the relationship between men and women over the last hundred years. He captures all this with the poetic intensity that has defined his work — an absolute mastery of space and rhythm and a humane tenderness suffuses every frame. An NYFF43 selection.
Friday, January 6, 4:00pm
Sunday, January 8, 3:00pm
FILM SOCIETY OF LINCOLN CENTER
The Film Society of Lincoln Center is devoted to supporting the art and elevating the craft of cinema. The only branch of the world-renowned arts complex Lincoln Center to shine a light on the everlasting yet evolving importance of the moving image, this nonprofit organization was founded in 1969 to celebrate American and international film. Via year-round programming and discussions; its annual New York Film Festival; and its publications, including Film Comment, the U.S.’s premier magazine about films and film culture, the Film Society endeavors to make the discussion and appreciation of cinema accessible to a broader audience, as well as to ensure that it will remain an essential art form for years to come.
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