Posts Tagged ‘lincoln center’

Apollo’s Girl

January 11, 2017

Film

apollo-and-lyre

NY Jewish Film Festival
(January 11 – 24, 2017)

Film Society of Lincoln Center/Jewish Museum
http://www.filmlinc.org/festivals/new-york-jewish-film-festival/#schedule

nyjff-logoNYJFF 2017 has a big palette; color it interesting. Opening day/night’s film is Moon in the 12th House (director Dorit Hakim will be present at both matinee and evening screenings), a look away from more familiar Israel-specific military and settlement issues to a very contemporary and personal tale of two sisters who inhabit very different lives. Their dilemmas resonate far beyond their homeland, mirroring family conflicts familiar throughout the West. Hakim observes and probes deeply into her characters, with her cast working hand in glove to demand 12th-houseour attention (Yuval Scharf and Yaara Pelzig as the sisters are superb). This is an important film for everyone who cares about the basics of how parents determine the paths their children take, the consequences of their choices, and the possibilities of redemption in challenging circumstances. Rooted in tradition, these young Israelis learn how to shape-shift into adult lives in a non-traditional world. Highly recommended.

One of this year’s features is a slate of exceptional revivals, with a big palette all their own. Threepenny Opera (Pabst, 1931), based on the Brecht-Weill musical of 1928, itself a lineal
threepennydescendant of
John Gay’s Beggar’s Opera of 1728, is not to be missed. While Gay’s version offered a charming pastiche score of popular songs, hymns, and opera tunes, it’s Weill’s original score that remains the gold standard. Its powerful bite has not been matched. Of course all three versions have their own backstories, but for a telling account of the mother of all behind-the-scenes movie dramatics, marvel at Tony Rayn’s account https://www.criterion.com/current/posts/614-the-threepenny-opera-doubles-and-duplicities. It will seem like today’s news. While the film as seen now omits many of Weill’s matchless ballads, it offers a glimpse of the phenomenon that was Lotte Lenya (Weill’s wife and muse), and a sense of what made Berlin the international capital of attitude and art between the wars.

valeskaNur zum Spass, nur zum spiel—Kaleidoskop Valeska Gert (Volker Schlőndorff, 1977). A look back at the queen of eccentric dance and stage and film acting, famous in the same Berlin and then a refugee who fled to America and survived by washing dishes and running a series of cabarets staffed by then-very young busboys like Jackson Pollack and Tennessee Williams (among others). A rebellious standout even in Berlin, Gert appears in the Threepenny Opera (in a small role), but deserves Schlőndorff’s attention to reveal her truly revolutionary and original talent as a real ancestor of Punk, way ahead of its time.

THE PRODUCERS (1968) GENE WILDER, KENNETH MARS, ZERO MOSTEL PRDR 002CP MOVIESTORE COLLECTION LTD

And make space for The Producers (Mel Brooks, 1968) on the big screen. Forever fabulous, it’s the only way to immerse yourself in the outsize phenomenon that was Zero Mostel, and his partner in crime Gene Wilder, aided and abetted by Mel Brooks. Treasure those laughs…

For one more look back at Germany between the wars (this time through the eyes of one of its most celebrated exiles), attend Closing Night to see Maria Schrader’s Stefan Zweig: zweigFarewell to Europe. This is a big, beautifully made film, powerful and affective. The screenplay (by Schrader and Jan Schomburg) gives all of Zweig’s complexities their due; his refusal to condemn Germany, his ambivalence about his fame, his need for both solitude and for friends and family in exile. The cast is an Olympian match for the material: Josef Hader (as Zweig); Babara Sukowa and Aenne Schwarz (as Zweig’s first and second wives); and a host of others (playing the many artists and politicians who were integral to Zweig’s circle) create an entirely believable moment when the world was turned upside down and changed forever. Schrader (famous for her role in Aimée & Jaguar) applies her acting smarts to her cast’s talents, and gets a gorgeous film from DP Wolfgang Thaler and editor Hanzjőrg Weißrich. (P.S.:Pay attention to the way the end of the film is shot. Fascinating choices.) Austria’s nominee for Best Foreign Film.

peshmerga

Returning to the present, don’t miss PeshmergaBernard Henri-Lėvy’s documentary about the eternal struggle of the Kurds to prevail against IS, as the war rages through Syria, Iraq, Iran and Turkey with no end in sight. The Kurds are determined to create Kurdistan for themselves, and we will have to wait until their multi-sided battles have been resolved to see the future. This is war up close and personal, being observed by one of France’s leading writer/philosophers.

kentridgeSince William Kentridge is unquestionably a prolific, articulate, original and utterly charming subject who talks and performs as well as he paints, draws, and makes film, attention must be paid to Andrea Patrieno’s account (Triumphs and Laments) of the artist’s murals (reflecting Rome’s history) painted on the banks of the Tiber, where they will ultimately be washed away by the river’s ebb and flow. Kentridge is a subject hard to get enough of, and time spent in his company is time to be cherished. Grab it while you can (Patrieno will be present for Q & A at both screenings).

Angel Wagenstein: Art is a Weapon (Andrea Simon) This is a truly stunning work on every level, from an accomplished filmmaker with a subject made for her talents. Even in the Festival’s august company (Kentridge, Zweig, Gert), the 94-year-old Wagenstein dominates the screen. Described by a supertitle (“94 years; 52 films; 3 wagensteinrevolutions”) he offers up his life with a heady brew of humor (“I am a Marxist because of the Marx Brothers”), humanity, and survival skills that you will hate to abandon at the film’s end.

Simon benefits from an archival deluge of Wagenstein’s films and documentary footage covering most of the 20th century. But most of all she benefits from Wagenstein himself, an international treasure whose memories and personality are every filmmaker’s dream. I shudder to think of how hard her choices must have been, and mourn the thousands of feet of footage that had to be left behind, even as I celebrate the brilliance of her decisions and the film she has made from them packed into only 84 succulent minutes. Angel Wagenstein has everything, and you will regret it if you can’t find a ticket for its single screening (Sunday, January 22 at 8:30 PM, Walter Reade). Andrea Simon will be there afterwards for a Q & A, likely to be as rich and as interesting as the film itself.

Apollo’s Girl

February 8, 2015

apollo and lyre
NYFF52: Red Carpet Crystal Ball–
A Little Cloudy…

film societyJanuary 11 was the deadline for my annual whine about who—first seen at the New York Film Festivalgets which Oscar. It’s getting to be a tradition in these pages; a long, hard look back at NYFF after the mind has cleared and the dust has settled and before the statuettes have actually changed hands. But watching the shattering events in France, and the lions linking arms with the lambs (if charlie1not actually lying down with them) as they marched over a million strong through Paris, it was hard to leave television’s realities (at home and abroad) to concentrate on what was showing on the big screen. And to contemplate the crystal ball. So I waited a while.charlie2

It was especially difficult this year becausewith the full deployment of the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Centerthere was non-stop action every single day at NYFF for a month. But now that most of the films are finally out and about let the choices begin!

Despite the virtues of the Festival’s three big ones with pride of place (Gone Girl; Inherent Vice; and Birdman), it wasn’t until almost the end of the press screening weeks that Foxcatcher was unveiled. And what an unveiling it was! Unlike even the best films, foxcatcher2Foxcatcher didn’t unspoolit unfolded, like a latter-day Greek tragedy, defined by ever-escalating tension built into the unfolding and the performances Bennett Miller drew from Steve Carrell, Mark Ruffalo, and Channing Tatum. Theirs was a perfect trifecta, always in balance, winning a Gotham Award for ensemble performance. In fact, I’d walked out on two of Carrell’s previous films (they were, honestly, just too dumb to sit through and, of course, wildly successful). Not on this one, though. Attention must be paid to that kind of revelation.

With his role as the psychopathic scion of an old and very wealthy foxcatcher1family and a by-now infamous prosthetic nose, Carrell deserves to take home the statuette, no matter how intense the competition. But there’s more: the cinematography by Greig Fraser and the editing by another trifecta (Jay Cassidy, Stuart Levy, Conor O’Neill) fill in the colors and connect the dots. Will it win? Well, I complained a lot about Social Network losing to The King’s Speech (https://apollosgirl.wordpress.com/2011/02/27/apollos-girl-3/and suspect that the buzz around Boyhood and Birdman may outweigh anything I can plead on Foxcatcher’s behalf; it isn’t even foxcatcher3nominated for Best Film. But just to sum up: I saw it a second time right after the NYFF press screening; every seat was filled, and the audience barely breathed for two hours and nine minutes. No one took a break or texted, either. These days, that’s a colossal endorsement. With luck, Miller will end up as Best Director. (And who can forget that his golden portfolio includes both Moneyball and Capote?)

Then there was the shock of Whiplash. whiplash poster2Watching it was like being at the epicenter of a tornado. In addition to its many glories, it’s the first film I can remember since Ray that’s truly inside musicnot some Hollywood executive’s idea of what music might be. The conflicts and characters are the stuff of great storytelling, but the music itself is performed by actual musicians, and/or by actors who have had considerable experience at playing. Miles Teller’s final drum solo is so intense it wihplash2made me cry Whiplash (2014) -- Screengrab from exclusive EW.com clip.(and believe me, I wasn’t unhappy!). J.K. Simmons has already, like a magnetized locomotive, been collecting awards for best supporting actor.
But let’s look at
Damien Chazelle for a minute: chazelle2
he’s only made one other feature (
Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3T6Bn0_QfaY
He has, thank God, music in his blood, and he is generous with it. And he also shot Whiplash in 19 days and edited it in two months. Where I come from, that’s called a miracle.

The sad thing is that these two films, each great in its own way, have both been nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Film (Whiplash) and Best Achievement in Directing (Foxcatcher). It’s not only apples and oranges, but the Apollo of Foxcatcher vs. the Dionysus of Whiplash.

sissakoTimbuktu, created by Abderrahmane Sissako, is a front-runner for Best Foreign Film, and the first ever contender from Mali. Sissako is part Malian and part Mauritanian, learned his considerable craft at a Russian film school, and has lived primarily in France. For centuries Timbuktu was a crossroads of trade and the timbuktu3melting pot of northwest Africa, until its annexation by extremists in recent years. Sissako knows the territory and the traditions, but filters them through highly sophisticated sensibilities and technique to tell his storya dreamlike tragedy which begins with references to the region’s Edenic, multicultural past and ends with the horror of its present and likely destiny. There’s only one problem: the oranges and apples in this Oscar category are complicated by the presence ida2of Ida, another serious contender. As austere in black-and-white as Timbuktu is sensual in color, Ida (seen at Lincoln Center early last year at the Jewish Film Festival) is all the more powerful for its minimalism. How can we possibly choose between them?

Finally, when it comes to documentaries, NYFF’s Citizen Four is a front-runner for the statue, and with good reason. It’s hard to top either the extreme intelligence and discipline of director Laura Poitress, or her subject, Edward Snowden, as they gradually reveal the extent to which our government has been citizen foursurveilling most of its citizens, or what may come of it in the not-too-distant future. And, of course, its very understatement is what creates its impact. However: its strengths provide one more serving of apples and oranges: the style and content of Gabe Polsky’s Red Army: no less intelligent and disciplined, definitely more raucous and outrageous, andhow did this happen?—not even on the Oscar shortlist, let alone one of its nominees. Red Army, in 76 well-stacked and packed minutes, manages to even-handedly condense fetisovthe complex history of the Cold War through the rollicking tale of the Russian hockey team that ended up playing for New Jersey and then Toronto. As if this weren’t enough, its mighty protagonist Slava Fetisov all but walks off with the movie as he embraces his cellphone, the joys of both conspicuous capitalism and warm collectivism, and his own bigger-than-life force that powers the film.

Full disclosure of personal theory: it has become evident that you can tell a lot from the press conferences that often follow press screenings. The casts and crews of Foxcatcher, Whiplash, and Red Army were pumped beyond any flackery. They knew they had a very, very good thing, and you knew that they knew. It’s all about the energy, and it never lies.

P.S.: A word of thanks for the NYFF’s choice of retrospectives: 21 of Joseph Mankiewicz’s films representing his outsize palette (including Cleopatra, All About Eve, The Barefoot Contessa, and that people will talkhard-to-find civilized gem, People Will Talk). And welcome backward glances at This is Spinal Tap, plus a gloriously restored print of Resnais’ Hiroshima, Mon Amour.hiroshima2

Apollo’s Girl

July 23, 2012

 

 

Hand Stories:
Lincoln Center Festival

There’s a reason why puppets have survived for so many millennia; like mimes, they distill and display our primal emotions, put us in touch with our childhood wonder, and spin out their tales in an intense shorthand that living actors cannot always match. Their smaller-than-life protagonists shine brightest in playing out the grandest stories.

Hand Stories has some big topics for us: the cruelty of China’s Cultural Revolution; the cruelty of struggling to live in an America besotted by money and pop culture; and especially the great value of tradition and close family ties that transcends eras and national borders.

It’s fair to say that Yeung Faϊ is truly a magician. In his hands, his cohort of exquisitely built and costumed silent little people become eloquent. They play out historical Chinese myths, fighting, flirting, laughing, maneuvering their tiny swords and fans like lightning, giving us a glimpse of characters who have survived for centuries while “speaking” to the here-and-now.

When Yeung switches to our own era, his brilliance extends not only to the antics of his puppets, but to the ways in which he finds visual metaphors for complex events. The Revolution is played by a marvelous dragon with silver scales; as an artist/villain of the Revolution, his father is made to wear a dunce cap and a confessional signboard; when Yeung performs on the streets of New York, he, too, wears a sign: “Fifth Generation Puppet Master.” But in a city where tradition is unimportant, his only audience is a puppet angel who gives advice with a New York accent, while demanding money for the favor.

His imagination is both playful and heart-breaking. Some of the puppets carry tiny puppets of their own which, by sleight of Yeung’s hands, live an independent life. For one scene, he uses the back of a puppet stage as a cramped prison cell where he must curl up with a copy of Chairman Mao’s little red book; he uses the back of another stage to represent his subsequent “freedom” in America—an equally cramped room, covered with newspapers—all he can afford. It’s not surprising he has chosen to live offstage in Hong Kong and France

Like most of the Festival’s events, it’s ars longa and vita brevis; Yeung’s consummate artistry (and that of his stage colleague, Yoann Pencolế, and the production crew) is really fleeting: You have only two days to share his keen imagination and the alchemy of his hands (July 24—25, at the Clark Studio Theater). Make haste! Tickets

Fearless Predictions

July 10, 2012

Codebreaker—Alan Turing’s Life and Legacy (through July 31, Science Museum, London): Mathematician Alan Turing was long neglected, even unknown, except among computer-science students and other digerati (novelist William Gibson included a Turing police force in his 1984 novel, Neuromancer). Turing is no longer unknown. His World War II contributions to cracking Axis codes at Bletchley Park became celebrated as details were declassified. The test that bears his name, a way of judging whether a machine displays human-like intelligence, is now familiar, and even his more abstract work is better recognized, as in the recent book Turing’s Cathedral.To observe the 100th anniversary of his birth, London’s Science Museum has assembled an exhibition combining personal notes with artifacts from his career. museum

Far from Heaven (July 19–29, Williamstown Theatre Festival): Musical adaptations may be the riskiest of artistic endeavors (ditto as financial investments). With an original show, no one can say it compares badly to its source, whereas an adaptation has to measure up to it,as well as to provide fresh depth or perspective. Yet hope springs eternal. In this new show, the 2002 film, written and directed by Todd Haynes (as a smart and lovely rejuvenation of 50s melodramas à la Douglas Sirk), is being adapted by Richard Greenberg (book), Scott Frankel (music), and Michael Korie (lyrics). All three have done good work before: Greenberg in a number of plays, Frankel and Korie in the songs for Grey Gardens. But reputation counts for nothing once the curtain rises—what will matter is whether this show works. schedule

Dido and Aeneas (August 22–25, Mark Morris Dance Group, Mostly Mozart Festival): Choreographer Mark Morris is not only highly musical and very inventive in his movement choices but also one of the greatest classicists since George Balanchine, frequently employing the genre’s virtues of balance, proportion, and symmetry. In Dido and Aeneas (1989), he crafted a stylized, moving dance-drama set to Purcell’s opera, with the singers and musicians in the pit. The vocalists include Stephanie Blythe; Morris himself, once unmatched in the dance role of Dido, has now retreated to the pit to conduct. Tickets are limited, so act fast.    —JEB
tickets

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Apollo’s Girl

June 6, 2012


Claire Tow Theater
(La Boite Sur le Toit)

In real life, architects and institutions seldom get to repair the errors of the past, or to learn from them to build anew. Except at Lincoln Center. Whatever missteps dogged the original structures, the recent makeovers (Alice Tully Hall and the plaza) and newbies (Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center) have exceeded expectations and been worth the wait. The Claire TowLCT3’s new rooftop theater (above the Vivian Beaumont) is no exception. Although almost invisible from ground level, it’s a simple glass box with a cunning program; an ingenious paradigm of less is more, and more. On a recent house tour, its virtues were everywhere apparent, created with an eye wide open to the future. Lincoln Center Theater wants to encourage upcoming artists, needs a stage suitable for mounting their work, and plans to attract the younger audiences who will find it relevant (and, at $20 a ticket, affordable). They have actually pulled it off. How? By building an intimate complex that includes a cafe/bar to continue conversations during intermissions and after hours, by having rehearsal space, offices, dressing rooms and green room right there, and by surrounding the entire enterprise with walls of glass that bring light into every corner. The effect is more than good design – it promises that great things will be taking place. And, as a finishing touch, there’s an outdoor garden and a roof deck overlooking the plaza and the surrounding cityscape, with a stereo viewer for closeups.

Architect Hugh Hardy has put the Claire Tow together with the craft of a master theater designer, whose experience goes back to working with Eero Saarinen on the construction of the Vivian Beaumont itself in the 1960s. He recounts some of the decade-long story with a dry wit. It was all about permits and permissions. “Lincoln Center is a tenant on city-owned land; the Lincoln Center Library is above (stacks of books) and the Vivian Beaumont is below. That was an architectural challenge.We needed elevators – outside the building? Through the Beaumont lobby? Where to put them without imposing on buildings and employees already in place?” But, like the seasoned negotiator he is, Hardy resolved the problems, impasse by impasse. To put it simply, no trace of them remains. Only the new house with its 112 new seats, waiting for the season to begin.

Paige Evans is LCT3’s Director. She creates and oversees a calender crammed with the playwrights, directors and casts of tomorrow, beginning with Slowgirl, by Greg Pierce, directed by Anne Kauffman (June 4 through July 15); a special event: We’re Gonna Die, written and performed by Young Jean Lee, with music by Future Wife (September 13 through September 15); and Disgraced, by Ayad Akhtar, directed by Kimberly Senior (October 8 through November 18).   And, while you’re waiting, stop by to see 4000 Miles—a real gem of a play developed by LCT3 last season, now transferred to the Mitzi Newhouse Theater. It’s won an Obie (Best New American Play) for writer Amy Herzog, and for Performance (actors Gabriel Ebert and Mary Louise Wilson). Part of LCT3’s past and present, it will show you what you can hope to see in LCT3’s future. To find out what’s coming down the road: web site


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