This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001

GOD LOVES THE FIGHTER

GOD LOVES THE FIGHTER

Old friends Stone (Abdi Waithe) and Charlie (Muhammad Muwakil) are on different paths in GOD LOVES THE FIGHTER

GOD LOVES THE FIGHTER (Damian Marcano, 2013)
Available on DVD and VOD July 7
www.godlovesthefighter.com

If you missed Damian Marcano’s gripping God Loves the Fighter when it played the Urbanworld Film Festival last September and BAMcinématek’s Caribbean Film Series in April, you can now catch this realistic, unflinching portrait of street life in the capital of Trinidad & Tobago on DVD and VOD. Following in the tradition of such classic tales as Perry Henzell’s The Harder They Come, Fernando Meirelles’s City of God, and Gavin Hood’s Tsotsi, God Loves the Fighter is set in Port of Spain, which angry narrator King Curtis (Freetown Collective’s Lou Lyons) calls “blood city” and “gun town” and where Charlie Ward (Freetown Collective’s Muhammad Muwakil) is trying to make a better life for himself despite being dealt a bad hand. Desperate for money, Charlie hooks up with childhood friend Daniel (Abdi Waithe), now known as Stone, a powerful local gangster doing the dirty work for drug-dealing pimp Putao Singh (Darren Cheewah), a vicious, heavily tattooed man who walks around in nothing but flip-flops and ridiculously tight black Jockey shorts. Charlie seeks advice from his mentor and father figure, Mr. Odrick (Albert Laveau), a wise old man who has lost four sons to the violence on the streets. Meanwhile, smart young kid Chicken (Zion Henry) represents the future of the city, but he is brutalized by his mother (Penelope Spencer), who demands that he does whatever is necessary to bring home food for her, forgoing an education and instead meeting up with the wrong people. The multiple story lines all come together when Dinah (Jamie Lee Phillips), one of Putao’s prostitutes, decides that she’s not going to let what happened to her happen to his newest recruit, the young Nina (Tyker Phillips).

GOD LOVES THE FIGHTER

Characters dream of finding a way out in GOD LOVES THE FIGHTER

God Loves the Fighter is alive with the rhythms of Port of Spain, the sounds and colors, beautifully shot and edited by Marcano, who incorporates slow motion, jump cuts, and sometimes dizzying handheld camerawork to capture the dark mood on the streets, the lack of hope that is pervasive in this society. Marcano also cowrote the screenplay with executive producer Alexa Bailey, but most of the dialogue is improvised based on the script; the subtitles don’t always match what the characters are actually saying, which is far more poetic and natural. The evocative soundtrack, which is a character unto itself, consists of music by Freetown Collective and Q Major that furthers the emotional power and overarching moods. The title of the film, which has been a hit at festivals around the world but has not had a U.S. theatrical release, comes from a quote by Muwakil: “I believe that as much as God loves the prayerful penitent so too must he love the persistent, up against all odds death coming endlessly in waves but never go under, God loves the fighter.” Those words embody the provocative spirit of Marcano’s feature debut, a compelling work about his hometown, a place that leads King Curtis to ask, “So what’s in a name when a name is worthless? I sleep on the streets, but I’m still a king.”

4KNOTS VIDEO OF THE DAY: MIKAL CRONIN LIVE ON KEXP

Who: Surfbort, Heaven, Heaters, Meatbodies, Happyness, Screaming Females, Mikal Cronin, Twin Peaks, Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, and Super Furry Animals
What: Fifth annual Village Voice 4Knots Music Festival
Where: Pier 84, Hudson River Park, West 44th St. at 12th Ave.
When: Saturday, July 11, general admission $25, VIP $50, 12 noon - 10:00
Why: Laguna Beach native Mikal Cronin has divided his third solo album, MCIII (Merge, May 2015), into one side of lush pop songs (“Turn Around,” “Made My Mind Up,” others), and a second side that tells his very personal coming-of-age story, a six-song suite of “Alone,” “Gold,” “Control,” “Ready,” “Different,” and “Circle.” “It’s about a pivotal moment in my life that changed things, just within a couple of months,” Cronin, who plays most of the instruments on the record, explains in a statement. “It was a shifting point that sent me on the path to doing what I’m doing right now.” Cronin, who has also recorded with Ty Segall, Epsilons, Charlie and the Moonhearts, Party Fowl, and Okie Dokie, will be playing the 4Knots Music Festival in Hudson River Park on July 11.

Surfbort — 12:00
Heaven — 12:40
Heaters — 1:25
Meatbodies — 2:05
Happyness — 2:45
Screaming Females — 3:45
Mikal Cronin — 4:45
Twin Peaks — 5:45
Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks — 6:45
Super Furry Animals — 8:30

JULIE TAYMOR: REMOVING THE MASK

(photo by Brigitte Lacombe, 2010)

Julie Taymor will talk masks at the Rubin with Morgan Stebbins on July 9 (photo by Brigitte Lacombe, 2010)

TALK WITH JUNGIAN ANALYST MORGAN STEBBINS
Rubin Museum of Art
150 West 17th St. at Seventh Ave.
Thursday, July 9, $30, 7:00
212-620-5000
www.rmanyc.org

The Rubin Museum exhibition “Becoming Another: The Power of Masks” is a splendid collection of religious, cultural, and theatrical faces that people throughout the centuries have worn, from Japan, India, Bhutan, Alaska, British Columbia, Russia, Nepal, and other locales. Not part of the collection are the classic Greek comedy and tragedy masks, so essential to Western drama, depicting Thalia and Melpomene, but on July 9, they will all come together for “Julie Taymor: Removing the Mask,” when award-winning theater veteran Julie Taymor sits down with Jungian Analyst and archetypal symbols specialist Morgan Stebbins for an illustrated talk. Taymor has directed many a Shakespeare adaptation for stage and screen in addition to The Lion King on Broadway and the films Frida and Across the Universe; the New York-based Stebbins has previously been at the Rubin for talks with Meredith Monk and Billy Corgan. Also in conjunction with the exhibition, the Rubin’s Cabaret Cinema series “Movie Masks” will screen such films as The Princess Bride, Phantom of the Paradise, The Face of Another, and Witness for the Prosecution on Friday nights, with an all-day art workshop and tour on July 11.

MOVIE NIGHTS IN THE ROCKAWAYS: THE IRON GIANT

Hogarth Hughes makes a big new friend in 1950s Cold War throwback THE IRON GIANT

THE IRON GIANT (Brad Bird, 1999)
O’Donohue Park
Beach 17th St. & Seagirt Blvd., Rockaway, Queens
Tuesday, July 7, free, 8:00
www.nycgovparks.org

Writer-director Brad Bird won Oscars for his animated features The Incredibles (2004) and Ratatatouille (2007), but the Simpsons veteran first made his mark with the charming 1999 sci-fi cartoon The Iron Giant. Based on the 1968 book The Iron Man by Ted Hughes, the animated film is set during the Cold War, with the general populace and the military fearful of a nuclear attack by the Soviet Union. So when rumors that a fifty-foot-tall iron giant (voiced by Vin Diesel) has fallen from the sky, the government wants to destroy it, but it is being hidden by young Hogarth Hughes (Eli Marienthal), who has saved its life. Hogarth keeps his new best friend a secret from his mother (Jennifer Aniston) and federal agent Kent Mansley (Christopher McDonald) with the help of the town beatnik, Dean McCoppin (Harry Connick Jr.), who takes a liking to Hogarth’s mom. The screenplay, written by Tim McCanlies (Secondhand Lions), plays with various genre clichés just enough to avoid being clichéd itself, instead making The Iron Giant a delightful, nearly flawless twist on the E.T. mythos, mixed in with a little Androcles & the Lion, The Day the Earth Stood Still, and even Frankenstein and King Kong. The film, which also features the voices of Cloris Leachman (Mrs. Tensedge), John Mahoney (General Rogard), and M. Emmet Walsh (Earl Stutz), is a treat for children and adults. Bird, meanwhile, has graduated to live action; his next movies were Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol, starring Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, and Simon Pegg, and Tomorrowland, with George Clooney and Hugh Laurie. The Iron Giant is screening for free on July 7 at dusk as part of the Movie Nights in the Rockaways series in O’Donohue Park, which continues August 4 with Robert Zemeckis’s Back to the Future 2. (For a day-by-day list of free summer movies throughout New York City, go here.)

4KNOTS VIDEO OF THE DAY: “HOPELESS” BY SCREAMING FEMALES

Who: Surfbort, Heaven, Heaters, Meatbodies, Happyness, Screaming Females, Mikal Cronin, Twin Peaks, Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, and Super Furry Animals
What: Fifth annual Village Voice 4Knots Music Festival
Where: Pier 84, Hudson River Park, West 44th St. at 12th Ave.
When: Saturday, July 11, general admission $25, VIP $50, 12 noon - 10:00
Why: New Brunswick’s Screaming Females, who tore it up at the 2010 Siren Festival, will be playing 4Knots on July 11, led by super-shredder Marissa Paternoster on guitar, along with bassist King Mike and drummer Jarrett Dougherty. The band is touring behind its first studio album in three years, Rose Mountain, (Don Giovanni, February 2014) which features such tracks as “Empty Head,” “Ripe,” “Burning Car,” “Triumph,” and “It’s Not Fair,” which need to be played loud.

Surfbort — 12:00
Heaven — 12:40
Heaters — 1:25
Meatbodies — 2:05
Happyness — 2:45
Screaming Females — 3:45
Mikal Cronin — 4:45
Twin Peaks — 5:45
Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks — 6:45
Super Furry Animals — 8:30

JEAN-CLAUDE CARRIERE — WRITING THE IMPOSSIBLE: MAX, MON AMOUR

MAX, MON AMOUR

Married mother Margaret Jones (Charlotte Rampling) is madly in love with a monkey in Nagisa Ôshima’s surprisingly tame MAX, MON AMOUR

CinéSalon: MAX, MON AMOUR (Nagisa Ôshima, 1986)
French Institute Alliance Française, Florence Gould Hall
55 East 59th St. between Madison & Park Aves.
Tuesday, July 7, $13, 4:00 & 7:30
Series continues Tuesdays through July 28
212-355-6100
fiaf.org

It’s rather hard to tell how much Japanese auteur Nagisa Ôshima is monkeying around with his very strange 1986 movie, Max, Mon Amour, a love story between an intelligent, beautiful woman and a chimpanzee. The director of such powerful films as Cruel Story of Youth; Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence; Taboo; and In the Realm of the Senses seems to have lost his own senses with this surprisingly straightforward, tame tale of bestiality, a collaboration with master cinematographer Raoul Coutard, who shot seminal works by Truffaut and Godard; screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière, who has written or cowritten nearly ninety films by such directors as Pierre Étaix (who plays the detective in Max), Luis Buñuel, Volker Schlöndorff, Philippe Garrel, and Miloš Forman; and special effects and makeup artist extraordinaire Rick Baker, the mastermind behind the 1976 King Kong, the Michael Jackson video Thriller, Ratboy, Hellboy, and An American Werewolf in London, among many others. Evoking Bedtime for Bonzo and Ed more than Planet of the Apes and Gorillas in the Mist, Max, Mon Amour is about a well-to-do English family living in Paris whose lives undergo a rather radical change when husband Peter Jones (Anthony Higgins) catches his elegant wife, Margaret (Charlotte Rampling), in bed with a chimp. Margaret insists that she and the chimp, Max, are madly in love and somehow convinces Peter to let her bring the sensitive yet dangerous beast home, which confuses their son, Nelson (Christopher Hovik), and causes their maid, Maria (Victoria Abril), to break out in ugly rashes. Peter, a diplomat, works for the queen of England, so as he prepares for a royal visit to Paris, he also has to deal with this new addition to his ever-more-dysfunctional family.

Throughout the film, it’s almost impossible to figure out when Ôshima is being serious, when he is being ironic, when he is trying to make a metaphorical point about evolution, or when he is commenting on the state of contemporary aristocratic European society. When Margaret puts on a fur coat, is that a reference to her hypocrisy? Is her affair with a zoo animal being directly compared to Peter’s dalliance with his assistant Camille (Diana Quick)? Even better, is Ôshima relating Max to Her Royal Highness? We are all mammals, after all. Or are Ôshima and Carrière merely riffing on Buñuel’s 1972 surrealist classic The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, which Carrière cowrote? Perhaps Max, Mon Amour is about all of that, or maybe none of it, as Ôshima lays it all out very plainly, as if it is not a completely crazy thing that a woman can have an affair with a chimp and have him become part of the family. Regardless, the film is just plain silly, although it looks pretty great, particularly Rampling wearing gorgeous outfits and a Princess Di do and Quick in hysterically hideous haute couture gone terribly wrong. Meanwhile, Michel Portal’s score mines Laurie Anderson territory. You can decide for yourself whether Max, Mon Amour is a misunderstood masterpiece or an absurd piece of trifle when it is shown on July 7 in the French Institute Alliance Française’s CinéSalon series “Jean-Claude Carrière: Writing the Impossible.” (The 7:30 show will be introduced by Japan Society film programmer Kazu Watanabe, who will attempt to shed more light on this, and both the 4:00 and 7:30 shows will be followed by a wine reception.) The two-month festival consists of a wide range of films written by two-time Oscar winner Carrière, who, at eighty-three, is still hard at work. The series continues through July 28 with such other Carrière collaborations as Andrzej Wajda’s Danton, Louis Malle’s May Fools, and Jonathan Glazer’s Birth.

OF GOOD STOCK

(photo by Joan Marcus)

Jennifer Mudge, Heather Lind, and Alicia Silverstone star as three sisters reconnecting at their family home on Cape Cod in OF GOOD STOCK (photo by Joan Marcus)

Manhattan Theatre Club
New York City Center Stage 1
Tuesday - Sunday through July 26, $90
212-581-1212
ofgoodstockplay.com
www.nycitycenter.org

Having spent some time the past several summers in a house on Cape Cod rented by my in-laws, I was looking forward to Melissa Ross’s new play, Of Good Stock, which takes place on the popular peninsula. Entering the theater at City Center, I could practically smell the fresh saltwater air as soon as I saw Santo Loquasto’s open stage of beach grass and dune. And once the play started and the revolving set rotated to that all-too-familiar, overly comfy style of Cape Cod house, and then two of the characters went out to pick up something from Marion’s Pie Shop in Chatham, well, it was like I’d been transported to Massachusetts, where I will not be going this summer. Fortunately, however — or, perhaps, unfortunately — I had little cathartic identification with the fictional Stockton clan, a dysfunctional family of three sisters and their significant others, that who did not remind me of any real people I know but instead felt like escapees from worlds created by Wendy Wasserstein (The Sisters Rosensweig), Tracy Letts (August: Osage County), Beth Henley (Crimes of the Heart), and, of course, Anton Chekhov (Three Sisters), among others. Oldest sister Jess (Jennifer Mudge), middle sister Amy (Alicia Silverstone), and youngest sister Celia (Heather Lind) arrive at the Cape Cod house where they spent their childhood summers, seeking to take stock of their lives. The daughters of the late famous writer and master philanderer Micah Stockton, they each have relationship and daddy issues. Jess, the stalwart leader of the group who is battling cancer, married the much older, very dependable Fred (Kelly AuCoin), who used to work for Micah. Amy, a flighty drama queen given to histrionics and whining, is engaged to the already henpecked Josh (Greg Keller) and is obsessed with planning their destination wedding in Tahiti. And neurotic free spirit Celia has brought a new beau, Hunter (Nate Miller), a hirsute thirtysomething hipster from Montana who has still not finished college. While the men basically sit back and watch, the three women rehash old stories, purposefully push one another’s buttons, and argue over just about everything. But their problems are nothing to the easygoing, up-front Hunter, who says, “I’ve got twelve siblings. No offense to you guys but y’all are amateurs.”

(photo by Joan Marcus)

A rare moment of laughter is shared in new play about family dysfunction (photo by Joan Marcus)

Mudge (Into the Woods, Reckless) and AuCoin (The Wayside Motor Inn, House of Cards) are an excellent team as Jess and Fred, the heart and soul of the play, keeping it from teetering over the edge, bringing empathy and depth to every situation. AuCoin is particularly effective in a terrific scene with Keller (Wit, The Who and the What) as Fred and Josh discuss “manly men things.” Lind (Turn: Washington’s Spies, The Merchant of Venice) and Miller (Love and Information, Peter and the Starcatcher) are fun to watch, she a whirling dervish of energy, he an easygoing, content dude who prefers the truth to secrets. Silverstone (Clueless, The Graduate) isn’t given a whole lot to do with Amy except annoy, complain, and rush off in tears, which grows tiresome rather quickly. Directed by Lynne Meadow, Of Good Stock can get a bit too manic depressive, and its characters and plot twists offer little new on family dysfunction. Ross, whose Nice Girl was recently warmly received at LCT3, favors overlapping dialogue that sometimes gets confusing, and the narrative too often heads toward sitcom territory. The play, which premiered earlier this year in a different production at South Coast Repertory in California, was a late substitute after Manhattan Theater Club announced that Richard Greenberg’s previously scheduled The Swing of the Sea was being postponed “in order to give these artists more time to work on the production of the play.” Of Good Stock could probably have benefited from more tweaking as well. But it’s still a nice place to visit, even if you wouldn’t want to live there.

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