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

BURT LANCASTER: ROBERT SIODMAK’S THE KILLERS / DON SIEGEL’S THE KILLERS

THE KILLERS

Burt Lancaster makes a killer film debut in classic 1946 noir from Robert Siodmak

THE KILLERS (Robert Siodmak, 1946)
Film Forum
209 West Houston St.
July 19–25
Series runs July 19 - August 15
212-727-8110
filmforum.org

In 1950, Edmond O’Brien starred as auditor Frank Bigelow in Rudolph Maté’s classic noir D.O.A., a story told in flashback as Bigelow tries to figure out why someone has poisoned him. Four years earlier, O’Brien dealt with another kind of fatalism in Robert Siodmak’s The Killers, playing insurance agent Jim Reardon, who is investigating why a gas station attendant was brutally gunned down in his bed in suburban Brentwood, New Jersey. The film — which kicks off Film Forum’s four-week salute to Manhattan-born Hollywood star Burt Lancaster on July 19 — opens with cold-hearted contract killers Al (Charles McGraw) and Max (William Conrad) arriving in town, looking for the Swede (Lancaster), aka Pete Lund and Ole Andreson. They waltz into Henry’s Diner, giving orders and exchanging mean-spirited dialogue with no fears or worries. When Nick Adams (Phil Brown) warns the Swede that the men are coming to kill him, the former boxer knows there’s nothing he can do about it anymore; he’s tired of running, and he’s ready to meet his end.

It’s a shocking way to begin a movie; up to that point, it’s a faithful version of Ernest Hemingway’s short story, but the rest is the splendid invention of writers Richard Brooks, Anthony Veiller, and John Huston and producer Mark Hellinger. Reardon soon finds himself meeting with a series of gangsters as they relate, through flashbacks, a plot to rob a payroll, perpetrated by a motley crew that includes “Dum Dum” Clarke (Jack Lambert), “Blinky” Franklin (Jeff Corey), the Swede, and mastermind Big Jim Colfax (Albert Dekker), along with Big Jim’s gun moll, femme fatale extraordinaire Kitty Collins (Ava Gardner). Reardon’s boss (Donald MacBride) wants him to forget about it, since it’s essentially about a meager $2,500 insurance claim, but Reardon is determined to find out what happened to a quarter million in cash, with the help of the Swede’s childhood friend, Lt. Sam Lubinsky (Sam Levene).

Ava Gardner turns more than a few heads in THE KILLERS

Ava Gardner turns more than a few heads in The Killers

The Killers is an intense, passionate heist flick, structured like Citizen Kane, starting with a death and then putting everything together via interviews and flashbacks. Lancaster and Gardner are magnetic, he in his screen debut, she in the film that made her a star. Siodmak (The Dark Mirror, The Spiral Staircase) masterfully navigates the noir tropes, from Miklós Rózsa’s jazzy score, which jumps out from the opening credits, and Woody Bredell’s oft-angled black-and-white cinematography that maintains an ominous, shadowy sensibility throughout to deft characterizations and surprising plot twists. As it makes its way through the seven deadly sins, The Killers lives up to its fab billing as a “Raw! Rugged! Ruthless drama of a man who gambled — his luck — his love — his life for the treachery of a girl’s lips.”

Nominated for four Oscars, for Best Director, Best Film Editing (Arthur Hilton), Best Music, and Best Adapted Screenplay, The Killers, which was also made into a 1958 student short by Andrei Tarkovsky and a 1964 crime drama by Don Siegel starring Lee Marvin, Angie Dickinson, John Cassavetes, Norman Fell, and Ronald Reagan, is screening July 19-25 at Film Forum; the Lancaster tribute continues through August 15 with such other Burt classics as Alexander Mackendrick’s Sweet Smell of Success, Fred Zinnemann’s From Here to Eternity, and Louis Malle’s Atlantic City in addition to such lesser-known movies as John Cassavetes’s A Child Is Waiting, Sidney Pollack’s The Scalphunters, and Norman Foster’s Kiss the Blood Off My Hands.

The Killers

The future’s not so bright, but Clu Gulager and Lee Marvin still have to wear shades in remake of The Killers

THE KILLERS (Don Siegel, 1964)
Film Forum
209 West Houston St.
Saturday, July 20 – Monday, July 22
212-727-8110
filmforum.org

In conjunction with the screening of the 1946 version of The Killers kicking off Film Forum’s four-week Burt Lancaster festival, the downtown institution is also presenting Don Siegel’s 1964 remake July 20-22. Siegel, who at one point was supposed to direct the 1946 original, sets this adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s 1927 short story in a bright, candy-colored world that is a far cry from the intricate, shadowy darkness of Robert Siodmak’s earlier noir version; in fact, it’s so luminous that hitmen Charlie Strom (Lee Marvin) and Lee (Clu Gulager) are often wearing dark sunglasses (à la Jake and Ellwood Blues), and the film opens with them walking into a home for the blind, passing by two blind boys playing their own version of cops and robbers. The men are there to kill former race-car driver Johnny North (John Cassavetes), who is now a teacher. Despite being warned by an old man (longtime character actor Burt Mustin) that they are coming, Johnny waits for them, choosing not to run. His lack of a survival instinct confounds Charlie, who goes on a search to find out why Johnny didn’t fight for his life but instead essentially welcomed a brutal death.

The Killers

Ronald Reagan plays a villain for the first time in his last movie, Don Siegel’s 1964 version of The Killers

Johnny’s sordid tale is related to Charlie and Lee in flashback as they meet up with his mechanic and best friend, Earl Sylvester (Claude Akins); Johnny’s lover, femme fatale Sheila Farr (Angie Dickinson); Farr’s other lover, crime boss Jack Browning (Ronald Reagan); and Jack’s flunky, Mickey Farmer (Norman Fell), as they tell a story of racing, double crosses, and a million-dollar heist. Written by Gene L. Coon and initially intended as a television movie but deemed too violent in the wake of the assassination of JFK and released theatrically, The Killers features plenty of cheesy scenes and none-too-subtle melodrama, but it’s still loads of fun, with a campy sense of humor lurking behind all the blood and guts, with a Rat Packy feel. Reagan is fun to watch in his final movie role before turning to politics — and his first time playing a villain — while the glamorous Dickinson shows off some fine hairdos and couture. Siegel, who had previously directed Invasion of the Body Snatchers and would go on to make Dirty Harry, Madigan, and Escape from Alcatraz, never veers off track as he relies on the great Lee Marvin, in the midst of a terrific run that included The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Cat Ballou, The Dirty Dozen, and Point Blank, to drive the action. It might not be very Hemingway-esque, but who cares?

RAQUEL CION & FRIENDS: A VERY SPECIAL BIRTHDAY CONCERT!

(photo by Karl Giant)

Raquel Cion will celebrate her birthday at Pangea on July 19 with the songs of David Bowie (photo by Karl Giant)

Who: Raquel Cion, Jeremy Bass, Rembert Block, David Cale, Amanda Duarte, Amy Priya Santos, Genevieve Chapin, Michael Ryan Morales, Karl Saint Lucy, DM Salsberg, Zac Selissen
What: Benefit for NARAL Pro-Choice America
Where: Pangea, 178 2nd Ave., 212-995-0900
When: Friday, July 19, $15-$35 in advance, $20-$40 at the door, 8:00
Why: Since early 2015, glittering chanteuse Raquel Cion has presented her inspiring, ever-evolving show Me & Mr. Jones: My Intimate Relationship with David Bowie, a deeply personal look of the impact the Thin White Duke has had on her life and career. On July 19, Cion will be celebrating her half-century birthday at Pangea, paying homage to Bowie’s fiftieth-birthday concert at Madison Square Garden, performing songs by Mr. Jones with special guests Jeremy Bass, Rembert Block, David Cale, Amanda Duarte, Amy Priya Santos and a backing band consisting of Zac Selissen on guitar, musical director Karl Saint Lucy on keyboards, Genevieve Chapin on bass, Michael Ryan Morales on drums, and DM Salsberg on vocals. Tickets for “Raquel Cion & Friends: A Very Special Birthday Concert” are $35 in advance ($40 at the door) for VIP cabaret seating and hors d’oeuvres and $15 in advance ($20 at the door) for the bar area live feed, with proceeds benefiting NARAL Pro-Choice America. Everyone will partake of what should be a spectacular birthday cake by rogue pastry chef Miranti Dame Cuchi, but not as fabulous as Ms. Cion herself, who will be all dolled up in couture by David Quinn and makeup by Coco Bennett.

RUBIN MUSEUM BLOCK PARTY: POWER PLAY

power play

Rubin Museum of Art
West 17th St. between Sixth & Seventh Aves.
Sunday, July 21, free (including free museum admission all day), 1:00 - 4:00
rubinmuseum.org

The Rubin Museum’s yearlong exploration of “Power: Within and Between Us” is at the center of its sixth annual block party, taking place July 21. From 1:00 to 4:00, there will be live performances by Building Beats, Fogo Azul Brazilian Women’s Drumline, and Power Painting Jam, food from Van Leeuwen Ice Cream, People’s Pops, Yanni’s Coffee, Cafe Serai, Sweetface Snoballs, and the Commons Chelsea, and activities led by Grassroots Movement in Nepal, Siddhartha School, Tibetan Community of NY/NJ, YindaYin Coaching, Nepal Hip Hop Foundation, and others. “Power begins within us and flows between us. How can we tap into this potential?” the museum asks. The block party also features the art workshops Power Down (in which you can create their own stress balls), Power On (make a portable lamp), and Power Objects (inspired by the Tibetan Namkha). In addition, you can participate in Flower Power (a collaborative floral feast), Power Couple (tracing hands), Power Nap (a guided meditation), Power Poles (scientific experiments with magnets and metallic sand), Power Trip (learn about Himalayan constellations), Net Walk (study movement in unison with artist Milcah Bassel), Playgami (an AR experience with origami artist Uttam Grandhi), and Power Forward (create wind-powered messages with artist Kyung-Jin Kim). As an extra bonus, there will be free admission to the museum all day (11:00 am – 6:00 pm), so you can check out the exhibits “Charged with Buddha’s Blessings: Relics from an Ancient Stupa,” “Masterworks of Himalayan Art,” “The Power of Intention,” “Reinventing the (Prayer) Wheel,” “The Wheel of Intentions,” “Shrine Room Projects: Wishes and Offerings,” and “The Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room.”

SUMMER RESTAURANT WEEK 2019

restaurant week

Who: Nearly four hundred restaurants throughout the city
What: Summer Restaurant Week
Where: All five boroughs
When: July 22 - August 16, two-course lunches $26, three-course dinners $42
Why: For more than a quarter of a century, New York City eateries have been offering special deals during Restaurant Week, with a growing number of participants every year. Reservation lines are now open for the immensely popular program, with almost four hundred establishments from across the culinary spectrum offering two-course prix-fixe lunches for $26 and dinners for $42 from July 22 through August 16. (Some restaurants do only lunch or dinner, and others offer the deals only on weekdays.) Most of the prix-fixe menus are available online so you know just what you’re in for. Among the many restaurants are such favorites as ‘21 Club,’ ABC Kitchen, American Cut, Bann, Barbetta, Becco, Burger & Lobster, Casa Lever, Catch NYC, Charlie Palmer Steak, Cipriani, Darbar, DB Bistro Moderne, Delmonico’s, Docks Oyster Bar, Dos Caminos, Estiatorio Milos, Feast, Fish Cheeks, Frankie & Johnnie’s, Glass House Tavern, HanGawi, Haru, Hearth, Inakaya, Indochine, i Trulli, Il Mulino, Lupa Osteria Romana, Lure Fishbar, Mercer Kitchen, Momofuku Nishi, Monkey Bar, the Morgan Dining Room, Nice Matin, Orsay, the Palm Court, Park Avenue Summer, Periyali, Public Kitchen, Quality Eats, Red Rooster, Riverpark, Rosa Mexicano, Rôtisserie Georgette, the Russian Tea Room, Scarpetta, Shun Lee Palace, STK, the Strip House, Tao, Tribeca Grill, the Tuck Room, Untitled, and the Wright.

50th MIXTAPE — FREE DOUBLE FEATURES: COME DRINK WITH ME / THE ASSASSIN

THE ASSASSIN

Shu Qi is an expertly trained killer with a conscience in Hou Hsiao-hsien’s gorgeous period drama The Assassin

THE ASSASSIN (刺客聶隱娘) (NIE YINNIANG) (Hou Hsiao-hsien, 2015)
Film Society of Lincoln Center
West 65th St. between Broadway & Amsterdam Aves.
Thursday, July 18, free, 6:00 & 8:00
Festival runs Thursdays (and one Wednesday) through September 11
212-875-5050
www.filmlinc.org
wellgousa.com

On summer Wednesdays at 6:00, the Film Society of Lincoln Center is hosting “50th Mixtape: Free Double Features,” celebrating the institution’s golden anniversary by pairing older favorites with newer ones. The series kicked off June 27 with Agnés Varda’s Cleo from 5 to 7 and Jane Campion’s The Portrait of a Lady and concludes on Wednesday, September 11, with an audience choice. On Thursday, July 18, King Hu’s 1966 Hong Kong wuxia classic from the Shaw Brothers, Come Drink with Me, starring Cheng Pei-pei as Golden Swallow, Yueh Hua as Drunken Knight, Chan Hung-lit as Jade Faced Tiger, and Lee Wan-chung as Smiling Tiger, will open things up, followed by Taiwanese master Hou Hsiao-hsien’s 2015 The Assassin. Hou’s first film in eight years is a visually sumptuous feast, perhaps the most beautifully poetic wuxia film ever made. Inspired by a chuanqi story by Pei Xing, The Assassin is set during the ninth-century Tang dynasty, on the brink of war between Weibo and the Royal Court. Exiled from her home since she was ten, Nie Yinniang (Hou muse Shu Qi) has returned thirteen years later, now an expert assassin, trained by the nun (Fang-Yi Sheu) who raised her to be a cold-blooded killer out for revenge.

After being unable to execute a hit out of sympathy for her target’s child, Yinniang is ordered to kill Tian Ji’an (Chang Chen), her cousin and the man to whom she was betrothed as a young girl, as a lesson to teach her not to let personal passions rule her. But don’t worry about the plot, which is far from clear and at times impossible to follow. Instead, glory in Hou’s virtuosity as a filmmaker; he was named Best Director at Cannes for The Assassin, a meditative journey through a fantastical medieval world. Hou and cinematographer Mark Lee Ping-Bing craft each frame like it’s a classical Chinese painting, a work of art unto itself. The camera moves slowly, if at all, as the story plays out in long shots, in both time and space, with very few close-ups and no quick cuts, even during the martial arts fights in which Yinniang displays her awesome skills. Hou often lingers on her face, which shows no outward emotion, although her soul is in turmoil. Hou evokes Andrei Tarkovsky, Akira Kurosawa, Ang Lee, and Zhang Yimou as he takes the viewer from spectacular mountains and river valleys to lush interiors (the stunning sets and gorgeous costumes, bathed in red, black, and gold, are by Hwarng Wern-ying), with silk curtains, bamboo and birch trees, columns, and other elements often in the foreground, along with mist, fog, and smoke, occasionally obscuring the proceedings, lending a surreal quality to Hou’s innate realism.

There are long passages of silence or with only quiet, barely audible music by composer Lim Giong, with very little dialogue, as rituals are performed, baths are prepared, and a bit of black magic takes place. The opening scenes, set around a breathtaking mountain abbey in Inner Mongolia, are shot in black-and-white with no soundtrack, like a silent film, harkening to cinema’s past as well as Yinniang’s; when it switches over to color, fiery reds take over as the credits begin. Throughout the film, the nun wears white and the assassin wears black, in stark contrast to the others’ exquisitely colorful attire; however, the film is not about good and evil but something in between. Shu and Cheng, who played a trio of lovers in Hou’s Three Times, seem to be barely acting in The Assassin, immersing themselves in their characters; Hou (The Puppetmaster, Flowers of Shanghai) gives all of his cast, professional and nonprofessional alike, a tremendous amount of freedom, and it results here in scenes that feel real despite our knowing better.

Sure, a touch more plot explication would have been nice, but that was not what Hou was after; he wanted to create a mood, an atmosphere, to transport the actors and the audience to another time and place, and he has done that marvelously. The Assassin is a treasure chest of memorable moments that rewards multiple viewings. I’ve seen it twice and can’t wait to see it again — and I’ve given up trying to figure out exactly what it’s about, instead reveling in its immense, contemplative beauty. Hou’s previous full-length film was 2007’s Flight of the Red Balloon; here’s hoping it’s not another eight years till his next one. “50th Mixtape: Free Double Features” continues with such other double headers as Luchino Visconti’s 1963 The Leopard and Alice Rohrwacher’s 2018 Happy as Lazzaro on July 25, Bertrand Bonello’s 2016 Nocturama and Lee Chang-dong’s 2018 Burning on August 15, and Hou’s 2005 Three Times and Barry Jenkins’s Oscar-winning 2016 Moonlight on September 5. Admission is free, first-come, first-served.

MARIA KOCHETKOVA: CATCH HER IF YOU CAN

Maria Kochetkova prepares for her first independent, contemporary show at the Joyce (photo by Magnus Unnar)

Maria Kochetkova prepares for her first independent show at the Joyce (photo by Magnus Unnar)

The Joyce Theater
175 Eighth Ave. at 19th St.
July 16-21, $56-$96
212-242-0800
www.joyce.org

Ballerina Maria Kochetkova wasn’t kidding when she named her first solo project Catch Her If You Can; several of the shows, running July 16-21 at the Joyce, are already sold out, or nearly so. The thirty-five-year-old Moscow-born star trained at the Bolshoi and was a principal with San Francisco Ballet for eleven years, the last two overlapping as a principal here in New York City with ABT. She has spent the last year traveling the world as a guest dancer with such companies as Norwegian National Ballet, Staatsballett Berlin, and English National Ballet, but she has now teamed up with the Joyce Theater Foundation for the special program Catch Her If You Can, consisting of eight works by seven modern choreographers chosen by Kochetkova, joined by four other dancers. “Ballet can be different, ballet can be contemporary, ballet can be exciting, ballet can be theater. I want to show what ballet is now,” she says in a Joyce promotional video.

The evening consists of Bach Duet (from New Suite) by William Forsythe, danced by Kochetkova and Sebastian Kloborg; Painting Greys by Myles Thatcher, a solo by Carlo Di Lanno; Tué by Marco Goecke, a solo by Drew Jacoby; Degunino by Marcos Morau, a solo by Kochetkova; the Swan Lake Pas de Deux by David Dawson, with Di Lanno and Sofiane Sylve; Rachel, Nevada by Jacoby, with Kochetkova and Jacoby, At the End of the Day by Dawson, with Kochetkova and Kloborg; and Masha Machine, an intimate and personal solo piece by Jérôme Bel that Kochetkova promises will hold surprises. Kochetkova’s immersion into the world of contemporary dance will not bring an end to her ballet career; she’s schedule to perform in the fall with Norwegian National Ballet again and Dresden Semperoper Ballett, but Catch Her If You Can offers what should be an exciting look at what the future holds for this international favorite entering a new phase, eager to push the bounds of her abilities.

THE BACCHAE

(photo © 2019 Richard Termine)

Dionysus (Jason C. Brown) preaches to his minions in Classical Theatre of Harlem adaptation of The Bacchae (photo © 2019 Richard Termine)

UPTOWN SHAKESPEARE IN THE PARK
Marcus Garvey Park, Richard Rodgers Amphitheater
Tuesday - Sunday through July 28, free, 8:30
www.cthnyc.org

Jesus Christ Superstar meets The Rocky Horror Picture Show in the Classical Theatre of Harlem’s funky “Uptown Shakespeare in the Park!” world premiere of Bryan Doerries’s new adaptation of Euripides’s The Bacchae. The free show, continuing at the Richard Rodgers Amphitheater in Marcus Garvey Park through July 28, has the ebullient energy of NBC’s live television versions of musicals (The Sound of Music, Peter Pan, the aforementioned Jesus Christ Superstar) rather than that of a fully formed stage production as it reinterprets the classical Greek tragedy for the twenty-first century while kicking off the company’s twentieth anniversary. “Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, get ready to make some noise for the man you been waiting for. The man that can make all your dreams come true. The preachya that can reach ya, in all the right places. Give it up for Preachya D!!!” a voiceover announces, and Preachya D, better known as Dionysus (Jason C. Brown), enters to much fanfare and proclaims, “I came here as a preacha, as a teacha / I can only hope I can reach you before you run out of time / So betta listen to this rhyme / And then get in line / I hope you ready to learn.”

(photo © 2019 Richard Termine)

Dionysus (Jason C. Brown) listens to King Pentheus (RJ Foster) share his desires in new Euripides adaptation (photo © 2019 Richard Termine)

Dionysus is surrounded by his worshipful followers, a three-woman chorus (Gabrielle Djenné, Rebecca Ana Peña, and Lori Vega), eight dancers (Daniela Funicello, Ashley LaRosa, Brynlie Helmich, Sai Rodboon, Hannah Gross, Madelyn LaLonde, Harmony Jackson, and Kat Files), and a guitar-shredding musician (Alicyn Yaffee). King Pentheus (RJ Foster) doesn’t believe Dionysus is the son of Zeus and is jealous of his minions, known as Bacchettes, while his grandfather, former king Cadmus (Charles Bernard Murray), is ready to go dancing with the Bacchettes, hidden in the mountains, alongside wise old Tiresias (Brian D. Coats). Caught somewhere in the middle is Agaue (Andrea Patterson), Pentheus’s mother and Cadmus’s daughter. After a messenger (Brian Demar Jones) advises Pentheus of the wild rituals going on atop the hill, the king asks Dionysus to bring him there, but Pentheus, of course, is about to get more than he bargained for.

(photo © 2019 Richard Termine)

Euripides’s The Bacchae kicks off Classical Theatre of Harlem’s twentieth anniversary season (photo © 2019 Richard Termine)

Choppily directed by Classical Theatre of Harlem associate artistic director Carl Cofield (One Night in Miami, The Dutchman) The Bacchae takes place on rafters and scaffolding designed by Christopher and Justin Swader, with shadowy, abstract projections by Katherine Freer on more than a dozen vertical screens. Outfitted in Lex Liang’s sexy costumes, the cast communicates the basic narrative through Doerries’s (Antigone in Ferguson, Theater of War) retelling, which includes a lot of description of offstage activities and festivities to move the plot along. The eight woman dancers, members of Elisa Monte Dance, climb all over the stage and into the space on the ground in front of the audience, their ecstatic movements choreographed by Tiffany Rea-Fisher to original music by Fred Kennedy, while Yaffee nearly steals the show as she tears it up with her loud and aggressive guitar playing. The play deals with issues of sexuality, gender, power, and vengeance, but it gets too caught up in itself; the audience is encouraged to take nonflash photos, which is always distracting, and when Preachya D beckons people to stand and dance in their seats, nary a soul got up the night I went, although a handful of people did walk out later. The Bacchae has some cool individual elements, but the shepherds have lost control of their flock as a whole.

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