Back in high school, we saw The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari for the first time in the somewhat dubious “Christian Values in Film” class. The verdict: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari has no Christian values. But the Caligari we saw back then is rather different from the one we saw earlier this week, a 4K digital restoration from the original camera negative by the Friedrich Murnau Foundation and with a fresh new score by John Zorn. This sparkling Caligari is now the only way to see this truly frightening work, one of the most influential horror films of all time. You can find elements of Paul Wegener’s The Golem, James Whale’s Frankenstein and The Bride of Frankenstein, and Todd Browning’s Dracula — all three of which followed this truly seminal film — in this twisted, unsettling psychological thriller of murder and mayhem involving the mysterious Dr. Caligari (Werner Krauss) and the creepy somnambulist he controls, Cesare (Casablanca’s Conrad Veidt), who predicts the future and eerily walks in his sleep. The tale is told in a frame story by Francis (Friedrich Fehér), who, like his best friend, Alan (Hans Heinrich von Twardowski), is in love with Jane (Lil Dagover). The only problem is that Cesare might have a thing for her as well.
A masterpiece that set high the bar for German Expressionism, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari might have been shocking when it debuted in 1920, but it’s still shocking today, like nothing you’ve ever seen, with one of the most memorable, enigmatic villains ever put on celluloid. It’s not a traditional silent black-and-white film, instead tinted in blue and gold, with intertitles exploding in a wild green font. The sets, by Hermann Warm, Walter Reimann, and Walter Röhrig, are sharply slanted, with crazy angles and perspectives and backdrops that include unmoving shadows painted right on them; they’re obviously fake and very fragile, adding yet more levels of weirdness. Written by Hans Janowitz and Carl Mayer, photographed by Willy Hameister (irising in and out, occasionally at the same time), and directed by Robert Wiene (Raskolnikov, Der Rosenkavalier), The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is thick with an ominous, sinister atmosphere that is sheer pleasure; you’ll find yourself smiling at the beauty of it all even as you tense up at the hair-raising proceedings. It is that rare film that works as historical document as well as pure entertainment, a treat for cinema enthusiasts and horror fans alike, especially when the twist ending turns everything inside out and upside down. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari will be scaring audiences for a week at Film Forum beginning on Halloween, Christian values or not.
200 Eastern Parkway at Washington St.
Saturday, November 1, free, 5:00 - 11:00
For its November edition of its free First Saturdays program, the Brooklyn Museum is looking at its home borough. Crossing Brooklyn will feature live performances by the PitchBlak Brass Band, Meridian Lights, John Robinson & PVD, and Norte Maar; a screening of the UnionDocs collaborative web documentary the Living Los Sures about the south side of Williamsburg; a book reading and talk by Bridgett M. Davis, author of Into the Go-Slow; a collage workshop; and a talk by assistant curator of contemporary art Rujeko Hockley on the exhibition “Crossing Brooklyn: Art from Bushwick, Bed-Stuy, and Beyond.” In addition, you can check out such other exhibitions as “Judith Scott — Bound and Unbound,” “Revolution! Works from the Black Arts Movement,” “Killer Heels: The Art of the High-Heeled Shoe,” and “Judy Chicago’s Feminist Pedagogy and Alternative Spaces.”
JUBILEE (Derek Jarman, 1978)
BAMcinématek, BAM Rose Cinemas
30 Lafayette Ave. between Ashland Pl. & St. Felix St.
Thursday, October 30, 7:00 & 9:30
Series runs October 30 - November 11
Back in May, we ventured out to BAM to see Derek Jarman’s cult classic, Jubilee, as part of the BAMcinématek series “Punk Girls.” We attended along with two friends, a British couple who were supposed to be in the movie but who somehow didn’t make it to the set for their scene. After seeing the 1978 film, they couldn’t have been happier that they weren’t part of this unwatchable disaster. The plot involves Queen Elizabeth I being sent into the future, into a postapocalyptic 1970s London; the cast includes Jenny Runacre as Bod and the queen, Nell Campbell as Crabs, the one-named Jordan as Amyl Nitrate, singer Toyah Willcox as Mad, theater star Ian Charleson as Angel, French chanteuse Hermine Demoriane as Chaos, Rocky Horror creator Richard O’Brien as John Dee, and Adam Ant as Kid, with a soundtrack by Brian Eno. (Be on the lookout for Siouxsie Sioux as well.) While some adore and treasure the film, others find it dubious at best and an embarrassing mess at worst. In a 2002 letter to Derek published in the Guardian, Jarman regular Tilda Swinton wrote, “It’s as cheeky a bit of inspired old ham punk spunk nonsense as ever grew out of your brain and that’s saying something: what a buzz it gives me to look at it now. And what a joke: there’s nothing an eighth as mad bad and downright spiritualized being made down here these days this side of Beat Takeshi,” a very different take from Vivienne Westwood, who designed a T-shirt back when the film was released that served as an open letter to Jarman, arguing, “I had been to see it once and thought it the most boring and therefore disgusting film I had ever seen. I went to see it again for after all, hadn’t you pointed your nose in the right direction? . . . I am not interested in however interestingly you say nothing. . . . You pointed your nose in the right direction then you wanked.” Jubilee, made in honor of Queen Elizabeth II’s silver jubilee year, is one of those films you have to see to believe, but we’re not about to recommend that you actually subject yourself to this inexplicable madness.
What’s more important is that Jubilee is kicking off the BAMcinématek series “Queer Pagan Punk: The Films of Derek Jarman,” comprising sixteen programs of shorts, music videos, and features he either directed or participated in another way; the series is part of the Jarman2014 celebration of the twentieth anniversary of his death. Among the films being shown, from October 30 to November 11, are Blue, Caravaggio, Sebastiane, Wittgenstein, War Requiem, The Garden, The Tempest, Edward II, The Devils, and The Last of England. In many ways, Jarman, also a painter and activist who died in 1994 at the age of fifty-four from an AIDS-related illness, was the British version of Andy Warhol, working with a Factory-like ensemble of actors, singers, and hangers-on while exploring life on the edge in his own inimitable style. During his career, he worked with Laurence Olivier and Marianne Faithfull, the Pet Shop Boys and Ken Russell, Tilda Swinton and Adam and the Ants, Judi Dench and the Sex Pistols, and many others — some from various artistic disciplines and some just picked up off the street, lending his films an appealing, experimental DIY quality. Just don’t start your exploration of his oeuvre with Jubilee.
Friday, October 31, 7:00 - 11:00
Sixth Ave. South & Spring St. to 16th St.
Admission/participation: free, but donations accepted
With the growing popularity of the Mermaid Parade and the Gay Pride March, the Village Halloween Parade might have lost its unique stature, but there’s still nothing quite like this annual tradition. The theme of the forty-first annual event is the Garden of Earthly Delights, so an endless pageantry of pleasure should be on display as hundreds of puppets, more than fifty music and dance groups, and just plain folk dress up and make their way from Sixth Ave. and Spring St. to Sixteenth St., led by Grand Marshal Whoopi Goldberg. As artistic and producing director Jeanne Fleming and master puppeteer Alex Kahn explain, “Although one often associates Halloween with things Infernal, this year’s Halloween Parade is headed to Paradise, or more specifically the Garden of Earthly Delights. Join us as we unearth the layers of Hieronymus Bosch’s timeless altarpiece, exploring the precarious borderland Garden between the primeval terrors of wilderness and the modern confines of civility. . . . It is a place of infinite possibilities and permutations contained within a finite and intimate space. Gardens are also places of forbidden delights and forgotten joys hidden away behind ivied walls and locked gates.” All costumed souls are invited to participate in the parade; just follow the very specific instructions here. And be on the lookout for the raising of the giant puppets, a treat not unlike the blowing-up of the balloons for the Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Shortly after the fatal Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion on April 20, 2010, dumped more than two hundred million gallons of BP oil into the Gulf of Mexico, Alabama native and award-winning documentarian Margaret Brown (The Order of Myths, Be Here to Love Me: A Film about Townes Van Zandt) returned to the Gulf Coast, where she was raised, in order to make a very personal film about the disaster. But she ended up with so much more in The Great Invisible, a powerful, infuriating exploration of the tragedy and its lingering effects on the environment and local communities in Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas. Showing that the calamity is far from over, Brown speaks with survivor Douglas Brown, the chief mechanic on the rig who talks poignantly about what happened, sharing footage he took of the rig prior to the explosion; survivor Stephen Stone, a roustabout on the rig who now suffers from PTSD; attorney Keith Jones, whose son, Gordon, was one of the eleven workers killed in the explosion, and is now leading the fight to get justice for the victims in court; Latham Smith, a tugboat captain who was called in to help with the cleanup; oil and gas industry veteran Bob Cavnar, author of Disaster on the Horizon: High Stakes, High Risks, and the Story Behind the Deepwater Well Blowout; Roosevelt Harris, who volunteers for the Hemley Road Church of Christ Mobile Food Pantry, delivering food and emotional support to families whose livelihoods have been impacted by the disaster; a group of oil industry executives chatting among themselves; and Kenneth Feinberg, the dispute resolution specialist in charge of administering the BP Deepwater Horizon Disaster Victim Compensation Fund, which has not exactly made much of a difference. BP refused to participate in the film.
Brown supplements the film with devastating footage of the oil spill itself, maps that detail the breadth of the disaster, clips from congressional hearings that have gone nowhere, and news reports that have gotten fewer and fewer more than four years after the explosion. “Generally, it takes some kind of a traumatic event to change people’s behavior,” Cavnar says. “I’d hoped that the Deepwater Horizon was going to raise everybody’s consciousness, but it didn’t. And that’s the tragedy.” Winner of the Grand Jury prize at the SXSW Film Festival, The Great Invisible is the kind of documentary that you hope will raise people’s consciousness, especially that of the oil industry itself and the government, but, as the film shows, that appears to be highly unlikely as wealthy corporations once again trump regular citizens. The Great Invisible opens October 29 at the Village East; Brown will participate in Q&As after screenings on October 29 & 30 at 7:40 and November 1 at 2:00.