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

THÉÂTRE DE LA VILLE: SIX CHARACTERS IN SEARCH OF AN AUTHOR

Théâtre de la Ville is back at BAM with an awe-inspiring production of Luigi Pirandello’s absurdist masterpiece (photo by Jean-Louis Fernandez)

Théâtre de la Ville is back at BAM with an awe-inspiring production of Luigi Pirandello’s absurdist masterpiece (photo by Richard Termine)

2014 NEXT WAVE FESTIVAL
Brooklyn Academy of Music
BAM Harvey Theater
651 Fulton St. between Ashland & Rockwell Pl.
October 29 - November 2, $20-$75
718-636-4100
www.bam.org
www.theatredelaville-paris.com

As audience members begin filing into the BAM Harvey to see Théâtre de la Ville’s awe-inspiring production of Luigi Pirandello’s absurdist classic Six Characters in Search of an Author, there is already a man onstage, suspended from above, painting a trompe-l’oeil blue sky backdrop; he is soon joined by a young woman who sits at a sewing machine, making costumes while quietly singing “O sole mio.” These two actions subtly announce that what we are about to see is artifice — what Pirandello called “the theater of the theater” — albeit multilayered artifice of the very highest order. For the next two hours, we are treated to a rapturous display of intensely clever stagecraft, filled with self-referential jokes about the theater, intellectual discussions of illusion vs. reality, and a search for nothing less than the very meaning of existence. A dictatorial director (Alain Libolt) is preparing his cast and crew to rehearse the second act of Pirandello’s The Rules of the Game when six mysterious people, all dressed in black, suddenly appear, claiming to be fictional characters abandoned by their author and now seeking a place where they can tell their story, which is the whole reason for their being. The director, the stage manager (Gérald Maillet), the actors (Charles-Roger Bour, Sandra Faure, Olivier Le Borgne, and Gaëlle Guillou), the carpenter (Pascal Vuillemot), and the assistant (Jauris Casanova) are at first dubious of the six strangers, but soon the father (Hugues Quester) convinces them to hear them out, so they delve into a soap-opera-like tale of faded love, mourning, incest, sibling rivalry, and horrific tragedy also involving the sexy stepdaughter (Valérie Dashwood), the grieving mother (Sarah Karbasnikoff), the estranged son (Stéphane Krähenbühl), the awkward teenager (Walter N’Guyen), and the adorable little girl (Sierra Blanco).

Glorious production seeks to life the veil on some of the many mysteries of the theater (photo by Richard Termine)

Glorious production seeks to lift the veil on some of the many mysteries of the theater (photo by Richard Termine)

No one onstage has a name, save for the surprise arrival of Madame Pace (Céline Carrère); everyone else represents a stock character determined to experience their individual purpose, their raison d’être, whether in the play, the play-within-a-play, or the play-within-a-play-within-a-play. There are no rules to this sly game directed by Théâtre de la Ville head Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota, who was last at BAM in October 2012 with another delightful absurdist classic, Eugène Ionesco’s Rhinocéros. This is his third time staging Six Characters in Search of an Author, and he clearly knows his way around this existential journey of life as theater, and theater as life, expertly translated and adapted by François Regnault. The cast is uniformly excellent, led by Libolt, Dashwood, and Quester, who won the Critics’ Award for Best Actor for Théâtre de la Ville’s original 2001 production. Throughout the play, which is itself, of course, set in a theater, various characters look out at the seats, which to them are empty but to the actors playing them are filled with onlookers, furthering the self-referential nature of the show and the relationships between actor and audience, creator and creation. The director even references the subtitles at one point, reminding everyone that this is, at its most basic, an Italian play put on by a French company in an American city. Every moment is pure genius, a palimpsest of metas that keep piling on in glorious ways, a celebration of just what the theater can do and be, from behind the scenes to the last row of the balcony.

THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI

THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI

Influential horror classic is brought back to life in stirring new restoration

THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI (DAS CABINET DES DR. CALIGARI) (Robert Wiene, 1920)
Film Forum
209 West Houston St.
October 31 - November 6
212-727-8110
www.filmforum.org
www.kinolorber.com

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.

FIRST SATURDAYS: CROSSING BROOKLYN

Brooklyn Museum
200 Eastern Parkway at Washington St.
Saturday, November 1, free, 5:00 - 11:00
212-864-5400
www.brooklynmuseum.org

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.”

QUEER PAGAN PUNK: THE FILMS OF DEREK JARMAN

JUBILEE

JUBILEE, starring Jordan as Amyl Nitrite, kicks off Derek Jarman festival at BAM

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
718-636-4100
www.bam.org
www.jarman2014.org

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.

THE LAST OF ENGLAND is part of BAM tribute to Derek Jarman

THE LAST OF ENGLAND is part of BAM tribute to Derek Jarman

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.

VILLAGE HALLOWEEN PARADE: THE GARDEN OF EARTHLY DELIGHTS

It'll be party time Friday night at the forty-first annual Village Halloween Parade

It’ll be party time Friday night at the forty-first annual Village Halloween Parade

Friday, October 31, 7:00 - 11:00
Sixth Ave. South & Spring St. to 16th St.
Admission/participation: free, but donations accepted
www.halloween-nyc.com

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.

THE GREAT INVISIBLE

Latham Smith

Tugboat captain Latham Smith participated in the massive cleanup needed after explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico

THE GREAT INVISIBLE (Margaret Brown, 2014)
Village East Cinema
181-189 Second Ave. at 12th St.
Opens Wednesday, October 29
212-529-6799
www.villageeastcinema.com
www.takepart.com

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.

Residents of Hardluck City seem resigned to their fate in THE GREAT INVISIBLE

Residents of Hardluck City are facing a bleak future in THE GREAT INVISIBLE

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.

GOODBYE TO LANGUAGE

GOODBYE TO LANGUAGE

Jean-Luc Godard’s GOODBYE TO LANGUAGE speaks for itself

GOODBYE TO LANGUAGE (ADIEU AU LANGAGE) (Jean-Luc Godard, 2014)
Film Society of Lincoln Center, Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, Francesca Beale Theater, 144 West 65th St., 212-875-5050
IFC Center, 323 Sixth Ave. at West Third St., 212-924-7771
Opens Wednesday, October 29
212-875-5050
www.kinolorber.com

After the New York Film Festival advance press screening of Jean-Luc Godard’s 3D Goodbye to Language, a colleague turned to me and said, “If this was Godard’s first film, he would never have had a career.” While I don’t know whether that might be true, I do know that Goodbye to Language is the 3D flick Godard was born to make, a 3D movie that couldn’t have come from anyone else. What’s it about? I have no idea. Well, that’s not exactly right. It’s about everything, and it’s about nothing. It’s about the art of filmmaking. It’s about the authority of the state and freedom. It’s about extramarital affairs. It’s about seventy minutes long. It’s about communication in the digital age. (Surprise! Godard does not appear to be a fan of the cell phone and Yahoo!) And it’s about a cute dog (which happens to be his own mutt, Miéville, named after his longtime partner, Anne-Marie Miéville). In the purposefully abstruse press notes, Godard, now eighty-three, describes it thusly: “the idea is simple / a married woman and a single man meet / they love, they argue, fists fly / a dog strays between town and country / the seasons pass / the man and woman meet again / the dog finds itself between them / the other is in one / the one is in the other / and they are three / the former husband shatters everything / a second film begins / the same as the first / and yet not / from the human race we pass to metaphor / this ends in barking / and a baby’s cries.” Yes, it’s all as simple as that. Or maybe not.

Jean-Luc Godard has fun with 3D in GOODBYE TO LANGUAGE

Jean-Luc Godard has fun with 3D in GOODBYE TO LANGUAGE

Godard divides the film into sections labeled “La Nature” and “La Métaphore,” cutting between several ongoing narratives, from people reading Dostoyevsky, Pound, and Solzhenitsyn at an outdoor café to an often naked man and woman in a kitchen to clips of such old movies as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and The Snows of Kilimanjaro to Lord Byron and the Shelleys on Lake Geneva. Did I say “narrative”? It’s not really a narrative but instead storytelling as only Godard can do it, and this time in 3D, with the help of cinematographer Fabrice Aragno. Godard has a blast with the medium, which he previously used in a pair of recent shorts. He has fun — and so do we — as he toys with the name of the film and the idea of saying farewell (he plays with the French title, Adieu au langage, forming such puns as “Ah, dieu” and “Ah, dieux,” making the most of 3D layering); creates superimpositions and fast-moving shots that blur the image, making the glasses worthless; changes from sharp color to black-and-white to wild pastel-like bursts of red, blue, and green; evokes various genres, with mystery men in suits and gunshots that might or might not involve kidnapping and murder; and even gets a kick out of where he places the subtitles. These games are very funny, as is the voiceover narration, which includes philosophy from such diverse sources as Jacques Ellul (his essay “The Victory of Hitler”) and Claude Monet (“Paint not what we see, for we see nothing, but paint that we don’t see”). And for those who, like my colleague, believe the film to be crap, Godard even shows the man sitting on the bowl, his girlfriend in the bathroom with him, directly referencing Rodin’s The Thinker and talking about “poop” as he noisily evacuates his bowels. So, in the end, what is Godard saying farewell to? Might this be his last film? Is he saying goodbye to the old ways we communicated? Is he bidding adieu to humanity, leaving the future for the dogs, the trees, and the ocean? Does it matter? A hit at Cannes, Goodbye to Language opens October 29 at the IFC Center and Lincoln Center after screening at the New York Film Festival earlier in the month. You can check out the NSFW French trailer here.

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