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



A father (Jimmy Wang) and son (Joseph Chang Hsiao-Chuan) are trapped in a dark mystery that won’t let up in Chung Mong-Hong’s SOUL

SOUL (SHĪ HÚN) (Chung Mong-hong, 2013)
BAMcinématek, BAM Rose Cinemas
30 Lafayette Ave. between Ashland Pl. & St. Felix St.
Monday, November 30, 7:30
Series runs November 30 - December 3

Taiwanese writer-director Chung Mong-Hong’s third feature film, following 2008’s Parking and 2010’s The Fourth Portrait, is an intense, meditatively paced thriller about family and identity. In Soul, wuxia legend Jimmy Wang (aka Jimmy Wong Yu) stars as Wang, a simple, understated old man living in a reclusive house in the mountains. After his chef son, Ah-Chuan (Joseph Chang Hsiao-Chuan), suddenly collapses in the city and is brought back to his childhood home, strange things start occurring, as Ah-Chuan seems different and dead bodies begin to pile up. It turns out that Ah-Chuan’s soul has temporarily left his body, replaced by another, not-quite-so-gentle being, leading to yet more trouble, especially because Wang’s goofy policeman nephew, Little Wu (Vincent Liang), continues to hang around, sensing that something suspicious might be going on. The Taiwanese entry for Best Foreign Language Film for the 2014 Oscars, Soul is a gripping, surreal tale that unfolds with a cool calm that can explode at any moment, and then does. Shaw Brothers veteran Wang, who wrote, directed, and starred in such martial arts classics as The Chinese Boxer and Master of the Flying Guillotine, is sensational as Uncle Wang, playing the role with an assured, self-possessed composure despite the hell the old man finds himself in.


Jimmy Wang gives a carefully measured performance in Taiwanese psychological thriller

Chang (Eternal Summer, Au Revoir Taipei) is a strong counterpart to Wang, combining inner strength with just the right amount of mystery and danger. As in his previous films, which also include the 2011 short Reverberation and the 2006 documentary Doctor, Chung also serves as cinematographer, using the pseudonym Nagao Nakashima, and the gorgeous photography is like a character unto itself, bathing the film in lush earth tones that add yet another level to the lovely perplexity of it all. Soul kicks off BAMcinématek’s four-film retrospective of Chung’s work, screening on November 30 at 7:30, followed by a Q&A with the director. The series continues with Parking on December 1, Doctor on December 2, and The Fourth Portrait on December 3.


 Diane von Furstenberg photo by Lorenzo Agius. Alina Cho photo by Paul Bobadilla Sangster

Diane von Furstenberg (photo by Lorenzo Agius) and Alina Cho (photo by Paul Bobadilla Sangster) will sit down for an “Atelier” talk at the Met on December 2

Who: Alina Cho and Diane von Furstenberg
What: Met Museum Presents: “The Atelier with Alina Cho”
Where: Metropolitan Museum of Art, Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium, 1000 Fifth Ave. at 82nd St., 212-570-3949
When: Wednesday, December 2, $40 (includes museum admission), 6:30
Why: Last year, journalist and editor presented the inaugural season of “The Atelier with Alina Cho,” in which Cho sat down at the Met with such fashionistas as Anna Wintour and Donatella Versace. Cho is kicking off her sophomore season on December 2 with legendary icon Diane von Furstenberg, discussing art, ideas, and much more, in conjunction with the paperback publication of DVF’s memoir, The Woman I Wanted to Be (Simon & Schuster, October 2015, $17). “Living is learning, and as I look back at the many layers of experience I collected, I feel ready to share some of the lessons I learned along the way,” von Furstenberg writes in the book’s introduction. “Living also means aging. The good thing about aging is that you have a past, a history. If you like your past and stand by it, then you know you have lived fully and learned from your life. Those are the lessons that allowed me to be the woman I am.”


Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Robert Battle’s NO LONGER SILENT (photo by Paul Kolnik)

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Robert Battle’s NO LONGER SILENT (photo by Paul Kolnik)

New York City Center
130 West 56th St. between Sixth & Seventh Aves.
December 2 - January 3, $25-$150

For many people, the coming of Thanksgiving signals that Christmas is not too far off. For others, like us, it means that Alvin Ailey’s annual season at City Center is right around the corner. From December 2 to January 3, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater will be at the West Fifty-Sixth Street institution, continuing to spread its wings under the inspired leadership of artistic director Robert Battle. This season is highlighted by four world premieres: Ronald K. Brown’s Open Door, set to music by Arturo O’Farrill & the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra; Rennie Harris’s Exodus; Kyle Abraham’s Untitled America: First Movement, the start of a trilogy that examines the prison system; and Battle’s own Awakening, his first new work with AAADT since taking the reins from Judith Jamison. Jamison’s A Case for You, an excerpt from her longer piece, Reminiscin’, gets a new production, set to Diana Krall’s version of the Joni Mitchell song. There will also be new productions of Ailey’s Blues Suite, Love Songs, and Cry and Talley Beatty’s Toccata, an excerpt from Come and Get the Beauty of It Hot. The company will be premiering two works, Battle’s No Longer Silent, with a score by Nazi-banned Jewish composer Erwin Schulhoff, and Paul Taylor’s Piazzolla Caldera, set to tango music by Astor Piazzolla.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s Linda Celeste Sims in Alvin Ailey’s CRY (photo by Nan Melville)

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s Linda Celeste Sims in Alvin Ailey’s CRY (photo by Nan Melville)

On December 15, 20 (matinee), and 29, “Ailey Visionaries” presents works exclusively by past and present AAADT artistic directors Ailey, Jamison, and Battle. Revelations will be performed with live music on December 2, 4, and 5, while live music will also accompany Blues Suite on December 16, 19 (matinee), 20 (evening), and 31. Five programs will consist of only new works, on December 17, 19 (evening), 22, and 26 (evening) and January 2 (evening). And true Ailey fanatics can catch five programs of pieces by the legendary dancer and choreographer, on December 8, 13 (matinee), 16, 19 (matinee), and 20 (evening). As always, Saturday matinees will be followed by Q&As with members of the company. As a bonus, Ronald K. Brown will teach a master class on November 30, Donna Wood will lead a Blues Suite class on December 6, and Hope Boykin will teach a Beyond the Stage Master Class on December 14. And Jamison’s fiftieth anniversary of joining AAADT will be celebrated on New Year’s Eve, featuring the return of Clifton Brown, who will dance A Case of You. In addition to those special events, the season includes such returning favorites as David Parsons’s Caught, Brown’s Four Corners and Grace, Aszure Barton’s Lift, and Hans van Manen’s Polish Pieces, among others. So yes, you have your work cut out for you to choose just the right performance, but you can’t go wrong with any of them. Or you can do what we would like to do and just move in to City Center for the month.


Monty Python fiinds the Holy Grail of comedy in classic flick

Monty Python finds the Holy Grail of comedy in quotable classic romp

MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL (Terry Gilliam & Terry Jones, 1975)
Videology Bar & Cinema
308 Bedford Ave.
Saturday, November 28, 9:30

In 1975, a comedy troupe consisting of five Oxford and Cambridge grads and an American animator, the six best known for their absurdist sketches, teamed up to make the most quotable, and perhaps all-time-funniest, film to ever come from across the pond, and you can join in the fun on November 28 as Videology in Williamsburg hosts the Monty Python and the Holy Grail Quote-a-Long. In the relentlessly hysterical film, King Arthur (Graham Chapman) leads his ne’er-do-well Knights of the Round Table — Sir Lancelot the Brave (John Cleese), Sir Robin-the-Not-Quite-So-Brave-as-Sir-Lancelot (Eric Idle), Sir Bedevere the Wise (Terry Jones), and Sir Galahad the Pure (Michael Palin) — on a quest to find the Holy Grail, as ordered by God himself (voice of Chapman, cartoon of cricket legend W. G. Grace). So off they go, visiting strange castles with even stranger knights, answering silly questions to get across a bridge, seeking advice from a mad wizard, battling a cute little killer rabbit, and searching for shrubbery. The wild romp, in which the Pythons never meet a joke too high-brow or low-brow, helped warp the minds of several generations and continues to result in much rejoicing in living rooms and movie theaters around the world.

The Pythons play multiple roles throughout the hysterical romp, with such particularly riotous turns as Cleese as the Black Knight (“It’s just a flesh wound.”), Tim the Enchanter (“So! Brave knights! If you do doubt your courage or your strength, come no further, for death awaits you all with nasty, big, pointy teeth.”), and a French taunter (“Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries.”), Gilliam as Patsy (“Camelot!” “It’s only a model.”), the Bridgekeeper (“What . . . is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?”), and the animator (“Ughck!”), Idle as the Dead Collector (“Who’s that then?” “I dunno, must be a king.” “Why?” “He hasn’t go shit all over him.”) and Roger the Shrubber (“Oh, what sad times are these when passing ruffians can say ‘Ni’ at will to old ladies.”), Palin as Dennis (“Oh, king, eh? Very nice. And how’d you get that, eh? By exploiting the workers. By hanging on to outdated imperialist dogma which perpetuates the economic and social differences in our society.”) the chief Knight Who Says “Ni” (“One that looks nice. And not too expensive.”) and Jones as Prince Herbert (“One day, lad, all this will be yours.” “What, the curtains?”). Python regulars Connie Booth and Carol Cleveland appear as well, the former as a witch who is facing being burned at the stake (“She turned me into a newt.” “A newt?” “I got better.”), the latter as twins Zoot and Dingo (“Oh, wicked, bad, naughty, evil Zoot! Oh, she is a bad person, and she must pay the penalty!”). Study up, because you won’t want to be embarrassed while surrounded by Pythonians at Videology who know every single word of this outrageously entertaining classic.


(photo by Joan Marcus)

Charles (Tim Pigott-Smith) wonders just who he is now that his mother is dead and he is king (photo by Joan Marcus)

Music Box Theatre
239 West 45th St. between Broadway & Eighth Aves.
Tuesday - Sunday through January 31, $37 - $159

In the 2006 film The Queen, writer Peter Morgan and director Stephen Frears imagine what went on behind closed doors as Queen Elizabeth II (an Oscar-winning Helen Mirren) and Prime Minister Tony Blair (Michael Sheen) debate how to publicly handle the tragic death of Princess Diana. In the 2015 Broadway drama The Audience, writer Morgan and director Stephen Daldry re-create private weekly meetings Queen Elizabeth II (a Tony-winning Mirren) has had with prime ministers going back to Winston Churchill, imagining what they talked about in the sitting room. Both of those productions looked back at the past; in the Olivier Award-winning drama King Charles III, writer Mike Bartlett and director Rupert Goold delve into the near future, imagining an England in which the queen has just died and her son, Prince Charles (Tim Pigott-Smith), finally ascends to the throne. “I never thought I’d see her pass away,” Kate Middleton (Lydia Wilson) says, to which Charles drolly replies, “I felt the same.” Charles almost immediately flouts tradition when, at his first weekly audience with Prime Minister Tristram Evans (Adam James), he refuses to merely listen to what Evans has to say but instead decides to use his royal authority to seriously question the efficacy of a bill that would severely limit freedom of the press. Evans is especially upset at Charles’s response given what happened to Princess Diana. “I would have thought of all the victims you’d feel the strongest something must be done,” Evans boldly declares. “As a man, a father, husband, yes I do. But that’s not who we are when sat with you,” Charles answers. “In here, not just am I defender of the faith but in addition I protect this country’s unique force and way of life.” Charles also chooses to meet with opposition leader Mark Stevens (Anthony Calf) on a weekly basis as well, causing the two men to cross the aisle and strategize together, since every bill must be signed by the king in order to become the law of the land, and Charles is opting to use this ceremonial right to keep the monarchy relevant. Meanwhile, the wild Prince Harry (Richard Goulding) has fallen for Jess (Tafline Steen), a young radical he met at a nightclub. It all makes Charles’s longtime press secretary, the rather stoic and old-fashioned James Reiss (Miles Richardson), more than a bit frustrated. “What am I?” Charles wonders now that he is king.

Prince William (Oliver Chris) and Kate (Lydia Wilson) look at a future without Queen Elizabeth in royal Broadway drama (photo by Joan Marcus)

Prince William (Oliver Chris) and Kate (Lydia Wilson) look at a future without Queen Elizabeth in royal Broadway drama (photo by Joan Marcus)

King Charles III arrived at the Music Box Theatre from across the pond with much fanfare (befitting royalty), but it turns out to be rather dry and ordinary, with a stiff upper lip that often gets in the way. As a tribute to old-time England, much of the dialogue is recited in blank verse, with Charles occasionally delivering brief soliloquies to the audience, but the Shakespearean elements (there are ghosts as well, among references to Macbeth and Hamlet) feel out of place, even on Tom Scutt’s medieval-style set, a castle room circled by fading portraits of previous kings. Perhaps part of the problem is that we are too familiar with the characters involved, which also include Camilla Parker Bowles (Margot Leicester); none of the actors completely capture who they are portraying, and the story is overly simplistic, particularly in its depiction of Charles’s sons, who have been real-life tabloid fodder since birth. Bartlett (Cock, Bull) and Goold (American Psycho, Macbeth) keep things too direct, not letting their imaginations go far enough, and they offer nothing new to the main argument over questions of personal and professional privacy when it comes to matters of the press. And Charles’s choice over whether to sign the bill is not exactly Paul Scofield’s Sir Thomas More searching his conscience over whether to sign the Oath of Supremacy to Robert Shaw’s King Henry VIII in A Man for All Seasons, but what is? The most interesting character is Jess, perhaps because she is fictional; maybe Bartlett and Goold would have fared better had they turned this into a roman a clef instead. Pigott-Smith (Educating Rita, Enron) is at his best when Charles is trying to figure out just where his responsibilities now lay, to both the royal family and England itself, but the story ultimately lets him down. King Charles III was an intriguing idea, but the execution, much like the real Prince Charles’s public persona, turns out to be rather dull and unsurprising.


Todd Haynes’s FAR FROM HEAVEN reveals the dark underside of suburbia

FAR FROM HEAVEN (Todd Haynes, 2002)
Film Society of Lincoln Center, Walter Reade Theater
165 West 65th St. between Eighth Ave. & Broadway
Friday, November 27, 2:00, and Sunday, November 29, 6:30
Series continues through November 29

Douglas Sirk and Thomas Mann would be proud. In Todd Haynes’s wonderfully retro Far from Heaven, Oscar-nominated Julianne Moore is amazing as 1950s housewife Cathy Whitaker, who thinks she has the perfect idyllic suburban life — until she discovers that her husband (Dennis Quaid) has a secret that dare not speak its name. Mr. & Mrs. Magnatech they are not after all. When she starts getting all chummy with the black gardener (Dennis Haysbert), people start talking, of course. Part Imitation of Life and All That Heaven Allows, part Death in Venice, and oh-so-original, Haynes’s awesome achievement will have you believing you’re watching a film made in the 1950s, propelled by Elmer Bernstein’s excellent music, Edward Lachman’s remarkable photography, and Mark Friedberg’s terrific production design. Far from Heaven is screening at the Walter Reade Theater on November 27 at 2:00 and November 29 at 6:30 in the Film Society of Lincoln Center series “Todd Haynes: The Other Side of Dreams,” with DP Lachman on hand for a Q&A following the latter show. The series, being held in conjunction with the release of Haynes’s latest film, Carol, continues through November 29 with Haynes pairing his films with works that directly influenced him, bringing together thematically (but not as double features) Safe and Douglas Sirk’s Imitation of Life, his Mildred Pierce miniseries and Alan J. Pakula’s Klute, Poison and Rainer Werner Fassbender’s Fox and His Friends, Velvet Goldmine and Nicolas Roeg’s Performance, and Far from Heaven and Max Ophüls’s The Reckless Moment, among other duos.


Roy Scheider goes on an existential voyage of the soul in William Friedkin’s SORCERER

Roy Scheider goes on an existential voyage of the soul in William Friedkin’s SORCERER

SORCERER (William Friedkin, 1977)
BAMcinématek, BAM Rose Cinemas
30 Lafayette Ave. between Ashland Pl. & St. Felix St.
Saturday, November 28, 2:00, 4:30, 9:50
Series runs November 20-29

In the mid-1970s, Chicago-born director William Friedkin was riding high, earning an Oscar for The French Connection and another nomination for The Exorcist, two huge critical and box-office successes. For his next film, he decided to reimagine a seminal work that had had a profound influence on him, Henri-Georges Clouzot’s haunting 1953 suspense thriller, The Wages of Fear. “It turned out to be the most difficult, frustrating, and dangerous film I’ve ever made, and it took a toll on my health as well as my reputation,” Friedkin wrote in his 2013 memoir, The Friedkin Connection. Friedkin’s adaptation of Clouzut’s classic, itself based on a novel by Georges Arnaud, follows four unlikable men — a thief (Roy Scheider), a hit man (Francisco Rabal), an embezzler (Bruno Cremer), and a terrorist (Amidou) — hiding out under fake identities in a depressed, nowhere village in South America. When a nearby oil well catches fire, the company needs four men to drive two rickety trucks more than two hundred miles over treacherous terrain to deliver cases of rotting, highly unstable dynamite that will be used to blow the whole thing up and put out the fire. Oil man Corlette (Ramon Bieri) is sending two trucks — dubbed “Lazaro” and “Sorcerer” — because he thinks only one, if any, will make it through. The journey includes a harrowing twelve-minute scene as the men try to navigate a dilapidated rope bridge in a rainstorm as well as a psychedelic trip through a fantastical landscape (shot in the Bisti Badlands in New Mexico).


Harrowing bridge crossing is one of the most suspenseful scenes ever caught on film

What began as a dream project — Friedkin was pretty much given carte blanche by the studio, and he initially had his ideal cast lined up, consisting of Steve McQueen, Marcello Mastroianni, Lino Ventura, and Amidou — quickly turned into a nightmare as the cast changed, location problems flared up, a cinematographer had to be fired because of improper lighting, a narc forced Friedkin to get rid of some drug-using crew members, “Marvin the Torch” had to be called in to help with an explosion, and malaria ran rampant, as did the budget. When the film was finally released in June 1977, it got lost in all the Star Wars hoopla, resulting in a critical and box-office failure that shattered Friedkin, whose next three films were The Brink’s Job, Cruising, and Deal of the Century. But Friedkin has always stood behind Sorcerer: “I had persevered to make a film that I would want to see,” he wrote in his memoir, “a relentless existential voyage that would become my legacy.” After fighting for the rights to the film, he supervised a digital restoration that confirms the film as a towering achievement, a gripping, intense work of suspense that digs deep into the soul. Scheider, who was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for The French Connection and then was extremely upset when Friedkin refused to cast him as Father Damien in The Exorcist, gives an extraordinary performance as Jackie Scanlon, a New Jersey Irish gang member now going by the name Juan Dominguez, ready to do whatever it takes to get out of the hell he is in. Friedkin and editor Bud Smith cut the film to match Tangerine Dream’s electronic score — the German group wrote the music to the script, without seeing a single frame of the finished product — creating a stinging pace that never lets up. The digital restoration, which premiered at the Venice International Film Festival, reestablishes Friedkin’s Sorcerer legacy, as critics and audiences reevaluate it as a remarkable triumph after all these years. The title is still terrible and the final scene highly questionable, but Sorcerer is an unforgettable, powerfully realistic work of magic. It’s screening on November 28 in the BAMcinématek series “Turkeys for Thanksgiving,” which runs November 20-29 and consists of fourteen films that were considered disasters when they were first released but might actually be gems in retrospect. Then again, they might still be bombs, so you might have a (wish)bone to pick with some of the selections, which include Elaine May’s Ishtar, Steven Spielberg’s 1941, Paul Verhoeven’s Showgirls, Charlie Chaplin’s Monsieur Verdoux, Francis Ford Coppola’s Heaven’s Gate, and, most surprisingly, The Wizard of Oz.