HIGH AND LOW (TENGOKU TO JIGOKU) (Akira Kurosawa, 1963)
Museum of the Moving Image
35th Ave. at 36th St., Astoria
Saturday, March 7, $12, 4:30
Series runs March 6-13
On the verge of being forced out of the company he has dedicated his life to, National Shoes executive Kingo Gondo’s (Toshirō Mifune) life is thrown into further disarray when kidnappers claim to have taken his son, Jun (Toshio Egi), and are demanding a huge ransom for his safe return. But when Gondo discovers that they have mistakenly grabbed Shinichi (Masahiko Shimazu), the son of his chauffeur, Aoki (Yutaka Sada), he at first refuses to pay. But at the insistence of his wife (Kyogo Kagawa), the begging of Aoki, and the advice of police inspector Taguchi (Kenjiro Ishiyama), he reconsiders his decision, setting in motion a riveting police procedural that is filled with tense emotion. Loosely based on Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct novel King’s Ransom, Akira Kurosawa’s High and Low, photographed by longtime Kurosawa cinematographer Asakazu Nakai, is divided into two primary sections: The first half takes place in Gondo’s luxury home, orchestrated like a stage play as the characters are developed and the plan takes hold. The second part of the film follows the police, under the leadership of Chief Detective Tokura (Tatsuya Nakadai), as they hit the streets of the seedier side of Yokohama in search of the kidnappers. Known in Japan as Tengoku to Jigoku, which translates as Heaven and Hell, High and Low is an expert noir, a subtle masterpiece that tackles numerous socioeconomic and cultural issues as Gondo weighs the fate of his business against the fate of a small child; it all manages to feel as fresh and relevant today as it probably did back in the ’60s.
High and Low is screening March 7 at 4:30 as part of the Museum of the Moving Image series “See It Big! High and Wide,” which runs March 6-13 in conjunction with the Reverse Shot online symposium “Take Five: Reverse Shot in Space.” “High and Low is a particularly emphatic example of Kurosawa’s attention to spatial continuity over the course of an entire film,” Ben Parker writes on Reverse Shot. “The title announces one spatial organization, the vertical juxtaposition of prosperous legality — symbolized by the hilltop estate of shoe executive Kingo Gondo — and the miasmic squalor and slinking resentment of the urban lower depths. But the very look of the film tells a different story. High and Low was shot using the TohoScope process, drastically widening the frame for an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. However much the social and moral themes of the film are posed along the vertical axis . . . the images and compositions are constrained to the horizontal. Ultimately, Kurosawa is attempting to undo the vertical binary of postwar Japanese society. This ‘leveling,’ however, is not as simple as filming in wide screen. Rather, the visual theme of the film culminates in its hard-won conclusion. In the last scene, Kurosawa arrives at a very different leveling of social space than that imagined by the diseased resentment of his villain.” The eight-day festival also includes such films as Jacques Tati’s Playtime, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s A Matter of Life and Death, George Stevens’s Shane, and Elem Klimo’s Come and See.
This year’s March edition of New York Art Fair Week — the city will be overrun with fairs again in May — features no fewer than a dozen shows, including Volta, Scope, Art on Paper, the Independent, Pulse, Spring/Break, and the granddaddy of them all, the Armory Show. If you want to see each one of them, it’s gonna cost a pretty penny, upwards of two hundred bucks total. But there are five fairs that offer free admission and a respite from the craziness that goes on at the ticketed shows.
Who: Nearly three dozen video artists, including Charlie Ahearn, Peggy Ahwesh, Oliver Bevan, Raphael Couto, Tuomas A. Laitinen, Pink Twins, and Héctor Zamora
What: Moving Image
Where: Waterfront Tunnel, 269 Eleventh Ave. between 27th & 28th Sts.
When: March 5-8, free
Why: Moving Image is a video art fan’s dream, lining the passageway in the Waterfront Tunnel in Chelsea with a multitude of innovative short works. On Saturday at noon, Sean Elwood will moderate the panel discussion and networking session “How Do Artists Secure Funding for Film and Video Artwork?” with Chris Doyle, Guy Richards Smit, Patrik Söderlund, and Eve Sussman, followed at 2:00 by “Moving Image: Instant Upload” with Alex McQuilkin, Alice Gray Stites, Amy Taubin, Rachael Rakes, and Zoë Salditch, moderated by Andrea Monti and Elle Burchill.
Who: More than eighty visual, tech, and performance artists, including Carlos Betancourt, Sabrina Barrios, Will Kurtz, Chris Ofili, Matt Lombard, Eunjin Kim, Carolee Schneeman, Frederico Uribe, Monika Weiss, Matthew Silver, and Kelly McLaughlin
What: The (un)Scene Art Show
Where: 549 West 52nd St. between Tenth & Eleventh Aves.
When: March 4-8, free
Why: Renamed from last year’s (Un)Fair designation, the (un)Scene Art Show seeks to “celebrate passion rather than fashion.” This year’s edition features numerous “Happenings,” including such live performances as Moon Ribas’s Waiting for Earthquakes, Jade Fusco’s Talking Tapestry, TunanuT’s Group Love, Nicole Woolcott’s Paper Pieces, Kate Brehm’s The Proofs, and Danielle Russo Dance Company’s Since thou was precious in my sight. There will also be an art and dance party hosted by Brock Enright, such panel discussions as “The Radical Eye: Why Artists Must Curate” with Anne Harris, “The (un)TALK” with Raoul Middleman, and “The Art Pollution Crisis (Three-Step Detox Program)” with Alex Melamid, and other events.
Who: Artists who are not represented by a New York City gallery
What: Clio Art Fair: The Anti-Fair for Independent Artists
Where: 508 West 26th St. between Tenth & Eleventh Aves.
When: March 5-8, free
Why: The Clio Art Fair lets their artists run wild without worrying about art market constraints and rules; there was a charming freshness to last year’s inaugural edition that the others lack, caring about the art and the artists ahead of the sale and actually enjoying itself, which rubs off on visitors.
Who: Nearly three dozen artists from eight Japanese galleries
What: New City Art Fair
Where: hpgrp Gallery New York, 529 West 20th St. between Tenth & Eleventh Aves.
When: March 5-8, free
Why: Now in its fourth year, New City concentrates on Japanese contemporary art. Programs include studio visits with Spoon & Tamago and a presentation by Pola Museum Annex.
Who: Polly Apfelbaum, BTHY, Fransje Killaars, Pushpamala N., Dona Nelson, Diana Shpungin, and Sarah Tritz
What: Salon Zürcher
Where: Salon Zürcher New York, 33 Bleecker St. between Lafayette & Bowery
When: March 5-12, free
Why: In its third edition, Salon Zürcher will highlight work by seven women artists shown by seven international galleries, including India, the United States, France, and the Netherlands.
FASHIONS FOR MEN
311 West 43rd St. between Eighth & Ninth Aves.
Tuesday - Sunday through March 29, $27.50-$65
A current pair of off-Broadway revivals, one a 1917 Hungarian comedy, the other a 1938 American drama, tackle remarkably similar topics, albeit in very different ways. Written by extremely successful playwrights, each follows an overly kind business owner dealing with relationship issues and financial problems, featuring a number of similar characters and situations, but whereas one ends up stumbling to the finish line, the other reaches it with head held high. The Mint Theater, which resuscitates forgotten, neglected works, breathes fashionable new life into Ferenc Molnár’s Fashions for Men, which could alternately be called The Haberdashery Around the Corner. Joe Delafield stars as Peter Juhász, the tall, proper owner of a reputable clothing shop catering to a wealthy, annoying clientele. He has such a gentle, forgiving nature that he can’t get angry when one of his employees, Oscar (John Tufts), steals his wife, Adele (Annie Purcell), and they take off with a hefty sum of cash Peter had set aside in an account for her. Peter doesn’t want to go back to his primary backer, the fabulously wealthy, playfully pompous Count (Kurt Rhoads), an older gentleman who has his eyes on Peter’s beautiful young employee Paula (Rachel Napoleon). Meanwhile, another of Peter’s salesmen, Philip (Jeremy Lawrence), watches all the shenanigans with knowing glances. The second act, which takes place in the Count’s extravagant estate, gets bogged down in repetitive slapstick as Peter is determined to protect Paula’s purity, but the first and third acts, set in Daniel Zimmerman’s wonderfully designed haberdashery, are a joy. The cast, dressed in appropriate finery by costumer Martha Hally, is uniformly excellent, with particularly keen turns by Rhoads and Delafield, who is so up-to-snuff playing the absurdly good Peter you’ll want to slap him around to get him to finally face reality and stand up for himself. Director Davis McCallum (London Wall, The Few) keeps it all flowing smoothly in a way that would make Ernst Lubitsch proud. Mint artistic director Jonathan Bank has tweaked Benjamin Glazer’s 1921 translation with the help of Agnes Niemitz and Gábor Lukin, Molnár’s great-grandson; the original English-language version opened on Broadway in December 1922. Molnár might not be a household name, but several of his works are, adapted into such films as Carousel, The Guardsman, The Swan, The Devil, and One, Two, Three.
ROCKET TO THE MOON
Theatre at St. Clement’s
423 West 46th St. between Ninth & Tenth Aves.
Tuesday - Sunday through March 28, $75-$95
Another troupe that rediscovers classic works, the Peccadillo Theater Company, has brought back Clifford Odets’s Rocket to the Moon in a solid production that ultimately reveals the play’s severe flaws. One of America’s most important and influential writers, Odets penned such plays as Golden Boy, The Big Knife, Awake and Sing! and The Country Girl and such films as None but the Lonely Heart, Humoresque, and Sweet Smell of Success. In Rocket to the Moon, which debuted on Broadway in 1938 with Luther Adler, Morris Carnovsky, Leif Erickson, and Sanford Meisner, Odets tells the sad-sack story of Dr. Ben Stark (Ned Eisenberg), a mensch of a dentist with a shrewish, overbearing wife, Belle (Marilyn Matarrese), who is none too thrilled with the sexy new office girl, nineteen-year-old Cleo Singer (Katie McClellan). Belle is also not happy that her husband is letting his fellow dentist, dour tenant Phil Cooper (Larry Bull), fall well behind on his rent. Despite their financial problems, Belle does not want Ben to accept a generous offer from her dapper, estranged father, Mr. Prince (Jonathan Hadary), to set him up in a fancier office in a better location and with more modern technology. At the same time, Ben is none too thrilled that the fabulously wealthy, playfully pompous Mr. Prince has his eyes on Cleo, as does one of Ben’s patients, a hotshot swinger named Willy Wax (Lou Liberatore) who is zeroing in on her as his next conquest. Meanwhile, Ben’s podiatrist neighbor, Frenchy (Michael Keyloun), watches all the shenanigans, sharing his perverse opinion seemingly without a care in the world. The cast is uniformly excellent, with particularly fine turns by Bull, McClellan, and Odets veteran Eisenberg, who excels as the infuriatingly indecisive Ben — getting Ben to stand up for himself is like pulling teeth. Precisely directed by Dan Wackerman (Ten Chimneys, The Man Who Came to Dinner), Rocket to the Moon soars in the first act, but the second act gets bogged down in a dreary battle between Mr. Prince and Dr. Stark over Cleo that is dated, misogynistic, and just plain tiresome. Odets tries too hard to make grand statements about family and responsibility in an America that is still rattling from the Depression and soon to get involved in WWII; the play works best when it gets right down to business, delving into the very human need for intimacy, understanding, compassion, and, most of all, love. But that’s precisely what you’ll find, along with a wry sense of humor, at the Mint’s stellar revival of Fashions for Men.
AT THE TOP OF THE PYRAMID (Lawrence Jordan, 2014)
Anthology Film Archives
32 Second Ave. at Second St.
It’s hard to figure out the new teen flick At the Top of the Pyramid. Is it a campy parody of the high school coming-of-age movie? An homage? A serious take on the genre? Just when you think you might have it figured out, the appearance of Steve Guttenberg only adds to the confusion. (And hey, isn’t that other dude Dean Cain?) Oh, and what’s the deal with it screening at Anthology Film Archives, home to cutting-edge avant-garde and independent cinema? (It turns out that the production company rented a theater at Anthology; it’s not part of their regular curatorial programming, and you won’t find it listed on the official calendar.) And finally, why is it so difficult to find an official website or social media presence? The main site seems to be a Twitter page with thirty followers that has been silent since September 2013. Anyway, At the Top of the Pyramid stars Elle McLemore, who originated the roles of Heather McNamara in the off-Broadway Heathers the Musical and Eva in Bring It On: The Musical on Broadway, as Jamie Parker, a cheerleader in Centreville, Virginia, dealing with a terrible fall and the tragic death of her father (Cain). She is in a perennial battle with villainous fellow cheerleader Diana (Jessica Luza), has a viciously dedicated coach (Vanessa Vander Pluym), and has a strong relationship with her caring mother (Kathleen Randazzo). The poorly edited film features hip-hop montage scenes and an overriding, often just plain silly PG sensibility, but then it comes along with such gems as the locker-room declaration, “She’s all neighbor, but no hood.” So yes, from March 4 to 10, as film enthusiasts file into Anthology to see “Avant-Garde Cinema from Ex-Yugoslavia, 1950s-80s,” “Screenwriters and the Blacklist: Before, During, and After — Part 3: Post-Blacklist,” and Essential Cinema works by Stan Brakhage, a whole different crew will be there to see a heartfelt movie about high school cheerleaders. “Is cheerleading the only thing?” Jamie asks at one point. “It’s the most important thing . . . to a cheerleader,” her coach responds.
200 Eastern Parkway at Washington St.
Saturday, March 7, free, 5:00 - 11:00
The Brooklyn Museum celebrates women in the March edition of its free First Saturdays program. “Women Changemakers” will feature live performances by Alissia & the Funketeers, Princess Nokia, and the DJ duo JSMN and MeLo-X; a curator talk by Catherine Morris about the exhibition “Judith Scott — Bound and Unbound”; a Colored Girls Hustle mix tape workshop; a sketch class in which participants will draw from a live woman model; a book club talk with Dao X Tran, author of 101 Changemakers: Rebels and Radicals Who Changed U.S. History; screenings of Julianna Brannum’s LaDonna Harris: Indian 101 and Rahwa Asmerom’s Didn’t I Ask for Tea?; a healing space with tarot readings, herbalism, acupressure, and more led by Harriet’s Apothecary; and a discussion with Tavi Gevinson about her online Rookie magazine and the print companion Rookie Yearbook Three. In addition, you can check out such exhibitions as “Revolution! Works from the Black Arts Movement,” “Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic,” “The Dinner Party by Judy Chicago,” and “Chitra Ganesh: Eyes of Time.”
Who: Adam Carolla and special guests
What: Two-night stand in Times Square
Where: Carolines on Broadway, 1626 Broadway between 49th & 50th Sts., 212-757-4100
When: Live podcast March 4-5, $54.50 - $125.25, 7:00/7:30; film premiere March 5, $22, 9:00
Why: In his most recent book, President Me: The America That’s in My Head (It Books, May 2014, $26.99), podcast king and former Man Show cohost Adam Carolla writes, “Consider this book my official campaign platform. As you’ll see, I have an assload of opinions and a dump truck full of ideas on how to make this country better.” Carolla continues his presidential aspirations this week at Carolines, where on Wednesday and Thursday he’ll host live editions of his ferociously popular podcast, The Adam Carolla Show, joined by David Alan Grier on March 4 and Alec Baldwin on March 5. The March 5 podcast will be followed by the separately ticketed New York City premiere of his directorial feature debut, Road Hard, which Carolla wrote with Kevin Hench (The Hammer) and stars in alongside a bevy of actors and comedians, including Grier, Diane Farr, David Koechner, Illeana Douglas, Howie Mandel, Jay Mohr, Dana Gould, and Larry Miller.
ONE NITE ONLY: SHOCK CORRIDOR (Samuel Fuller, 1963)
136 Metropolitan Ave. between Berry St. & Wythe Ave.
Wednesday, March 4, $15, 7:30
Series runs March 4-29
On the surface, Samuel Fuller’s Shock Corridor is about a reporter’s unyielding determination to win a Pulitzer by playing a unique game of Clue: He gets his girlfriend and his publisher to help commit him to an insane asylum so he can get a big scoop by answering the question “Who killed Sloan with a knife in the kitchen?” But the tense psychological drama is actually about so much more, a treatise on the state of mid-twentieth-century America as well as the nature of storytelling itself. A former crime reporter, Fuller was inspired by Nellie Bly’s Ten Days in a Mad-House when making Shock Corridor, but his film is not so much an expose on the treatment of the mentally ill as an investigation into such prevalent societal ills as racism, war, communism, nuclear annihilation, and, er, nymphomania. Desperate for a big story, Johnny Barrett (Peter Breck) gets a lesson in how to act insane from Dr. Fong (Philip Ahn); they’ve decided that Johnny’s “ailment” will be incest, and he must pretend that he is in love with his sister, a role that will be taken by his girlfriend, Cathy (Constance Towers), a burlesque performer who is uncomfortable with the whole plan. The only other person who knows of the scheme is Johnny’s editor, old-time newspaperman Swanee (Bill Zuckert). Once locked inside the mental hospital, Johnny seeks out the three witnesses to Sloan’s slaying: Stuart (James Best), who thinks he’s a Confederate general still fighting the Civil War; Trent (Hari Rhodes), a black man who believes he’s a white supremacist; and Boden (Gene Evans), a scientist who has reverted to being a child because of the misuse of nuclear power. Keeping a close watch on everything are two attendants, the amiable Wilkes (Chuck Roberson) and the mean-spirited Lloyd (John Craig), along with Dr. Cristo (John Matthews), who has a thing for electric shock therapy. As Johnny keeps getting closer to the truth, however, the cost might be his own sanity.
The multiple levels of the characterizations in Shock Corridor are best represented by a patient played by Larry Tucker who thinks he is Pagliacci, a fictional character in the Leoncavallo opera who is portrayed by a tenor named Canio. Like Pagliacci, Fuller’s Shock Corridor is built around stories within stories (within stories) and actors playing characters pretending to be someone else. The film, which evokes The Snake Pit while presaging Miloš Forman’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, including an important use of gum, is shot by Stanley Cortez in noirish black-and-white, but Fuller adds several full-color dream sequences taken from footage he photographed for other projects, further blurring the lines between fiction and reality within the context of this original drama. As with so many of Fuller’s works, the film is highly influential, although more beloved and known by fellow filmmakers than mainstream audiences. And it does no favors for the treatment of the mentally ill, either on the doctor or patient side of things. But it’s all worth it for the amazing rain scene that will blow your mind. Shock Corridor is screening in a 35mm print on March 4 at 7:30, kicking off Nitehawk Cinema’s March Brunch “Committed” series, with a special guest to be announced. Yes, 7:30 pm is an odd time to have brunch, but maybe the programmer had temporarily lost his marbles. The series continues on March weekends — at the more normal brunch times of either 11:30 or 12 noon — with Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s Suddenly, Last Summer, Robert Wiene’s The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, and James Mangold’s Girl, Interrupted.