Who: Aimee Mann, Ted Leo, Jonathan Coulton, Liz Phair, and special guests
What: Annual Christmas show
Where: The Town Hall, 123 West 43rd St., Music Hall of Wiliamsburg, 66 North Sixth St.
When: Thursday, December 10, Town Hall, $35-$45, 8:00, and Saturday, December 12, MHoW, $35, 9:00
Why: Engaging singer-songwriter and Big Lebowski nihilist Aimee Mann’s popular Christmas show is coming to Manhattan and Brooklyn, cohosted by her bestie, ubiquitous pop punkster Ted Leo, who together form the musical duo the Both. For this year’s festivities, taking place December 10 at Town Hall and December 12 at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, Mann and Leo will be joined by special guests Jonathan Coulton and Liz Phair, with more to be announced. Mann’s Christmas show began back in 2006 and includes holiday favorites as well as originals, performed, as always, with charm and humor. Be sure to first check out her clever, playful 2008 Christmas Carol spoof, with a bevy of cool costars, here.
Who: Joseph O’Neill
What: Award-winning author Joseph O’Neill reading from and discussing his latest novel, The Dog (Vintage Contemporaries, June 2015, 415.95)
Where: Donaghy Theatre, Irish Arts Center, 553 West 51st St. between Tenth & Eleventh Aves., 866-811-4111
When: Wednesday, December 2, $12, 7:30
Why: “Perhaps because of my growing sense of the inefficiency of life lived on land and in air, of my growing sense that the accumulation of experience amounts, when all is said and done and pondered, simply to extra weight, so that one ends up dragging oneself around as if imprisoned in one of those Winnie the Pooh suits of explorers of the deep, I took up diving. As might be expected, this decision initially aggravated the problem of inefficiency.” So begins Joseph O’Neill’s latest novel, The Dog, a satire of the modern world as only he can tell it. O’Neill, who is a professor at Bard and won the 2009 Pen/Faulkner Wward and the Kerry Fiction Prize for the marvelous Netherland, will be at the Irish Arts Center on December 2 to discuss The Dog, about a man who tries to rediscover himself in Dubai. And he should know be quite the expert on international relations, having been born in Ireland and raised in Mozambique, South Africa, Iran, Turkey, and Holland.
CinéSalon: THE SCREEN ILLUSION (L’ILLUSION COMIQUE) (Mathieu Amalric, 2010)
French Institute Alliance Française, Florence Gould Hall
55 East 59th St. between Madison & Park Aves.
Tuesday, December 1, $14, 7:30
Series continues Tuesdays through December 15
In 2010, French actor-director Mathieu Amalric was commissioned by la Comédie-Française to make a television version of one of the plays the legendary company had recently staged. The rules were both limiting and freeing: He had to use the same cast, could not add any words to the script (but could make cuts), and had to shoot the film in twelve days without using the theater itself. Amalric had the credentials for such a daunting assignment; he had previously starred in such films as Munich, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, and Kings and Queen and directed Mange ta soupe and On Tour, in which he also starred and for which he won the Best Director prize at Cannes. He decided to adapt Pierre Corneille’s 1636 play, L’Illusion comique, a melodrama written just as the Baroque style was shifting into the Classical period. The film takes place in and around a hotel in 2011, where concierge/sorcerer/detective Alcandre (Hervé Pierre) is showing surveillance video to Pridamant (Alain Lenglet), who is searching for his long-missing son, Clindor (Loïc Corbery). Clindor is working for video-game executive Matamore (Denis Podalydès); both men, as well as Adraste (Adrien Gamba-Gontard), are vying for the attention of the lovely but cold Isabelle (Suliane Brahim), daughter of corporation head Géronte (Jean-Baptiste Malartre). Meanwhile, Adraste’s coworker, Lyse (Julie Sicard), is desperately in love with Clindor. It all comes to a head one night following a dinner party, when a fierce battle takes place on a rooftop. “When all hope is gone, one has nothing more to fear,” Isabelle says.
The Screen Illusion is a clever and inventive, if at times confusing and overly farcical, adaptation of Corneille’s tale. The actors recite their lines in verse, which takes a little getting used to. Production designer Hervé Dajon and cinematographer Isabelle Razavet bathes the hotel in deep, lurid greens and reds, echoing the greed, envy, jealousy, and lust that surround the characters. The film is very much about the act of viewing; just as we watch theater and movies, becoming lost in their magic, Pridamant watches his son via CCTV cameras, and Amalric actually brings the camera — and the viewer — inside the recordings as the story unfolds before our eyes as well. “Believe only what you see,” Alcandre warns at the beginning of the film, looking into a mirror and talking to himself as well as the audience, hinting at what is to follow and foreshadowing a surprise twist at the end. Inspired by such works as Jean-Luc Godard’s Détective and Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le Samourai, Amalric, an accomplished stage performer in addition to being a film director and actor, melds all of those elements into The Screen Illusion, a tidy little tale that is more than what it first appears. The Screen Illusion is being shown at 7:30 on December 1 in Florence Gould Hall as part of FIAF’s CinéSalon series “Mathieu Amalric: Renaissance Man” and will be introduced by film critic Nicholas Elliott. The series continues through December 15 with Late September, Early Spring; Fantastic Mr. Fox; and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.
AMERICAN DANCE GUILD 2015 PERFORMANCE FESTIVAL
The Ailey Citigroup Theater
The Joan Weill Center for Dance
405 West 55th St. at Ninth Ave.
December 3-6, $15-$50
This year’s American Dance Guild Performance Festival takes place December 3-6 at the Ailey Citigroup Theater, consisting of nearly three dozen artists and companies in addition to tributes to living legends Liz Lerman, Doug Varone, and Alice Teirstein. Lerman will present a video history of her career on December 3 and 4, Varone will perform in Lux on December 3 and 5, and Teirstein’s Young Dancemakers will perform a short piece on December 3 and 6. The festival also features Jacqulyn Buglisi’s Sospiri on December 4 and Merce Cunningham’s Suite for Two on December 5. Among the other dancers and choreographers presenting programs are Imana Gunawan, Cherylyn Lavagnino, Dominic Duong, Daniel Gwirtzman, Nancy Zendora, Kaoru Ikeda, Jessica Gaynor, Rebecca Rice, and Jin-Wen Yu.
It’s hard to believe, but John Lennon would have turned seventy-five this past October 9. It would be fascinating to hear what he would have to say about what’s going on in the world today, but we’ll have to suffice with such special events as the thirty-fifth annual John Lennon Tribute, when a diverse group of musicians will gather to honor the Smart Beatle’s legacy of peace. “It’s always joyous to ‘come together over John.’ His songs and message are timeless, and as relevant as ever," said tribute creator and MAD magazine senior editor Joe Raiola. Presented by Theatre Within and Music Without Borders, this year’s show features Martin Sexton, Joan Osborne, Joseph Arthur, Bettye LaVette, Willie Nile, Lucy Kaplansky, Richard Shindell, Jonatha Brooke, Nicole Atkins, Toshi Reagon, Dan Bern, and music director Rich Pagano. In addition, Vagina Monlogues playwright and activist Eve Ensler will receive the second annual John Lennon Real Love Award. The evening benefits Theatre Within’s John Lennon Real Love Project, which “offers children and young adults in medical care centers, schools, and communities in need the unique opportunity to compose their own songs.”
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.
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.
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.”