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


The Lab hosts interactive installations using cutting-edge technology (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

The Lab is back at Panorama with interactive, cutting-edge art projects (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Randall’s Island Park
July 28-30, $125 per day, $345 for all three days

Last year’s inaugural Panorama festival was everything it promised it would be, three days of cool music, art, technology, and food on Randall’s Island. It’s back for its second go-round, taking place July 28-30. Tickets are $125 per day and $345 for the full weekend to see such performers as Future Islands, Girl Talk, MGMT, Spoon, Solange, DJ Shadow, and Frank Ocean on Friday, Belle & Sebastian, Matoma, Vince Staples, Motor City Drum Ensemble, and Tame Impala on Saturday, and Cloud Nothings, Justice, Glass Animals, a Tribe Called Quest, and Nine Inch Nails on Sunday at four different locations — the main stage, the Pavilion, the Parlor, and the Point. Eats and drinks will be available from El Paso, Oddfellows, Roberta’s Pizza, Salvation Taco, Ed & Bev’s, Loco Coco, Spicy Pie, Trapizzino, Uma Temakeria, Matchabar, Pasquale Jones, PDT, Sam’s Fried Ice Cream, and others. The Lab is also back, a 360-degree virtual-reality theater with such interactive works as Future Wife’s “Boolean Planet,” Emilie Baltz’s “Dream Machine,” Prism’s “Future Portrait,” Ekene Ijeoma’s “Heartfelt,” the Windmill Factory’s “Right Passage,” Dirt Empire’s “The Ark Dome Show,” and SOFTlab’s “Volume.” Among the sponsors selling products, giving away samples, and hosting unique experiences are Rough Trade, Barefoot Wine & Bubbly, Sephora, Califia, Macy’s Pool Party, Bai, the Global Inheritance Recycling Store, and Tullamore Dew. Keep watching twi-ny for daily highlights as the fest approaches.



Ami Tomite stars in Sion Sono’s bizarre, beguiling, anarchistic Anti-Porno

Japan Society
333 East 47th St. at First Ave.
Sunday, July 16, 8:45
Festival runs July 13-23

“I’m a virgin. A virgin, but a whore,” successful novelist, painter, and fashion designer Kyoko (Ami Tomite) says at the beginning of Sion Sono’s bizarre, deliciously candy-colored and anarchic Anti-Porno, making its East Coast premiere July 22 at 10:30 in Japan Society’s Japan Cuts: Festival of New Japanese Cinema. You never know what to expect from Siono, whose previous films include the wild and wacky Love & Peace, the wild and crazy Why Don’t You Play in Hell? and the strangely beautiful and touching Himizu. Anti-Porno is part of Nikkatsu’s Roman Porno Reboot Project, a celebration of the forty-fifth anniversary of the studio’s Japanese softcore films, which began in 1971 with Shōgorō Nishimura’s Apartment Wife: Affair in the Afternoon and continued through 1988 with Daisuke Gotō’s Bed Partner. In true Sono style, he honors the format by confusing fiction with reality, star characters with minor newbies, and the past with the present in ways that are as exhilarating as they are confounding. The story takes place primarily in a spectacular apartment decked out in bright yellows, blues, and reds, with large-scale paintings and a lushly alluring open bathroom. Kyoko is a self-obsessed terror who abuses her dedicated assistant, Noriko (Mariko Tsutsui) — or is it the other way around? “I want to be a whore like you,” Noriko begs. There’s fetishism galore, plenty of nudity, a lizard trapped in a bottle, incest, an audience of girls in Sailor Moon outfits, sycophantic hangers-on, a mysterious sex film, and then a man yells, “Cut!” Soon you’re not sure who’s in charge, who’s the lead, and whether you’re watching a movie, a movie-within-a-movie, or a novel-within-a-movie-within-a-movie. “This isn’t my life!” Kyoko screams. Or is it? Sono, who also wrote the script, uses the porn format to question ideas of sexuality, misogyny, freedom, abuse, feminism, exploitation, dominance, art, power, and pornography itself, resulting in a rousing, er, climax. The gorgeous production design is by Takashi Matsuzuka, with striking cinematography by Maki Ito, raunchy costumes by Kazuhiro Sawataishi, and an inventive, wide-ranging score by Susumu Akizuki. Because of the film’s graphic nature, no one under eighteen will be admitted to the Japan Society screening, which will be preceded by Sawako Kabuki’s hysterical three-minute X-rated animated vomitfest Summer’s Puke Is Winter’s Delight.


Poet CAConrad will be giving personalized (Soma)tic poetry rituals in Madison Square Park through July 23 (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Poet CAConrad will be offering free personalized (Soma)tic poetry rituals in Madison Square Park through July 23 (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Madison Square Park Oval Lawn
Twenty-Fourth St. between Madison & Fifth Aves.
Through July 23, free, 12 noon – 5:00 pm (workshops nightly at 6:00)

“Every single human being is creative. When we commit ourselves to nurturing our artistic capacities we improve our ability to more deeply discern the world around us and make the constructive decisions needed in order to thrive in this world,” fifty-one-year-old poet CAConrad writes in his (Soma)tic Manifesto. Through July 23, Conrad will be performing “(Soma)tic Poetry Rituals” in Madison Square Park, under one of American artist and MacArthur Fellow Josiah McElheny’s three sculptures that comprise “Prismatic Park,” a collaborative public art project that is hosting free dance, music, and poetry through October 8, sponsored by Danspace Project, Blank Forms, and Poets House. Born in Kansas and raised in Pennsylvania, Conrad is the author of such books as The City Real & Imagined, ECODEVIANCE: (Soma)tics for the Future Wilderness, and the upcoming While Standing in Line for Death. In 1998, Conrad’s boyfriend, AIDS activist Earth (Mark Holmes), was brutally raped, tortured, and murdered in Tennessee at the age of thirty-six. In order to break out of his subsequent depression and his inability to break away from a factorylike existence that had been with him since childhood when his family ran a casket company, Conrad developed rituals that helped respark his creative energy and his life in general. He is currently in the midst of a six-day residency in Madison Square Park, sitting (in the shade) at a small table under McElheny’s open red vaulted-roof pavilion (with red and yellow glass), where the public is invited to join him for approximately twenty minutes as Conrad develops a personalized (Soma)tic poetry ritual for each individual participant, involving crystals, liquids, and writing. The rituals are meant to help anyone seeking new ways to cope with today’s world; they are not limited to writers. The personalized rituals — bring pen and paper to take copious notes — are first come, first served, from 12 noon to 5:00, followed by workshops from 6:00 to 8:00; on July 22, Conrad delves into crystal trees, while on July 23 he will read tarot cards. “Prismatic Park,” which also features a blue sound wall and a reflective green dance floor, continues with concerts by Joe McPhee & Graham Lambkin (July 25-30), Shelley Hirsch (August 22-27), Matana Roberts (September 5-10), and Limpe Fuchs with poet Patrick Rosal (October 3-8), dance by Netta Yerushalmy (August 1-6) and Jodi Melnick (September 12-17, 19-24), and poetry by Joshua Bennett (August 15-20), Donna Masini (August 29 – September 3), and Mónica de la Torre (September 26 – October 1).


Junot Diaz

Junot Diaz talks about winning the Pulitzer in documentary about the coveted prize

THE PULITZER AT 100 (Kirk Simon, 2016)
Lincoln Plaza Cinema
1886 Broadway at 63rd St.
Opens Friday, July 21

Oscar- and Emmy-winning director Kirk Simon’s The Pulitzer at 100 boasts a remarkable cast and some of the best lines ever written in the history of American arts and letters. It’s also a self-congratulatory bore. Simon celebrates the centennial of the Pulitzer Prize, first awarded by Columbia University in four categories in 1917, by speaking with a vast array of winners from the worlds of journalism (Carl Bernstein, Martin Baron, Thomas Friedman, Nicholas Kristof, Sheri Fink, David Remnick), fiction (Toni Morrison, Michael Chabon, Junot Díaz, Jeffrey Eugenides), drama (Tony Kushner, Paula Vogel, Ayad Akhtar), music (Wynton Marsalis, John Adams), biography (Robert A. Caro), poetry (Yusef Komunyakaa), photography (John Filo, Nick Ut), and more. He also films Martin Scorsese, Helen Mirren, Natalie Portman, Liev Schreiber, John Lithgow, and Yara Shahidi performing selections from the works of some of their favorite writers, including Philip Roth, Harper Lee, and Eugene O’Neill. Interspersed between all of the literary lathering are interesting tidbits — delivered by such historians as Cyrus Patell, Theodore L. Glasser, Roy Harris, and James McGrath Morris — from the life and times of one Joseph Pulitzer, an Austro-Hungarian merchant’s son who came to America as a mercenary to fight in the Civil War. Pulitzer eventually got involved in newspaper publishing, had yellow-journalism battles with William Randolph Hearst, and left money for Columbia to start the Graduate School of Journalism.

Simon lets the prize winners glory in their success, explaining what winning the award meant for their careers; the journalism awardees also delve into the stories they covered to win the trophy, including Kent State, Watergate, Hurricane Katrina, the Vietnam War, Tiananmen Square, and 9/11. While there are some fascinating revelations — particularly by Ut, describing how he took the famous photo of young Vietnamese girl Kim Phuc running from a napalm blast, then poured water over her back to help her (Kim also appears in the film) — most of the news stories are already overly familiar to the viewer, with not enough time to really tackle the subjects properly here. Of course, that’s not really what the film is centrally about, anyway. And it gets especially glib when several of the winners poke fun at the physical award itself, as if it’s really no big deal. Meanwhile, the performances by the stellar actors are far too serious and feel like their readings are just time fillers. Simon (Chimps: So Like Us, Strangers No More) can’t seem to decide what kind of film he’s making. It would have been more interesting learning further about Pulitzer himself rather than listening to terrific writers lavish praise on themselves, their colleagues, and their forebears. Oh, the film, which has no voice-over narration, does put to rest one important part of the Pulitzer legacy: Only one of the speakers says “Pyew-litzer,” while all the others pronounce Joseph’s last name as “Pull-itzer.” The Pulitzer at 100 opens July 21 at Lincoln Plaza, with Simon participating in Q&As at the 7:00 shows on Friday and Saturday night.


The Fencer

Märt Avandi stars as real-life fencing champion Endel Nelis in The Fencer

Angelika Film Center, 18 West Houston St. at Mercer St., 212-995-2570
Lincoln Plaza Cinema, 1886 Broadway between 62nd & 63rd Sts., 212-757-2280
Opens Friday, July 21

Based on a true story, Finnish director Klaus Härö’s The Fencer is a compelling and moving film about a man on the run who suddenly finds himself in a situation that unexpectedly suits him. Estonian actor and comedian Märt Avandi stars as Endel Nelis, a real-life fencing champion who has escaped Stalinism in Leningrad and is hiding out as a teacher in a school in Haapsalu, Estonia, with a new last name. Initially dour and stand-offish, Endel is assigned by the school principal (Hendrik Toompere), a strict party loyalist, to run the sports club, and he soon decides to teach them how to fence, using homemade foils. His interaction with the children, especially Marta (Liisa Koppel), Jaan (Joonas Koff), Lea (Ann-Lisett Rebane), Toomas (Egert Kadastu), and Tiiu (Elbe Reiter), many of whom have been orphaned because of the German and Soviet occupations of Estonia and the continuing presence of the Soviet secret police, lead him to take a personal interest in their lives, as well as reevaluating the meaning of his own. He grows close with fellow teacher Kadri (Ursula Ratasepp), but when his old friend Aleksei (Kirill Käro) tells him that he needs to leave because the police are on his trail, Endel has some critical decisions to make, and not just about himself.

The Fencer

Endel Nelis (Märt Avandi) finds new meaning to his life in Klaus Härö’s The Fencer

The Fencer is the fourth of Härö’s five feature films to be selected as Finland’s submission for the Academy Awards. The first screenplay written by Finnish novelist and sculptor Anna Heinämaa, the film is tenderly directed by Härö with an acute visual sense (the sharp cinematography is by Tuomo Hutri), which comes about at least in part because of language barriers — he speaks Finnish, Swedish, and English, but the actors, including the children, speak Estonian and Russian. Härö (The New Man, Mother of Mine) steers clear of turning The Fencer into a historical drama, instead concentrating on the human aspects of the story rather than focusing on how the Soviets invaded Estonia after the war and rounded up men who had been drafted by the Nazis. He also handles what could have been a clichéd fencing competition with a gentle touch, the matches evoking a different kind of battle in which participants don’t end up dead. Resembling a young Max von Sydow, Avandi is excellent as Endel, an intensely private man who is suspicious of everything, keeping to himself until he becomes involved in something bigger than his own fears. He turns into a different person when he picks up his foil, suddenly ready to face a world that might not be quite as bitter and harsh as he thinks, where a man can stand up for what’s right, prepared to face the consequences.


Yvonne Rainer will be at the Film Society of Lincoln Center for a comprehensive retrospective of her work in cinema

Yvonne Rainer will be at the Film Society of Lincoln Center for a comprehensive retrospective of her work in cinema

Film Society of Lincoln Center
Amphitheater, Francesca Beale Theater
Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center
144 West 65th St. between Eighth Ave. & Broadway
Monday, July 24, free, 7:00
Series runs July 21-27

In 1965, Yvonne Rainer wrote the “No Manifesto,” publicly saying no to “spectacle, virtuosity, transformations and magic and make-believe, the glamour and transcendency of the star image, the heroic, the anti-heroic, trash imagery, involvement of performer or spectator, style, camp, seduction of spectator by the wiles of the performer, eccentricity, and moving or being moved.” It will be difficult, if not impossible, for audiences to maintain many of those ideals when the legendary eighty-two-year-old dancer, choreographer, actor, director, performance artist, and writer comes to the Film Society of Lincoln Center for a week-long celebration of her celluloid career. “Talking Pictures: The Cinema of Yvonne Rainer” runs July 21-27 at the Francesca Beale Theater, with shorts and features made by and/or starring Rainer, along with works that inspired and influenced her. The roster includes Rainer’s Lives of Performers, Film About a Woman Who . . . , Journeys from Berlin/1971, The Man Who Envied Women, and Privilege, among others, along with her collaborations with Maya Deren, Hollis Frampton, and Charles Atlas (who will introduce Trio A/Rainer Variations) in addition to Jean Renoir’s The Rules of the Game, Andy Warhol’s Paul Swan, Trinh T. Minh-ha’s Naked Spaces — Living Is Round, and Ulrike Ottinger’s Madame X: An Absolute Ruler. On July 24 at 7:00, the California-born Rainer will sit down with novelist, cultural critic, and Woodmere native Lynne Tillman (Haunted Houses, What Would Lynne Tillman Do?) in the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center Amphitheater in a discussion focusing on Rainer’s film career; admission is free and first-come, first-served. It’s a real treat to see Rainer’s work and to listen to her in person, so don’t miss this very special opportunity.


(photo © Victor Nechay)

National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene explores the Jewish immigration experience in Amerike — the Golden Land (photo © Victor Nechay)

Museum of Jewish Heritage — A Living Memorial to the Holocaust
Edmond J. Safra Plaza, 36 Battery Pl.
Tuesday-Wednesday and Thursday-Sunday through August 6, $35-$60

The National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene has followed up its wonderful, ebullient hit, The Golden Bride, with Amerike — the Golden Land, a rather more clichéd historical pageant, a series of episodic set pieces about the American dream. The show began life as a special program honoring the eighty-fifth anniversary of the Jewish Daily Forward in 1982 and has gone through numerous iterations since then. The latest version, extended at NYTF’s new home at the Museum of Jewish Heritage through August 20, follows half a dozen emigrants from Eastern Europe who arrive in America expecting streets paved with riches. But the reality of making a new life on the Lower East Side is far more difficult for Oppenheimer (Glenn Seven Allen), Sadie (Alexandra Frohlinger), Joe (Daniel Kahn), Fannie (Dani Marcus), Gussie (Stephanie Lynne Mason), and Izzie (David Perlman). (The talented ensemble also includes Maya Jacobson, Alexander Kosmowski, Raquel Nobile, Isabel Nesti, Grant Richards, and Bobby Underwood.) Written by Moishe Rosenfeld and his cousin, NYTF artistic director Zalmen Mlotek, and directed by Bryna Wasserman, who helmed The Golden Bride and such other NYTF productions as The Dybbuk and Lies My Father Told Me, Amerike features a treasure trove of Yiddish songs performed by an outstanding band, with Katsumi Ferguson on violin, Jordan Hirsch on trumpet, Dmitry Ishenko on bass, Daniel Linden on trombone, Mlotek and Andrew Wheeler on piano, Sean Perham on percussion, and Dmitri Zisl Slepovitch on reeds. The story is told in eleven sections, from “Arrival,” “The New City,” and “Shabbos” to “Work,” “Citizenship,” and “The Depression,” with such numbers as “O Kumt Ir Farvoglte” (Oh Come You Who Are Displaced”), “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?,” and “Vi Nemt Men Parnuse?” (“How Do I Make a Living?”), by Joseph Rumshinsky, Arnold Perlmutter and Herman Wohl, Solomon Shmulewitz, and other composers.

Despite its innate exuberance, the narrative is laden with overly familiar vignettes about immigrants first seeing the Statue of Liberty, having their names changed on Ellis Island, battling poverty, and trying to assimilate. It often feels more like a history lesson, teaching us about things we already know, like the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, although it is imbued with a relevance to what is happening today as President Trump continues to push his immigration and refugee restrictions. Amerike — the Golden Land does have some beautiful and heart-wrenching moments, including the story of a widower whose young children are not allowed to enter America with him and two immigrants who are fearful of falling in love. Izzy Fields’s costume design and Jason Lee Courson’s set and projections capture the feeling of late-nineteenth-century / early-twentieth-century New York City, and Merete Muenter’s choreography melds well with the music. The songs are mostly performed in Yiddish with English and Russian surtitles, although, curiously, there are a few English-language numbers that feel out of place. The cast, only one member of which knew Yiddish prior to rehearsals, is solid, and the musicians, who get the crowd dancing after the curtain call, are outstanding. But the lack of originality in the story — there’s even a multilingual version of Emma Lazarus’s “The New Colossus” — dampens a lot of this terrific company’s freshness. (Be sure to arrive forty-five minutes early to get a free Yiddish lesson.)