CINÉSALON: CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA (Olivier Assayas, 2014)
French Institute Alliance Française, Florence Gould Hall
55 East 59th St. between Madison & Park Aves.
Tuesday, October 6, $14, 4:00 & 7:30 (later screening introduced by Florence Colombani)
Series continues through October 27
The related concepts of time and reality wind through Olivier Assayas’s beautifully poetic, melancholy Clouds of Sils Maria much like actual snakelike clouds slither through the twisting Maloja Pass in the Swiss Alps, as life imitates art and vice versa. Juliette Binoche stars as Maria Enders, a famous French actress who is on her way to Zurich to accept an award for her mentor, playwright Wilhelm Melchior, who eschews such mundane ceremonies. But while en route, Maria and her personal assistant, the extremely attentive and capable Valentine (Kristen Stewart), learn that Wilhelm has suddenly and unexpectedly passed away, and Maria considers turning back, especially when she later finds out that Henryk Wald (Hanns Zischler), an old nemesis, will be there to pay homage to Wilhelm as well, but she decides to go ahead after all. At a cocktail party, Maria meets with hot director Klaus Diesterweg (Lars Eidinger), who is preparing a new stage production of Wilhelm and Maria’s first big hit, The Maloja Snake, but this time Maria would play Helena, an older woman obsessed with ambitious eighteen-year-old Sigrid, the role she originally performed twenty years earlier, to great acclaim. Klaus is planning to cast Lindsay Lohan-like troublemaking star and walking tabloid headline Jo-Ann Ellis (Chloë Grace Moretz) as Sigrid, which does not thrill Maria as her past and present meld together in an almost dreamlike narrative punctuated by the music of Handel and cinematographer Yorick Le Saux’s gorgeous shots of vast mountain landscapes.
Clouds of Sils Maria resonates on many levels, both inside and outside of the main plot and the film itself. Assayas (Irma Vep, Demonlover) cowrote André Téchiné’s 1983 film, Rendez-Vous, which was Binoche’s breakthrough; Assayas and Binoche wouldn’t work together again until his 2008 film Summer Hours, similar to the relationship between Wilhelm and Maria. Meanwhile, the story of the play-within-the-film is echoed by the relationship between Maria and Valentine, who are having trouble separating the personal from the professional. It is often difficult to know when the two women are practicing lines and when they are talking about their “real” lives. Binoche (Blue, Caché) is simply extraordinary as Maria, a distressed and anxious woman who is suddenly facing getting older somewhat sooner than expected, while Stewart (The Twilight Saga, On the Road) became the first American woman to win a French César, for Best Supporting Actress, for her sensitive portrayal of Valentine, a strong-willed young woman who might or might not be holding something back. The scenes between the two are riveting as they venture in and out of the reality of the film, their onscreen chemistry building and building till it’s at last ready to ignite. Art, life, cinema, theater, fiction, and reality all come together in Clouds of Sils Maria, as Maria, Assayas, and Binoche take stock of where they’ve been, where they are, and where they’re going. The film is screening at 4:00 and 7:30 on October 6 in FIAF’s CinéSalon series “Theater & Cinema”; the later show will be introduced by Florence Colombani. The Tuesday festival continues through October 27 with such other stage-related dramas as Arnaud Desplechin’s Esther Kahn, Abdellatif Kechiche’s Games of Love and Chance, and François Truffaut’s The Last Metro.
Who: Orlando Ferrand, Sabine Heinlein, Vasyl Makhno, Elyssa Goodman, and Oriana Leckert
What: Miss Manhattan and Brooklyn Spaces Present: To the 5 Boroughs
Where: Niagara Bar, 112 Ave. A at Seventh St., 212-420-9517
When: Monday, October 5, free, 7:45
Why: Taking its name from the 2004 Beastie Boys album To the 5 Boroughs, which features such tracks as “Ch-Check It Out,” “Shazam!,” and “An Open Letter to NYC,” To the 5 Boroughs is a free evening of nonfiction readings, hosted by Elyssa Goodman of Miss Manhattan and Oriana Leckert of Brooklyn Spaces, who has been lured across the East River for this event. The three readers are Orlando Ferrand (Apologia: Cuban Childhood in My Backpack, Citywalker), Sabine Heinlein (Among Murderers: Life After Prison), and Vasyl Makhno (Winter Letters, The Gertrude Stein Memorial Cultural and Recreation Park). Why should you go? Because as the Beasties famously declared in “An Open Letter to NYC,” “Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens and Staten / From the Battery to the top of Manhattan / Asian, Middle Eastern, and Latin / Black, White, New York, you make it happen.”
NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL: MAGGIE’S PLAN (Rebecca Miller, 2015)
Film Society of Lincoln Center
Sunday, October 4, 9:30, and Monday, October 5, 6:00, $25, Alice Tully Hall
Sunday, October 11, 3:00, $20, Walter Reade Theater
New York Film Festival runs through October 11
Rebecca Miller channels her inner Woody Allen and Noah Baumbach with the bittersweet romantic comedy Maggie’s Plan, making its U.S. premiere at the fifty-third New York Film Festival. Greta Gerwig is at her loopy best as Maggie, a thirtysomething college arts administrator who, after failing to maintain any relationship for more than six months, decides to become a single mother by impregnating herself with the sperm of an old classmate, Guy (Travis Fimmel), a Brooklyn hipster trying to become a pickle mogul. (He works for the real Brooklyn Brine Co.) Maggie’s married best buds, former boyfriend Tony (Bill Hader) and Felicia (Maya Rudolph), who have just had a baby themselves, debate her decision, but she is determined to forge ahead. As she prepares for the artificial insemination, which she is performing herself, she grows close with older New School adjunct professor John (Ethan Hawke), a ficto-crypto-anthropologist working on his novel. John has two kids of his own but is feeling overwhelmed by his wife, Georgette (Julianne Moore), a wickedly ambitious educator who has just been offered a lofty position at Columbia. Soon Maggie, John, and Georgette are in the midst of a complicated love triangle that is at times as frustrating to watch as it is endearing.
Miller, the daughter of playwright Arthur Miller, is a novelist and writer-director who has previously made such films as The Ballad of Jack and Rose, which starred her husband, Daniel Day-Lewis, and The Private Lives of Pippa Lee. Inspired by an unpublished novel by Karen Rinaldi, Maggie’s Plan is likely to be Miller’s most popular film, despite the clichéd setup that threatens to be annoyingly obvious and mundane but usually manages to bring out something fresh and charming. The tale evokes such films as Allen’s Manhattan and Baumbach’s Frances Ha, with mumblecore breakout star Gerwig (Nights and Weekends, Hannah Takes the Stairs) again playing a quirky character who seems to live in her own candy-colored fantasy land. Miller even uses cinematographer Sam Levy, who photographed such other Gerwig films as Frances Ha and Mistress America, to shoot Maggie’s Plan. Hawke is in good form as a man caught between two worlds, Hader and Rudolph provide cynical comic relief, and it’s impossible to take your eyes off Gerwig, who once again displays her mesmerizing natural talent, but Moore nearly steals the show as the sensationally dressed and coiffed Georgette, an unrelenting force with a to-die-for Danish-Teutonic accent and an attitude to boot. Maggie’s Plan is screening twice at Alice Tully Hall, first on October 4 at 9:30 with Miller, Gerwig, Moore, Hawke, Rudolph, and Fimmel in person, followed on October 5 at 6:00 with Miller present to talk about the film. In addition, an encore screening has been added on October 11 at 3:00.
A WATERFRONT FOOD EVENT TO BENEFIT PS89
200 Vesey St. across West St.
Sunday, October 4, $25 in advance, $35 day of event, 12 noon - 3:00 pm
Big changes have been taking place down at Brookfield Place and Battery Park, so they have joined up to celebrate their growing culinary community with Taste of Battery Park, a benefit fundraiser for PS89, also known as Liberty School. From 12 noon to 3:00, people can wander around the waterfront marina at Brookfield Place and sample signature dishes from seventeen local eateries: Le District, Parm, Dos Toros Taqueria, Blue Ribbon Sushi, Tartinery, Northern Tiger, El Vez, Shake Shack, North End Grill, Financier Patisserie, Harry’s Italian, Atrio, P.J. Clarke’s, François Payard Bakery, Blue Smoke, Le Pain Quotidien, and Sprinkles. A $25 advance ticket gets you five tastings. (The tickets go up to $35 if purchased on Sunday.) There will also be a raffle, a Kids Corner with family friendly activities, and live music by PS89 students at 1:00 and TriBattery Pops at 2:00.
NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL: A TOUCH OF ZEN (King Hu, 1969)
Film Society of Lincoln Center, Walter Reade Theater
165 West 65th St. between Eighth Ave. & Broadway
Monday, October 5, 9:00
Festival runs through October 11
Watching King Hu’s 1969 wuxia classic, A Touch of Zen, brings us back to the days of couching out with Kung Fu Theater on rainy Saturday afternoons. The highly influential three-hour epic features an impossible-to-figure-out plot, a goofy romance, wicked-cool weaponry, an awesome Buddhist monk, a bloody massacre, and action scenes that clearly involve the overuse of trampolines. Still, it’s great fun, even if it is way too long. (The film, which was initially shown in two parts, earned a special technical prize at the 1975 Cannes Film Festival.) Shih Jun stars as Ku Shen Chai, a local calligrapher and scholar who is extremely curious when the mysterious Ouyang Nin (Tin Peng) suddenly show up in town. It turns out that Ouyang is after Miss Yang (Hsu Feng) to exact “justice” for the corrupt Eunuch Wei, who is out to kill her entire family. Hu (Come Drink with Me, Dragon Gate Inn) fills the film with long, poetic establishing shots of fields and the fort, using herky-jerky camera movements (that might or might not have been done on purpose) and throwing in an ultra-trippy psychedelic mountain scene that is about as 1960s as it gets. A Touch of Zen is ostensibly about Ku’s journey toward enlightenment, but it’s also about so much more, although we’re not completely sure what that is. The film is screening on October 5 at 9:00 as part of the fifty-third New York Film Festival’s Revivals sidebar, which continues through October 11 with Akira Kurosawa’s Ran and Manoel de Oliveira’s Visit, or Memories and Confessions.