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

MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT

MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT

Magician Stanley Crawford (Colin Firth) is seeking to debunk spiritual medium Sophie Baker (Emma Stone) in Woody Allen’s MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT

MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT (Woody Allen, 2014)
In theaters now
www.sonyclassics.com

For his follow-up to Blue Jasmine, his best film in years, Woody Allen has returned to his love of prestidigitation and the possibility of a spirit world in Magic in the Moonlight, topics he has tackled before, with varying degrees of success, in Scoop, Alice, A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy, the Broadway play The Floating Light Bulb, and the short story “Examining Psychic Phenonema,” in which he wrote, “There is no question that there is an unseen world. The problem is, how far is it from midtown, and how late is it open?” Unfortunately, there is nothing nearly as sharp in Magic in the Moonlight, an ultimately lackluster and disappointing foray into the mysterious realm of spirit mediums, despite a luminous performance by Emma Stone. Allen, who used to make films almost exclusively in New York City, now ventures to the French Riviera of the 1920s after journeys to Rome, Paris, London, and Barcelona in previous recent works. Stone stars as Sophie Baker, a beautiful young woman who claims to be able to read minds and contact the dead, which distresses Stanley Crawford (Colin Firth), who performs as the famous Asian magician Wei Ling Soo and is dedicated to unmasking frauds, believing that there is nothing beyond our earthbound realm. (The premise is loosely based on the psychic-busting career of magician Harry Houdini, who was desperate to find a real connection to the dead.) Stanley is invited by his longtime friend and colleague, magician Howard Burkan (Simon McBurney), to disprove the psychic abilities of Miss Baker, who has been impressing the wealthy Catledge family, including the widowed matriarch, Grace (Jacki Weaver), and her son, Brice (Hamish Linklater), the heir and scion absolutely smitten with Sophie. However, daughter Caroline (Erica Leerhsen) and her husband, George (Jeremy Shamos), don’t trust Sophie and her mother (Marcia Gay Harden) and want Stanley to debunk them before they get their hands on the family fortune. At first Stanley is sure that they are frauds only after money, but soon enough he starts changing his tune, wondering if everything he has believed in has been wrong.

Marcia Gay Harden, Hamish Linklater, Colin Firth, and Emma Stone fail to bring magic to MOONLIGHT

Marcia Gay Harden, Hamish Linklater, Colin Firth, and Emma Stone fail to bring magic to MOONLIGHT

Magic in the Moonlight never feels fully formed, like a magic trick that doesn’t come together to completely take in the audience. While Stone, who is beautifully lit by Darius Khondji, is charming as the possible medium, Firth struggles to develop a tangible chemistry with her, and Brice’s ukulele-laden puppy-dog courtship of Sophie is just plain silly. The film looks great — Darius Khondji’s costumes are wonderful, as is Anne Seibel’s production design, and it’s always a pleasure to see Eileen Atkins, here portraying Stanley’s bohemian aunt — but the problem really begins and ends with Allen’s flat script, as funny jokes, one-liners, and any sense of mystery disappear quicker than the elephant in the opening scene and numerous twists border on the cringeworthy, a rarity for the Woodman, even in his lesser works, of which Magic in the Moonlight is certainly one.

PUBLIC WORKS: THE WINTER’S TALE

Central Park
Delacorte Theater
September 5-7, free, 8:00
www.publictheater.org

The Public Theater’s high-profile outdoor summer season might have come to a close when King Lear starring John Lithgow and Annette Bening ended its run on August 17 (following on the heels of Hamish Linklater and Lily Rabe in Much Ado About Nothing), but there’s more free Shakespeare to be had this weekend when the Public Works community initiative program brings The Winter’s Tale to the Delacorte. Last year, the project was initiated with a musical version of The Tempest, directed by Lear deBessonet, choreographed by Chase Brock, and with music and lyrics by Todd Almond; that same trio is back with the Bard’s mysterious romance, featuring a wide-ranging cast that combines professional actors with members of community organizations from all five boroughs. “We believe that theater has a specific role to play; it always has,” Public Theater artistic director Oskar Eustis says in the above promotional video. “It’s a democratizing impulse, it’s an empowering impulse, it’s a participatory impulse, and what we’re trying to do is spread the glory of that so that everybody in the city has the chance to have that experience.” The musical, which will have some two hundred people onstage in total, stars Almond (Girlfriend, Melancholy Play) as Antigonus, Christopher Fitzgerald (Wicked, Young Frankenstein) as Autolycus, Isaiah Johnson (Peter and the Starcatcher, The Merchant of Venice) as Leontes, Lindsay Mendez (Wicked, Dogfight) as Hermione, and David Turner (Arcadia, Sunday in the Park with George) as the Clown, along with men, women, and children from the Children’s Aid Society, the DreamYard Project, the Fortune Society, the Brownsville Recreation Center, and Domestic Workers United. In addition, there will be group cameos by Sesame Street, the New York Theatre Ballet, DanceBrazil, Rosie’s Theater Kids, the Shinbone Alley Stilt Band, the Staten Island Lions, and AATMA Performing Arts. The show runs September 5-7, and free tickets are available the same day in Central Park and through the Public’s online virtual ticketing lottery or by advance donation of $75.

RACHEL FEINSTEIN’S “THE LAST DAYS OF FOLLY” PERFORMANCE FESTIVAL

“Rococo Hut” is one of three sculptural pieces that make up Rachel Feinstein’s “Folly” in Madison Square Park (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

“Rococo Hut” is one of three sculptural pieces that make up Rachel Feinstein’s “Folly” in Madison Square Park (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

FOLLY
Madison Square Park
23rd to 25th Sts. between Madison Ave. & Broadway
Wednesday, September 3, free, 5:30 - 8:30
Exhibition continues through September 7
www.madisonsquarepark.org
folly slideshow

At first look, Rachel Feinstein’s site-specific “Folly” installation in Madison Square Park appears to be a trio of fragile ornamental structures, seemingly crudely made out of paper (they began life as handmade paper models), that could serve as backdrops for a high school play. Echoing fairy-tale-like nonfunctional garden decoration from eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Europe as well as Nymphenburg porcelain, the three pieces — “Cliff House,” inspired by Ballets Russes sets; “Rococo Hut,” influenced by Marie Antoinette’s château Le Petit Triannon; and “The Flying Ship,” based on a Commedia dell’arte skit about Punchinello — are actually constructed from powder-coated aluminum. The works, which also give nods to Federico Fellini, Marlene Dietrich’s portrayal of Catherine the Great in The Scarlet Empress, and Giovanni Battista Piranesi’s real and imagined landscapes, might look like they could collapse at any moment — “Rococo Hut” features crooked steps, “The Flying Ship” uses a tree for balance, and “Cliff House” looks supremely unsafe — but they are sturdy enough to be home to a wide-ranging collection of performances on September 3. “The Madison Park Conservancy has given me the opportunity to marry my early interest in theater and performance with my later obsession with the handmade in one of the most spectacular settings. I picture ‘Folly’ as an empty Fellini-esque set dropped into the middle of a lush green wonderland in the historical Flatiron district of New York City,” the New York City-based Feinstein (“The Snow Queen”), who was born in Defiance, Arizona, and raised in Miami, said in a statement. “I have always been driven by the stark contrast between good and evil in old fairy tales. Having this setting, a hidden natural jewel situated within the tall skyscrapers of yesterday and today, will be the perfect backdrop for my theater, where the real people who occupy the park every day will stand in as Commedia dell’arte performers.”

Rachel Feinstein’s “Folly” will be home to a wide-ranging performance festival on September 3 (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Rachel Feinstein’s “Folly” will be home to a wide-ranging performance festival on September 3 (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

On Wednesday, “The Last Days of Folly” will consist of My Barbarian performing its “Broke Baroque Suite”; a procession through the park led by artists Allison Brainard and Cara Chan; musical segues by Jarvis Cocker based on Maurice Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé for the Ballets Russes; Sofia Coppola directing six Joffrey Ballet School ballerinas dancing to Isao Tomita’s version of one of Claude Debussy’s Arabesques; a sound-and-movement piece from multidisciplinary artist Tamar Ettun; Little Did Productions’ magic lantern interpretation of parts of the Ramayana with Luke Santy on sitar and Jessica Lorence on vocals; an improvised dance by Lil Buck set to music by Paul Cantelon and cellist Wolfram Koessel; Kalup Linzy’s “Romantic Loner” and “One Life to Heal,” with live music by Mike Jackson; Molly Lowe’s nude costume incorporating numerous performers; a music set by Angela McCluskey and Cantelon, joined by Lil Buck and others; a puppet show from Shana Moulton; a new video work by Tony Oursler collaborating with Constance DeJong; a sound installation by Carlos Vela-Prado; and “Folly”-inspired fashion from Giles Deacon, Duro Olowu, Zac Posen, Narciso Rodriguez, Cynthia Rowley, Proenza Schouler, and Madeline Weinrib. We have no idea how this is all going to be squeezed into a mere three hours, but we can’t wait to find out.

SECOND OPINION: LAETRILE AT SLOAN-KETTERING

SECOND OPINION

Science writer Dr. Ralph W. Moss tells the fascinating story of the battle over Laetrile in the 1970s in SECOND OPINION

SECOND OPINION (Eric Merola, 2014)
Cinema Village
22 East 12th St. between University Pl. & Fifth Ave.
Opens Friday, August 29
212-529-6799
www.secondopinionfilm.com
www.cinemavillage.com

At the beginning of Eric Merola’s Second Opinion: Laetrile at Sloan-Kettering, a 1970s news reporter says, “Dr. Robert Good, president of the Sloan Kettering Institute, one of the world’s biggest and richest cancer research centers, said Laetrile does not prevent cancer, nor cure cancer, nor stop cancer from spreading.” For the next seventy-five minutes, Ralph W. Moss, PhD, the public affairs science writer for the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center from 1974 to 1977, talks about what lay behind that statement and the furor that followed. He tells the captivating story of what went on behind the scenes as Laetrile, a form of amygdalin used in tumor treatment, was coveted by cancer patients but demonized by the medical establishment. The controversy over the drug, which was eventually banned in America, forced patients to go to Mexico in search of the palliative care medicine while the FDA, the National Cancer Institute, and several high-profile MSK doctors considered it to be quackery. MSK’s own top researcher, Dr. Kanematsu Sugiura, had exciting success treating mice with the drug, hopeful that the positive effects would be proven in humans as well. But when Dr. Good, MSK vice presidents Dr. Lloyd J. Old and Dr. Chester Stock, and MSKCC president Dr. Lewis Thomas decided that Laetrile was not the future of cancer treatment, despite what some of them had previously stated in public, Moss was confused and distressed. Others were as well; the documentary reveals that the political dimension of the debate eventually brought even the ultra-right-wing John Birch Society into the fray. Moss eventually became a whistleblower, writing numerous books on the subject, including The Cancer Industry, Cancer Therapy: The Independent Consumer’s Guide to Non-Toxic Treatment & Prevention, and the brand-new Doctored Results: The Suppression of Laetrile at Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research, which spurred the documentary.

Dr. Kanematsu Sugiura’s research on Laetrile was eventually rejected by Sloan-Kettering leadership

Dr. Kanematsu Sugiura’s research on Laetrile was eventually rejected by Sloan Kettering leadership

Writer, director, producer, and coeditor Merola (Burzynski) lets Moss share his tale while sitting in a chair in the middle of a room at the Aldrich House in Providence, an odd if somewhat comforting choice, supplemented by archival footage and brief comments from Moss’s wife, Martha, son, Ben, and daughter, Melissa, in addition to Dr. Alex Pruchnicki, the only medical professional to come out in support of Moss without being anonymous. Merola also often cuts between two cameras, one a disorienting shot that shows the subject from the side, as if he had to try something different since the film is mostly talking heads. It’s quite an amazing story, and one that continues today, as labs around the world test and question the effectiveness of Laetrile. But watching Second Opinion, it’s hard not to wonder just what might have happened had MSKCC allowed Dr. Sugiura’s research to go on and the government given the drug more of a chance. The film is playing at Cinema Village, with Merola and Dr. Moss participating in Q&As following several screenings over the weekend, concluding with the 3:10 showing on August 31.

CROSSING THE LINE 2014

Fernando Rubio’s “Everything by My Side” takes place on seven beds in Hudson River Park as part of FIAF’s Crossing the Line festival

Fernando Rubio’s “Everything by My Side” takes place on seven beds in Hudson River Park as part of FIAF’s Crossing the Line festival

French Institute Alliance Française and other locations
Florence Gould Hall, 55 East 59th St. between Madison & Park Aves.
FIAF Gallery, 22 East 60th St. between Madison & Park Aves.
September 8 - October 20, free - $35
212-355-6160
www.fiaf.org

One of the best multidisciplinary arts festivals every year, FIAF’s Crossing the Line is back for its eighth season, featuring another exciting lineup of dance, theater, music, installation, exhibitions, and hard-to-describe events. Cocurators Lili Chopra, Simon Dove, and Gideon Lester explain it thusly: “This year’s edition of Crossing the Line brings together fifteen extraordinary international artists and companies, each of them offering unique perspectives on the world we all share. We invite New Yorkers to explore their meticulous and deeply considered work, both the familiar and the unknown, and find inspiration, provocation, and pure pleasure.” Hosted by the French Institute Alliance Française and taking place there as well as several other locations, CTL offers numerous opportunities to “find inspiration, provocation, and pure pleasure.” Palais Galliera director Olivier Saillard gets seven former supermodels to open up in Models Never Talk, a world premiere at Milk Studios. Trajal Harrell continues his Twenty Looks or Paris Is Burning at the Judson Church with a week of special performances at the Kitchen. Justin Vivian Bond is joined by special guest Miguel Gutierrez for the one-night-only Love Is Crazy, consisting of songs and stories about love and romance.

Prune Nourry’s “Terracotta Daughters” will stand guard at 104 Washington St. for eighth edition of CTL

Prune Nourry’s “Terracotta Daughters” will stand guard at 104 Washington St. for eighth edition of CTL

Patti Smith, her daughter, Jesse, and Soundwalk Collective examine the death of Nico in unique ways in Killer Road at FIAF. Swiss choreographer Gilles Jobin and German visual artist Julius von Bismarck use motion-sensor technology and lighting to delve into physics in Quantum at BAM Fisher. Jessica Mitrani and Pedro Almodóvar regular Rossy de Palma pay tribute to Nellie Bly in Traveling Lady at FIAF. The audience is encouraged to participate in Aaron Landsman’s free Republic of New York: Perfect City Discussions at Abrons Arts Center. Fernando Rubio’s Everything by My Side is a fifteen-minute rotating performance on seven beds in Hudson River Park. The works of French choreographer Xavier Le Roy will be re-created at MoMA PS1. Prune Nourry’s “Terracotta Daughters” exhibition at 104 Washington St. challenges gender roles in China and the world. Julie Béna’s site-specific “T&T Consortium: You’re Already Elsewhere” at the FIAF Gallery puts visitors into a fantastical setting. The star of the festival is Japanese electronic artist Ryoji Ikeda, whose Park Avenue Armory installation “The Transfinite” dazzled New York back in 2011; the mathematical mastermind will present the immersive, multimedia Superposition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a gallery exhibition at Salon 94, and “Test Pattern [Times Square],” which can be seen on nearly four dozen screens in Times Square as part of the “Midnight Moment” program each night in October from 11:57 pm to midnight. CTL is also one of the most affordable festivals, with nothing costing more than $35, so you have no excuse not to check out at least a few of these ultracool events.

BRAZILIAN DAY 2014 / LAVAGEM DA RUA 46

Brazilian Day will celebrate its thirtieth anniversary with a big party on 46th St. on Sunday (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

46th St. between Sixth & Madison Aves.
Saturday, August 30, and Sunday, August 31, free, 11:00 am - 4:00 pm
212-382-1631
www.brazilianday.com

One of the best street festivals of the year is celebrating its thirtieth anniversary on Sunday with another afternoon of great food, music, dance, and more. Brazilian Day, which is being rebranded as BR Day New York, is a colorful celebration of the culture of the South American nation and of the many Brazilian immigrants who now live in the tristate area, believed to number more than 300,000. But first comes Saturday’s annual Lavagem da Rua 46, the ritual Cleansing of 46th St., a parade (don’t miss the Bonecos Gigantes de Olinda) from Times Square to Madison Ave., followed by a street fair, as part of Brazil Week NYC, with live performances by Alavontê, Lucy Alves, Chambinho do Acordeon, Del Feliz, Afoxé Filhas de Gandhy, Eu Sou do Sul, O Hierofante Cia de Teatro, Batala Band, França, Márcio Mendes, and Manhattan Samba, hosted by Monika Oliveira and George Roberts. The parade goes from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm, followed by the fair from 1:00 to 4:00. Sunday’s festivities in Little Brazil will include two stages of live entertainment, with music from Daniel, Carlinhos Brown, Ivete Sangalo, Saulo Fernandes, Tiago Abravanel, and others, hosted by hunky actor Cauã Reymond, as well as traditional Brazilian cuisine (keep a look-out for whole hog, feijoada, fresh sugarcane juice, and caipirinha), arts and crafts, information about traveling to Brazil, capoeira demonstrations, and more, with some 1.5 million people expected to attend what is always a blast of a party, with little pockets of music and dance liable to break out anywhere at any moment. In addition, the Brazil Expo continues at the HSA Gallery (4 West 43rd St.) through August 29, exhibitions and performances are taking place through August 30 at the New York State Office Building (163 West 125th St.), and the Brazil Week Pagode do Massa after-party will rock out at B. B. King’s on Sunday night with Grupo Samba Mais, Trio Open Bar, and DJ Bruno Goiano. “We are going to show the world the cheerfulness of the Brazilian people,” Daniel said at a press conference announcing the events and this year’s theme, “The Greenyellow Mood.” Just don’t mention the recently completed World Cup if you want that cheerful mood to continue.

THE CONFORMIST

Jean-Paul Trintignant tries to find his place in the world in Bernardo Bertolucci’s lush masterpiece, THE CONFORMIST

THE CONFORMIST (Bernardo Bertolucci, 1970)
Film Forum
209 West Houston St.
August 29 - September 4
212-727-8110
www.filmforum.org

Based on the novel by Alberto Moravia, Bernardo Bertolucci’s gorgeous masterpiece, The Conformist, is a political thriller about paranoia, pedophilia, and trying to find one’s place in a changing world, and you can now experience it in all its glory in a new digital restoration at Film Forum. Jean-Louis Trintignant (And God Created Woman, Z, My Night at Maud’s) stars as Marcello Clerici, a troubled man who suffered childhood traumas and is now attempting to join the fascist secret police. To prove his dedication to the movement, he is ordered to assassinate one of his former professors, the radical Luca Quadri (Enzo Tarascio), who is living in France. He falls for Quadri’s much younger wife, Anna (Dominique Sanda), who takes an intriguing liking to Clerici’s wife, Giulia (Stefania Sandrelli), while Manganiello (Gastone Moschin) keeps a close watch on him, making sure he will carry out his assignment. The Conformist, made just after The Spider’s Stragagem and followed by Last Tango in Paris, captures one man’s desperate need to belong, to become a part of Mussolini’s fascist society and feel normal at the expense of his real inner feelings and beliefs. An atheist, he goes to church to confess because Giulia demands it. A bureaucrat, he is not a cold-blooded killer, but he will murder a part of his past in order to be accepted by the fascists (as well as Bertolucci’s own past, as he makes a sly reference to his former mentor, Jean-Luc Godard, by using the French auteur’s phone number and address for Quadri’s). Production designer Ferdinando Scarfiotti and cinematographer Vittorio Storaro bathe the film in lush Art Deco colors as Bertolucci moves the story, told in flashbacks, through a series of set pieces that include an erotic dance by Anna and Giulia, a Kafkaesque visit to a government ministry, and a stunning use of black and white and light and shadow as Marcello and Giulia discuss their impending marriage. The Conformist is a multilayered psychological examination of a complex figure living in complex times, as much about the 1930s as the 1970s, as the youth of the Western world sought personal, political, and sexual freedom.