CINÉSALON: Z (Costa-Gavras, 1969)
French Institute Alliance Française, Florence Gould Hall
55 East 59th St. between Madison & Park Aves.
Tuesday, December 12, $13, 4:00 & 7:30
Series continues Tuesdays through December 19
In her new book Cinematic Overtures: How to Read Opening Scenes (Columbia University Press, $20, November 2017), Columbia professor and film historian Annette Insdorf writes that the beginning moments of Costa-Gavras’s masterful 1969 political thriller, Z, “places us metaphorically in the perspective of the investigator even before we meet him: we must be attentive to detail, skeptical, and then capable of seeing the larger picture. Given the film’s incorporation of flashbacks as well, Z builds a cumulative sense of inevitability that the truth will emerge.” Insdorf will be at FIAF on December 12 to sign copies of her book and introduce the 7:30 screening of Z, which is part of the CinéSalon series “Actor’s Choice: Lambert Wilson & Yves Montand,” curated by French actor and singer Wilson. (The film will also be shown at 4:00; both screenings will be followed by a wine reception.) The Algerian-French coproduction was adapted by Costa-Gavras and Jorge Semprún from Vassilis Vassilikos’s novel, a fictionalized account of the 1963 assassination of Greek left-wing antiwar activist Grigoris Lambrakis and the government cover-up that tried to make it look like an unavoidable accident. “Any similarity to real persons and events is not coincidental. It is intentional,” the credits explain. The film opens with rapid cuts of military and religious medals before zeroing in on a meeting in which the General (Pierre Dux) tells fellow law enforcement and governmental figures that they must eradicate the “ideological mildew,” referring to left-wing activists and, specifically, a deputy (Montand), based on Lambrakis, who is scheduled to speak at a large rally. After a violent incident, the Magistrate (Jean-Louis Trintignant) starts interviewing participants and witnesses and refuses to give up even when the General, the Colonel (Julien Guiomar), and other important figures threaten him as he seeks the truth, which doesn’t matter at all to those in power, who feel they understand the larger scheme of things. The Magistrate is helped by a photojournalist (producer Jacques Perrin) who is not afraid of asking penetrating questions and secretly snapping pictures. As the lies build, the truth slowly emerges, but that doesn’t mean the violence is over.
Costa-Gavras, a Greek expat who lives and works in France, has made many political films in his long career (State of Siege, L’Aveu, Missing, Amen.), influenced by his father, who was part of the anti-Nazi Greek resistance and was later imprisoned by Greece for being a Communist. Z might ostensibly be based on specific events, but unfortunately it’s a universal story that could take place just about anywhere in a world that has lost such leaders as Martin Luther King Jr., the Kennedy brothers, Yitzhak Rabin, Anwar Sadat, Mahatma Gandhi, Malcolm X, and others to assassination. The film, which is in French, never reveals where it is set, and most of the characters are not named, instead identified by their jobs: the deputy, the colonel, the general, the magistrate, etc. Cinematographer Raoul Coutard, best known for his work with Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut, and Philippe Garrel, shoots the film in a cinéma-vérité style, favoring handheld cameras (he also plays the English surgeon); Françoise Bonnot’s editing keeps building the tension while flirting with documentary-like elements; and Mikis Theodorakis’s lively score complements the action with energy and fervor. There’s also a huge dose of sly humor bordering on farce throughout. The film is particularly relevant in America, where terms such as “fake news” and “truthiness” have taken hold and the forty-fifth president has repeatedly called for and/or condoned violence against his opponents, his rivals’ supporters, and the free press. The title refers to the French word “Zei,” which means “He lives!” a phrase used by protestors; when the military took over Greece in 1967, it banned the use of the letter “Z” on placards and graffiti, along with many other things, which are listed over the closing credits. “Z” was nominated for five Oscars — Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director, Best Editing, and Best Foreign Language Film, winning the latter two; it was the first film to be nominated for both Best Picture and Best Foreign Language Film. In addition, Trintignant (Amour, The Conformist, A Man and a Woman) was named Best Actor at Cannes. “Actor’s Choice” concludes December 19 with Jérôme Salle’s The Odyssey, with Lambert Wilson, Pierre Niney, and Audrey Tatou.
“I’m a natural person to write about a voyeur because I’m a voyeur myself,” award-winning, bestselling journalist Gay Talese says in Myles Kane and Josh Koury’s Voyeur. The documentary makes a voyeur of the viewer as well as it follows the thirty-five-year journalistic relationship and offbeat friendship between Talese, longtime New York Times and Esquire writer and author of such books as Honor Thy Father and Thy Neighbor’s Wife, and Gerald Foos, the owner of a Colorado motel who claims he spent decades spying on people from a special crawl space he built above the rooms. In January 1980, Foos, owner of the Manor House Motel, wrote a letter to Talese, offering him a story about what he was doing; Foos considered himself a researcher, not a pervert or a peeping Tom. Using archival footage, news reports, and new interviews, Kane and Koury follow Foos, his second wife, Anita, and Talese as the journalist prepares to write a major piece for the New Yorker in advance of the release of his latest book, The Voyeur’s Motel. New Yorker articles editor Susan Morrison considers Foos a disturbed sociopath in need of attention, while Grove/Atlantic senior editor Jamison Stoltz and publisher Morgan Entrekin have their doubts about the veracity of Foos’s eerily specific tale. So as questions arise about key facts and Talese’s professional ethics, Foos wonders if he should have remained silent — “I’m used to private spaces, places that nobody could see me and I could see them,” he explains — and an angry Talese faces a potentially tarnished legacy.
Kane and Koury, who previously collaborated on such documentaries as Journey to Planet X, We Are Wizards, and We Will Live Again, often use a model of the Manor House to depict certain events while also re-creating scenes of Foos watching couples having sex — including one time when Talese joins him in the snooping and experiences a wardrobe malfunction. (Kane and Koury also let the camera lovingly follow Talese as he impeccably dresses himself, every detail crucial to his overall appearance, much like a journalist getting every single fact right.) Over the years, Talese and the Fooses developed a unique kind of bond that is unusual for a writer and his subject, but the erudite Talese, now eighty-five, defends his actions. “My life has pretty much been living through other people’s experiences and to be a very accurate chronicle, an observer, watching other people, listening,” he says. “I take my time, and I am genuinely interested in the people I am writing about because there’s something about them that I feel I can identify with.” It is fascinating to watch the reactions of Foos and Talese as the article comes out, the book is published, and all hell breaks loose. Voyeur raises significant issues about truth in journalism, the writer’s ethical responsibilities, and the lure of salaciousness. Early on, Talese, in his writing bunker filled with decades and decades of carefully organized files — in a way similar to the collections of baseball cards and other objects Foos keeps in his basement — says, “The story never ends. Stories never die. A lot of reporters think when they leave a story, it’s all over. Sometimes it’s just beginning.” Kane and Koury stick with the story and end up with quite a tale, something that is not about to die anytime soon. On December 1, Voyeur starts streaming on Netflix and opens at IFC Center, where Kane and Koury will participate in a Q&A following the 6:05 screening on Friday night.
200 Eastern Parkway at Washington St.
Saturday, December 2, free, 5:00 - 11:00
The Brooklyn Museum honors World AIDS Day and looks at what’s to come in the African diaspora in its monthly free First Saturday program in December with “From Ancient Egypt to the Afrofuture.” There will be live music by Daví, Everyday People featuring DJ mOma and Jade de LaFleur, and Burnt Sugar the Arkestra Chamber, performing a Sun Ra tribute; a curator tour of “Soulful Creatures: Animal Mummies in Ancient Egypt” with Edward Bleiberg; an artist talk and tour of “Ahmed Mater: Mecca Journeys” with Ahmed Mater and Catherine Morris; a hands-on art workshop in which participants will create headdresses inspired by the museum’s ancient Egyptian collection; the scholar talk “Everything in the Future Is Black” with Makeba Lavan exploring the work of Wangechi Mutu, Octavia Butler, George Clinton, Janelle Monae, Erykah Badu, and others; teen pop-up gallery talks on Ancient Egyptian art; screenings of Terence Nance’s short films They Charge for the Sun, Swimming in Your Skin Again, and Univitellin, followed by a talkback with Nance; “Alternate Endings, Radical Beginnings” short films by Mykki Blanco, Cheryl Dunye and Ellen Spiro, Reina Gossett, Thomas Allen Harris, Kia Labeija, Tiona Nekkia McClodden, and Brontez Purnell, curated by Erin Christovale and Vivian Crockett and commissioned for Visual AIDS’ annual Day With(out) Art in honor of World AIDS Day; and a feminist book club discussing Angela Y. Davis’s “Working Women, Black Women, and the History of the Suffrage Movement,” hosted by Glory Edim of Well-Read Black Girl in conjunction with “Roots of ‘The Dinner Party’: History in the Making.” In addition, the galleries will be open late so you can check out “Roots of ‘The Dinner Party,’” “Soulful Creatures,” “Rodin at the Brooklyn Museum: The Body in Bronze,” “Proof: Francisco Goya, Sergei Eisenstein, Robert Longo,” “Arts of Asia and the Middle East,” “Infinite Blue,” “A Woman’s Afterlife: Gender Transformation in Ancient Egypt,” and more.
Who: Ayad Akhtar, Tom Santopietro, Steven Pasquale, and others
What: Discussion and performance
Where: Barnes & Noble, 150 East 86th St. at Lexington Ave., 212-369-2180
When: Tuesday, November 28, free, 4:00
Why: Pulitzer Prize winner and Tony nominee Ayad Akhtar’s latest play, Junk, is currently on Broadway, running at Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont Theater through January 7. On November 28, Akhtar, who has previously written the plays Disgraced, The Invisible Hand, and The Who & the What and the novel American Dervish as well as cowriting and starring in the film The War Within, will be at the B&N on Lexington and Eighty-Sixth St. in conversation with author, media commentator, and Broadway theater manager Tom Santopietro, discussing Junk, set during the 1980s junk-bond phenomenon. In addition, Junk star Steven Pasquale (The Good Wife, reasons to be pretty) and other cast members will perform scenes from the play, which has just been published in paperback by Little, Brown.
Who: Seth Rudetsky, Charles Busch, Mario Cantone, Ann Harada, Judy Kuhn
What: Book release party with readings and songs
Where: Barnes & Noble, 150 East 86th St. between Lexington & Third Aves., 212-369-2180
When: Monday, November 20, free, 7:00
Why: In his latest campy tome, Seth’s Broadway Diary, Volume 3: Inside Scoop on (Almost) Every Broadway Show & Star (Dress Circle, November 14, $19.99), novelist, pianist, deejay, vocal coach, actor, singer, and all-around good guy Seth Rudetsky shares more of his behind-the-scenes “Onstage and Backstage” pieces from his Playbill column, which focuses on theater and cabaret. Rudetsky (The Rise and Fall of a Theater Geek, Disaster!) will be celebrating the release of the book with a fab gathering at the Eighty-Sixth St. B&N, where he will be joined by Charles Busch (The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife, Vampire Lesbians of Sodom), Mario Cantone (Sex and the City, Laugh Whore), Ann Harada (Avenue Q, Smash), and Judy Kuhn (Les Misérables, Fun Home) for an evening of readings and music. Wristbands must be picked up in advance and priority seating is given to anyone who buys the book that day.
In his new book Stranded in the Jungle: Jerry Nolan’s Wild Ride (Backbeat, October, $24.99), Curt Weiss, a former member of the Rockats and Beat Rodeo (under the pseudonym Lewis King) and author of the blog “I am the coolest man on earth,” goes deep inside the rock-and-roll tale of Jerry Nolan, an underrated drummer with such bands as the New York Dolls, the Heartbreakers, and the Idols. Nolan, who died in 1992 at the age of forty-five, played with such punk icons as Sid Vicious, Richard Hell, Johnny Thunders, Arthur Kane, Glen Matlock, and many more. On November 7, Weiss will be celebrating the release of the book — which boasts the subtitle A Tale of Drugs, Fashion, the New York Dolls, and Punk Rock — at Rough Trade in Nolan’s native Williamsburg with a reading and Q&A. On November 9, Weiss heads to the Delancey on the Lower East Side for a meet-and-greet cocktail party, live performances by the Pipptones, Greg Allen’s Fringe Religion, and special guests, a book reading and signing, and Q&A sessions with Weiss, reporter Roger Clark, and photographer Roberta Bayley. Both events are free.
200 Eastern Parkway at Washington St.
Saturday, November 4, free, 5:00 - 11:00
The Brooklyn Museum celebrates the world’s preeminent borough in its monthly free First Saturday program in November with “Best of the Borough.” There will be live music by Alsarah & the Nubatones, Phony Ppl, and DJ Ian Friday; a curator tour of “Arts of Korea” with Joan Cummins; a hands-on art workshop inspired by Mickalene Thomas’s extraordinary “A Little Taste Outside of Love”; a scholar talk and book signing with Chip Colwell, author of Plundered Skulls and Stolen Spirits: Inside the Fight to Reclaim Native America’s Culture; a Brooklyn Dance Festival showcase with by the D.R.E.A.M. Ring, FLEXN, Kristin Sudeikis Dance, SynthesisDANCE, Concepts in Choreography, and the Francesca Harper Project; a pop-up gallery talk on Ancient Egyptian art; a book club reading with poet Tommy Pico from his latest book, Nature Poem; and a special screening of Sergei Eisenstein’s 1925 classic, Strike! with a live score conducted by Hisham Akira Bharoocha and featuring Angel Deradoorian, Jeremy Hyman, Nicos Kennedy, and Joe Williams. In addition, the galleries will be open late so you can check out “Roots of ‘The Dinner Party’: History in the Making,” “Soulful Creatures: Animal Mummies in Ancient Egypt,” “Robert Longo: Untitled (Raft at Sea),” “Proof: Francisco Goya, Sergei Eisenstein, Robert Longo,” “Arts of Asia and the Middle East, “Infinite Blue,” “A Woman’s Afterlife: Gender Transformation in Ancient Egypt,” and more.