200 Eastern Parkway at Washington St.
Saturday, August 2, free, 5:00 - 11:00 ($10 discounted admission to “Ai Weiwei: According to What?”)
The Brooklyn Museum starts getting ready for the annual West Indian American Day Carnival on Labor Day with a Caribbean-themed First Saturdays program on August 2. There will be live music from the Crossfire Street Orchestra, Heritage O.P., Melanie Charles, and Request Band (RQB), a movement workshop with Candace Thompson, screenings of Hannah Roodman’s Crown Heights-set documentary 2x1 and Dalton Narine’s Mas Man, a woven-fish arts workshop, a Caribbean-inspired fashion show, and Uraga storytelling with James Lovell. In addition, you can check out a quartet of exhibitions about art and activism: “Ai Weiwei: According to What?” (which closes August 10), “Swoon: Submerged Motherlands” (which closes August 24), “Chicago in L.A.: Judy Chicago’s Early Works, 1963–74,” and “Revolution! Works from the Black Arts Movement.”
WAVERLY MIDNIGHTS: EL TOPO (Alejandro Jodorowsky, 1970)
323 Sixth Ave. at West Third St.
Friday, August 1, and Saturday, August 2, 12 midnight
Chilean-born Mexican filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky’s El Topo is a psychedelic head trip, an acid Western that will blow your mind. Jodorowsky stars as the title character, a gunslinger traveling through a deserted landscape accompanied by his naked young son, who already knows his way around a firearm. After coming upon a town that has been decimated by a nasty group of marauders working for the Colonel, El Topo seeks violent revenge, eventually taking off with a woman and leaving his boy behind as he meets four masters on his path to proving he is the best there is. But soon El Topo is praying for redemption with a community of inbred cripples trapped in a cave. El Topo is a wild and bizarre journey through religious imagery, romance, and vengeance, a surreal spaghetti Western strained through the mad mind of Jodorowsky, widely hailed as the creator of the midnight movie. The film melds Bergman with Leone, Tod Browning’s Freaks with Hiroshi Inagaki’s Samurai Trilogy, filtered through Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima’s Lone Wolf and Cub. It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before and, despite your better instincts, will lure you into the cult of Jodorowsky, which expanded this year with the release of his wonderfully surreal autobiographical work The Dance of Reality. El Topo is screening August 1 & 2 at midnight in a high-definition digital restoration as part of the IFC Center series “Waverly Midnights: Late-Night Favorites.”
Film Society of Lincoln Center
Walter Reade Theater
144 West 65th St. between Broadway & Amsterdam Ave.
July 31 - August 9, film screenings $13, live performances $8-$15
The Film Society of Lincoln Center’s second Sound + Vision festival is a lively combination of music documentaries and performances covering a wide range of genres from around the world. Eric Green’s Beautiful Noise, which revisits such seminal 1980s bands as the Cocteau Twins, My Bloody Valentine, and the Jesus and Mary Chain, opens the festival on July 31, with a Q&A and reception with Green and producer Sarah Ogletree. The closing night selection, Florian Habicht’s Pulp, follows Jarvis Cocker’s reunited band as they play what could be their final concert in Sheffield, their hometown; Habicht will be on hand for a Q&A after the August 6 screening. There will be a free showing of The 78 Project Movie, in which Alex Steyermark and Lavinia Jones Wright travel the country recording on 78s contemporary musicians playing early American songs; after the film, Steyermark and Wright will host a live recording session. Among the other dozen and a half or so films are Alejandro Franco’s For Those About to Rock: The Story of Rodrigo y Gabriela; Kiley Kraskouskas’s The Last Song Before the War, about the 2011 Festival in the Desert in Timbuktu; Dominique Mollee and Vinny Sisson’s My Way, which tracks Rebekah Starr as she reaches for fame; Beth Harrington’s The Winding Stream, a free screening of a film that traces the development of the Carter Family; and thirtieth anniversary celebrations of Jonathan Demme’s game-changing Stop Making Sense (followed by a Q&A with David Byrne) and Daniel Schmid’s Tosca’s Kiss. There will be separate live performances by Amkoullel, Dragons of Zynth, and Glass Ghost (incorporating LYFE technology), while Bubblyfish and Binärpilot will play after Javier Polo’s Europe in 8 Bits, didgeridoo master GOMA will take the stage after Tetsuaki Matsue’s Flashback Memories in 3D, and Zlatne Uste Balkan Brass Band will get the joint jumping in conjunction with Meerkat Media Collective’s Brasslands.
BELLE DE JOUR (Luis Buñuel, 1967)
BAMcinématek, BAM Rose Cinemas
30 Lafayette Ave. between Ashland Pl. & St. Felix St.
August 1-3, $14
Series runs through August 14
Luis Buñuel’s alluringly psychosexual masterpiece Belle de Jour caused a sensation when it was released in 1967 because of its heavy dose of sadomasochism mixed with tender love, and with good reason. The film stars the always elegant Catherine Deneuve as Séverine Serizy, a bored housewife who deeply loves her husband, Dr. Pierre Serizy (Jean Sorel), despite their nearly nonexistent sex life; they even sleep in separate beds in the same room. The twenty-three-year-old blonde beauty has intense daydreams of being tortured and raped, the lasting effects of perhaps having been abused as a child, so when she learns of a high-class Paris brothel, she decides to investigate, tantalized by the exciting possibilities. Soon she is known as Belle de jour, “lady of the afternoon,” as men come to lie down with her in the middle of the day, leaving her enough time to get home for her workaholic husband. At first Séverine is terrified of the job, but she is calmed down by Madame Anaïs (Geneviève Page) and eventually finds herself enjoying these secret trysts, so much so that the money doesn’t even matter, only the sensual pleasure she experiences. But when one of her clients, the unpredictable and dangerous thief Marcel (Pierre Clémenti), starts falling for her, her life turns more complicated than she’s ever imagined in all her dark yet playful fantasies.
Based on the 1928 novel by Joseph Kessel, whose L’armée des ombres was turned into Jean-Pierre Melville’s 1969 French Resistance drama Army of Shadows, Belle de Jour features a sizzling yet subdued performance by Deneuve, who would go on to star in Buñuel’s Tristana, which echoes this film in many ways (as does Roman Polanski’s Repulsion). Deneuve, wonderfully clad in Yves Saint Laurent, goes from hot to cold in an instant, her eyes regularly lost in faraway thought, distant and forlorn. Buñuel comments on class and society not only through Séverine and Pierre’s relationship but through several bordello customers with very specific fetishes, including Michel Piccoli as supposed ladies’ man Henri Husson, a role he reprised in Manoel de Oliveira’s ill-advised 2006 sequel, Belle Toujours. Buñuel won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival for his erotically charged story that features a shocking surprise ending that offers new insights upon repeat viewings. Belle de Jour is screening August 1-3 as part of BAMcinématek’s five-week tribute to the master filmmaker, who passed away in 1983 at the age of eighty-three. The series continues through August 14 with such other Buñuel works as Diary of a Chambermaid, Mexican Bus Ride, The Great Madcap, That Obscure Object of Desire, The River and Death, and the superb twin pairing of The Exterminating Angel and Simon of the Desert.
DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (Matt Reeves, 2014)
In theaters now
The second film in the Planet of the Apes twenty-first-century reboot manages to do what few sequels have ever achieved: surpass the high quality of its immensely popular predecessor. In 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a scientific experiment gone wrong leads to a killer virus that begins wiping out humanity and increasing the intelligence of apes. It’s now ten years later, and the apes are living peacefully in Muir Woods outside of San Francisco while a band of humans struggles to eke out a day-to-day existence in the city ruins, running on what’s left of their food and gasoline and desperate to contact any other survivors via radio. In dire need of power, a group from the city — Carver (Kirk Acevedo), Malcolm (Jason Clarke), his girlfriend, Ellie (Keri Russell), and Malcolm’s son, Alexander (Kodi Smit-McPhee) — venture into Muir Woods seeking to get a broken-down hydroelectric plant working. When human meets ape for the first time in a decade, violence inevitably erupts. The brilliant ape leader, Caesar (Andy Serkis) — who was raised in the first film by Dr. Will Rodman (James Franco), giving him an inherent faith in humans — confronts dissension in his ranks as his battle-hungry second-in-command, Koba (Toby Kebbell), calls for all-out war, while human leader Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) is ready to take the dam by force.
Incorporating elements from several of the original five Planet of the Apes films (made between 1968 and 1973), writers Mark Bomback, Rick Jaffa, and Amanda Silver and director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, Let Me In) focus on family in Dawn even as violence threatens. Malcolm, who lost his wife to the virus, is trying to rebuild his life with his son and Ellie, who has gone through personal tragedy as well. Meanwhile, Caesar is dealing with his pregnant wife, Cornelia (Judy Greer), and their growing son, Blue Eyes (Nick Thurston), who is seeking his own identity in the large shadow of his father. Both sides, ape and human, are facing a decision all too prevalent in today’s world, a choice between war and diplomacy. The battle lines are clearly drawn, evoking such critical Planet of the Apes themes as fear, racism, the thirst for knowledge, and the search for a kind of humanity in all beings. Serkis is exceptional as Caesar, delivering a powerful, emotional performance despite all of the extraordinary special effects. His interaction with his wife and children are particularly touching. Kebbell makes Koba a viciously devilish villain, while the ageless Russell excels as Ellie, a nurse who is the fragile link between the apes and the humans. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, which can be seen traditionally as well as in 3-D, is a superb action thriller with a whole lot of heart, a breathtakingly exciting parable about the future of humanity in a world that is quickly getting away from us. And thankfully, there’s more to come, with Reeves and Bomback working on the third film, currently set for release in July 2016.
Museum of Modern Art
Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden
11 West 53rd St. between Fifth & Sixth Aves.
Thursday nights, July 31 - August 28, free with museum admission, 5:30 - 8:00
Every summer, the Museum of Modern Art’s lovely Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden becomes one of the city’s most beautiful spots to enjoy outdoor music. Free with regular admission, MoMA Nights, which this year focuses on woman-led bands, begins on July 31 at 6:30 (doors open at 5:30, with limited seating) with a performance by all-female Seattle quartet La Luz, who pays tribute to girl-group sounds. The series continues August 7 with LA dream popsters Tashaki Miyaki, named for guitarist Rocky Tashaki and drummer and vocalist Lucy Miyaki (bassist and vocalist Dora Hiller fills out the trio). Frankie Cosmos, a local four piece led by singer-songwriter Greta Kline, will highlight tunes from its March 2014 studio debut, Zentropy, on August 14. The jazzy, funkadelic THEESatisfaction, the Seattle duo consisting of Stasia “Stas” Irons and Catherine “Cat” Harris-White, takes over the garden on August 21. MoMA Nights comes to a close August 28 with Brooklyn twosome Widowspeak (Molly Hamilton and Robert Earl Thomas), whose “True Believer” was twi-ny’s song of the day back on November 13.
The Pershing Square Signature Center
The Irene Diamond Stage
480 West 42nd St. between Tenth & Eleventh Aves.
Tuesday - Sunday through August 31, $31.50 - $99.50
Art imitates life in the engaging, bittersweet off-Broadway musical Piece of My Heart: The Bert Berns Story. In a prolific period between 1961 and 1967, Bert Berns wrote and/or produced more than two dozen big-time pop hits, recorded by such singers and bands as the Beatles, David Bowie, the Rolling Stones, the Drifters, Janis Joplin, the Animals, Solomon Burke, the Isley Brothers, and Van Morrison, while also founding the seminal Atlantic offshoot BANG Records. Born and raised in the Bronx, Berns died in 1967 at the age of thirty-eight, and today his legacy is all but nonexistent, although his surviving family is in the midst of rebuilding his reputation with this show; the first major authorized biography, Joel Selvin’s Here Comes the Night: The Dark Soul of Bert Berns and the Dirty Business of Rhythm and Blues; and the upcoming documentary BANG — The Bert Berns Story. In Piece of My Heart, Leslie Kritzer stars as Jessie, Berns’s fictional daughter who receives an unexpected call that her mother, Ilene (Linda Hart), is going to close up Bert’s Broadway office and sell the rights to all of his songs. Disturbed by her mother’s intentions, Jessie, who didn’t know anything about the office, heads to New York City, where she finds her father’s former manager and right-hand man, Wazzel (Joseph Siravo), waiting for her. Wazzel tells Jessie how Bert (Zak Resnick), vocalist Hoagy Lands (Derrick Baskin), and the young Wazzel (Bryan Fenkart) got started, with the events unfolding right in front of them. Jessie sees her father going to Cuba and working with a revolutionary named Carlos (Sydney James Harcourt), meeting high-powered producer Jerry Wexler (Mark Zeisler), challenging the legendary Phil Spector, and falling in love with Ilene (Teal Wicks), a blonde dancer who would become Bert’s wife and Jessie’s mother. But when the current-day Ilene shows up at her husband’s office, she kicks out Wazzel and has a somewhat different tale to tell Jessie while trying to convince her that signing over the songs is the right thing to do, leaving Jessie trapped in the middle as she learns more and more about her father.
For much of its two hours and twenty minutes (with intermission), Piece of My Heart walks that fine line between bio show and vanity project. As pointed out numerous times in Daniel Goldfarb’s fairly standard book, Berns was determined to become famous; also, knowing that he was living on borrowed time because of a heart problem, he often said, “My children will know me by my music.” The show is produced by Berns’s son, Brett, and daughter, Cassandra, with the express purpose of finally bringing fame to their father, and the narrative sometimes gets bogged down with whitewashed scenes that turn Berns into a kind of heroic, misunderstood figure. It’s not helped by the casting of Resnick (Mamma Mia!, Disaster!) in the title role; while his singing packs a powerful punch, his acting is akin to a David Wright press conference, all white-bread clichés with no nuance. However, the rest of the cast of seasoned pros is outstanding, including Hart (Hairspray, Anything Goes) and Wicks (Wicked, Jekyll & Hyde) as the feisty Ilene, Siravo (Conversations with My Father, The Light in the Piazza) and Fenkart (Memphis) as the tough-talking Wazzel, De’Adre Aziza (Passing Strange) as Candace, Berns’s sexy first love, and Kritzer (A Catered Affair, Legally Blonde) as a kind of onstage stand-in for the audience. Oh, and let’s not forget about the music, which is performed admirably by a live band led by Lon Hoyt; the songs range from the somewhat obscure to the familiar to the super famous, but it’s best if you go without knowing what they are so you can be surprised by each new well-choreographed musical number (by director Denis Jones) on Alexander Dodge’s simple but effective sets, energized by Ben Stanton’s colorful lighting. The songs are listed in the Playbill and detailed on a large board outside the Signature’s Irene Diamond theater, but it’s better to read about them after the show, which got an instant and rousing standing ovation the night we went.