CinéSalon: DIANA VREELAND: THE EYE HAS TO TRAVEL (Lisa Immordino Vreeland, 2011)
French Institute Alliance Française, Florence Gould Hall
55 East 59th St. between Madison & Park Aves.
Tuesday, April 21, $13, 4:00 & 7:30
Festival runs through May 26
“There’s not many people like her. She’s unique,” photographer David Bailey says about his former boss, Diana Vreeland, in the DVD extras of the wonderful documentary Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel. “You could easily put her in a list of people like Cocteau and, in a funny sort of way, Proust. She was very Proustian in a way. She loved the detail of things, the memory of things,” he adds. The 2011 film, directed and produced by Lisa Immordino Vreeland, who is married to Diana Vreeland’s grandson Alexander, and codirected and edited by Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt (Havana Motor Club) and Frédéric Tcheng (Dior and I, Valentino: The Last Emperor), is a fun and fanciful look inside one of the most important, and entertaining, fashion figures of the twentieth century. Immordino Vreeland focuses on her husband’s grandmother’s extremely influential years as editor of Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue and then curating the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Among those sharing stories about the rather eccentric, demanding, intuitive, opinionated, cultured, respected, feared, difficult, loyal, spontaneous, self-aware, critical, and always fashionable woman are designers Oscar de la Renta, Manolo Blahnik, Hubert de Givenchy, Carolina Herrera, Calvin Klein, Pierre Bergé, Anna Sui, and Diane von Furstenberg, models Marisa Berenson, Anjelica Huston, Lauren Hutton, Penelope Tree, and Veruschka von Lehndorff, and former Vreeland assistant Ali MacGraw. There are also marvelous archival clips of television interviews Vreeland did with Dick Cavett, Jane Pauley, and Diane Sawyer, as well as scenes from Stanley Donen’s Funny Face and William Klein’s Who Are You, Polly Magoo?, both of which feature characters inspired by Vreeland. In addition, the film contains voice-over narration (performed by Annette Miller and Jonathan Epstein) based on 1983 recordings made of conversations between Vreeland and George Plimpton when the two were collaborating on her autobiography, D.V. About the only thing lacking in the film is more exploration of Vreeland’s personal life, although some of her children and grandchildren do admit that family did not come first with her. And oh, the photos, by Bailey, Cecil Beaton, Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, Bert Stern, and many others; The Eye Has to Travel is chock-full of amazing pictures that reveal Vreeland to be a consummate storyteller who changed the fashion world in remarkably prescient ways.
Everyone has fascinating things to say about Vreeland — including Vreeland herself, who is eminently quotable, her bold, brash, insightful, and funny proclamations instantly memorable — so much so that the above David Bailey opening quotation was taken from the DVD extras so as not to spoil any of the gems in the film itself, which is screening April 21 in the FIAF CinéSalon series “Haute Couture on Film,” part of the French Institute Alliance Française’s third annual “Fashion at Fiaf” festival; Immordino Vreeland will introduce the 7:30 show, and both screenings will be followed by a wine reception. The festival continues through May 26 with such other films as John Cassavetes’s Gloria, Jean Renoir’s The Rules of the Game, and Jean Negulesco’s How to Marry a Millionaire. “Fashion at Fiaf” also includes talks with Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez of Proenza Schouler, Kate Betts, and Garance Doré and a gallery exhibition of the work of photographer Grégoire Alexandre.
Who: Charlotte Rampling and Sonia Wieder-Atherton
What: Recital Series: The Night Dances
Where: Park Avenue Armory, Board of Officers Room, 643 Park Ave. at 67th St., 212-933-5812
When: April 22-26, $75
Why: New York City’s most diverse and captivating space, the Park Avenue Armory, will host the U.S. premiere of “Recital Series: The Night Dances,” what should be a mesmerizing performance that features the one and only Charlotte Rampling (The Night Porter, Swimming Pool) reading the poetry of Sylvia Plath, accompanied by cellist Sonia Wieder-Atherton (Little Girl Blue, from Nina Simone; Vita Monteverdi Scelsi) playing suites by Benjamin Britten.
Who: Martha Wilson, Robert Longo, Nicolás Dumit Estévez, Tavia Nyong’o, and Alaina Claire Feldman
What: “Performing, Re-enacting and Reacting”
Where: Pratt Manhattan Gallery, 144 West 14th St., second floor, room 213
When: Wednesday, April 22, free, 6:30
Why: In conjunction with the traveling exhibition “Performing Franklin Furnace,” curated by FF founder Martha Wilson and continuing at the Pratt Manhattan Gallery through April 30, and “Martha Wilson: Downtown” at the NYU Fales Library also through April 30, Pratt will host the panel discussion “Performing, Re-enacting and Reacting,” with Wilson, fellow artists Robert Longo and Nicolás Dumit Estévez, and cultural critic Tavia Nyong’o, moderated by Alaina Claire Feldman of Independent Curators International, celebrating the highly influential Franklin Furnace, the artist-run space whose archives have now moved into Pratt in Brooklyn, and considering the current trend of re-performing historical works.
THE SURVIVALIST (Stephen Fingleton, 2015)
Saturday, April 18, Bow Tie Cinemas Chelsea 6, 9:15
Tuesday, April 21, Regal Cinemas Battery Park 11-6, 9:00
Saturday, April 25, Regal Cinemas Battery Park 11-10, 8:45
Stephen Fingleton’s debut feature, The Survivalist, arrives with the kind of expectations that are, well, tough to survive. The script was on both the 2012 Hollywood Black List (tied for fourteenth) and the 2013 Brit List (number one) of best unproduced screenplays; the self-taught Fingleton has been included in various names-to-watch, stars-of-tomorrow lists; and his twenty-three-minute SLR was shortlisted for an Oscar. Despite all the buildup, The Survivalist lives up to its billing as a gripping dystopian thriller from a major new talent. In the indeterminate near-future, oil production has plummeted while population growth exploded, leaving very little food available. Deep in the forest, an unnamed man (Martin McCann) lives by himself, fiercely defending his small cabin and vegetable garden. He is part Mad Max, part Rambo, setting traps to catch animals and protect him from other humans who might threaten his self-sufficient existence. But when the stoic Kathryn (Olwen Fouéré) and her teenage daughter, Milja (Mia Goth), show up, asking for temporary food and shelter — and willing to offer an alluring trade for them — the survivalist ultimately decides to let them into his carefully organized private world, knowing that things could change drastically at any moment.
The Survivalist opens with long scenes of no dialogue or music at all, just naturalistic soundscapes, setting the stage for an intense, powerful experience. The Northern Ireland forest is like a character unto itself, living, breathing, fraught with menace. Fingleton and cinematographer Damien Elliott zoom in extra close on the man’s eye lashes, as if each individual hair were fighting for existence as well. McCann (Shadow Dancer, Clash of the Titans) combines danger with tenderness when he softly caresses a photograph of a woman or makes soup for Kathryn and Milja, his eyes ever-alert, revealing someone who is still trying to hold on to his last vestiges of humanity. Theater veteran Fouéré and young actress Goth are superb as a mother-and-daughter team desperate to make it through the apocalypse. The relationship among the three protagonists evokes Don Siegel’s underrated 1971 Civil War drama The Beguiled, in which Clint Eastwood plays a wounded soldier being tended to in a girls boarding school, only taking place here in the future instead of in the past. Despite knowing better, you’ll want to root for all three of them to triumph in this horrific ticking-time-bomb of a world, which might be a whole lot closer than we think. Fingleton also made a well-received short prequel of sorts, Magpie, which establishes the fiercely taught mood of the feature film but is best watched afterward. The Survivalist is having its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival, with screenings April 18, 21, and 25.
Who: Courtney Barnett
What: Three-night stand in New York City with Chastity Belt and Darren Hanlon
Where: Bowery Ballroom, 6 Delancey St. between Bowery & Chrystie St., 212-260-4700
When: May 19-21, $20, 8:00
Why: Courtney Barnett might have a new song called “Pedestrian at Best,” but there’s nothing pedestrian about the twenty-six-year-old Australian guitarist and her breakthrough debut full-length, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit (Mom & Pop Music, March 2015). Barnett’s rep has been growing with the critical success of her EPs I’ve Got a Friend Called Emily Ferris and How to Carve a Carrot into a Rose, but she’s absolutely exploded with the record, a diverse collection of indie rockers and intelligent ballads with complex arrangements, featuring such tracks as “Elevator Operator,” “An Illustration of Loneliness (Sleepless in New York),” “Debbie Downer,” and “Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go to the Party.” However, you’re likely to care if you miss this three-night party at the Bowery Ballroom May 19-21. “I’m not what you’re looking for,” Barnett might claim on “Boxing Day Blues,” but she’s exactly what you need. (For Record Store Day on Saturday, Barnett will be releasing “Kim’s Caravan” backed with a cover of John Cale’s “Close Watch.”)
In April 2005, Neil Young underwent brain surgery for an aneurysm. Four months later, he gathered together friends for two special nights at Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium, captured on film by Oscar-winning director Jonathan Demme, who has previously helmed such fab music docs as Stop Making Sense and Storefront Hitchcock. Neil Young: Heart of Gold was an intimate portrait of man who looked death in the face and survived; the film featured acoustic songs primarily from Young’s beautiful Prairie Wind album. But the Godfather of Grunge wasn’t about to let a little thing like a brain aneurysm stop him from rocking in the free world. As he continued his long-term project of reaching deep into his past for his archival box sets, he released Chrome Dreams II in October 2007, a sequel to an unreleased 1977 album that was rumored to include such future Young classics as “Pocahontas,” “Like a Hurricane,” “Homegrown,” and “Powderfinger.” For Chrome Dreams II, Young strapped on the electric guitar and held nothing back, joined by longtime partners in crime Ralph Molina on drums, Rick Rosas on bass, and Ben Keith on guitars and keyboards.
Young took the show on the road, playing small clubs across the country, where each song was announced by a live painting by Eric Johnson. Demme captured two searing performances at the Tower Theater in Pennsylvania, filming them guerrilla-style with eight cameras, mostly handheld, that get right up in Young’s face. While the actual concerts were divided into two separate sets, first solo acoustic, then electric with the band, which also featured backup vocals by then-wife Pegi Young and Anthony “Sweetpea” Crawford, Demme mixes them up in Neil Young Trunk Show, an exhilarating music documentary that limits behind-the-scenes patter and instead concentrates on the powerful music. At the time, Young had been at the game for nearly fifty years, but he plays with a young man’s abandon in the film, his eyes deep in thought on such gorgeous acoustic gems as “Harvest,” “Ambulance Blues,” “Sad Movies,” and “Cowgirl in the Sand” while really letting loose with extended jams on the new “Spirit Road” and “No Hidden Path” before tearing everything apart on “Like a Hurricane.” The sixty-two-year-old Canadian legend even includes an instrumental from his high school days with the Squires, “The Sultan,” complete with Cary Kemp banging a gong. As with most Young concerts, Trunk Show is not about the greatest hits; to truly enjoy it, just let the music take you away – and make sure the theater has the volume turned up loud. The movie is screening in a DCP projection April 17 & 20 as part of the weeklong IFC Center tribute “The Bernard Shakey Film Retrospective: Neil Young On Screen,” with the latter showing introduced by Demme, who also made Neil Young Journeys about Young. The series runs April 17-23 and also includes Rust Never Sleeps, Year of the Horse, Muddy Track, Journeys Through the Past, a double feature of Solo Trans and A Day at the Gallery, and other adventurous Young musical odysseys.
Greendale, Neil Young’s “musical novel” about a small American town encountering a few troubles — including drugs, corporate greed, extramarital doings, the murder of a police officer, and a little red devil — is simplistic, amateurish, silly, and a lot of fun. The music, especially “Falling from Above,” “Devil’s Sidewalk,” and “Bandit,” is awesome, featuring Young’s soaring guitar and the solid backing of Crazy Horse. There’s no dialogue in the film, just the characters lip-synching to Young’s singing. With Greendale, Young has created his own little world, and for nearly ninety minutes, it’s a pleasure to be a part of it. The direction is credited to Young’s alter ego, Bernard Shakey, who is enjoying a weeklong retrospective at the IFC Center, consisting of a 35mm print of Greendale, a digital restoration of the director’s cut of Human Highway, the twentieth-anniversary of Dead Man (with director Jim Jarmusch participating in a postscreening discussion on April 23 at 7:00), a high-definition digital projection of Journey Through the Past, a 35mm print of Year of the Horse (with Jarmusch at the IFC Center for the 9:45 screening on April 23), and other musical journeys starring Young, who continues to make vibrant music as he heads toward seventy.