At the beginning of The Black Panthers: The Vanguard of the Revolution, Black Panther Ericka Huggins says, “We know the party we were in, and not the entire thing. We were making history, and it wasn’t nice and clean.” Documentarian Stanley Nelson spent seven years making the revelatory film, which details the rise and fall of a group of radical militant African American men and women who decided to fight back against the white establishment and show that black lives matter, almost half a century ago, and no, it isn’t all nice and clean. Nelson (Freedom Riders, The Murder of Emmett Till) combines powerful, rarely seen archival footage with new interviews of the people who were involved in this revolution, which was more complicated than it is often given credit for. The film is sharply one-sided; although a handful of former police officers and FBI agents state their case, their views are given short shrift. “The Panthers were a criminal organization, were violent, and they wanted to kill cops. That’s all I needed to know,” says Ron McCarthy of the LAPD. But Nelson primarily speaks with many surviving members of the party, including Kathleen Cleaver, Elaine Brown, Emory Douglas, Elbert “Big Man” Howard, Jamal Joseph, Bobby Seale, and Flores Forbes, in addition to historians and journalists who put it all in perspective.
Nelson and editor Aljernon Tunsil (Jesse Owens, The Abolitionists) weave together a compelling, and surprising, portrait of the organization, delving into the stories behind such critical personalities as Huey P. Newton, Eldridge Cleaver, David Hilliard, Fred Hampton, and Seale. The film examines police raids, media coverage, FBI infiltration, trials, and the Panther infighting that ultimately led to their downfall. Perhaps the most frightening images in the film, however, involve the Panthers’ interaction with the police, particularly when coming out of a building with their hands up and their shirts off, trying to prove to the primarily white officers that they are unarmed so they don’t get shot in cold blood. It’s a vivid reminder of some of what’s still happening today around the country while serving as a fascinating companion piece to F. Gary Gray’s Straight Outta Compton; in fact, Nelson employs a potent, funky soundtrack by Tom Phillips along with period songs by Billy Paul, the Chi-Lites, Eugene Blacknell and the New Breed, and Fred Wesley & the J.B.’s. “It is essential to me as a filmmaker to try and give the viewer a sense of what it has meant to be black in America and consider this within our contemporary context,” Nelson explains in his director’s statement. “The legacy of the Black Panther Party had a lasting impact on the way black people think and see ourselves, and it is important that we look at and understand that.” The Black Panthers: The Vanguard of the Revolution does just that, shedding new light on a misunderstood, troubled, and dangerous organization whose legacy can still be felt today. Film Forum is hosting more than a dozen special panel discussions during the film’s run there (September 2-16), with several appearances by Nelson as well as such Black Panthers as Forbes, Joseph, Omar Barbour, Claudia Williams, and Charles “Cappy” Pinderhughes along with journalist Jamilah Lemiux, writer Rita Williams-Garcia, Panther attorney Gerald Lefcourt, and others.
Gagosian Gallery, Park & 75
821 Park Ave. at 75th St.
Through September 4, free, 10:00 am - 6:00 pm
German painter Albert Oehlen may be displaying his bravura technique and massive talent in the huge “Home and Garden” exhibition at the New Museum, but his best work in New York City right now is uptown in Gagosian’s glassed-in Park & 75 gallery. On the north wall is “Der rosa Salon” (“The Pink Parlor”), a spectacular painting from a man who continually redefines the genre. The large-scale piece, approximately 110 × 118 inches, was painted over a plastic billboard; in fact, some letters are still visible beneath the paint, primarily the word “NO” in the lower left-hand corner, either accidental or some kind of artistic admonition. Combining reality and surrealism, the painting is anchored by several chairs, one on the right, evoking both Francis Bacon and Franz West while resembling a palette, the others at the center, a pair of comfy tannish-brown chairs, one of which is being fondled by a blond woman in shorts, actually part of an advertisement that Oehlen cut out and pasted onto the plastic base. The empty chair in the middle is like an invitation to the viewer to enter the scene. Oehlen, who lives and works in Switzerland, then painted over the advertisement in such a way as to make it meld into the rest of the imagery, the outline of the cutout visible only if you look for it. A breakfront peeks out on the left, while a lighting fixture dangles from above; below, the floor seems to just drop out. There’s so much going on in the painting that the eye doesn’t know what to focus on, flitting about from woman to furniture, from the light pouring in through a window to the far corner where the walls meet, from the squiggly shadows cast by the legs of the front chair to the big letters “NO” opposite. It’s a dramatic painting in both narrative and execution as fiction and nonfiction clash in appealing ways. Also on view in the gallery are five small collage paintings in which Oehlen incorporates images of trees in addition to the multimedia installation “1000 dances (tree),” in which Oehlen took a living tree, added such elements as Styrofoam, a metal rod, and a poster tube, and placed it behind a floor-to-ceiling translucent sheet that he partially painted pinkish red. A spotlight shines on the back, making a silhouette of the tree visible from the front, which also reflects the activity going on outside on Park Ave. Meanwhile, a lo-fi rah-rah soundtrack plays; the spotlight is supposed to flash in tandem with the music, but a technological malfunction has put an end to that.
ELENA AND HER MEN (PARIS DOES STRANGE THINGS) (Jean Renoir, 1956)
MoMA Film, Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53rd St. between Fifth & Sixth Aves.
Sunday, September 6, 2:00
Series runs through September 10
Tickets: $12, in person only, may be applied to museum admission within thirty days, same-day screenings free with museum admission, available at Film and Media Desk beginning at 9:30 am
MoMA’s “Ingrid Bergman: A Centennial Celebration” series includes several classic favorites featuring the immensely popular international star (Gaslight, Casablanca, Notorious), but the key to enjoying this festival lies in numerous lesser-known surprises. One of the most intriguing is the 1956 Jean Renoir “musical fantasy” Elena and Her Men, also known as Paris Does Strange Things. In this small gem of a film, Bergman plays Elena Sokorowska, a splendiferous Polish princess living the high life in fin de siècle Paris, quickly running out of money and strongly advised by her aunt to find a rich husband. After dispatching one lover, composer Lionel Villaret (Jean Claudio), the princess has a trio of suitors: the much older Martin-Michaud (Pierre Bertin), a stuffy, aristocratic shoe mogul; the heroic General François Rollan (Jean Marais, playing a character based on the real-life General Georges Boulanger), who is being celebrated on Bastille Day; and the playboy Count Henri de Chevincourt (Mel Ferrer), who instantly falls madly in love with her — and wishes to take her home the very day he meets her. It’s 1915, and the streets are filled with French men, women, and children singing the praises of General Rollan while wondering what will come next for the government, with talk of a coup and a dictatorship making the rounds. In the middle of it all is Princess Sokorowska, whose lavish charm beguiles nearly everyone she meets, except, of course, the general’s mistress, Paulette Escoffier (Elina Labourdette). As the men fight over her, the princess hands out daisies to bring various people good luck.
Elena and Her Men was Bergman’s first film after leaving Roberto Rossellini, and French was the fourth language she’d spoken onscreen, following Swedish, English, and Italian. Renoir and cinematographer Claude Renoir, Jean’s nephew, bathe Bergman in an effervescent glow, as if she is an angel making her way through her would-be lovers and the always-crowded Paris. The film is not a musical in the traditional sense; no one suddenly bursts out into song to further the plot or flesh out characters. Instead, all of the singing is natural, from the princess playing piano to people singing in the streets to a visit to the opera. The color is sensational, with bright and cheerful rainbow hues popping up everywhere; the spectacular costumes — and oh, those amazing hats on Bergman — are by Rosine Delamare and Monique Plotin. This is Renoir, so there is plenty of social and political commentary as well, with a healthy dose of dark comedy and cynicism, evoking the auteur’s masterpiece, The Rules of the Game, but it’s primarily a wild farce that has fun playing with the image of Frenchmen as suave and sophisticated, especially when Eugène (Jacques Jouanneau), a goofball who’s engaged to Martin-Michaud’s daughter, Denise (Michèle Nadal), repeatedly chases after Elena’s alluring maid, Lolotte (Magali Noël), like he’s Harpo Marx. More than love and war, the film is about sex and power, as the men want it, and the women decide who is going to get it. It’s also about having faith in humanity, which is what drives the princess. “This is ridiculous! I’m ending this farce,” Henri says at one point; thank goodness Renoir keeps it going, full speed ahead, even if it often gets too silly. Elena and Her Men is the third in an unofficial trilogy, following 1953’s The Golden Coach and 1955’s French Cancan, that Criterion has packaged as “Stage & Spectacle,” as it’s also about art and the theatricality of film, which is by its very nature a fantasy, not reality. Selected for the MoMA series by Isabella Rossellini, one of Ingrid’s three daughters, Elena and Her Men is screening September 6 at 2:00; the celebration of the hundredth anniversary of Bergman’s birth — and the thirty-third anniversary of her death — continues through September 10 with such other works as Fear, Stromboli, Journey to Italy, and Autumn Sonata.
THE NAKED SPUR (Albert Mann, 1953)
Anthology Film Archives
32 Second Ave. at Second St.
Saturday, September 5, 4:30, Monday, September 7, 9:00, and Wednesday, September 9, 7:00
Series runs September 4-10
Shortly after the Civil War, bounty hunter Howard Kemp (James Stewart) is determined to bring in wanted murderer Ben Vandergroat (Robert Ryan) and claim the reward. Joined by grizzled old prospector Jesse Tate (Millard Mitchell) and dishonorably discharged Union lieutenant Roy Anderson (Ralph Meeker), Kemp gets his man, along with Ben’s companion, the young Lina Patch (Janet Leigh), the daughter of Ben’s dead best friend. They tie up Ben’s hands, put him on a burro, and head out on the long, arduous trail to turn him over to the federal marshals. But the smug, wisecracking outlaw has other plans, continually planting various seeds to try to set Howard, Roy, and Jesse against one another. Directed by Anthony Mann (Winchester ’73, The Man from Laramie) and shot in the Rocky Mountains, The Naked Spur is not just another Western; it is a multilayered exploration of lust and greed, love and sexuality, with Lina at the center of it all. When Ben needs his sore back rubbed, he asks her, “Can you do me?” Roy thinks he can do anything he wants with any woman. And Howard can’t get over a part of his past, suffering from nightmares that haunt him. Unfortunately, the complex story is dragged down by overly conventional music — “Beautiful Dreamer”? Really? — and some ridiculously staged, hard-to-believe action scenes, but it’s still worth saddling up your horse and going along for the ride. The Naked Spur is screening September 5, 7, and 9 as part of the Anthology Film Archives series “Robert Ryan: An Actor’s Actor,” which continues with such other Ryan flicks as Daniel Mann’s About Mrs. Leslie, Nicholas Ray’s On Dangerous Ground, John Sturges’s Bad Day at Black Rock, Fred Zinnemann’s An Act of Violence, and Mann’s God’s Little Acre. Select screenings will be followed by a discussion with Cheyney Ryan, Robert’s son, and professor J. R. Jones, the author of the new book The Lives of Robert Ryan. A Dartmouth grad who was born in Chicago, Ryan was an outspoken civil rights activist who made more than fifty films during his thirty-plus-year career, which ended when he died of lung cancer in 1973 at the age of sixty-four.
59 East 59th St. between Madison & Park Aves.
Through September 6, $18
Ken Urban paints a searing, intimate portrait of the Rwandan genocide and the concept of forgiveness in the gripping and powerful Sense of an Ending. It’s Easter weekend in 1999, and two Hutu nuns, the younger Sister Alice (Dana Marie Ingraham) and the older Sister Justina (Heather Alicia Simms), sit in a Kigali prison waiting to be tried in a Belgian court for crimes against humanity. Attempting to resurrect his career after a plagiarism scandal, New York Times journalist Charles (Joshua David Robinson) arrives to do a story on the nuns, initially determined to prove their innocence, unable to believe that the two religious women could have taken part in a horrific massacre at their church. But as Charles speaks with the nuns, a Rwandan Patriotic Front corporal named Paul (Hubert Point-Du Jour), and Dusabi (Danyon Davis), a bitter Tutsi who claims to have survived the brutal, cold-blooded murders, he learns more than he bargained for. “There isn’t a famine, war zone, atrocity I haven’t seen,” Charles tells Paul, who responds, “You’ve never seen anything like what’s behind this door,” referring to the entrance of the church, which hovers over the play like a doorway to hell.
Winner of the L. Arnold Weissberger Playwriting Award for Best New American Play, Sense of an Ending takes place in a tiny black-box theater where the audience sits in two rows on three sides of the stage, which contains three benches. Scene changes are indicated by small shifts in sound and lighting, although some of the sound effects are hard to make out; at one point, background noise sounded like it could have been coming from one of the other theaters at 59E59. Director Adam Fitzgerald (Methtacular!, Urban’s The Awake) maintains a tense, threatening undercurrent throughout the play’s ninety minutes, although Urban (The Happy Sad, The Correspondent) ties it all up a little too neatly in the end. The acting is uniformly strong, led by a particularly moving performance by Point-Du Jour (A Beautiful Day in November on the Banks of the Greatest of the Great Lakes, The Model Apartment) as Paul, a straightforward Tutsi soldier who shows unexpected depth. At its heart, Sense of an Ending, which debuted at London’s Theatre503 in May with a different director and cast, is about truth, forgiveness, and faith, reminiscent of Nicholas Wright’s A Human Being Died That Night, which ran at BAM this past spring and examined the case of South African mass murderer Eugene de Kock. “All I want is the truth,” Charles says to Dusabi, who replies, “You have come to the wrong place, my friend, if you are looking for truth.” Sense of an Ending continues through September 6; the September 3 show will be followed by the talk-back “Moving Forward: Rwanda and Its Citizens, Post-Genocide” with Jesse Hawkes, executive director of Global Youth Connect, and Rwandan genocide survivor and human rights activist Jacqueline Murekatete.
WEST INDIAN AMERICAN DAY CARNIVAL AND PARADE
Eastern Pkwy. from Schenectady Ave. to Grand Army Plaza
Monday, September 7, free, 11:00 am – 6:00 pm
Every Labor Day, millions of people line Eastern Parkway, celebrating the city’s best annual parade, the West Indian American Day Carnival, waving flags from such nations as Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, Barbados, the Bahamas, Grenada, the Cayman Islands, Antigua, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Aruba, Curaçao, and many more. The festivities actually begin on September 3, with special events (listed below) every day leading up to the parade. The Labor Day partying commences at 2:00 am with the traditional J’Ouvert Morning, a precarnival procession featuring steel drums and percussion and fabulous, inexpensive masquerade costumes, marching from Grand Army Plaza to Flatbush Ave. and on to Empire Blvd., then to Nostrand Ave. and Linden Blvd. The Parade of Bands begins around 11:00 am, as truckloads of blasting Caribbean music and groups of ornately dressed dancers, costume bands, masqueraders, moko jumbies, and thousands of others bump and grind their way down Eastern Parkway to Grand Army Plaza, participating in one last farewell to the flesh prior to Lent. There will also be local politicians galore, with Sen. Charles Schumer and his ever-present bullhorn doing lots of meeting and greeting. Don’t eat before you go; the great homemade food includes ackee and saltfish, oxtail stew, breadfruit, macaroni pie, curried goat, jerk chicken, fishcakes, rice and peas, and red velvet cake. The farther east you venture, the more closed in it gets; by the time you get near Crown Heights, it could take you half an hour just to cross the street, so take it easy and settle in for a fun, colorful day where you need not hurry. This year’s marshals are Facebook global head of diversity Maxine Williams, U.S. Virgin Islands governor Keith E Mapp, and, TWU Local 100 secretary-treasurer Earl Phillips. Oh, and be prepared to see a whole lotta twerkin’ going on that would make even Miley Cyrus blush; we particularly like when the twerkers get the police involved.
Thursday, September 3
Caribbean Freedom Festival, with KES the Band, RemBunction, Scorpion, Young Devyn, Da Big Show, Mr. Pearly, and more, hosted by Riggo Suave, Barrie Hype, Herbert Holler & the Freedom Party NYC, Milo Miles, Biggie and DJ One Plus, and an Ole MAS carnival characters competition, Brooklyn Museum, $25, 7:00 pm – 1:00 am
Friday, September 4
The Official Stay in School Concert and College Fair, with live music by Mr. Pearly, DJ Super Soca Bass, martial arts demonstrations, a fashion show, spoken word, and more, Brooklyn Museum, free, 10:00 am - 2:00 pm
Brass Fest, with Ricardo Drue, Lyrikal, Skinny Fabulous, Pressure Busspipe, Preedy, Hypasounds, Ravi B & Karma, Bunji Garlin, Fay-Ann Lyons & the Asylum Vikings, DJ Sounds 4 Life, DJ Back 2 Basics, Foreign Bass, DJ Spice, DJ Renee, Boodoosingh Tassa Drummers, and Kutters Rhythm Section, hosted by Vybezman Redman and MC Wassy, Brooklyn Museum, $55, 8:00 pm – 3:00 am
Saturday, September 5
Junior Carnival Parade, St. John’s Place between Kingston & Brooklyn Aves. to Brooklyn Museum at Washington Ave., 9:00 am - 3:00 pm
Steelband Panorama 2015, championship showdown with Pan Sonatas, CASYM, Pantonic, Steel Xplosion, ADLIB, METRO, “D” Radoes, Crossfire Steel Orchestra, Harmony Steel Orchestra, Despers USA, Bench Warmers Rhythm Section, and Brooklyn Steel Orchestra, with music by DJ One Plus, hosted by MC Godfrey Jack and Jemma Jordan, Brooklyn Museum, $45, 8:00 pm – 3:00 am
Sunday, September 6
Diamanche Gras: A Tribute to Yesteryear, with the Mighty Sparrow, King David Rudder, Swallow, Edwin Yearwood, Something Positive Inc., the Sunshine Band, Boodoosingh Tassa Drummers, Sumkinabakanaal Rhythm Section, the Kings and Queens of the MAS Bands, DJ One Plus, and the Golden Krust Caribbean Bakery & Grill National Jamaican Patty Eating Contest, hosted by MC Wassy, MC Godfrey Jack, and Jemma Jordan, Brooklyn Museum, $35, 7:00 pm – 1:00 am
RIFIFI (DU RIFIFI CHEZ LES HOMMES) (Jules Dassin, 1955)
209 West Houston St.
After being blacklisted in Hollywood, American auteur Jules Dassin (The Naked City, Brute Force) headed to France, where he was hired to adapt Du Rififi Chez Les Hommes, a crime novel by Auguste le Breton that he made significant changes to, resulting in one of the all-time-great heist films. After spending five years in prison (perhaps not uncoincidentally, Dassin had not made a film in five years after Edward Dmytryk and Frank Tuttle declared him a communist to the House Un-American Activities Committee), Tony le Stephanois (Jean Servais) gets out and hooks up again with his old protégé, Jo le Suédois (Carl Möhner), who has settled down with his wife (Janine Darcy) and child (Dominique Maurin) for what was supposed to be a life of domestic tranquility. Joined by Mario Farrati (Robert Manuel), a fun-loving bon vivant with a very sexy girlfriend (Claude Sylvain), and cool and calm safecracker César le Milanais (Dassin, using the pseudonym Perlo Vita), the crew plans a heist of a small Mappin & Webb jewelry store on the Rue de Rivoli. Not content with a quick score, Tony lays the groundwork for a major take, but greed, lust, jealousy, and revenge get in the way in Dassin’s masterful film noir. The complex plan gets even more complicated as César falls for Viviane (Magali Noël), a singer who works at the L’Âge d’Or nightclub, which is owned by Pierre Grutter (Marcel Lupovici), who has taken up with Tony’s former squeeze, Mado (Marie Sabouret), and is trying to save his brother, Louis Grutter (Pierre Grasset), from a serious drug habit. (The club is named for Luis Buñuel’s 1930 film, which featured the same production designer as Rififi, Alexandre Trauner.)
As the plot heats up, things threaten to explode in Dassin’s thrilling black-and-white film, which takes a series of unexpected twists and turns as it goes from its remarkably tense, absolutely masterful music- and dialogue-free heist scene to a wild climax — and even includes a sly reference to what should happen to such rats as the men who gave him up to HUAC. Composer Georges Auric insisted on writing a soundtrack for the heist scene — which was a direct influence on such films as Mission: Impossible and was banned in several countries for being too much of a primer on how to pull off a robbery — but after Dassin showed him cuts with and without the score, Auric agreed that only natural sound was necessary for those critical thirty minutes. As a bonus, the Roman Catholic Legion of Decency officially condemned the film for its depiction of sex and violence, which features a hard-to-watch beating of a woman. Dassin, who went on to make another of the great caper movies, 1964’s Topkapi, was named Best Director at Cannes for the low-budget Rififi, a true gem of a film, which is playing September 2-8 at Film Forum in a new restoration.