Deadheads are in for a musical treat with Red Roses, Green Gold, a reworking of Michael Norman Mann’s 1998 show, Cumberland Blues. The songs, primarily by Robert Hunter and Jerry Garcia from the classic Grateful Dead period of the early 1970s, are performed with care and flair by a fun troupe and arranged by Furthur and Dead & Co. veteran guitarist Jeff Chimenti. However, there’s no one at the wheel driving the train wreck of a story, no matter how tongue in cheek it might think it is. Running at the Minetta Lane Theatre through January 7, the musical is set in the 1920s at the Palace Saloon and Mining Company, a tumbledown spot won long ago in a card game by Jackson Jones (Scott Wakefield), who has failed to keep up with the bills and is now facing eviction. Evil drummer Jessup McElroy (Michael McCoy Reilly) and his dimwitted brother, Dudley (bassist and pianist Brian Russell Carey), want the Palace back, but Jackson is not about to let them take it away from him, although he has no legitimate master plan. Offering their support are Jackson’s girlfriend, Glendine (pianist and bassist Maggie Hollinbeck), who is afraid to say, “I love you”; his doomsayer of a daughter, Melinda (Natalie Storrs); Melinda’s childhood friend, Liam Alexander (David Park), now a lawyer; his gadabout son, the hirsute Mick (guitarist Michael Viruet), who seems to have escaped from a road version of Hair; and Bertha Marie (Debbie Christine Tjong), who Mick leaves at the altar. (Yes, there are plenty of inside references to Grateful Dead characters and situations.)
All of the actors sing and dance and/or play instruments well enough to satisfy the GD faithful, encouraging participation; there’s also an area where audience members can get up and boogie down. The silly script is just an excuse to present such songs as “Friend of the Devil,” “Truckin’,” “Ripple,” “Wheel,” and “Deal,” with director and choreographer Rachel Klein (More Than All the World) at her best when she cuts loose with “Bertha” or slows things down with beautiful renditions of “Box of Rain” by Park and Storrs and “Brokedown Palace” by Hollinbeck and Storrs. The wood-laden set by Robert Andrew Kovach is appropriate, featuring occasional projections by Brad Peterson that are often hard to make out. Most of the cast play it too far over the top, beginning with Wakefield’s slick and confident Jackson, who knows more than he’s telling. The script could use significant tightening, including getting the show down to about ninety minutes without a break instead of two hours and ten minutes with intermission and encore. Grateful Dead fans, a group that includes me, are a forgiving lot when it comes to the band meandering during a long, strange solo or riding off the tracks on certain tunes, but the theater crowd is not so merciful. But as Jerry famously sang, “Let there be songs / to fill the air.”
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.
CACHÉ (HIDDEN) (Michael Haneke, 2005)
209 West Houston St.
Friday, November 17, 1:00, 3:45, 7:00
Thursday, November 23, 5:20
Series runs November 17-23
In preparation for the December 22 opening of his latest feature, Happy End, Film Forum is taking a look back at the career of Austrian writer-director Michael Haneke with a mix of some of his most well known works alongside some rarely screened gems, beginning with Caché. Haneke was named Best Director at Cannes for this slow-moving yet gripping psychological drama about a seemingly happy French family whose lives are about to be torn apart. Caché stars Daniel Auteil as Georges, the host of a literary public television talk show, and Juliette Binoche as his wife, Anne, a book editor. One day a mysterious videotape is left for them, showing a continuous shot of their house. More tapes follow, wrapped in childish drawings of a boy with blood coming out of his mouth. Fearing for the safety of their son, Pierrot (Lester Makedonsky), they go to the police, who say they cannot do anything until an actual crime has been committed. As the tapes reveal more information and invite more danger, Georges’s secrets and lies threaten the future of his marriage. Caché is a tense, involving thriller that is both uncomfortable and captivating to watch. Haneke zooms in closely on the relationship between Georges and Anne, keeping all other characters in the background; in fact, there is no musical score or even any incidental music to enhance the searing emotions coming from Auteil and Binoche. Winner of numerous year-end critics awards for Best Foreign Language Film, Caché is screening November 17 and 23 at Film Forum. Oh, and be sure to pay close attention to the long final shot for just one more crucial twist that many people in the audience will miss.
FUNNY GAMES (Michael Haneke, 1997)
Saturday, November 18, 9:20
Wednesday, November 22, 12:30, 2:40, 4:45, 9:40
Michael Haneke’s Funny Games is a harrowing home invasion movie that is as brutal as it is ultimately frustrating. Haneke (71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance, The Seventh Continent) manipulates the audience nearly as much as he does the characters on-screen, even breaking the fourth wall by having one of the villains address the viewer several times. When Anna (Susanne Lothar), Georg (Ulrich Mühe from The Lives of Others), and their son, Schorschi (Stefan Clapczynski), head to their summer vacation home on a lake, they have no idea what lies in store for them. A man (Arno Frisch) claiming to be a friend of their neighbors’ shows up asking for some eggs, but there is a subtle malevolence behind his odd demeanor. He is soon joined by a companion (Frank Giering) who insists on trying out one of Georg’s golf clubs. It’s not long before the two men, who alternately call each other Peter and Paul, Tom and Jerry, and Beavis and Butt-Head, have severely broken Georg’s leg, sexually harass Anna, and put a bag over Schorschi’s head, all for no apparent reason except that they are bored and want to play some games, the more dangerous the better. It’s a tense, frightening film that never lets up, even when it appears to be over. The soundtrack juices up the horror, with classical music by Mozart and Handel offset by screeching punk by John Zorn and Naked City. Mühe and Lothar later reunited for Nicole Mosleh’s Nemesis, which was completed shortly before Mühe’s sudden death from stomach cancer in 2007. Haneke made an American remake of Funny Games in 2008, with Tim Roth as George, Naomi Watts as Anna, Brady Corbet as Peter, and Michael Pitt as Paul, with an appearance by Frisch as well. The original Funny Games is screening November 18 and 22 at Film Forum as part of the Michael Haneke tribute, which runs November 17 to 23 and also includes Haneke’s Code Unknown, Amour, The Seventh Continent, The Piano Teacher, The White Ribbon, 71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance, Benny’s Video, and Caché.
Legendary French actor Jean-Louis Trintignant puts an exclamation point on his long, distinguished career with Amour, one of the most beautiful love stories ever told. In his first film in nearly a decade, Trintignant, the star of such classics as Z, My Night at Maud’s, A Man and a Woman, and The Conformist, plays Georges, an octogenarian who is immediately concerned when his wife, Anne (Oscar nominee Emmanuelle Riva), suddenly freezes for a few moments, unable to speak, hear, move, or recognize anything. So begins a downward spiral in which Georges takes care of his ailing wife by himself, refusing help from his daughter, Eva (Isabelle Huppert), as he faces the grim situation with grace and dignity. A genuine romance for the ages, Amour is brilliantly written and directed by Michael Haneke, earning the Austrian filmmaker an Oscar for Best Screenplay and his second Palme d’Or, following 2009’s The White Ribbon. Haneke (Benny’s Video, The Piano Teacher) and cinematographer Darius Khondji allow the heartbreaking tale to unfold in long interior shots with very little camera movement, spread across more than two hours. Despite its length, the film is far from torturous; instead, it is filled with quietly beautiful moments. Trintignant, eighty-two when the film was released, is magnificent as Georges, his every physical movement and eye glance rendered with powerful yet gentle emotions, whether he’s preparing food for Anne or trying to catch a bird that has flown into the apartment. It’s an unforgettable performance in an unforgettable film. Amour, which was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Foreign-Language Film, winning the latter in addition to the screenplay honor, is being shown at Film Forum November 19, 20, and 23.
“MANOS”: THE HANDS OF FATE (Harold P. Warren, 1966)
MoMA Film, Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53rd St. between Fifth & Sixth Aves.
Saturday, November 18, 2:00
Series runs through February 28
There aren’t a whole lot of movies that get skewered on Mystery Science Theater 3000 (aka MST3K) and later have the privilege of being shown at the Museum of Modern Art. But one of them, “Manos”: The Hands of Fate, universally considered to be one of the very worst films ever made, is receiving that honor as part of the MoMA series “You Are Now One of Us: Film at Club 57,” held in conjunction with the gallery exhibition “Club 57: Film, Performance, and Art in the East Village, 1978-1983.” And no question about it, “Manos”: The Hands of Fate, which translates as “Hands: The Hands of Fate” and was written, directed, and produced by fertilizer salesman Harold P. Warren, who also plays the lead, is thoroughly atrocious; it really has to be seen to be believed. Michael (Warren), his wife, Margaret (Diane Mahree), their young daughter, Debbie (Jackey Neyman), and their doomed dog, Peppy, get lost on vacation in Texas, searching for Valley Lodge but instead winding up at a creaky house with a jittery Renfield/Igor-like caretaker named Torgo (John Reynolds) who worships the Master (set designer Tom Neyman), a caped creep with a bushy mustache and a bevy of wives dressed in white (Stephanie Nielson, Sherry Proctor, Robin Redd, Jay Hall, Bettie Burns, and Lelaine Hansard) who participate in crazy rituals when not getting into an utterly ridiculous mass catfight. Each scene is more absurd than the one that precedes it, getting worse by the second as the really stupid family gets deeper and deeper into trouble. All technical aspects of the seventy-minute horror show, from the cinematography (Robert Guidry), editing (James Sullivan and Ernie Smith), and writing (Warren) to the sound (Bruce Shearin), score (Robert Smith Jr. and Russ Huddleston), and lighting, are amazingly atrocious.
All of the dialogue, which often gets lost behind the terrible music, was poorly dubbed in postproduction by only a few actors. Shots could not last more than thirty-two seconds because of the type of handheld camera used. Reynolds was high on acid through the entire shoot and committed suicide shortly before the film’s premiere. At various moments you can see the “Action!” clapboard flash by and Warren mouthing the word “Cut!” Warren added completely unrelated scenes of a teenage couple (Bernie Rosenblum and Joyce Molleur) making out in a convertible because he wanted Molleur in the movie even though an injury prevented her from playing one of the Master’s wives. The 2004 documentary Hotel Torgo claims that since the movie was released, “the cast and crew have all passed away or mysteriously disappeared,” except for Rosenblum. (Actually, several are indeed still alive and have been looking into making a prequel or a sequel.) The movie was made for less than twenty grand, with Warren offering cast and crew percentages that totaled way more than one hundred percent of the take. And just wait till you see the Master spread out his arms and reveal his costume, which was designed by Thomas Ivy, whose grand plans for the wives’ attire was thwarted by the actresses, who refused to wear more revealing outfits. One of the film’s only redeeming elements is the philosophy spouted by a local police officer (William Bryan Jennings; no, really) who states, “If you’re running late, you should have started earlier” and “Well, whatever it is you’re not doing, go and don’t do it somewhere else.” “Manos”: The Hands of Fate is so bad that it’s hard to love it the way so many movie fanatics do Ed Wood’s Plan 9 from Outer Space and Phil Tucker’s Robot Monster.
“This may indeed be one of the most inept films ever made,” explains “You Are Now One of Us: Film at Club 57” guest curator John “Lypsinka” Epperson in his program notes. “But it points toward some other disturbing horror films that became classics of the genre: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes, The Last House on the Left, and all of their many derivations. In “Manos,” a family is tormented by a heathen group of bizarre characters. The exposing of the Manson ‘family’ came three years later. Many of the Club 57 members were impressionable teens when the Manson murders took place. Ten years after, at the basement club in the East Village, mocking a questionably tasteless film about ‘family vs. family’ could have been a way of purging the fears.” You’re more likely to purge your lunch than your fears when watching this disorientingly dreadful flick, in which Torgo fatefully declares, “There is no way out.” The wide-ranging MoMA series continues through February 28 with such other films as Andy Warhol’s Vinyl, Luis Buñuel’s El, Phil Karlson’s Kansas City Confidential, and Joseph H. Lewis’s The Big Combo.
The Center for Book Arts
28 West 27th St., third floor
Friday, November 17, suggested admission $10, 6:30
“I work with the book. It is my chosen medium for the simple fact that it can contain and embrace all artistic media and expressions. Within the book, an infinitely complex array of materials and techniques come together and combine with a history as rich and diverse as we who create and use it. I often refer to the book in its totality as Alchemy.” So declares Mark Cockram, a faculty fellow at the Center for Book Arts, where on November 17 he will participate in an artist talk and reception in conjunction with his exhibition, “Beyond the Rules.” The show features several of his unique, multidimensional books and bindings, including The Lysistrata of Aristophanes, Wine from My Garden, Joseph Cornell: Shadowplay Eterniday, and Iskandar Jalil: Kembara Tanah Liat (Clay Travels). The exhibit continues through December 16; also currently on view at the center are “Felicia Rice: Collaboration and Metamorphosis” and the interactive “The Internal Machine,” consisting of pieces, many of which visitors can touch and activate, by Doug Beube, Ranjit Bhatnagar, András Böröcz, Caroline Bouissou, Gillian Brown, Brian Dettmer, Juan Fontanive, Arnaldo Morales, Bruno Munari, Alexander Rosenberg, Claudia Schmitz, Ward Shelley and Douglas Paulson, Kaethe Wenzel, Benjamin Wright, Nick Yulman, and Mary Ziegler.
You don’t have to wait for their next season at the Joyce to catch the Trocks, aka Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, here in New York City. On November 15, Canadian director Bobbi Jo Hart’s ninety-minute documentary, Rebels on Pointe, opens at the Quad, an intimate look at the “the World’s Foremost All-Male Comic Ballet Company.” Founded in 1974, the Trocks specialize in parodying classical ballet and gender identity. “In the early years, the company was blackballed because of the gay element,” notes one troupe member, while another says, “I can be myself. I can wear tutus; why not? Little things change the world.” Named Best Documentary at several film festivals, Rebels on Pointe follows the troupe as it travels around the world, presenting its unique flair and talent, going behind the scenes and showing them perform onstage. “When that curtain goes up, it’s just electric,” another dancer declares. Hart (Rise, I Am Not a Rock Star) and members of the troupe will be at the Quad for a Q&A following the 7:00 screening on November 15.