7 Ludlow St. between Canal & Hester Sts.
Italian writer, director, and actor Nanni Moretti has been making uniquely personal films for more than forty years, comedies and dramas that meld fiction and nonfiction with sociopolitical and religious undertones in which he often plays a major role, as himself or his alter ego, Michele Apicella. An international favorite, Moretti has won major awards at Cannes, Venice, Berlin, and other film festivals as well as numerous David di Donatello trophies, the Italian Oscars. He makes one feature approximately every five years, in addition to many shorts, so each full-length work is a cinematic event. Metrograph is honoring the sixty-four-year-old Moretti by screening five of his works, ranging from 1989’s Palombella Rossa, in which Moretti plays a Communist politician who gets amnesia, to 2006’s Il Caimano, with Moretti as a producer making a film about Silvio Berlusconi; Moretti will participate in a Q&A following the screening. He will also be on hand to introduce 1998’s Aprile, 1993’s Caro Diario, and 2001’s The Son’s Room; the latter two will be followed by Q&As with Moretti as well. This brief series is a real treat, a rare opportunity to not only catch these wonderful films but to see Moretti discussing his craft.
CARO DIARIO (DEAR DIARY) (Nanni Moretti, 1993)
Friday, October 20, 7:00
Nanni Moretti’s highly personal and very funny memoir, Caro Diario, is simply wonderful; Moretti plays himself, a filmmaker roaming around Rome on his Vespa and riding into charming little vignettes, including bumping into Jennifer Beals, with whom he’s obsessed. Moretti then travels to the Eolie Islands with his friend Gerardo (Renato Carpentieri), and more comic adventures ensue. The mood changes when Moretti comes down with a rash that doctor after doctor diagnoses differently. This international hit earned Moretti nominations and awards galore, including being named Best Director at the David di Donatello Awards and at Cannes.
THE SON’S ROOM (LA STANZA DEL FIGLIO) (Nanni Moretti, 2001)
Saturday, October 21, 4:00
Winner of the Palme D’Or at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival, The Son’s Room is a moving look at life, love, and loss. Italian writer-director-actor Nanni Moretti stars as Giovanni, a psychiatrist who can’t control the dissolution of his family following a terrible tragedy. Moretti (Caro Diario, Ecce Bombo) has made a heart-wrenching work that will always be compared with Todd Field’s powerful In the Bedroom, which came out the same year. Both films examine family tragedy with honesty and believability, but whereas the family in In the Bedroom considers revenge, the father in The Son’s Room, achingly played by Moretti, can’t get over wrongly blaming himself, while his wife (Laura Morante, who won the Best Actress award at Cannes for the role) seeks solace in her son’s girlfriend (Sofia Vigliar), whom she had not known about. Moretti is a deeply personal filmmaker; at times you will feel like you are watching a documentary, and it will break your heart.
The Young Professionals Council of EcoHealth Alliance has a unique way to get people to listen to “freaky facts on diseases”: Offer unlimited beer while they carry out their mission as “a global environmental health nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting wildlife and public health from the emergence of disease.” On October 19, Brooklyn Brewery in Williamsburg is hosting “Fears and Beers,” an evening of discussion and demonstrations about how diseases spread and how new technology can stop them, led by ecologist and evolutionary biologist Dr. Kevin Olival and senior research scientist Dr. Noam Ross. Beer might not quite be the universal panacea, but it should sure help as you find out about all these medical ailments — and how they are being dealt with.
Writer-director Aaron Mark has quickly established himself as one of New York City’s premier purveyors of intense, haunting one-person dramas, and his latest showcases Alison Fraser in the psychological horror tale Squeamish, which opened last night at the Beckett Theatre at Theatre Row. In 2013, Mark shocked audiences with the sensational Another Medea, boasting a bravado performance by Tom Hewitt, followed in 2015 by Daphne Rubin-Vega in Empanada Loca; now two-time Tony nominee Fraser is creepily good in his latest production as Sharon, a fiftysomething single therapist who is more than a bit on edge. The show begins as Sharon has unexpectedly dropped in on her longtime psychiatrist, whom she has not seen since she went off her meds five months earlier. She starts talking nonstop, revealing that she’s now the same age as her mother was when she committed suicide — “an emotionally abusive quasi-religious world-class narcissist alcoholic chain-smoker who completely drains your soul and yet somehow remains one of the smartest, most compelling people on the planet” — and that she’s just returned from her hometown of Lubbock, Texas, where her nephew, Eddie, has also just killed himself. “I need you to know, I would never — never in a million years would I just descend on you at home, in the middle of the night like this, unannounced, if I hadn’t been — absolutely desperate. And — scared. Genuinely scared. That I’d . . . I really might’ve done something. To myself. Or to . . . someone. I don’t know,” Sharon says, wriggling in a comfortable, old-fashioned armchair, occasionally sipping from a black coffee mug, the lamp on a small nightstand next to her providing the only light on Sarah Johnston’s dark, eerie set.
Over the course of ninety-five gripping minutes, Sharon tells her bizarre story, which involves delving into her addictions and sobriety, exploring her recurring nightmares about needles, commenting on the sorry state of the world, and regularly referencing blood, in all its many forms and meanings. “I can’t take the sight of blood,” she admits. “I’m so squeamish, I’ll throw up, or pass out, or both, but I can’t look away.” The audience can’t look away either as Fraser (The Secret Garden, Romance/Romance), in a sexy black outfit, gracefully shifts in the big chair, crossing and uncrossing her legs, leaning forward, then pushing herself into a corner, with just enough movement to avoid any boredom, on her or our part, words pouring out of her with rhythmic starts and stops, almost like, well, blood splurting. Fraser seamlessly transitions from Sharon to her sister, Becky; Becky’s husband, Burt; Eddie’s girlfriend, Cara; Cara’s friends, Joanie and Dante; and a dominatrix, Betty, cleverly using voice and limited motion to define each character’s uniqueness. There is a shocking surprise about midway through the play that is genuinely scary, and things build from there. Although there is no blood onstage, Mark and Fraser do an exquisite job of intricately describing scenes that might lead some audience members to experience bloody nightmares, but that’s a small price to pay for witnessing this engrossing piece of theater. (Mark wrote the part specifically for Fraser; he also wrote and directed the 2012 film Commentary, starring Fraser and Hewitt.) A production of All for One Theater, Squeamish lives up to its name, offering plenty of squeamish moments, highlighted by a superbly nuanced performance by Fraser, who seems to be enjoying every bloody minute of it, along with us.
502 West 53rd St. between Tenth & Eleventh Aves.
Through October 21, $25-$75
The fictional JTM Entertainment and Crossover Productions have teamed up to bring their roster of popular South Korean singing stars to Manhattan in an effort to capture the American audience, and they need your help. That is the setup for the immensely entertaining immersive show KPOP, continuing at A.R.T. through October 21. An inventive collaboration between Ars Nova (Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812), Woodshed Collective (Empire Travel Agency), and Ma-Yi Theater (The Romance of Magno Rubio), KPOP ostensibly invites people behind the scenes of a music factory, with the audience becoming small focus groups that are led through numerous rooms as they follow how stars are made. “This is my Korea / This is my story-ya,” JTM’s roster belts out at the beginning, setting the stage for cultural arguments about sacrificing Korean heritage in order to make it big in the States, a discussion built around Crossover head Jerry (James Seol), a master marketer who was born in America and knows little about Korea. JTM is led by the elegant and proper Jae Tak Moon (James Saito) and his wife, Ruby (Vanessa Kai), a former superstar singer who now likes to spout odd Korean sayings, such as “When you’re eating kimchi, don’t lick the sauce first.” Each focus group’s experience is slightly different, but it doesn’t matter which you are part of, as you’ll eventually meet Dr. Park (David Shih), who is ready to take his scalpel to every face to craft it into something even more beautiful; vocal coach Yazmeen (Amanda Morton); strict dance teacher Jenn (Ebony Williams), who makes sure the performers know all the right moves; girl group Special K, consisting of Sonoma (Julia Abueva), Tiny D (Katie Lee Hill), Mina (Susannah Kim), Callie (Sun Hye Park), and XO (Deborah Kim); boy band F8, featuring Timmy X (Joomin Hwang), Oracle (Jinwoo Jung), Lex (Jiho Kang), Bobo (John Yi), and Epic (Jason Tam); and label diva MwE (Marina Kondo).
Unfortunately, not everything is going according to plan. Not happy with Special K’s rehearsal, Jenn shouts, “Do y’all understand why you’re here? This is where the sausage is made. When they [the audience members] leave, they should want the sausages. Right now, no one wants the sausages.” Moon adds, “I love all of you like my own children. Why do you continue to break my heart?” Meanwhile, MwE, who has a rather luxurious private chamber, is worried that Sonoma, aka Jessica, is going to supplant her as the label’s centerpiece; Epic wants to take F8 in a new direction, which angers Bobo; and there’s a mysterious building tension between Timmy X and Callie. But at the heart of it all is the concept of trying to maintain one’s cultural heritage and become international pop icons. “If you are Korean, why don’t you speak Korean?” Callie asks Jerry, who replies, “Who says I have to speak Korean to be Korean?” Callie answers, “Don’t you care where you’re from?” to which Jerry responds, “I’m from San Diego. . . . You could be a real sensation here. If you could just lose the accent.” The book by Korean-born New Yorker Jason Kim is superb, wonderfully weaving through clichés and melodrama as the individual characters burst forth and the story takes shape, while the music, lyrics, and orchestrations, by Helen Park and Max Vernon, have just the right pop flourishes, from “Wind Up Doll” and “Shopaholic” to “So in Love” and “All I Wanna Do,” from “Dizzy” and “Hahahaha” to “Phoenix” and “Amerika (Checkmate).” Music director Sujin Kim-Ramsey nails the various styles, with genre-licious choreography by Jennifer Weber, flashy costumes by Tricia Barsamian, projections by Phillip Gulley, and splashy lighting by Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew. Director Teddy Bergman keeps everything flowing beautifully as the audience marches through the numerous sets, designed by Woodshed Collective cofounder Gabriel Hainer Evansohn, including a doctor’s office, a sound booth, a lounge with multiple platforms, a mirrored dance rehearsal space, and several surprises. In order to enjoy immersive theater, you have to be willing to fully immerse yourself in it, and there’s plenty to get involved in with KPOP, an awesome journey into music making, promotion, assimilation, the desire for fame, and more. Early on, Jerry explains that the mission of his agency “is to launch rockets into American markets.” With a sly sense of humor and charm to spare, KPOP accomplishes that mission, in explosive, provocative ways.
BAMcinématek, BAM Rose Cinemas
30 Lafayette Ave. between Ashland Pl. & St. Felix St.
“I ascribe a basic importance to the phenomenon of language. That is why I find it necessary to begin with this subject, which should provide us with one of the elements in the colored man’s comprehension of the dimension of the other,” Martinique-born philosopher, psychoanalyst, and writer Frantz Fanon explains in the first chapter of his 1952 book, White Skin, Black Masks. The revolutionary continues, “For it is implicit that to speak is to exist absolutely for the other. The black man has two dimensions. One with his fellows, the other with the white man. A Negro behaves differently with a white man and with another Negro. That this self-division is a direct result of colonialist subjugation is beyond question. . . . No one would dream of doubting that its major artery is fed from the heart of those various theories that have tried to prove that the Negro is a stage in the slow evolution of monkey into man. Here is objective evidence that expresses reality. But when one has taken cognizance of this situation, when one has understood it, one considers the job completed. How can one then be deaf to that voice rolling down the stages of history: ‘What matters is not to know the world but to change it.’ This matters appallingly in our lifetime.”
The theories espoused by Fanon, who also wrote the seminal treatise The Wretched of the Earth, about the effects of colonization on the human psyche — and published the year he died, 1961, at the age of thirty-six — have made their way, directly and indirectly, into many films, and BAMcinématek honors that legacy in the series “Black Skin, White Masks: Cinema Inspired by Frantz Fanon,” which runs October 18-26 at BAM Rose Cinemas, featuring such powerful, wide-ranging films as Bill Duke’s Deep Cover, Ousmane Sembène’s Black Girl, Octavio Getino and Fernando E. Solanas’s The Hour of the Furnaces, and Claire Denis’s No Fear, No Die. The opening-night film, Isaac Julien’s Black Skin, White Masks, will be followed by a roundtable discussion with writer and activist Kazembe Balagun, artist Alexandra Bell, and cultural critic Tobi Haslett, moderated by series programmer Ashley Clark. In an era in which “the other” has taken center stage again as refugees search for new homes around the world, hatred, racism, and bigotry are spreading in such countries as the United States, France, and England, and walls are being put up to keep people out, many of Fanon’s philosophies are, sadly, still all-too relevant.
CACHÉ (HIDDEN) (Michael Haneke, 2005)
Saturday, October 21, 2:00 & 7:30
Writer-director Michael Haneke (The Piano Teacher, The White Ribbon) 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 October 21 at 2:00 and 7:30 at BAM. 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.
THE BATTLE OF ALGIERS (Gillo Pontecorvo, 1966)
Saturday, October 21, 4:45
In Italian director Gillo Pontecorvo’s gripping neo-Realist war thriller The Battle of Algiers, a reporter asks French paratroop commander Lt. Col. Mathieu (Jean Martin), who has been sent to the Casbah to derail the Algerian insurgency, about an article Jean-Paul Sartre had just written for a Paris paper. “Why are the Sartres always born on the other side?” Mathieu says. “Then you like Sartre?” the reporter responds. “No, but I like him even less as a foe,” Mathieu coolly answers. In 1961, French existentialist Sartre wrote in the preface to Frantz Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth, the seminal tome on colonialism and decolonialism, “In Algeria and Angola, Europeans are massacred at sight. It is the moment of the boomerang; it is the third phase of violence; it comes back on us, it strikes us, and we do not realize any more than we did the other times that it’s we that have launched it,” referring to European colonization. “There are those among [the oppressed creatures] who assert themselves by throwing themselves barehanded against the guns; these are their heroes. Others make men of themselves by murdering Europeans, and these are shot down; brigands or martyrs, their agony exalts the terrified masses. Yes, terrified; at this fresh stage, colonial aggression turns inward in a current of terror among the natives. By this I do not only mean the fear that they experience when faced with our inexhaustible means of repression but also that which their own fury produces in them. They are cornered between our guns pointed at them and those terrifying compulsions, those desires for murder which spring from the depth of their spirits and which they do not always recognize; for at first it is not their violence, it is ours, which turns back on itself and rends them; and the first action of these oppressed creatures is to bury deep down that hidden anger which their and our moralities condemn and which is however only the last refuge of their humanity. Read Fanon: you will learn how, in the period of their helplessness, their mad impulse to murder is the expression of the natives’ collective unconscious.” Sartre’s brutally honest depiction of colonialism serves as a perfect introduction to Pontecorvo’s film, made five years later and then, unsurprisingly, banned in France. (In 1953, the Martinique-born Fanon, who fought for France in WWII, moved to Algeria, where he became a member of the National Liberation Front; French authorities expelled him from the country in 1957, but he kept working for the FLN and Algeria up to his death in 1961.)
In The Battle of Algiers, Pontecorvo (Kapò, Burn!) and screenwriter Franco Solinas follow a small group of FLN rebels, focusing on the young, unpredictable Ali la Pointe (Brahim Haggiag) and the more calm and experienced commander, El-hadi Jafar (Saadi Yacef, playing a character based on himself; the story was also inspired by his book Souvenirs de la Bataille d’Alger). Told in flashback, the film takes viewers from 1954 to 1957 as Mathieu hunts down the FLN leaders while the revolutionaries stage strikes, bomb public places, and assassinate French police. Shot in a black-and-white cinema-vérité style on location by Marcello Gatti — Pontecorvo primarily was a documentarian — The Battle of Algiers is a tense, powerful work that plays out like a thrilling procedural, touching on themes that are still relevant nearly fifty years later, including torture, cultural racism, media manipulation, terrorism, and counterterrorism. It seems so much like a documentary — the only professional actor in the cast is Martin — that it’s hardly shocking that the film has been used as a primer for the IRA, the Black Panthers, the Pentagon, and military and paramilitary organizations on both sides of the colonialism issue, although Pontecorvo is clearly on the side of the Algerian rebels. However, it does come as a surprise that the original conception was a melodrama starring Paul Newman as a Western journalist. All these years later, The Battle of Algiers, which earned three Oscar nominations (for Best Foreign Language Film in 1967 and Best Director and Best Original Screenplay in 1969), still has a torn-from-the-headlines urgency that makes it as potent as ever. The Battle of Algiers is screening on October 21 at 4:45 at BAM.
Swedish filmmaker Göran Hugo Olsson brings physician and psychiatrist Frantz Fanon’s seminal 1961 book, The Wretched of the Earth, to bold, vivid life in the empowering documentary Concerning Violence: Nine Scenes from the Anti-Imperialistic Self-Defense. “Every one of us must think for himself — always provided that he thinks at all; for in Europe today, stunned as she is by the blows received by France, Belgium, or England, even to allow your mind to be diverted, however slightly, is as good as being the accomplice in the crime of colonialism,” French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre wrote in the lengthy preface to the book. For Concerning Violence, Olsson called on Columbia University professor Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak to provide a heavily academic introduction, setting the stage for nine examples of the relationship between settlers and natives, Europeans and Africans, in the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s. As he did with his previous film, The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975, Olsson uses amazing footage taken by Swedish journalists, including interviews with Christian missionaries, Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe, reporter Gaetano Pagano, Burkina Faso president Thomas Sankara, black revolutionaries, and privileged white men, combining those stunning images with strong statements from Fanon’s treatise, read by Ms. Lauryn Hill and blasted across the screen in big letters. “Colonialism is not a thinking machine, nor a body endowed with reasoning faculties. It is violence in its natural state, and it will only yield when confronted with greater violence,” Hill states in a steady voice. “Decolonization is always a violent phenomenon. Decolonization is a historical process. It cannot be understood, it cannot become clear to itself except by the movements which give it historical form and content. Decolonization, which sets out to change the order of the world, is, obviously, a program of complete disorder.”
The nine “chapters” take viewers to Angola, Rhodesia, Liberia, Tanzania, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, and other current or former African nations, examining institutional racism, wealth and poverty, illegal imprisonment, guerrilla revolutions, the IMF, and the lurking “monster” that is the United States. It draws a brutal, powerful picture that pulls no punches, with expert use of archival footage never seen outside of Sweden. “There is no native who does not dream at least once a day of setting himself up in the settler’s place,” Ms. Hill reads, the words still ringing true today as riots and protests spread throughout the United States and civil wars continue in Africa and other continents. More than fifty years after its publication, The Wretched of the Earth is still a call to action, albeit one steeped in violence, as one can debate how much things have really changed. “The films in the Swedish Archive might have been part of a patronizing perspective at the time, but thirty years later, we think they reveal something important about this time to Europeans, Americans, and Africans — as well as others across the world who have been on either side of colonization, or are experiencing it now,” Olsson points out in his director’s statement. Concerning Violence is screening October 25 at 7:00 at BAM.
LamVar10: A Festival for New Work
Martha Graham Studio Theater
55 Bethune St., eleventh floor
Tuesday, October 17, and Wednesday, October 18, $25-$30, 7:00
In January 1930, Martha Graham first performed what became one of her signature works, Lamentations, described in the program as “a dance of sorrow. . . . It is not the sorrow of a specific person, time, or place but the personification of grief itself.” The piece, which you can see here, featured Graham in a costume she could stretch over her head and other parts of her body, dancing to Zoltán Kodály’s 1910 Piano Piece, Op. 3, No. 2. In 2007, Martha Graham Dance Company artistic director Janet Eilber conceived of Lamentation Variations, initially meant to be a one-time opportunity for contemporary choreographers to create their own take on Lamentations in commemoration of 9/11. However, the popularity of the program morphed it into an ongoing production that boasts a growing list of international choreographers contributing their own personal interpretation of the iconic work. In honor of the tenth anniversary of Lamentation Variations, MGDC is hosting LamVar10: A Festival for New Work, taking place October 17 and 18 at the Martha Graham Studio Theater. The first night comprises Lamentation Variations by Kyle Abraham (2015), Larry Keigwin (2007), and Bulareyaung Pagarlava (2009), a variation-in-progress by Gwen Welliver, and the New York premiere of a variation by Lil Buck, while the second night consists of variations by Aszure Barton (2007), Keigwin, Richard Move (2007), Doug Varone (2012), and Lil Buck again. Each evening will also include a discussion with several of the artists. A Festival for New Work is being held in conjunction with the establishment of the Fund for New York, which will expand MGDC’s repertoire with new creations.
Katherine Brook and Shonni Enelow / TELE-VIOLET conclude their trilogy exploring the relationship between performance and emotion, from the point of view of both performer and audience, with The Power of Emotion: The Apartment, continuing at Abrons Arts Center October 18-21. The series takes its name from Alexander Kluge’s 1983 experimental 1983 film Die Macht der Gefühle; the first part, The Power of Emotion: Breakfast, was an adaptation of Richard Boleslavsky’s 1933 book, Acting: The First Six Lessons, while the second part, The Power of Emotion: Actresses, used opera divas to further investigate how we watch and hear performance. The finale, written by Enelow, author of Method Acting and Its Discontents: On American Psycho-Drama, and directed by Brook, incorporates the tarot, a trial (based on an actual case in which Brook was a juror), boiling water, and Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle. Charlotte Mundy plays the Singer, with Katiana Rangel as Carol and Lucia Roderique as Mimi, two friends embroiled in a serious feud. The score, by Taylor Brook, Katherine’s brother, is performed live by TAK, consisting of percussionist Ellery Trafford, clarinetist Liam Kinson, violinist Marina Kifferstein, flutist Laura Cocks, and cellist Meaghan Burke; the costumes are by Diego Montoya, with set and lighting design by Josh Smith. During the matinee on October 21, parents can have their kids participate in an art workshop ($10, 3:30) in which children ages five to twelve will learn about using direct observation and their imagination to create drawings, paintings, and sculpture.