BAMCINÉMATEK AND THE RACIAL IMAGINARY INSTITUTE — ON WHITENESS: WHITE MATERIAL / THE VIRGIN SUICIDES
WHITE MATERIAL (Claire Denis, 2009)
BAMcinématek, BAM Rose Cinemas
30 Lafayette Ave. between Ashland Pl. & St. Felix St.
Tuesday, July 17, 7:00
Series continues through July 19
BAMcinématek has teamed up with the Racial Imaginary Institute, a collective that “convenes a cultural laboratory in which the racial imaginaries of our time and place are engaged, read, countered, contextualized, and demystified,” to present the series “BAMcinématek and the Racial Imaginary Institute: On Whiteness.” Continuing through July 19, the festival, which “aims to foster a dialogue about what it means to be white in America,” has already shown such films as Taxi Driver, The Swimmer, The Jerk, Rocky, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. It moves to another continent on July 17 with Claire Denis’s White Material. In an unnamed West African nation besieged by a bloody civil war between rebels and the military government, Maria Vial (Isabelle Huppert) steadfastly refuses to leave her coffee plantation, determined to see the last crop through to fruition. Despite pleas from the French army, which is vacating the country; her ex-husband, André (Christophe Lambert), who is attempting to sell the plantation out from under her; and her workers, whose lives are in danger, Maria is unwilling to give up her home and way of life, apparently blind to what is going on all around her. She seems to be living in her own world, as if all the outside forces exploding around her do not affect her and her family. Without thinking twice, she even allows the Boxer (Isaach De Bankolé) to stay there, the seriously wounded leader of the rebel militia, not considering what kind of dire jeopardy that could result in. But when her slacker son, Manuel (Nicolas Duvauchelle), freaks out, she is forced to take a harder look at reality, but even then she continues to see only what she wants to see. A selection of both the New York and Venice Film Festivals, White Material is an often obvious yet compelling look at the last remnants of postcolonial European domination as a new Africa is being born in disorder and violence. Directed and cowritten (with French playwright Marie Ndiaye) by Denis (Chocolat, Beau Travail), who was born in Paris and raised in Africa, the film has a central flaw in its premise that viewers will either buy or reject: whether they accept Maria’s blindness to the evolving situation that has everyone else on the run. Watching Maria’s actions can be infuriating, and in the hands of another actress they might not have worked, but Huppert is mesmerizing in the decidedly unglamorous role.
THE VIRGIN SUICIDES (Sofia Coppola, 1999)
BAMcinématek, BAM Rose Cinemas
30 Lafayette Ave. between Ashland Pl. & St. Felix St.
Tuesday, July 17, 4:30 & 9:30
Series continues through July 19
The Virgin Suicides, which traces the downfall of a suburban Michigan family in the 1970s, is chock-full of period songs, with well-known tunes by Heart, the Hollies, Carole King, Styx, Todd Rundgren, 10CC, the Bee Gees, and ELO all over the film. But it’s Air’s score that gives it added emotional depth, from tender piano lines that evoke Pink Floyd and late-era Beatles to rowdier, synth-and-drum-heavy moments to mournful dirges and hypnotic, spacey sojourns. In the film, nerdy math teacher Ronald Lisbon (James Woods) and his wife (Kathleen Turner) are raising five teenage girls, Therese (Leslie Hayman), Mary (A. J. Cook), Bonnie (Chelse Swain), Lux (Kirsten Dunst), and Cecilia (Hanna R. Hall). As the tale begins, Cecilia is rushed to the hospital after attempting suicide. “What are you doing here, honey? You’re not even old enough to know how bad life gets,” her doctor says, to which she responds, looking directly into the camera, “Obviously, Doctor, you’ve never been a thirteen-year-old girl.” On her next try, Cecilia succeeds in killing herself, leading Mrs. Lisbon to become stiflingly overprotective and domineering. But she starts losing control of her daughters when high school hunk Trip Fontaine (Josh Hartnett) falls hard for Lux. Coppola (Lost in Translation, The Bling Ring) shows a sure hand in her directorial debut, marvelously capturing small-town teen angst, even if things go a bit haywire in the latter stages. The film is narrated by Giovanni Ribisi and also stars Jonathan Tucker, Noah Shebib, Anthony DeSimone, Lee Kagan, and Robert Schwartzman as a group of boys who are rather obsessed with the sisters in different ways. There are also cameos by Scott Glenn as a priest, Danny DeVito as a psychiatrist, and Michael Paré as the adult Trip, and look for a pre-Star Wars Hayden Christensen as Jake Hill Conley. In an interview with Dazed in conjunction with the fifteen-year anniversary of The Virgin Suicides, Air’s Nicolas Godin noted, “I really hated being a teenager. It was a pretty horrible time, and although I had good friends, I am so happy to be out of that time. . . . I definitely brought that to the film score, this idea of not being loved enough.” You can show your love for The Virgin Suicides at BAMcinématek on July 17 at 4:30 & 9:30 when it screens as part of “BAMcinématek and the Racial Imaginary Institute: On Whiteness.” The series continues with Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather Part II on July 18 and Jordan Peele’s Oscar-winning Get Out on July 19, followed by a discussion with culture writer Rembert Browne.
The free summer arts & culture season is under way, with dance, theater, music, art, film, and other special outdoor programs all across the city. Every week we will be recommending a handful of events. Keep watching twi-ny for more detailed highlights as well.
Sunday, July 15
Harlem Meer Performance Festival: Keith “the Captain” Gamble and the NU Gypsies, Charles A. Dana Discovery Center, Central Park, 2:00
Monday, July 16
Piano in Bryant Park: Daryl Sherman, July 16-20, Bryant Park, 12:30
Tuesday, July 17
High Line Art: Kerry Tribe Artist Talk, panel discussion with Kerry Tribe, moderated by Melanie Kress and Ana Traverso-Krejcarek, about Tribe’s Exquisite Corpse film, the High Line at Fourteenth St., 7:00
Wednesday, July 18
Outdoor Cinema: Black Mother (Khalik Allah, 2018) and Symphony of a Sad Sea (Carlos Morales Mancilla, 2018), Socrates Sculpture Park, with live performance at 7:00, film at sunset
Thursday, July 19
Shakespeare in the Parking Lot: Hamlet, starring Jane Bradley and directed by Karla Hendrick, Clemente Parking Lot, 114 Norfolk St., July 19-21 & 26-28, 6:30
Friday, July 20
BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival: Anoushka Shankar, Land of Gold, My Brightest Diamond, Prospect Park Bandshell, 7:30
Saturday, July 21
Come Out & Play, Manhattan Bridge Archway Plaza, DUMBO, family-friendly activities 1:00 - 5:00, adult games 7:00 - 10:00
Sunday, July 22
SummerStage: Ginuwine, the Ladies of Pink Diamonds, and DJ Stacks, Corporal Thompson Park, Staten Island, 5:00
Pakistani-Norwegian actress, writer, and director Iram Haq follows up her 2013 debut, the deeply personal I Am Yours, about a single mother’s disconnection from her parents, with another personal and heart-wrenching drama, What Will People Say. When she was fourteen, Haq was kidnapped by her parents in Norway and sent back to Pakistan to live with relatives, deprived of the freedoms she was accustomed to in Scandinavia. In What Will People Say, Maria Mozhdah, in her film debut, gives a powerful performance as Nisha, a teenager caught between her non-Pakistani friends in Norway and the old, fundamentalist ways of her parents and community. At his birthday party, her father, Mirza (Adil Hussain), seems like a good guy, but when he catches Nisha in her bedroom with Daniel (Isak Lie Harr) — they were merely talking, contemplating kissing — he assumes the worst. Believing the family has been disgraced, he takes Nisha, who was considering becoming a doctor, back to an impoverished Pakistani village to live with her aunt (Sheeba Chaddha) and uncle (Lalit Parimoo), where she will essentially be their servant. But when the police see her kissing her cousin Amir (Rohit Saraf) in the street, the family’s added humiliation leads Mirza to consider taking even more extreme action against his confused and desperate daughter.
What Will People Say is a brutal, gripping look at identity and assimilation in contemporary society, which is particularly relevant in regard to the current migrant and refugee crisis in America and around the world. In many ways, Nisha is the ideal daughter, a smart, sweet, attractive, and caring young woman with a promising future. In fact, her mother (Ekavali Khanna) and father are as proud of her as they are of her older brother, Asif (Ali Arfan), who is also studying to be a doctor. But the frightening difference in the treatment of boys and girls becomes quickly evident when it involves any kind of sexuality in a society that still arranges marriages for their children. Nisha doesn’t understand why her parents are being so abusive to her, especially because, as she repeats over and over, she has done nothing wrong. But she is also unable to tell the Norwegian authorities what is happening to her, fearing further harsh treatment at the hands of her family, unwilling to betray them. The film is reminiscent of Abdullah Oğuz’s 2007 Turkish drama Bliss (Mutuluk), in which a seventeen-year-old girl is raped and her village demands that she be executed in an honor killing. A coproduction of Norway, Germany, and Sweden and told in Norwegian and Urdu, What Will People Say is a difficult film to watch; you keep wanting Misha to speak out and fight back, but the fear of reprisal is so ingrained in her that she is virtually helpless, as old-fashioned, outdated values are hard to break away from even in the modern-day world.
Jake Meginsky’s unconventional documentary of unconventional musician Milford Graves begins with the following epigraph from Graves: “Look at the room downstairs / Look at the garden outside / Don’t try to analyze it / Just take it in.” That is not only Graves’s life philosophy but also the best way to experience Milford Graves Full Mantis, which opens today at Metrograph. Born in 1941 in South Jamaica, Queens, where he still resides, Graves is an avant-garde free jazz percussionist who plays and lives to his own beat. In 2004, Meginsky knocked on Graves’s door, asked to study with him, and soon became the Professor’s assistant. He’s been documenting him ever since; the film, codirected by drummer Neil Young, who also edited and photographed it with Meginsky, features compelling live footage along with peaceful moments in Graves’s basement and expansive garden. Early on, Meginsky shows a wild excerpt from a 1973 concert at the Jazz Middelheim Festival in Antwerp in which Graves performs with Joe Rigby and Hugh Glover on reeds and Arthur Williams on trumpet; the fierce, dissonant music might not be to everyone’s taste, but it serves as a terrific counterpoint to Graves’s calmer side, pontificating on, well, sometimes it’s hard to tell what, but it’s always fascinating.
There are also clips of Graves playing solo at the Brandeis Improv Festival in 2015 and in one of the Park Avenue Armory’s historic rooms in 2016; in 2011 in his basement, where he’s surrounded by African sculpture, books, and computers that record his heartbeat and nervous system, which he incorporates into his work; and in Japan in 1981 with dancer Min Tanaka at a school for autistic children, where his unique performance inspired the kids to get up and move to the groove. In his backyard dojo he explains Yara, the discipline he invented based on martial arts, African ritual dance, the Lindy Hop, and the praying mantis and which he refers to as “the black way of self protection.” There are no talking-head experts or Graves acolytes singing his praises; the only voice heard in the film is Graves’s own, and for the first half of its ninety minutes Meginsky doesn’t show the film’s subject as he talks. Instead, while Graves speaks about his past and shares his kaleidoscopic philosophies, the camera slowly focuses on his lush garden or shows some of Graves’s animations. But eventually Graves is seen sitting in his basement, telling a long, remarkable story of a turning point in his life. He’s an engaging character, bursting with enthusiasm and a unique view of the human body, the five senses, tear ducts, and the parasympathetic nervous system. And throughout, he keeps playing those drums, holding the sticks in his trademark way on a nonstandard kit he put together himself. Graves will be at Metrograph for Q&As with Meginsky, Young, and drummer William Hooker at the 7:00 screening on July 13 and with Meginsky at the 6:00 show on July 14; Meginsky will also participate in a Q&A following the 7:00 screening on July 19, which will be introduced by drummer Susie Ibarra.
On July 14, 1789, a Parisian mob stormed the Bastille prison, a symbolic victory that kicked off the French Revolution and the establishment of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. Ever since, July 14 has been a national holiday celebrating liberté, égalité, and fraternité. In New York City, the Bastille Day festivities are set for Sunday, July 15, along Sixtieth St., where the French Institute Alliance Française hosts its annual daylong party of food, music, dance, and other special activities. The celebration begins with a live screening of the World Cup Final in Florence Gould Hall and outside, where, as luck would have it, France vies for the coveted title. There will be a Summer in the South of France Tasting in FIAF’s Tinker Auditorium from 12 noon to 4:30 ($25), with wines from Sud de France, French beers from Kronenbourg, Président cheeses, Bayonne Ham, and artisan breads from Maison Kayser, as well as the elegant Champagne & Jazz Party in Le Skyroom at 1:30 and 3:30 ($65-$75), featuring Champagnes from Pol Roger, Ayala, Champagne Delamotte, and Besserat de Bellefon, cocktails from Grand Marnier, macarons from Ladurée, chocolates from Voilà Chocolat, and hors d’oeuvres from Maman Bakery, in addition to a live performance by Chloé Perrier. The annual raffle ($20) can win you such prizes as trips to Paris and Le Martinique or dinners at French restaurants.
Food, drink, and beauty and fashion items will be available in the French-themed market and the new French Garden from Jerome Dreyfuss, 727 Sailbags, L’atelier, Moutet, French Wink, Ladurée, Brasserie Cognac, Dominique Ansel Kitchen, Le Souk, Miss Madeleine, Oliviers & Co., Mille-feuille, Sel Magique, Simply Gourmand, St. Michel, Sud de France, Macaron Parlour, Pistache, Lunii, and others. The fête also includes roaming French mime Catherina Gasta, a kids corner with a library and arts & crafts, a photobooth, “An Ode for Freedom” interactive street art with Kinmx & Iljin, Can-Can Dancing with Karen Peled (12:45 & 2:10), a Caribbean Zouk dance lesson with Franck Muhel (4:25), the Citroën Classic Car Show, live performances by MarieLine Grinda (1:00), It’s Showtime NYC! (1:30), Jacques & Marie’s Paris Swing Band (2:30), the Hungry March Band (2:55), La Jarry (3:05), and Sense (3:55), and a sneak peek screening of Yvan Attal’s Le Brio ($14, 5:30) in Florence Gould Hall.
PREMIKA-PARAB (Siwakorn Jarupongpa, 2017)
333 West Twenty-Third St. between Eighth & Ninth Aves.
Friday, July 13, 8:15
Festival runs through July 15
You’re going to think twice about the next time you see a karaoke machine after watching Premika, Siwakorn Jarupongpa’s delightfully fun 2017 horror-comedy making its North American premiere July 13 at the New York Asian Film Festival. The candy-colored Thai flick is set at the grand opening of a hotel in the middle of a forest, where an oddball group of supposed VIPs have gathered. When one of the guests asks if the hotel is haunted, hotel manager Mr. Lee (Fu Nan) freaks out, because of course there is a ghost, and quite an awesome one at that. A young woman in a Sailor Moon outfit whom the police have dubbed “Premika” (Natthacha De Souza) has been murdered by a lake, her body chopped into pieces by a mystery assailant, and she’s determined to stick around until the killer is caught.
Among those wandering around the hotel and forest are Tun (Nutthasit Kotimanuswanich) and Aek (Kidakarn Chatkaewmanee), leaders of a boy band known as the Youth; sexy singing duo Noey (Asiah Johnson) and Yam (Praemai Bailee), accompanied by record producer Somkiat (Pariyate Angoonkitti); the goofy Uab (Tiwat Srisawat) and Uan (Anupapr Suriyathong), who want to be the next big boy band; the adorable Muay (Peraya Aksorndee), whose snide boyfriend, Bird (Nattachai Sirinanthachot), is having problems in the sack; photographers Top (Papinee Srimee) and Nate (Anongnart Yusananda); and Jo (Chattiwut Rungrojsuporn), who has the hots for Noey and Yam. On the Premika murder case are Lt. Poom (Todsapol Maisuk) and Sgt. Ped (Kittipos Mangkang), who have to answer to the chief (Kittiphong Dumavibhat). While the guests grow increasingly uneasy, Premika’s heart beats on in a jukebox, which she uses to test the people at the hotel as she seeks justice. She and the machine will suddenly appear out of nowhere, and the guest, transformed into the star of a lush music video, must sing the selected song perfectly or die a grisly death at the hands of the vengeful Premika, who really knows how to use a hatchet. The longer the investigation goes on without finding her killer, the more brutal Premika becomes.
In his feature-film debut, writer-director Jarupongpa displays quite a knack for both horror and comedy, and his crew, including cowriters Komsun Nuntachit and Sukree Terakunvanich, cinematographer Chukiat Narongrit, production designer Dusit Yapakawong, art director Thiranan Chanthakhat, and costume designer Pirom Ruangkitjakan, has a field day upping the cheese factor while never chintzing on the gore. There’s lots of Three Stooges-level slapstick, utterly silly sound effects, ridiculous double takes, and kooky sexuality, along with plenty of fantabulous carnage. The film is screening July 13 at 8:15 at the SVA Theatre, with De Souza in attendance. The “Savage Seventeenth” edition of the New York Asian Film Festival continues at the SVA Theatre and the Film Society of Lincoln Center through July 15 with a wide range of movies from China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and Denmark.
John, Paul, George, and Ringo are summoned to save Pepperland from the music-hating Blue Meanies in the 1968 psychedelic, surreal animated favorite, Yellow Submarine, being rereleased in theaters July 9 in a sparkling, newly restored 4K version with 5.1 Stereo Surround Sound. The Beatles’ fourth movie, following the dynamic duo of A Hard Day’s Night and Help! and the television disaster Magical Mystery Tour, was based on the Fab Four’s 1965–67 Saturday morning cartoon series and the 1966 song “Yellow Submarine,” which appeared on side one of Revolver. The chief Blue Meanie (voiced by Paul Angelis), with his ever-faithful right-hand man, Max (Dick Emery), by his side, declares war on music, sending his troops, including the Apple Bonkers, Clowns, Snapping Turks, and Dreadful Flying Glove, to attack Pepperland, trapping the band in an opaque sphere and turning the residents into stagnant, colorless beings. Only Old Fred (Lance Percival), newly appointed lord admiral by the mayor (Emery), escapes, taking off in an unusual yellow submarine and rounding up John Lennon (John Clive), Paul McCartney (Geoffrey Hughes), George Harrison (Peter Batten and Angelis), and Ringo Starr (Angelis) to try to save the day against the fascist Blue Meanies, who only take no for an answer.
The film mainly comprises set pieces, in varied animation styles, built around such Beatles songs as “Eleanor Rigby,” “When I’m Sixty-Four,” “All You Need Is Love,” “Nowhere Man,” “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” “All Together Now,” and “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” as the Mop Tops are joined by the brilliant but strange Jeremy Hillary Boob (Emery) on their dangerous mission, which is like an acid trip gone loco. Of course, that doesn’t preclude them from sharing silly little jokes, puns, and double entendres along the way as they reference war, soccer, loneliness (“Nothing ever happens to me. I feel like an old splintered drumstick,” Ringo opines), monsters, the art of Salvador Dalí and Giorgio de Chirico, Apple Records, famous celebrities, cartoon villains, Albert Einstein’s time-space continuum theory, and other Beatles songs. There are comic scenes in a grand, door-filled hallway and in an expanse of black holes. And of course, there’s an endless parade of great music, including “Hey Bulldog,” which was deleted from the original US release.
Sure, a lot of it doesn’t make any sense, but when was the last time you sat down and really listened to such gems as “Only a Northern Song” and “It’s All Too Much”? More than two hundred animators — whose faces can be seen in the “Eleanor Rigby” scene — worked on the project, which was written by Lee Minoff, Al Brodax, Jack Mendelsohn, and Erich Segal — yes, the author of Love Story — with dialogue enhancement by Liverpool poet Roger McGough and lead animation by Robert Balser and Jack Stokes under the creative direction by Heinz Edelmann. The Beatles, who occasionally made script suggestions but mostly stayed in the background, make an appearance at the end as themselves, not in cartoon form, perhaps to satisfy their movie contract, but they still seem to be having fun, as you will too. And remember, as George says, “It’s all in the mind.” The fiftieth-anniversary restoration of Yellow Sumbarine will be playing at IFC Center, Landmark at 57 West, the Beekman, the Alamo Drafthouse, Kew Gardens Cinemas, Williamsburg Cinemas, and other theaters in the tristate area. Oh, and by the way, “Are you bluish? You don’t look bluish.”