200 Eastern Parkway at Washington St.
Saturday, April 7, free (“David Bowie is” requires advance tickets of $25), 5:00 - 11:00
The late, great David Bowie is the subject of the Brooklyn Museum’s free April First Saturday program, celebrating the major exhibition “David Bowie is.” There will be live performances by Bowie pianist Mike Garson and Bowie favorite Tamar-kali; a book club talk and signing with Simon Critchley, author of the 2014 book Bowie; a screening of D. A. Pennebaker’s concert film Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars; a hands-on art workshop in which participants can make Bowie-inspired watercolors; a photo booth where everyone is encouraged to pose as a Bowie persona; Drink and Draw sketching of live models dressed as Bowie; a Bowie-themed showcase by Bushwig, hosted by Horrorchata, Untitled Queen, and Tyler Ashley; and pop-up gallery talks by teen apprentices in the “American Art” galleries. In addition, the galleries will be open late so you can check out “William Trost Richards: Experiments in Watercolor,” “Arts of Korea,” “Infinite Blue,” “Ahmed Mater: Mecca Journeys,” “Rodin at the Brooklyn Museum: The Body in Bronze,” “A Woman’s Afterlife: Gender Transformation in Ancient Egypt,” and more. However, please note that advance tickets are required to see “David Bowie is,” at the regular admission price.
When Jerry Lewis died last August at the age of ninety-one, it was widely believed that his controversial, unreleased 1972 Holocaust drama, The Day the Clown Cried, would never see the light of day. It looks like he will not be getting his wish. Set in a Nazi concentration camp, the film features Lewis, who also wrote and directed the picture, as Helmut Doork, a German clown who dons his makeup in Auschwitz in order to entertain the imprisoned children. Over the years, trickles of information have come out about the film. In 1992, Harry Shearer, one of the few to see the whole movie, told Spy magazine, “With most of these kinds of things, you find that the anticipation, or the concept, is better than the thing itself. But seeing this film was really awe-inspiring, in that you are rarely in the presence of a perfect object. This was a perfect object. This movie is so drastically wrong, its pathos and its comedy are so wildly misplaced, that you could not, in your fantasy of what it might be like, improve on what it really is. ‘Oh my God!’ — that’s all you can say.” At Cannes, Lewis explained, “It was all bad and it was bad because I lost the magic. You will never see it, no one will ever see it, because I am embarrassed at the poor work.”
Photographs, clips of the film, which also stars Harriet Andersson, Jonas Bergström, Claude Bolling, and Pierre Étaix, and even a draft of the script have leaked out, spurring people’s interest even as fiercely Lewis protected it. “But who am I preserving it for?” Lewis told Entertainment Weekly in 2013. “No one’s ever gonna see it. But the preservation that I believe is that, when I die, I’m in total control of the material now. Nobody can touch it. After I’m gone, who knows what’s going to happen? I think I have the legalese necessary to keep it where it is. So I’m pretty sure that it won’t be seen. The only thing that I do feel, that I always get a giggle out of, some smart young guy like Chris [Nashawaty] is going to come up with an idea and he’s going to run the fucking thing. I would love that. Because he’s going to see a hell of a movie!” Lewis fans, film historians, and curious onlookers will finally get to see The Day the Clown Cried when it is revealed to the world on April 31, kicking off the inaugural “WWII on Film” festival, being held at the Documentary Institute of Manhattan. Tickets are going fast for what might very well be the film’s only public screening ever. As Lewis also said, “Don’t you understand how dramatic it is to be a comic? To be a fool, to get people to laugh at this show-off? Milton Berle could take Laurence Olivier and stick him under the table if he wanted to. And so could I.” Yes, it’s all fools’ gold, especially on a day such as today.
THE GREAT SILENCE (IL GRANDE SILENZIO) (Sergio Corbucci, 1968)
209 West Houston St.
March 30 – April 10
After half a century, Sergio Corbucci’s underseen masterpiece, The Great Silence, is finally being released in the United States, in a gorgeous fiftieth anniversary restoration screening at Film Forum. Corbucci’s revisionist spaghetti Western was shot by Silvano Ippoliti in the Dolomites in northeastern Italy, where luxurious white snow (actually shaving cream) goes on forever until it is stained with so much blood. French star Jean-Louis Trintignant plays a variation of the quiet hero who lets his guns do his talking; Trintignant, who did not speak English, is Silence, who, as a young boy, witnessed the merciless murder of his parents by bounty killers and is rendered mute with a knife to prevent his testimony. Years later, now an adult, Silence, with his unusual Mauser C96, roams the land in search of bounty killers, getting them to draw first so he can then fire back in self-defense, shooting off their thumbs so they can never use a gun again. It’s 1898, and hard times have come to Snow Hill, leading many average citizens to break laws just to put food on the table. Greedy banker Henry Pollicut (Luigi Pistilli) puts a price on their heads, wanted dead or alive, attracting various bounty killers, including the notorious Loco (German star Klaus Kinski), aka Tigrero, who never brings his targets in breathing, no matter how minor their crimes. Relatively hapless sheriff Gideon Burnett (Frank Wolff) is caught somewhere in the middle, as it’s Loco who is on the right side of the law and Silence who is walking a fine line about what’s legal. After Loco kills James Middleton, his widow, Pauline (Vonetta McGee), hires Silence to gain revenge, setting the stage for one of the most brutal endings in the history of cinema.
The pairing of Trintignant, who had gained international fame in Claude Lelouch’s A Man and a Woman, and Kinski, who had made such previous Westerns as Damiano Damiani’s A Bullet for the General and Sergio Leone’s For a Few Dollars More, has a dark magic, particularly since their characters are not clear representations of good vs. evil. Each one uses their eyes to intense dramatic effect, with Trintignant particularly effective since he doesn’t speak a word — just wait till you see him scream. In her film debut, McGee (Blacula, Repo Man) brings a stark sensitivity to Pauline; her interracial love scene was shocking for the genre, especially with Corbucci (Django, Navajo Joe) handling it in such a gentle way. Meanwhile, composer Ennio Morricone (Once Upon a Time in the West; The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly) delivers one of his most emotional and wide-ranging scores. Fifty years on, The Great Silence can still be read as a parable attacking rampant injustice in society while also subverting the Western genre itself, a dark and bleak tale about the hopelessness of life. (If the ending is too much for you, you can watch the absurdly ridiculous alternate happy ending made for some foreign markets here.)
In 2006, Oscar, Tony, and Emmy winner Al Pacino starred as the Tetrarch, King Herod, in a staged reading of Oscar Wilde’s controversial 1891 play, Salomé, at the Wadsworth Theatre in Los Angeles, directed by Oscar and Obie winner Estelle Parsons and featuring Kevin Anderson as Jokanaan (John the Baptist), Roxanne Hart as Herodias, and the little-known Jessica Chastain as the title character. During the limited run, Pacino was also working on two films, one a fuller version of the play with the actors performing without script in hand, the other a documentary of the making of it all. Both films, the 2011 Wilde Salomé and the 2013 Salomé, are opening March 30 in their first-ever dual New York City engagement (though not as a double feature), concluding the Quad series “Pacino’s Way.” (As a bonus, Pacino will introduce the 7:30 screening of Wilde Salomé on March 30.) Salomé is a dark interpretation of the Wilde tale, photographed with a large number of close-ups by Benoît Delhomme. Not surprisingly, the production is ruled by Pacino’s portrayal of King Herod, with all the requisite scenery chewing and camp, but Chastain, in her film debut, is mesmerizing as Salomé, Herod’s stepdaughter who, after dancing for the Tetrarch — Pacino’s intense gazing at Chastain’s burgeoning sexuality is more than a bit creepy as Herod’s wife stands firm next to him — demands the head of Jokonaan, who has been imprisoned in a watery dungeon. The milky white Chastain goes head-to-head with the grizzled Pacino, getting the best of him in the end. Aside from Salomé’s dance, the film is sedentary and visually repetitive; Herod is primarily seated on his throne, and most of the other characters, including Ralph Guzzo and Jack Stelin as the Nazarenes, Steve Roman as the Cappadocian, Joe Roseto as the Captain of the Guard, and Phillip Rhys as the Young Syrian, just hang around him. Only Anderson moves about, trapped below. Still, the film is ingrained with a powerful force, driven by Salomé’s yearnings.
Curiously, Wilde Salomé, which at one time was called Salomaybe?, was released two years before the film of the play itself. It is modeled similarly to Pacino’s stellar 1996 directorial debut, Looking for Richard, in which the star explores the play, the character, and the Bard, with the help of such fellow actors as Sir John Gielgud, Alec Baldwin, Kevin Spacey, Estelle Parsons, Winona Ryder, and Aidan Quinn. Wilde Salomé, which won the Queer Lion and the Glory to the Filmmaker Awards at the Venice Film Festival, is somewhat more audacious, if also not as satisfying as Richard. “This is about a journey I’m gonna take,” Pacino says. “I have an idea for a movie that intermixes the life of Wilde and the life of the play and the life of me trying to make the play. . . . So we went in search of the man who wrote something so personal as Salomé.” Not hiding from the camera, Pacino confesses, in a near fit of rage, “I got too much to do!” He is also seen agonizing over a difficult situation while wolfing down a white-bread sandwich. The documentary follows Pacino from the Wadsworth Theatre in Los Angeles to Masada in Israel to Europe, where he visits places where Wilde lived and worked. He talks about Wilde’s destructive relationship with Lord Alfred Douglas, better known as Bosie, as well as with his wife and children. Pacino freely admits his obsession with all things Wilde, wanting to know everything he possibly can about the poet and playwright’s spirituality, what drove him to write the way he did and make so many damaging life choices. Among those who discuss Wilde’s influence are Tom Stoppard, Gore Vidal, Tony Kushner, and Bono, who also provides the closing song with U2. Pacino is like a kid in a candy store whenever he discovers something new about Wilde; it’s too bad that there isn’t more of that in the film. Instead, there are far too many scenes taken directly from Salomé, which is particularly annoying if you are planning on seeing both films at the Quad. But it still is exciting watching the genius actor on a quest to understand the genius of Wilde.
In conjunction with Danh Vo’s revelatory Guggenheim exhibition, “Take My Breath Away,” the Vietnamese-born Danish artist has curated “Danh Vo Selects,” consisting of screenings of films that have meaning to him. When he was a child, his mother made him watch horror movies because she was too scared to watch them alone. The series concludes on March 31 at 2:30 with Jean Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s 1999 Rosetta — “I confess my brain was gang-raped by the films of Jean-Pierre Dardenne and his brother, Luc. Rosetta and her phallic drive to secure a job (and therefore a place in society) is burned into my mind,” Vo says about the film — followed at 5:00 by William Friedkin’s The Exorcist, which plays an important role in the exhibit. Vo has titled several works, in which he combines sculptural fragments from different time periods into a new piece (inspired by Regan’s ability to spin her head all the way around), after lines spoken by Regan when she is possessed by the demon. The film “was shown to Vo by his horror-film-obsessed mother at the age of seven, when it no doubt made a terrifyingly indelible impression,” exhibition curator Katherine Brinson notes. “The film’s interrogation of religious faith and doubt, its depiction of the appropriated and dislocated body, and its themes of parental nurture and neglect can all be similarly traced in the artist’s work.” He also gave them unusual titles just so curators and critics would have to mention them. Thus, Your mother sucks cocks in Hell; Dimmy, why you did this to me?; and Shove it up your ass, you faggot! combine Roman marble from the first to second century with French Early Gothic oak. In addition, Lick me, lick me consists of part of a Greek-marble Apollo in a wooden crate, and another work features a wall of mirrors engraved with more quotes, as if they’re being spoken directly to the viewer. I’ve seen The Exorcist three times; twice it scared the hell out of me, but the middle time the audience and I laughed our heads off, as if it were a comedy. Which of course it’s not. As a bonus, on May 8 at 7:00 and 9:30, the experimental California band Xiu Xiu will present “Deforms the Unborn,” a new, extended song inspired by demonic possession in general and Vo’s use of The Exorcist specifically.
If you’re the kind of moviegoer who likes to be challenged by outrageous genre films and undiscovered gems that provide unique experiences, What the Fest!? might be just the festival you’ve been looking for. Creative director Maria Reinup and executive director Raphaela Neihausen have put together four days of programming at IFC Center meant to make you go, “What the —” The festival consists of ten films never before screened in New York City in addition to a sneak preview of the upcoming series The Terror starring Jared Harris, who will be on hand to talk about the project with executive producers Soo Hugh and David Kajganich. Opening night features the science lecture “Death by Thousand Bites” by biology professor Simon Garnier, followed by Coralie Fargeat’s debut thriller, Revenge, and a reception. Among the other presentations are the world premiere of Boiled Angels: The Trial of Mike Dana, followed by a Q&A with director Frank Henenlotter, comics legend Mike Dana, and producers Anthony Sneed and Mike Hunchback; the Scandinavian Gothic tale Valley of Shadows, followed by a Q&A with cowriter and director Jonas Matzow Gulbrandsen; The Endless, a twist on cults, followed by a Q&A with stars and codirectors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead; the Indonesian smash hit Satan’s Slaves, Joko Anwar’s horror remake; and the restoration of Marek Piestrak’s Estonian adventure flick Curse of Snakes Valley. What the Fest!? concludes Sunday night with Jenn Wexler’s teen-punk The Ranger, followed by a Q&A with Wexler and producer and costar — and low-budget master — Larry Fessenden.
Who: Mel Brooks
What: Film clips and reminiscences by a comedy legend
Where: Temple Emanu-El Streicker Center, One East 65th St. at Fifth Ave., 212-507-9580
When: Wednesday, May 9, $99, 7:00
Why: “Look, I really don’t want to wax philosophic, but I will say that if you’re alive, you got to flap your arms and legs, you got to jump around a lot, you got to make a lot of noise, because life is the very opposite of death. And therefore, as I see it, if you’re quiet, you’re not living. . . . You’ve got to be noisy, or at least your thoughts should be noisy and colorful and lively.” So says the noisy and colorful and lively Brooklyn-born Melvin Kaminsky, better known as comedy legend Mel Brooks. The ninety-one-year-old Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony winner, the genius behind such films as Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles, The Producers, and Silent Movie, is returning to the Temple Emanu-El Streicker Center with his one-man show, an evening of anecdotes, film clips, stand-up, and personal stories from his life and career. The $150 reserved seats are sold out, but there are still $99 general admission tickets for this rare chance to see and hear Brooks in person, in a unique venue that directly relates to one of his most-memed quotes: “I may be angry at God or at the world, and I’m sure that a lot of my comedy is based on anger and hostility. It comes from a feeling that as a Jew and as a person, I don’t fit into the mainstream of American society. Feeling different, feeling alienated, feeling persecuted, feeling that the only way you can deal with the world is to laugh — because if you don’t laugh, you’re going to cry and never stop crying — that’s probably what’s responsible for the Jews’ having developed such a great sense of humor. The people who had the greatest reason to weep learned more than anyone else how to laugh.”