This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001


The Booksellers

Rare-book dealers such as Adam Weinberger scour through private homes to find buried treasure in The Booksellers

THE BOOKSELLERS (D. W. Young, 2019)
Film Society of Lincoln Center, Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center
144 West 65th St. between Broadway & Amsterdam Ave.
Monday, October 7, Francesca Beale Theater, 6:00
Wednesday, October 9, Howard Gilman Theater, 8:30
Festival runs September 27 - October 13

D. W. Young’s wonderfully literate documentary The Booksellers is making its world premiere at the New York Film Festival, screening on October 7 at 6:00 and October 9 at 8:30, followed by Q&As with D. W. Young and producers Judith Mizrachy and Dan Wechsler. The film follows the exploits of a wide-ranging group of dedicated bibliophiles who treasure books as unique works of art, buying, selling, and collecting them not merely for the money but for the thrill of it. “The relationship of the individual to the book is very much like a love affair,” Americana collector Michael Zinman explains. Among those who share their thoughts on books are Fran Lebowitz, Susan Orlean, and the owners of such New York City bookstores as Imperial Fine Books, Left Bank Books, the Argosy Book Store, and the Strand. Look for my full review to be posted when the film debuts Monday night.


JR (French, born 1983). The Chronicles of New York City, 2018–19 (detail). Dimensions variable. © JR-ART.NET

JR, detail, The Chronicles of New York City, 2018–19 (© JR-ART.NET)

Brooklyn Museum
200 Eastern Parkway at Washington St.
Saturday, October 5, free (some events require advance tickets), 5:00 - 11:00

The Brooklyn Museum parties with Latinx pride in the October edition of its free First Saturday program. There will be live performances by Edna Vazquez and DJ Bobbito García with Los Nativos de Brooklyn and others; a paper-based collage workshop inspired by works with text in “Nobody Promised You Tomorrow: Art 50 Years After Stonewall”; a screening of Bobbito García’s 2018 documentary Rock Rubber 45s, followed by a talkback with García; a letter-writing campaign with the Queer Detainee Empowerment Project, facilitated by Ian Zdanowicz; an Inside Out photo booth inspired by “JR: Chronicles,” with images wheatpasted in the museum; a salsa party with Balmir Latin Dance Studio; the launch of the third volume of Camilo Godoy’s zine Amigxs, with readings and performances by Joshua Allen, Karlo Bueno Bello, Brian Carlos Contratto, ELSZ, and Cristóbal Guerra; and a demonstration, performance, and discussion with Bombazo Dance Co called “Uniting Diaspora, Making That Drum Talk!” In addition, the galleries will be open late so you can check out “Garry Winogrand: Color,” “Nobody Promised You Tomorrow: Art 50 Years After Stonewall,” “Jen Catron and Paul Outlaw: ‘Sin(k)’ and ‘B.S.O. (Bright Shiny Object),’” “One: Titus Kaphar,” “Pierre Cardin: Future Fashion,” “Infinite Blue,” “Rembrandt to Picasso: Five Centuries of European Works on Paper,” and more.


Peter Brook (photo ©-Marian Adreani)

Peter Brook will be celebrated at several events during the Downtown Brooklyn Arts Festival this weekend (photo ©-Marian Adreani)

Brooklyn Cultural District
The Plaza at 300 Ashland and other locations
October 4-6, free - $115

Downtown Brooklyn is the place to be this weekend for the Downtown Brooklyn Arts Festival, taking place around the Plaza at 300 Ashland from Friday to Saturday. There will be an African drum circle, live music and dance, talks and discussions, theater, glass-making demonstrations, film screenings, classes, treasure hunts, art exhibitions, and more; while many events are free, others require ticketing at BAM, Theatre for a New Audience, the Mark Morris Dance Center, and the New York Transit Museum, among others. Below are some of the highlights.

Friday, October 4
Kickoff with live performance by Soul Tigers Marching Band and dance party with Soul Summit, the Plaza at 300 Ashland, free, 5:00 - 8:00

Free Demonstration Night: The Two-Part Mold, with Kellie Krouse and Jeffrey Close, UrbanGlass, free, 6:00 - 9:00

Peter Brook\NY, with Paul Auster, Marie-Hélène Estienne, and Jeffrey Horowitz, Center for Fiction, $10 (includes $10 off at bookstore), 7:00

Pop-Up: An Artistic Treasure Hunt, by Strike Anywhere and the Tours Soundpainting Orchestra, Fort Greene, free, 7:00

Saturday, October 5
African Drum Circle with Mr. Fitz, the Plaza at 300 Ashland, free, 11:00

NYTM Train Operators Workshop, New York Transit Museum, free with museum admission, 11:30 & 3:30

Dance: Pas de Deux, with Brooklyn Ballet, set to Jean-Phillippe Rameau’s “Gavotte et Six Doubles,” the Plaza at 300 Ashland, free, 2:00

Rhys Chatham: The Sun Too Close to the Earth / Jonathan Kane and Zeena Parkins: Oh, Suzanne, ISSUE Project Room, $20-$25, 8:00

Sunday, October 6
Dance: Tribal Truth, in collaboration with Jamel Gaines Creative Outlet, the Plaza at 300 Ashland, free, 12:00

MC Oddissee, the Plaza at 300 Ashland, free, 1:00

Brooklyn Navy Yard: Past, Present & Future Tour, $15-$30, 2:00

Pop-Up: Nkiru Books, with DJ set by Talib Kweli, the Plaza at 300 Ashland, free, 2:00 - 5:00


He Walked by Night

Richard Basehart hides in the shadows in noir procedural He Walked by Night

HE WALKED BY NIGHT (Alfred L. Werker, 1948)
Film Society of Lincoln Center
Howard Gilman Theater, Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center
144 West 65th St. between Broadway & Amsterdam Ave.
Tuesday, October 1, 9:00
Festival runs September 27 - October 13

Alfred L. Werker’s 1948 noir police procedural, He Walked by Night, might not be extremely well known, but its influence was pervasive. The plot is relatively straightforward: A small-time thief and electronics expert who goes by the name Roy Martin (Richard Basehart) kills a police officer in cold blood and the LAPD mobilizes into action to first uncover the murderer’s identity and then capture him. Capt. Breen (Roy Roberts) assigns Sgt. Marty Brennan (Scott Brady) and Sgt. Chuck Jones (James Cardwell) to the case; they regularly meet with Lee Whitney (Jack Webb), who runs the Crime Investigation Lab, the 1940s equivalent of a modern-day forensic scientist. The detectives catch a break when electronics dealer Paul Reeves (Whit Bissell) contacts them after finding out a man he’s been doing business with has been bringing him stolen equipment. Martin is always one step ahead of the police, avoiding capture with a cool confidence, but as Whitney comes up with an innovative way to figure out what Martin looks like, the heat is turned up.

He Walked by Night

He Walked by Night influenced Jack Webb (far right) to make Dragnet

Written by John C. Higgins and Crane Wilbur, He Walked by Night features narration by Reed Hadley that sounds like it came right out of the police dispatcher’s files — and predates Dragnet by one year. In fact, this film, inspired by the true story of Erwin “Machine Gun” Walker, directly led to Webb making Dragnet, first as a radio show beginning in 1949 and then as a television series two years later, with Webb as executive producer and starring as the straitlaced Sgt. Joe Friday. (You can’t help but laugh when Capt. Breen calls for a “dragnet” to be cast.) Basehart (La Strada, Moby Dick) is cool and collected as the killer, especially in a scene in which he operates on himself after getting shot, channeling Anthony Quinn as Juan Martínez in The Ox-Bow Incident. And the grand finale in the underground LA storm drains influenced the scenes in the Vienna sewers in Carol Reed’s 1949 classic The Third Man. An uncredited Anthony Mann (Border Incident, Cimarron) directed several key scenes, and Hungarian cinematographer John Alton (An American in Paris, Elmer Gantry) bathes the film in cunning shadows. The film is screening October 1 at 9:00 in the Retrospective section of the New York Film Festival, which focuses on the work of cinematographers in such films as The Godfather: Part II, The Grapes of Wrath, and Street Angel.


The Passion of Anna

Andreas Winkelman (von Sydow) and Anna Fromm (Liv Ullmann) seek love, companionship, and the truth in Ingmar Bergman’s The Passion of Anna

THE PASSION OF ANNA (Ingmar Bergman, 1969)
Film Society of Lincoln Center
Howard Gilman Theater, Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center
144 West 65th St. between Broadway & Amsterdam Ave.
Wednesday, October 2, 6:30
Festival runs September 27 - October 13

The New York Film Festival’s Retrospective tribute to cinematographers continues October 2 with The Passion of Anna, the conclusion to Ingmar Bergman’s unofficial island trilogy that began with Hour of the Wolf and Shame, each work filmed on Fårö island and starring Liv Ullmann and Max von Sydow as a couple. Bergman throws caution to the wind in the film, the Swedish title of which is the more direct and honest The Passion. The 1969 film was made while Bergman and Ullmann’s personal relationship was ending, and it shows. The film opens with Andreas Winkelman (von Sydow) trying to repair his leaking roof. A divorcé, he lives by himself on the island, treasuring his isolation as he smokes his pipe and goes about his basic business. But when Anna Fromm (Ullmann) stops by to use his phone, he gets swept up into Anna’s drama — her husband and child were recently killed in an accident that left her with a bad leg — and that of her best friends, Elis Vergerus (Erland Josephson) and his wife, Eva (Bibi Andersson). Suddenly Andreas is going to dinner parties, taking in a puppy, and getting involved in the mysterious case of a rash of animal killings, which some are blaming on off-kilter local resident Johan Andersson (Erik Hell). And the more his privacy is invaded, the worse it all could become.

For the first time, Bergman, a perfectionist of the highest order, allowed improvisation in several scenes. He gives each actor a few minutes to describe their characters during the film, breaking the fourth wall, while also adding his own narration. “Has Ingmar Bergman made a picture about his cast, or has his cast made a picture about Ingmar Bergman?” the original American trailer asks. Cinematographer extraordinaire Sven Nykvist (The Sacrifice, Persona) uses a handheld camera while switching between black-and-white and color, occasionally focusing on dazzling silhouettes and close-ups that are challenged by the stark reds of a blazing fire and Anna’s hat and the bold blues of the sky and Anna’s penetrating eyes, all splendidly edited by Siv Lundgren. Bergman tackles such regular subjects as God, infidelity, dreams, war, and loneliness with a slow build that threatens to explode at any moment. The film is also very much about the search for truth, both in real life and cinema. It might be called The Passion of Anna, but there is an overarching coldness that pervades everything. The finale is sensational, the scene going out of focus until virtually nothing is left. The Passion of Anna is screening on October 2 at 6:30 at the Howard Gilman Theater; the NYFF57 Retrospective sidebar runs through October 10 with such other visual dazzlers as Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven, Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man, and Robert Altman’s McCabe & Mrs. Miller.


Free Time

Manfred Kirchheimer’s Free Time is having its world premiere this weekend at the New York Film Festival

FREE TIME (Manfred Kirchheimer, 2019)
Film Society of Lincoln Center
Francesca Beale Theater, Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center
144 West 65th St. between Broadway & Amsterdam Ave.
Sunday, September 29, 6:15
Festival runs September 27 - October 13

Eighty-eight-year-old Manfred Kirchheimer will be at Lincoln Center’s Francesca Beale Theater tonight to screen and discuss his latest work, the subtly dazzling Free Time, which had its world premiere yesterday in the Spotlight on Documentary section of the fifty-seventh annual New York Film Festival. The German-born, New York-raised Kirchheimer has taken 16mm black-and-white footage he and Walter Hess shot between 1958 and 1960 in such neighborhoods as Hell’s Kitchen, Washington Heights, Inwood, Queens, and the Upper East Side and turned it into an exquisite city symphony reminiscent of Helen Levitt, Janice Loeb, and James Agee’s classic 1948 short In the Street, which sought to “capture . . . an image of human existence.” Kirchheimer does just that, following a day in the life of New York as kids play stickball, a group of older people set up folding chairs on the sidewalk and read newspapers and gossip, a worker disposes of piles of flattened boxes, laundry hangs from clotheslines between buildings, a woman cleans the outside of her windows while sitting on the ledge, a fire rages at a construction site, and a homeless man pushes his overstuffed cart.

Kirchheimer and Hess focus on shadows under the el train tracks, gargoyles on building facades, smoke emerging from sewer grates, old cars stacked at a junkyard, and grave markers at a cemetery as jazz and classical music is played by Count Basie (“On the Sunny Side of the Street,” “Sandman”), John Lewis (“The Festivals,” “Sammy”), Bach (“The Well Tempered Klavier, Book 1 — Fugue in B flat minor”), Ravel (Sonata for Violin & Cello), and others, with occasional snatches of street sounds. The title of the film is an acknowledgment of a different era, when people actually had free time, now a historical concept with constant electronic contact through social media and the internet and the desperate need for instant gratification. Kirchheimer, whose Dream of a City was shown at last year’s festival and whose poetic Stations of the Elevated was part of the 1981 fest (but not released theatrically until 2014), directed and edited Free Time and did the sound, and it’s a leisurely paced audiovisual marvel. The only unfortunate thing is that is only an hour long; I could have watched it for days. The film is screening September 29 at 6:15, preceded by the fifteen-minute Suite No. 1, Prelude, Nicholas Ma’s tribute to his father, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, with both Kirchheimer and Ma participating in a Q&A afterward.


For Sama

Waad al-Kateab documents daily life under constant bombardment in Aleppo in For Sama

FOR SAMA (Waad al-Kateab & Edward Watts, 2019)
BAMfilm, BAM Rose Cinemas
30 Lafayette Ave. between Ashland Pl. & St. Felix St.
Saturday, September 28, 7:00
Series runs September 27 - October 2

“You’re the most beautiful thing in our life, but what a life I’ve brought you into. You didn’t choose this. Will you ever forgive me?” Waad al-Kateab asks in the extraordinary documentary For Sama. In 2012 during the Arab Spring, Waad, a marketing student at Aleppo University, joined the protests against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. She started taking photos and cell-phone video, then got a film camera as she became a citizen journalist, documenting the escalating conflict, trying to find moments of joy amid the brutal, senseless murders of innocent men, women, and children. She met and fell in love with heroic doctor Hamza al-Kateab, who was determined to keep his hospital running as the bombings got closer. Waad and Hamza got married, and on January 1, 2016, she gave birth to a healthy girl, Sama.

The film, directed by Waad (who also served as cinematographer and producer) and Edward Watts (Escape from ISIS), is a poignant, unflinching confession from mother to daughter, explaining in graphic detail what the families of Aleppo are going through as Russian and Syrian forces and Islamic extremists maintain a constant attack. “We never thought the world would let this happen,” Waad explains as the body count rises — which she intimately shows, not shying away from shots of bloodied victims being brought into the hospital, a pile of dead children, or a desperate attempt to save the life of a mother and a newborn after an emergency caesarean. “I keep filming. It gives me a reason to be here. It makes the nightmares feel worthwhile,” Waad says.

She captures bombings as they happen, films families huddled inside their homes while machine guns can be heard outside, talks to a child who says he wants to be an architect when he grows up so he can rebuild Aleppo. Because she is a woman, Waad gains access to other women that would not be available to a male filmmaker as they share their stories of love and despair. Waad and Hamza plant a lovely garden to bring color to the dank, brown and gray city. A snowfall covers the turmoil in a beautiful sheet of white. The pitter-patter of rain offers a brief respite. But everything eventually gets destroyed as Waad and Hamza struggle with the choice of leaving with Sama or staying to continue their critical roles in the rebellion, she depicting the personal, heart-wrenching images of war — in 2016, her Inside Aleppo reports aired on British television — he tending to the ever-increasing wounded. “The happiness you brought was laced with fear,” Waad tells Sama in voiceover narration. “Our new life with you felt so fragile, as the freedom we felt in Aleppo.”

Winner of the Prix L’Œil d’Or for Best Documentary at Cannes among other awards, For Sama is screening September 28 at 7:00 in the BAM series “Contemporary Arab Cinema” and will be followed by a Q&A and book signing with journalist Sam Dagher, author of Assad or We Burn the Country. The series runs September 27 to October 2 and includes such other Arab films as Sameh Zoabi’s Tel Aviv on Fire, Mahmoud Ben Mahmoud’s Fatwa, and Nadine Labaki’s Capernaum.