VERTIGO (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)
Rubin Museum of Art
150 West 17th St. at Seventh Ave.
Friday, January 20, $10, 9:30
Series continues Friday nights through April 28
The Rubin Museum Cabaret Cinema series “Perception” continues January 20 with Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 mind-altering, fetishistic psychological thriller, Vertigo. Based on Boileau-Narcejac’s 1954 novel, D’entre les morts, the film delves deep into the nature of fear and obsession. Jimmy Stewart stars as John “Scottie” Ferguson, a police detective who retires after his acrophobia leads to the death of a fellow cop. An old college classmate, wealthy businessman Gavin Elster (Tom Holmore), asks Scottie to look into his wife’s odd behavior; Elster believes that Madeleine (Kim Novak) is being inhabited by the spirit of Carlotta Valdes, her great-grandmother, a woman who committed suicide in her mid-twenties, the same age that Madeleine is now. Scottie follows Madeleine as she goes to Carlotta’s grave, visits a portrait of her in a local museum, and jumps into San Francisco Bay. Scottie rescues her, brings her to his house, and starts falling in love with her. But on a visit to Mission San Juan Bautista, tragedy strikes when Scottie can’t get to the top of the tower because of his vertigo. After a stint in a sanatorium, he wanders the streets of San Francisco where he and Madeleine had fallen in love, as if hoping to see a ghost — and when he indeed finds a woman who reminds him of Madeleine, a young woman named Judy Barton (Novak), he can’t help but try to turn her into his lost love, with tragedy waiting in the wings once again.
Vertigo is a twisted tale of sexual obsession, much of it filmed in San Francisco, making the City by the Bay a character all its own as Scottie travels down Lombard St., takes Madeleine to Muir Woods, stops by Ernie’s, and saves Madeleine under the Golden Gate Bridge. The color scheme is almost shocking, with bright, bold blues, reds, and especially greens dominating scenes. Hitchcock, of course, famously had a thing for blondes, so it’s hard not to think of Stewart as his surrogate when Scottie insists that Judy dye her hair blonde. Color is also central to Scottie’s psychedelic nightmare (designed by artist John Ferren), a Spirographic journey through his mind and down into a grave. Cinematographer Robert Burks’s use of the dolly zoom, in which the camera moves on a dolly in the opposite direction of the zoom, keeps viewers sitting on the edge of their seats, adding to the fierce tension, along with Bernard Herrmann’s frightening score. Despite their age difference, there is pure magic between Stewart, forty-nine, and Novak, twenty-four. (Stewart and Novak next made Bell, Book, and Candle as part of the deal to let Novak work for Paramount while under contract to Columbia.) The production was fraught with problems: The screenplay went through Maxwell Anderson, Alec Coppel, and finally Samuel A. Taylor; shooting was delayed by Hitchcock’s health and vacations taken by Stewart and Novak; a pregnant Vera Miles was replaced by Novak; Muir Matheson conducted the score in Europe, instead of Herrmann in Hollywood, because of a musicians’ strike; associate producer Herbert Coleman reshot one scene using the wrong lens; Hitchcock had to have a bell tower built atop Mission San Juan Bautista after a fire destroyed its steeple; and the studio fought for a lame alternate ending (which was filmed). Perhaps all those difficulties, in the end, helped make Vertigo the classic it is today, gaining in stature over the decades, from mixed reviews when it opened to a controversial restoration in 1996 to being named the best film of all time in Sight & Sound’s 2012 poll to a recent digital restoration.
Vertigo is screening January 20 at 9:30 at the Rubin as part of “Perception,” which asks the questions “Can the truth truly be trusted? Is it objective or rather tinted by our experience and memories?” The series, part of the museum’s always innovative Brainwave programming, continues through April 28 with such other mind-bending films as Spike Jonze’s Her, Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and the Wachowskis’ The Matrix, with all shows introduced by a scientific expert. Brainwave, meanwhile, features such talks as David Nichtern, Ethan Nichtern, and Samantha Boardman discussing “Can there be such a thing as mindful politics?” on February 1, Walter Murch and Heather Berlin answering the question “How is movie magic made?” on February 4, and Khentrul Thokmeth Rinpoche and Gaëlle Desbordes wondering, “Can meditation change the world?” on March 12.
WILLIAM KENTRIDGE: TRIUMPHS AND LAMENTS (Giovanni Troilo, 2016)
Film Society of Lincoln Center, Walter Reade Theater
165 West 65th St. at Amsterdam Ave.
Tuesday, January 17, 6:00, and Thursday, January 19, 4:15
New York Jewish Film Festival runs January 11-24
South African multimedia artist William Kentridge has made animated short films, designed and directed operas, performed one-man shows, delivered the Norton Lecture at Harvard, and exhibited works (including drawing, video, sculpture, and installation) around the world. Italian director and photographer Giovanni Troilo documents one of Kentridge’s grandest, most ambitious projects in William Kentridge: Triumphs and Laments, having its world premiere at the New York Jewish Film Festival this week. For more than a dozen years, Kentridge and site-specific artist and curator Kristin Jones were involved in planning “Triumphs and Laments: A Project for Rome,” a mural and live procession along a more-than-five-hundred-yard stretch of the Tiber River celebrating the history of the Eternal City. But Kentridge adds his own subtle sociopolitical twist, as he has done throughout his career with such works as his series of films about Soho Eckstein and Felix Teitlebaum. “The glories of imperial Rome were only possible through unbelievable and unbearable acts of cruelty, enacted on a massive scale,” he explains in the documentary, noting that he will link such disparate characters as Romulus and Remus with Pier Paolo Pasolini among the ninety figures. “Every colonial empire is there only through enormous acts of violence. The great things that were built, they’re always on the back of other people.” Part of Tevereterno, “a multidisciplinary cultural project for the revival of Rome’s Tiber River,” founded by artistic director Jones in 2001, “Triumphs and Laments” becomes enmeshed in a labyrinth of bureaucracy as an ever-more-emotional Jones fights for permits amid an ever-changing local government while Kentridge battles to get every detail just right, from the large-scale stencil drawings to the pacing of the procession. Wearing his trademark black pants and white button-down shirt, Kentridge is shown driving around his hometown of Johannesburg, describing his process in his studio, taking a boat ride along the Tiber, listening to longtime collaborator Philip Miller’s orchestration, and continually worrying about the potential realization of the project, up to the very last minute. At one point Jones and Kentridge bump into the mayor, who is riding his bike in the area; the chance meeting seems serendipitous until scandal forces the municipal head from office.
A fascinating theorist with an unpredictable sense of humor, Kentridge explains that his main goal is to “try to find the triumph in the lament and the lament in the triumph,” saying that “it only works if it’s possible to have an irreverence for the history.” Troilo also speaks with Miller, co-composer Thuthuka Sibisi, and others who offer their thoughts about working with Kentridge and the specifics of the project, one that will be temporary, since the procession is a one-time-only event and the stencils will eventually fade away, much like parts of Roman history. Kentridge, who was the subject of a major retrospective, “Five Themes,” at MoMA in 2010, is always a joy to watch, and that is as true as ever here in Rome, as he conducts another unique and unusual work as only he can. William Kentridge: Triumphs and Laments is screening on January 17 and 19 at the Walter Reade Theater, with producer Andrea Patierno participating in Q&As following each show. The twenty-sixth annual New York Jewish Film Festival, a joint production of the Jewish Museum and the Film Society of Lincoln Center, continues through January 24 with more than three dozen programs, from new fiction and nonfiction films to special tributes to Valeska Gert and the duo of Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder and a master class with Israeli documentarian Tomer Heymann.
VINCE GIORDANO: THERE’S A FUTURE IN THE PAST (Dave Davidson & Amber Edwards, 2016)
22 East 12th St. between University Pl. & Fifth Ave.
Opens Friday, January 13
Nearly twelve years ago, I met with bandleader, musician, archivist, and historian Vince Giordano for a profile I was writing for the now-defunct New York Sun. “It’s really sad to say, but America has been a culture of, ‘If it’s old, it’s no good anymore.’ And I think that’s unfortunate,” the Brooklyn-born Giordano carefully explained. “A lot of stuff just gets swept aside. For many, many years, I was kind of the lone wolf out there, just plugging with this music. It’s a shame. Classic things don’t get outdated or old; they’re still great.” Giordano’s celebration of and dedication to the classic Jazz Age music of the 1920s and 1930s is on full display in Dave Davidson and Amber Edwards’s documentary, Vince Giordano: There’s a Future in the Past, which opens January 13 at Cinema Village. The film follows Giordano and his band, the Nighthawks, as they play live concerts and perform music for major Hollywood films. Giordano also shows off his vast collection of more than sixty thousand musical arrangements. Giordano, Davidson, and Edwards will be at Cinema Village for Q&As following the 7:00 and 9:00 screenings January 13, 14, and 15; in addition, Davidson will be joined by sound designer Paul Kozel for Q&As January 13 at 3:00 and January 18 at 7:00. You can also catch Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks every Monday and Tuesday night at 8:00 doing their swing thing at Iguana NYC on West Fifty-Fourth St. Keep watching this space for a full review of the documentary.
THE WOMEN’S BALCONY (Emil Ben-Shimon, 2016)
Film Society of Lincoln Center, Walter Reade Theater
165 West 65th St. at Amsterdam Ave.
Saturday, January 14, 7:00, and Tuesday, January 17, 3:30
New York Jewish Film Festival runs January 11-24
Judaism may be matrilineal, but that doesn’t mean that women are treated as equal to men, especially among sects espousing fundamentalist religious beliefs, although women are considered holier than men in Orthodox communities. In Emil Ben-Shimon’s absolutely wonderful debut feature, The Women’s Balcony, that all comes to a head when wives, mothers, girlfriends, and daughters, relegated to a balcony in the back of a small, local shul — as if on a pedestal, farther away from the Torah but closer to G-d — come crashing down when the structure breaks, suddenly putting them on the same level as the men. It’s no coincidence that this happens during an Orthodox bar mitzvah, when a boy becomes a man, which is much different from an orthodox bat mitzvah, when a girl becomes a woman. When a fundamentalist rabbi from a nearby congregation offers to help rebuild the Mizrahi synagogue, the place of women in the shul are far from his main concern, leading to a furious and delightful battle of the sexes. With the elderly Rabbi Menashe (Abraham Celektar) flustered because the accident has left his wife in a coma, Rabbi David (Avraham Aviv Alush) is only too happy to step in, demanding further separation between the men and the women, which causes problems for such couples as gabbai Aharon (Itzik Cohen) and Tikva (Orna Banai); mild-mannered Nissan (Herzi Tobey) and Margalit (Einat Sarouf); and warmhearted shopkeeper Zion (Igal Naor) and Etti (Evelin Hagoel), who have a terrific marriage and equal partnership until things start changing at the shul. Meanwhile, everyone is hoping that Yaffa (Yafit Asulin) finds the right man as she expands her dating search, until she and Rabbi David’s assistant (Assaf Ben Shimon) take an interest in each other, a potential Romeo and Juliet romance.
The Women’s Balcony was written by first-time screenwriter Shlomit Nehama, Ben-Shimon’s ex-wife, who was inspired by the religious extremism she saw in an Israeli neighborhood where she had once lived. The film evokes such sweet-natured favorites as Local Hero and Waking Ned Devine as well as Aristophanes’s Lysistrata as the women fight for their rights. Ben-Shimon (Mimon, Wild Horses) maintains an infectious pace throughout, as cinematographer Ziv Berkovich puts the audience right in the middle of the action, accompanied by Ahuva Ozeri and Shaul Besser’s playful, Jewish-flavored score. Naor and Hagoel are outstanding as Zion and Etti, the emotional center of the film, a lovely couple with a bright view of life, at least until exclusion and sexism get in the way. Asulin is excellent as Yaffa, the young woman who is part of the next generation of Judaism — and who is not extremely knowledgeable about her religion. But even when situations are at their most tense, Nehama and Ben-Shimon keep it all lighthearted; if only more religious (and marital) disputes could be handled with such grace and wit.
Nominated for five Israeli Academy Awards, including Banai for Best Supporting Actress, Rona Doron for Best Costume Design, Vered Mevorach for Best Makeup, the late Ozeri (who passed away last month at the age of sixty-eight) and Besser for Best Score, and Alush for Best Supporting Actor, The Women’s Balcony is screening January 14 and 17 at the New York Jewish Film Festival, with Ben-Shimon participating in a Q&A after both shows. The twenty-sixth annual New York Jewish Film Festival, a joint production of the Jewish Museum and the Film Society of Lincoln Center, runs January 11-24, with more than three dozen programs, from new fiction and nonfiction films to special tributes to Valeska Gert and the duo of Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder and a master class with Israeli documentarian Tomer Heymann.
In 1983, the third Monday in January was officially recognized as Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, honoring the birthday of the civil rights leader who was assassinated in Memphis on April 4, 1968. Dr. King would have turned eighty-eight this month, and you can celebrate his legacy on Monday by participating in a Martin Luther King, Jr., Day of Service project or attending one of numerous special events taking place around the city. Below are some of the highlights:
Saturday, January 14
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Celebration: Historic Heroines: Coretta Scott King, 11:00 am, 2:00, 3:00; Muslim Arts Series: Many Tunes, One Melody, 5:00 & 6:00, Children’s Museum of Manhattan, 212 West 83rd St., $8-$12
Action in a Time of Injustice: MLK Salon with Yavilah McCoy, JCC Harlem, JCC in Manhattan, 334 Amsterdam Ave., $5, 6:45
Sunday, January 15
MLK, Jr., I Have a Dream Celebration: Totally Tots Studio — Meet the Artist, 10:00 am; Holding History: MLK’s Life, 11:00 am; Protest Posters, 11:00 am; DNA Bracelets, 12 noon; MLK, Jr. Cinema, Our Friend, Martin (Rob Smiley & Vincenzo Trippetti, 1999), 11:00 am, 3:30; Story Time at BCM: Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other books, 1:30 & 3:00, Brooklyn Children’s Museum, 145 Brooklyn Ave., $11
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Celebration: Historic Heroines: Coretta Scott King, 11:00 am, 12 noon, 2:00, 3:00, 4:00, Children’s Museum of Manhattan, 212 West 83rd St., $8-$12
Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Concert: Soul to Soul, with Lisa Fishman, Cantor Magda Fishman, Elmore James, Tony Perry, and musical director Zalmen Mlotek, presented by National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene, Museum of Jewish Heritage, 36 Battery Pl., $20-$28, 2:00
Special Presentation: Moonlight (Barry Jenkins, 2016), screening followed by Q&A, JCC Harlem, JCC in Manhattan, 334 Amsterdam Ave., $5, 5:30
Monday, January 16
MLK, Jr., I Have a Dream Celebration: Totally Tots Studio — Meet the Artist, learn about Kehinde Wiley, 10:00 am; Love, Hope & Peace Postcards, 11:00 am; I Have a Dream Totes, 12 noon ($5); Brooklyn United Marching Band – Celebrating the Dream Performance, 2:00; Story Time at BCM: Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and others, 1:30 & 3:00; Freedom Hands, 2:00, Brooklyn Children’s Museum, 145 Brooklyn Ave., $11
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Celebration: Martin’s Mosaic, 10:00 am, 1:00 pm; Historic Heroines: Coretta Scott King, 11:00 am, 12 noon, 4:00; KaNu Dance Theater, 2:00 & 3:00, Children’s Museum of Manhattan, 212 West 83rd St., $8-$12
Brooklyn Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: Thirty-first annual celebration, with keynote speaker Opal Tometi, the Institutional Radio Choir, and Sacred Steel band the Campbell Brothers, Peter Jay Sharp Building, BAM Howard Gilman Opera House, 30 Lafayette Ave., free, 10:30 am; screening of Ava DuVernay’s 13th, BAM Rose Cinemas, free, 1:00; launch of Frederick Douglass in Brooklyn with readings by Carl Hancock Rux, commentary by Theodore Hamm, and audience Q&A, BAM Fisher lower lobby, 321 Ashland Pl., free, 1:00
MLK Express Yourself Day, create signs with your own poster board, Old Stone House, 336 Third St., free, 11:00 am - 4:00 pm
The World Famous Harlem Gospel Choir Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Matinee, B. B. King Blues Club & Grill, 237 West 42nd St., $25-$30 (plus $10 minimum per person at tables), 12:30
What’s Your Dream? Martin Luther King Jr. Day Family Program: reading of Kobi Yamada’s What Do You Do with an Idea?, broadcast of King speech, and art workshop, Museum at Eldridge Street, 12 Eldridge St., free, 1:00 – 2:30
MLK Day Screening: The Negro and the American Promise (1963), Museum of the Moving Image, Redstone Theater, 36-01 35th Ave., $7-$15 (includes admission to galleries), 3:00
Artists Celebrate Dr. King’s Legacy: Featuring Sweet Honey in the Rock, JCC in Manhattan, 334 Amsterdam Ave., $5, 5:00
Special Presentation: Moonlight (Barry Jenkins, 2016), screening followed by Q&A, JCC Harlem, JCC in Manhattan, 334 Amsterdam Ave., $5, 7:30
Martin Luther King, Jr. Evening Show: A Decade of Soul, classic soul & Motown revue, preceded by Aretha Franklin Tribute feat. “Lady Jae” Jones & the Decade of Soul Band featuring Bruce “Big Daddy” Wayne and special guest Prentiss McNeil of the Drifters, $20-$25 (plus $10 minimum per person at tables), B. B. King Blues Club & Grill, 237 West 42nd St., 7:30
CINÉSALON: DELICATESSEN (Marc Caro & Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 1991)
French Institute Alliance Française, Florence Gould Hall
55 East 59th St. between Madison & Park Aves.
Tuesday, January 10, $13, 4:00 & 7:30
Series continues Tuesdays through February 21
Following a rather rough 2016, the world doesn’t seem to be as funny as it once was. FIAF is trying to do something about it with its first CinéSalon series of 2017, “Comedy on Film: What Makes the French Laugh?” Running on Tuesday nights through February 21 — without a hint of Jerry Lewis in sight — the festival kicks off January 10 with Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s delicious debut, Delicatessen. In a bizarre, postapocalyptic future, one apartment complex is surviving via its ground-floor butcher shop, where landlord Clapet (Jean-Claude Dreyfus) carefully wields his giant cleaver, hiring desperate, lonely men to do odd jobs for him before carving them up and selling their flesh and bones to his hungry customers. His latest potential victim is Louison (Dominique Pinon), a mild-mannered clown struggling to get by. But when Clapet’s shy daughter, Julie (Marie-Laure Dougnac), takes a liking to Louison, the butcher has to decide whether someone else should be their next meal. Meanwhile, Aurore Interligator (Silvie Laguna) keeps devising Rube Goldberg-esque ways to kill herself, Marcel Tapioca (Ticky Holgado) tries to prevent Clapet from making mincemeat of his mother-in-law (Edith Kerr), Frog Man (Howard Vernon) has come up with his own curious menu, Clapet gives special treatment to sexpot Mademoiselle Plusse (Karin Viard), and an underground group of Troglodistes are preparing for revolution.
Inspired by the work of Terry Gilliam, Delicatessen is a brilliant audiovisual feast, with every sound and image orchestrated for maximum absurdity, courtesy of cinematographer Darius Khondji (Seven, Stealing Beauty), longtime Marguerite Duras composer Carlos d’Alessio (India Song, The Children), and art director Miljen Kreka Klakovic (The Pillars of the Earth, The Order). Caro also did the gorgeous production design and makes a cameo as Fox. Several scenes turn into wildly inventive, hysterical musical numbers with a vaudevillian sensibility. Winner of four César Awards, the film is wickedly funny, taking place in a grim, fantastical, surreal vision of the future that is part Road Warrior, part Brazil, part Monty Python, where even methods of surveillance are downright strange. The cast is appropriately weird, none more so than Caro and Jeunet regular Pinon and his familiar, oddball face. The directors went on to collaborate on the stunning sci-fi gem The City of Lost Children before going their separate ways, Jeunet making such films as Alien: Resurrection, A Very Long Engagment, and Amélie and Caro writing and directing Dante 01. A twenty-fifth anniversary digital restoration of Delicatessen is screening January 10 at 4:00 and 7:30; “Comedy on Film: What Makes the French Laugh?” continues through February 21 with such other French laugh fests as Mohamed Hamidi’s One Man and His Cow, Jean-Christophe Meurisses’s Apnée, Michel Hazanavicius’s OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies, and Quentin Dupieux’s Reality, with each show followed by a reception and the 7:30 show introduced by a special guest.