BORN TO FLY: ELIZABETH STREB vs. GRAVITY (Catherine Gund, 2014)
Film Society of Lincoln Center, Walter Reade Theater
165 West 65th St. between Eighth Ave. & Broadway
Sunday, February 1, 3:20
Festival runs January 30 - February 3
Over the last several years, New Yorkers have gotten the chance to see Elizabeth Streb’s Extreme Action Company perform such dazzling works as Ascension at Gansevoort Plaza, Kiss the Air! at the Park Avenue Armory, and Human Fountain at World Financial Center Plaza as her team of gymnast-dancer-acrobats risk their physical well-being in daring feats of strength, stamina, durability, and grace. In addition, Streb herself walked down the outside wall of the Whitney as part of a tribute to one of her mentors, Trisha Brown. Now Catherine Gund takes viewers behind the scenes in the exhilarating documentary Born to Fly: Elizabeth Streb vs. Gravity, going deep into the mind of the endlessly inventive and adventurous extreme action architect and the courage and fearlessness of her company. Gund follows Streb as she discusses her childhood, her dance studies, the formation of STREB in 1985, and her carefully thought out views on space, line, and movement as her work stretches the limits of what the human body can do. “I think my original belief and desire is to see a human being fly,” Streb says near the beginning of the film, which includes archival footage of early performances, family photos, and a warm scene in which the Rochester-born Streb and her partner, Laura Flanders, host a dinner party in their apartment, cooking for Bill T. Jones, Bjorn Amelan, Anne Bogart, Catharine Stimpson, and A. M. Homes. Gund also speaks with current and past members of the talented, ever-enthusiastic company — associate artistic director Fabio Tavares, Sarah Callan, Jackie Carlson, Leonardo Giron, Felix Hess, Samantha Jakus, Cassandre Joseph, John Kasten, and Daniel Rysak — who talk about their dedication to Streb’s vision while using such words as “challenge,” “velocity,” “endurance,” “magic,” “invincibility,” and “risk” to describe what they do and how they feel about it.
Gund focuses on the latter, as virtually every one of Streb’s pieces is fraught with the possibility of serious injury, as evidenced by their titles alone: Fly, Impact, Rebound, Breakthru, and Ricochet, not to mention the use of such materials as spinning I-beams, plastic barricades, dangling harnesses, and a rotating metal ladder. “I have to be able to ask someone to do that and be okay about it. Those aren’t easy requests,” Streb explains. “Knowing where you are is how you survive the work,” adds former STREB dancer Hope Clark. Gund goes with Streb to her doctor, where the choreographer describes what happened to her gnarled feet, and also meets with former dancer DeeAnn Nelson Burton, who had to retire after breaking her back. The film concludes with an inside look at STREB’s spectacular “One Extraordinary Day,” a series of hair-raising site-specific events staged for the 2012 London Olympics at such locations as the Millennium Bridge, the London Eye, and the sphere-shaped city hall, photographed by documentary legend Albert Maysles. In her Kickstarter campaign, Gund (Motherland Afghanistan, A Touch of Greatness) said, “Action architect Elizabeth Streb has reinvented the language of movement. [Born to Fly] will rewrite the language of documentary.” That’s a bold declaration, but the film does have a lot of the same spirit that Streb displays in her awe-inspiring work. Born to Fly is screening with Benjamin Epps’s 2014 short, Angsters, on February 1 at 3:20 at the Walter Reade Theater as part of the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s annual “Dance on Camera” series and will be followed by a Q&A with Gund and Streb. The festival runs January 30 - February 3 and includes such other movement-related works as Meredith Monk’s Girlchild Diary, followed by a Q&A with Monk and cast member Lanny Harrison; Kenneth Elvebakk’s Ballet Boys, set at the Norwegian Ballet School; Louis Wallecan’s Dancing Is Living: Benjamin Millepied, followed by a Q&A with the director; the U.S. premiere of Don Kent and Christian Dumais-Lvowski’s Jiri Kylian: Forgotten Memories; Isaki Lacuesta’s Perpetual Motion: The History of Dance in Catalonia, followed by a Q&A with choreographer Cesc Gelabert; and a handful of free events as well.
We’ve been fans of Japanese multidisciplinary artist Miwa Yanagi since her summer 2007 exhibit at the Chelsea Art Museum, consisting of three photographic series that featured highly cinematic compositions and videos. So it comes as no surprise that the Kobe-born Yanagi is also now creating theatrical works and performance art projects. The North American premiere of Yanagi’s latest piece, Zero Hour: Tokyo Rose’s Last Tape, will take place January 29-31 at Japan Society as part of the institution’s “Stories from the War” series, being held in recognition of the seventieth anniversary of the end of World War II. Conceived, written, and directed by Yanagi, who also designed the sets and costumes, Zero Hour follows one of the many women known as Tokyo Rose, who broadcast propaganda for the Japanese Imperial Army. The production, which will be performed in English and Japanese (with English subtitles) by Yohei Matsukado, Hinako Arao, Megumi Matsumoto, Ami Kobayashi, Sogo Nishimura, Aki, and Sachi Masuda, with video projection by Tadashi Mitani, lighting design by Akane Ikebe, sound design by Yasutaka Kobayakawa, and choreography by Megumi Matsumoto. The January 29 show will be followed by a meet-the-artists reception. “Stories from the War” continues through August with Michiko Godai in Yokohama Rosa April 25-26, New and Traditional Noh: Holy Mother in Nagasaki and Kiyotsune May 14-16, Meet the Author lectures by Julie Otsuka and Hayden Herrera, and the Globus Film Series “The Most Beautiful: The War Films of Shirley Yamaguchi & Setsuko Hara.”
FELIX AND MEIRA (FÉLIX ET MEIRA) (Maxime Giroux, 2014)
Film Society of Lincoln Center, Walter Reade Theater
165 West 65th St. between Eighth Ave. & Broadway
Thursday, January 29, 3:30 & 9:00
Festival runs through January 29
The 2015 New York Jewish Film Festival comes to a close on January 29 with Maxime Giroux’s somber, reflective Félix and Meira. Named Best Canadian Feature at the Toronto International Film Festival, the film stars Israeli actress Hadas Yaron as Meira, a young married woman who is feeling trapped by the constraints of the Hasidic world in which she lives in Montreal’s Mile End district. Her husband, Shulem (Luzer Twersky), is a devout man who follows the tenets of his religion; he and Meira sleep in separate beds, and he seems more intent on ritualistically washing his hands in the bedroom than touching his wife. One morning, while pushing her daughter in a stroller, she is approached by Félix (Martin Dubreuil), a conflicted man whose father just died so he is seeking advice about God and death. Meira tells him to leave them alone, but soon Félix and Meira are meeting in secret, and when Shulem finds out about it, he ships Meira off to Brooklyn. Félix goes after her, wanting to take their relationship to the next level as Meira considers her responsibilities to her husband, her daughter, and herself.
Félix and Meira is a subtle, slow-moving tale that avoids genre clichés, keeping the details tantalizingly vague and mysterious. There’s not a lot of humor in the film; instead, there’s an ominous, moody cloud hanging over everything, the story bordering just on the edge of passion without ever exploding. Yaron (Fill the Void) plays Meira with a dark foreboding, while Dubreuil (Bunker, Ressac) and Twersky (Romeo and Juliet in Yiddish, Where Is Joel Baum?) work well as adversaries who want Meira in their life, albeit for different reasons. Cowriter and director Giroux (Demain, Jo pour Jonathan) doesn’t force any issues, maintaining a low-key approach that is intensified by an overall palette of blacks, whites, and grays. Félix and Meira is the closing-night selection of the New York Jewish Film Festival, screening on January 29 at 3:30 and 9:00 at the Walter Reade Theater, with each show followed by a Q&A with Giroux and members of the cast.
Who: David Garrett, world’s fastest violinist
What: Celebration of the U.S. theatrical release of The Devil’s Violinist (Bernard Rose, 2013) and the accompanying soundtrack album, Garrett vs. Paganini (Decca/Universal), matinee screening followed by a Q&A and live performance by David Garrett
Where: Quad Cinema, 34 West 13th St., 212-255-2243
When: Sunday, February 1, free ticket giveaway below, 3:25
Why: German-born crossover musician David Garrett has been playing violin since the age of four; he makes his film debut in The Devil’s Violinist, starring as nineteenth-century Italian violin virtuoso, composer, and womanizer Niccolò Paganini, with Jared Harris as Urbani, Joely Richardson as Ethel Langham, and Christian McKay as John Watson, written and directed by Bernard Rose (Candyman, Immortal Beloved, The Kreutzer Sonata), opening at the Quad and on VOD January 30; the album, which also features Andrea Bocelli and Nicole Scherzinger, releases January 27.
TICKET GIVEAWAY: International superstar David Garrett will be at the Quad on Sunday, February 1, for a special Q&A and live performance following the 3:25 screening of The Devil’s Violinist, and twi-ny has three pairs of tickets to give away for free, along with CDs of the Garrett vs. Paganini album. Just send your name, daytime phone number, and the name of your favorite classical composer to email@example.com by Thursday, January 29, at 3:00 to be eligible. All entrants must be twenty-one years of age or older; three winners will be selected at random.
Who: Cathy Weis Projects
What: Rare screening of 9 Evenings: Theatre and Engineering, documenting collaboration between experimental artists and Bell Labs in 1966 at the 69th Regiment Armory
Where: WeisAcres, 537 Broadway between Prince & Spring Sts., buzzer #3
When: Sunday, January 25, free, 2:00 (all future events at 8:00)
Why: The 2014 winter season of Sundays on Broadway begins on January 25 with a ten-hour marathon of 9 Evenings: Theatre and Engineering, consisting of films by David Tudor, John Cage, Deborah Hay, Övynid Fahlström, Robert Rauschenberg, Yvonne Rainer, Steve Paxton, Robert Whitman, Alex Hay, and Lucinda Childs; the salon-style series continues Sunday nights at 8:00 through March 29 with live performances, readings, film screenings, discussions, and more, including a selection of Trisha Brown’s early works on February 1 with Wendy Perron, a screening of Léonide Massine’s Choreartium on February 8 with Tatiana Massine Weinbaum, and a reading of Fortunato Depero’s unpublished Dramma plastico futurista by puppeteer Dan Hurlin on February 15 (advance reservations are required for the immersive installations taking place the last four Sundays in March with Jon Kinzel, Jennifer Miller, Vicky Shick, and others)
Greg Vander Veer’s Miss Hill: Making Dance Matter is a charming celebration of a woman who had a tremendous impact on the development of modern dance but is still little known outside her tight-knit circle. Born in 1900 in a small town in Bible Belt Ohio, Martha Hill danced with Martha Graham before concentrating on teaching the art form, which as a child she was told was sinful, at Bennington and NYU. But she created her legacy as the first director of dance at Juilliard, where she taught from 1951 to 1985, balancing instruction in both modern dance and classical ballet. Vander Veer (Keep Dancing) and coordinating producer Vernon Scott, who graduated from Juilliard in 1985 and is currently president of the board of directors of the Martha Hill Dance Fund, combine wonderful archival footage of Hill as both a dancer and a teacher, along with old clips of many of her students, including Pina Bausch, Lar Lubovitch, Bessie Schönberg, Hanya Holm, José Limón, and Doris Humphrey, as well as fellow teacher Antony Tudor; there are also new interviews with Paul Taylor, Martha Clarke, Francis Patrelle, Robert Battle, Ohad Naharin, Dennis Nahat, H. T. Chen, and others. “She’s created the dancers of the twenty-first century,” says former Boston Ballet artistic director Bruce Marks. One of the most fascinating parts of the eighty-minute documentary is Hill’s fight to preserve Juilliard’s dance program during the building of Lincoln Center, which pitted her against George Balanchine’s School of American Ballet, the New York City Ballet, and Lincoln Kirstein. Miss Hill displays its subject with clarity, smartly exploring her understanding that dance is more than just language and movement. “Modern dance is not a system, it is a point of view,” Hill explains. Meanwhile, Patrelle gets right to the heart of the matter: “She was dance. She defined it.” A lovely treat for dance fans, Miss Hill opens January 23, at the Quad, with Vander Veer and Scott participating in Q&As following the 7:00 shows Friday and Saturday and the 4:30 shows Saturday and Sunday.