200 Eastern Parkway at Washington St.
Saturday, December 5, free, 5:00 - 11:00
The Brooklyn Museum is honoring the most dramatic, historic, and entertaining part of the world’s greatest borough for the December edition of its monthly free First Saturday program. On the always eclectic bill are live music by Fright Barker and Sons and Raya Brass Band, a theatrical drawing performance by Amour Obscur, sideshow acts curated by Adam Rinn, the issues-oriented BodySpeak by Brown Girls Burlesque, a curator talk and Q&A about the new exhibition “Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861–2008” with Robin Jaffee Frank, a wire workshop where you can make your own Coney Island ride, a book club discussion with Harvey Stein about his photography book Coney Island: 40 Years, 1970–2010, a screening of Sidney Lumet’s The Wiz, and a Visual AIDS screening of Radiant Presence, followed by a discussion with Ted Kerr, Shawn Torres, Rusti Miller-Hill, and Jawanza Williams held in conjunction with World AIDS Day/Day With(out) Art. In addition, the galleries are open late so you can check out such other exhibitions as “Stephen Powers: Coney Island Is Still Dreamland (To a Seagull),” “Forever Coney: Photographs from the Brooklyn Museum Collection,” “Impressionism and the Caribbean: Francisco Oller and His Transatlantic World,” and “KAWS: ALONG THE WAY.”
Who: Joseph O’Neill
What: Award-winning author Joseph O’Neill reading from and discussing his latest novel, The Dog (Vintage Contemporaries, June 2015, 415.95)
Where: Donaghy Theatre, Irish Arts Center, 553 West 51st St. between Tenth & Eleventh Aves., 866-811-4111
When: Wednesday, December 2, $12, 7:30
Why: “Perhaps because of my growing sense of the inefficiency of life lived on land and in air, of my growing sense that the accumulation of experience amounts, when all is said and done and pondered, simply to extra weight, so that one ends up dragging oneself around as if imprisoned in one of those Winnie the Pooh suits of explorers of the deep, I took up diving. As might be expected, this decision initially aggravated the problem of inefficiency.” So begins Joseph O’Neill’s latest novel, The Dog, a satire of the modern world as only he can tell it. O’Neill, who is a professor at Bard and won the 2009 Pen/Faulkner Wward and the Kerry Fiction Prize for the marvelous Netherland, will be at the Irish Arts Center on December 2 to discuss The Dog, about a man who tries to rediscover himself in Dubai. And he should know be quite the expert on international relations, having been born in Ireland and raised in Mozambique, South Africa, Iran, Turkey, and Holland.
CinéSalon: THE SCREEN ILLUSION (L’ILLUSION COMIQUE) (Mathieu Amalric, 2010)
French Institute Alliance Française, Florence Gould Hall
55 East 59th St. between Madison & Park Aves.
Tuesday, December 1, $14, 7:30
Series continues Tuesdays through December 15
In 2010, French actor-director Mathieu Amalric was commissioned by la Comédie-Française to make a television version of one of the plays the legendary company had recently staged. The rules were both limiting and freeing: He had to use the same cast, could not add any words to the script (but could make cuts), and had to shoot the film in twelve days without using the theater itself. Amalric had the credentials for such a daunting assignment; he had previously starred in such films as Munich, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, and Kings and Queen and directed Mange ta soupe and On Tour, in which he also starred and for which he won the Best Director prize at Cannes. He decided to adapt Pierre Corneille’s 1636 play, L’Illusion comique, a melodrama written just as the Baroque style was shifting into the Classical period. The film takes place in and around a hotel in 2011, where concierge/sorcerer/detective Alcandre (Hervé Pierre) is showing surveillance video to Pridamant (Alain Lenglet), who is searching for his long-missing son, Clindor (Loïc Corbery). Clindor is working for video-game executive Matamore (Denis Podalydès); both men, as well as Adraste (Adrien Gamba-Gontard), are vying for the attention of the lovely but cold Isabelle (Suliane Brahim), daughter of corporation head Géronte (Jean-Baptiste Malartre). Meanwhile, Adraste’s coworker, Lyse (Julie Sicard), is desperately in love with Clindor. It all comes to a head one night following a dinner party, when a fierce battle takes place on a rooftop. “When all hope is gone, one has nothing more to fear,” Isabelle says.
The Screen Illusion is a clever and inventive, if at times confusing and overly farcical, adaptation of Corneille’s tale. The actors recite their lines in verse, which takes a little getting used to. Production designer Hervé Dajon and cinematographer Isabelle Razavet bathes the hotel in deep, lurid greens and reds, echoing the greed, envy, jealousy, and lust that surround the characters. The film is very much about the act of viewing; just as we watch theater and movies, becoming lost in their magic, Pridamant watches his son via CCTV cameras, and Amalric actually brings the camera — and the viewer — inside the recordings as the story unfolds before our eyes as well. “Believe only what you see,” Alcandre warns at the beginning of the film, looking into a mirror and talking to himself as well as the audience, hinting at what is to follow and foreshadowing a surprise twist at the end. Inspired by such works as Jean-Luc Godard’s Détective and Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le Samourai, Amalric, an accomplished stage performer in addition to being a film director and actor, melds all of those elements into The Screen Illusion, a tidy little tale that is more than what it first appears. The Screen Illusion is being shown at 7:30 on December 1 in Florence Gould Hall as part of FIAF’s CinéSalon series “Mathieu Amalric: Renaissance Man” and will be introduced by film critic Nicholas Elliott. The series continues through December 15 with Late September, Early Spring; Fantastic Mr. Fox; and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.
SOUL (SHĪ HÚN) (Chung Mong-hong, 2013)
BAMcinématek, BAM Rose Cinemas
30 Lafayette Ave. between Ashland Pl. & St. Felix St.
Monday, November 30, 7:30
Series runs November 30 - December 3
Taiwanese writer-director Chung Mong-Hong’s third feature film, following 2008’s Parking and 2010’s The Fourth Portrait, is an intense, meditatively paced thriller about family and identity. In Soul, wuxia legend Jimmy Wang (aka Jimmy Wong Yu) stars as Wang, a simple, understated old man living in a reclusive house in the mountains. After his chef son, Ah-Chuan (Joseph Chang Hsiao-Chuan), suddenly collapses in the city and is brought back to his childhood home, strange things start occurring, as Ah-Chuan seems different and dead bodies begin to pile up. It turns out that Ah-Chuan’s soul has temporarily left his body, replaced by another, not-quite-so-gentle being, leading to yet more trouble, especially because Wang’s goofy policeman nephew, Little Wu (Vincent Liang), continues to hang around, sensing that something suspicious might be going on. The Taiwanese entry for Best Foreign Language Film for the 2014 Oscars, Soul is a gripping, surreal tale that unfolds with a cool calm that can explode at any moment, and then does. Shaw Brothers veteran Wang, who wrote, directed, and starred in such martial arts classics as The Chinese Boxer and Master of the Flying Guillotine, is sensational as Uncle Wang, playing the role with an assured, self-possessed composure despite the hell the old man finds himself in.
Chang (Eternal Summer, Au Revoir Taipei) is a strong counterpart to Wang, combining inner strength with just the right amount of mystery and danger. As in his previous films, which also include the 2011 short Reverberation and the 2006 documentary Doctor, Chung also serves as cinematographer, using the pseudonym Nagao Nakashima, and the gorgeous photography is like a character unto itself, bathing the film in lush earth tones that add yet another level to the lovely perplexity of it all. Soul kicks off BAMcinématek’s four-film retrospective of Chung’s work, screening on November 30 at 7:30, followed by a Q&A with the director. The series continues with Parking on December 1, Doctor on December 2, and The Fourth Portrait on December 3.
Who: Alina Cho and Diane von Furstenberg
What: Met Museum Presents: “The Atelier with Alina Cho”
Where: Metropolitan Museum of Art, Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium, 1000 Fifth Ave. at 82nd St., 212-570-3949
When: Wednesday, December 2, $40 (includes museum admission), 6:30
Why: Last year, journalist and editor presented the inaugural season of “The Atelier with Alina Cho,” in which Cho sat down at the Met with such fashionistas as Anna Wintour and Donatella Versace. Cho is kicking off her sophomore season on December 2 with legendary icon Diane von Furstenberg, discussing art, ideas, and much more, in conjunction with the paperback publication of DVF’s memoir, The Woman I Wanted to Be (Simon & Schuster, October 2015, $17). “Living is learning, and as I look back at the many layers of experience I collected, I feel ready to share some of the lessons I learned along the way,” von Furstenberg writes in the book’s introduction. “Living also means aging. The good thing about aging is that you have a past, a history. If you like your past and stand by it, then you know you have lived fully and learned from your life. Those are the lessons that allowed me to be the woman I am.”
For many people, the coming of Thanksgiving signals that Christmas is not too far off. For others, like us, it means that Alvin Ailey’s annual season at City Center is right around the corner. From December 2 to January 3, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater will be at the West Fifty-Sixth Street institution, continuing to spread its wings under the inspired leadership of artistic director Robert Battle. This season is highlighted by four world premieres: Ronald K. Brown’s Open Door, set to music by Arturo O’Farrill & the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra; Rennie Harris’s Exodus; Kyle Abraham’s Untitled America: First Movement, the start of a trilogy that examines the prison system; and Battle’s own Awakening, his first new work with AAADT since taking the reins from Judith Jamison. Jamison’s A Case for You, an excerpt from her longer piece, Reminiscin’, gets a new production, set to Diana Krall’s version of the Joni Mitchell song. There will also be new productions of Ailey’s Blues Suite, Love Songs, and Cry and Talley Beatty’s Toccata, an excerpt from Come and Get the Beauty of It Hot. The company will be premiering two works, Battle’s No Longer Silent, with a score by Nazi-banned Jewish composer Erwin Schulhoff, and Paul Taylor’s Piazzolla Caldera, set to tango music by Astor Piazzolla.
On December 15, 20 (matinee), and 29, “Ailey Visionaries” presents works exclusively by past and present AAADT artistic directors Ailey, Jamison, and Battle. Revelations will be performed with live music on December 2, 4, and 5, while live music will also accompany Blues Suite on December 16, 19 (matinee), 20 (evening), and 31. Five programs will consist of only new works, on December 17, 19 (evening), 22, and 26 (evening) and January 2 (evening). And true Ailey fanatics can catch five programs of pieces by the legendary dancer and choreographer, on December 8, 13 (matinee), 16, 19 (matinee), and 20 (evening). As always, Saturday matinees will be followed by Q&As with members of the company. As a bonus, Ronald K. Brown will teach a master class on November 30, Donna Wood will lead a Blues Suite class on December 6, and Hope Boykin will teach a Beyond the Stage Master Class on December 14. And Jamison’s fiftieth anniversary of joining AAADT will be celebrated on New Year’s Eve, featuring the return of Clifton Brown, who will dance A Case of You. In addition to those special events, the season includes such returning favorites as David Parsons’s Caught, Brown’s Four Corners and Grace, Aszure Barton’s Lift, and Hans van Manen’s Polish Pieces, among others. So yes, you have your work cut out for you to choose just the right performance, but you can’t go wrong with any of them. Or you can do what we would like to do and just move in to City Center for the month.
Who: Ron Howard
What: Film Society of Lincoln Center Free Talk
Where: Film Society of Lincoln Center, Amphitheater, Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, 144 West 65th St. between Broadway & Amsterdam Ave., 212-875-5610
When: Sunday, November 22, free, 5:00
Why: Ron Howard visits the Film Society of Lincoln Center on November 22 for a free talk about his upcoming epic, In the Heart of the Sea. The film, which opens in theaters December 11, tells the story of the real nautical events that inspired Herman Melville to write Moby-Dick. The cast features Chris Hemsworth, Benjamin Walker, Cillian Murphy, Tom Holland, Brendan Gleeson, Michelle Fairley, and Ben Whishaw as Melville. Howard, who has previously directed such films as Splash, Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind, and Frost/Nixon, will bring along clips and trailers for this special conversation. (Free tickets are given out one per person starting at 4:00.)