In October 2008, in the midst of the Barack Obama / John McCain presidential election and the mortgage crisis, filmmaker Rachel Shuman took to the streets of New York City with Clay Pigeon, host of The Dusty Show on WFMU, interviewing people as they made their way across Manhattan and other boroughs. The Boston-born, Beacon-based Shuman intended to capture a moment in time and not release the film until after Obama’s second term ended to see how life in the city changed. The result is One October, a kind of love letter to who we were, are, and will be. Inspired by Chris Marker’s 1963 film Le Joli Mai, in which the French director interviewed people on the streets of Paris, Shuman follows Pigeon, Radio Shack mini tape recorder in hand, as he wanders through Central Park, Harlem, Washington Square Park, the Lower East Side, Madison Square Park, the Financial District, the Brooklyn Bridge, Willets Point, Tompkins Square Park, and other locations, approaching a series of men and women who share fascinating details about their personal and professional lives; the Iowa-born Pigeon has an innate knack for quickly understanding his subjects, asking intuitive questions that often surprise them. He speaks with a former freelance photographer who now works construction to make more money for his family, an ambitious lawyer who wants to work at the UN, a mixed-race couple sitting on a bench, a woman railing against the gentrification of Harlem, and a homeless man who turns the tables on the soft-spoken Pigeon. “It’s always interesting to see how the random collection of souls falls together and how the next chapter bears fruit or lies fallow,” he says on his radio show.
In between interviews, cinematographer David Sampliner beautifully photographs trees, buildings, storefronts, statues, the Halloween Parade, political rallies, the Columbus Day Parade, a housing protest, the Blessing of the Animals at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, birds flying across blue skies, Muslims praying at the end of Ramadan, and Jews performing the ritual of Tashlich, casting away their sins by throwing pieces of bread into the East River. The shots, which include classic New York restaurants as well as institutions that have since closed, are accompanied by a bittersweet score by Paul Brill, featuring cellist Dave Eggar. Director, editor, and producer Shuman (Negotiations) has created a loving warning about the future of a city that has been undergoing major changes since October 2008. Executive produced by three-time Oscar nominee Edward Norton, the hour-long One October is having a special October screening at Nitehawk Cinema as part of the “Representation” series, which highlights the scarcity of women directors in the industry; the film will be preceded by Jon Bunning’s fifteen-minute short The Tables, about Ping-Pong in Bryant Park, and followed by a Q&A with Shuman and WFMU host Amanda Nazario.
Brooklyn Academy of Music
BAM Harvey Theater
651 Fulton St. at Ashland Pl.
October 3-7, $40-$75
Anne Bogart and SITI Company return to BAM’s Next Wave Festival with their new interpretation of Euripides’ classic tale of gods and mortals, religion and the state, the earthly and the divine, The Bacchae. “More than any other play in Western civilization, Euripides’ is probably the one that most directly addresses the art of theater,” Bogart explains in a program note. “We are aware, for example, that we are looking at an actor or at a precisely lit staging and scenery, but at the same time we allow ourselves to enter into another world that is merely suggested by what is actually present.” The work, which premiered at the Getty Villa in California last month, is translated by Aaron Poochigian, with set and lighting by Brian H Scott, sound by Darron L West, and music composed by Erik Sanko. The cast features Ellen Lauren as Dionysus, Barney O’Hanlon as Tiresias, Stephen Duff Webber as Cadmus, Eric Berryman as Pentheus, and Akiko Aizawa as Agave. In conjunction with the show, the talk “Speaking Truth to Power: On Fear and Governance” will take place October 5 at the BAM Fisher’s Hillman Studio ($15, 6:00), with Anne Bogart and Monica Youn in conversation with Corey Robin, and BAM and the Mark Morris Dance Group are teaming up for “Introduction to Suzuki & Viewpoints,” a master class with SITI, on October 10 ($25, 12 noon) for theater artists, actors, dancers, performers, and directors.
Film Society of Lincoln Center, Walter Reade Theater, Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, Alice Tully Hall
West 65th St. between Broadway & Amsterdam Ave.
September 28 - October 14
The fifty-sixth annual New York Film Festival is under way, consisting of more than two weeks of international shorts, features, documentaries, experimental works, and immersive, interactive virtual reality presentations. There are documentaries about Roger Ailes, Steve Bannon, Carmine Street Guitars, Maria Callas, the Memphis Belle, Bill Cunningham, and Watergate; retrospective tributes to Dan Talbot and Pierre Rissient; talks with Claire Denis, Alfonso Cuarón, Alice Rohrwacher, Errol Morris, Jia Zhangke, Mariano Llinás, Willem Dafoe, Morgan Neville, Frederick Wiseman, and Ed Lachman; revivals of such films as Edgar G. Ulmer’s Detour, Mikhail Kalatozov’s I Am Cuba, and Ronald Neame’s Tunes of Glory; and postscreening Q&As with Jodie Foster, Michael Almereyda, Richard Thompson, Alex Gibney, Elizabeth Holtzman, Lesley Stahl, Emma Stone, Julian Schnabel, Joel and Ethan Coen, Laetitia Casta, Elisabeth Moss, Eric Stoltz, Robert Pattinson, Olivier Assayas, Tamara Jenkins, Vincent Lacoste, Carey Mulligan, Jake Gyllenhaal, and many others. Below is a list of at least one highlight per day; keep checking twi-ny for reviews and further information.
Saturday, September 29
Special Events: The Other Side of the Wind (Orson Welles, 2018), Alice Tully Hall, $25, 2:15
Sunday, September 30
Revivals: Enamorada (Emilio Fernández, 1946), Howard Gilman Theater, $17, 12 noon
Monday, October 1
Free Events — NYFF Live: In Conversation with Frederick Wiseman, moderated by Kent Jones, EBM Amphitheater, free, 7:00
Tuesday, October 2
Retrospective: A Touch of Zen (King Hu, 1971/75), Howard Gilman Theater, $17, 6:30
Wednesday, October 3
Talks — On Cinema: Claire Denis, Walter Reade Theater, $25, 6:00
Thursday, October 4
Retrospective: Mother India (Mehboob Khan, 1957), Howard Gilman Theater, $17, 6:30
Friday, October 5
Projections: Your Face (Tsai Ming-liang, 2018), Howard Gilman Theater, $17, 4:30
Saturday, October 6
Talks — Directors Dialogues: Alfonso Cuarón, Walter Reade Theater, free, 2:30
Sunday, October 7
Talks — Film Comment Live: Filmmakers Talk, with Louis Garrel, Jodie Mack, Alex Ross Perry, and Albert Serra, EBM Amphitheater, free, 7:00
Monday, October 8
Special Events: An Afternoon with Barry Jenkins, in Conversation with Darryl Pinkney, Alice Tully Hall, $25, 12 noon
Tuesday, October 9
Retrospective: My Dinner with André (Louis Malle, 1981), Howard Gilman Theater, $17, 6:30
Wednesday, October 10
Retrospective: The American Friend (Wim Wenders, 1977), Howard Gilman Theater, 6:30
Thursday, October 11
Convergence: iNK Stories – Fire Escape: An Interactive VR Series (Navid Khonsari, 2018), followed by a Q&A, EBM Amphitheater, 6:00 & 7:30
Friday, October 12
Convergence: Virtual Reality Documentary Program, featuring My Africa (David Allen, 2018), narrated by Lupita Nyong’o, The Drummer (Ana Kler, 2017), and the world premiere of Hope Amongst the Haze (Tiffany Hill, 2018), EBM Amphitheater, $10, 4:00 & 6:00
Saturday, October 13
Spotlight on Documentary — Divide and Conquer: The Story of Roger Ailes (Alexis Bloom, 2018), Howard Gilman Theater, $25, 2:45
Sunday, October 14
Special Events: The Wild Pear Tree (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, 2018), Francesca Beale Theater, $25, 12 noon
Psychoanalysts Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung both used the metaphor of a house to represent the whole of a person and his or her psyche. Siblings Elan and Jonathan Bogarín explore that concept in 306 Hollywood, an imaginative documentary in which they seek to define who their beloved late grandmother was — and where she is after her death. In 2011, Annette Ontell passed away at the age of ninety-three. In her will, she left her home of sixty-seven years, a relatively basic suburban house at 306 Hollywood Ave. in Hillside, New Jersey, to Elan and Jonathan, who at first were encouraged by their mother, Marilyn Ontell, to sell it. But after funeral director Sherry Anthony tells the siblings that it is believed that following a death, the soul of the deceased hovers around its home for nearly a year, they changed their mind. “You have eleven months to make your grandmother tangible again,” she explains. And the Bogaríns take that time to turn the house into an archaeological dig, excavating through physical items that spur memories of the past to celebrate the life of their beloved grandmother. “As far as we knew, the house was her world,” Jonathan says. “When you lose someone you love, you start to look for new ways to understand the world,” Elan adds.
Elan and Jonathan use re-creations, home movies, family photographs, and filmed interviews they made with Annette, a fashion designer who was married to an accountant named Herman, every year from 2001 to 2011, in which she honestly and entertainingly shares her thoughts about her long life, including discussions of death. The siblings, who employ a visual sense of humor and magical realism akin to that of a Wes Anderson movie combined with the documentary style of Chantal Akerman and Agnès Varda, speak with their mother, Annette’s daughter, Marilyn Ontell, as well as fashion conservator Nicole Bloomfield; Rockefeller archivist Robert Clark; Biblioteca Casanatense librarian Isabella Ceccopieri and director Rita Fioravanti; archaeologist Jan Gadeyne; and MIT physicist and novelist Alan Lightman, who all offer views about interpreting physical and psychological aspects of a person’s life, from items they collected to papers they saved to the clothes they wore. Two of the most compelling scenes involve clothing; Elan and Jonathan film their grandmother trying to put on dresses, with the help of her daughter, that she made more than half a century before. Annette sits in a chair in her bra and panties, her aging body mostly exposed to the camera, as she insists she won’t fit into the chic clothes. Later, Bloomfield performs a forensics-like investigation on the dresses, offering yet more information about Annette.
Elan and Jonathan also have a precise miniature version of the house made by Rick Maccione of Dollhouse Mansions and often film inside it, playing with the scale of history, time, and memory and the role of the camera in recording the past. “It was plain to me that the house represented a kind of image of the psyche,” Jung wrote. But as Jonathan notes at one point, “Grandma’s house isn’t a home anymore. It’s a ruin.” And finally, Lightman asks, “Where is she?,” declaring that question to be the “great mystery of existence.” After watching 306 Hollywood, which the Bogaríns directed, produced with Judit Stalter, edited with Nyneve Laura Minnear and composer Troy Herion, and photographed with Alejandro Mejía, you’ll have a very clear picture of who Annette Ontell was — and you’ll wonder about who your own late relatives were, in addition to where they might be at this very moment. The Sundance hit opens September 28 at the Quad, which will host numerous postscreening Q&As with the filmmakers, Herion, Mejía, and such organizations as POV, the Wassaic Project, New York Women in Film & Television, Cinema Tropical, and WeCroak.
After delighting audiences with such outstanding indie fare as Blood Simple (1984), Fargo (1996), and O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000), brothers Joel and Ethan Coen hit a midcareer slump with the mediocre The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001), the much-maligned Intolerable Cruelty (2003), and the just plain awful remake of The Ladykillers (2004). It was three years before they released their next film, the Oscar-winning monster hit No Country for Old Men. In 2008 they toned things down again with the slight but entertaining Burn After Reading. John Malkovich is hysterical as Osborne Cox, an angry, bitter, foul-mouthed CIA agent who loses his job and decides to write a tell-all memoir, which bizarrely ends up in the hands of a pair of bumbling idiots, Chad Feldheimer (an extremely funny Brad Pitt) and Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand). Linda really wants to get a whole bunch of plastic surgery done, so she plans on squeezing a lot of money out of old Mr. Cox, who has no patience for anyone other than himself. Throw in a cold-as-ice wife (Tilda Swinton), a philandering G-man (George Clooney), a Russian ambassador named after Severn Darden’s character in The President’s Analyst, a stellar cast that also includes Richard Jenkins, J. K. Simmons, David Rasche, Elizabeth Marvel, and Dermot Mulroney, and some shocking violence and — well, we’ve told you too much already. Burn After Reading might not be grade-A Coen brothers, but it’s still a worthwhile endeavor from two of America’s most ingenious filmmakers. The movie, which asks the question “The Russians? Are you sure?,” is screening at Nitehawk on September 24 as part of the “Booze & Books” series and will be followed by a Q&A with Film Comment contributor and Harpers digital editor Violet Lucca and Adam Nayman, author of the new book The Coen Brothers: This Book Really Ties the Films Together. In addition, Nitehawk will be serving a special cocktail for the event, the Krapotkin.
There’s an intrinsic challenge about making a documentary about a photographer: How to portray the artist’s work, silent, still pictures of a moment in time, in a medium based on sound and movement. In Garry Winogrand: All Things Are Photographable, producer, director, and editor Sasha Waters Freyer attacks that issue by delving deep into many of Winogrand’s photographs, lingering on them as friends, relatives, and colleagues rave about his glorious images. “Well, what is a photograph? I’ll tell you what a photograph is. It’s the illusion of a literal description of how a camera saw a piece of time in space,” Winogrand said in a 1975 lecture at the University of Texas Austin, later adding, “All it is is light on surface.” Of course, in Winogrand’s case, it is much more than that; the black-and-white pictures he took with his trusted Leica M4 inhale and exhale at the exciting pace of real life. “It’s this observation of human behavior, of human activity, human gesture, the relationships between people, whether they know each other or not, how we behave in the world,” curator Susan Kismaric says. Writer Geoff Dyer calls Winogrand’s work a “psychogestural ballet,” while photographer Matt Stuart looks at photo after photo, pointing out “the dance” in each one. “When things move, I get interested. I know that much,” Winogrand, who passed away in 1984 at the age of fifty-six, says in his gruff voice. “He had no ambition for fame or celebrity. He was totally obsessed and possessed by photography,” his good friend, photographer Tod Papageorge, says. “It was work work work work work.”
Freyer traces the life of “a city hick from the Bronx,” from his boyhood, when he had polio, through three marriages and three children, from his fear of nuclear war to his love of the female form, from the streets of New York City to California and Texas. She weaves in audio and video from lectures and interviews, filmed and taped conversations with photographer Jay Maisel, and photos and home movies of Winogrand and his family. Freyer speaks with photographers Thomas Roma, Jeffrey Henson Scales, Leo Rubinfien, Laurie Simmons, and Michael Ernest Sweet, curator Erin O’Toole, gallery owner Jeffrey Fraenkel (who compares Winogrand to Norman Mailer), Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner, historian and critic Shelley Rice, and two of Winogrand’s ex-wives, Adrienne Lubeau and Judy Teller. There are also extensive quotes from legendary MoMA photography curator John Szarkowski. The film explores several turning points in his career, both good and bad, including the “New Documents” show with Lee Friedlander and Diane Arbus; his seminal work in 1964; “The Animals,” a series shot at the Central Park Zoo, where he would go with his kids; his color work; Public Relations, in which he examined the role and effect of the mass media; and his controversial Women Are Beautiful book, which was labeled as sexist and misogynistic.
Influenced by such photographers as Robert Frank, Walker Evans, and Dan Weiner, Winogrand could not stop taking pictures. He took so many — the thought of his working in the digital age is both thrilling and frightening — that he didn’t even develop thousands of rolls, leaving behind a treasure trove of material that Roma explains was misinterpreted by critics. “I would like not to exist,” Winogrand said. It’s a good thing for the rest of us that he did, sharing his unique view of the world, incorporating the chaos of his personal life into his remarkable pictures. Garry Winogrand: All Things Are Photographable, which features original music by Winogrand’s son, Ethan, and animation by Kelly Gallagher, opens September 19 at Film Forum, with Freyer participating in Q&As following the 7:00 shows on September 19 and 21. In her director’s statement, the Brooklyn-born Freyer writes, “In looking at Winogrand in all his multidimensional human complexity, I take aim at the ‘bad dad’ and ‘bad husband’ tropes in artist biography, seeking to undermine these as sources of triumph or artistic necessity. Winogrand was an artist whose rise and fall — from the 1950s to the mid-1980s — in acclaim mirrors not only that of American power and credibility in the second half of the twentieth century but also a vision of American masculinity whose limitations, toxicity, and inheritance we still struggle, culturally, to comprehend. The film ultimately invites a deeper consideration of Winogrand not only as a ‘man of his time,’ in the words of MoMA photography curator Susan Kismaric, but also as a man struggling to define himself simultaneously as an artist and a parent (as so many of us do).”
STATIONS OF THE ELEVATED (Manfred Kirchheimer, 1981)
209 West Houston St.
Thursday, September 20, 8:50
Series runs through October 20
In October 2014, thirty-three years after screening at the New York Film Festival, Manfred Kirchheimer’s Stations of the Elevated finally got its official U.S. theatrical release, in a gorgeous restoration that was shown at BAMcinématek and will be presented this week at Film Forum. In 1977, Manfred Kirchheimer, whose family escaped Nazi Germany in 1936, went to the Bronx and filmed graffiti-covered subway cars at the train depot and rushing across the elevated tracks, kids playing in a burned-out housing project, and giant billboards advertising hamburgers, cigarettes, alcohol, and suntan lotion. Shot on 16mm reversal stock, Stations of the Elevated is more than just a captivating document of a bygone era; it is a deeply poetic socioeconomic journey into class, race, art, and freedom of expression, told without a single word of narration or onscreen text. Instead, producer, director, editor, and photographer Kirchheimer (Colossus on the River, Bridge High with Walter Hess) shifts from the natural sound of the environment to a superb jazz score by Charles Mingus while cutting between shots of trains covered in tags and illustrations (and such phrases as “Heaven Is Life,” “Invasion of the Earth,” “Never Die,” and “Earth Is Hell”) by such seminal figures as Blade, Daze, Lee, Pusher, Shadow, and Slave and views of colorful billboards filmed peeking through the geometric architecture of the elevated railways and set against bright blue skies. Most often, the camera focuses on the painted eyes in the ads, looking right back at the viewer as they dominate the scene, evoking the optician’s ad in that famous novel of American class, The Great Gatsby. (The concentration on the eyes also predicts how Madison Ave. was watching the graffiti movement, eventually coopting the imagery into mainstream advertising.) Through this dichotomy of meaning and execution, Kirchheimer reveals similarities in artistic styles and how the elements influenced each other; a particularly telling moment occurs when a man is shown hand painting a billboard who could have just as well been spray painting a subway car.
Kirchheimer remains outside during the course of the forty-five-minute documentary, never venturing into the tunnels, capturing the elevated train lines as if they’re just another part of New York City architecture, which of course they are. And it’s especially powerful because it was made at a time when the city was in the midst of a severe economic crisis and rampant crime epidemic, as Mayor Koch sought to eliminate the scourge of graffiti, while Kirchheimer celebrates its beauty (and New York-ness) in this glorious little film. Stations of the Elevated, which elevates the station of subway graffiti artistry with an entrancing calmness, is screening September 20 at 8:50 in the Film Forum series “Hip Hop on Film 1979-1986” and will be followed by a Q&A with Kirchheimer and a live graffiti presentation by David “CHINO” Villorente. The series continues through October 20 with such other hip hop gems as Beat Street, featuring DJ Jazzy Jay, Kool Herc, Grandmaster Melle Mel, and Rae Dawn Chong, and the genre classic Wild Style, with director Charlie Ahearn participating in a Q&A after the 8:15 show on September 27.