Gibney Dance Performing Arts Center, Studio H
280 Broadway between Chambers & Reade Sts.
November 16-18, $20-$25, 8:00
California-based AXIS Dance Company is celebrating its thirtieth anniversary with its debut New York City season, November 16-18 at Gibney Dance. The company, founded in 1987 by Thais Mazur, brings together performers with and without physical disabilities through artistry, engagement, and advocacy. Under new artistic director Marc Brew, AXIS will present three works in Gibney’s Studio H, featuring company dancers James Bowen, Lani Dickinson, Scotty Hardwig, Carina Ho, Dwayne Schuneman, and Yuko Monden. Brew’s Radical Impact, a collaboration with composer and pianist JooWan Kim of Ensemble Mik Nawooj, explores identity politics and what it means to be human. Amy Seiwert is reworking her 2013 piece, The Reflective Surface, with an original score by Darren Johnston, seeking to surprise the audience and challenge its expectations. The evening will also include an excerpt from 2015’s In Defense of Regret, an examination of interior landscapes choreographed by Maurya Kerr, Alex Ketley, and Bobbi Jene Smith, with music by Emily Adams and Matan Dasaki. In addition, AXIS will be curating a series of integrated technique classes November 14-17 ($20, 10:00 am) with Brew (11/14), Mark Travis-Rivera (11/15), Heidi Latsky (11/16), and Alice Sheppard (11/17).
MIRACLE ON 42ND STREET (Alice Elliott, 2017)
333 West 23rd St. between Eighth & Ninth Aves.
Saturday, November 11, $19, 1:30
Festival runs November 9-16 (various passes $75-$750)
If you’ve been watching The Deuce on HBO, you have a pretty good idea of what the Times Square area was like in the 1970s, a haven for drugs, prostitution, massage parlors, and pornography. A few blocks west was the dangerous area known as Hell’s Kitchen, which had a history of gang violence and other troubles. But in the mid-1970s, Richard Ravitch and HRH Construction began building Manhattan Plaza, two commercial skyscrapers, more than forty floors each, a project aiming to revitalize the neighborhood by bringing in upwardly mobile people. But the recession, urban blight, and the lack of interest in moving into the area stopped the building in its tracks until someone — it is still argued exactly who — came up with the idea to transform Manhattan Plaza into an arts community, offering low-income housing to qualified performers working in the Theater District, Times Square, and other parts of the city. Oscar-nominated producer, cowriter, and director Alice Elliott recounts the story of Manhattan Plaza in Miracle on 42nd Street, which is having its world premiere November 11 at the DOC NYC film festival. Situated between Forty-Second and Forty-Third Streets and Ninth and Tenth Avenues, Manhattan Plaza has been home to a vast array of artists, from Tennessee Williams and Dexter Gordon to James Earl Jones and Mickey Rourke; seventy percent of the rooms are allocated for artists on a limited income, with fifteen percent for the elderly and the disabled and fifteen percent for neighborhood residents. Elliott speaks with such actors, musicians, and comedians as Larry David, Alicia Keys, Giancarlo Esposito, Angela Lansbury, Donald Faison, Estelle Parsons, Terrence Howard, and Kenny Kramer, all of whom lived in Manhattan Plaza, as well as Samuel L. Jackson, who worked the night shift there as a security guard. (Two of the producers, Mary Jo Slater and Nancy McLeod Perkins, were also longtime Manhattan Plaza residents.)
They all speak fondly of the welcoming atmosphere that helped them hone their crafts. “For as much as I could have a sense of community, there was a sense of community at Manhattan Plaza,” notes David, who lived across the hall from Kramer; their relationship formed the basis for the Seinfeld characters George Costanza, Jerry Seinfeld, and Cosmo Kramer. “That building raised me,” Faison says. Lansbury calls it a “wonderful sociological experiment.” And Howard adds, “That place nurtured my dreams.” Meanwhile, the behind-the scenes development of the project and history of the location are recalled in interviews with longtime director of operations Richard Hunnings, Shubert Organization chairman Gerald Schoenfeld, former assistant NYPD chief Mickey Schwartz, operations director Rodney Kirk, former NEA chairman Rocco Landesman, 42nd St. Development Corp. founder Fred Papert, and builder Irving Fischer, who proudly says, “This wasn’t just a place to live; it was a community. . . . Manhattan Plaza revitalized the center of the city.” The interviews, some of which were conducted more than five years ago, are intercut with archival footage of New York City streets and Mayors John Lindsay and Abe Beame, along with clips from a 1978 Manhattan Plaza talent night in which David and Kramer both performed. Elliott (The Collector of Bedford Street. Body & Soul: Diana & Kathy) cowrote the film with Joal Ryan and Steve Ryfle; unfortunately, narrator Chazz Palminteri never finds the proper rhythm of the text, regularly emphasizing the wrong words. The sixty-eight-minute film also shows how the idea spread to other cities, where arts-based housing helped rebuild neighborhoods, but in today’s financial climate, it’s hard to imagine any more Manhattan Plaza–like projects popping up in the city. Miracle on 42nd Street is screening November 11 at 1:30 at the SVA Theatre and will be followed by a Q&A with Elliott, Parsons, Palminteri, and Kramer. In addition, the film will be preceded by Lucy Walker’s five-minute short, Oh, What a Beautiful Symphony (A City Symphony).
Multiple Barnes & Noble locations
Saturday, November 11, and Sunday, November 12, 12 noon, free
B&N is hosting its third annual all-ages Mini Maker Faire around the country on November 11 and 12, featuring inventors, innovators, 3D printers, hobbyists, hackers, robots, virtual reality, coding, and other cutting-edge technology and creators. On Saturday at 12:30 at the Eighty-Sixth St. store, Max Bogue will give a talk, “From Concept to a Million Pens Sold,” about the 3Doodler Pen, followed at 2:00 by Danny Sigler and Ruben Dax of ROLI discussing the Lightpad Block and the Seaboard Block and Frank Dautant showing off the Lomo’Instant Camera White. At 3:00, Samantha Razook Murphy of Curious Jane magazine will give a presentation. (Curious Jane will also be at the Park Slope B&N Saturday afternoon.) On Sunday at the Union Square B&N, Cyant CEO Barbara Hanna will discuss art and tech at 2:00, followed at 3:00 by multimedia sculptor Taezoo Park, who will talk about his very cool TV Being 009 project. And over at the Tribeca B&N, Pixel Academy will be on hand Saturday afternoon from 12 noon to 4:00, while Stuyvesant Pulse Robotics Team will give a battle-bots demonstration on Sunday at noon.
MOLE MAN (Guy Fiorita, 2017)
Friday, November 10, Cinépolis Chelsea, 260 West Twenty-Third St. at Eighth Ave., 212-691-5519, $19, 7:30
Monday, November 13, IFC Center, 323 Sixth Ave. at West Third St., $12, 12:15
Festival runs November 9-16 (various passes $75-$750)
After appearing on a 2010 episode of the History Channel series American Pickers, Ron Heist gained cult status for the massive structure he had been building in his parents’ large backyard in Butler, Pennsylvania, since 1965. The director of that episode, Guy Fiorita, has now made the bittersweet documentary Mole Man, a fascinating look inside the life and times of a unique man. Born in 1950, Ron has been obsessed with building things since he was a child. Now sixty-seven, toothless, and usually wearing a dark hoodie, Ron has constructed twenty-five buildings and twenty-three cellars linked by narrow passageways on his family’s property. He built it all by hand and by himself, scavenging items from more than seven hundred abandoned homes and factories, many of which had been left vacant following the closing of the Pullman Standard railcar plant in 1982. He refuses to use nails or mortar or even a level, relying on his own feel and intuition. He gets on his motorcycle, puts on his helmet, and meanders through the woods until he finds these houses, then brings back wood, doors, window frames, cinder blocks, chests, and whatever else he can fit on the back of his bike, as well as balls, plungers, clocks, license plates, and other items he collects. “People shouldn’t be as wasteful,” he says while showing off some treasures he has just found. Ron was always different, and his father, Chuck, treated him special; but the film’s real subject is Ron’s prospects: following the recent death of his father, Ron is left with his ninety-year-old mother, Mary, and his future becomes doubtful. The family, including Ron’s brother, Tim, and sister, Christine, who love Ron dearly, think that their mother would be better off in a smaller home, and they don’t have enough money to maintain the house. Meanwhile, they finally get Ron tested by a therapist to confirm that he has autism — he was previously diagnosed as “mentally challenged,” as were many of a lost generation of undiagnosed adults with the condition — and might be eligible for certain health benefits, although they worry about what might happen to Ron if he has to live elsewhere. “His routine, his environment . . . that’s his safety zone,” Tim says. But when Ron tells three of his friends, Sean Burke, Mike, and his cousin-in-law, John Burkert, that he knows where the Piney Mansion is, they believe they might find more than enough valuable objects, particularly some old, classic cars, to keep Ron living at home, so off into the woods they go, on a rather difficult journey. “To see Ron pulled out of that place, I think, would kill him, plain and simple,” John explains. “I just don’t think he’d want to live anymore.”
Ron is an endearing, eminently likable character. He has a childlike enthusiasm and even somewhat resembles a taller version of the Mole Men from the 1951 Superman film, although that’s not where he got his nickname from. “He loves being the Mole Man,” Burkert says. Like many people with autism, he has trouble holding conversations unless it’s on a subject that interests him, like time, numbers, construction, and scavenging. People naturally are drawn to his love of life and his dedication to his ever-expanding living quarters, although safety issues are a growing concern. Fiorita never exploits Ron, instead celebrating his individuality while also recognizing that Ron’s immediate future is at risk. Mole Man is having its world premiere at DOC NYC on November 10 and 13, with Fiorita, producers Cassidy Hartmann and James DeJulio, and some of the film’s subjects participating in postscreening Q&As. DOC NYC runs November 9 to 16 at Cinepolis Chelsea, the SVA Theatre, and IFC Center, with more than 150 features and shorts, by such documentarians as Barbara Kopple, Errol Morris, Laura Poitras, and Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady; the films highlight such diverse figures as Eric Clapton, Curtis Sliwa, Lorraine Hansberry, Sammy Davis Jr., and David Bowie in addition to exploring many contemporary sociocultural issues from around the world.
Who: Lambert Wilson
What: Film intro and screening, staged concert
Where: French Institute Alliance Française, Florence Gould Hall, 55 East 59th St. between Madison & Park Aves., 212-355-6160
When: Monday, November 6, $14, 7:30, and Tuesday, November 7, $50, 7:30
Why: Six-time César nominee Lambert Wilson will be at FIAF this week for a pair of special events. On November 6 at 7:30, the French star of such films as Rendez-vous, Of Gods and Men, and Private Fears in Public Places will introduce the New York premiere of his latest movie, Nicolas Silhol’s Corporate, about human resources, redundancy, and resignation. On November 7 at 7:30, Wilson will pay tribute to his idol with the staged concert “Lambert Wilson Sings Yves Montand,” using songs performed from Montand’s repertoire to tell the life story of the elegant French-Italian actor and crooner. In addition, Wilson has curated the CinéSalon series “Actor’s Choice: Lambert Wilson & Yves Montand,” which runs Tuesdays from November 14 to December 19 and includes such films as Henri-Georges Clouzot’s The Wages of Fear, Philippe Le Guay’s Bicycling with Molière, Costa Gavras’s Z, and Jérôme Salle’s The Odyssey.
In his new book Stranded in the Jungle: Jerry Nolan’s Wild Ride (Backbeat, October, $24.99), Curt Weiss, a former member of the Rockats and Beat Rodeo (under the pseudonym Lewis King) and author of the blog “I am the coolest man on earth,” goes deep inside the rock-and-roll tale of Jerry Nolan, an underrated drummer with such bands as the New York Dolls, the Heartbreakers, and the Idols. Nolan, who died in 1992 at the age of forty-five, played with such punk icons as Sid Vicious, Richard Hell, Johnny Thunders, Arthur Kane, Glen Matlock, and many more. On November 7, Weiss will be celebrating the release of the book — which boasts the subtitle A Tale of Drugs, Fashion, the New York Dolls, and Punk Rock — at Rough Trade in Nolan’s native Williamsburg with a reading and Q&A. On November 9, Weiss heads to the Delancey on the Lower East Side for a meet-and-greet cocktail party, live performances by the Pipptones, Greg Allen’s Fringe Religion, and special guests, a book reading and signing, and Q&A sessions with Weiss, reporter Roger Clark, and photographer Roberta Bayley. Both events are free.
ALONG FOR THE RIDE (Nick Ebeling, 2017)
7 Ludlow St. between Canal & Hester Sts.
Opens Friday, November 3
Just about everyone who has ever seen Easy Rider has imagined themselves on a bike, rumbling across the country with Captain America (Peter Fonda) and Billy (Dennis Hopper), experiencing whatever comes their way. Newark native Satya de la Manitou did more than that, becoming Hopper’s friend and right-hand man for more than forty years. Their intimate and crazy friendship is told in Nick Ebeling’s debut feature documentary, Along for the Ride, which opens today at Metrograph. It would take quite a character to have spent that much time with Hopper — and live to tell about it — and Satya is just that kind of human being, a tough but sensitive, direct, bold man who leads a wild journey into Hopper’s creative process and personal demons. Ebeling follows Satya as he visits with Hopper’s brother, David; actors Russ Tamblyn, Dean Stockwell, and Michael Madsen (who reads a poem he wrote about Dennis); producers Danny Selznick, Lawrence Schiller, and Fred Caruso; directors Philippe Mora, Wim Wenders, and David Lynch; artists Ed Ruscha and Julian Schnabel and gallerist Tony Shafrazi; musicians and composers Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett (of GORILLAZ) and Mark Mothersbaugh (of DEVO); and architect Frank Gehry, who sheds a tear when talking about Dennis. Together, they provide a fascinating look into the depth of Hopper’s abilities as an actor, director, photographer, art lover, drug user, and center of attention. “He did everything well, like most geniuses do,” Satya explains.
Ebeling, who wrote the film with A. P. Menzies and photographed it with Randy Wedick and editor Danny Reams, weaves between stunning archival footage that goes behind the scenes of such Hopper directorial efforts as the controversial The Last Movie, Out of the Blue, Colors, and Easy Rider and his roles in Apocalypse Now, and Blue Velvet and new, starkly shot black-and-white interviews with Satya as he speaks right into the camera, digs through boxes and boxes of unlabeled paraphernalia, and gets comfortable with Hopper’s friends, family, and colleagues. The killer soundtrack is by Gemma Thompson of Savages, making you feel you’re right there in the middle of all this wonderful strangeness. Satya himself is a larger-than-life figure, with a dynamic presence, distinctive voice, and inner peace and joy that make it simple to understand why the eccentric Hopper was drawn to him, and why Satya was drawn to Hopper. “Dennis was like a precious gem, and a gem needs to be polished to attain its true brilliance,” Satya says. Hopper died in 2010 at the age of seventy-four; Satya has given his friend quite a fond farewell with this sweet film. Ebeling, Satya, and producer Sheri Timmons will participate in a Q&A after the 7:00 show on November 3. In conjunction with the theatrical release of Along for the Ride, Metrograph is presenting “Directed by Hopper,” consisting of The Last Movie, Out of the Blue, Colors, The Hot Spot, and Easy Rider.