JIMMY P.: PSYCHOTHERAPY OF A PLAINS INDIAN (Arnaud Desplechin, 2013)
Film Society of Lincoln Center
Francesca Beale Theater, Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center
144 West 65th St. between Eighth Ave. & Broadway
Sunday, March 13, 7:30, and Wednesday, March 16, 4:00
Series runs March 11-17
Based on a true story documented in Georges Devereux’s 1951 book, Reality and Dream: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian, which features an introduction by Margaret Mead, Palme d’Or nominee Jimmy P. details the fascinating relationship between French-Hungarian ethnologist, anthropologist, and psychoanalyst Devereux (Mathieu Amalric) and Native American Blackfoot James Picard (Benicio del Toro). A WWII veteran living in Montana in 1948, Picard is taken to Topeka Winter Hospital after suffering from debilitating headaches and temporary blindness. When doctors Menninger (Larry Pine), Holt (Joseph Cross), Braatoy (Ricky Wayne), and Jokl (Elya Baskin) can’t find anything physically wrong with Picard — and wonder whether their unfamiliarity with Indians is limiting their understanding of his problems — Menninger calls in his colleague Devereux, a Freudian who is having difficulty getting a full-time position because of some of the unusual methods he employs. An excited Devereux immerses himself in Picard’s case, getting the direct, not-very-talkative Blackfoot to soon start opening up about his personal life, share his dreams, and discuss his military experiences. While the other doctors disagree with one another on what Devereux is doing, he and Jimmy develop a unique friendship, two very different men trying to find their place in life. Director Arnaud Desplechin wrote the screenplay (with Julie Peyr and Kent Jones) specifically for Amalric and del Toro, and it’s a terrific pairing, the former, who has previously starred in Desplechin’s A Christmas Tale, My Sex Life . . . or How I Got Into an Argument, and Kings and Queen, playing Devereux with a childlike, wide-eyed wonder, the latter portraying Jimmy with dark, brooding, penetrating eyes while also exuding an inner peace and poetry. The film slows down and gets off track when it strays from its main storyline, particularly when Devereux is visited by his married girlfriend, Madeleine (Gina McKee), and the reenacted dream sequences and past memories are hit or miss, some boasting a surreal beauty, others unnecessarily confusing, but when Amalric (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) and del Toro (Traffic) are on-screen together, Jimmy P. is mesmerizing. Jimmy P.: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian is screening March 13 & 16 in the Film Society of Lincoln Center series “Golden Days: The Films of Arnaud Desplechin,” a weeklong retrospective celebrating the March 18 release of Desplechin’s latest film, My Golden Days. Running March 11-17, the festival features such other films as The Sentinel, La vie des morts (which Desplechin will introduce on March 15), Kings and Queen (which will be followed by a Q&A with the director on March 17), and My Golden Days (with Desplechin on hand for Q&As after screenings on March 15 & 18).
I SELL THE DEAD (Glenn McQuaid, 2009)
323 Sixth Ave. at Third St.
Friday, November 6, and Saturday, November 7
Series continues through November 14
Glenn McQuaid’s I Sell the Dead is an old-fashioned fun horror movie, paying homage to the Hammer films of yore. After his grave-robbing partner, Willie Grimes (Larry Fessenden), is guillotined, Arthur Blake (Dominic Monaghan) awaits his turn. With five hours to go before his execution, Blake is visited by Father Francis Duffy (Ron Perlman), who wants to know all the details of Grimes and Blake’s business, especially as it relates to harvesting the undead. So with a bottle of whiskey by his side, Blake recounts the pair’s eerie adventures through foggy eighteenth-century England and their battles with the House of Murphy, a rival outfit that also gathers corpses for a living. Writer-director-editor McQuaid imbues the film with a graphic-novel feel, with many scenes ending in colorful freeze-frame panels; although I Sell the Dead is an original story (based on his own short), the director did adapt the script into a comic book before shooting in order to capture the mood and visual style he was after. And cinematographer Rick Lopez, production designer David Bell, and art director Beck Underwood nail that atmosphere, along with Jeff Grace’s ambitious score. The cast also includes Phantasm Tall Man Angus Scrimm as a creepy violin-playing doctor in desperate need of body parts, Brenda Cooney as Blake’s boisterous girlfriend, and Joel Garland as a burly tavern owner after his own piece of the action. The film was shot in Staten Island, Long Island, and Manhattan; if the Fortune of War bar looks familiar, that’s because it’s actually the Scratcher in the East Village. I Sell the Dead is screening November 6 & 7 as part of the IFC Center series “Glass Eye Pix: 30th Anniversary Tribute,” a loving look at the indie company headed by Fessenden, the director of such cult favorites as Habit and Wendigo. The festival concludes November 13 & 14 with Jim Mickle’s Stake Land.
The twenty-fifth annual Coney Island Sand Sculpting Contest will take place on August 15, as amateur and semiprofessional individuals and groups will create masterpieces in the Brooklyn sand, many with a nautical theme. It’s a blast watching the constructions rise from nothing into some extremely elaborate works of temporary art. Last year’s winners included Abraham Cruz’s Lady Liberty, Team Frank Russo’s Castle to the Sky, Gelina & the Sanchez Family’s Primordial Lizard, Bradley Pion’s Giant Turtle, and Gilbert Ortega’s Freedom Tower. The event, which features cash prizes, is hosted by Astella Development Corporation and Brooklyn Community Services, with donations and sponsorship helping those still recovering from Hurricane Sandy. While visiting Coney Island on August 15, you should also check out the Coney Island Museum, the Circus Sideshow, the Coney Island Film Society screening of George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, the Burlesque at the Beach presentation “Kerryn and Kitten’s Night at the Beach,” and the Scan-a-Rama 3D Portrait Studio Scan-a-Thon, in addition to riding the Cyclone and the Wonder Wheel.
Who: Isamu Noguchi
What: “Isamu Noguchi: Variations”
Where: Pace Gallery, 508-510 West Twenty-Fifth St. between Tenth & Eleventh Aves., 212-989-4258
When: Tuesday - Saturday through March 21, free, 10:00 am - 6:00 pm
Why: Usually you have to go to Long Island City to see an extensive survey of the work of L.A.-born Japanese-American artist Isamu Noguchi, who built his own museum and garden in Queens in 1985. But for the first time in more than a decade, you can take in a major solo Noguchi show in Manhattan, as “Isamu Noguchi: Variations” continues at two side-by-side Pace galleries in Chelsea through March 21. “Growth can only be new, for awareness is the ever-changing adjustment of the human psyche to chaos,” Noguchi said in his artist statement for the 1946 MoMA exhibition “Fourteen Americans,” continuing, “If I say that growth is the constant transfusion of human meaning into the encroaching void, then how great is our need today when our knowledge of the universe has filled space with energy, driving us toward a greater chaos and new equilibriums. I say it is the sculptor who orders and animates space, gives it meaning.” It is a thrill to see dozens of works, from sculpture (in various materials) and set designs to furniture and paper lanterns in addition to abstract gouaches, laid out in a whole new way in this space, with exciting juxtapositions and calming paths bringing new personal meanings.
CUTIE AND THE BOXER (Zachary Heinzerling, 2013)
MoMA Film, Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53rd St. between Fifth & Sixth Aves.
Tuesday, November 26, 8:00
Series continues through January 16
Tickets: $12, in person only, may be applied to museum admission within thirty days, same-day screenings free with museum admission, available at Film and Media Desk beginning at 9:30 am
Zachary Heinzerling’s Cutie and the Boxer is a beautifully told story of love and art and the many sacrifices one must make to try to succeed in both. In 1969, controversial Japanese Neo Dada action painter and sculptor Ushio Shinohara came to New York City, looking to expand his career. According to the catalog for the recent MoMA show “Tokyo 1955-1970: A New Avant-Garde,” which featured four works by Ushio, “American art had seemed to him to be ‘marching toward the glorious prairie of the rainbow and oasis of the future, carrying all the world’s expectations of modern painting.’” Four years later, he met nineteen-year-old Noriko, who had left Japan to become an artist in New York as well. The two fell in love and have been together ever since, immersed in a fascinating relationship that Heinzerling explores over a five-year period in his splendid feature-length theatrical debut. Ushio and Noriko live in a cramped apartment and studio in DUMBO, where he puts on boxing gloves, dips them in paint, and pounds away at large, rectangular canvases and builds oversized motorcycle sculptures out of found materials. Meanwhile, Noriko, who has spent most of the last forty years taking care of her often childlike husband and staying with him through some rowdy times and battles with the bottle, is finally creating her own work, an R. Crumb-like series of drawings detailing the life of her alter ego, Cutie, and her often cruel husband, Bullie. (“Ushi” means “bull” in Japanese.) While Ushio is more forthcoming verbally in the film, mugging for the camera and speaking his mind, the pig-tailed Noriko is far more tentative, so director and cinematographer Heinzerling brings her tale to life by animating her work, her characters jumping off the page to show Cutie’s constant frustration with Bullie.
During the course of the too-short eighty-two-minute film — it would have been great to spend even more time with these unique and compelling figures — the audience is introduced to the couple’s forty-year-old son, who has some issues of his own; Guggenheim senior curator of Asian Art Alexandra Munroe, who stops by the studio to consider purchasing one of Ushio’s boxing paintings for the museum; and Chelsea gallery owner Ethan Cohen, who represents Ushio. But things never quite take off for Ushio, who seems to always be right on the cusp of making it. Instead, the couple struggles to pay their rent. One of the funniest, yet somehow tragic, scenes in the film involves Ushio packing up some of his sculptures — forcing them into a suitcase like clothing — and heading back to Japan to try to sell some pieces. Cutie and the Boxer is a special documentary that gets to the heart of the creative process as it applies both to art and love, focusing on two disparate people who have made a strange yet thoroughly charming life for themselves. Cutie and the Boxer is screening November 26 at 8:00 as part of MoMA’s annual series “The Contenders” and will be followed by a discussion with Heinzerling. “The Contenders,” which consists of exemplary films that MoMA believes will stand the test of time and continues with such films as Haifaa Al-Mansour’s Wadjda, Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station, Alexander Payne’s Nebraska, and Richard Linklater’s Before Midnight.
METROPOLIS (Fritz Lang, 1927)
209 West Houston St.
Monday, September 2, 5:40, 8:30
Series runs through September 5
Film Forum master programmer Bruce Goldstein has made quite a scheduling choice for Labor Day, screening the 153-minute definitive reconstruction of Fritz Lang’s epic silent masterpiece Metropolis as part of the “Son of Summer Sci-Fi, Fantasy & Horror” series. Set one hundred years in the future, Metropolis pits man vs. machine, the corporation against the worker, and sin vs. salvation in a futuristic society run by business mogul Joh Fredersen (Alfred Abel). While Fredersen rakes in the big bucks on the surface, the workers are treated like slaves way down below, in a dark, dank hell where they perform their automaton-like jobs. When Fredersen’s son, Freder (Gustav Fröhlich), starts feeling sympathy for the workers and falls for Maria (Brigitte Helm), an activist who is trying to convince the men, women, and children of the lower depths that they deserve more out of life, Fredersen has mad inventor Rotwang (Rudolf Klein-Rogge) create a man-machine version of Maria to steer his employees to a revolution that will lead them to self-destruct, although things don’t quite turn out as planned. Written by Lang and his wife, Thea Von Harbou, Metropolis is a visual marvel, featuring jaw-dropping special effects by Eugen Schüfftan (who was developing his Schüfftan process of using miniatures) and a stunning man-machine designed by sculptor Walter Schulze-Mittendorff.
The complex story incorporates biblical elements, from direct references to the Tower of Babel to other allusions, including fire and flood, while focusing on the relationship between father and prodigal son that evokes both God and Jesus and Abraham and Isaac. A parable that also relates to the battle between employers and unions, the film features a series of doppelgängers: there are two Marias, the real one, who is loving and genuine, and the cold and calculating man-machine; Freder and worker 11811, Georgy (Erwin Binswanger), who temporarily switch places; and Fredersen’s wife, Hel, who died while giving birth to Freder but has been revived into the initial man-machine by Rotwang, who was also in love with her. The massive achievement was shot by Karl Freund (Dracula, Key Largo) with Günther Rittau and Walter Ruttmann, who give it a dazzlingly dramatic look in every scene, accompanied by a soaring score by Gottfried Huppertz that incorporates snippets of Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle’s “La Marseillaise.” The film declares, “The mediator between head and hands must be the heart!” Lang explores all three in this remarkable film, which has been shown over the years in various versions and with different music, most famously Giorgio Moroder’s 1984 score, but this screening at Film Forum is the real deal, getting as close to Lang’s intended original as possible. It’s quite a way to spend part of your Labor Day weekend.
They don’t come much more inspirational than Sidiki Conde. Born in Guinea in 1961, Sidiki contracted polio when he was fourteen, ultimately losing the use of his lower legs. But he didn’t lose his inner spirit and sense of humor, strengthening his upper body and learning how to walk — and dance — using his hands. Director Alan Govenar (The Beat Hotel) shares Sidiki’s inspiring story in the new documentary You Don’t Need Feet to Dance, opening at the Quad on March 22. Govenar follows Sidiki as he goes through a normal day: waking up, brushing his teeth, walking down five flights of stairs in his apartment building, putting together his wheelchair, rolling through the streets of New York greeting his many friends, taking the bus or the subway, going for a ride in his specially made bicycle (powered by his hands), and, primarily, teaching disabled children how to play music and love life. All the while, he wears a big ear-to-ear smile, loving virtually every minute of what is not exactly an easy existence. A singer, dancer, composer, drummer, and choreographer, Sidiki was a member of Mohamed Komoko Sano’s Merveilles D’Afrique in Guinea, and in 1998, after immigrating to the United States, he founded the Tokounou All-Abilities Dance and Music Ensemble. His joie de vivre is nothing short of infectious; the only thing that gets him down is when not enough people show up for a party. Govenar doesn’t turn Sidiki into some kind of circus sideshow; instead, he lets Sidiki tell his story his own way, the only way he knows how: with plenty of love, humor, and gratitude to spread around.