INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (Philip Kaufman, 1978)
Anthology Film Archives
32 Second Ave. at Second St.
Friday, November 30, 7:00, Tuesday, December 4, 9:00, and Sunday, December 9, 6:30
Series runs November 30 - December 10
Based on a magazine serial by Jack Finney, Don Siegel’s 1956 classic, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, was the ultimate thriller about cold war paranoia. Twenty-two years later, in a nation just beginning to come to grips with the failure of the Vietnam War, Philip Kaufman (The Right Stuff, Quills) remade the film, moving the location north to San Francisco from the original’s Los Angeles. When health inspector Matthew Bennell (Donald Sutherland) and lab scientist Elizabeth Driscoll (Brooke Adams) suspect that people, while they sleep, are being replaced by pod replicas, they have a hard time making anyone believe them, especially Dr. David Kibner (Leonary Nimoy), who takes the Freudian route instead. But when Jack and Nancy Bellicec (Jeff Goldblum and Veronica Cartwright) seem to come up with some physical proof, things begin to get far more serious — and much more dangerous. Kaufman’s film is one of the best remakes ever made, paying proper homage to the original while standing up on its own, with an unforgettable ending (as well as an unforgettable dog). It cleverly captures the building selfishness of the late 1970s, which would lead directly into the Reagan era. As an added treat, the film includes a whole bunch of cameos, including Siegel as a taxi driver, Robert Duvall as a priest, and Kevin McCarthy, who starred as Dr. Miles Bennell in the original, still on the run, trying desperately to make someone believe him. The sc-fi thriller, adapted by W. D. Richter (Daniel Mainwaring wrote the 1956 version), is screening as part of the fourth installment of Anthology Film Archives’ “From the Pen of . . .” series, which highlights the work of screenwriters and their original sources, whose work often gets overlooked if it doesn’t win an Oscar. The eleven-day festival also includes such films as John Boorman’s Point Blank, written by Alexander Jacobs based on a Donald Westlake novel; Philip D’Antoni’s The Seven-Ups, written by Jacobs and Albert Reuben, with French Connection and Cruising cop Randy Jurgensen on hand to talk about the movie at the December 1 screening; and John Schlesinger’s Midnight Cowboy, written by Waldo Salt based on the the novel by James Leo Herlihy.
One of two closing-night features of the International Film Festival Manhattan (along with Chris McIntyre’s 21 & a Wake-Up) Susan Seidelman’s Musical Chairs is a predictable, plodding tale that is meant to be a celebration of life but is dragged down by Marty Madden’s ridiculously cliché-riddled script. E. J. Bonilla stars as Armando, a young man who dreams of becoming a ballroom dancer. His mother, Isabel (Priscilla Lopez), wants him to hook up with his childhood friend Rosa (Angelic Zambrana), but he has his heart set on his boss’s (Philip Willingham) girlfriend, Mia (Leah Pipes). After Mia and Armando share a hot dance at the studio where they both work, she is hit by a cab and paralyzed. She is ready to give up on everything, but Armando won’t let her, even trying to convince her to take part in the first-ever New York wheelchair ballroom dance competition. Musical Chairs feels more like an overly simplistic Family Channel movie-of-the-week than a theatrical film, mired down by a continuous stream of inspirational messages about love and life that get tiresome quickly, delivered by cardboard caricatures in telegraphed scenes that couldn’t be more obvious. Seidelman’s career started so promisingly in the 1980s with Smithereens and Desperately Seeking Susan, but her successes have disappointingly been few and far between ever since, and it’s best to just sit out her latest. Musical Chairs will be screening November 15 at 9:00 at the Quad with Jerell Rosales’s short Born to Dance This Way, closing out the IFFM, a week of independent films by and about New Yorkers.
Legendary British ska band the English Beat is doing double duty today at the CMJ Music Marathon, with Dave Wakeling playing an acoustic set at 5:00 at Spike Hill in Brooklyn, followed by what should be an electrifying full-band gig at B.B. King’s with the Paul Collins Beat opening up. The English Beat is touring behind the massive multi-CD/DVD boxed set Special Beat Service, which recounts the history of this highly influential group that still knows how to kick out the jams.
Brothers Alan and Jarrett Steil, who grew up in Montauk and previously teamed up to form the duo Suddyn, have recruited drummer Brandon Cooke for the trio the Rebel Light. As the band prepares its debut EP, you can check out three groovy new anthemic indie tunes, “Wake Up Your Mind,” “My Heroes Are Dead,” and “Goodbye Serenade.” The Rebel Light will kick things off Saturday on the Second Stage at the Catalpa Festival on Randall’s Island, on a bill with the Sheepdogs, Zola Jesus, Hercules and Love Affair, TV on the Radio, the Black Keys, and others. To find out more about Catalpa, read our interview with the festival’s founder, Dave Foran, here.
Morgan Library & Museum
225 Madison Ave. at 36th St.
Tuesday - Sunday through July 1, $10-$15 (free Friday 7:00 - 9:00)
“Dan Flavin: Drawing” is a revealing, illuminating look at a little-known, fascinating side of the innovative New York-based light sculptor. On view at the Morgan through July 1, the exhibit focuses on charcoals, pencils, inks, and watercolors made by Flavin over four decades, from preparatory drawings for his fluorescent sculptures to minimalist landscapes, portraits, and depictions of one of his favorite subjects, sailboats along the Hudson River and out on Long Island. Flavin’s use of line in his drawings is striking, particularly in the sailboat sketches and planned monuments for Russian avant-gardist Vladimir Tatlin. Flavin also pays tribute to a wide range of writers and artists in these works, many made in small three-by-five lined notebooks, including Alexander Calder, Apollinaire, Donald Judd, James Joyce, Barnett Newman, Paul Cézanne, Vincent van Gogh, Sol LeWitt, Titian, Jasper Johns, Michelangelo Antonioni, and Constantin Brancusi. The exhibition ranges from such abstract, blotchy drawings as “The Act of Love” and “untitled (tenements in the rain)” to the Japanese-inspired “a mechanical interior” to the architectural “from no. 1 of Dec 19, 1963 (in pink)” and “(to the young woman and men murdered in Kent State and Jackson State Universities and to their fellow students who are yet to be killed),” which create intriguing spaces on paper.
Several of the later pieces that more directly relate to his light sculptures were actually made by his first wife, Sonja, and his son, Stephen, supervised by Flavin, who died in 1996 at the age of sixty-three. Also on display are nearly fifty works from his personal collection that reveal his many influences, with drawings by such Hudson River School painters as Sanford Robinson Gifford, John Frederick Kensett, and Aaron Draper Shattuck, such Japanese masters as Hiroshige and Hokusai, and such friends and colleagues as Judd, Robert Morris, and LeWitt, in addition to Toulouse-Lautrec, Hans Arp, George Grosz, Piet Mondrian, and Hans Richter. To put it all in perspective, the Morgan has installed two of Flavin’s light sculptures. In the upstairs Engelhard Gallery, “untitled (to the real Dan Hill) 1a” leans against a corner near the main entrance, an eight-foot-high single construction giving off pink, yellow, green, and blue fluorescent light, in stark contrast to the mostly black-and-white drawings throughout the rest of the room. But the real gem is “untitled (in honor of Harold Joachim) 3,” which deservedly stands alone in the downstairs Clare Eddy Thaw Gallery, a beautiful corner grid of six horizontal lights facing out, six vertical lights against the wall, creating soft, meditative glows that are at the heart of Flavin’s raison d'être.
Born and raised in Chicago, Prashant Bhargava returns to his cultural heritage in his debut feature film, the tender and moving Patang. Set during the traditional Uttarayan kite festival held every January 14 in India, the film follows a family celebrating the event in their home in Ahmedabad, where they are joined by Jayesh (Mukund Shukla) for the first time in five years. A successful businessman who moved to Delhi, Jayesh has brought his daughter, Priya (Sugandha Garg), with him, a young woman whose burgeoning sexuality has Jayesh playing the overprotective father. Although most of the family is happy to see him, he finds that he is still at odds with his nephew Chakku (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), who blames Jayesh for his father’s death. Chakku also resents his uncle for having left the family home for the big city. While Jayesh tries to convince his sister-in-law, Sudha (Seema Biswas), and mother (Pannaben Soni), Ba, that Delhi would be good for them as well, Priya flirts with Bobby (Aakash Maherya), a local man she met in an electronics store, and Chakku guides a small group of young boys, particularly Hamid (Hamid Shaikh), through some of the harder sides of life. Bhargava wrote, directed, and edited Patang and also operated one of two handheld HD cameras, along with cinematographer Shanker Raman, giving the film a documentary-like feel that is enhanced by a cast that consists primarily of nonactors in heavily improvised scenes based on the script. The neorealist film pits the traditional against the new, old against young, and rich against poor as the night sky ultimately comes alive with colorful kites, fireworks, and glowing lanterns called tukkals. The film also features an evocative score by Mario Grigorov and songs by Pankaj Awasthi and others that continue the subtle exploration of India’s past, present, and future as seen through the eyes of one tight-knit family.
Cherry Lane Theatre
38 Commerce St.
Through April 1, $61
Something strange happened after we returned to our seats following a brief stroll outside in the beautiful fresh air of a lovely end-of-winter evening during intermission of Teresa’s Ecstasy, running at the Cherry Lane through April 1. It was like we had walked back into a different play. What had been a warm, intimate, and engaging story suddenly turned acidic, mean-spirited, and convoluted. Thank goodness the dreadful second act is much shorter than the tender first. Playwright Begonya Plaza stars as Carlotta, a writer who has returned to Barcelona to get her husband, Andrés (Shawn Elliott), to finally sign their divorce papers and to research a magazine story she is doing on St. Teresa of Avila, a sixteenth-century Carmelite nun of Jewish ancestry who, as Carlotta notes, “overcame death-threatening illnesses, defamations, ethnic and religious genocide by the Spanish Inquisition, reformed her own church, founded over a dozen monasteries, and all the while writing works, masterworks, of literature.” But Andrés, a painter, has no time for organized religion and mysticism. “She’s part of an institution that excludes, kills, exploits, and brainwashes people into complacency,” the painter says. “God is an invention to control the masses for power and wealth.” While that is not necessarily an original argument, the debate works well between the passionate Carlotta and the gentle, easygoing Andrés, even when they are joined by Carlotta’s editor, Becky (Linda Larkin), a sharp-dressed elitist blonde who is immediately at odds with Andrés. But when Becky and Carlotta return from Avila in the second act, they are transformed in such a way that is utterly unbelievable, delivering clichéd diatribes on sex and religion as Andrés turns nasty and rotten, completely undermining everything that was so well established in the first act. Elliott, who had been in the midst of an unforgettable performance, his every movement a work of art, from his arms, hands, and head to his soft eyes that gaze into the audience, stumbled badly over one line, as if he couldn’t get himself to say it out loud in public. Meanwhile, Plaza forces in references to Cat Stevens and Federico García Lorca that feel out-of-place and downright unnecessary. Directed by Will Pomerantz, Teresa’s Ecstasy features tantalizing foreplay that fails to reach a satisfying conclusion.