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.
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.