FESTIVAL OF NEW JAPANESE FILM: BURST CITY (BAKURETSU TOSHI) (爆裂都市) (Sogo Ishii, aka Gakuryū Ishii, 1982)
333 East 47th St. at First Ave.
Saturday, July 23, 10:00
Series runs July 14-24
“These streets have calmed down quite a bit, sir,” a man tells his yakuza boss at the beginning of Sogo Ishii’s crazy, nonstop thrill ride, Burst City, which is screening July 23 at 10:00 in Japan Society’s tenth annual Japan Cuts Festival. Conceived as a platform to showcase several early 1980s Japanese punk bands, including the Battle Rockers, the Roosters, the Stalin, and Inu, the film is a fast-paced, psychotic journey through a postapocalyptic nightmare world where disenchanted youth gather for hard-driving music and car races while they protest the construction of a nuclear facility on the outskirts of what’s left of Tokyo. It’s a crazy conflagration of Mad Max, The Warriors, A Clockwork Orange, Quadrophenia, Koyaanisqatsi, Streets of Fire, Rebel without a Cause, Star Wars, and Rude Boy, with lots of screaming, violence, and singing and very little dialogue or plot. It’s essentially a two-hour free-for-all, an explosive release of urban angst where there are no rules, no winners, and no losers (save for one unfortunate couple). And the music, produced by Roosters leader Shozo Kashiwagi, kicks some serious ass.
The large, spectacularly costumed cast features such longtime character actors as Takanori Jinnai and Shigeru Muroi, but aside from a minor subplot about an unwilling prostitute, the film is not driven by narrative or Method acting. Art director Shigeru Izumiya, who also appears in the film, creates sinister sets that promise the coming destruction, photographed by Norimichi Kasamatsu (Face, Villain) in an ever-changing cycle of lurid color and grainy black-and-white and lunatic editing that makes MTV videos of the time look like home movies of boring families. The art/decoration is credited to Katsuro Ogami and Junji Sakamoto; Sakamoto went on to become a successful director in his own right, making such films as My House, Someday, Face, and Danchi; the latter two are being shown at the 2016 Japan Cuts festival as well. Sogo Ishii, who recently changed his name to Gakuryū Ishii, has also directed such works as Panic in High School, Electric Dragon 80.000V, and Isn’t Anyone Alive? Bursting with a high-powered energy that never lets up, Burst City is screening in the “Flash-Back / Flash-Forward” section of Japan Cuts, along with Ishii’s latest film, Bitter Honey, in which a young woman (Fumi Nikaido) embodies a human-size goldfish.
Who: The Julie Ruin
What: Panorama festival
Where: Randall’s Island Park, the Pavilion
When: Saturday, July 23, $125, 2:50
Why: Former Bikini Kill and Le Tigre legend Kathleen Hanna might declare, “I’m done,” on the Julie Ruin’s second album, Hit Reset (July 8, Hardly Art), but the riot grrrl cofounder’s career is far from over. “I’m not here to please you or beg on my knees or be the villain on your show,” she sings on “I’m Done,” adding, “I’m sick of waiting around to be heard from six feet underground.” The track is one of thirteen new tunes on the record, the follow-up to 2013’s Run Fast; the album also features such songs as “Be Nice,” “Rather Not,” and “I Decide.” On the band’s official website, Hanna, whose intriguing life was documented in the 2013 documentary The Punk Singer, notes, “I’ve written about my personal bouts with illness, abuse, sexism, and how hard it is for me to walk away from people even when they are toxic Tasmanian Devils before, but not in this way. Some songs were so close to me I had to stop singing in practice and while recording because I was crying. It’s rare to work with a group of people you feel okay doing that with. But there was laughter too.” Hanna, Kathi Wilcox, Carmine Covelli, and Sara Landeau will be at the Panorama music, art, food, and technology festival on Saturday, playing the Pavilion at 2:50; that day’s bill also includes Flosstradamus, Blood Orange, the National, Sufjan Stevens, and Kendrick Lamar. You can find the full schedule and set times for all three days here.
161A Chrystie St. between Rivington & Delancey Sts.
Friday, July 22, and Saturday, July 23, $15-$22, 7:30
If you thought the world was going to end on an August day in 2033, what would you do the night before? Performance artist Monstah Black decides to throw a truly strange farewell party in the chaotic but fun Hyperbolic! (The Last Spectacle). The centerpiece of Dixon Place’s twenty-fifth annual Hot! Festival: The NYC Celebration of Queer Culture is a pre-apocalyptic nightmare, possibly taking place completely in the dreaming mind of the blond-wigged Tucker (Joey Cuellar). As the audience enters the downstairs theater, there are five bodies on the floor and one on a bed; it’s difficult to tell if they are real or mannequins. Something truly awful has happened, as furniture and other objects pin the figures to the floor, glittering red fabric oozing off their bodies like blood. Eventually they rise and slowly get up and start prepping for the festivities, choosing their outfits, putting on makeup, and getting the food and drink ready. For a little over an hour, Tucker, Decay (Alicia Dellimore), Geez Louise (Shiloh Hodges), Dezi and Trigger (Johnnie “Cruise” Mercer), Bubbles (Benedict Nguyen), Goddess #1 (Marilyn Louis), Goddess #2 (Yuko “Uko Snowbunny” Tanaka), and Holiday Tahdah (Monstah Black) create themselves and construct their personas, working on makeup, striking poses, and primping in mirrors while also considering what the end means. Sprightly anarchic vanity is on glorious display: Dezi, for example, spends much of the early part of the show making love to his selfie stick, while Holiday frets: “I’ve been spending the last three days trying to figure out how I’m going to fit my shoes into my suitcase. How am I going to fit my shoes into my suitcase, Tucker? How? I know that sounds crazy considering the chaos and disorder we live in, but I have priorities.”
Chaos and disorder abound as the utterly confusing non-narrative piece of unique dance theater rages on, celebrating bodies, desire, glam fashion, cocktails, hair, style to the max, and Madonna-style voguing while evoking Jennie Livingston’s Paris Is Burning. And that’s all before the masks come out. Black is credited as conceptual designer, movement generator, costume designer, theatrical director and camera operator with Ashley Brockington, and music producer with his group, the Illustrious Blacks; his husband, Manchildblack, is musical consultant. (You can follow the couple’s adventures on their YouTube show, At Home with the Blacks.) Under his given name, Reginald Ellis Crump, Black wrote the script in addition to collaborating on the lyrics with Derek D. Gentry. In order to spread the word about Hyperbolic! Dixon Place encourages the audience to take photos and video and post them to social media; however, try not to film nearly the entire production, as the person sitting in front of me did, causing a major distraction, and don’t use your flash, as a man in the first row did. Instead, just let Black and his cast and crew lead you on one wild, unpredictable ride as doomsday approaches. The Hot! Festival continues through August 29 with such other works as Mike Nelson’s If You Want to See the Devil, Ry Szelong’s Interabang, and Dandy Darkly’s Myth Mouth!
THE CANDIDATE (Michael Ritchie, 1972)
BAMcinématek, BAM Rose Cinemas
30 Lafayette Ave. between Ashland Pl. & St. Felix St.
Saturday, July 23, 2:00, 7:00, 9:30
Series runs July 15 - August 3
Four years before playing real-life Washington Post investigative reporter Bob Woodward, who along with Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) blew the lid off the Watergate cover-up, in the Oscar-nominated All the President’s Men, Robert Redford found himself portraying the other side of the political spectrum, starring as a progressive legal aid lawyer who is chosen to run for the Senate in Michael Ritchie’s savvy, documentary-style film The Candidate. The Democratic Party needs someone to run against incumbent Republican Senator Crocker Jarmon (Gidget’s Don Porter), so political operative Marvin Lucas (Peter Boyle) approaches McKay, an attractive, well-respected, and popular community activist whose father, John J. McKay (Melvyn Douglas), was California governor. At first the younger McKay has no interest in running for office, but when Lucas tells him he can say whatever he wants to get his message out — because he’ll have no chance to win — McKay signs on. He hits the streets shaking hands and spreading his philosophy, closely followed by media man Howard Klein (Allen Garfield), who is amassing footage for television advertisements promoting “the better way” with Bill McKay. (McKay’s ads are narrated by Barry Sullivan, who appeared with Redford in Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here, Jarmon’s commercials by Broderick Crawford, who won an Oscar for playing the Huey Long–like Louisiana governor Willie Stark in All the King’s Men in 1949.) It’s clear from the start that McKay is a political newbie while Jarmon is a seasoned pro who knows all the right things to say and do, but McKay’s grass-roots approach soon begins taking hold, and as the race heats up, the challenger is suddenly faced with tough decisions about taking power, compromising his principles, and falling in line with the party machine instead of fighting the good fight as he has done all his life.
Ritchie (Smile, The Bad News Bears) and Redford, who previously collaborated on the director’s first film, Downhill Racer, shoot The Candidate in a cinéma vérité style, blending fiction and reality with cameos by television newsmen Howard K. Smith and Rollin Post, reporter Mike Barnicle, actress Natalie Wood (who starred with Redford in This Property Is Condemned), and such politicians as Hubert Humphrey, George McGovern, Alan Cranston, and John Tunney, whom McKay is loosely based on (along with Jerry Brown). Ritchie had worked on Tunney’s 1970 Senate campaign, which was run by Candidate associate producer Nelson Rising. In addition, screenwriter Jeremy Larner, who won an Oscar for his script, had been the principal speechwriter for Eugene McCarthy’s 1968 presidential bid. (And as a bonus, Douglas’s wife, Helen Gahagan, was the first California Democratic woman to be elected to Congress and ran against Richard M. Nixon for Senate in 1950, losing while coining the nickname “Tricky Dick.”) The excellent cast also features Michael Lerner, Quinn Redeker, Morgan Upton, Kenneth Tobey as a union man, and Karen Carlson as McKay’s wife, Nancy. Photographed by Victor J. Kemper (Husbands, Dog Day Afternoon) and with a score by actor-musician John Rubinstein (son of concert pianist Artur Rubinstein), the film gets right to the heart of the faults of the two-party political system and the manipulation of the media, feeling as relevant as ever despite all the major changes in technology, the 24/7 news cycle, and the advent of social media over the ensuing forty-plus years. There have been many McKay-like candidates over the years, from Dan Quayle to John Edwards to even Barack Obama, with varying degrees of success. But especially with the 2016 Republican National Convention under way, The Candidate seems as fresh and alive, as believable and engaging as ever. “He’s got the name, the looks, and the power,” Nancy McKay says in the film, which concludes with one of the great lines in cinema history. The Candidate is screening July 23 in the BAMcinématek series “Four More Years: An Election Special,” which continues through August 3 with such other politically tinged works as Robert Altman’s Nashville, Barry Levinson’s Wag the Dog, D. A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus’s The War Room, and Mike Nichols’s Primary Colors.
Once upon a time, the food at all-day music festivals was little more than hot dogs, burgers, cotton candy, soda, and pretzels. But the foodie revolution has changed all that, and now festivals of all genres rely on artisinal food trucks and booths to feed hungry concertgoers. Panorama NYC is right on top of the trend with some of the best food vendors in the five boroughs. Taking place July 22-24 on Randall’s Island with such performers as Arcade Fire, Sia, LCD Soundsystem, the National, Kendrick Lamar, Alabama Shakes, and Sufjan Stevens, Panorama also boasts a pretty impressive gourmet lineup of nearly four dozen eateries. Among the food purveyors, with gluten-free and vegan options available, of course, are American Cut, Arancini Bros., Asia Dog, Bareburger, the Beatrice Inn, Dough, Khe-Yo, Landhaus, MatchaBar, Melt Bakery, the NoMad, Pasquale Jones, Roberta’s, Sushi Azabu, Tica’s Tacos, and Waffle de Lys. Although you don’t go to such festivals as Panorama for the food, it’s a lot more fun when you can chow down on some quality eats and drinks while watching eleven hours of music in the hot sun.
Who: Steve Shaiman and Swingtime Big Band
What: Summer Sounds Series at Carl Schurz Park
Where: John Finley Walk, East River Promenade, top of the 86th Street Grand Staircase
When: Wednesday, July 20, free, 7:00
Why: New York-based Swingtime Big Band, purveyors of “Authentic Swing in Living Color,” will be performing a free outdoor concert on July 20 at John Finley Walk in the shadow of Gracie Mansion as part of the Summer Sounds Series in Carl Schurz Park. Led by artistic director, saxophonist, and clarinetist Steve Shaiman, Swingtime’s seventh annual Summer Sounds show will feature the new program “By George,” big band arrangements of George Gershwin tunes from the Great American Songbook. The twenty-member Swingtime Big Band, which consists of reeds, trombones, trumpets, two vocalists, and bass, guitar, drums, and piano, has a busy couple of weeks ahead, with upcoming performances in West Hempstead, Greenport, Rocky Point, Westhampton, and Holbrook on Long Island.