American Airlines Theatre
227 West 42nd St. between Broadway & Eighth Ave.
Tuesday - Sunday through June 26, $67-$147
As the audience enters the American Airlines Theatre to see the Roundabout revival of Eugene O’Neill’s Pulitzer Prize-winning drama Long Day’s Journey into Night, a white curtain billows ominously from the right side of the set, blown by the wind from an offstage shore. It’s as if we’re being warned that what we’re about to see is a kind of ghost story, and that’s precisely what we witness over the next three hours and forty-five minutes, an intense tale told as if the dysfunctional Tyrone family must relive their personal horrors over and over again, continually hiding from the truths that overwhelm them. Sixty-five-year-old patriarch James Tyrone (Gabriel Byrne) is a miserly, well-known actor who is fond of the bottle and the small tract of land that he owns. He is still in love with his wife, the fifty-four-year-old Mary (Jessica Lange), a morphine addict who has been in and out of sanatoriums and is struggling to deal with reality. Their older son, thirty-three-year-old Jamie (Michael Shannon), is a brash, ne’er-do-well philanderer and would-be actor always at odds with his father. And the younger son, twenty-three-year-old Edmund (John Gallagher Jr.), is a more sensitive soul who is suffering from an illness that might be consumption. It’s August 1912, and the Tyrones are at their summer home on the beach. “I can’t tell you the deep happiness it gives me, darling, to see you as you’ve been since you came back to us, your dear old self again,” James tells Mary, who has recently returned from her latest rehab stint. James and Jamie are trying to keep the severity of Edmund’s illness from Mary, fearful that the truth will send her back to her drug of choice. “It’s a relief to hear Edmund laugh. He’s been so down in the mouth lately,” she says early on, which James ignores resentfully. Soon James and Jamie are having one of their regular arguments, which upsets Edmund and Mary. “What’s all the fuss about? Let’s forget it,” Jamie says. “Yes, forget! Forget everything and face nothing!” James shouts back, summarizing the general Tyrone philosophy. Meanwhile, Mary compares James’s snoring to the foghorn that keeps her awake at night, as if the harsh sound is a wake-up call, warning of dire things to come that all ignore. As they await the verdict from Doc Hardy regarding Edmund’s illness, the ghosts continue to hover over this doomed family, unable to save themselves from their sad destiny.
Completed in 1942 but not published and performed until 1956, three years after O’Neill’s death at sixty-five, Long Day’s Journey into Night is a semiautobiographical look at the playwright’s own family over the course of one very long day, from 8:30 in the morning to midnight. It takes a while to get used to accepting the cast as the Tyrone family; while Byrne is around the right age for James, Mary is supposed to be eleven years younger but Lange is actually a year older than Byrne, and Shannon and Gallagher at first seem completely miscast, but they both eventually settle into their roles. Director Jonathan Kent (Hamlet, Man of La Mancha) makes the most of Tom Pye’s (The Testament of Mary, Fiddler on the Roof) inviting yet haunting set, Natasha Katz’s (An American in Paris, Aida) appropriately moody lighting, and Clive Goodwin’s (The Glass Menagerie, Once) menacing sound design, keeping the audience on edge as the intense drama unfolds. Byrne (A Moon for the Misbegotten, A Touch of the Poet) and Lange (A Streetcar Named Desire, The Glass Menagerie) ultimately form a stirring James and Mary, their love complicated by suspicion and doubt, in parts previously played by such pairs as Robert Ryan and Geraldine Fitzgerald, Laurence Olivier and Constance Cummings, Jason Robards and Zoe Caldwell, Robards and Colleen Dewhurst, Jack Lemmon and Bethel Leslie, Brian Dennehy and Vanessa Redgrave, and, in 2000, Charles Dance and Lange. The cast also includes Colby Minifie (The Pillowman, Punk Rock) as Cathleen, the Tyrones’ young maid who speaks her mind when she has the chance. “A drop now and then is no harm when you’re in low spirits, or have a bad cold,” she says to Edmund as the two steal a drink from one of James’s closely watched bottles. Of course, drinking can actually do a lot of harm, as the Tyrones, and O’Neill himself, are well aware. This Roundabout revival is a powerful production of one of America’s signature plays, once again justifying its position in the pantheon alongside such other towering achievements as Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire, and Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Who: Wong Kar Wai, La Frances Hui
What: Modern Mondays
Where: MoMA Film, Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53rd St. between Fifth & Sixth Aves., 212-708-9400
When: Monday, May 23, $8-$12, 7:30
Why: “Our distant comradeship went on for twenty years, all of them blessedly unconstrained by the inhibiting, red-eyed presence of a tape recorder. We never did a proper interview, much less anything so large as a book,” pop-culture and film critic John Powers recently wrote in his Vogue essay “How to Write a Book with Wong Kar Wai,” continuing, “As I flew home to L.A., I was experiencing what I’d long heard about working on one of Wong’s long-gestating films: You spend your time waiting and waiting, dependent on his decisions, wondering if there’s any end in sight.” They were trying to finish what would become WKW: The Cinema of Wong Kar Wai (Rizzoli, April 2016, $65) in time for the opening of the Met Fifth Avenue’s exhibition “China: Through the Looking Glass,” for which Wong was serving as artistic director. Well, they made it, and on May 23, Wong, the writer-director of such cutting-edge works as Days of Being Wild, Chungking Express, Happy Together, and the lush In the Mood for Love, will be at MoMA for a Modern Mondays presentation including film clips, a conversation with MoMA Department of Film associate curator La Frances Hui, and a book signing. “China: Through the Looking Glass” continues in the Met’s Chinese Galleries and Anna Wintour Costume Center through September 7.
Opera in the Bronx? On May 26, as part of its 125th anniversary, the New York Botanical Garden will offer a sneak peek at this summer’s Glimmerglass Festival at a special one-night-only program. The evening begins at 6:00 with a viewing of the gallery section of the new exhibition “Impressionism: American Gardens on Canvas,” which features gardens curated by Francisca Coelho in the style of works by Childe Hassam, John Singer Sargent, and other artists, along with Impressionist paintings and sculptures. At 7:00 in Ross Hall, soprano Alison King, mezzo-soprano Zoie Reams, tenor Chaz’men Williams-Ali, baritone Johnathan McCullough, and pianist Kevin Miller will perform excerpts from a new Belle Époque production of Giacomo Puccini’s La bohème, Gioachino Rossini and Giovanni Gherardini’s The Thieving Magpie, Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler’s Sweeney Todd, and Robert Ward’s Pulitzer Prize-winning adaptation of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, as well as past favorites, presented by Glimmerglass artistic and general director Francesca Zambello and the Young Artists Program. Following the performance, ticket holders are invited to the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory to see the garden part of the Impressionism exhibition. The Glimmerglass Festival takes place July 8 to August 27 in Cooperstown and also includes Laura Karpman and Kelley Rourke’s new Youth Opera: Wilde Tales, discussions with New York State attorney general Eric Schneiderman and journalist Jeffrey Toobin on The Crucible, Sondheim on Sweeney Todd, and Supreme Court Justice and opera lover Ruth Bader Ginsburg in addition to master classes, lounges, preview brunches, and more.
Anthology Film Archives
32 Second Ave. at Second St.
In conjunction with the theatrical premiere of Walter Salles’s Jia Zhangke, a Guy from Fenyang, a documentary running May 27 through June 2 about the life and career of one of the leaders of China’s Sixth Generation of filmmakers, Anthology Film Archives is presenting three other works by the extraordinary writer-director, who goes back and forth between fiction and nonfiction (sometimes in the same film) while exploring the very real problems the Chinese people are facing in the massive transition to modernity. The Cannes Film Festival favorite has made such films as Platform, Unknown Pleasures, The World, Useless, 24 City, and I Wish I Knew; the Anthology series will show 2006’s Golden Lion-winning Still Life, 2013’s A Touch of Sin, and 2015’s Mountains May Depart.
MOUNTAINS MAY DEPART (SHAN HE GU REN) (Jia Zhangke, 2015)
Anthology Film Archives
Monday, May 23, 7:30, and Saturday, May 28, 4:30
Master Chinese writer-director Jia Zhangke returned to the New York Film Festival last year with Mountains May Depart, a melancholic look at love and relationships in which one decision can change the rest of your life, as well as an allegory about China itself and its path in the world. Jia’s wife and muse, Zhao Tao, stars as Shen Tao, a flighty, flakey young woman flirting with coal miner Liangzi (Liang Jin Dong) and burgeoning capitalist Zhang Jinsheng (Zhang Yi) in 1999 China, the country on the cusp of an economic crisis. It’s easy to see the young woman’s romantic decision as a microcosm of China’s economic decisions, as the working class battles the wealthy elite, and the effects of both are profound. The setup is reminiscent of the love triangle at the center of François Truffaut’s Jules et Jim, but Jia takes it much further, continuing the story in 2014, and then into 2025, a bleak future where individual happiness is painfully elusive. Jia (Still Life, The World, 24 City) and his longtime cinematographer, Yu Lik-wai, shoot the three time periods in different screen ratios, exemplifying how much things evolve as Chinese capitalism and globalism take over, affecting — and disaffecting — the next generation. But the past is always snapping at the characters’ heels; much of the film takes place in the Yellow River basin, where ancient structures recall China’s history, and in Jia’s vision of the future, vinyl LPs are back in fashion (although handheld devices are much cooler). Music plays a key role in the film, primarily Sally Yeh’s Cantonese song “Take Care” and the Pet Shop Boys’ cover of the Village People’s “Go West,” the latter a title that gets to the heart of the film.
Zhao is marvelous as the bittersweet Shen, from singing at the colorful Fenyang Spring Festival Gala as the new millennium approaches to trying to restore her relationship with her son (Dong Zijian), who her husband insisted be named Dollar. Her eyes are filled with emotion as she proceeds on a course that was never what she dreamed. In the third section, Sylvia Chang shines as Mia, a sensitive, divorced teacher from Hong Kong who grows close to Dollar in a future world in which English has eclipsed Chinese, so fathers and sons literally do not speak the same language. Navigating the four physical sufferings of Buddhist thought — birth, old age, sickness, and death, Jia avoids showing many key moments in the lives of the characters, often leaving it up to the audience to uncover what has happened over the years and decades, which has a certain grace, although the ambiguous ending is more than a bit frustrating, even if it makes sense as a parable for China as a whole. But it’s all encapsulated in the briefest of kisses in a helicopter that will both brighten and break your heart. And keep an eye out for the guy with the Guangdong Broadsword.
A TOUCH OF SIN (TIAN ZHU DING) (Jia Zhangke, 2013)
Anthology Film Archives
Tuesday, May 24, 7:30, and Sunday, May 29, 2:00
During his sixteen-year career, Sixth Generation Chinese filmmaker Jia Zhangke has made both narrative works (The World, Platform, Still Life) and documentaries (Useless, I Wish I Knew), with his fiction films containing elements of nonfiction and vice versa. Such is the case with his latest film, the powerful A Touch of Sin, which explores four based-on-fact outbreaks of shocking violence in four different regions of China. In Shanxi, outspoken miner Dahai (Jiang Wu) won’t stay quiet about the rampant corruption of the village elders. In Chongqing, married migrant worker and father Zhao San (Wang Baoqiang) obtains a handgun and is not afraid to use it. In Hubei, brothel receptionist Ziao Yu (Zhao Tao, Jia’s longtime muse and now wife) can no longer take the abuse and assumptions of the male clientele. And in Dongguan, young Xiao Hui (Luo Lanshan) tries to make a life for himself but is soon overwhelmed by his lack of success. Inspired by King Hu’s 1971 wuxia film A Touch of Zen, Jia also owes a debt to Max Ophüls’s 1950 bittersweet romance La Ronde, in which a character from one segment continues into the next, linking the stories. In A Touch of Sin, there is also a character connection in each successive tale, though not as overt, as Jia makes a wry, understated comment on the changing ways that people connect in modern society. In depicting these four acts of violence, Jia also exposes the widening economic gap between the rich and the poor and the social injustice that is prevalent all over contemporary China — as well as the rest of the world — leading to dissatisfied individuals fighting for their dignity in extreme ways. A Touch of Sin is a gripping, frightening film that earned Jia the Best Screenplay Award at Cannes.
STILL LIFE (SANXIA HAOREN) (Jia Zhangke, 2006)
Anthology Film Archives
Saturday, May 28, 2:00
Sunday, May 29, 4:45
Sixth Generation Chinese film director Jia Zhangke won the Golden Lion for Best Film at the Venice Film Festival for the small gem Still Life, his beautiful, elegiac, documentary-like examination of displaced family. Jia sets his film around the ongoing, controversial Three Gorges Dam project, which has forced millions of residents from their homes. Han Sanming, a miner from Shanxi, arrives in the former town of Fengjie, looking for the daughter he hasn’t seen in sixteen years, since she was a baby. Meanwhile, a young nurse, Shen Hong (Zhao Tao), is seeking out her husband, a construction executive whom she hasn’t heard from in two years. Using nonprofessional actors, Jia (Platform, The World) tells their heartbreaking stories virtually in slow motion, with many scenes driven by Han’s tired eyes, featuring little or no dialogue. He gets a job helping tear down buildings, in direct contrast to his desire to rebuild his relationship with his long-lost family. Jia’s gentle camera reveals how China, in its quest for modernization and financial power, has left behind so many of its people, the heart and soul of the land that has literally been torn out from under them.
Museum of the Moving Image, 35th Ave. at 36th St.
Kaufman Astoria Studios backlot, 36th St. between 34th & 35th Aves.
Sunday, May 22, free, 11:00 am - 5:00 pm
New York on Location, the Museum of the Moving Image’s annual street fair and celebration, will take place on May 22, featuring a full day of movie-related activities. A joint venture of the museum, Theatrical Teamsters Local 817, I.A.T.S.E. Local 52, and Kaufman Astoria Studios, the festivities include car, fire, and high-fall stunts, weather effects, hair and makeup demonstrations, face painting and hair extensions, and more. Visitors can also go inside twenty working trailers and trucks that come directly from shoots and speak with professionals about their jobs, in addition to using a few of their bathrooms. Even some of the food that is available for purchase will be set up in movie-catering fashion. “The film and television industry employs thousands of New Yorkers every year, from electricians to carpenters to makeup artists. And while we love seeing the magic that appears on screen, few people outside the industry can really appreciate all the work that goes into creating that magic,” Kaufman Astoria Studios president and CEO Hal Rosenbluth said in a statement. “New York on Location is a wonderful way for families and anyone interested in movies and TV shows to experience what goes on behind-the-scenes and meet the people who work in the industry.” As a bonus, the museum will be open for free as well, so be sure to check out such exhibitions as “Behind the Screen,” “Arcade Classics: Video Games from the Collection,” “The World of Anomalisa,” “To the Moon and Beyond: Graphic Films and the Inception of 2001: A Space Odyssey,” “Mutant Leftovers,” and “Computer Films of the 1960s.”
WEINER (Josh Kriegman & Elyse Steinberg, 2016)
IFC Center, 323 Sixth Ave. at West Third St., 212-924-7771
Lincoln Plaza Cinema, 1886 Broadway between 62nd & 63rd Sts., 212-757-2280
Opens Friday, May 20
Near the end of Weiner, one of the most revealing and entertaining documentaries about a political figure you’re ever likely to see, one of the directors, Josh Kriegman, asks subject extraordinaire Anthony Weiner, “Why have you let me film this?” It’s a great question, and one that can be inquired of Weiner’s wife as well, Huma Abedin, who stands alongside her scandal-ridden husband nearly every step of the way. In May 2011, during his seventh term as a fierce, fiery congressman representing parts of Brooklyn and Queens, Weiner was forced to resign in disgrace after it was discovered that he had sent lewd pictures of himself to several women over a public social media account while lying about it as well. Just two years later, the Brooklyn-born Weiner decided to get back in the game, running for mayor of New York City. Kriegman, who was a senior aide to Weiner in 2004-5 and his New York chief of staff in 2005-6, thought the comeback campaign would make a fascinating story, and Weiner agreed, giving him virtually unlimited access to his family and staffers. Initially, everything is going better than expected: Weiner is leading in the polls and getting his message across. But then the sexting scandal rises up again, and it all starts falling apart. Weiner tries hard to fight the good fight, concentrating on communicating his political platform, but the media only wants to ask him and his brave wife about the sexting, even when it is clear that the people of New York City prefer to talk about the issues. “I guess the punch line is true about me. I did the things . . . but I did a lot of other things too,” Weiner acknowledges. Of course, maybe Weiner never really had a fair chance. The movie begins with a telling quote from Marshall McLuhan: “The name of a man is a numbing blow from which he never recovers.”
PBS and MTV veterans Kriegman and codirector Elyse Steinberg amassed more than four hundred hours of footage for their feature debut, and very rarely does Weiner or Abedin shut them out, even when things appear to hit rock bottom. Kriegman focuses his camera on Weiner, who doesn’t flinch as he considers all his options and, all too often, takes the wrong path, whether it’s getting angry with a patron in a Jewish deli or arguing with Lawrence O’Donnell on a videolink interview. Weiner continually performs self-defeating acts that Abedin, a longtime Hillary Clinton supporter who is now vice chairwoman of the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee’s campaign, gracefully and painfully points out to him, but she sticks with her husband and his campaign to the bitter end. Kriegman and Steinberg show Weiner hanging out at home, walking around barefoot, and playing with son Jordan, who was born in December 2011. But it’s truly heartbreaking when the directors zero in on Abedin’s forlorn face as the scandal grows and grows and the media has a field day with it. Weiner is seamlessly edited by Eli Despres (Blackfish, Red Army), who keeps the tension high even when we know what is coming, as the narrative plays out like a unique kind of political thriller. It’s impossible to take your eyes off the screen, to stop watching Weiner and Abedin as they have to deal with his dirty laundry in public. In addition to allowing Kriegman and Steinberg to follow him everywhere, the usually charismatic Weiner is decidedly dour as he sits down for a candid wraparound interview with the filmmakers. “Shit. This is the worst. This is the worst. Doing a documentary on my scandal,” Weiner opines at one point, displaying a rare moment of genuine regret as opposed to his usual hubris. But the film, which makes no judgments — and which Weiner and Abedin have refused to see so far — is as much about the relationship between media and politics as it is about one specific politician who made some personal mistakes, and it does not bode well for our future. Will Weiner ever be able to stage another comeback? He’s a determined guy, almost to the point of obsession, with a deep desire to help the people of New York City and the country, but then there’s that name, and the photos he posted, and the strange faces that he makes, so a third chance might just be one too many. A most human drama that won the U.S. Grand Jury Documentary Prize at Sundance, the extraordinary Weiner opens at Lincoln Plaza and the IFC Center on May 20, with the filmmakers at IFC for Q&As following the 8:00 show on Friday night and the 7:15 and 8:00 shows on Saturday.
MAGGIE’S PLAN (Rebecca Miller, 2015)
Opens Friday, May 20
Rebecca Miller channels her inner Woody Allen and Noah Baumbach with the bittersweet romantic comedy Maggie’s Plan, which made its U.S. premiere at the fifty-third New York Film Festival last September. Greta Gerwig is at her loopy best as Maggie, a thirtysomething college arts administrator who, after failing to maintain any relationship for more than six months, decides to become a single mother by impregnating herself with the sperm of an old classmate, Guy (Travis Fimmel), a Brooklyn hipster trying to become a pickle mogul. (He works for the real Brooklyn Brine Co.) Maggie’s married best buds, former boyfriend Tony (Bill Hader) and Felicia (Maya Rudolph), who have just had a baby themselves, debate her decision, but she is determined to forge ahead. As she prepares for the artificial insemination, which she is performing herself, she grows close with older New School adjunct professor John (Ethan Hawke), a ficto-crypto-anthropologist working on his novel. John has two kids of his own but is feeling overwhelmed by his wife, Georgette (Julianne Moore), a wickedly ambitious educator who has just been offered a lofty position at Columbia. Soon Maggie, John, and Georgette are in the midst of a complicated love triangle that is at times as frustrating to watch as it is endearing.
Miller, the daughter of playwright Arthur Miller, is a novelist and writer-director who has previously made such films as The Ballad of Jack and Rose, which starred her husband, Daniel Day-Lewis, and The Private Lives of Pippa Lee. Inspired by an unpublished novel by Karen Rinaldi, Maggie’s Plan is likely to be Miller’s most popular film, despite the clichéd setup that threatens to be annoyingly obvious and mundane but usually manages to bring out something fresh and charming. The tale evokes such films as Allen’s Manhattan and Baumbach’s Frances Ha, with mumblecore breakout star Gerwig (Nights and Weekends, Hannah Takes the Stairs) again playing a quirky character who seems to live in her own candy-colored fantasy land. Miller even uses cinematographer Sam Levy, who photographed such other Gerwig films as Frances Ha and Mistress America, to shoot Maggie’s Plan. Hawke is in good form as a man caught between two worlds, Hader and Rudolph provide cynical comic relief, and it’s impossible to take your eyes off Gerwig, who once again displays her mesmerizing natural talent, but Moore nearly steals the show as the sensationally dressed and coiffed Georgette, an unrelenting force with a to-die-for Danish-Teutonic accent and an attitude to boot.