PUBLIC ENEMIES (Michael Mann, 2009)
BAMcinématek, BAM Rose Cinemas
30 Lafayette Ave. between Ashland Pl. & St. Felix St.
Monday, February 15, 5:00 & 8:00
Series continues through February 16
In the early years of talkies, around the time of the Great Depression, Hollywood — and America — fell in love with gangsters and gangster pictures. Edward G. Robinson, Paul Muni, and James Cagney became stars in such films as Little Caesar, Scarface, and Public Enemy. In 1967, right around the Summer of Love, the ultraviolent, highly stylized Bonnie and Clyde reinvigorated the genre, casting the notorious thieves as the can’t-miss glamorous duo of Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty, followed two years later by the can’t-miss glamorous duo of Paul Newman and Robert Redford as the title characters in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Then, in 2009, with the country deep into a recession and hot off the success of Ridley Scott’s American Gangster, powerhouse writer-director-producer Michael Mann (Thief, Miami Vice) went back to the 1930s for Public Enemies, a superb, exciting retelling of legendary bank robber and people’s hero John Dillinger.
Based on the book by Bryan Burrough, who praised Mann in the L.A. Times for getting so many — if not all, of course — of the facts, details, and even nuances right, Public Enemies begins with a prison break engineered by Dillinger in 1933, revealing him to be a sly, clever, and extremely smooth criminal, a violent villain impossible not to love, especially as played by Johnny Depp. (Dillinger has previously been portrayed by such actors as Warren Oates, Lawrence Tierney, and even Mark Harmon.) Dillinger puts together his crew, which includes John “Red” Hamilton (Jason Clarke), Harry Pierpont (David Wenham), and Homer Van Meter (Stephen Dorff), and falls in love with coat-check girl Billie Frechette (Marion Cotillard) as he proceeds on his well-publicized crime wave. A blustery J. Edgar Hoover (Billy Crudup) sics master G-man Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale) on Dillinger, and the two play a cat-and-mouse game through the Midwest, with appearances by such other notorious gangsters as Pretty Boy Floyd (Channing Tatum), Frank Nitti (Bill Camp), Baby Face Nelson (Stephen Graham), and Alvin Karpis (Giovanni Ribisi). The bullets keep flying as Dillinger grows bolder and bolder and Purvis gets closer and closer. Public Enemies is a classy, handsome gangster picture for the modern age, a fun trip back to a time before billion-dollar bank bailouts, when certain thieves were more like Robin Hood than Bernie Madoff. Public Enemies is screening February 15 at 5:00 & 8:00 in the BAMcinématek series “Heat & Vice: The Films of Michael Mann,” a twelve-film, twelve-day tribute to the Chicago-born producer, director, and screenwriter, who turned sixty-three on the first day of the festival, February 5. The Emmy-winning, Oscar-nominated Mann will be at BAM on February 11 ($30, 7:30) for “An Evening with Michael Mann,” a conversation moderated by Bilge Ebiri at the BAM Harvey. The series continues through February 16 with such other Mann films as Ali, Manhunter, The Insider, and The Keep.
CinéSalon: LE COMBAT DANS L’ÎLE (FIRE AND ICE) (Alain Cavalier, 1962)
French Institute Alliance Française, Florence Gould Hall
55 East 59th St. between Madison & Park Aves.
Tuesday, February 9, $14, 4:00 & 7:30
Series continues Tuesdays through February 23
FIAF’s wide-ranging “Lhomme Behind the Camera” CinéSalon series continues February 9 with a double rare treat: a visit by the man himself, master cinematographer Pierre Lhomme. The eighty-five-year-old Lhomme, who has shot more than sixty films for such directors as Jean-Pierre Melville, Robert Bresson, William Klein, Marguerite Duras, James Ivory, Ismail Merchant, Benoît Jacquot, Patrice Chéreau, and Volker Schlöndorff, will be at Florence Gould Hall on February 9 for a Q&A following the second of two screenings of Alain Cavalier’s ravishing debut, the rarely shown and underappreciated 1962 neonoir Le combat dans l’île. The gripping French New Wave film, which was rediscovered in 2009, combines a crime thriller with a love triangle, shot in shadowy, smokey black-and-white by Lhomme. Jean-Louis Trintignant (The Conformist, A Man and a Woman) is stoic as Clément Lesser, a member of a small, right-wing radical group determined to change things in France by any means necessary. Romy Schneider (Purple Noon Mädchen in Uniform) is warm and charming as Anne Lesser, Clément’s wife, a party girl who is growing tired of her husband’s cold, controlling nature and his secret rendezvous with the group, which is led by mastermind Serge (Pierre Asso). After an assassination attempt goes awry, Clément and Anne hide out at the isolated home of Clément’s childhood friend, Paul (Jules et Jim’s Henri Serre), a left-wing idealist who prints political material. When Clément has to set out on his own, Anne and Paul become close, setting up both a philosophical and romantic battle between the two old friends.
Cavalier (Thérèse, Un étrange voyage) and Lhomme (Army of Shadows, The Mother and the Whore) create a tense, claustrophobic atmosphere in Le combat dans l’île, with Lhomme’s slowly moving camera — a Cameflex that was so noisy that all of the dialogue had to be dubbed in later — closing in on his characters in small rooms, where they sometimes emerge from complete darkness. The story is a kind of parable about French politics in the 1960s, following the landslide victory of Charles de Gaulle, who would survive several assassination attempts during his ten years as president. Le combat dans l’île also boasts quite a pedigree, with Cavalier’s mentor, Louis Malle, serving as producer, dialogue written with Jean-Paul Rappenau, and an outstanding score by French composer Serge Nigg; Cavalier said the film’s father was Bresson and mother was Jean Renoir. The solid cast also includes Jacques Berlioz as Clément’s wealthy and powerful industrialist father, Maurice Garrel as left-wing politician Terrasse, and Diane Lepvrier as Cécile, Paul’s young housekeeper. The FIAF series continues February 16 with Chris Marker and Lhomme’s Le Joli Mai and concludes February 23 with Rappenau’s Cyrano de Bergerac, starring Gérard Depardieu.
Gōng xǐ fā cái! New York City is ready to celebrate the Year of the Monkey this month with special events all over town. The seventeenth New Year Firecracker Ceremony and Cultural Festival will explode in and around Sara D. Roosevelt Park on February 8 at 11:00 am, with live music and dance, speeches by politicians, drum groups, lion, dragon, and unicorn dancers making their way through local businesses, and more than half a million rounds of firecrackers warding off evil spirits and welcoming in a prosperous new year. Also on February 8, China Institute will host “A Taste of Chinese New Year” (free, 12 noon - 5:00 pm) featuring Mandarin classes, a China Ink workshop, and more; on February 13 (free, 12 noon - 5:00), China Institute invites everyone back for a family celebration including lion dances, kung fu demonstrations, arts & crafts, and dumplings.
The New York Philharmonic gets into the party spirit with Long Yu conducting a multimedia Chinese New Year Concert at David Geffen Hall on February 9 ($35-$110, 7:30) with violinist Maxim Vengerov and harpist Nancy Allen performing Li Huanzhi’s “Spring Festival Overture,” Chen Gang and He Zhanhao’s “The Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto,” Kreisler’s “Tambourin Chinois,” and Tan Dun’s “Nu Shu: The Secret Songs of Women.” The Flushing Lunar New Year Parade takes place February 13 at 9:30. Dr. Hsing-Lih Chou has again curated a Lunar New Year Dance Sampler at Flushing Town Hall on February 14 (free, 12 noon). The seventeenth annual Chinatown Lunar New Year Parade and Festival will wind its way through Chinatown, Sara D. Roosevelt Park, and Columbus Park on February 14 starting at 1:00, with cultural booths in the park and a parade with floats, antique cars, live performances, and much more from China, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore, and other nations. The annual family festival at the Queens Botanical Garden is set for February 20 ($2-$4, 1:00 - 3:00). The New York Chinese Cultural Center will present a Lunar New Year program with folk dances, paper cutting, calligraphy, and lion dances at the Bronx Museum of the Arts also on February 20 (free, 2:00 - 4:00).
The Museum of Chinese in America celebrates the holiday with its annual Lunar New Year Family Festival on February 20 ($10, 11:00 am – 4:00 pm) with live music and dance, demonstrations and workshops, storytelling, arts and crafts, and more. One of our favorite restaurants, Xi’an Famous Foods, will be hosting a Lunar New Year Festival concert at Terminal 5 on February 20 ($60-$200, 5:30) with Far East Movement, Kimberley Chen, Soft Lipa, and Kina Grannis, benefiting Apex for Youth. There will be a Hao Bang Ah Monkey Puppet Show by Chinese Theatre Works, calligraphy workshops, a zodiac-themed scavenger hunt, and arts & crafts at the Prospect Park Zoo and the Queens Zoo on February 27-28 ($6-$8). And finally, the Lantern Festival is set for February 28 (free, 11:30 am - 3:30 pm) in Sunset Park on Eighth Ave. between Fifty-Third & Fifty-Fifth Sts.
Who: Dave Stewart and Mick Rock
What: Conversation about new book
Where: Barnes & Noble, 150 East 86th St. at Lexington Ave., 212-369-2180
When: Wednesday February 10, free, 7:00
Why: “I love Dave’s constant creative search and his passion for making music; I love the fact that he’s constantly pushing the boundaries of what we think is possible,” Mick Jagger writes in the foreword to Dave Stewart’s memoir, Sweet Dreams Are Made of This: A Life in Music (New American Library, February 9, $27.95). “He creates a fertile environment in which it’s almost impossible not to be creative and innovative. This environment includes a compulsory martini at seven thirty in the evening, although by ten thirty, no one has gone home and everyone in the control room is dancing.” British songwriter, musician, and producer Stewart will be at the 86th St. B&N on February 10 to discuss his brand-new book, which details his life and times from a small child through his glory years with Annie Lennox in the Eurythmics to his collaborations with such superstars as Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, George Harrison, Stevie Nicks, Tom Petty, Jagger, and so many others. “I’ve had the chance to experience this wonderful state of being in the moment with some of the greatest artists on the planet,” Stewart, who also delves into his battle with pheochromocytoma, explains in the introduction. Legendary photographer Mick Rock, who has shot such musicians as Syd Barrett, Joan Jett, David Bowie, Alicia Keys, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, Queen, Ellie Goulding, the Sex Pistols, Snoop Dogg, the Killers, Michael Buble, and Daft Punk, will host the conversation. Preferred seating is available for this wristband event with the purchase of the book at the store; no word yet on whether martinis will be served.
The Pan Asian Repertory Theatre bites off more than it can chew in A Dream of Red Pavilions, continuing at the Clurman Theatre at Theatre Row through February 14. Jeremy Tiang has adapted Cao Xueqin’s eighteenth-century epic Dream of the Red Chamber, one of China’s four great classical novels (along with Water Margin, Journey to the West, and Romance of the Three Kingdoms), into a bumpy, streamlined tale that never develops any kind of pace and rhythm, flatly directed by Tisa Chang and Lu Yu. In the spirit world, a stone named Baoyu (Vichet Chum) offers water to a parched flower, Daiyu (Kelsey Wang). They then descend to earth as cousins in the previously well-off Jia clan, led by court minister Jia Zheng (Fenton Li) and his mother, the family matriarch (Shigeko Sara Suga). Now facing potential financial hardship, the family is excited when eldest daughter Yuanchun (Mandarin Wu, who also portrays the Fairy False), is chosen to be the emperor’s concubine. The tale centers on the love between Baoyu, who was born with jade in his mouth, and the shy, fragile Daiyu, who has to take pills to maintain her health. But Baoyu has been promised to Baochai (Leanne Cabrera), and as his wedding day approaches, the matriarch is hoping for better things for everyone. “A flood of happiness,” she says, “to wash away our bad luck,” which is not quite what happens. Sheryl Liu’s set is relatively simple with a gentle charm, boasting carved wood painted red, and Hyun Sook Kim’s costumes are dramatic, but Douglas Macur’s projections are irrelevant, and Angel Lam’s music is obvious. Of the game cast, Amanda Centeno avails herself the best, playing various maids as well as one of Baoyu’s lovers. But there’s just not enough depth to sustain this epic tale for what turns out to be two very long, very slow hours.
FRANK STELLA: A RETROSPECTIVE
Whitney Museum of American Art
99 Gansevoort St.
Through February 7, $18-$22
This is the last weekend to see two major exhibitions, retrospectives of artists who bucked trends and did things their way, two seminal figures in the history of twentieth-century art, one of whom is still at it. “Frank Stella: A Retrospective” continues at the Whitney through February 7, while “Picasso Sculpture” ends the same day at MoMA. “In 1970, when Mr. Stella was thirty-four, the Modern celebrated his haloed progress with an eleven-year survey,” Roberta Smith pointed out in her October 29 article about the Stella show. “In 1987, when the sheen was fading, the museum devoted a second survey of the intervening seventeen years of work. He was beginning to seem like the Modern’s fledgling Picasso replacement.” So it is rather appropriate that the two shows are running concurrently. The Whitney closed its uptown location last October with a controversial Jeff Koons retrospective that had critics wetting their lips waiting to tear it apart. The Whitney has now followed its downtown inaugural “America Is Hard to See” show, which highlighted works from the museum’s collection, with a survey of another artist whom many critics have tired of. A Massachusetts native and longtime New Yorker, Stella has dedicated his six-decade career to abstract painting on multiple surfaces and using a wide range of colors, in an endless array of series. He was very involved in the Whitney retrospective, which is essentially chronological until it’s not. Approximately one hundred works are on view, from such series as “Black Paintings” (“Die Fahne hoch!”), “Irregular Polygons” (“Empress of India,” “Harran II”), “Exotic Birds” (“Eskimo Curlew”), and “Moby-Dick” (“Gobba, zoppa e collotorto”), as well as such one-offs as the massive forty-foot acrylic on canvas mural “Das Erdbeben in Chili [N#3].” Even as Stella’s work grew more sculptural and three-dimensional, with metal constructions that jut out from walls, he still considered them paintings. “Most people would call this a sculpture, but in many respects, this is still painting for Frank,” exhibition organizer and Whitney director Adam D. Weinberg says on the audio guide to “Raft of the Medusa (Part I).” “This is really about using three‑dimensional form for almost two‑dimensional purpose. He’s very interested in the surfaces, the light, and reflection, and the idea that these elements though then spring forward, and yet stay clinging to the raft of the grid.” Stella once famously said, “What you see is what you see.” If you look hard enough, you might even see the seventy-nine-year-old Stella himself, who has been known to drop by the exhibition to see how much people are enjoying it, even if the reviews have been decidedly mixed.
Museum of Modern Art
Floor 4, Painting and Sculpture II Galleries
11 West 53rd St. between Fifth & Sixth Aves.
Through February 7, $14-$25
You’re not going to see Pablo Picasso at MoMA’s stunning survey of his sculptures, which has deservedly received rapturous reviews. But you are going to experience some 141 works arranged chronologically in 11 galleries, beginning in 1902 and concluding in 1964, set up like a lovely forest you can wander through at your own pace, filled with marvelous creatures, many of which have never been in the United States before and were rarely, if ever, displayed publicly during the artist’s lifetime. “An emphasis on the sculptures’ absence has eclipsed a rich body of evidence underscoring the vitality of their presence,” organizers Ann Temkin and Anne Umland write in the exhibition catalog. “One might say that Picasso’s sculpture stands apart from the paintings and works on paper in the remarkable efficiency with which it accomplished its many reinventions and redefinitions. But in its ongoing dance between the private and the public, the intimate and the monumental, the experimental and the definitive, the sculpture reveals itself as a quintessential rather than exceptional aspect of Picasso the artist.” Each gallery contains masterful treasures, from 1909’s “Head of a Woman” to 1913’s “Still Life with Guitar,” from 1929-30’s “Woman in the Garden” to 1943’s “Man with Lamb,” from 1951-52’s “Crane” to 1950-54’s “Woman with a Baby Carriage.” One of the most charming displays is the six-piece “Bathers” series, a half dozen abstract wooden figures made in Cannes in 1956 and arranged amid white rocks as if on the beach in the French Riviera. Picasso is one of those geniuses whose work lives up to all the hype, and this exhibit is no exception. Get your timed tickets now and don’t miss it.
THE SWORD OF DOOM (大菩薩峠) (THE GREAT BODHISATTVA PATH) (Kihachi Okamoto, 1966)
333 East 47th St. at First Ave.
Friday, February 5, $12, 7:00
Japan Society’s Monthly Classics series continues February 5 with the story of one of the screen’s most brutal antiheroes, a samurai you can’t help but root for despite his coldhearted brutality, a heartless killer called “a man from hell.” Based on Kaizan Nakazato’s forty-one-volume serial novel Dai-bosatsu Tōge, Kihachi Okamoto’s The Sword of Doom, aka The Great Bodhisattva Pass, begins in 1860 with Ryunosuke Tsukue (Tatsuya Nakadai) slaying an elderly Buddhist pilgrim (Ko Nishimura) apparently for no reason as the man visits a far-off mountain grave. Shortly before Ryunosuke is to battle Bunnojo Utsuki (Ichiro Nakaya) in a competition using unsharpened wooden swords, the man’s wife, Ohama (Michiyo Aratama), comes to him, begging for Ryunosuke to lose the match on purpose to save her family’s future. A master swordsman with an unorthodox style, Ryunosuke takes advantage of the situation in more ways than one. As emotionless as he is fearless, Ryunosuke is soon ambushed on a forest road, but killing, to him, comes natural, whether facing one man or dozens — or even hundreds. The only person he shows even the slightest respect for is Toranosuke Shimada (Toshirō Mifune), the instructor at a sword-fighting school. “We have rules concerning strangers,” Toranosuke tells him, but Ryunosuke plays by no rules. “The sword is the soul. Study the soul to know the sword. Evil mind, evil sword,” Toranosuke adds, words that torment Ryunosuke, who tries to start a family in spite of his hard, detached demeanor. But regardless of circumstance, Ryunosuke continues on his bloody path, culminating in an unforgettable battle that is one of the finest of the jidaigeki genre.
The Sword of Doom boasts a memorable performance by Nakadai, the star of such other classics as Masaki Kobayashi’s Harakiri, Hiroshi Teshigara’s The Face of Another and Samurai Rebellion, and Okamoto’s Battle of Okinawa and Kill!, as well as many Akira Kurosawa films, including Yojimbo, Sanjuro, High and Low, and Ran. In The Sword of Doom he is reunited with Aratama, who played his wife in Okamoto’s masterpiece trilogy, The Human Condition. Nakadai is brilliant as Ryunosuke, able to win over the audience, riveting your attention even though he is portraying a horrible man who rejects all sympathy. Also contributing to the film’s relentless intensity are Hiroshi Murai’s gorgeous black-and-white cinematography, which features a beautiful sword fight in the snow and an exquisitely photographed scene in a claustrophobic mill, and Masaru Sato’s sparse but effective score. The Sword of Doom is a masterful tale of evil, of one man’s struggle with inner demons as he wanders through a changing world. The Monthly Classics series continues on April 1 with Kurosawa’s Stray Dog.