THE KILLERS (Robert Siodmak, 1946)
Sixth Ave. between 40th & 42nd Sts.
Monday, June 29, free, sunset
Festival runs through August 24
In 1950, Edmond O’Brien starred as auditor Frank Bigelow in Rudolph Maté’s classic noir D.O.A., a story told in flashback as Bigelow tries to figure out why someone has poisoned him. Four years earlier, O’Brien dealt with another kind of fatalism in Robert Siodmak’s The Killers, playing insurance agent Jim Reardon, who is investigating why a gas station attendant was brutally gunned down in his bed in suburban Brentwood, New Jersey. The film opens with cold-hearted contract killers Al (Charles McGraw) and Max (William Conrad) arriving in town, looking for the Swede (Burt Lancaster), aka Pete Lund and Ole Andreson. They waltz into Henry’s Diner, giving orders and exchanging mean-spirited dialogue with no fears or worries. When Nick Adams (Phil Brown) warns the Swede that the men are coming to kill him, the former boxer knows there’s nothing he can do about it anymore; he’s tired of running, and he’s ready to meet his end. It’s a shocking way to begin a movie; up to that point, it’s a faithful version of Ernest Hemingway’s short story, but the rest is the splendid invention of writers Richard Brooks, Anthony Veiller, and John Huston and producer Mark Hellinger. Reardon soon finds himself meeting with a series of gangsters as they relate, through flashbacks, a plot to rob a payroll, perpetrated by a motley crew that includes “Dum Dum” Clarke (Jack Lambert), “Blinky” Franklin (Jeff Corey), the Swede, and mastermind Big Jim Colfax (Albert Dekker), along with Big Jim’s gun moll, femme fatale extraordinaire Kitty Collins (Ava Gardner). Reardon’s boss (Donald MacBride) wants him to forget about it, since it’s essentially about a meager $2,500 insurance claim, but Reardon is determined to find out what happened to a quarter million in cash, with the help of the Swede’s childhood friend, Lt. Sam Lubinsky (Sam Levene).
The Killers is an intense, passionate heist flick, structured like Citizen Kane, starting with a death and then putting everything together via interviews and flashbacks. Lancaster and Gardner are magnetic, he in his screen debut, she in the film that made her a star. Siodmak (The Dark Mirror, The Spiral Staircase) masterfully navigates the noir tropes, from Miklós Rózsa’s jazzy score, which jumps out from the opening credits, and Woody Bredell’s oft-angled black-and-white cinematography that maintains an ominous, shadowy sensibility throughout to deft characterizations and surprising plot twists. As it makes its way through the seven deadly sins, The Killers lives up to its fab billing as a “Raw! Rugged! Ruthless drama of a man who gambled — his luck — his love — his life for the treachery of a girl’s lips.” Nominated for four Oscars, for Best Director, Best Film Editing (Arthur Hilton), Best Music, and Best Adapted Screenplay, The Killers, which was also made into a 1958 student short by Andrei Tarkovsky and a 1964 crime drama by Don Siegel starring Lee Marvin, Angie Dickinson, John Cassavetes, Norman Fell, and Ronald Reagan, The Killers is screening June 29 at dusk as part of the Bryant Park Summer Film Festival, which continues Monday nights through August 24 with such other classics as Terrence Malick’s Badlands, John Schlesinger’s Marathon Man, and Roman Polanski’s Chinatown.
Who: Kat Edmonson
What: Mad. Sq. Music Oval Lawn Series
When: Wednesday, July 1, free, 7:00
Where: Madison Square Park, 23rd to 26th Sts. between Madison Ave. & Broadway
Why: Houston-born, Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter Kat Edmonson brings her unique, old-fashioned jazzy stylings with a modern edge to Madison Square Park on July 1, playing a free show highlighting songs from her latest album, The Big Picture (Sony Masterworks, September 2014), which features such tracks as “Rainy Day Woman,” “You Said Enough,” “Oh My Love,” and “You Can’t Break My Heart.” The free Mad. Sq. Music Oval Lawn Series continues Wednesdays through July with the Stepkids, the Family Crest and Arc Iris, Kiran Ahluwalia, and the New York Night Train Soul Clap & Dance-Off featuring DJ Jonathan Toubin with the Suffers.
FULL ALERT (KO DOU GAI BEI) (Ringo Lam, 1997)
Film Society of Lincoln Center, Walter Reade Theater
165 West 65th St. between Eighth Ave. & Broadway
Sunday, June 28, 2:00
Festival runs June 26 - July 8
The fourteenth annual New York Asian Film Festival is saluting legendary Hong Kong director Ringo Lam, presenting him with the Lifetime Achievement Award. Lam, who turns sixty this year, will be at Lincoln Center for screenings of two of his works, City on Fire on June 27 and Full Alert on June 28. In the latter, Lam’s follow-up to his disappointing Hollywood debut, the Jean-Claude Van Damme vehicle Maximum Risk, Lau Ching-wan stars as Officer Pao, a member of Hong Kong’s Special Crime Bureau who becomes involved in a case that turns deeply personal. After arresting explosives expert Mak Kwan (Francis Ng) for the brutal murder of an architect, Pao is determined to find the rest of Mak’s Taiwanese crew, which is led by mainland boss Jie (Jack Gao), and prevent the robbery of a mysterious vault. Pao and his team track Mak’s girlfriend, Chung Lai Hung (Amanda Lee), who knows more than she’s letting on, while Pao and Mak become immersed in a tense, psychological game of cat and mouse, exploring what it feels like to kill someone. There are numerous incredulous plot twists and a rather lame car chase, but the guerrilla filmmaking style of Lam and cinematographer Ardy Lam, ranging through the streets of a Hong Kong about to be handed over from the British to the Chinese, is supremely effective, as are the lead performances by Lau and Ng, evoking the relationships portrayed earlier by Robert De Niro and Al Pacino in Michael Mann’s Heat and later by Andy Lau and Tony Leung in Andrew Lau and Alan Mak’s Infernal Affairs. The use of mobile phones and surveillance technology feels much older than 1997, displaying how far we have come so fast. Lam saves the heavy violence for the spectacular finale, letting the emotions build before exploding. Nominated for five Hong Kong Film Awards, including Best Film, Best Director, and Best Actor (Lau), Full Alert is screening at the Walter Reade Theater on June 28 at 2:00, with Lam on hand to introduce it. The New York Asian Film Festival continues at Lincoln Center through July 6 with more than three dozen new and old films from China, Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Cambodia, and other Southeast Asian countries, including Sabu’s Chasuke’s Journey, Kinji Fukasuku’s Battles without Honor and Humanity, Im Sang-soo’s The President’s Last Bang, Wang Xiaoshuai’s Red Amnesia, Im Kwon-taek’s Revivre, and Sion Sono’s Tokyo Tribe.
Treehouse Theater (Treehouse154)
154 West 29th St. between Sixth & Seventh Aves.
Monday, June 29, $15, 7:00
In a 2012 twi-ny talk, sexy cabaret chanteuse Raquel Cion gushed about David Bowie, telling us, “I’m a ridiculously huge Bowie fan. His voice, his music, his presence in the world, just immediately comfort me on such a deep level. So, when I’m feeling lonely or pretty much any feeling, Bowie both sends me and grounds me.” In her show Gilding the Lonely, Cion sang a stirring version of the Thin White Duke’s “Sweet Thing / Candidate,” while she tore up “Moonage Daydream” with Michael T & the Vanities at (le) poisson rouge in 2013. She will now reach even deeper into her Bowie fixation with her latest glittery spectacle, Me & Mr. Jones: My Intimate Relationship with David Bowie. Cion explores the nature of fandom and superstar worship in the piece, considering herself a “psychodelicate” girl who finds her “soul love” in the music and madness of the English singer and actor born David Jones in Brixton in 1947. On June 29 at the Treehouse Theater, Cion will mix intimate stories and Bowie covers with Jeremy Bass on guitar, Bill Gerstel on drums, Keith Hartel on bass, Karl Saint Lucy on piano, and Matthew Cleaver and DM Salsberg on background vocals. The show is directed by Joseph Hayward, with gowns, so much a part of Cion’s sparkling style, by David Quinn. It should be quite a glam evening.
GLASS CHIN (Noah Buschel, 2014)
22 East 12th St. between University Pl. & Fifth Ave.
Opens Friday, June 26
Writer-director Noah Buschel’s Glass Chin is a gentle, understated boxing movie, an indie sleeper that eschews brutal uppercuts, damaging overhand rights, and heavy knockout blows in favor of steady jabs and clever bobbing and weaving that slowly build in effectiveness. Unlike most fight flicks, there’s not a whole lot of shouting and braggadocio, blood and guts, and melodramatic relationships, no montages set to classic rock songs or slow-motion fight scenes. Instead, Glass Chin is a quiet, deeply contemplative character study of a conflicted man who finds himself at a crossroads. Corey Stoll is sensational as Bud “the Saint” Gordon, a former boxing champ trying to make a life for himself outside the ring. Living in New Jersey with his devoted girlfriend, Ellen (Marin Ireland), he is offered two opportunities, one helping Lou Powell (John Douglas Thompson) train Kid Sunshine (Malcolm Xavier) for an upcoming championship bout at Madison Square Garden, the other working for JJ Cook (Billy Crudup), a crooked restaurateur and loan shark who sends Bud out with Roberto (Yul Vazquez) to collect money from deadbeats, luring the ex-boxer by promising to back Bud’s dream of owning a restaurant in Manhattan. Bud bounces between training at the gym and accompanying Roberto on visits to such clients as Stanley (David Johansen) and Colby (Michael Chermus), who owe JJ big bucks and are going to have to pay for it if they don’t pony up the money. Bud knows he’s getting in too deep, and soon he finds himself in a tough situation that sends his world into a dangerous tailspin.
Employing a subtle confidence, Buschel (The Missing Person, Neal Cassady) plays with genre clichés right out of Rocky and other boxing flicks and redefines them, leading to unexpected twists and turns. He has assembled a terrific cast of stage veterans, including Crudup, Ireland, Thompson, Vázquez, Chernus, Katherine Waterston, Halley Feiffer, and Ron Cephas Jones, who give added depth to their relatively familiar characters. Crudup is particularly impressive as a soft-spoken, art-loving gangster who knows just how to get whatever he wants, never breaking his Zen-like demeanor. Evoking the way real boxing matches are filmed, Buschel sometimes cuts back and forth between characters speaking to each other, as if they are feeling each other out, and lets the camera remain still for a long period of time as they examine where they are and what should come next, like a boxer establishing himself in the ring. In fact, most of the action actually takes place offscreen, as Buschel focuses on how his protagonists react in the aftermath. He also ups the believability quotient by filming in real locations in New York City and New Jersey, often using natural sound and light and no musical score. (The incidental music includes songs by the New York Dolls, the Red Norvo Trio, the Cocteau Twins, and Laura Nyro.) Rising star Stoll (House of Cards, Ant-Man) is mesmerizing as Bud, a basically goodhearted soul who made some bad choices but is willing to face the consequences, his pensive eyes wondering where it all went wrong. Glass Chin pulls no punches, sneaking up on you and going the distance to win a hard-fought unanimous decision.
Atlantic Stage 2
330 West 16th St. between Eighth & Ninth Aves.
Through June 28, $20-$55
“What powers exist?” a supposed clairvoyant asks in David Mamet’s The Shawl, the second of two one-act revivals that are being presented in tandem at Atlantic Stage 2 as part of the double feature Ghost Stories. First paired for the 1985 reopening of the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center, Prairie du Chien, which was written as a radio play in 1979, and The Shawl, which debuted in 1985 at the Goodman Theatre, explore the very nature of narrative and performance while posing philosophical questions about the existence of something beyond earthly reality. The evening begins with Prairie du Chien, set in a railroad parlor car (splendidly designed by Lauren Helpern) on its way to Wisconsin in 1910. It’s three in the morning, and on the left side of the stage, a man, simply identified as Storyteller (Jordan Lage), is in the midst of sharing a supernatural tale about ghosts and murder with Listener (Jason Ritter), whose young son (Henry Kelemen) is sleeping beside him. Meanwhile, next to them, two men are playing gin, the dealer (Nate Dendy) on a winning streak against an older gentleman (Jim Frangione). The tension builds concurrently in the overlapping vignettes as Storyteller approaches his fantastical finale and Gin Player suspects Card Dealer of cheating. The Shawl opens with psychic medium John (Arliss Howard) giving a reading to Miss A (Mary McCann), who is seeking information about whether she should contest her recently deceased mother’s will. In between sessions, John shares his secrets with his young apprentice/lover, Charles (Ritter), explaining precisely how he is defrauding Miss A to finance a more extravagant lifestyle for him and Charles. But every time John establishes himself as a phony, he does something that makes Charles and Miss A — and the audience — wonder whether he just might be legitimate after all.
Written by Mamet and directed by Scott Zigler, two of the cofounders of the Atlantic (along with Lage), Ghost Stories is an appropriate conclusion to the company’s thirtieth anniversary season, celebrating the magic of theater. In each play, the main characters, Storyteller and John, speak in slow, calm, meditative tones that offer a stark counterpoint to the loud, aggressive, curse-filled dialogue Mamet is famous for in such works as American Buffalo and Glengarry Glen Ross. (Each play also contains a plot twist involving a red piece of clothing.) Mamet and Zigler are forcing the audience to pay close attention, to listen carefully to every word, just as Storyteller and John are doing to their respective listeners. Lage and Howard are mesmerizing in their roles, their determined, even-keeled speech reeling everyone in. Mamet, who has displayed his mastery of the con in such works as The Spanish Prisoner and House of Games, keeps the audience on edge in each play, balancing suspicion and skepticism with wonder and fascination, whether today or a hundred years ago, an otherworldly quest or a game of gin. Just as Miss A wants to believe in John, and Listener wants to believe in Storyteller, we want to believe in Mamet and Zigler, in the power of theater to transport us to another world, yet one that helps explain the one we’re in. Individually, The Shawl and Prairie du Chien might be lesser, though entertaining, genre exercises by Mamet, but seen together, they skillfully offer insight into why we’re all in this dark room in the first place.
Friday, June 26, 12 noon - 10:00, and Saturday, June 27, 11:50 am - 8:00 pm, free admission
The second annual Taste of Asia festival in Times Square celebrates the culture and cuisine of China, Japan, Korea, India, Thailand, and other Southeast Asian nations with live music and dance, cooking and martial arts demonstrations, and lots of food. Performers on Friday include Sounds of Korea, Sirasdance, the Masayo Ishigure & Miyabi Koto Shamisen Ensemble, Saung Budaya, the Golden Rooster, Samurai Sword Soul, Behri, and Sharon Cheng, while cooking demonstrations will be led by chef ambassadors Zizhao Luo, Pitipong Bowornneeranart, Esther Choi, Brian Tsao, David Bouley, Yuji Wakiya, and many more. There will also be awards ceremonies for best restaurants, fashion shows, a dumpling making workshop, and, even better, a dumpling eating contest. On Saturday, the seventh NTD International Chinese Culinary Competition will honor the best in Cantonese, Northeastern, Shandong, Sichuan, and Huaiyang cuisines, with plenty to eat for everyone.