This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001

VISION PORTRAITS

(photo by Kjerstin Rossi)

Filmmaker Rodney Evans explores his increasing blindness in Vision Portraits (photo by Kjerstin Rossi)

VISION PORTRAITS (Rodney Evans, 2019)
Metrograph
7 Ludlow St. between Canal & Hester Sts.
Opens Friday, August 9
212-660-0312
metrograph.com
www.arcademovie.com

“In a lot of ways, I feel like I’m just looking for guidance in how to be a blind artist,” filmmaker Rodney Evans says in Vision Portraits, his remarkable new documentary opening August 9 at Metrograph. Evans follows three artists as they deal with severe visual impairment but refuse to give up on their dreams as he seeks experimental treatment for his retinitis pigmentosa. Manhattan photographer John Dugdale lost most of his eyesight from CMV retinitis when he was thirty-two but is using his supposed disability to his advantage, taking stunning photos bathed in blue, inspired by the aurora borealis he sees when he closes his eyes. “Proving to myself that I could still function in a way that was not expected of a blind person was really gonna be the thing,” he says. “It’s fun to live in this bliss.” Bronx dancer Kayla Hamilton was born with no vision in one eye and developed iritis and glaucoma in the other, but she is shown working on a new piece called Nearly Sighted that incorporates the audience into her story. “How can I use my art form as a way of sharing what it is that I’m experiencing?” she asks.

(photo by Kjerstin Rossi)

Dancer Kayla Hamilton is not about to let visual impairment get in the way of her career (photo by Kjerstin Rossi)

Canadian writer Ryan Knighton lost his eyesight on his eighteenth birthday due to retinitis pigmentosa, but he teaches at a college and presents short stories about his condition at literary gatherings. “I had that moment where I had a point of view now, like, I realized blindness is a point of view on the world; it’s not something I should avoid, it’s something I should look from, and I should make it my writerly point of view,” Knighton explains. Meanwhile, Evans heads to the Restore Vision Clinic in Berlin to see if Dr. Anton Fedorov can stop or reverse his visual impairment, which is getting worse.

Vision Portraits is an intimate, honest look at eyesight and art and how people adapt to what could have been devastating situations. Evans, who wrote and directed the narrative features Brother to Brother and The Happy Sad, also includes animated segments that attempt to replicate what the subjects see, from slivers of light to star-laden alternate universes. Metrograph is hosting several postscreening Q&As opening weekend, with Evans, Hamilton and cinematographer Mark Tumas, moderated by Sabrina Schmidt-Gordon, on Friday at 7:00; with Evans, moderated by Yance Ford, on Friday at 9:00; with Evans, moderated by Imani Barbarin, on Saturday at 7:45; and with Evans, moderated by Debra Granik, on Sunday at 4:00.

TOO FAST TO LIVE, TOO YOUNG TO DIE: PUNK GRAPHICS, 1976-1986

(photo by twi-ny/mdr)

“Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die: Punk Graphics, 1976-1986” includes a listening room where visitors can play their favorite old vinyl (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Museum of Arts & Design
2 Columbus Circle at 58th St. & Eighth Ave.
Tuesday- Sunday through August 18, $12-$16 (eighteen and under free)
212-299-7777
madmuseum.org

The whole punk aesthetic is a tough one to capture in a museum setting. The Met’s 2013 Costume Institute exhibit “Punk: Chaos to Couture” was roundly booed — despite huge crowds — for its haute approach to punk culture, the antithesis of DIY. Currently, the Museum of Sex’s “Punk Lust: Raw Provocation 1971-1985” immerses attendees in the in-your-face sexuality and desire of punk music, language, and clothing, but it’s the Museum of Sex, which instantly scares away many art lovers. The Museum of Arts & Design gets things right with the superb “Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die: Punk Graphics, 1976-1986,” which continues at the Columbus Circle institution through August 18 (although some sections close August 11). Spread across two floors, the exhibit focuses on the DIY look and style of punk promotion, through album covers, advertisements, posters, zines, pins, flyers, and other ephemera. The show is divided into eight thematic sections, looking at typography, specific artists (such as Mark Mothersbaugh, Barney Bubbles, Neville Brody, Vaughan Oliver, Malcolm Garrett, and Peter Saville), political statements, sexual orientation, the influence of comic books and science fiction, and the New York scene.

(photo by twi-ny/mdr)

The unique graphic-design approach of the Sex Pistols is a highlight of MAD museum show (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Beginning with punk and extending into protopunk and New Wave, “Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die” highlights the graphic presentation and messaging of such seminal figures as the Sex Pistols, the Clash, Elvis Costello, Black Flag, Blondie, Buzzcocks, the Smiths, Kraftwerk, Devo, Patti Smith, the Cramps, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Talking Heads, Joy Division, the Slits, and the Dead Kennedys. Rare archival photographs by Fred W. McDarrah, Danny Fields, Bob Gruen, David Godlis, and others accompany Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain’s audiovisual installation Please Kill Me: Voices from the Archive, featuring fab interviews with and/or about Iggy Pop and the Stooges, Nico and the Velvet Underground, the Ramones, the New York Dolls, Debbie Harry, Jim Carroll, and many others; in an adjoining room, a black-and-white film boasts live performances (with dubbed-in audio). Jamie Reid’s brash work with the Sex Pistols stands out, challenging the status quo and resulting in lawsuits for its appropriation of corporate logos. You can also create your own private playlist the old-fashioned way, picking through a few boxes of vinyl records and spinning them on one of two turntables, listening on bulky headphones. The majority of objects are on loan from collector and archivist Andrew Krivine; the exhibition, originally presented at the Cranbrook Art Museum in Michigan, is lovingly curated by Andrew Blauvelt and has been tweaked for the New York iteration. On August 8, MAD is hosting a pair of workshops, “Button Design with MAD Fellow Tamara Santibañez” (pay-what-you-wish, 6:00) and “Let's Draw with Mark Mothersbaugh!” ($15, 6:30).

ABBAS KIAROSTAMI — A RETROSPECTIVE: FIVE DEDICATED TO OZU

FIVE DEDICATED TO OZU

Five Dedicated to Ozu is screening as part of tribute to Abbas Kiarostami at IFC Center

FIVE DEDICATED TO OZU (Abbas Kiarostami, 2003)
IFC Center
323 Sixth Ave. at West Third St.
Saturday, August 10, 7:30, and Wednesday, August 14, 5:05
Series continues through August 14
212-924-7771
www.ifccenter.com

We first saw Abbas Kiarostami’s gorgeous five-part film Five Dedicated to Ozu at the Iranian director’s 2007 multidimensional MoMA exhibit, “Image Maker,” where all five segments ran continuously and simultaneously in five semiprivate partitioned spaces, each with its own comfy bench. The film as a whole, which is composed of static shots on a beach in Galicia, are dedicated to Japanese director Yasujirō Ozu, whose films attempted to catch the reality of human existence in all its simplicity. In the first episode, the coming waves threaten a piece of driftwood; we dare you not to create your own narrative in your head once the wood is split apart. (By the way, this is the only part of the film that includes any camera movement at all, as Kiarostami opts to follow the driftwood for one short moment.) For the second scene, the camera is moved to the boardwalk, with people passing to the right and left as the surf continues to crash onto the shore; this is the least compelling of the five pieces. Back on the beach for the third part, the camera finds a group of stray dogs in the distance, nestled together by the water; again, as one dog gets up and moves away, left to himself, you’ll create your own ideas about what is really happening. Next is the funniest section of the movie, as a long line of ducks don’t know whether they’re coming or going, but they do so determinedly. Finally, the last scene takes place at night, as the moon glistens in a dark sky as the sounds of frogs and nature envelop this small part of the earth. Relax and let your mind wander during this fascinating and fun cinematic experience that we found exhilarating as a single work — but we also loved how it was installed at MoMA, where you could sit down with any of the films at any time and just let them take you away. Five Dedicated to Ozu is screening the conventional way on August 10 and 14 in IFC’s comprehensive series “Abbas Kiarostami: A Retrospective,” which continues through August 15 with such other films by the Iranian director as The Traveler, Close-Up, Like Someone in Love, 24 Frames, and numerous shorts.

ABBAS KIAROSTAMI — A RETROSPECTIVE: CLOSE-UP

Close-Up

Hossain Sabzian has to explain why he impersonated Mohsen Makhmalbaf in Abbas Kiarostami’s Close-Up

CLOSE-UP (کلوزآپ ، نمای نزدیک‎) (Abbas Kiarostami, 1990)
IFC Center
323 Sixth Ave. at West Third St.
Wednesday, August 7, 7:50, Saturday, August 10, 1:10, Monday, August 12, 1:05, Tuesday, August 13, 7:30
Series continues through August 15
212-924-7771
www.ifccenter.com/films/close-up

In his 1996 short Opening Day for Close-Up, Italian actor-writer-director Nanni Moretti plays a theater manager preparing to show Abbas Kiarostami’s 1990 masterpiece, Close-Up. As the first screening approaches, he worries about the parking situation, the size of the ad in the local paper, the specific angle the projectionist is using, the precise minute when the film should start, how it’s going to compete with big Hollywood blockbusters, and how one of his employees is handling phone calls. “The film is about the power of cinema. Let’s be a little more enticing,” he tells her. It won’t take much enticing to get people to show up at IFC Center to see Close-Up, which is screening August 7, 10, 12, and 13 in the exhaustive, comprehensive series “Abbas Kiarostami: A Retrospective.”

In 1989, Kiarostami read about a strange case that was unfolding: A man named Hossain Sabzian had been arrested for impersonating Iranian auteur Mohsen Makhmalbaf, convincing the Ahankhah family that he was Makhmalbaf and that he was going to make a movie with them in their house. Kiarostami immediately turned his attention to the story, meeting with Sabzian in prison, persuading judge Haj Ali Reza Ahmadi to let his crew film the trial, and getting all the participants, including Sabzian, Ahmadi, journalist Hossain Farazmand, and the Ahankhahs — husband and father Abolfazl, his wife, Mahrokh, and their sons, Mehrdad and Monoochehr — to allow themselves not only to be filmed going forward but to re-create specific scenes together. Thus, for example, Kiarostami restages Mahrokh’s initial encounter with Sabzian on a bus, where they talk about Makhmalbaf’s The Cyclist, and Sabzian’s arrest is also performed, complete with soldier (Mohammad Ali Barrati) and sergeant (Davood Goodarzi).

Abbas Kiarostami

Abbas Kiarostami on the set of his 1990 masterpiece, Close-Up

It’s often difficult to tell what is happening in the present and what has been remade from the past, which is a significant part of the film’s charm. The trial scene is an eye-opener as we watch the Iranian justice system at work; Kiarostami shoots the scene with different equipment, resulting in a grainier texture. Part of the boom mic is often visible, further blurring the lines between fiction and nonfiction, reminding us that this is a film. Kiarostami also injects some pure poetry, most beautifully when the taxi driver (Hooshang Shamaei) picks a few flowers outside the Ahankhahs’ home, then kicks a green and pink aerosol can that cinematographer Ali Reza Zarrindast follows as it clinks noisily down the street. Close-Up is much more than a celebration of the power of cinema; it is a magisterial film about what makes us profoundly human. (You can find out more about Sabzian in Moslem Mansouri and Mahmoud Chokrollahi’s 1996 Close-Up Long Shot.) “Abbas Kiarostami: A Retrospective” continues through August 15 with such other films by the Iranian director as Through the Olive Trees, The Wind Will Carry Us, Taste of Cherry, Ten, and numerous shorts.

TICKET ALERT: LITTLE STEVEN & THE DISCIPLES OF SOUL / PETER WOLF & THE MIDNIGHT TRAVELERS

Little Steven & the Disciples of Soul will play the Beacon on November 6 (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Little Steven & the Disciples of Soul will play the Beacon on November 6 (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Who: Little Steven & the Disciples of Soul, Peter Wolf & the Midnight Travelers
What: Summer of Sorcery Tour
Where: Beacon Theatre, 2124 Broadway between West 74th & 75th Sts.
When: Wednesday, November 6, $45 - $125, 7:30
Why: While the Boss is away, Little Stevie still must play. Steven Van Zandt, aka Little Steven, aka Miami Steve, is one of the busiest men in rock and roll. He starred in The Sopranos and Lillyhammer, runs the Underground Garage and Renegade Nation, tours the world with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, and produces such shows as The Rascals: Once upon a Dream on Broadway. But with Bruce first spending a year on the Great White Way with his (mostly) one-man show and now taking a year off from touring, Stevie has returned to his solo career with a vengeance, bringing back the Disciples of Soul, with whom he recorded such great albums as Men without Women and Freedom — No Compromise in the 1980s. Steve and his band have been on the road since March 2017, first in support of Soulfire, consisting of reworkings of some of his best songs given to other artists, and now Summer of Sorcery, his first album of new material since 1999’s Born Again Savage, which featured songs from 1989-90 recorded in 1994. Tickets are now on sale to catch Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul at the Beacon on November 6, with a very special opening act, Peter Wolf and the Midnight Travelers; Wolf’s latest album is 2016’s A Cure for Loneliness. Teachers get in free as part of Stevie’s TeachRock initiative.

SHAKESPEARE IN THE PARK: CORIOLANUS

(photo by Joan Marcus)

Coriolanus comes to Shakespeare in the Park for the first time in forty years (photo by Joan Marcus)

Central Park
Delacorte Theater
Tuesday - Sunday through August 11, free, 8:00
shakespeareinthepark.org

Jonathan Cake portrays Shakespeare’s brash antihero, Coriolanus, like a mix between superstar New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Keanu Reeves in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure in Daniel Sullivan’s riveting version, which opened tonight at the Public’s Delacorte Theater. The first Shakespeare in the Park production of the 1607 play since Wilford Leach’s staging in 1979 with Morgan Freeman — James Earl Jones starred as the title character in the only other Delacorte presentation of the work, Gladys Vaughn’s 1965 adaptation — Sullivan sets the play in a contemporary junkyard strewn with old tires, a burned-out car, random detritus, and a rickety steel gate. (The postapocalyptic design is by Tony winner Beowulf Boritt.)

(photo by Joan Marcus)

Martius (Jonathan Cake) gets a talking-to from his mother (Kate Burton) in Daniel Sullivan’s latest Shakespeare adaptation (photo by Joan Marcus)

Caius Martius (Cake) has returned to Rome after singlehandedly defeating the Volscians, who are led by his longtime nemesis, General Tullus Aufidius (Louis Cancelmi). Rechristened Coriolanus after his victory, Martius has nothing but disdain for the common folk, who are starving, scavenging for food on the streets. The conquering hero is soon the centerpiece of a power struggle in pre-imperial Rome, championed by the upper classes as their savior against the rabble. While his patrician supporters, including Senator Menenius Agrippa (Teagle F. Bougere), army commander Cominius (Tom Nelis), and General Titus Lartius (Chris Ghaffari), want him to run for consul to gain political power over the “beastly plebians,” the people’s tribunes Junius Brutus (Enid Graham) and Sicinius Velutus (Jonathan Hadary) are suspicious of him and so attempt to turn the starving mob against him in the upcoming election. Martius, who is married to the pregnant Virgilia (Nneka Okafor), father to Young Martius (Emeka Guindo), and son to the forceful, determined Volumnia (Kate Burton), is a fiery, insolent, and almost monstrously arrogant character, and he can’t keep his mouth shut; all too soon he comes up with a dangerous plan of revenge that threatens everything, and everyone, he loves.

(photo by Joan Marcus)

Martius (Jonathan Cake) and Menenius (Teagle F. Bougere) have a tense moment in Shakespeare in the Park presentation (photo by Joan Marcus)

At more than two and a half hours (with intermission), Coriolanus is long and drawn out, with a compelling main storyline but mundane, barely there subplots, perhaps because this tale is entirely fictional, not based on actual historical events. The play has never been brought to Broadway, and it is rarely revived; Michael Sexton’s 2016 Red Bull production found a way in by setting it during the Occupy movement and placing the audience in the center of the action. However, on a more conventional stage, it can prove significantly problematic, although Sullivan does a good job navigating through the bumps. The acting is inconsistent, although Public Theater mainstay Bougere (Cymbeline, Is God Is) is excellent as Martius’s right-hand man, Nelis (Girl from the North Country, Indecent) is a fine Cominius, and three-time Tony nominee Burton (The Elephant Man, The Constant Wife) is brilliant as Martius’s strong-willed mother. Tony winner Sullivan (Proof, The Comedy of Errors) makes the most of Volumnia’s line about her son being a man-child; the warrior Martius often turns into a little boy when speaking to his mommy, eliciting major laughs. It’s a stark counterpoint to his bravery in battle and his burgeoning frenemy bromance with Aufidius. It’s also a keen look at the voting process, particularly now that election season is under way in the United States, as the people and the pundits debate over who’s worthy and who’s not, who’s genuine and who is a power-hungry, mean-spirited liar.

ABBAS KIAROSTAMI — A RETROSPECTIVE: LIKE SOMEONE IN LOVE

The lives of three very different individuals intertwine in Abbas Kiarostami’s remarkable Like Someone in Love

LIKE SOMEONE IN LOVE (Abbas Kiarostami, 2012)
IFC Center
323 Sixth Ave. at West Third St.
Tuesday, August 6, 12:55, Friday, August 9, 1:05, and Tuesday, August 13, 12:30
Series continues through August 15
212-924-7771
www.ifccenter.com

Following the Tuscany-set Certified Copy, his first film made outside of his home country, master Iranian auteur Abbas Kiarostami headed to Japan for the beautifully told Like Someone in Love. Rin Takanashi stars as Akiko, a sociology student supporting herself as an escort working for bar owner and pimp Hiroshi (Denden). An older, classy businessman, Hiroshi insists that Akiko is the only person to handle a certain client, so, despite her loud objections, she is put in a cab and taken to meet Takashi (Tadashi Okuno), an elderly professor who seems to just want some company. But soon Akiko unwittingly puts the gentle old man in the middle of her complicated life, which includes her extremely jealous and potentially violent boyfriend, Noriaki (Ryō Kase), and a surprise visit from her grandmother (Kaneko Kubota). Taking its title from the song made famous by, among others, Ella Fitzgerald, Like Someone in Love is an intelligent character-driven narrative that investigates different forms of love and romance in unique and engaging ways. Kiarostami (Taste of Cherry, Close-Up) and cinematographer Katsumi Yanagijima, who has worked on numerous films by Takeshi Kitano, establish their visual style from the very beginning, as an unseen woman, later revealed to be Akiko, is on the phone lying to her abusive boyfriend about where she is, the camera not moving for extended periods of time as people bustle around her in a crowded bar.

As is often the case with Kiarostami, much of the film takes place in close quarters, including many in cars, both moving and parked, forcing characters to have to deal with one another and face certain realities they might otherwise avoid. Takanashi is excellent as Akiko, a young woman trapped in several bad situations of her own making, but octogenarian Okuno steals the show in the first lead role of a long career that has primarily consisted of being an extra. The soft look in his eyes, the tender way he shuffles through his apartment, and his very careful diction are simply captivating. Despite his outstanding performance, Okuno said at the time that he was committed to returning to the background in future films, shunning the limelight, but he did star in one more film, Yûichi Onuma’s Kuujin in 2016. A music-filled tale that at times evokes the more serious work of Woody Allen, another director most associated with a home base but who made movies in other cities for a lengthy period, Like Someone in Love is like a great jazz song, especially one in which the notes that are not played are more important than those that are. The film is screening August 6, 9, and 13 in IFC’s comprehensive series “Abbas Kiarostami: A Retrospective,” which continues through August 15 with such other films by Kiarostami, who died in 2016 at the age of seventy-six, as Homework, 10 on Ten, ABC Africa, Shirin, and numerous shorts.

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