Monday, March 26

An Evening with Don Hertzfeldt at IFC Center

What’s Showing Today? Monday, March 26
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Featured Screening: Don Hertzfeldt at IFC Center

Thank you everyone who came out to Taking Tiger Mountain, which was a really meaningful and fun night for everyone involved. And apologies again for the intrusion of the FDNY, who apparently asked someone outside if we were “cooking up crystal” inside before busting through the door wielding axes—a worthy addition to Taking Tiger Mountain and Spectacle Theater lore, I hope.

Tonight is the start of a two-evening, four-show engagement with animator Don Hertzfeldt at IFC Center. Hertzfeldt is currently touring the United States premiering his latest (and, at 23-minutes, longest) film, It’s Such a Beautiful Day, which is the concluding piece of a trilogy that will be shown in its entirety. Though both this evening’s shows and tomorrow’s 7:00 pm are sold out, tickets are still available for 9:30 pm tomorrow.

Hertzfeldt is one of the most thoughtful, steadfastly independent, and laudably stubborn film artists working today. His early, much-bootlegged shorts like Billy’s Balloon and Ah, L’amour are essentially hilariously cynical, set-up—punchline expressions of personal neurosis that play out like a cross between Duck Amuck and Woody Allen with a lo-fi cast. Like many wonderful artists, his early style is deceptively simple; seeing these stick-figure animations, one gets the initial impression that anyone gifted with Hertzfeldt’s sense of humor could craft a similar piece. Yet beginning with 2005’s The Meaning of Life his work took increasingly earnest and technically sophisticated turns. While still wry and introspective, they begin to vacillate to micro- and macro-extremes, fixating on the of everything from our place in the cosmos to the meaning of discovering one’s self idly sucking blood from a sore in the side of the mouth. One imagines Hertzfeldt to have been galvanized by early success; despite being nominated for short film a Palme d’Or and Academy Award in his early 20’s, Hertzfeldt seems resolutely disinterested in mainstream standards of commercial or critical success, preferring instead direct connection with his audience. It’s as if an Oscar nomination—arguably the lamest form of validation someone with a one-man production company called Bitter Films could receive—confronted him with the cloying undercurrent of his early work and pushed him to more earnest territory. Likewise, the phasing in of digital technology has suddenly placed Hertzfeldt in the likely unanticipated position of being an artist working in a “vintage” context, and things like optical printing and effects and exploiting the plasticity of the medium have become a key part of his repertoire, inching him closer to the avant-garde.

As both filmmaking and storytelling, the trilogy that It’s Such a Beautiful Day concludes—of which I’ve only seen the first two installments—is gut-bustingly hilarious, profound, and, really, quite disturbing. Through a prismatic array of narrative and optical techniques Herztfeldt narrates the story of “Bill,” one of his trade stick figure characters. Initially, Everything Will Be OK is a charming, observational send-up of everyday anxieties and personal eccentricities. But by the time of the second film, I am so proud of you, we’re led deeper into Bill’s backstory, which entails a history of personal and family struggles with obscure mental illnesses and pains. Eventually, it develops into a delicately wrought truly heart-rending story of helpless personal turmoil. I remember leaving it feeling truly shaken and eager to find where it would lead next.

Also Noted

If there is any night one might actually anticipate the authorities to kick in the door of Spectacle Theater, it could be tonight’s Death To Capitalism Cinema screening of Chris Marker’s Sixth Side of the Pentagon and Newsreel’s Garbage. Both films document the activities of Vietnam-era anarchist groups Black Mask and Up Against the Wall Motherfucker, which have become legendary for their conviction in the use of force, deathly serious (non-)theatricality, and emphasis on both political and cultural activism.  Marker’s documentary shows the Motherfuckers breaking into the Pentagon during the 35,000+ strong 1968 Vietnam protest March against the building and what it represents. Garbage takes place during a New York garbage strike, where the Lower East side group travels uptown to dump mounds of garbage in the fountain of Lincoln Center. Black Mask and the Motherfuckers’ Ben Morea, featured prominently in both films, will be in attendance for discussion. At some point Morea disappeared for nearly 40 years only to be tracked down around 2005; perhaps most legendarily his gun is alleged to have been used in Valerie Solonas’s assassination attempt against Andy Warhol, and as recently as a few years ago he has expressed apparent remorse she wasn’t successful. This is a rare public appearance for a figure so notoriously elusive and weary of co-optation—something not to be missed.

Today

New Directors/New Films at Film Society of Lincoln Center and MoMA

Sleepwalking: The Films of Sara Driver at Anthology Film Archives
Series Details

  • SleepwalkDetails. Driver and actress Suzanne Fletcher in attendance. 35mm. 1986. 78 min. 7:00 pm.
  • You Are Not IDetails. Driver, actress Suzanne Fletcher and archivist Francis Poole in attendance. 16mm. 1981. 48 min. 9:15 pm.

Brooklyn Close-Up at BAMCinématek
Series Details

  • We Own the Night (James Gray). Details. Gray in attendance for 7:00 pm show. 35mm. 2007. 112 min. 4:30 and 7:30 pm.

15 For 15: Celebrating Rialto Pictures at Film Society of Lincoln Center
Series Details

  • Two of Us (Claude Berri). Details. 1967. 87 min. 1:15 pm.
  • Army of Shadows (Jean-Pierre Melville). Details. 1969. 140 min. 3:15 pm.

Audre Lorde—The Berlin Years 1984-1992 (Dagmar Schultz) at The Brecht Forum. Details. 2012. 84 min. 7:30 pm.
An Evening with Don Hertzfeldt at IFC Center. Details. 7:00 and 9:30 pm.
The Sixth Side of the Pentagon (Chris Marker) with Garbage (Newsreel) at Spectacle Theater. Details. Ben Morea of Black Mask and Up Against the Wall Motherfuckers in attendance for discussion. 8:00 pm.

Ongoing

Children of Paradise (Marcel Carné) at Film ForumDetails. DCP. 1945. 190 min. 1:00, 4:30 and 8:00 pm.
Gerhard Richter Painting (Corinna Belz) at Film ForumDetails. 2011. 94 min. 1:15, 3:15, 6:00, 8:00 and 10:00 pm.
A Separation (Asghar Farhadi) at Film ForumDetails. 2011. 122 min. 1:15, 4:00, 6:45 and 9:10 pm.

Galleries

Museums

Below listed North-South

Uptown

  • David Lynch at Tilton Gallery, 8 East 76 Street. Open Tues-Sat 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. Ends April 14.

Midtown

Chelsea

Downtown

Brooklyn