Wednesday, May 4

New Babylon

What’s Showing Today? | Wednesday, May 4
[Jump to screenings]

The New York Polish Film Festival begins at Anthology tonight with a must-see program of Krzysztof Kieslowski‘s short documentaries 1977-1980. Kieslowski had already been making films to domestic acclaim for a decade, but tonight’s work predates most of his best-known features, including Camera Buff (1978), The Decalogue (1980) and The Three Colors Trilogy (1993-1994). (Kieslowski died during heart surgery at age 54 in 1996.) He is an incredibly compassionate and empathetic filmmaker who frequently barred public showings of his documentaries for fear they might embarrass their subjects. That’s not to say they condescend. Rather, on cursory glance one might only pick up on some of the regrettable aspects of their personalities — such as the title character of “The Night Porter’s Point of View”, who sings praises of capital punishment –while missing the essential humanity to which Kieslowski is so finely attuned. Otherwise, the ballet documentary “Seven Women of Different Ages” points to the performative aspects and female protagonists of The Double Life of Veronique and Red. Its cyclical structure represents one of the hallmarks of Kieslowski’s later works; ditto “Talking Heads,” in which Kieslowski interviews 100 Poles aged 7 to 100 asking the simple questions, “When were you born? Who are you really? What do you want the most?” The evening is introduced by Kieslowski’s personal friend, Annette Insdorf of Columbia University, whose Double Lives, Second Chances: The Cinema of Krzysztof Kieslowski is the best book-length analysis of the director’s work. (Sorry Žižek.)

Another of my all-time favorites, New Babylon, is at The Spectacle Tonight. It’s the greatest film to emerge from the collaboration of Grigori Kozintsev & Leonid Trauberg, who formed the legendary Russian FEKS (Factory of the Eccentric Actor) in 1921 at ages 18 and 21, respectively. FEKS was an avant garde theater collective in which members participated in all aspects of production. They practiced everything from set design to somersaults and aspired to the physicality of American comic and detective films. Members even stole adventure serial posters to paper the walls of the house they shared; Sergei Gerassimov explains, “everything acted between those walls exactly corresponded to the spirit and form of these highly colored pictures of ferocious heroes with pistols in their hands and maksed blonde beauties. These were the origins of Kozintsev and Trauberg’s cinema.” It’s no surprise, then, that New Babylon manages to capture the spirit of a Lautrec image brought to life. The depictions of Paris cabarets and communes account for some of the most startling mis-en-scénes in all cinema, and from the smoke-filled dancehalls to rain-soaked executions, it’s difficult to imagine Moulin Rouge and Blade Runner without it. But beyond mere aesthetics, New Babylon an incredibly moving and sophisticated political film, one that sidesteps the contemporary polemics of Eisenstein, Pudovkin, Vertov et al and addresses workers’ struggle through the 1871 Paris Commune. Kozintsev, Trauberg and FEKS went on to create a number of other great films (notably The Maxim Trilogy and The Overcoat). Kozintsev was also a noted literary scholar who eventually directed the definitive screen adaptations of Don Quixote, Hamlet and King Lear, which are due for a revival. A final note: though Shostakovich created a score for New Babylon‘s initial release, The Spectacle features a live score by The Silver Process tonight. Sacrilege, but it should be noted the conductor at the original 1928 performance was so wasted and confused by the unorthodox instrumental combinations that it was a complete disaster. So really, this can only be an improvement.

And in contemporaneous Russian film, tonight is another chance to view the spectacular films presented tangentially with MoMA’s Vertov series: Esfir Shub‘s The Fall of the Romanov Dyansty (which I wrote up here) and Vertov younger brothers Mikhail and Boris Kaufman‘s short works (mentioned briefly here).

Kings County Cinema Society pairs Werner Herzog‘s “La Soufriére” with “La jétee” in a program they bill as Apocalypse Cinema at Freddy’s Bar and Backroom in South Slope tonight. The two should make for an interesting dialog. “La Soufriére” is minor Herzog in the big scheme of things, but for a director who has made a career of self-reflexive metaphors for his dogged, intrepid pursuit of “ecstatic truth,” few works are such perfectly distilled examples. “Dancing on the edge of a volcano” is a typical epithet for Herzog’s process, and in this case he is literally hiking up the edge of a Guadeloupean stack said to be on the verge of eruption to interview residents who refuse to evacuate. When the crew encounters an indigenous man laying under a tree with his cat, Herzog points out he’s sitting on a powder keg. The man responds, “Sure we are. But so are all of us, and it’s God’s will. Why should I leave? I would only have to come back. Where could I go? I have nothing at all, and I’m waiting for death. This is how I am waiting.” Kindred spirits. Herzog also surmounts the odds with his fiction film Fitzcarraldo, playing free tonight at DUMBO’s Rabbit Hole Gallery.

And a quick shout out to all my friends from The Beaver: your movie is getting what I believe is its New York premiere tonight with Jodie Foster presenting at Lincoln Center. Tickets are standby only.


New York Polish Film Festival at Anthology Film Archives

Documentaries of Krzysztof Kieslowski: “From the Night Porter’s Point of View,” “Seven Women of Different Ages,” and “Talking Heads” with “Out of Reach” (Jakub Stozek). Introduced by renowned Kieslowski scholar Annette Insdorf. 6:30 pm.
The Rite of Passage (Janusz Majewski). NY Premiere. 8:30 pm.

Drop Edges of Yonder: The Films of Rudy Wurlitzer at Anthology Film Archives

Glen and Randa (Jim McBride). 7 pm.
Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (Jim McBride). 9 pm.

The Far Side of Paradise: New Films from Norway at  Film Society of Lincoln Center

Shorts Program. 1 pm.
Lend Me Your Wife
(Edith Carlmar). 3 pm.
King of Devil’s Island (Marius Holst). 8:30 pm.

Dziga Vertov at MoMA

The Fall of the Romanov Dynasty (Esfir Shub) at 4 pm.
Moscow (Mikhail Kaufman & Ilya Kopalin) with “Les Halles centrales” (Boris Kaufman). 6:45 pm.

In Focus: Cinema Tropical at MoMA

Extraordinary Stories (Mariano Llinás). Director in person. 2 pm.
Turistas (Alicia Scherson). Scherson in person. 7 pm.

Counsellor at Law (William Wyler) at 92YTribeca. Featuring Elliott Kalan in conversation with Kristen Schaal. 7:30 pm.
Live Today, Die Tomorrow! (Kaneto Shino) at BAMcinématek. Part of The Urge for Survival: Kaneto Shindo series. 6:50 pm.
The Life of Chikuzan (Kaneto Shino) at BAMcinématek. Part of The Urge for Survival: Kaneto Shindo series. 9:15 pm.
An Evening with Jodie Foster featuring The Beaver at Film Society of Lincoln Center. Probably sold out. 7 pm.
Citizen Kane (Orson Welles) at MoMA. 1:30 pm.
Hold (Frank Mosely) at ReRun. Featuring Mosely and guests in conversation with Hammer to Nail’s Michael Tully. One night only! 7 pm.
The New Babylon (Grigori Kozintsev & Leonid Trauberg) at The Spectacle Theater. With live score by The Silver Process. 9:30 pm.
Apocalypse Cinema: “La Soufriére – Waiting For an Inevitable Disaster” (Werner Herzog) and “La jétee” (Chris Marker) at Freddy’s Bar and Backroom. 8:30 pm.
Fitzcarraldo (Werner Herzog) at Rabbithole Gallery, DUMBO. 8 pm.
ESP TV Episode #2 Screening Party at Angels & Kings. 8:30 pm.


The Arbor (Clio Bernard) at Film Forum. 1:15, 3:15, 6, 8, 10 pm. Ends May 10.
Meek’s Cutoff (Kelly Reichardt) at Film Forum. 1:15, 3:30, 5:45, 7:50, 10 pm.
The Makioka Sisters (Kon Ichikawa) at Film Forum. 1, 3:45, 7, 9:45 pm. Ends May 9.

ANGELIKA Miral, Potiche, Win Win, The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, Earthwork, Exporting Raymond CINEMA VILLAGE Certified Copy, Lebanon, PA, The Robber, MORE TBA. IFC CENTER 13 Assassins, Beautiful Darling, Bill Cunningham New York, Blank City, Cave of Forgotten Dreams 3D, My Perestroika, Stake Land, The Princess of Montpensier LANDMARK SUNSHINE Incendies, The Double Hour, Of Gods and Men, In a Better World, Jane Eyre PARIS THEATER Potiche QUAD That’s What I Am, Queen to PLay, Le Quattro Volte, Biutiful ReRUN We Go Way Back VILLAGE EAST CINEMA African Cats, Bill Cunningham New York, The Bang Bang Club, Sympathy for Delicious, Water for Elephants, Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zen

Gallery Shows

Kevin Jerome Everson “More Than That” at The Whitney Museum. Closed Monday/Tuesday. $18 general, $12 students/seniors. Pay-as-you-wish Friday 6-9 pm. Ends September 18.
Laurel Nakadate: Only the Lonely at MoMA PS1, Queens. $10 general/$5 students and seniors. Closed Tuesday/Wednesday. Through August 8.
Modern Women: Single Channel at MoMA PS1, Queens. Featuring Lynda Benglis, Dara Birnbaum, VALIE EXPORT, Anna Bella Geiger, Mako Idemitsu, Joan Jonas, Kristin Lucas, Mary Miss, Pipilotti Rist, Carolee Schneemann, Steina Vasulka. $10 general/$5 students and seniors. Closed Tuesday/Wednesday. Through August 8.
Martha Colburn: Dolls vs. Dictators at the Museum of the Moving Image, Queens. $10 general/$7.50 students and seniors. Closed Monday. Through May 15.
Sung Hwan Kim: From the Commanding Heights…* at The Queens Museum. Admission by donation ($5 suggested). Closed Monday/Tuesday. Through August 14.
Jeff Whetstone “Seducing Birds, Snakes, Men” at Julie Saul Gallery, Chelsea. Closed Sunday/Monday. Through May 21.
Amy Granat “Cars, Trees, Houses, Beaches” at Nicole Klagsbrun, Chelsea. Closed Sunday/Monday. Through May 28.
Chris Marker “Passengers” at Peter Blum Soho and Chelsea. Marker’s first color photo series. Closed Sunday/Monday. Ends June 4.
Almagul Menlibayera “Transoxiana Dreams” at Priska C. Juschka, Chelsea. Closed Sunday/Monday. Ends May 14.
Renée Green “Sigetics” at Elizabeth Dee Gallery, Chelsea. Closed Sunday/Monday. Ends May 21.
Jessica Mein “Verso Reverso” at Simon Preston Gallery, LES. Closed Monday/Tuesday. Ends May 29.
Józef Robakowski at Goethe-Institut/Ludlow 38, Lower East Side. Through May 15.
Kara Walker “Fall Frum Grace, Miss Pipi’s Blue Tale” at Lehmann Maupin Gallery, LES. Closed Sunday/Monday. Through June 4.
Bye Bye Kitty!!! Between Heaven & Hell in Japanese Art at Japan Society. Ends June 12.
Soft Power at NURTUREart, Williamsburg. Closed Tuesday/Wednesday. Ends May 21.
Allison Somers “Black & Blue” at Microscope Gallery, Bushwick. 6-9 pm. Closed Tuesday/Wednesday. Through May 8.
“The End of Failure” at Louis V ESP, Williamsburg.Ross Moreno, Michelle O’ Brien, Christian Oitinnen and Kellie McCool, Shalo P, Anna Pratt, Jeff Ray, Chris Sollars, Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, Ryan Wilsie, Anne Yalon and Micahel Zheng. Through May 13.
Kota Ezawa “City of Nature” at Madison Square Park. Through May 15.