Between the Lines, BAM’s brief, three-part series of specially curated nights of “thinkers, storytellers and drinkers from across the arts and sciences” is the kind of one night, mini-explosion of creative and intellectual power that really ought to take place more than three months a year. I went on the last night of the 2011 season, a line-up that included writers John Jeremiah Sullivan and Clancy Martin, a short film about a robot from the future by Chema Garcia, a film by Ari Kuschnir about the conductor Benjamin Zander and his attempt to lead an orchestra through Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 after just a handful of performances, followed by the Brooklyn-based string quartet, The Mahlerettes…
BAMcinematek is currently in the midst of a whirlwind screening series of films by Hal Ashby – and I couldn’t be happier. As a diehard Ashby fan I get a lot of flack, mostly for still liking HAROLD AND MAUDE (1971) as much today as I did when my friend’s Maude-esque mother first showed it to me when I was in high school, back when Cat Stevens’ music and the film’s love-is-all-there-is credo hadn’t yet been spoiled by the years of eye-rolling that followed. I like to think my tastes have matured somewhat since I was fifteen, but I still can’t help loving HAROLD AND MAUDE. What other people see as cloying hippie drivel I see as funny, smart, even satirical. When Maude, dressed from head-to-toe in black Victorian mourning lace, protests war all by herself on the side of the road, at the edge of a cliff, is to me a really astute comment on the all too prominent and largely ineffectual picketing culture of the 60s and 70s. Then, of course, there’s the love story, which is one of my all-time favorites (right alongside Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett). In Ashby’s director’s cut, we actually see Harold and Maude kiss, but it was deemed too controversial and cut out for the theatrical release (though you can still catch it in the original trailers).
Geoffrey Rush and director Neil Armfield have been working together on their theatrical adaptation of Nikolai Gogol’s short story “Diary of a Madman” for more than twenty years. As someone who was not of theatre-going age in the 80s, I can’t say how much the play has changed since its first performance at Australia’s Belvoir Theatre, which Armfield himself founded, but as this most recent production at BAM marks the venerable director’s swan song perhaps we can assume they’ve finally reached perfection?
It’s hard to imagine that an actor who garners as much respect as Alan Rickman got his start on the big screen beside Bruce Willis as the blonde-haired, German super-villain Hans Gruber in DIE HARD (1988). Though he had previously worked in television and, more notably, in theatre as a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, it’s an action flick that marks Rickman’s film debut at age 42. This decision surprised a lot of people, but when DIE HARD’s director and producer saw him on Broadway in Liaisons and approached him about the film, Rickman was enthusiastic. “Doing DIE HARD was a big holiday for me because I didn’t have to go onstage every night. It was also something I’d never done before, and I like that in life.”
If there was an Obie for Weirdest Play of the Year, “The Deer House” would win hands down. Watching it is an experience that’s almost impossible to describe, but imagine Matthew Barney in a Nordic prop warehouse surrounded by a bevy of naked dancers, who are all on drugs sent down to Earth from an alien spacecraft. Those naked dancers are under the direction of Jan Lauwers at Needcompany, a Brussels-based theatrical group he founded with Grace Ellen Barkey, who also stars in the play. “The Deer House” – the final installment of the Sad Face/Happy Face trilogy – came about when one of the dancers in the company found out her brother, a war reporter, had been killed in Kosovo; The news was broken to her in the dressing room, which serves as the opening scene.
While the vampires of today are cute enough for gaggles of teenage girls (and many full-grown women too, I’ve heard) to hang posters of on their bedroom walls, the original vampires were actually meant to instill fear. Hence the long, sharp nails, the carnivorous teeth, the goblin-like ears and the dead white face of Nosferatu, the guy who started it all in F.W. Murnau’s 1922 masterpiece of German expressionism, NOSFERATU, A SYMPHONY OF HORROR.
Cary Grant attempts to pass as a woman in I WAS A MALE WAR BRIDE.
Cray Grant lovers rejoice. There are still two more weeks to catch BAM’s second ode to Hollywood’s most charismatic leading man. I seem to remember last year’s line up featuring more of his better known films, and while this month’s screening schedule certainly hits all the high notes with films like CHARADE, NOTORIOUS, BRINGING UP BABY and AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER, it also includes some of his lesser known roles, including some films not available on DVD. Take today’s screening, the off-kilter, family friendly ONCE UPON A TIME, which features Grant as a struggling theatrical producer who discovers a young orphan with a dancing caterpillar. Buyer beware, the dancing caterpillar is the crux of the entire film, and Grant delivers all the passion and drama usually devoted to more plausible plots to one little, wriggling worm he’s convinced will lift people up out of their dreary war-ridden lives.
“It’s like opera on acid,” I overheard a woman say at intermission. She was probably talking about the stage-full of humping bunny rabbits – that’s actors dressed in full-body Easter bunny costumes happily humping away about two hours into Henry Purcell’s “The Fairy Queen.” There’s lots of classic opera staging too, like the scene in the photo above with set pieces that descend and separate to expose a courtly, bewigged rider atop his golden-winged horse. That’s part of the thrill of this particular production: it exists in no time. Actors are dressed in costumes that reference parliamentary England or the midcentury American housewife but most costumes defy reference to any time at all.
If you’re wondering why this picture above, an untitled photograph from Shirin Neshat’s “Women of Allah” series is the only picture you’ve been seeing to advertise the upcoming BAM Silent Art Auction, it’s probably because she’s the event’s Honorary Artist Chair, but it may also very well be because this year’s auction is slim pickin’s. Even with over 160 artists on the roster, there are only a handful worth bidding on. Before getting to the bad, allow me to first mention some of the better pieces up for auction. Aside from Neshat, there are some good photos up for grabs by Ian Baguskas, Chuck Close, Sally Gall and Christoph Draeger. Lawrence Weiner and Marcel Dzama are offering some nice prints and I have my eye the red desk lamp by David Weeks. Notice that I haven’t (unfortunately) mentioned any of the paintings.
The International Film Festival in Rotterdam wrapped earlier this month and what with all the other film festivals this time of year, chances are you weren’t in attendance. Never fear, BAM is screening several of the festival’s best films, including ALAMAR directed by Pedro González-Rubio. One of three films to win the VPRO Tiger Award,…
What do we think about pulling information from the Internet, organizing it by subject and calling it art? Penelope Umbrico’s text-based piece, “All Catalogs (A-Z), 2002-03,” is a list of every single mail-order catalog in existence at the time the piece was created, totaling more than 15,000.
Sesame Street celebrated its 40th anniversary last month (with a guest appearance from Michelle Obama, no less) and BAM is screening, this weekend only, some of Jim Henson’s feature length films with his lovable muppets, including ABBY IN WONDERLAND, FOLLOW THAT BIRD, and THE WORLD ACCORDING TO SESAME STREET, a documentary about the show’s international…
A far cry from those mandatory educational videos we all had to watch in middle school, KOYAANISQATSI (1982) is a film without narrative or plot that BAM is screening specially for students in grades 8-12. And with a new score composed by Philip Glass (who will moderate a post-screening discussion) it’s a shame the rest…
I’m not sure that a depressing play about money lending is the most appropriate choice for the times, and though the adept and talented Propeller company did not manage to make The Merchant Venice the comedy it is forever miscategorized as, they did do many things right. Merchant is one of my least favorite of Shakespeare’s plays, which is maybe why I’m always so keen to see it performed. This time it’s set not in Venice but in a prison with a sort of come-and-go-as-you-please attitude.