Catching an outdoor movie needn’t mean having to watch Ghostbusters or Jurassic Park for the 50th time (no offense to Bryant Park or SummerScreen). A couple of film series are taking over local parks with some more sophisticated, multiculti cinema, so skip the phrosties and pack a respectable bottle of Montepulciano in that picnic basket. Socrates Sculpture Park’s summer film series, curated by Film Forum, begins July 1, and promises gems like a reinterpretation of Alice in Wonderland by trippy Czech claymationist Jan Svankmajer (if you’ve never seen his “Manly Games”, watch it now). And the seventh annual Films on the Green festival will bring French classics to Tompkins Square Park tonight and next week before moving on to Williamsburg’s Transmitter Park on July 24 and 31.
You can find the schedule for Films on the Green online, and below — released today — is what you can expect from the 17th installment of the Outdoor Cinema fest. (It’s co-presented by Rooftop Films, which is in the midst of its own summer series). Each Wednesday for eight weeks at Socrates Sculpture Park (32-01 Vernon Blvd, Long Island City), there’ll be food from Queens restaurants and performances by local musicians to match the culture depicted in the film. Performances begin at 7pm and the free films begin at sunset. This is the first year they’ll be shown on a big ol’ 40-foot screen, so get ready to see Serge Gainsbourg and Bob Dylan (with Allen Ginsberg behind him) bigger than you’ve ever seen them before.
OUTDOOR CINEMA 2015 FILM SCHEDULE
July 1st: DONT LOOK BACK–U.S.
Arguably the greatest music documentary ever. Bob Dylan’s 1965 British tour, intimately recorded by legendary filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker, reveals the genius/enfant terrible at the height of his growling ‘60s counter-culture persona, whether astonishing audiences with Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right, Subterranean Homesick Blues, or The Times They Are A-Changin’ – or torturing a TIME magazine reporter with Sphinx-like responses. The opening sequence, with Dylan in the alleyway, discarding placards on which his lyrics are scrawled, has become a culturally iconic moving image that has been ripped off ad infinitum. See the original. 1967, 96 minutes. Directed by D.A. Pennebaker.
July 8th: LIVE-IN MAID–ARGENTINA
Norma Aleandro, the grande dame of Argentine cinema (think Meryl Streep crossed with Penelope Cruz) plays a still-elegant haute-bourgeois divorcée, living in a fashionable Buenos Aires apartment, surrounded by a lifetime of consumer goods, but with little cash. Her maid of 30 years massages her feet and freshens her drinks — but makes moves to abandon this sinking ship when the going gets tough. This is a wonderful comedy of class consciousness and codependency that easily and subtly crosses cultural boundaries. 2005, 83 minutes. Directed by Jorge Gaggero.
July 15th: GAINSBOURG: A HEROIC LIFE–FRANCE
The life and loves of French pop star Serge Gainsbourg are reimagined by comic book artist Joann Sfar, beginning with his childhood in Nazi-occupied Paris, through his wild and crazy years in the ‘50s and ‘60s as a singer-songwriter and lover of some of the world’s most glamourous women (Bardot, Jane Birkin, beatnik icon Juliette Gréco). The film features many of the musician’s greatest hits, as well a giant puppet alter-ego who personifies his worst proclivities. 2010, 122 minutes. Directed by Joann Sfar. (Note: Due to some nudity, this film is not recommended for children.)
July 22nd: IRON CROWS–BANGLADESH
In this documentary shot in Chittagong, Bangladesh, the world center for ship-breaking, huge megaton behemoths are run aground and broken apart by men and boys who earn $2 a day. Remarkably beautiful cinematography affords indelible insights into how some of the most exploited people on earth retain their courage, decency and fortitude. A.O. Scott in The New York Times writes: “an unsettling hybrid of art and witness… the vivid record of a complex reality. The way it turns blunt, material facts into sublime images is both astonishing and troubling.” 2009, 93 minutes. Directed by Bong-Nam Park.
July 29th: KINGS OF THE WIND & ELECTRIC QUEENS–INDIA
Documentary as Bollywood film: “The name of my stallion is King of the Wind. My mare is called Electric Queen and she electrocutes all who get in her way…” This incredible introduction to the head-spinning Sonepur Fair, a festival held at the confluence of the Ganges and Gandak rivers on the full moon day of the Hindu month of Kartika, comes from the Horse Breeder, who, along with the Showman, the Rider, the Exorcist, the Dancer and the Mahut (elephant tamer) comprise the cast. This starry-eyed impression of the festival is sensory overload, complete with all the frenetic pacing and explosions of neon that only a visit to this fair could offer. 2015, 56 minutes. Directed by Gaspard Kuentz and Cédric Dupire.
August 5th: COLD CONFLICTS: SWEDISH SHORT FILMS–SWEDEN
Dissensions can take many forms: a soon-to-be-divorced couple bickering; a brood of misfit animals squabbling; an all-female band debating the very definition of their feminism. With unfailing shrewdness, the following shorts depict various clashes and the intense relationships that trigger them. Sharing a penchant for naturalism and distaste for gender binaries, these clever films are further proof of Swedish cinema’s incredible vitality. I TURN TO YOU, 2015, 15 minutes, directed by Victor Lindgren. BATH HOUSE, 2014, 15 minutes, directed by Niki Lindroth von Bahr. PUSSY HAVE THE POWER, 2014, 14 minutes, directed by Lovisa Sirén. More titles to be announced. (Note: Due to graphic language, this evening is not recommended for children.)
August 12th: WADJDA–SAUDI ARABIA
The first film directed by a Saudi woman, WADJA tells the charming, poignant story of a 10-year-old girl who longs for a bicycle so she can race her best friend (a boy) and attain some measure of independence in a society whose restrictions on women begin early. Without a hint of didacticism or bitterness, this child’s tiny rebellion, ironically, leads her to compete in a Koran-reciting contest. 2012, 98 minutes. Directed by Haifaa al-Monsour. Complemented by ME AND MY MOULTON, a Canadian, Oscar nominated animation, also about girls, their bikes, and the downside of growing up Norwegian and uber-hip. 2014,14 minutes. Directed by Torill Kove.
August 19th: ALICE–CZECH REPUBLIC
“I cannot explain myself, I’m afraid, sir” said Alice, “because I’m not myself you see.” – Lewis Carroll. His Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland celebrates its 150th anniversary this year. No one has done justice to the infinitely creepy quality of Carroll’s fantasy of childhood disorientation better than master Czech animator Jan Svankmajer. A live-action Alice encounters both animated animals (the White Rabbit looking like a taxidermist’s nightmare) and objects (have knee socks ever been so scary?) on her trip down the existential rabbit hole. 1988, 84 minutes. Directed by Jan Svankmajer. (Note: This film is not recommended for young children.)
August 26: Rain date