Tuesday, June 21 (7 pm) and Sunday June 26 (7:30 pm) at Spectacle Theater: $5
For six months, documentary filmmaker Wang Bing embedded himself in a tiny rural village, Xiyangtang, in China’s Yunnan province, following the lives of three sisters all under the age of 10, orphaned, and living under crushing poverty. Their mother has died and their father, who occasionally pops into their lives, but never long enough to see if they’re even meeting their basic nutritional needs, has gone to the city to work. The family represents some of the major problems for China’s rural residents– an extreme lack of resources that is leveled unevenly by women, and therefore children as well, when men leave to find work in urban areas (China is one of the few places in the world where the suicide rate for women surpasses that of men, and many of the suicides are related to death by fertilizer poisoning).
Bing has always been interested in spotlighting the people who have been left behind in China’s industrialization and economic progress, however horrendous and gut-wrenching an experience that may be for his viewers. It’s not simply the squalid conditions, but the loneliness and ultimate perseverance of his subjects that makes Bing’s work unique. At one point in Three Sisters, one of the children is sent to stay with her grandfather, who is too busy herding sheep to watch over her. Bored and alone, she befriends a piece of cellophane, making it into her toy. If that doesn’t make you want to rip out your eyes, give away everything you own and don an itchy wool robe for the rest of your life, then nothing in this world will.
Spectacle is screening this one as a nod to the recent NYC theatrical premiere of the legendary Chinese documentary filmmaker’s 2013 film, ‘Til Madness Do Us Part at Anthology Film Archives– here you’ll find the same Tarkovsky-ian penchant for lingering shots. The story in this case is life inside a barren psychiatric institution in a rural section of Yunnan province.
The film certainly does a lot to spread awareness about the plight of Chinese suffering from severe mental illness and their deplorable treatment as detainees in a sort of place that makes you wonder if even the most stable person on Earth could spend one night there and stay sane.
Friday, June 17 (1:25 pm) Monday June 20 (6 pm), and Tuesday June 21 (7 pm) at IFC Center: $25 for all three, $14 for individual screenings
Now that I’ve killed your spirits, here’s something that’ll lift you back up– a super fun crime caper that’s not a Guy Ritchie film. Believe me, I’m also at the point where if there are even hints of a cockney accent and fisheye-lens work, I’ll walk out of the theater.
Instead, the Pusher trilogy offers up Nordic noir from Nicolas Winding Refn (aka that dude who made Drive) and if you can forgive the grating sound of a squeaky guitar solo in the trailer above, you’ll be handsomely rewarded. The film follows a middling heroin dealer named Frank who’s trying to make amends for the massive dope debt he has accrued while running his little operation in Copenhagen, and along the way he experiences what that old adage of “everything that can go wrong, will go wrong” really means in the worst of ways. Sure, there’s a ton of fist-to-face violence, but I’m sure that Minions movie drives people to do the same stuff but IRL and in the theater. In this case, an actual story emerges. Plus, seeing a dope dealer’s misadventures at the hands of a skinhead, one Serbian tough guy, and a stream of hookers is way more exciting than watching people smack each other over sexless yellow creatures in overalls.
If you do decide to attend one of these marathon screenings at IFC, where no junkie will be spared after an onslaught of Pusher 1, 2 and 3– aim for the Tuesday, June 21 screening, where director Nicholas Winding Refn will be on hand for a Q+A. Hell, maybe you can ask him for an in with bb Ryan Gosling.
RZA’s Dream Double Feature: Five Element Ninjas
Saturday, June 25, 7:15 pm at the Metrograph: $15
Classic kung fu with a member of the Wu-Tang Clan? Yes plz. RZA will be on hand to present this 1982 feature out of Hong Kong. Five Element Ninjas among other movies directed by Chang Cheh, including Five Shaolin Masters (1974) (he’s sometimes called the “godfather of Hong Kong cinema”), was clearly a huge inspiration to RZA and the rest of Wu-Tang. Cheh, in turn, took careful notes from Japanese Samurai films in addition to the Western movies of Sergio Leone.
If you’re all eye-rolly about ninja movies– don’t be, yo. This one’s regarded not only as a cult classic, but as a classic classic of the genre. And again, RZA will be there.
Iggy Pop: Live in Basel 2015
Thursday, June 16, 7 pm at Sunshine Cinema: $15
If you haven’t been one of the lucky few to see Iggy Pop performing live in his old age, and you don’t consider yourself to be quick on the draw when it comes to pouncing on fast-selling tickies, then get thee to the screening of Mr. Pop’s concert film, shot in 2015 while performing at the Baloise Session in Basel, Switzerland. Without the crazy bass of a theatrical sound system, it’s kinda hard to tell if Iggy even sounds good.
But, really, was that ever the point? The only question we have is whether the dude can still writhe like a madman. I mean, a poster on my bedroom wall proves that at one point he could pretty much bend himself in half if he wanted. Where other people might decapitate themselves trying to do such tricks, Iggy just hobbled along like that child from the exorcism, casually dripping beads of sweat off his bony riblet-speckled chest like it was nothin’. I don’t wanna spoil too much, but there’s definitely some serious jiggle going on in this film. Enjoy it while it lasts, y’all. And go see Iggy IRL live already.