When Onur Tukel unveiled Abbie Singer/Songwriter at the Brooklyn Film Festival, we noted that he’d premiered three features in two years, which pretty much made him the Woody Allen of Brooklyn. The comparison remains apt with Catfight, a metaphysical dark comedy that’s a distinctly Woodyesque meditation on karma and creativity. It opens today at Cinema Village 12th Street.
Because it’s shot in the sort of bold, hyper-real HD-quality style that’s available to even low-budget filmmakers now, Desire Will Set You Free already feels too real from the POV of click-play. Which is funny, because filmmaker Yony Leyser (who stars as Ezra, an American expat) is celebrating the freewheeling, anything-goes Berlin of the twenty-teens (aka now), a place where weirdos, freaks, and artists can live out their fantasies, especially the sexy ones, which is all about negating the supposedly fixed norms of society and transgressing life as it was handed to us. Even the title, “Lust Macht Frei” in German, is the opposite of the infamous “Arbeit Macht Frei,” which appeared sometimes welded into iron gates at the entry point to Auschwitz and other Nazi death camps.
Berlin has been the place for your coolest friends to flock to over the last several years, and if you haven’t made the trip, “Desire” is definitely a great way to get acquainted with the city’s “hedonistic queer underground,” as Spectacle writes, and its nonstop, freaky deaky nightlife. The theater is hosting three screenings that serve as the film’s New York City premiere, and judging by the sparkly cast (Dev Hynes, Peaches, and Nina Hagen, among others), the promised “Q&A with special guests” is probably gonna be pretty great.
Sunday February 26 at Anthology Film Archives: $11
This 1979 sci-fi-tinged horror film is a Cronenberg classic, and Anthology is screening it this weekend as part of its Canadian classics series, Gimme Shelter: Hollywood North. In part, The Brood is exactly what we’ve come to expect from the filmmaker’s own “body horror” sub-genre obsession– blood, guts,– but the film puts even more weight on what’s in some ways a much spooky psycho-thriller-style of horror storytelling that recalls The Shining (and, sure, stylistically the two movies feel cut from the same cloth too).
At the center of the film is a woman, Samantha Eggar, who is deemed psychologically unstable and pursues experimental treatment by a doctor who believes that dramatic physical changes in the body’s chemistry can eradicate mental illness. Meanwhile, Eggar’s ex-husband steps in to take care of their daughter, and promptly pursues full custody. She might be far away, geographically and mentally, but Eggar knows what’s up, and her treatment has the terrifying consequence of enabling her to undertake “the spawning of a brood of murderous mutant children who act on [her] rages.”
Cronenberg wasn’t just guessing, either– he was actually in the middle of his own messy divorce and custody battle when the film was under development. Anthology writes that the director has called The Brood “my version of Kramer vs Kramer, while noting that that film’s ‘happy ending’ was a million miles away” from his own take on the process of unraveling a marriage.TVTV Looks at the Oscars
Saturday February 25, 10:15 pm at The Metrograph: $12
Hey! The Oscars are coming up. I bet you, like myself, could care less. Like, really, why would anyone wanna spend their Sunday evening (Friday February 26 at 5:30 PST) watching a bloated film industry hand out a bunch of little gold alien man statues to a film literally called La La Land in an awkward display of “Hey! Look at us! Seriously, we aren’t racist”? The award ceremony (and really, any mainstream award ceremony) has so little to do with our day-to-day lives that it’s barely worth kvetching about. And yet here we are…
Thankfully, the Metrograph has put together an alternative program hosted by TVTV, a “guerrilla video”-making collective that got its start in San Fransisco way back in 1972,”– like, long before it was full of the dregs of humanity (i.e. tech bros). Consisting of tape from the 1976 award ceremonies, when Lily Tomlin was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her roll in Nashville, TVTV put together this
“close-up look at Hollywood’s annual awards ceremony that mixes intimate behind-the-scenes views with deadpan comedy, featuring [Tomlin] as a mousy homemaker watching the Oscars in her suburban home.”
Harlan County, U.S.A.
Friday February 17 through Wednesday February 22 at The Metrograph: $15
Lately we’e seen some pretty intense and protracted protest movements fighting it out against the seemingly impossible-to-topple Powers That Be, and in some cases actually succeeding in their effort (or lasting much longer than anyone could have guessed).
Flashback to 1974, Southeastern Kentucky: a group of coalminers and their families organized against the Eastover Coal Company– one of those Coal Country corporate machines that own whole towns and everything in it. If you want to hear more about what it was like to be a director embedded in such a massive strike, be sure to go tonight at 7 pm for a special Q+A with the filmmaker Barbara Kopple. Because this film takes place in Appalachia, it would be absolutely criminal to proceed without a banjo, so the night includes a live performance by Appalachian musician Jack Morris, whose father David Morris was featured in the film’s soundtrack.
Friday February 10 through Thursday February 16 at IFC Center: $14
This beautifully shot, futuro nightlife fantasy flick is sort of like a glammed-up, femme-fatale version of Splash, only the mermaids here are hardly damsels in distress. These sister mermaids are flesh-eating fish people with vampy tendencies. They have the same power to entrance and, well, lure that sirens are supposed to have, but that somehow American imaginings have left out (Puritans, ughhh). I guess it took some Catholic guilt and Polish imagination to get this darkened-disco retelling of The Little Mermaid off the ground. IFC writes, “One sister falls for a human, and as the bonds of sisterhood are tested, the lines between love and survival get blurred.”
Friday February 3 (10 pm), Thursday Feb 13, (7:30 pm) Monday Feb 20 (10 p), and Sunday Feb 26 (5 pm) at Spectacle: $5
“Punk” is maybe one of the most confused, contradictory, and misunderstood terms, like, ever. For some people it’s a lifestyle, a fashion statement, or a style of music, for others its Liberty Spikes and an ever-present leather jacket with pins and patches and even more spikes. In its simplest form it’s an immediately recognizable baditude, and boy do these ladies at an all-girls borstal (the British school system for juvenile delinquents) know a thing or two about punk.
Purple Rain: Terror Beyond Belief
Friday January 27, 7:30 pm at Spectacle: $5 always
Ok, so I might be outing myself as a giant lame by admitting this but, until I came across this mind-blowing feature presentation, I had no idea that “détournement” is actually, like, its own thing. Basically, that’s just a fancy word for (re)appropriated movies that have been drastically altered and yet retain some of the original characteristics of their source films which tend to be instantly recognizable classics. The result is a chunky, weird-tasting at first, but then loveably gritty combination of parody/homage, familiar/totally alien, nostalgic/apocalyptic– or post-modern upchuck that could trick your grandma and scare the kids. In other words, it’s very punk.
S is for Stanley
Friday January 20 through Thursday February 2 at IFC Center: individual screenings, $14
To celebrate the premiere of the S is for Stanley, a documentary that takes a rather unique approach to the life and work of Stanley Kubrick, IFC Center is throwing a two-week retrospective for the director, and it’s starting this Friday. Which is actually perfect timing, really, because if there’s one day this year that you’re desperately going to want to hide from the world, Inauguration Day is probably it.
Yesterday, Anthology Film Archives announced that, for the first time in their 46-year history, big changes are coming to the institution in the form of an expansion to their East Village operations that will include a library and café.
Friday January 6, 7:30 pm at Spectacle: $5
It’s been an awful long time since I’ve seen a movie at Spectacle… who am I kidding? I was pretty much lost for the two or so weeks when I was forced to go without this $5 standby, cini-mini home for everyone from underground-art house weirdos and to -sploitation freaks. I forgive you Spectacle workers, I guess you too needed to watch Law & Order with your family and drunkenly cry yourself to sleep in your childhood bedroom where Frank the teddy bear has been replaced by a mostly-empty bottle of desperately cheap whiskey.
Now through Thursday January 5 at IFC Center: $14
For all you literary nerds out there, here’s your once-in-a-great-while chance to see a film about a poet– which, strangely, is something the movie bizz must be really feeling right now because whatddya know, Jarmusch’s new one, Paterson, also puts a poet front and center. What makes Neruda an even rarer opportunity is that Pablo Neruda, the Nobel Prize-winning Chilean poet in question, is hardly some rugged, hard-boiled Anglo-centric beardo. Rather, Neruda is best know for his simple, yet heart-crushing love poems (especially the ones contained in Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair.)
The Love Witch
Thursday December 15, 4:15 pm at Nitehawk: $12
If you can play hooky this afternoon, do. Your first hideout should be Nitehawk’s last screening of The Love Witch, which (witch?) I’m kicking myself for not getting to until now. I blame it all on Anna Biller– the filmmaker has done such a convincing job of making this throwback film look like an actual piece of vintage sexploitation that, for-realsies, even after several once-overs I failed to realize is actually a brand new movie that I should definitely be paying attention to. I mean, even the movie poster (see below) looks exactly like an airbrushed box-office placard advertising some cheap-o, long-forgotten ’70s erotic thriller.
Friday December 9, 7 pm to 10 pm at Dobbin Street: $8 to $10
Dobbin St. is a new “luxury event space” that occasionally throws non-luxury events. For Halloween, they hosted a screening of Suspiria and went all out, washing the space in Dario Argento’s signature evil-pink light and amassing a band to do the live score. They even threw in some popcorn, a bar, and prep school-style beds for good measure.