Dog Star Man
Saturday, March 5, 7:30 pm at Anthology Film Archives: $9
Stan Brakhage’s series of several short films shot and released sequentially during the first half of the 1960s are what make up the 78 extremely dense minutes of Dog Star Man, screening as part of Anthology’s Essential Cinema program. In spite of its brevity, the film is often described as epic, grueling, and intense. And, you know, trippy. You know what to do before going to the theater. (Just please don’t do it in the bathroom of Biang noodles down the street, it wasn’t at all pleasant explaining to the servers that no, I wasn’t smoking jazz grass in the bathroom, actually I had a vaporizer back at the table.) And, I know it’s easy to mix them up, but go for the chiller strains– trust, you’ll need to keep your cool after your brain melts into you popcorn bucket.
Brakhage, one of the more prolific and influential avant-garde filmmakers ever, is the same guy behind The Act of Seeing With One’s Own Eyes– a documentary centered on a Philadelphia morgue and what happens during an autopsy (Light Industry screened it last spring). In many ways Dog Star Man, as a film obsessed with the process of birth and “the struggle and fall of man,” is the inverse of One’s Own Eyes, a film that brings us unflinchingly close to death with the gross exploration of post-human human bodies. Visually, Dog Star Man is very much a product of its time, making use of psychedelic sort of effects and colorful explosions of abstract weirdness– and yet it’s still sort of narrative. It’s a bit rattling to take all of it in at first, but the more you revisit Dog Star Man, the more the initial awe will melt away and you can start decoding.
The Purple Rose of Cairo
Friday, March 4, 1:30 pm/ 3:30 pm/ 5:30 pm/ 7:30 pm/ 10 pm at The Metrograph: $15
The Metrograph– a brand new indie art-house cinie complete with food, booze, and a specialty bookstore– opens its doors tomorrow afternoon on the Lower East Side. Guests are invited to take a load off in their cushy seats, with wood mined from the Domino Sugar factory, and soak up the very first film the owners have chosen to screen, Woody Allen’s The Purple Rose of Cairo (followed shortly by Taxi Driver).
Set during the Great Depression, the movie combines Allen’s love for self-referential cinema and magical realism (think Midnight in Paris). Mia Farrow is an awkward, lonely sort of person who spends whatever time she can holed up in the movie theater, not just because she loves film, but because the pictures offer her an escape from her jerk husband and shitty job. Improbably perhaps, Jeff Daniels becomes Farrow’s love interest (but this is a Woody Allen film, after all) when he hops off the screen and into her reality. The fourth wall proves utterly broken when the other characters in the film are suddenly aware that there’s another world just beyond the camera pointed at them. Seems more than appropriate for the Metrograph’s premiere night.
Dmitri Shostakovich: Sonata for Viola
Saturday, March 5, Thursday, March 17, and Tuesday March 29 at 7:30 pm, Monday, March 21, 10 pm at Spectacle Theater: $5
If you’re wondering how on earth Spectacle got ahold of this one, join the club. The Russian composer was one of countless artists (including many filmmakers) whose work– mainly experimental symphonies and operas (including an interpretation of Gogol’s short story, The Nose)– was regarded as counter-revolutionary and “bourgeois” in its inaccessibility to average people. Shostakovich’s music was labeled as an example of “formalism,” a shapeshifting aesthetic enemy of the Party. Despite having composed many patriotic Soviet pieces, Shostakovich was persecuted from 1936 on in what sometimes seemed like attacks handed down personally from Stalin. Amazingly, the composer was allowed to continue working– and I don’t mean “working” as in hard labor on a collective farm– no, the guy actually continued to compose symphonies through the Great Patriotic War.
Then in 1948, Shostakovich was dealt another blow and fired from the Leningrad Conservatory. Even after this punishment, the Party continued to toy with him. Somehow Shostakovich remained loyal, and after a visit as a Soviet cultural delegate to the United States the following year for what was known as the Peace Conference, he became a symbol of creative suppression for many Americans. While Shostakovich has been intermittently portrayed as both martyr and a pitiful tool of totalitarianism (in the West, at least), or a traitor to the Revolution (uh, in the USSR), others like Alexandr Sokurov and Semyon Aranovich, have tried to paint a more complex portrait of an artist struggling to work with the hand dealt to him.
Interestingly, Sokurov and Semyon, working in the early ’80s, came up against their own encounter with persecution when Party officials tried to censor (and even destroy) their documentary film on Shostakovich. It seemed their subject– rather than the underlying theme of the documentary: that the Party’s claims to “formalism” were arbitrary and outrageous– was the root cause of the Party’s frustration with the filmmakers. As Spectacle points out, when they finally completed the film in 1986, “the filmmakers were told by the authorities that ‘Shostakovich is far from being forgiven.'” For many years, the documentary evaded authorities because the filmmakers (thankfully) chose to bury it underground.
Friday, March 4 through Thursday, March 10 at IFC Center: $14
The world just might be coming to an end, what with resident Lizard King and Florida Man disguised as a Monopoly man version of a wheelin-and-dealin New Yawwker, otherwise known as D. Trump, pullin’ out the big Ds and making the Republican Party his gimp, while rubbing down klansmen, xenophobes, and glazed-over Big Macs everywhere. But as John Oliver reminded us recently, there are more pressing issues to be concerned with than a walking, talking black hole running for President and Leader of the Free World, namely the disappearance of abortion clinics in our United States.
If you’ve been nodding off to Nintendo for the last handful of years instead of watching every damn minute of C-SPAN like any good citizen should be, then maybe you’ve failed to notice that since 2010 lawmakers have been manufacturing giant packages of pork-barreled BS to prevent women’s access to abortions while taxing and regulating clinics out of existence. TRAP laws (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) as they’re known, have proliferated especially in the South. See this important doc about a super important issue and then stop giving so much ear to the flaxen-haired demon and perhaps we’ll hold off the world from premature death by a few years or so.