Friday September 16 to Thursday September 22 at IFC Center: $14
This film follows the illustrious but fraught career of Sergei Polunin, aka the “James Dean of the ballet world,” and his progress from child prodigy to a top-dancer wunderkind. I mean, you couldn’t really call anyone the James Dean of interpretive dance, because that would just be a dumb joke. It actually makes sense with Polunin though, as a figure who’s equally as intense, if not more so, than ballet itself, a sport that demands self-torture of its devotees, legit from the very first step.
At just 19 years old, Polunin, a boy from Kherson, Ukraine, was named principal at The Royal Ballet and was the youngest dancer ever to hold the position. It’s an incredible achievement considering that he was one of around 20 dancers holding a permanent principalship at one of the top ballet classical companies in the whole wide world. Polunin, too, was hailed as the greatest dancer of his generation.
Even if you’re like me and you don’t know squat about ballet, you’ll recognize that Polunin’s abilities are godlike. He simply doesn’t seem to be weighed down by gravity, the laws of physics, or any of the same restrictions that we humans have to deal with.
But Polunin didn’t earn the James Dean title for having a pretty face– he struggled with the stiff, authoritarian nature of ballet and rebelled, throwing himself into partying and gobbling up copious amounts of drugs. For a time he still managed to far surpass his peers. Eventually, however, he became better known for his defiant behavior and his fuck-it-all attitude toward getting smashed, and he lost out on work. After putting in just two years at The Royal Ballet, he quit. As he told the Times in a recent interview, “I was sort of sabotaging myself.”
While the documentary celebrates Polunin’s incredible athletic achievements, the drama derives from the ups and downs of Polunin’s career– his short-lived comebacks and crash-and-burn failures– and there’s a real understanding of the intense pressure he was under to succeed and provide for his family.
OJ: Made in America
Saturday September 24, Sunday October 2, and Sunday October 16, 11 am at The Metrograph: $15
Move over Zika virus–OJ Simpson fever is taking the country by storm, more than 20 years after he was acquitted on charges of murdering his ex-wife, Nicole Brown. This new documentary comes hot on the heels of The People v. OJ Simpson. The TV series, as a dramatized reenactment of the 1995 trial– a groundbreaking television event of its own– marked the pinnacle meta-moment in our particular era of TV history. But the doc is a whole different ballgame, in its probing, unwavering examination of the racial implications of the trial.
Made in America goes deep– um, like, 8 hours deep– and aside from being an ESPN sports documentary as well, challenges the accepted dichotomy of OJ, who on the one hand was portrayed, by the media and activists alike, as a black man on trial for the murder of a white woman, in a case whose outcome would determine the lasting legacy of the Civil Rights movement. On the other hand, there was OJ the narcissist, misogynist, and brutal murderer who had killed his ex-wife– a woman who had recently escaped a marriage wracked by abuse– in a fit of jealous rage.
The film, in bringing the discussion of sexism, class, and power into the equation, might just be the decisive tome on a trial and murder that in many ways is still unresolved– not just in terms of the death of Nicole Brown, but regarding what it all actually, truly meant. The Atlantic has dubbed it “vital storytelling,” so we’ll just go with that and say you should be sure to catch the film during its very limited run at the Metrograph. Director Ezra Edelman will be in attendance for a Q+A at each screening, so if you’re interested we suggest you giddy up.
Sympathy for the Devil: the True Story of the Process Church of the Final Judgement
Saturday September 17 and Sunday September 18, 7:30 pm at Spectacle: $5
Get your weekly dose of Satan at this screening of Sympathy for the Devil, a documentary about The Process Church, part of the “Visions in Macigckal Cinema” series at Spectacle. Although it widely became known as a Satanist Church, the Process was more of a collective of artists, including Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, who were fascinated by the occult. As the doc’s interviewees recall, the group became the center of a great deal of controversy and conspiracy theories and some even accused them of inspiring Charles Manson.
Basically they’re Satan-loving artists, but not Satan-worshipping artists. They’re more about, like, “Hail Satan” than actually believing in a corporeal, Christian Devil– think seances instead of actual ritual sacrifice, tantric free-love sex over kidnapping virgins. Still, this was some freaky deaky stuff when the collective was founded in the ’60s, and it’s pretty inspiring to hear John Waters and George Clinton, among others, recall how much the Process Church floored the norms.
Friday September 16 and Saturday September 17, midnight at Nitehawk: $12
The most classic of all classic Blackspoitation films, it’s Super Fly starring Ron O’Neal as Youngblood Priest, a cocaine-slanging drug dealer with all the ladies and flared pantsuits a boy could ask for. The film also has it all– bubble bath love scenes, shots of Youngblood’s enormous Cadillac cruising around the streets of New York City like some smooth-sailing, cocaine-filled yacht, and the insanely excellent soundtrack by Curtis Mayfield.
There are many reasons to get to Nitehawk instead of just watching the movie in bed on your laptop– firstly knowing that Youngblood would never tolerate such lameness and would no doubt call you out for being such a jive-ass turkey. There’s also the fact that they’re screening this one in all its 35mm glory. Get it sugar.