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<Henry Stewart>

05/06/14 2:30pm

BAMcinemaFest 2014, an annual showcase of independent cinema at the Brooklyn Academy of Music

BAM’s annual film festival, now in its sixth year, will screen 27 films over 12 days in June, all of them at least New York premieres (except for the 25th-anniversary screening of Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing). Some of them are obvious must-sees, some of them we’ve never heard of, and some of them sound right up our alley—and they’re all now on our radar, as the festival has proven itself as one of the best places in the city to discover new independent films. If you want to go but aren’t sure exactly what to go see, here’s what we’re betting on now and why. (Full disclosure: The L‘s parent company publishes the programs for BAM.)

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The Brooklyn (and New York) Films
Lawrence Michael Levine hasn’t directed a movie since Gabi on the Roof in July in 2011, the winner of the Brooklyn Film Festival that introduced us to many faces that would soon become ubiquitous in indie cinema, from Levine’s own to his then-girlfriend/now-wife Sophia Takal (who later made her own directorial debut with Green). He and she team up again as the stars of Wild Canaries, described as “Brooklyn DIY meets classic screwball mystery.” Yes, please.

The festival will also offer the opportunity to see Desiree Akhavan’s Appropriate Behavior, which made a small splash at this year’s Sundance, about an Iranian-American bisexual figuring out her family and her last relationship. Zach Wigon, who used to write sometimes for this magazine up until 2012, shows up with his feature The Heart Machine, costarring Kate Lyn Sheil, who might literally be in every movie ever made by an indie director since 2009. BAM describes it as “Part love story, part moody paranoid thriller in the vein of The Conversation.” We’ll take it!

The Notable Indies
Mike Cahill made his name a few years ago with Another Earth, starring and cowritten by Brit Marling, who went on to become an indie darling. Cahill’s followup I Origins not only stars Michael Pitt—it’s also set in Brooklyn! And it’s about science.

Joe Swanberg makes a couple of movies a year, but his Happy Christmas has generated more buzz than one of his usual toss-offs. Working again with Anna Kendrick, the prolific indie director also teams up with Lena Dunham, which is maybe why people are talking about this movie? Whatever. Drinking Buddies turned out to be as good as the buzz suggested!

Amir Bar-Lev has been on our radar since My Kid Could Paint That wowed us in 2007. He returns with a look at the Joe Paterno case, eep, in Happy Valley. David Zellner’s Kid-Thing was so subtly strange and gradually unsettling that we still get chills just thinking about it, which makes us especially excited for his latest, Kumiko, Treasure Hunter, which already had us from the premise anyway: it’s about a Tokyo office assistant who thinks Fargo is a true story and goes looking for a hidden briefcase full of money.

Also, we still haven’t gotten around to seeing Tim Sutton’s Pavilion, but our favorite indie distributor, Factory 25, picked it up, and we’ll accept its stamp of approval. Sutton’s latest, Memphis, features a “raw, seemingly autobiographical star turn [by] underground blues singer-poet Willis Earl Beal.”

The Featured Films
BAMcinemaFEST opens with Richard Linklater’s long-awaited Boyhood, if you can’t wait until its proper release in July. The centerpiece is the new film—his first in English—from Bong Joon-Ho, best-known for The Host; Snowpiercer will then receive a theatrical release in late June. The spotlight film is the latest comedy from David “Wet Hot American Summer” Wain, They Came Together, which stars Amy Poehler and Paul Rudd (and Ed Helms and Cobie Smulders and others) and also has a late-June theatrical release. The closing night film is the aforementioned 25th-anniversary screening of Do the Right Thing.

Just Take a Chance
We’re just looking back at the list of movies that played in 2012, and it’s like a what’s-what of interesting indie films of the last two years. Most of them we’ve only heard of recently. Imagine how ahead of the curve you could be!

Follow Henry Stewart on Twitter @henrycstewart

05/06/14 12:36pm

The Art of Brooklyn Film Festival 2014

Seems like every neighborhood in North Brooklyn these days has its own localized film festival that may or may not feature locally focused content. In contrast, The Art of Brooklyn Film Festival, whose screenings start tomorrow, May 7, is a platform for Brooklyn-centric independent film: mostly, locals making movies about their own local experiences, but also Brooklyn-born filmmakers making movies in Europe and European-based directors shooting pictures in Brooklyn. We talked to festival communications director Anthony DeVito, a working actor and native Brooklynite (like most of the people involved in the festival), about what audiences can expect from the coming week.

It seems like Brooklyn has so many film festivals these days. What sets yours apart?
The Art of Brooklyn Film Festival is the only festival in the world devoted entirely to Brooklyn—an indie film scene with global influence. AoBFF screens films by Brooklyn born and based makers, who live in the borough and around the world. In order to become an official AoBFF selection, films must have a connection to the borough. We’re the only ones who do that.

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How many neighborhoods are represented by the filmmakers this year?
Our Brooklyn-based filmmakers come from all over the borough: Park Slope, Bay Ridge, Fort Greene, Coney Island, Brooklyn Heights, Bushwick, and more. We’re also featuring films that were shot in Brooklyn from filmmakers as far away as Japan and Italy, and films made by Brooklyn filmmakers in Europe.

The 2014 Art of Brooklyn Film Festival will feature 63 films at six screening locations in Brooklyn Heights, Bay Ridge and Clinton Hill—and our opening night party was in Park Slope. Rather than focusing on a single neighborhood, AoBFF is the independent, international festival for the entire borough.

Do you think there’s a film community in Brooklyn?
Absolutely. Brooklyn’s indie film scene is as vibrant and international as the borough itself. The “New Brooklyn” creative scene tends to get the bulk of the media attention, but there are amazing filmmakers from communities all over the borough. We created AoBFF to bring all of these voices together.

Has the Brooklyn film scene changed in the last five, 10, 20 years?
Yes. Brooklyn has become one of the most important centers for independent film in the world. There has been an influx of young artists to the borough over the last decade or so, but this scene is bigger than that. We think the renaissance in Brooklyn independent filmmaking is more due to the availability of technology, which enables more independent artists to create world-class films. We designed AoBFF as a hub for this evolving scene, which includes Brooklyn-born, Brooklyn-based and Brooklyn-centric films and filmmakers.

Follow Henry Stewart on Twitter @henrycstewart

05/06/14 11:09am

Absent Mindr, a poetry chapbook by Birdsongs Tommy Pico presented as an app

Tommy Pico recently published a chapbook, but he skipped all the photocopying and stapling. Instead, Absent Mindr is available for free in Apple’s app store, featuring 24 poems, audio of each read aloud, original art, and more. “I try to capture the exuberance and threat that comes from being young, sort of on the run from my roots on the Viejas Indian Reservation of the Kumeyaay Nation, living in Brooklyn, being queer, and filling oneself with love, food, music, the Internet, drugs, etc.,” he says in an email. “And, well, of course poetry.” We caught up with Pico, who also edits the Brooklyn-based zine birdsong, about cellphone addiction, re-creating the Chelsea Hotel off the Montrose stop, and more.

Where did the idea of a poetry app come from?
Unfortunately I am preeeetty addicted to my phone: as a way of accessing media and “meeting” “lovers” and maintaining friendships and reading new poems/poets. I never bought a poetry book to get “exposed” to someone; I gain that exposure through links and tweets and status updates and Tumblr. I guess I wanted to make something that presented poetry in a similar way I consume it everyday.

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What are the benefits of an app over, say, a plain ol’ e-book?
I’ve spent a long time learning how to read aloud in front of people and get comfortable with my voice, and ultimately get into it. I sound so freaking faggy, and I’m just in love with it (now). The app format allowed me a way to include audio with the text, in a very smartphone-swipey interface. All thanks go to the hard work of the developer/publisher VERBALVISUAL.

What is the state of poetry in the city like today?
Sometimes I go to bed whirring, can’t wait to get up the next day because of all the cool shit being made: the journals, reading series, small presses, salons, etc. that are here or blow through here. Nepantla, Dark Matter, Sister Spit, the Book Report, Mellow Pages Library, Mental Marginalia, Wonder, the Bushwick Review, Pussy Faggot, the Enclave, Mixer… and so much more. Fuck people who say New York is over. We just did a butterfly thing.

What other ways besides apps might get people interested in poetry?
Honestly, I’m not completely sure, and I think that’s something we’re all trying to figure out. There’s something about the ethos of poetry, something you have to spend a lot of time with and give yourself over to and eventually, when it’s ready, get something from. That runs contra to our climate of instant gratification. But then again there are some wonderful poets, like Melissa Broder and Patricia Lockwood, who are doing wonderful things on Twitter. Questions like these make for exciting innovations, and I think in that way we are learning how poetry endures/adapts to/courts attention spans.

Which neighborhood do you live in?
I live in Bushburg, off Montrose in that tract that’s not quite one or the other. But! I’m in the exact kind of situation I always wanted: living in a lil’ building full of writers, musicians, academics, artists, and charmers who I adore. I always wanted that Chelsea Hotel or that Factory or that Black Mountain when I moved here. Now I have it and I am over the moon 🙂

Follow Henry Stewart on Twitter @henrycstewart

05/01/14 12:44pm

The Daily Show segment Grimm Shady, devoted to Congressman Michael Grimm

The Daily Show devoted its six-minute opening segment last night to Michael Grimm, the Republican congressmember who was recently indicted on 20 counts of fraud (and more!) in connection with a health food restaurant he co-owned and managed on the Upper East Side in the early part of the millennium—the years between when he left the FBI and was elected to the House.

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Grimm represents Staten Island and parts of southwestern Brooklyn and has long been a thorn in the side of his constituents who value either progressive policy or basic decency: he’s long been under investigation for his fundraising, and at least two people connected to it have been indicted; an embarrassing anecdote surfaced about Grimm waving his gun around a nightclub in the 90s and telling all the white people they could leave the scene; he behaved boorishly in a constituent bar, including disappearing in its bathroom with a woman for several minutes, and then blamed the bar when the story broke; and he most recently threatened to throw a television reporter off of a balcony.

From an outsider’s perspective, Grimm’s a clown, an embodiment of the goonish stereotypes that regrettably define much of his district. (The Republican who previously held his seat was arrested for drunk driving, which led to the discovery of a secret second family, which led to him being voted out for a sheisty Democrat who lasted a term before losing to Grimm.) But from an insider’s perspective—a constituent’s—he’s also, you know, a poor congressional representative, even if you share his politics. He’s a bad person. So it was welcome to hear that Bill Maher announced that, out of all the members of the House, Grimm would be one of two that he would target to defeat in November: not because he’s the most conservative, but because he’s the worst.

Jon Stewart’s segment last night? Less welcome. I was, like many people I’m sure, excited to see last night/this morning that The Daily Show had decided to skewer Grimm: that it would bring more negative attention to him, more nationwide ignominy that could hurt his chances in November. The worse he seems, the more embarrassing he comes, the more likely at least swing voters are to turn against him. (As an aside this is a tricky spot: Grimm’s opponent, Dominic Recchia, played a pro-developer’s role in the Zamperlification of Coney Island that turned me off to him. But one problem at a time, I suppose.)

Stewart laid into Grimm as the most recent embodiment of the northeast’s persistent corruption problem (see; Chris Christie), connecting for viewers the indictments to the NY1 clip (which made international headlines) in which Grimm threatened to “break” reporter Michael Scotto—”like a boy.” But the longer the segment went on, the more absurd it became: Stewart staging a puppet show in which archetypal gangsters argued about healthy diets, and kiddingly lamenting the fact that our scandals are so sissy.

It was sort of funny, but it had no bite—a too-frequent problem with Stewart, who often puts on kid-gloves when interviewing powerful guests. It was toothless satire more about Staten Island cliches than a member of congress who not only still represents his district (because there’s no law preventing lawmakers from making laws even while out on bail) and is committed to running a vigorous reelection campaign—a campaign he could conceivably win, if he can convince enough local conservatives that the charges against him are “politically motivated.” That might be hilarious to people watching at home. But to those of us who live in his district, it’s grim.

Follow Henry Stewart on Twitter @henrycstewart

04/30/14 10:19am

Bryce Pinkham stars in the title role of Broadway’s A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, for which yesterday he was nominated for a Tony. Like his costar Lauren Worsham, who was also nominated for her part in the show, Pinkham lives in Brooklyn.

How’d you find out you’d been nominated?
I was visiting my girlfriend in DC, where she’s doing a show. I was going to sleep in that morning, but then I sat up at 7:30 and said to myself that, no matter the results, I wanted to be awake to take in the moment. So I went for a walk down the street, which believe it or not, happened to take me to our nation’s Capitol. I suddenly felt like I was in an episode of House of Cards. I found an inconspicuous bench, there were the obligatory mysterious morning joggers, and there I was waiting for a phone call that I wasn’t sure would actually happen. Eventually, my phone started exploding with texts and calls, and I knew. I don’t remember who was first; it was all a blur. I hope I didn’t arouse any suspicions among the Secret Service with the weird karate-chop celebration that ensued steps away from Congress.

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Will you write a speech?
I think being prepared is always a good idea. If pigs are going to fly on June 8th, I don’t want to be caught with no idea what to say. Actually, I think it will be a really good way to reflect on all the people who have helped me get to where I am, and to consider how to sum up this life-changing experience using my own words. At the very least, it will be a pleasing and informative exercise!

Which neighborhood do you live in?
I live in the liminal space between Park Slope and Windsor Terrace. Craigslist got me there. I love it. Who wouldn’t want Prospect Park as his backyard and a movie theater within walking distance?

Is there a theater community in Brooklyn?
Well, there certainly is a large number of actors who live in Brooklyn. Not a day goes by that I don’t see someone studying an audition on the F train. As far as a performance scene, I think BAM and Theater for a New Audience are the center of Brooklyn Theater. Both venues have seasons that offer both challenging and reliable productions. I would love to work at either of those places and get to ride my bike to work! Additionally, I have always wanted there to be Shakespeare in Prospect Park—similar to the way The Public Theater runs Shakespeare in Central Park—every summer. I think Brooklynites deserve some free summer Bard!

Follow Henry Stewart on Twitter @henrycstewart

04/29/14 11:51am

Lauren Worsham, Tony Nominee for her Role in A Gentlemans Guide to Murder

  • Joanna McClure

Lauren Worsham was nominated this morning for a Best Featured Actress in a Musical Tony for her role in A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder. It was her Broadway debut; Worsham, a soprano, is also known for her work in the opera and classical worlds, singing with everyone from the Brooklyn Philharmonic to City Opera. (Just last night she “stole the show” at the New York Festival of Song gala, the publicist told us.) We talked with the Brooklyn resident about the news.

How do you feel right now?!
This whole thing feels very surreal. I kinda feel like puking in my mouth, just a little, and also doing a never-ending happy dance.

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How do you find out you’ve been nominated for a Tony? Is it just by watching the announcement like everyone else?
I was asleep and my husband woke me up by saying, “You got one. You got nominated for a Tony.”

Do you think you’ll prepare a speech?
Hmmm… probably not. I cannot imagine winning. I’m just so overwhelmingly honored to be nominated.

Last time we spoke (in August 2012), you said, “we are three blocks away from the new Brooklyn Nets stadium, and that makes us a little nervous. We’ll see how the neighborhood changes when it opens.” Are you still there? Did the neighborhood change?
The neighborhood did start to change a bit with lots of new sports bars. Also the crowd changes significantly depending on who is playing Barclays. So, my husband and I moved last March to Prospect Heights/Crown Heights. We can see the stadium from our apartment, so that’s nice. It’s much prettier when you aren’t begrudging the traffic!

Follow Henry Stewart on Twitter @henrycstewart

04/29/14 9:30am

Louder Than Hell, a doorstop-sized oral history of metal music, comes out in softcover today. Authors Jon Weiderhorn and Katherine Turman both live in Brooklyn—Bay Ridge, to be exact—so we thought, what better way to celebrate the book’s paperback launch than to cull all its mentions of L’Amour, the rock club that called itself “The Rock Capital of Brooklyn”? On a desolate part of 63rd Street in Bensonhurst, the legendary venue hosted everyone from Metallica to your friend’s band until it shuttered 10 years ago.

SCOTT IAN (Anthrax): Metallica were the only ones there in the middle of the night at the Music Building [in Queens] in their shitty room drinking beer. [Guitarist Dave] Mustaine would get super-drunk and fuck with other people’s rehearsal rooms. A band would show up the next day and there’d be a mountain of garbage piled up in front of their door because Mustaine would go get all the garbage cans and dump them in front of the practice room door of a band he didn’t like. Of course, everybody knows who did it because Metallica was the only band there overnight. Once, Metallica was opening for the Rods and Vandenberg at L’Amour. Vandenberg is sound checking at 4pm and Dave is ripped. He’s screaming at Adrian Vandenberg, “Get the fuck off the stage. You suck.” And the other dudes in the band are trying to run and hide. Metallica didn’t even have a record out yet.

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SEAN YSEULT (Ex-White Zombie): Around the time of [the 1989 album] Make Them Die Slowly, we started going in a more metal direction. And we started getting asked to play L’Amour by bands like Cro-Mags and Biohazard. These were crossover punk bands that were going kind of metal, and we were really surprised they liked us. I thought they’d want to beat us up, but they gave us the thumbs up and their crowds knew that, so they liked us also. It didn’t seem like a place we would survive, between metal heads and skinheads, but everyone dug it, and it was a lot better than playing for East Village crowds.

JOHN JOSEPH (Cro-Mags): One time me and Harley went to see the Bad Brains at L’Amour and all these metal dudes were there, and one of them punched Harley. Me and Harley fucking fought 80 of these dudes and fucked them up. See, the metal dudes didn’t know how to get down in the pit. They didn’t understand moshing was like an art form. You had people creepy-crawling, coming within six inches of each other but never smashing into each other. The metal motherfuckers didn’t understand that, and they’d just be like, “Oh shit, he bumped into me, let me run up and punch him in the back of the head,” and next thing you know they’d get the shit beat out of them. Then the next week they’d show up with a fucking shaved head.

KENNY HICKEY (Type O Negative): Peter (Steele) cut his hair short because he’d just filled out all these forms to try to be a cop in Nassau County. He thought he was going to give up the rock-and-roll thing and become a policeman. But of course, he started Type O Negative instead. Once places like CBGB, L’Amour, and Ruthie’s got too small for crossover shows, promoters packaged the bands with major thrash acts and booked them in bigger venues. Motörhead and Venom were some of the first groups to take crossover acts on the road; generally, the response was good. Then bands from other subgenres of metal booked gigs with popular crossover acts—but with mixed results. When [Steele’s band] Carnivore played L’Amour they used to throw out… lamb’s heads during their show because [their friend] Sal Abruscato’s father worked in a meat factory. The raw meat was dripping blood and it stunk. So the owners of L’Amour banned it. So Peter goes up to the mic at the next show and goes, [L’Amour owners] Mike and George [Parente] said we can’t throw out meat at this show, so we’re going to throw out fifty White Castle hamburgers.” Peter was Henny Youngman dressed up like Herman Munster. He was a one of a kind.

BILL STEER (Carcass, Napalm Death): If I remember correctly, our first show in New York was in Brooklyn… at L’Amour, 1990 on the Death tour. That was quite an experience. That show stuck out because it was quite a legendary venue and some of us were old tape traders, and the club name came up a lot in some of the live recordings from American bands. We were excited to be there. It was very exotic for us—first time in the States, and Brooklyn [people] in particular, have a very distinctive way of speaking. It was mind blowing for us, as we’d only seen it in films before, obviously. The Warriors, yeah, that kind of thing. UK people are just drenched in American culture, especially film and television. You get to hear all those different accents.

04/28/14 12:42pm

Part of SACRED, a work by the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, on display at the Brooklyn Museum

  • Part of “SACRED,” by Ai Weiwei

In the lobby of the Brooklyn Museum are six 5’x12′ iron boxes. Each features small plexiglass windows, on the side or on top or both, that allow you to peer inside and see three-quarter size dioramas built by the dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei that depict his 81 days in prison in 2011, always under the close supervision of two guards while he eats, sleeps, showers, etc. The work, SACRED, part of a larger exhibit at the museum, According to What? (through August 10), is stirring, its strange size intensifying the feeling of confinement; it makes a powerful statement about state oppression that also makes the viewer, from his or her peculiar voyeuristic point-of-view, feel like a surveillance camera and thus somewhat strangely culpable.

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It’s also a very personal statement, Ai depicting himself within his real experiences, which could account for some of its resonance: Ai Weiwei has transcended his role as artist and become an international Cause, and his friends—literally, an organization called Friends of Ai Weiwei—have turned that into a Brand. He’s the face of free expression in the oppressive East, the embodiment of Enlightenment and American values in a country with a contrasting set.

And now he’s marketed as such. The most stirring exhibit in the Brooklyn Museum right now might not be SACRED but the table at the entrance of the gift shop with all the Ai Weiwei junk for sale. All museums make money off of books and posters and mugs and postcards, and Ai’s work is the kind you’d want to take home: like, his Studies in Perspective make great refrigerator magnets. (Sort of hilariously, they don’t make anything with the one in which he’s giving the middle finger to the White House; that doesn’t fit into the narrative of the Western-minded hero in Red China. Mostly, just the Tienanmen Square one is for sale in various forms.)

But the commodification of Ai Weiwei is more intense than that of any other living artist, rivaled only, maybe, by, like, Van Gogh. You can buy Ai Weiwei smart phone cases and tablet skins; you can buy Ai Weiwei snap bracelets; you can buy mugs and buttons and wallets and scarves and skate decks and tea towels and handkerchiefs and luggage tags and an umbrella with his middle finger printed on the top. Most of these items include a quote from the Larry Warsh-edited 120-page book (also for sale!) Weiwei-isms, which, according to marketing copy, “demonstrates the elegant simplicity of Ai Weiwei’s thoughts on key aspects of his art, politics, and life.”

Troublingly, for me, most of these quotes alienate Ai from his politics and turn him into a vaguely political aphorist whose pithy observations could be co-opted by the Communist censors themselves. They’re too simple. “My favorite word? It’s ACT,” is the one most printed on stuff you can buy, though other popular ones are “My activism is a part of me” and “Everything is art. Everything is politics.”

This separation of product from real political engagement finds its fullest expression in one particular item on the Ai Weiwei table: Chinese Zodiac wine stoppers. One of Ai’s better-known works is Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads, which has been touring the world, and which was set up in New York around the fountain outside the Plaza in 2011. For the work, Ai sculpted 12 animal heads based on famous ones that once served as a fountain clock in the gardens at the Yuanmingyuan. During the Second Opium War in 1860, British and French troops destroyed the Old Summer Palace, and the Zodiac heads disappeared. (Over the years, seven have been recovered.) “In re-interpreting these objects on an oversized scale,” according to the work’s official website, “Ai Weiwei focuses attention on questions of looting and repatriation, while extending his ongoing exploration of the ‘fake’ and the copy in relation to the original.” The wine stoppers aren’t, as far as I can tell, based on Ai’s designs or those from the Yuanmingyuan (and they’re not official Friends of Ai Weiwei merchandise), but their appearance in the context of other Weiwei gifts makes the museum’s intended connection obvious. What looting and repatriation might have to do with wine-stoppage is impossible to say.

I don’t condemn Friends of Ai Weiwei for what they do: by masterfully figuring out how to sell the artist to the world, they raise awareness about the limits of free expression around the world, especially in China; profits from the sale of products goes to support their work. Nor do I blame the Brooklyn Museum for trying to make some extra money; I’m thrilled that this important exhibition came not only to New York but to our borough. But the (over)simplification of Ai’s politics, necessary to maximize salability, risks diluting them—of stripping away the political provocation and turning Ai Weiwei and his real cause into something chic, easily adopted or discarded as needed.

Follow Henry Stewart on Twitter @henrycstewart

04/25/14 11:55am

Conductor Andrew Davis, Who Lead the New York Philharmonic in Prokofievs Romeo and Juliet and Julian Andersons The Discovery of Heaven

  • Conductor Andrew Davis

Is it poor form to describe new music in images? In my defense, it was at least encouraged at the New York Philharmonic concert last night, whose centerpiece was highlights from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet ballet, with its scene- and character-specific score. So I ended up doing it at the beginning of the evening, too, during the US premiere of Julian Anderson’s exhilarating and unsettling The Discovery of Heaven, based on a novel in which god gives Moses the Ten Commandments and then wants them back (!). The piece opens with something resembling the soft sounds of morning, but it’s a menacing one: tittering flutes evoke scattering birds, then the strings come in on a sustained sour chord, whining like an electronic hum, like the rising of a blood moon; this unease is sustained, as though run through tensely with the radioactive breezes of nuclear fallout, till it finally reaches an angry outburst.

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This structure repeats; it’s all wheeze and boom, reaching almost-glorious crescendos in a wicked, nasty sort of way. It sounds like—or we’ve been trained to hear it as—the occasional monster wandering past a panoramic view of an apocalyptic landscape. (At least, an alternate score to Fantasia‘s Rite of Spring segment?) “It sounds like it belongs in a horror movie,” I overheard someone at intermission say, surely referencing its Ligeti-like nightmarishness. Anderson even seems influenced by that genre’s sound design, frequently employing long stretches of silence, better to keep you on edge. (By comparison, Franck’s Variations symphoniques, which closed out the first half, didn’t lend itself to such poetic waxing: just a non-narrative piano concerto, though a lovely one, a characteristically Big and Romantic piece—full of vim and yearning, alternately dreamy and punchy—anchored by pianist Marc-André Hamelin’s expert, emotional performance.)

The main event was one of the rare instances in which a live performance of a familiar piece proves revelatory: I’ve been listening to Prokofiev’s Shakespeare adaptation regularly for weeks now, but hearing it last night was like hearing it clearly for the first time. The opening blasts of “The Montagues and the Capulets,” the New York orchestra employing that booming percussion for which it’s known, signaled the grandeur that’d follow: crisp horns, sweet strings and smooth sax playing sparklingly clean melodies, the orchestra (under Andrew Davis’s baton) sharply rhythmic and bone-rattlingly dynamic.

As a suite, Romeo and Juliet emerged last night on a par with Bizet’s Carmen and L’Arlesienne suites, which I hold as the gold standards (along with, perhaps, Grieg’s Peer Gynt): similarly shimmering, with a fantastical flair, almost Eastern inflected, in its softer moments; danceable and orchestrationally varied, it was full of iconic melodies—or at least icon-worthy ones. The Phil will repeat the program on Saturday evening, and will play the Prokofiev with a different piece that afternoon; don’t miss it!

Follow Henry Stewart on Twitter @henrycstewart

04/23/14 4:00am

Marvin, Seth and Stanley
Directed by Stephen Gurewitz

The title characters of this road-trip picture are ostensibly on a camping trip, headed up north through flat Minnesota cow pastures and corn fields, but it’s set mostly in the car, parking lots, and a motel room; they can’t even get the tent pitched. The elderly father and his two grown sons are a trio of schlubs, schmucks and schlemiels, their attempts at outdoorsmanliness always failing: a fishing outing ends with a lost wedding ring and a trip to the supermarket for store-bought salmon. This is an inquiry into modern Midwestern masculinity, which seems softer and angstier than the classic archetype. As one bar patron tells them, they look more like actors than campers.

The family stops at that roadside tavern because of Seth, played by Alex Karpovsky, the Girls regular and ubiquitous indie star, with epic brutality and cantankerousness—even for him. He’s drinking hard and fighting with his wife over the phone, their relationship in the final stages of falling apart. (We never see or even hear her, or the family matriarch, or any other woman, as I recall.) Writer-director Gurewitz plays his brother Stanley, and Gurewitz’s real-life, nonprofessional actor father plays the boys’ divorced father.

Three is the perfect number of characters for a road-trip film because it leaves one seat empty; it’s both practical, allowing space for a cameraman, and psychological, providing a space for viewers to insert themselves, making you feel like the fourth member of the Greenstein clan. Even if you’re not a man from a Twin Cities Jewish family, you might still find yourself relating to these three failures in work, in love, even in family. At least they still have each other, if only because they’re stuck that way.

Opens April 28 at reRun