Holiday Guide: Arts Picks

Holiday Guide: Arts Picks


Feeling less than delighted about your New Year's plans? Chances are they aren't as grim as Charlie Chaplin's. In its 1925 review, the New York Times described Chaplin's The Gold Rush as "a comedy with streaks of poetry, pathos, tenderness, linked with brusqueness and boisterousness." From December 23 to 29, Film Forum will run a restored 35mm print with a newly recorded orchestral score, featuring a New Year's Eve scene in which the Little Tramp spends the holiday alone in his snowbound hut and listens to the sounds of merriment from the nearby dance hall. Even the Times Square ball drop seems a treat in comparison. For a jollier holiday vision, Film Forum will also offer matinee showings of Miracle on 34th Street, about a department-store Santa who believes he's the real St. Nick. k

The Museum of Modern Art is spiking its holiday cheer with a dyspeptic dose of dark French cinema. From December 28 through January 2, MOMA is screening Le père Noël est une ordure, a 1982 flick whose title translates politely to Santa Claus is a Piece of Filth. The script concerns a hapless couple manning a help line on Christmas Eve who find themselves forced to assist a transvestite, a corpse, and a squabbling St. Nick and his missus. MOMA will also offer a film series honoring the spiteful sensibilities of Henri-Georges Clouzot, who positively celebrates man's inhumanity to man. This retrospective includes the deliciously malicious Diabolique, The Wages of Fear, and The Murderer Lives at Number 21. But will the refreshment stand serve bûche de noël? k


Be careful what you wish for when making your Christmas list. This holiday season at the Metropolitan Opera features tales of characters doomed by their own desires. There's Charles Gounod's Faust, directed by Des McAnuff and designed by Robert Brillin, in which a scholar sells his soul to the devil for knowledge and power. (And tenure?) Also, poor Madama Butterfly, in Anthony Minghella's production, who longs for the return of her faithless husband. And then there's Engelbert Humperdinck's Hänsel and Gretel, with lighting by the marvelous Jennifer Tipton, which should teach all of us to decline that extra piece of gingerbread. But to ring in the New Year, there's an even sweeter confection, the world premiere of the baroque pastiche The Enchanted Island, directed and designed by Improbable Theatre and featuring Joyce DiDonato and Plácido Domingo. This mash-up of The Tempest and A Midsummer Night's Dream features music from Antonio Vivaldi, Jean-Philippe Rameau, and others. k

Do you think they take requests for "The Dreidel Song"? Celebrated Hoboken natives Yo La Tengo will take the stage for eight nights at Maxwell's in Hoboken for their annual Hanukkah stint, with proceeds going to numerous band-approved charities. This is the trio's eighth such series, and though latkes and gelt aren't typically featured in the lineup, covers are, ranging from Van Halen to Lou Reed to Kander and Ebb and way, way beyond. Expect plenty of songs from the back catalog, too. Yo La Tengo doesn't announce opening bands or surprise special guests in advance, but they are legion and storied, so why not leave a light on for them—a menorah, even. k

If you're a fan of early music, come all ye faithful to The Cathedral of St. John the Divine, where the Early Music Foundation will offer five performances of "Cathedral Christmas: Medieval and Baroque Treasury." They won't perform any of the familiar carols—the Early Music Foundation concerns itself with songs from the 11th to 18th centuries—but the all-male chorus and various instrumentalists will present everything from "medieval procession conducti and estampies to early baroque caroles and noels," drawing on albums including "A Baroque Christmas," "A Medieval Christmas," and "A Bohemian Christmas." So why not listen to them ding dong merrily on high? k

Here's a truth nearly every New Yorker must eventually face: New Year's Eve? Not that fun. From the prix fixe dinners to the overcrowded parties, to the warm ersatz champagne, to the particular hell that is the ball drop, the holiday almost invariably disappoints. And really, is "Auld Lang Syne" even a good song? Well, it will be when screamed by Eugene Hütz, the frontman of Gogol Bordello, Manhattan's very own gypsy punk band, playing a New Year's stand at Terminal 5. Combining traditional Roma and Yiddish music with metal, rap, ska, and dub, Gogol Bordello might be the most infectious octet currently touring. The band's aim, says Hütz, is to "make the contradictions of life sound harmonious." We'll drink a cup to that. k


The holiday season is a time for celebration, for reflection, for family. And, apparently, for puppets and pesto, too. For the 40th straight year, Vermont's lefty collective Bread and Puppet Theater, led by Peter Schumann, returns to Theater for the New City for its December stint with two new works, both featuring giant puppets, an antic brass band, and free snacks at intermission. The first piece, "Man of Flesh and Cardboard: A Cardboard Opera," concerns a soldier who releases documents to WikiLeaks. The second, designed for a more juvenile crowd, is "Man = Carrot Circus," an upbeat morality play about human animals and root vegetables. k

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