The Poetry of Decay


Bill Morrison isn’t the first artist to take decomposing film stock as his raw material, but he plunges into this dark nitrate of the soul with contagious abandon. The most widely praised American avant-garde film of the fin de siécle, Morrison’s Decasia was created to accompany composer Michael Gordon’s no-less-textured wall of sound. The calligraphy of decay grows increasingly hallucinated and catastrophic over the course of this fierce 70-minute dance of destruction—the flame-like roiling black-and-white inspires trembling and gratitude. Decasia was created for live performance; it’s showing at a former synagogue on the Lower East Side, accompanied by TACTUS, the Manhattan School of Music’s contemporary ensemble.
Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 7 and 9:30 p.m., Angel Orensanz Center.

Also: The genial godfather of the first Iranian New Wave gets his debut New York retrospective with Storm Warnings: The Films of Bahman Farmanara. Farmanara made his first feature in 1974, then headed the Iranian Film Development Company until the Islamic Revolution sent him into exile from which he has since returned. This six-feature retro is split between Farmanara’s early political allegories and the Chekhovian features he’s made since his 2000 comeback
Smell of Camphor, Fragrance of Jasmine and includes his 2006 documentary feature The Lost Cinema, on the rebellious Iranian movies of the ’70s. Friday through Wednesday, Walter Reade Theater.

Veteran maker of experimental social documentaries, Lynne Sachs presents three evenings of her work under the rubric I Am Not a War Photographer. The first program, including Investigation of a Flame: The Catonsville Nine, focuses on Vietnam; the second consists of short works ranging in locale from Brooklyn to Bosnia to Brazil; the last is devoted to Sachs’s most recent feature, States of Unbelonging—a portrait of Israeli filmmaker Revital Ohayon, killed with her two young sons in a 2002 terror- ist raid. Friday through Sunday, Anthology Film Archives.

Polish director Wanda Jakubowska’s first feature The Last Stop (also known as The Last Stage) was produced on location in the same Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp where she and screenwriter Gerda Schneider had been inmates. Nearly 60 years after it was shot, the movie still conveys a sense of incredulous urgency. The Last Stop remains unsurpassed among fiction films in producing an atmosphere of total fear. Sunday at 2:30 p.m., Museum of Jewish Heritage.

French avant-gardist Philippe Garrel just enjoyed his first theatrical release; fans might want to catch up with one of his rarely-screened earlier features. Like
Regular Lovers, Garrel’s 1993 The Birth of Love
is a perhaps-autobiographical portrait of the artist: Nouvelle vague icon Jean-Pierre Leaud stars as a writer who undergoes a creative crisis when his lover dumps him.
Tuesday at 4 and 7 p.m., French Institute.