Photo: Texas Isaiah's "My Name Is My Name I" (detail) / Courtesy the artist
It began with “Freestyle,” back in 2001. Since then, every few years the Studio Museum in Harlem has held a series of influential exhibitions that are specifically intended to bring a fresh crop of noteworthy Black American artists to the attention of a broad audience. An alliterative conceit binds together what have become known as the “F shows”: “Frequency” in 2005, “Flow” in 2008, “Fore” in 2012. Now, the museum has decided the climate is right to release a new batch of talent from the continual prospecting that is part of its mission. “Fictions,” featuring work by nineteen artists from around the country, and with a strong proportion of installation and work in unorthodox materials, began in September and runs through early January.
In some ways, Downtown Boys are a classic rock ’n’ roll success story. Having risen from its DIY anarchist roots in Providence, Rhode Island, the deeply political punk band, led by powerful frontwoman Victoria Ruiz, is now signed to Sub Pop and scoring gigs at Coachella. Their second album, Cost of Living (released this August), used these improved fortunes to expand and mature their sound, the enhanced production heightening and clarifying their message. Downtown Boys’ shows are often more like protests or church revivals than your typical rock gig. Prepare to participate, not watch, and you’ll have an incredible experience.
Photo: Rebecca Greenfield
Post-modernism and social-media culture meet the baroque in 17c, a collaboration among director Paul Lazar, choreographer Annie-B Parson, and their usual team of accomplished designers: Tei Blow (sound), Joanne Howard (sets), Oana Botez (costumes), Jeff Larson (video), and Joe Levasseur (lighting). Plundering the diaries of the notorious philanderer Samuel Pepys, they also reference the seventeenth-century radical feminist playwright Margaret Cavendish and the gang who comment on Pepys’s work online. The cast includes Lazar, Elizabeth DeMent, Cynthia Hopkins, Aaron Mattocks, and Kourtney Rutherford, all veterans of Big Dance Theater, the essential, award-winning, 27-year-old troupe. On Saturday afternoon there’s a master class taught by Lazar at the Mark Morris Dance Center down the street.
The Texan producer Rabit, whose real name is Eric Burton, has always pushed the edges of what could be considered “dance music.” But on his latest release, Les Fleurs Du Mal, he abandons any pretension of making music that could be dropped in even the most adventurous DJ set. On this dark album, sounds, melodies, and beats drift in and out as they please. The result is a gripping and bewildering journey through Burton’s mind. He plays here with the similarly excellent electronic artist Fatima Al Qadiri at Bushwick’s Secret Project Robot.
In retrospect, Edgar Wright’s 2012 movie, which finalizes the somewhat retroactively dubbed “Cornetto Trilogy,” serves to close the door on a particular mode of filmmaking that had seen Wright through two decades and brought him into such orbits as Steven Spielberg and the Marvel Cinematic Universe: puréed pop culture mash delivered to audiences with the nimble throwing arm of a well-practiced newspaper carrier. Within The World’s End, superficially a high-velocity, spoof-toned riff on Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Wright buries an allegory of depression, mania, and arrested development. But it’s a shallow grave, and the allegory rises with a vengeance to transform the film into something entirely unexpected in its final minutes, a truly apocalyptic farewell overture that’s the equivalent of smashing all the guitars and kicking in all the speakers.
—Jaime N. Christley
Photo: Joan Marcus
Tectonic Theater Project, long at the forefront of documentary drama, opens a new show this week about the underexplored subject of life with autism. (The group, under Moisés Kaufman’s leadership, is famous for consciousness-raising through the telling of real stories — from The Laramie Project, which documented the 1998 hate-killing of Matthew Shepard, to Doug Wright’s Pulitzer Prize–winning I Am My Own Wife.) Anushka Paris-Carter and Andy Paris’s Uncommon Sense, running at the Sheen Center, explores the experiences of four people living on the autism spectrum, and is accompanied by an educational program, including panels of experts and an exhibit of visual works by artists with autism. Maybe most importantly, Tectonic will offer two “relaxed performances,” which mellow the lighting and sound, and lift the usual mandate to sit still and stay quiet — modeling what accessibility can look like in the theater.
This week, City Farm Presents brings your favorite subway pastime to various live settings with the first-ever Brooklyn Podcast Festival. The six-day event showcases the immense diversity and innovation that is currently flourishing within the world of podcasts. There will be something for everyone: talks of pop culture with Las Culturistas; biting feminist satire from the ladies of Reductress’ Mouth Time; foodie advice from the critic and Brooklyn native Mimi Sheraton on The Sporkful Presents: Ask Mimi; and, of course, an assortment of comedy and sketch shows ranging from the well-known to the obscure. The inaugural celebration is split across a number of Brooklyn venues (Union Hall, the Bell House, BRIC) and will also feature panel discussions on the form in question.
Between this and Superman III, 1983 was the first and last cinematic banner year for the menacing, malfunctioning ATM terminal; whether wantonly eating cards or spraying bills, they had begun to supplant human agency with Colossus-style monoliths the world over. For Robert Bresson’s final film — arguably his greatest — the machine slyly misdirects viewers to expect cutting commentary on the impersonal computer age. But when we meet our protagonist, Yvon (Christian Patey, brow contorted permanently by patiently-borne hardships), Bresson has already begun to make it clear that the hellish fate that awaits him follows an intricate spiral design far older than the industrial age. Yet Bresson’s philosophy remains insoluble and rife with paradox even as his bid for a pox on all our houses carries the weight of a solemn testament. As ever, the spiritual weight and material integrity of his art cannot easily be divided.
—Jaime N. Christley
In 2016, the midwestern emo pioneers American Football released their second album, their first in seventeen years. During that span, the emo genre has made a serious comeback among fans who were toddlers when the band released its first LP. This new interest for their spacious, yearning rock music is what drove American Football to record again — they’ve said they made the new LP mostly so they could play new songs while touring. They’ll appear here with Land of Talk, another indie rock band that has returned recently after a significant hiatus.
From Kamasi Washington to Ronald Bruner Jr. to Cameron Graves to Esperanza Spalding, Stanley Clarke’s band has been a true breeding ground for some of the biggest names in modern jazz. And the renowned fusion bassist’s ensemble continues to assist young minds through the portal to greatness with the recent addition of the keyboard prodigy Beka Gochiashvili, from Tbilisi, Georgia, who has been playing at the pro level since he was sixteen. Today he’s old enough to get into the clubs he’s been playing in for the last five years. He’ll now be joining Clarke and the bassist’s longtime rhythmic foil Lenny White on drums along with tabla player Salar Nadar for a solid week of gigs at the Blue Note. While many of you might come to see the Return to Forever rhythm section back in action, you will stay to watch this young genius in their ranks evolve onstage before your eyes.
Photo: Courtesy Film Forum
Like rivers or the moment to come just after this moment, you can’t step into the same Jean Renoir film twice. Whether the release of this restoration marks your first or your fiftieth time seeing The Crime of Monsieur Lange — the master’s 1936 collectivist lulu and certainly the most warmly humane film ever made about killing your boss — its glittering bustle of motion and character always offers new and piercing details. What, this time, will prick you?
Photo: The Iceman Cometh (1973) / THE AMERICAN FILM THEATRE / PHOTOFEST
For a little under two years, in the mid-Seventies, an initiative called the American Film Theatre attempted to bridge the divide between stage and screen, giving plays the reach of films, while lending the moviegoing experience a bit of theater’s highbrow linguistic glamour. The brainchild of the producer Ely Landau, the project brought together famed actors, writers, and directors who agreed to work at a fraction of their normal rates on filmed adaptations of plays, using the full text of the original script as their screenplay. The resulting movies would then show in roughly 500 movie theaters around the country for just a few screenings each. (Filmgoers subscribed to the program the same way they would to a normal theater season.) For the next week, all but two of the AFT’s productions can be seen as part of the Quad Cinema’s series “Screen Play: The American Film Theatre.”
Photo: Fargo (1996) / Courtesy MoMA
From New York to California, Mississippi to Minnesota, spanning genres like a Turner Classic Movies marathon, Joel and Ethan Coen have introduced us to ordinary people whose actions spin out of their control. Their characters are left with insoluble questions: Why has this happened to me? What does it all mean? The Coens’ movies can drive viewers similarly mad with the search for meaning. But despite plots denser than a Sarah Palin endorsement speech, it’s a mistake to impose a grand narrative theory on their films. The forces that propel the brothers’ plots are random, not designed, and their people don’t triumph over those forces so much as wade through them, frantic for answers.