Photo: Michael Musto / Photo by Joseph DiGiovanna
With flashing rings, swashbuckling moves, and sardonic glee, emcee and song stylist Kenyon Phillips brings Jack Sparrow swagger to his Unisex Salon extravaganzas at Joe’s Pub. Go expecting to be surprised: Musicians and vocalists segue through genres and eras in costumes and musical selections that by turns channel jazz-age flamboyance, exuberant Cabaret fatalism, downtown Eighties decadence, and up-to-the-minute melodic mayhem. The latest incarnation promises a medley of X-Ray Specs, LuLu, and Alanis Morissette tunes performed by the Village Voice’s own Michael Musto; a plunge into goth hellfire by the multifariously talented Raven O; and danceable gems from more than a score of performers. Phillips will be accompanied by his own orchestral rock band, The Ladies in Waiting, and musical director Mackenzie Shivers can be counted on to lead the troupe through poignant covers and dazzling originals while pounding the keys with all the abandon of an 11-17-70–era Elton John.
Photo: Courtesy BWAC Gallery
Dive into the Village Voice archives from the mid-Eighties into the Nineties and you’ll find a front-page photo of a laughing Ronald Reagan leaving office in 1989, accompanied by the headline, “So Long, Suckers!” It was a time of partying, of outrage, of sexual joy and pain — of AIDS decimating the gay community and of the determination to live through it. The twelve artists on view in “Painting to Survive: 1985–1995” captured the heights and depths of a decade when the East Village art scene was thriving and bold artworks were pursuing those eternal subjects of life and death with Blake-like fervor. Two of the featured artists — Richard Hofmann and Marc Lida — didn’t make it out alive, but creating art is about living past your own end, and their paintings will speak for them from the walls of this huge Brooklyn space. The all-afternoon opening will feature poetry readings and musical performances, including a reunion of a downtown stalwart of the era, The Frank’s Museum Project.
An energetic, athletic choreographer with a passion for narrative, Jody Oberfelder turns her talents to Kurt Weill’s Zaubernacht (Magic Night), a dance and chamber music work whose original orchestrations were lost for decades. (The piece has not been seen or heard in New York since 1925.) An ensemble from the Knickerbocker Chamber Orchestra, joined by singer Hai-Ting Chinn, buoys dancers Emily Giovine, Pierre Guilbault, Mary Madsen, Lindsey Mandolini, Ned Malouf, Maya Orchin, Hannah Wendel, Mei Yamanaka, and eleven-year-old Lyla Forest Butler. The piece, told through the lens of a child whose toys come to life, is a tale, says Oberfelder, “of finding one’s place in the world.”
For twenty years, Tina Croll and Jamie Cunningham have been slicing and dicing the dance world, spotlighting movement artists who bring us much pleasure. This month’s adventure is notoriously far-flung; it’s a “celebration of Egyptian dance in all its forms and traditions,” and it honors Magda Saleh, Egypt’s prima ballerina. More than thirty veteran modern and ballet dancers, musicians, historians, arts journalists, and choreographers share stories, memories, anecdotes, and actual dancing, augmented with rare film clips, videos, and other archival material. In addition to the live performances, two free film screenings, on March 13 (at six) and March 17 (at three), are part of the proceedings.
Around 2012, the avant-pop singer Charli XCX began making waves within the online ether, thanks to singles like “Nuclear Seasons” that contained just enough experimentation to separate her from mainstream acts. That didn’t last: Charli is now a bona fide pop star, with hits like the playful “Boys” racking up 75 million views on YouTube. But the singer has retained her edginess, as is apparent on such tracks as “Femmebot,” off her 2017 album, Pop 2, which features a wildly pitch-shifting verse from the often confrontational queer rapper Mykki Blanco. And this week, she’s playing at the comparably tiny Elsewhere instead of a stadium, which she could surely fill. It’s going to be a special night.
Electropop duo the Blow released an album last year called Brand New Abyss. The songs are fun, sly, and catchy, backed by modular synth beats, but if you haven’t seen the group live recently, listening to the album alone is only a fraction of full Blow experience. Brand New Abyss was conceived as part of a multimedia art piece that incorporates spoken-word performance and discusses topics like modern alienation, emotional intimacy, and surviving on a decaying planet. It’s the rare live-music experience that feels totally fresh, unexpected, incredibly vulnerable, and real. If you can’t get tickets to Charli XCX in the next room, we highly recommend checking out this show.
This eight-year-old troupe’s first repertory program, Body Language, includes a “fan favorite,” Bite, which explores the concept of “bromance,” and new solos by Dante Brown and one of his collaborating dancers, Michael Abbatiello, as well as Abbatiello’s A Thought, which centers on gun violence. Also on the bill is Brown’s Lucille, about the concept of home, and the Amherst College Dance Ensemble performing a new Brown work; the choreographer is currently a visiting assistant professor there. Brown, who attended Wesleyan and earned his MFA in choreography and performance at Ohio State, has performed and shown his work all over the region, and gathered an ensemble of other grads of elite New England colleges; the multiracial troupe contains a variety of body types and attitudes.
Photo: Courtesy Film Forum
The title of Claude Sautet’s 1971 policier translates into English roughly as Max and the Scrap Dealers, and the plot is fittingly guileless. Earnest, somber detective Max (Michel Piccoli), learning that a crew of junk men are going to pull down a big heist, insinuates himself into the life of one of their girls (Romy Schneider), using pillow talk to gather intel on the upcoming job. Sautet frolics on Melville’s turf — trenchcoat cops, ruthless crooks, and women who run moral circles around both — but, contrasted against Melville’s famously fussbudget approach to composing and cutting, Sautet is clearly happier distinguishing the criminal set with loose, rowdy setups, often employing telephoto compositions to facilitate an atmosphere of spontaneity. Sautet spoke contemptuously of his policeman protagonist, whose attitude and decisions are a litmus test for viewers. With Bernard Fresson and Georges Wilson.
—Jaime N. Christley
Photo: Neon Tommy
The genetically derived South Asian musical influences that inspired 2015’s Morning/Evening persist in the opening tracks of Four Tet’s 2017 album New Energy. Variety informed by a twinkling organic playfulness appears to be the signature flavor palette of half-Indian Kieran Hebden, who has been producing music as Four Tet since 1998’s 36-minute, 25-second single “Thirtysixtwentyfive.” Beyond the meterless “Alap” and hammered-dulcimer glitter of “Two Thousand and Seventeen,” the harmonious laptop-wrangler covers nearly all bases an electronica fan might consider running: West Coast trance (assisted by Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith’s synth programming), transportive deep house, big bombastic beats, semi-liberated jazz, techno, and cosmic consciousness are elements of the glowing, flowing club style Hebden has perfected over the past few years and that should get heads nodding here.
Among moviegoers who try to keep up with French cinema, the more recent pictures made by post-New Wave avant garde–type Philippe Garrel tend to inspire either passionate defenses or impatient eye-rolling, with not much in between. Perhaps the biggest lightning rod is Garrel’s frequent casting of his son, Louis Garrel, an actor with a magnificently floppy tousle of hair and a sullen pout worthy of a disgruntled Roman god. Jealousy (2013) works because it’s not trying to do too much: Rendered in lustrous black-and-white by veteran cinematographer Willy Kurant (who shot Masculin Féminin for Godard), the picture feels intimate and concentrated, less fluttery than some of Garrel’s other pictures — it’s right at the intersection of direct and oblique, like a good haiku.
Akira Kurosawa’s samurai King Lear sets the standard for Shakespeare spectaculars. The title means “chaos,” although the epic compositions, mist-shrouded, color-coded armies, flaming fratricidal carnage, and juicy court intrigues of this 160-minute pageant are more suggestive of the filmmaker’s Olympic perspective. Grimly existential and characterized by a voluptuous sense of doom, the movie is filled with references to “this degraded age,” not all of them alluding to the 16th century.
Ex silent movie queen Gloria Swanson gives the performance of her career as delusional ex silent movie queen Norma Desmond in Billy Wilder’s searing, bitter, and funny portrait of Hollywood, arguably the director’s most impressive work. It’s the portrait of an actress who lives in a dream world that turns into a nightmare and a young screenwriter half her age (William Holden) who is engulfed by her madness.
Photo: Emel / Photo by Ebru Yildiz
Emel Mathlouthi, the Tunisian singer-songwriter responsible for the Arab Spring’s preeminent anthem — “Kelmiti Horra” (“My Word Is Free”) — headlines “Women’s Voices,” a celebration of Middle Eastern vocalists that also includes Jordan’s Farah Siraj and Sudanese singer-ethnomusicologist Alsarah and her Nubatones. Mathlouthi was inspired initially by Joan Baez, whose melodic resolve she combines with Massive Attack’s immediacy and Björk’s glitchy emotionalism. Raised in Jordan and Spain, Siraj is the subtly swinging, flamenco-tinged musical offspring of Ella Fitzgerald, Umm Kulthum, and Paco de Lucia. As with all these singers, her music deals with regional and religious conflicts. Alsarah arrived in Brooklyn via Yemen. Her self-described “East African retro pop” is rooted in the “songs of return” reflecting Nubian nostalgia for the Nile communities destroyed by the Aswan Dam during the Sixties.
John Hollenbeck’s Claudia Quintet both is and isn’t the chamber version of the drummer-composer’s Large Ensemble. Like his big band, Claudia — which also includes Drew Gress (bass), Matt Moran (vibraphone), Red Wierenga (accordion), and Chris Speed (saxophone) — is elliptically lyrical, densely ideated, yet surprisingly accessible. But the big band is like an ocean liner to Claudia’s sloop or, perhaps more accurately, a tightly wound Swiss clockwork of far-flung impulses and bad-ass improvisation, while still retaining the larger vessel’s emerging pleasures and spirited revelations. Together for more than two decades, Claudia has band telepathy and, in its leader, a bottomless source of ideas, both rhythmic and otherwise. The quintet’s latest album, Super Petite, concentrates on relatively short ‘n’ sweet tunes inspired by such notions as a Charlie Parker sax break, Newark International’s contraband-sniffing beagles, and Fox News.