Off-Broadway, the production of Primary Stages of Lives of the Saints, by David Ives, consists of six short plays, some funny, some serious. The five member cast is superb, expertly directed by John Rando. I particularly enjoyed the first ones in Act I and Act II, The Goodness of Your Heart and Life Signs. Ives is a splendid playwright. The opening night party took place at Tir Na Nog, 315 West 39th St.
The MCC Theater's The Nether, by Jennifer Haley, features a brilliant five member cast, headed by Frank Wood and Peter Friedman, directed by Anne Kauffman. It is a disturbing look at life in the future beyond the Internet Age. We celebrated opening night at 49 Grove with Eric Bogosian, Jo Bonney and Barry Weissler.
Hamilton, book, music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda, received some good reviews from major critics. It will move to Broadway this summer, where I will see it again. At that time, I will write my comments.
I ventured to Brooklyn to Lobo, 188 5th Ave, for a press event for Hand to God, by Robert Askins, which will open on Broadway at the Booth Theatre on April 7. The Mexican Bar & Restaurant served us margaritas and delicious Mexican hors d'oeuvres like chicken tacos, quesadillas, etc. It was a perfect way to meet the cast and creative team of this wonderful original play. I eagerly await the opening.
The opening night party for the Keen Company's 20th year revival of John & Jen, music by Andrew Lippa, lyrics by by Tom Greenwald, took place in the second floor lounge at Theater Row, where vodka and cranberry juice and beer were served. It put us in a delightful mood to photograph the two member cast, Conor Ryan and Kate Baldwin.
The New York City Ballet presented another pleasant evening of dance with two Balanchine ballets. It began with Square Dance, music of Corelli and Vivaldi, with two splendid lead dancers, Erica Pereira and Taylor Stanley. A full length two act story ballet followed. Harlequinade, music by Riccardo Drigo, has gorgeous scenery and costumes by Rouben Ter-Arutunian. It is filled with Commedia dell'arte characters, and it is about the desire of Harlequin (Gonzalo Garcia) to marry Colombine (Ashley Bouder). The two principal dancers were magnificent, as was an enchanting Claire von Enck as Pierrette. The second act features charming, adorable children from the School of American Ballet. They were delightful. It was another evening of a joyous ballet performance.
Film Society Lincoln Center is presenting press screenings for Rendez-Vous of French Cinema March 6-15. SK1, by Frederic Tellier, France, 2014, is based on the true story manhunt for a serial killer of seven women named Guy Georges over many years in France. It shows the gruesome murders of the women, being sexual assaulted by the perpetrator, his final confession of guilt and his trial. The cast, with Raphael Personnaz as the major police investigator, give first rate performances. It is a powerful film.
May Allah Bless France!/Qu'Allah Benisse La France!, by Abd Al Malik, France, 2014, is the autobiographical story of a Black rap star born to Conglese parents in Strasbourg. He begins his life of crime as a pickpocket. Then, he becomes a drug dealer. Fortunately, he turns to religion, and becomes Rap Star. He marries a nice girl for a happy ending to the film. There are many brutal scenes, and many examples of the miserable life in the housing projects, as well as the atmosphere of prejudice and racism. Many of his friends and acquaintances suffer violent deaths. Fortunately, he escapes that fate. Marc Zinga gives a fine performance as the young Rap Star, Abd Al Malik, who is the director of the film.
Gaby Baby Doll, by Sophie Letourneur, France, 2014, has the actress Lolita Chammah (the Gaby of the title) give the most irritating performance of the series up to now. It is excruciating. She is a young neurotic, afraid of staying alone, on a vacation in the country. In the first scenes, she has a boyfriend with her. She insists that he accompanies her to the toilet to watch her, while she urinates. She obviously has a bladder problem, as we are forced to watch her urinate five more times in country lanes and fields. She also sleeps in her clothes. When the boyfriend departs, she intrudes upon a taciturn loner, a caretaker of a chateau (Benjamin Biolay), who lives in a wooden shed. He also sleeps in his filthy clothes. If this is not enough, she never stops talking, and says very little of interest, except for her whining of never wanting to stay alone.
The romance between the two actors is, not only ridiculous, but it is also infuriating, that this filmmaker condemns an audience to sit through this tripe.
Party Girl, by Marie Amarchoukeli-Barsacq, Claire Burger and Samuel Theis, France, 2014, is about a middle aged hostess(Angelique Linzenburger) in a topless dancing cabaret on the French German border. An elderly customer (Joseph Bour) proposes marriage, and she accepts. This means reuniting with her four children from different fathers, plus the preparations for the wedding. Having lived such a wild life, she has misgivings about settling down with a kind man, whom she likes, but does not love. It is well acted, and the story is quite unusual.
In the Courtyard/Dans la Cour, by Pierre Salvadori, France, 2014, is about an unqualified janitor (Gustave Kervern) of an apartment house, surviving on illegal drugs, and the strange and weird residents, one of whom is Catherine Deneuve, who appears to be a mentally unstable. They develop a relationship, in which she begins to rely on him. The cast is excellent, and the story is interesting. It is one of the highlights of the festival.
Love at First Fight/Les Combattants, by Thomas Cailley, France, 2014, is certainly one of the best films of the series. Two charming young actors (a lovely Adele Haenel and a handsome Kevin Azais) meet, and eventually fall in love. She is a stubborn lady, who wants to join a dangerous regiment in the French army, and he follows her to a training camp. They have to learn to survive in perilous conditions. They soon understand the value of life, and overcome their cynicism. The photography is exquisite, and I enjoyed every minute of this fascinating film.
Young Tiger/Bebe tigre, by Ciprien Vial, France 2014, is about a fifteen year old illegal immigrant (Harmandeep Palminder) from India. We see his life, engaging in criminal activities, skipping school to earn money, hiding other illegal immigrants, as well as giving out forged passports. He constantly lies to his foster family, and is mostly unpleasant to his black girlfriend (Elisabeth Lando). It is not a pretty picture of the immigration problems in France, that is being repeated in many European countries, and in the United States. It is a realistic view of a persistent problem, which seems to have no resolution in sight.
Fidelio, Alice's Odyssey/Fidelio, LiOdyssee D'Alice, by Lucie Borleteau, France, 2014, has Ariane Labed give a fearless, and almost pornographic performance as a second engineer, the only female, on a cargo ship. The film begins with her having sex with a Norwegian boyfriend on a beach. Sexually frustrated without him on the ship, we watch her masturbating. When she realizes that her captain was her lover when she was a cadet, and that she is still physically attracted to him, they proceed to continue their affair. She is promoted to Chief engineer, and seduces a cadet. When her fiance learns of her activities, he leaves her to think over their relationshp. Labed is a very attractive woman, and her anxieties are understandable. It is a well made film, and is realistic about the boring life on long distance trips on a freighter.
Next Time I'll Aim for the Heart/La prochaine fois, je viserai le coeur, by Cedric Anger, France, 2014, is another grim, depressing tale about a serial killer (Guillaume Canet) of young female teenagers, based on a true story. The surprise this time is that the killer is a gendarme, who is supposed to catch the killer. Canet gives a realistic performance as a psychopath, and there is a cerain amount of suspense waiting to see how he is captured. The problem is that maniacs tend to become tiresome to watch.
In the Name of My Daughter/L' Homme qu'on aimait trop, by Andre Techine, France, 2014, is another film based on a true story, about the disappearance of the daughter (Adele Haenel) of the owner (Catherine Deneuve) of a casino on the French Riviera. A shady lawyer (Guillaume Canet) is suspected of murdering her. The three principal actors give excellent performances. The story is riveting, and the photography is lovely. It is another highlight of the series of 22 feature films.
Stubborn/Une histoire americaine, by Armel Hostiou, France, 2015, is about a Frenchman (Vincent Macaigne) who follows an American woman (Kate Moran) to New York, hoping to persuade her to marry him. Why she had an affair with him in France is bewildering, because he is one of the most boring, irritating characters ever created for a so-called romantic comedy. Although she tells him to return to Paris, he stalks her throughout the film. He is a worthless human, being without any redeeming virtue. It is painful to watch him, and worse to listen to his nonsense. I cannot, in good conscience, recommend this film.
40-Love, Terre Battue, by Stephane Demoustier, France/Belgium, 2014, features the always wonderful Olivier Gourmet, as an unemployed middle-aged man, with an eleven-years-old son (a remarkable Charles Merienne in his first film role), who has potential to be a professional tennis star. Unfortunately, complications ensue during an important tennis match. The acting is superb. Tennis fans will be delighted with this film. I was quite impressed.
Reality/Realite, by Quentin Dupieux, France/Belgium, 2014, is a film that almost defies description. It is surreal like a dream. There are a number of stories. An adorable young girl (Kyla Kenedy) recovers a tape, from inside the gory remains of a dead boar, which she is determined to watch. A TV cameraman (an excellent Alain Chabat) wants to make a film, about television sets sending out waves to destroy every human being. A TV host in a bear suit (Jon Heder) has an itching problem, which his audience does not enjoy seeing. All these combine into, at times, a seeming satire of filmmaking, television programs and psychiatry. It is, occasionally, quite amusing.