Author: Spectacle

ALBERT SERRA: ICONO-CLASSICIST

Parallel to the stateside release of Albert Serra’s brain-bending THE DEATH OF LOUIS XIV, Spectacle is pleased to exhibit two early works by the divisive young Catalan auteur. Serra’s 2006 debut HONOR OF THE KNIGHTS is a naturalistic refraction of Don Quixote, while 2008’s BIRDSONG depicts the quest of the Magi as a corporeal buddy comedy suffused with a tranquil beauty that calls to mind Ozu, Bergman, Pasolini and Straub. This pair of inverse-monumental works (both of which will be preceded by Serra’s rarely exhibited, Fassbinderian 2013 short CUBALIBRE) invite their viewers to reconsider cinematic apparatuses of space and time, alongside the shibboleths of history as we have retold it to ourselves across the ages.

Special thanks to Andergraun Films and The Cinema Guild.


HONOR OF THE KNIGHTS
(aka HONOR DE CAVALLERIA)
dir. Albert Serra, 2006
100 mins.
In Catalan with English subtitles.

MONDAY, APRIL 3 – 10 PM
TUESDAY, APRIL 11 – 10 PM
FRIDAY, APRIL 14 – 7:30 PM
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 19 – 7:30 PM

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Serra’s first feature reimagines Don Quixote soot and all: the interplay between Sancho (Lluís Serrat) and Quixote (Lluís Carbó) is less rhetorical than familial, both tender and eerie in its meandering, inviting the viewer to project their own histories onto the speaker/listener relationship that once undergirded Cervantes’ text – as well as teasing out radical redefinitions of both honor (companionship?) and knightdom (serfdom? au pair-dom?). This Quixote is at once a doddering old man and a sage tumescent with life wisdom in his undying pursuit of chivalry… but does anyone (beyond the bumbling Sancho, anyway) care? HONOR OF THE KNIGHTS features a cast assembled of non-actors from Serra’s hometown of Banyoles, while cinematographer Jimmy Gemferrer’s not-quite-HD camera luxuriates in the Catalan countryside.

On the eve of release for THE STORY OF MY DEATH – which performs a similar intervention upon Dracula and Casanova – Serra told Cinema Scope Magazine: “With these characters you have more or less all the information and, well, then I can do whatever I want, I am free, and I don’t care about being more or less faithful to the original source or character that comes from literature or history.”



BIRDSONG
(aka EL CANT DELS OCELLS)
dir. Albert Serra, 2008
92 mins.
In Catalan with English subtitles.

MONDAY, APRIL 3 – 7:30PM
FRIDAY, APRIL 14 – 10 PM
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 19 – 7:30 PM
SATURDAY, APRIL 29 – 7:30 PM

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Serra’s sophomore feature revels in the unknowability of its chosen subjects: the Three Wise Men indicated here (Lluís Carbó, Lluís Serrat Batlle and Lluís Serrat) are at once the hallowed sages indicated by Christmas lore and yet, furthermore, bumbling and oafish to a point of extreme lovability. Serra’s locations (Iceland, the Canary Islands) lend an otherwise titter-worthy comic travelogue with unspeakable, sacrosanct beauty. Also featuring legendary Canadian film critic Mark Peranson as Josef!

“Serra’s emboldened enough to puncture his formalism with humor, and knows how to elevate his material control to the level of the ineffable.”Jeff Reichert, IndieWire

“In a manner reminiscent of Tarkovsky’s insistence that the ‘dominant, all-powerful factor of the film is rhythm, expressing the course of time within the frame’, Serra elongates our sense of duration, liberating filmic time from the abstraction of intensified continuity or montage. Movement is slowed to a stage at which it becomes barely perceptible, and our intermittent awareness of the modulation of mise-en-scène marks the passage of time within the shot. Dramatic time is halted and reclaimed for us to engage with and reflect on our sensitivity to light and sound.” Matthew Flanagan, 16:9

SPECIAL DISCOVERIES FROM MUBI

In collaboration with MUBI’s Special Discovery series, Spectacle is pleased to present a double feature dedicated to French auteur Bertrand Bonello (SAINT LAURENT, NOCTURAMA) and the cinema of art. The first, directed by Bonello, envisions an impossible opera forged from electro music, dance, and a firearm heiress. The second, starring Bonello, has the filmmaker searching for cinematic inspiration in paintings of the monstrous.

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 12th – 7:30 PM
MONDAY, APRIL 17th – 7:30 PM

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SARA WINCHESTER, PHANTOM OPERA
dir. Bertrand Bonello, 2016
France. 24 Minutes.
In French with English subtitles.

Official Selection: New York Film Festival, San Sebastian, FID Marseille, Mar del Plata Film Festival and Torino Film Festival

A musician and stage director, played by Reda Kateb, is standing facing his console, making some sound tests. He is rehearsing in the auditorium of the Opéra de Paris. From there, he is directing prima ballerina Marie-Agnès Gillot for an opera entitled Sarah Winchester, which is inspired by the life of this American woman whose fate was so peculiar.

SARAH WINCHESTER will be available to stream on MUBI starting April 7. Watch here.


ROUGE
dir. Antoine Barraud, 2015
France. 58 Minutes.
In French with English subtitles.Official Selection: Côté court Festival

A famous filmmaker works on his next film, which will focus on monstrosity. He is obsessed by the idea of finding a painting that will be central to the film and will crystallize all the power and beauty of monsters. But what he doesn’t show to anyone, not even his wife, is the mark on his back that keeps getting bigger. This red mark worries him, upsets him, and seems to want to tell him something… Starring Bertrand Bonello in one of his few acting roles, this rare work is the alternative and almost never-seen-before version of the feature-length “Les Dos Rouge” (Berlinale 2015).

ROUGE will be available to stream on MUBI starting April 21. Watch here.

MUBI is a curated online cinema, streaming hand-picked award-winning, classic, and cult films from around the globe. Every day, MUBI’s film experts present a new film and you have 30 days to watch it. Whether it’s an acclaimed masterpiece, a gem fresh from the world’s greatest film festivals, or a beloved classic, there are always 30 beautiful hand-picked films to discover. 

SOLZHENITSYN’S CHILDREN… ARE MAKING A LOT OF NOISE IN PARIS

SOLZHENITSYN’S CHILDREN… ARE MAKING A LOT OF NOISE IN PARIS
dir. Michael Rubbo, 1979
France/Canada, 96 mins.
In French with English subtitles.

SATURDAY, APRIL 1 – 7:30 PM
TUESDAY, APRIL 4 – 10 PM
SUNDAY, APRIL 23 – 5 PM
FRIDAY, APRIL 28 – 10 PM

Special thanks to the National Film Board of Canada.

From veteran documentarian Michael Rubbo (who would go on to direct 80s cult classic THE PEANUT BUTTER SOLUTION – a Spectacle favorite!) comes the latest in our series of glimpses at paths not taken on the brink of apocalypse, political or otherwise: the 1979 philosophical travelogue SOLZHENITSYN’S CHILDREN… ARE MAKING A LOT OF NOISE IN PARIS.

Alongside Canadian journalist/interloper Louis-Bernard Robitaille, Rubbo considers the so-called “New Philosophers” who were castigated by Gilles Deleuze for their career opportunism after renouncing their respective Marxisms in the long decade after May 1968… wherein anti-gulagism became a cause celebre on the French left, following the betrayed Prague Spring and the first European publications of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s THE GULAG ARCHIPELAGO.

Along the way, hilarious and haunting contortions are exposed – chief among them the disparity between militantism and the bourgeois life of the mind, to say nothing of the efficacy question undergirding public intellectualism at large. When Rubbo floats the test-balloon idea that these recondite Maoists might have influenced the election of 1978, it’s left to the viewer whether he’s probing a rich irony for all the material it’s worth, or making a severe allegation – a tension that haunts Rubbo’s film as a twin portrait of a peculiarily pained Paris.

For its dogged before-and-after 1968 comparison, SOLZHENITSYN’S CHILDREN stands alongside its more famous contemporaries – William Klein’s MAYDAYS and Chris Marker’s A GRIN WITHOUT A CAT come to mind – as methodical and withering indictment of a particular first-world hubris.

The National Film Board of Canada describes SOLZHENITSYN’S CHILDREN thusly: “a somewhat unconventional look at a serious subject: an intellectual political movement in France that may alter the face of Communism in Europe. The New Philosophers, as they are called, are former leftist activists whose thinking has been radically changed by Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Filmmaker Rubbo and the Paris-based correspondent for Montreal’s La Presse, Louis-Bernard Robitaille, speak to some of them prior to the French national elections. They have abandoned their former pro-Marxist ideology. Will they now decisively influence the electorate?”

Or as Rubbo put it himself to PBS in 2003: The French are able to switch. I made a film in the ’70s called SOLZHENITSYN’S CHILDREN – which was actually on PBS, by the way – and it was about the French Left, about all the intellectuals who had been rampant Marxists. Then, they read Solzhenitsyn and they all did a 180-degree switch. Not just privately, but very publicly. People like Bernard-Henri Levy, Andre Glucksmann, all staged a public mea culpa. Why? I guess France is like that, more volatile, and also they profited mightily from their change by writing instant best-sellers on their new position and becoming the darlings of the press, probably getting more attention than they had ever had as Marxists.”

SOUTH OF HEAVEN: SUPERNATURAL WESTERNS

This April, Spectacle is pleased to present a collection of throwbacks on horseback from down Mexico way. Four supernatural westerns covering everything from witches to werewolves, from the devil to Dracula: it may still be chilly in NYC, but here at the Goth Bodega it’s Spring Break.


THE LIVING COFFIN
(aka EL GRITO DE LA MUERTE)
dir. Fernando Mendez, 1959
72 minutes. Mexico.
In Spanish with English subtitles.

FRIDAY, APRIL 7 – 10 PM
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 12 – 10 PM
SUNDAY, APRIL 16 – 5 PM
THURSDAY, APRIL 27 – 10PM

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Lawman Gaston and his partner Crazy Wolf saunter into town to investigate an attempted murder. When they arrive, the family tells a harrowing tale of haunting and mischief that’s been keeping them up at night. Can the duo solve this mystery and release the family from their terrible curse? Are the tombs beneath the residence truly housing the dead? Has the Crying Woman returned to exact a terrible revenge? Will they escape the deadly swamp?

While the legend of The Crying Woman was done many times before and after this film, EL GRITO DE LA MUERTE (the original title, translating to “The Cry of Death”) owes as much to the gothic offerings of Poe as it does to the tropes of Scooby Doo.

Gaston Santos (a well known bullfighter turned actor) teams up once again with director Fernando Mendez, writer Ramón Obón and cinematographer Víctor Herrera who all earlier that same year made the beautiful and shadowy Spectober favorite THE BLACK PIT OF DR. M.

THE RIDER OF THE SKULLS
(aka EL CHARRO DE LAS CALAVERAS)
dir. Alfredo Salazar, 1965
80 minutes. Mexico.
In Spanish with English subtitles.

SUNDAY, APRIL 2 – 5 PM
SATURDAY, APRIL 8 – 10 PM
SATURDAY, APRIL 15 – 10 PM
THURSDAY, APRIL 20 – 10 PM

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A masked rider (not Zorro) arrives in a sleepy Mexican villa in the midst of a slew of vicious werewolf attacks during what seems like a solid month of full moons. The Rider is given lodging by a señorita and her young son – Perico – who appear to be the next targets of the flannel-clad lycanthrope. The Rider, with the help of a local witch dispatches of the monster who turns out to be the boys father. As he rides off into the sunset with Perico by his side one may expect the credits to roll but don’t rise from the opulent comfort of your seat just yet, viewer, this adventure is far from over. The Rider (now taller and with a different mask) along with the help of a new boy and their manservant Cléofas (the films “comic relief”) fight a vampire in some highly unconvincing day for night photography. It’s worth mentioning that the vampire not only has the giant head of a bat but also has the power to change into an equally unconvincing rubber bat and flies off. Finally, The Rider faces his deadliest foe yet when he teams up with a woman in possession of the cabeza of none other than the Headless Horseman and his two robed skeleton henchmen leading to a machete fight at sunset.

Director Alfredo Salazar is best known for his contributions to Mexican horror in the form of many, many Santo/Blue Demon movies as well as penning such psychotronic fare as THE NIGHT OF THE BLOODY APES and the should-be classic THE MAN & THE MONSTER (produced by and starring his brother Abel). Star Dagoberto Rodríguez had a 30-or-so year career in Mexican film and television, which is more than likely the reason he removes his mask and reveals his identity in the middle of the film. Due to its “monster of the week” feeling and suspicious change of companions/mask/location/etc the working assumption is that THE RIDER OF THE SKULLS is actually three episodes of a serial stitched together to make it feature length. Nevertheless, Salazar wears his love of classic Universal monsters on his sleeve and creates a film unlike any other.

GHOST TOWN
(aka EL PUEBLO FANTASMA)
dir. Alfredo B. Crevenna, 1965
80 min, Mexico
In Spanish w/ English subtitles

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 5 – 7:30 PM
THURSDAY, APRIL 13 – 10 PM
SATURDAY, APRIL 15 – 7:30 PM
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 26 – 10 PM

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The Rio Kid bursts onto the screen promising to lay waste to anyone claiming to be a faster gunslinger than he! Little do the townsfolk know that the reason The Rio Kid is so quick with the pistolero is because he’s been alive for 200 years and drinks the blood of his victims. Enter El Texano (clearing his family name) and his partner Don Nestor (fresh out of prison) – both vowing revenge!

More black and white genre blending from mid-60’s Mexico: while this film features more singing than the others in our series, it also has one of the more sympathetic antiheroes of the group. While The Rio Kid is in fact a literal monster, he also comes off as somewhat of a folk hero when he stops the assault of a young woman. In the end though, the duo save the town but cannot save the subtitles – that one’s on us.

THE DEVIL HORSE
(aka EL CABALLO DEL DIABLO)
dir. Federico Curiel, 1975
88 min, Mexico
In Spanish w/ English subtitles

SATURDAY, APRIL 1 – 10 PM
SATURDAY, APRIL 22 – MIDNIGHT
WEDNESDAY APRIL 26 – 7:30 PM
SATURDAY, APRIL 29 – 10 PM

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More songs, more comedy, and tons more fistfights and bar brawls than one might expect from a Faustian western but here we are. When a young man dies he makes a deal with the devil in exchange for his soul (classic) and returns to Earth. Despite being considerably more evil and taking it out on animals and family, no one seems to have a problem with him until the aforementioned Devil’s Horse gallops in.

Curiel like Salazar contributed to the seemingly never-ending avalanche of Santo films throughout the the 60’s and 70’s and 1968’s THE EVIL ONES but is most well known for his vampire films including – EMPIRE OF DRACULA and THE VAMPIRE GIRLS.

INDIE BEAT: A MORNING LIGHT

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A MORNING LIGHT
dir. Ian Clark, 2016
82 minutes. USA.

THURSDAY, MARCH 16 – 7:30 PM – ONE NIGHT ONLY!

In collaboration with The Playlist’s Indie Beat podcast, Spectacle is pleased to present a one-night-only special screening of Ian Clark’s A MORNING LIGHT. Clark’s film is an atmospheric, sci-fi thriller focused on Zach and Ellyn—who begin to sense a strange presence has embedded itself in the forest. As they immerse themselves in the surrounding wilderness their experiences become progressively more bizarre. Do the sounds and light phenomena affecting them come from somewhere else, or is this merely an invention of their perception?

Starring ZACH WEINTRAUB • CELIA ROWLSON-HALL • AUSTIN WILL • DUSTY DECKER
Music by ELEH • Colorist SEAN WELLS • Wardrobe Design BRONWYN LESLIE
Produced by BENJAMIN WIESSNER • JIM CUMMINGS • IAN CLARK
Written, Directed, Edited, Photographed by IAN CLARK
Made with Support from BORSCHT • OREGON ARTS COMMISSION • NW DOCUMENTARY • STRAHLEN • SNOWGHOST

“A cinematic approximation of the metaphysical.” — Kevin Rakestraw, FILM PULSE

“Visually stunning and sonically unsettling.” — ATLANTA FILM FESTIVAL

 

METAMORPHOSES

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METAMORPHOSES

dir. Christophe Honoré, 2014
France. 102 minutes.
In French with English subtitles.

METAMORPHOSES (Christophe Honoré, 2014) from Spectacle Theater on Vimeo.

THURSDAY, MARCH 23 – 7:30 PM
SATURDAY, MARCH 25 – 10 PM
SUNDAY, MARCH 26 – 7:30 PM
TUESDAY, MARCH 28 – 10 PM
THURSDAY, MARCH 30 – 10 PM

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When Europa skips class and meets a magnetic young man named Jupiter, she embarks on an unexpected and magical journey. Traveling aboard Jupiter’s eight-wheel truck, they arrive in a mythical land inhabited by powerful gods who can transform humans into plants or animals in the blink of an eye. Europa watches, listens, and plays in their immortal home, becoming acquainted with Jupiter’s friends, Bacchus and Orpheus. As the confrontation between seductive, yet vengeful gods and innocent mortals unfolds, Europa grasps a greater sense of life and love in this revelatory modern-day retelling of Ovid’s Metamorphoses.

“Playful, dirty, edgy, and wondrous.” Dustin Chang, ScreenAnarchy

“A remarkably beautiful film.”Jonathan Romney, Film Comment

Special thanks to Monument Releasing.

 

 

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ARCHIE’S BETTY

ARCHIE’S BETTY
dir. Gerald Peary, 2015
US. 70 minutes.

FRIDAY, MARCH 10 – 7:30 PM – w/introduction from comic book artist Robin Chapman
SUNDAY, MARCH 12 – 5 PM
FRIDAY, MARCH 24 – 10 PM
MONDAY, MARCH 27 – 7:30 PM

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A kaleidoscope of compulsion, comics history, and passionate fandom, ARCHIE’S BETTY starts as a light and straightforward documentary on the origins of the Archie Comics gang.  But soon, the story twists into a strange small town mystery when director Gerald Peary discovers that his well-known, 25-year-old, article on the subject might have been a little inaccurate.  Original Archie artist Bob Montana left more loose ends than clues as to who Archie, Betty, Veronica, Moose, Jughead – and even Mr. Weatherbee and Ms Grundy – might have been inspired by. Naturally, the residents of Montana’s hometown of Haverhill seem to all be sure that they know the real story.  But … who’s right?

Packed with interviews from Archie Comics writers and artists, Archie historians, Montana’s classmates, and Peary himself, ARCHIE’S BETTY is the culmination of the director’s lifelong obsession with the Riverdale gang.

Robyn Chapman is an editor, a publisher, and (sometimes) a cartoonist. She is  the proprietor of Paper Rocket Minicomics and The Tiny Report, and she has had many different jobs in comics. She spent five years at The Center for Cartoon Studies, initially as their first fellow and later as their program coordinator and a faculty member. During her time at CCS she earned her MFA, having previously earned her BFA at the Savannah College of Art and Design. For a time she worked at Brooklyn’s best comic shop, Desert Island. Previously she worked as an assistant editor at Graphic Universe, the graphic novel imprint of Lerner Publishing Group. Currently she is an associate editor at First Second.

She is the editor/publisher of the Micro-Press Yearbook and the author of Drawing Comics Lab (Quarry Books). In the spring of 2016 she debuted Twin Bed, her first solo comic in a long, long time.

“Delightful, touching, and appropriately comic.” Ross McElwhee

“It’s such a fun and touching personal documentary. Highly recommended
for viewers of all ages from birth to beyond the infinite. Even if you are not
a comic book fan, you will love the story this movie tells. If you are nostalgic
for the 1950s, you will be in seventh heaven.” – Joseph McBride, film historian and biographer

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SPECIAL DISCOVERIES FROM MUBI

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SILVERED WATER, SYRIA SELF-PORTRAIT
dirs. Wiam Bedirxcan and Ossama Mohammed, 2014
Syria. 110 minutes.
In Arabic with English subtitles.

SATURDAY, MARCH 11 – 7:30 PM – ONE NIGHT ONLY!

A look at first-hand video accounts of violence in modern-day Syria as filmed by activists in the besieged city of Homs.

“Introducing an essential dialectical element to the film, Mohammed’s powerful found footage essay is gradually woven into new footage shot on the ground during the siege of Homs by co-director Wiam Simav Bedirxan, a woman whose Kurdish name gives the film its title. She and Mohammed begin a correspondence, one of words but also presumably of video, he from afar in Paris and she walking the besieged streets in Syria, wandering among exploding buildings, deserted streets, and with young children in “revolutionary” schoolrooms. Her footage, more solitary, high-definition, less violent and more diary-like than than the piecemeal shotgun blast of images from Mohammed’s collection, feels like a direct extension of her sight, sensations and thoughts. Less pointed (and loaded) then the “key” sequences of the Mohammed’s montage, nevertheless Bedirxan’s images, when alongside or feathered into the found footage, speaks of filming as living, the camera “seen as a weapon by the regime.

Her footage is not of protests or bloody deaths but of the interiors, city corners, injured street cats, and young children that make up her daily, isolated life, “images,” she says, “that flee into my small camera.” Mohammed, despite some desperate-feeling footage shot in Paris, fundamentally seems to have no camera, only eyes and videos. The two, Bedirxan and Mohammed, trade longings and self-doubts, each somewhat talking to themselves, images as monologues. But when placed next to or within the work of the other, the film forms a kind of larger scale correspondence between the two, of exile and besieged, man and woman, Syrian and Kurd. He speaks of different kinds of cinema, cinema of “realism,” of “the marvelous,” of “murder,” “the poetic,” and of “fantasy.” He speaks of cinema of murderers, and of cinema of victims. Implicitly, what he speaks of and what he and Bedirxan have made is a cinema of witnessing and of experiencing, of nearness and distance, and of exile and of homeland.” Daniel Kasman, MUBI

SILVERED WATER, SYRIA SELF-PORTRAIT is now streaming on MUBI. Available March 3 – April 2. Watch here.

Official Selection: Toronto Film Festival, Cannes Special Screening, Locarno Film Festival, New York Film Festival, Busan Film Festival, London Film Festival, Vienna Film Festival, CPH: DOX Copenhagen Film Festival and Torino Film Festival

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BETWEEN FENCES
dir. Avi Mograbi, 2016
Israel/France. 71 minutes.
In Hebrew, Tigrigna, and Arabic
SATURDAY, MARCH 18 – 7:30 PM – ONE NIGHT ONLY!
Avi Mograbi and Chen Alon meet African asylum-seekers in a detention facility in the middle of the Negev desert where they are confined by the state of Israel. Together, they question the status of the refugees in Israel using “Theater of the Oppressed” techniques. What leads men and women to leave everything behind and go towards the unknown? Can the Israelis working with the asylum seekers put themselves in the refugees’ shoes?
BETWEEN FENCES will be available to stream on MUBI starting March 17. Watch here.
Official Selection: Berlinale — Forum, Cinéma du Réel, Rio de Janeiro Film Festival and DocAviv Film Festival
MUBI is a curated online cinema, streaming hand-picked award-winning, classic, and cult films from around the globe. Every day, MUBI’s film experts present a new film and you have 30 days to watch it. Whether it’s an acclaimed masterpiece, a gem fresh from the world’s greatest film festivals, or a beloved classic, there are always 30 beautiful hand-picked films to discover. 

MUBI presents: LE PARC

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LE PARC
dir. Damien Manivel, 2016
71 minutes. France.
In French with English subtitles.

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 10 – 7:30 PM
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 22 – 7:30 PM
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 25 – 7:30 PM

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Spectacle is proud to host the New York premiere of Damien Manivel’s LE PARC, the inaugural title of MUBI Discoveries – a series of festival gems curated and presented exclusively by MUBI.

A teenage boy and girl have their first date in a park. Hesitant and shy at first, they soon discover each other, get closer as they wander, and end up falling in love. But as the sun goes down, it is time to part… And a dark night begins.

Official Selection: Cannes ACID, Vienna Film Festival, Torino Film Festival, Gent Film Festival, CPH:PIX Copenhagen Film Festival, Montreal Festival du Nouveau Cinéma, Mar del Plata Film Festival and Valdivia International Film Festival

“LE PARC plays like a remake of BEFORE SUNRISE directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul or the late Manoel de Oliveira, offering up a shred of story filled with touches of humor and bizarre occurrences that take place in some sort of dreamlike realm.”
 Jordan Mintzer, The Hollywood Reporter

“Infused with a kind of ‘realist surrealism,’ a simple magic evoked through static shots reminiscent of the work of Pedro Costa or, going back further, Robert Bresson. In the end, its whimsical notions turn out to be as appealing as they are intriguing.” – David Gonzales, Cineuropa

“A beautiful labyrinth of emotions.” – Liberation

“Manivel’s directing enchants” – Le Figaro

 

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REVOLUTIONARY EXILE: SIDNEY SOKHONA

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Sidney Sokhona’s NATIONALITÉ: IMMIGRÉ and SAFRANA (OR, THE RIGHT TO SPEAK) should constitute 11th-hour addendums to the canon of post-colonial Francophone cinema. Made when Sokhona was in his early 20s, recoiling from a rash of exploitations and abuses in France’s African migrant community, the films form a blistering duo: NATIONALITÉ: IMMIGRÉ dramatizes the real-life rent strike undertaken by Sokhona and his neighbors in the Rue Riquet settlement housing, a “docu-fiction” of its own community in collaboration that’s unlike anything you’ve before seen in “world cinema”.

Assuming the position of both French and African filmmaker, Sokhona published a kind of manifesto in Cahiers du Cinema entitled Notre Cinema (Our Cinema), wherein he decried the cultural feedback loop enabled by state funding (especially in postcolonial cases), the incessant use of African landscapes as backdrops for tawdry Western melodramas, and the pigeonholing of black movies in festival programming – citing that the 1976 Cannes Film Festival included CAR WASH in its main slate, but consigned Ousmane Sembene’s CEDDO to competition in Directors’ Fortnight. If SAFRANA closes on an impossibly optimistic note for Sokhona (as the audience has, over the too-brief course of two movies, come to understand him), it reveals itself in hindsight as a byproduct of the French example, wherein the the organizing onscreen bears a utopian fruit that’s nevertheless untrustworthy. (Sokhona alleges that audiences were far more skeptical about the immigrants’ warm countryside reception in discussions following screenings in Paris.) What’s universalized in the humiliations of NATIONALITÉ: IMMIGRÉ remains – or as Sokhona put it to Cahiers, “Immigration has not only served to alienate us but also to teach us to be ashamed of what we were before. Any immigrant with a conscience realizes he has as much to claim on the workers’ side as the farmers’, today.”

A consortium of West African immigrants would band together in Paris to form the Cultural Association of African Workers in France (ACTAF), an organization in solidarity with liberation struggles in former Portuguese colonies. ACTAF would become the Somankidi collective, making a healthier living off the farming practices depicted in SAFRANA – making it a sequel both political and socioeconomic to Sokhona’s first film. The laborers relocated to the Senegal river, where they remain today; founding member (and SAFRANA star/participant) Bouba Touré would later tell multidisciplinary artist Raphaël Grisey that Somankidi Coura was founded “because we didn’t want our brothers, our cousins, to come sell their labor in France.” To see 8mm images from the cooperative’s founding – vibrant young African men in snappy duds, at once relaxing and working together on a shared cane harvest – is to reckon with their post-postcolonial power. Grisey’s split panel documentary COOPERATIVE observes the ongoing collective in juxtaposition with the village’s Parisian roots of origin, whereas BOUBA TOURE, 58 RUE TROUSSEAU, 75011 PARIS FRANCE allows its namesake to contextualize the political struggles of the time (including a tacit, unignorable Pan-Africanism) while surveying the walls of his apartment in Paris.

As the Somankidi Coura celebrated its 40th anniversary this past January (complete with an exhibition of Bouba Touré’s photographs), Spectacle is thrilled to present these rare and invaluable films in their first-ever New York City screenings.

This series is made possible solely thanks to the collaboration of Raphaël Grisey, Tobias Hering of Kino Arsenal, Cinémathèque Afrique/Institut Français, and Amélie Garin-Davet of the Cultural Services of the French Embassy. 

NIbannerNATIONALITÉ: IMMIGRÉ
(Nationality: Immigrant)
Dir. Sidney Sokhona, 1975
France. 70 mins.
In French with English subtitles.

OFFICIAL SELECTION – 1976 CANNES FILM FESTIVAL

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 9 – 7:30 PM
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 12 – 5 PM
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 17 – 7:30 PM
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 22 – 10 PM

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One could hardly be blamed for interpreting NATIONALITÉ: IMMIGRÉ as an endless litany of dehumanizing bureaucratic obstacle courses – as Serge Daney pointed out in his review “On Paper”, the film juts uncomfortably against the militant Left’s emphasis on using rupture theory to delegitimize the legal process, a high-minded option unavailable to immigrants like those depicted here. Sokhona took to filming after the Aubervilliers scandal of January 1970 – when five African migrants died in an overcrowded shelter on the periphery of Paris due to asphyxiation – prompting then-Prime Minister Jacques Chaban-Delmas to declare an end of these settlements, sometimes nicknamed bidonvilles or caves, by 1973. The filmmaker wasn’t so optimistic – but then, what NATIONALITÉ: IMMIGRÉ does offer is a rare glimpse at community organizing coming into praxis on both sides of the camera, with many of Sokhona’s neighbors playing themselves. (Sokhona financed the film in piecemeal fashion once scene at a time while working as a telephone operator.) While the thrust of NATIONALITÉ: IMMIGRÉ is unabashedly polemical, the loose narrative structure allows Sokhona to pursue fascinating side-stories and political tangents, at times dipping from what appears to be pure verite into a purely Brechtian exercise wherein immigrants are handed jobs in the form of huge placards, which they must carry around their necks, denoting their net worth to society in material terms.

In Cahiers, Sokhona would elaborate to Daney and Jean-Pierre Oudart that “I was not sure that he who had loved NATIONALITÉ: IMMIGRÉ would like it – which does not mean that no one can love both. SAFRANA is, for me, the continuation of N:I. At the time it was done, compared to the reality of that time, there were a number of plans in the construction of the film itself on which we had to pass. For the first time, perhaps, people saw things they had never seen – so their membership was much simpler. I think people also ask: should a film about immigration be cinema? N.I. was in black and white, there was a certain desired poverty – it’s unthinkable to film an immigrant’s home in color…. People will go see a movie; of course they will see a subject, but it must be possible to express it in a very simple way. I think a political film – or engagé – can use other weapons, and touch a large number of people taking account of the movies.”

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SAFRANA
(Safrana, Or, The Right To Speak)
Dir. Sidney Sokhona, 1976
France. 98 mins.
In French with English subtitles.

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 2 – 7:30 PM
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 4 – 5 PM
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 7 – 10 PM
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 27 – 7:30 PM

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Like Med Hondo’s SOLEIL O. and Jean Rouch’s PETIT A PETIT, Sidney Sokhona’s SAFRANA (OR, THE RIGHT TO SPEAK) is both a satire of transition after French colonialism and a look at the alienation felt by African migrant communities in nations of their former colonizers. Operating as a reverse ethnography, these films took field notes on European social norms and put their notion of what is standard into question. Alternating between observational comedy and instructional political tract, SAFRANA starts with a quote by Mao about intuitive approaches to figuring out what’s useful for one’s own country in the operations of another, and ends with a documentary on farming techniques for agrarian socialism. A road trip, punctuated by acidic flashback vignettes, gets us from A to B by sketching a former colonizer with less to offer the formerly colonized than vice versa.

The film is built around Somankidi Coura, with its ex-factory workers turned farmers playing fictionalized versions of themselves, along with photographer/activist Bouba Touré. With a number of pointed gags, Sokhona charts the various disenchantments of the workers on their exploratory stay in France meant to pick up useful techniques for their home country – from tertiary status at a factory to secondary status in a union; or the casual racism of a couple that won’t let an African garbageman pick up their dog from a trash can to another that wants to bring home a foreigner for kinks. By the time they end up at the farm, we’re as ready for the possible solutions explored in the climax as they are.

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COOPERATIVE
Dir. Raphaël Grisey, 2008
France. 59 mins.
In French with English subtitles.

BOUBA TOURE, 58 RUE TROUSSEAU, 75011 PARIS, FRANCE
Dir. Bouba Touré, 2008
France. 28 mins.
In French with English subtitles.

SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 5 – 7:30 PM
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 21 – 10 PM
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 28 – 5 PM

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COOPERATIVE refers to the agricultural cooperative in Mali founded in 1976 by former African immigrant workers who lived through the politics of 1968 in France. The juxtaposition of different spaces (the village, the fields,  the Senegalese city of Kayes, the colonial ruins of the Samé Plantation, the flat of Bouba Touré, Parisian streets with demonstrations of Sans-Papiers, etc) reformulates the context of creation of the community, as well as its daily life and its mode of production. Inevitably, Grisey’s title also refers to a mode of cooperation in the filmmaking process.

BOUBA TOURE, 58 RUE TROUSSEAU, 75011 PARIS FRANCE was shot in its namesake’s home, featuring many photographs, posters and keepsakes. Shot in two takes, the video is led by the images on the wall, while Touré links many political struggles of the last 50 years with his own life.  

Bouba Touré began working in the building sector and the car industry in 1963, when he arrived in France from Mali. He later studied photography and film projection at the free university of Vincennes in 1968 and 1969. In addition to starring in SAFRANA, he served 35 years as projectionist for the arthouse cinema L´entrepôt in Paris, and co-founded the agricultural cooperative of Somankidi Coura in 1976 with West African militant migrant workers. His photographic, video and archive works as well as his writings (a book titled Notre case est à St Denis 93, published in 2015) relate to social and political struggles of the migrant workers in France.

Raphaël Grisey’s video, editorial and photographic work examines various places which are interconnected by collective memories. The photographic series and book Where is Rosa L. (2001-2006) studied the traces or ghosts of various political regimes in Berliner public spaces. Using diverse documentary, fictional or essayist forms, Grisey’s work also deals with social and political issues of the day, such as immigration and post-colonial issues in France and West Africa (Trappes, Ville Nouvelle, 2003; Cooperative, 2008; Becoming Cooperative Archive 2015-present). Recent films lead him to work in Budapest (National Motives, 2011), in French students´ strikes situations (The Indians, 2011), in China (The Exchange of Perspectives, 2011), in Brazil around the social housing complex Pedregulho (Minhocão 2011), the history of the Brazilian Positivist Church (Amor e Progresso 2014) or around Quilombola communities (Remanescentes 2015; A Mina dos Vagalumes). His work includes also collaboration projects such as the films Prvi Deo and Red Star (2006)  with Florence Lazar and the projects Cooperative (2008) and Becoming Cooperative Archive (2015- ongoing) with Bouba Touré.

Sidney Sokhona was born in Tachott, Mauritania, in 1952. He worked in Paris as a day-laborer, sending remittances home to his village before enrolling in film classes at the University of Vincennes. After making SAFRANA he returned to his home country to shoot newsreel and documentary footage, but never made another feature. As of this writing, he works as a diplomat for the government of Mauritania.