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TWO NEW YORK DOCUMENTARIES
Tribeca Grand Cinema screens two documentaries — both of which ask, “Are the things that make New York unique vanishing forever?” Exploring the luxurification of Gotham at the expense of neighborhood identity, “The Vanishing City” (directed by Jen Senko and Fiore DeRosa) digs into the policies and philosophies behind a finance-dominated economy. Then, “A Home in the Theatre” charts the battle fought by 93-year-old Edith O’Hara to protect her 13th Street Repertory Company from an unscrupulous real estate developer. Founded in 1972, the Greenwich Village theatrical venue (still going strong at 50 West 13th Street) is one of the lucky ones. While making the 2010 documentary, director Melodie Bryant notes, “Nearly 40 indie theatres in New York were lost or destroyed.”
Sat., Aug. 18, 7pm. At the Tribeca Grand Hotel Cinema (2 Sixth Ave., btw. Church & White Sts.). For tickets ($10), visit brownpapertickets.com. Also visit tribecagrand.com.
ART: “A CITY SORROW BUILT”
From clever Facebook postings to initials drawn in wet cement to that granite depiction of four great American presidents: Nothing lasts forever. The pleasant illusion of permanence — and our delusion that the things we construct afford us some level of power or immortality — is one of the contemplative messages that hover over “A City Sorrow Built.” Curated by Todd Masters, the group exhibition takes its inspiration from the final work in “The Course of Empire.”
Painted by Thomas Cole from 1833-1836, the series concludes with “Desolation” — the final straw in his romanticized depiction of an imaginary city’s rise and fall. Informed by Cole’s image of a man-made landscape being reclaimed by nature, “A City Sorrow Built” invites a group of artists from around the globe to use their own artistic processes and aesthetic traditions to explore topics such as subjective versus objective truth, the power of objects to embody cultural memory and…the humbling fact that our greatest achievements are, at best, tenuous and temporary things.
Representing China, Jin Shan’s “Retired Pillar” is a silicon device that continuously inflates and deflates, at a rate similar to a breath. “So,” explains Masters, “the pillar looks like it’s on a death bed struggling to breathe, hence the title. It’s pretty funny in person.” Hey, laughing at an empire crumbling beats fiddling while Rome burns.
“A City Sorrow Built” is on view through Aug. 31 at Masters & Pelavin (13 Jay St., btw. Greenwich & Staple Sts.). Hours: Tues.-Fri., 11am-6pm. For more info, visit masterspelavin.com.
FILM: “FLASH GORDON”
Crammed to capacity with garish sets, top shelf ham acting, a pop opera soundtrack by Queen — and a screenplay whose loyalties are divided between sci-fi and camp — the Dino De Laurentiis-produced “Flash Gordon” shouldn’t work…and sometimes, it doesn’t. But this endearing Me Decade attempt to bring Alex Raymond’s 1930s comic strip hero into the post-“Star Wars” age has more than enough virtues to inspire a trek to 92Y Tribeca.
Only there, on a big screen, can you fully appreciate the trippy art direction and special effects. Despite being created in the pre-digital era, the film manages to conjure consistently stunning (if not entirely convincing) images. An army of flying Hawkmen doing battle against the backdrop of a swirling, cotton candy-colored sky is one such memorable scene.
As for the human spectacle on display, Max Von Sydow as Ming the Merciless and Sam J. Jones as Flash are polar opposites on the acting ability scale — yet both are perfectly cast. Sydow elevates the villainous raising of painted-on eyebrows to an art, while Jones serves as a blank slate of dumb, blonde beefcake onto whom a variety of supporting characters (and audience members) can project their hopes, dreams and carnal desires. “Flash, a-ah. He’ll save every one of us,” croons Queen — and although he couldn’t save the film from tanking at the box office in 1980, Gordon and his allies (including a pre-Bond Timothy Dalton as Prince Barin) do have the ability to rescue 2012 audiences from the summer doldrums.
Thurs., Aug. 23, 7:30pm at 92Y Tribeca (200 Hudson St., btw. Vestry & Desbrosses Sts.) For tickets ($12), call 212-415-5402 or visit 92YTribeca.org.
ESCORT CLOSES “ECSTATIC SUMMER” CONCERT SERIES
Is it that time already? Apparently, it is — because on August 25, the free music series “Ecstatic Summer” comes to a close, by going out with a sizable bang. Cult fave Escort (a 17-piece disco revivalist group) will be joined by the equally formidable 18-member big band Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society. It won’t cost you a dime to access these critical darlings. Pitchfork praised Escort’s self-titled debut as the “pinnacle of 21st-century disco fetishism,” and the Wall Street Journal dubbed Darcy James “one of the leading new big bands in jazz.”
Free. Sat., Aug. 25, 7pm at the World Financial Center Plaza (250 Vesey St., at West St.). For more info, visit artsworldfinancialcenter.com, myspace.com/weareescort and secretsociety.typepad.com.