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  • Courtesy of Roadside Attractions

    Courtesy of Roadside Attractions

    The feature film debut by director William Oldroyd (with a screenplay by Alice Birch), Lady Macbeth is a stark, violent drama that takes place in a classically sedate setting: rural, 19th-century England. Based on the 1865 novella Lady Macbeth of the Mtensk District, by Nikolai Leskov, Oldroyd’s film stars Florence Pugh as Katherine, a young bride who claws her way out of a stifling marriage with a cold, much older husband. The young actress (19 at the time this was filmed) is riveting in a role that demands tremendous effort, physically and emotionally.

    We first see Katherine at her wedding, wet-eyed and frightened under her veil; that night her glowering husband Alexander (Paul Hilton, darkly Dickensian) orders her to take off her nightgown, then doesn’t touch her. It’s clear this is a loveless, almost perverse match. Expected to stay indoors and play dutiful wife and daughter-in-law, respectively, to Alexander and his even chillier father Boris (Christopher Fairbank), the teen is clearly bored out of her mind, nodding off at dinner and napping constantly. Whatever hopes she may have had for this marriage, they sure aren’t being fulfilled. A resentful maid, Anna (Naomi Ackie), seemingly in thrall to “the master,” roughly brushes Katherine’s hair and yanks tight her corset, adding to the latter’s general discomfort.

    Courtesy of Roadside Attractions

    Courtesy of Roadside Attractions

    When Alexander and Boris have to leave town, Katherine escapes the dull house to walk out on the moors and the film’s mood changes drastically, becoming alive. An outdoorsy type, she is energized. Then, in a Lady Chatterley-like plot turn, she comes upon cheeky new groomsman Sebastian (Cosmo Jarvis), who, along with some other workers, is engaging in some highly questionable hijinx with Anna. Katherine tries to be imperious, but winds up flirting brazenly with him. They embark on a crazed, lust-driven affair, which seems to release something wild in a girl who has already shown that she has a mind of her own.

    Boris returns to the house and a newly rebellious Katherine, who is clearly drunk at dinner. When he discovers that his favorite wine is missing, Anna is punished and humiliated. He also slaps Katherine for her insolence, but she’s steely and imperturbable. It’s a war of wills that Katherine soon wins in a brutal, darkly funny manner. The more Katherine rebels and  triumphs, the more distraught Anna becomes. At one point the maid is so traumatized she stops speaking.

    Katherine flaunts her affair with Sebastian in front of Anna and the rest of the staff. When Alexander returns, he takes his time before confronting his wife about her indiscretions, which are apparently the talk of the town, a source of great embarrassment to him. In response to Alexander’s cruel words, she spitefully initiates sex with Sebastian right in front of him. This results in a scuffle between the two men, which Katherine ends in viciously violent fashion, shocking even Sebastian. Charlotte Brontë, this isn’t. Katherine is one ruthless heroine.

    Courtesy of Roadside Attractions

    Courtesy of Roadside Attractions

    Sebastian is sickened and haunted by Katherine’s actions, as are we. But she’s not done yet. When an older woman, Agnes, shows up with a young boy she claims is Alexander’s ward (from a previous liaison with her deceased daughter), Katherine at first becomes attached to the adorable Teddy, until Sebastian expresses jealousy. Here’s where the film becomes truly unsettling, as we realize that its heroine has become completely (if coolly) unhinged by obsessive love/lust.

    Lady Macbeth is an audacious movie, one that’s all the more outrageous for its staid setting and deliberate pacing. There’s also a interestingly contemporary, biracial aspect (which is never really addressed), with Anna, Agnes, and Teddy all played by Black actors. Though at times almost comically over-the-top in its brutality, the film is a streamlined, beautifully presented piece, unburdened by extraneous dialogue or scenes. It’s costume drama as lean, mean killing machine.

    Lady Macbeth opens in theaters on Friday, July 14.

    Marina Zogbi

  • For over ten years, Art for Progress (AFP) has been providing vital, exciting music & art programs for students in New York City public schools.

    Why we need your help:

    * Public arts funding in the U.S. is suffering more than ever in the current political climate.

    * Many public schools in NYC do not have the funds to hire full time art teachers. AFP provides financial support to schools with budget shortfalls.

    * AFP teaching artists provide a safe place within the school environment for kids to learn who they want to be, and the results are astonishing!

    * AFP’s programs are customized to achieve the goals of of each partner school, while focusing on the lives and interests of the students .

    * Students need to explore their creativity.

    Art for Progress is able to provide these programs through private grants; but a grant that has been sustaining AFP’s programs was cut in half this year, and we’re asking for your help to make up the difference.

    AFP currently works with seven schools across the city with plans to expand into new schools next semester, but without your help we may not have the funding to accommodate these programs.

    Please help us today with a donation and help keep the arts in New York City’s public schools.

  • What better way to push your latest collection than by casually featuring it throughout an entire music video.

    Screen Shot 2017-07-02 at 11.49.00 AM

    Photo: Urban Daddy

    That’s just what Raf Simons- helmed Calvin Klein did in a collaboration with Brit indie band The XX, featuring A-list teen stars Paris Jackson, Millie Bobby Brown, Ashton Sanders (‘Moonlight’), and designer Raf Simons’ go-to muse Lulu. Talk about an ideal off-runway opportunity that perfectly provides an outsider’s edge to the iconic mass All-American label!

    The mini-film within a traditional music video, set in Los Angeles, plays out like a sendup to mad-cap teen movies of the past like ‘American Graffiti’ or ‘Dazed and Confused’ — a day in the life of teens, beautiful and bored, looking for love and adventure. However in this instance, the kids are playing hooky from school, and the kids wind up in two architectural treasures — Lloyd Wright’s Sowden house and John Lautner’s Rainbow House. (Check out the video at the bottom of this post)

    But the triumph in this video is the fact that mostly every stitch of clothing in the mini-movie is from yet-to-be-released Fall 2017 collection from Calvin Klein. Simons, recent CFDA award winner for both best Menswear and Womenswear Designer of the Year, served as artistic director for the video — directed by Alasdair McLellan.

    According to The XX, this is the third video that McLellan shot for the band, and Simons provided the creative concept. It’s also a ‘love letter to Los Angeles, a city close to our hearts,’ the band says, ‘where we wrote and recorded parts of our album ‘I See You.”

    And finally, you’ve got to give it up to Simons, who is crushing it right now — effectively revamping the Calvin Klein’s clothing-for-all-price-points ethos. And this video solidifies that spirit. Enjoy!

     

     

  • Nowhere to Hide

    Nowhere to Hide

    The 28th edition of the Human Rights Watch Film Festival takes place this year from Friday, June 9, through Sunday, June 18. With 21 feature documentaries and panel discussions that showcase the courage and resilience of activism in these challenging times, the event seems more relevant than ever. The festival is co-presented by the Film Society of Lincoln Center and IFC Center, and all screenings are followed by discussions with filmmakers, their subjects, Human Rights Watch researchers and special guests.

    Several films address the worsening refugee crisis and migration, including opening night presentation Nowhere to Hide, directed by Zaradasht Ahmed. Using a camera given to him by the filmmaker, Iraqi nurse Nori Sharif documents the catastrophic events surrounding his family as war and ISIS devastate their region.

    The need for change in U.S. law enforcement and the justice system is another festival theme, represented by films including Erik Ljung’s The Blood Is at the Doorstep, about a fatal shooting by Milwaukee police, and Peter Nicks’s The Force, about the long troubled Oakland Police Department. One of the films addressing the changing face of journalism and how we get our information, closing night’s Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Pressdirected by Brian Knappenberger, explores the recent Hulk Hogan vs. Gawker case and others.

    The Resistance Saga, a daylong special event, includes a trilogy of films by Pamela Yates on the plight of the Mayan people of Guatemala. When the Mountains Tremble (1984), Granito: How to Nail a Dictator (2001), and 500 Years: Life in Resistance (2017) all document the events surrounding first trial in the history of the Americas to prosecute the genocide of an indigenous people.

    Other highlights of the HRWFF:

    Sophia and Georgia Scott’s sad, moving Lost in Lebanon closely follows four Syrians out of the 1.5 million who have fled their country’s war for neighboring Lebanon. Sheikh Abdo, a solid community leader and family man; Nemr, a thoughtful student who never finished high school because of the war; Reem, a wry, English-speaking architect; and Mwafak, a cheerful, long-haired artist, each tell their stories as we watch them grapple with insurmountable challenges in attempting to re-start their lives. Unable to work, attend school, or even obtain exit visas in an overwhelmed country that has grown increasingly hostile to their presence, they volunteer teaching children at refugee camps, worried that future generations of war-displaced Syrians will be illiterate. Initially persevering and optimistic, the subjects’ intense frustrations are palpable by the end of the film.

    BLACK CODE

    Nicholas de Pencier’s Black Code follows the activities of the Toronto University-based research unit Citizen Lab. Led by Professor Ronald Deibert, these “internet sleuths” travel the world, uncovering digital espionage by corporations and governments, while partnering with local activists. Citizen Lab made its name by exposing Chinese malware used to spy on the Dalai Lama and other prominent Tibetans. These “acts of war against citizens,” says Deibert, allow government agents to apprehend and sometimes kill opponents. Other locales visited in the film include Pakistan, where we meet the leader of internet rights group Bytes for All Pakistan and see how social media-fueled hatred results in the murder of one female activist. In Rio de Janeiro, we’re introduced to Midia Ninja, the group that covered heavily policed protests of the 2014 World Cup via TwitCasting.  Ethiopian and Syrian activists also talk about their experiences with government spyware. The film raises disturbing questions about the possible consequences of what we unthinkingly post on Facebook and other channels.

    13_DemonstrationCao

    Tiffany Hsiung’s The Apology explores a shameful episode in Japanese history through three women who were sexual slaves of the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II. Grandma Gil in South Korea, Grandma Cao in China and Grandma Adela in the Philippines (all in their 80s and 90s) are among the few still-living “comfort women”–thousands who were forced to service occupying Japanese soldiers. They each tell their stories as the film follows current efforts to extract an official apology and recognition from the Japanese government. We watch the indefatigable Gil prepare for the 1000th weekly demonstration she helped organize in 1992 outside Seoul’s Japanese Embassy; she speaks to groups in various countries, including a roomful of Japanese girls who are stunned to hear her story. We also visit Cao in her rural village, as she tells her horrifying account after decades of secrecy, even from her daughter; and watch Adela, who has never told her family about her experience out of shame, as she finally unburdens herself. The film is a tribute to these women and the many who died before their stories could be heard.

    Click here for complete program and schedule information.

    Marina Zogbi