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Film and the Arts

Joyless Street: What's with Women? Strong Directors, Masochistic Characters

A Scene From Twilight PortraitThis may be the brave new era of Hollywood’s The Hunger Games, the hugely successful saga honoring a young woman’s courage and nobility in the face of death. Still, it’s worth noting that two modest and fascinating 2012 New Directors/New Films selections, written and directed by women, deal not with outsized dystopian adventure or female bravery, but with heroines who choose to act out a discomforting sexual masochism within the framework of their own emotionally impoverished lives.

First is the Russian movie, Twilight Portrait, which marks the directing debut of Angelina Nikonova, who also co-wrote and co-produced it. The title refers to a setting on a still camera, but it also allegorizes Russian society and signifies the twilight of civility in the former Soviet Union. Against the background of a brutal and brutalized post-Cold-War Moscow, where apathy is superseded only by thuggishness among its men, and especially the police, Marina, a young middle-class woman of remarkable grace and beauty, struggles to find connection in her life.

Read more: Joyless Street: What's with...

Nanni Moretti Retrospective Includes His Latest, "We Have a Pope"

In his new film, We Have a Pope, veteran Italian actor Nanni Moretti plays Moretti, Piccoli in We Have a PopeBrezzi, a psychoanalyst called on by a desperate college of cardinals to convince the reluctant Holy Father-elect (a magnificently befuddled Michel Piccoli) to accept his new position. In typically understated Moretti style, the good doctor -- a divorced unbeliever, unsurprisingly -- never gets to the heart of the former Cardinal Melville’s difficulties, instead organizing a Vatican volleyball tournament that’s suspended before the finals when the group has to return for another conclave.

Read more: Nanni Moretti Retrospective...

IAAC Bring Indian Art and Theater to New York

Since 1998, the Indo-American Art Council (IAAC) has been unifying the arts of traditional, modern, and immigrant Indian culture in New York.  This March, they have two special events, Erasing Borders Exhibition of Contemporary Indian Art of the Diaspora Parts Stitches resize 2
(March 17- April 20, Crossing Arts Queens 136-17 39th Ave, Flushshing ) and Parts of Parts & Stitches (March 15-31, The Theater at 14th St Y, 334 East 14th Street, New York, NY). Erasing Borders is an innovative art exhibition that looks at where Indian-Americans are today and where they are going, and Parts of Parts is a play that looks at where they have come from and struggles that persist. The IAAC is a not-for-profit secular arts organization passionately dedicated to promoting, showcasing and building an awareness of artists of Indian origin in the performing arts, visual arts, literary arts and folk arts. 

Parts of Parts & Stitches is set against the backdrop of a wedding on the eve of the 1947 Partition between India and Pakistan.  Two families in the Punjab region eagerly await the marriage of a loving couple, Yamuna and Jiwan, but they now must deal with the bloody conflict between Hindus and Muslims and the fall out of India without Great Britain.  Yamuna must now pull her life back together in a world torn asunder by conflict.  Performed in conjunction with Maieutic Theater Works, an award winning not-for-profit theater company, Parts of Parts is written by Riti Sachdeva directed by Cat Parker.

The Erasing Borders Exhibition of Contemporary Indian Art of the Diaspora deals with many of the issues that Indian immigrants deal with today such as   sexuality, terror, disease, the environment, racial and sectarian politics.  With over 35 participating artists, Borders combines Indian aesthetics with Western elements and utilizes a wide range of mediums.  Artists include Mustafa Faruki, Mansoora Hassan, Pritika Chowdhry, and Tara Sabharwal. This is the eighth year of the Erasing Borders show and it is free and open to the public. 

These two events are an excellent look into the world of modern and traditional Indian art, as well as a thoughtful examination of politics and conflict between cultures.

To learn more about Erasing Borders and Parts of Parts, go to

Erasing Borders Exhibition of Contemporary Indian Art of the Diaspora
March 17-April 20

Crossing Art Queens
136-17 39th Avenue (at Main Street) 
Ground Floor Flushing, NY 11354 

Parts of Parts & Stitches  
March 15-31

The Theater at 14th St Y
334 East 14th Street
New York, NY 10009

Pre-War Art Deco & Strange Sexuality at the Japan Society

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Starting on March 2nd and on the 16th, 2012, the Japan Society will feature two exhibits that, at first glance, could not be more different. But on closer examination, the two are closely and fascinatingly linked. 

Deco Japan: Shaping Art and Culture, 1920-1945 (the Taisho era to early Showa era) opens March 16 and examines the period in Japanese history of rapid westernization, and yet is almost completely overlooked in the west. 

Long past the romanticized (read cliché) era of samurai and shogun, the 25 years between 1920 to 1945 is a curious sequence, situated at the advent of WWII. The ‘20s were an era of rapid change and modernization that prophesised many of the changes in Japanese society that are associated with the post-war era such as the rise of a distinct cinema, new technology, and a fear of an emerging sexuality, all of which are covered under the tidy, captivating phrase of “erotic grotesque nonsense.”

As described in the promotional materials, this exhibit showcases the “complex social and cultural tensions in Japan during the Taisho and early Showa periods through dramatically designed examples of metalwork, ceramics, lacquer, glass, furniture, jewelry, sculpture and evocative ephemera such as sheet music, posters, postcards, prints and photography.”

Beginning on March 2nd and running to 18th is a new film series -- smartly titled, Love Will Tear Us Apart.  Over 20 films from Japan and Korea, including classics like Nagisa Oshima’s In The Realm of the Senses and the US premiere of Shinya Tsukamoto’s (Tetsuo The Iron Man) latest film, KOTOKO. Koji Wakamatsu’s Petrel Hotel is also having it's US premiere.

A Japanese cult-classic and art-house favorite, In the Realm of the Senses -- based on the true story of a torrid love affair capped off with a grisly murder -- is a particularly appealing part of this festival because it takes place during the same time period covered in Deco Japan.  

 The films in the Love Will Tear Us Apart series may be hard to watch for some because they don’t shy away from such themes as sex being a prelude to violence or violence being a prelude to sex. Indeed, the time period of 1920 - 1945 was practically an orgy of art, cinema, clothes and modernization, taking place just before the maelstrom of bloodshed that became the Pacific conflict.

Both exhibitions present a glimpse of Japan that is often overlooked and present some unique aesthetic judgements. How often do you get to see kimonos and Charlie Chaplin side by side?

It also offers a shocking view of gender politics and a unique pairing of art and aesthetics that is not to be missed.

For more information, go to

Deco Japan: Shaping Art and Culture, 1920-1945 
March 16- June 10

Love Will Tear Us Apart
March 2-18

The Japan Society
333 East 47th Street
New York, NY 10017

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