July 05, 2010

Plus, Helen Mirren gets her sex on and Louis C.K. stages a comeback

La Maison Jean Cocteau
La Maison Cocteau at Milly-la-Forêt is open to the public after five years and “‚¬4 million. The poet, dramatist, painter, and film-maker occupied the house, which is less than an hour from Paris,  from 1947 until 1963. Cocteau worked on some of his most important projects there, including the films “€œBeauty and the Beast”€ and “€œOrpheus”€. The artist is buried in the nearby Chapelle Saint-Blaise-des-Simples. Pierre Bergé, partner of the late fashion designer and art collector, Yves Saint Laurent spearheaded the renovation. The house itself is a work of art, ceramics, tapestries, paintings and furniture are on display. The main rooms of the residence have been restored, and other parts of the house have been reconfigured to make exhibition spaces. Visitors can see various sculptures and objects from Cocteau’s film sets in the renovated gardens. A new exhibition is planned for each coming year, on subjects including Cocteau’s relationships with Picasso, the Nouvelle Vague film-makers, and Christian Bérard, the artist, fashion illustrator and designer. An outdoor restaurant under a pergola in the orchard planted by Cocteau will be open to the public. Take a day trip from Paris while the weather’s good.

Love Ranch
Back when Helen Mirren was a twenty-something on the rise at the Royal Shakespeare Company one paper dubbed her “Straford’s very own sex queen.” Her notoriety as queen has long gone undisputed; with Love Ranch, nobody will question the sex either. Mirren plays Grace, the madam of a booming seventies Reno whorehouse who, recently diagnosed with cancer and frustrated with an epically sleazy husband (Joe Pesci), starts a sordid love affair with a beefy boxer 30 years her junior. Mirren’s husband, Taylor Hackford directed the film, based on Nevada’s real Mustang Ranch. Mirren refused to spend a night there—in the name of research, her husband said—but no matter. She exudes power and sexuality like never before: in one scene she stomps on the throat of a prostitute who’s misbehaved. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that her lover is played with abundant smolder by Spanish newcomer Sergio Peris-Mencheta.

Sea Change, The Wassaic Project Summer Festival
Professionals and amateurs alike are invited to participate in a group photography show. New York area photographers, as well as out of state participants are invited to submit work for inclusion in Sea Change, a group show curated by Feature Shoot’s Alison Zavos. As part of The Wassaic Project Summer Festival, which will be held in upstate New York between August 13th and 15th, Sea Change offers a creative way to examine man’s relationship to the natural world. In light of the latest, and greatest environmental disaster in the United States—the BP Oil spill—check out the details for submissions.

Louis C.K. is living proof that you need to have multiple failures before you can succeed. The Saturday Night Live and Chris Rock Show alum’s first auteur attempt, Lucky Louie, was universally panned when it debuted four years ago. Now Louie—which he writes, directs, and edits—may be the next Seinfeld, only a tad more brutal. Louis plays a stand-up comedian newly-divorced and helping to raise two young daughters; each episode intersperses bits of Louis C.K. stand-up with vignettes from his life that illustrate how he might have come to those jokes. What makes the show truly stand out is not so much the funny (of which there is plenty), but the way the comedy is complemented by the true and painful misery that comes with being divorced, balding, and overweight at an age when each year is less fun than the one before. Somehow Louis C.K. makes the sad funny, and the funny cry.

Running of the Bulls, Pamplona, Spain, through July 14
In The Sun Also Rises, Papa Hemingway brought the encierro, or the running of the bulls festival, also known as the Festival San Fermin, to the world. Now, everybody knows about it, and many people hate it because they see it as animal cruelty, though most Spaniards don”€™t, and so this long-standing tradition continues in Pamplona, as well as in other Spanish cities, Portugal, and Mexico. Traditionally, six bulls are let loose to run through the city’s back streets. Apparently though, the original purpose of the event was to transport bulls from off-site corrals to the bullring for slaughter. Historically, young men would jump among them en route to show off their bravado. Some Spanish lore says the true origin began in North Eastern Spain during the early 14th century when men attempting to sell their cows at market would speed up the process by hurrying their cattle using tactics of fear and excitement. Whichever may be true, the Encierro of today is one of the main events of the Spanish summer. If you”€™ve got the guts for it, go battle it out with the bulls!

King Tut at the Denver Art Museum, through January 9, 2011
Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs explores 2,000 years of ancient Egyptian art and history, including temples, royal, and private tombs and the largest image of King Tut ever unearthed—a 10-foot statue of the pharaoh found at the remains of the funerary temple of two of his high officials. The DAM is dedicating 16,000 square feet of space in its Hamilton Building to the exhibition, which begins, appropriately, with a 90-second National Geographic documentary narrated by actor Harrison Ford. It marks King Tut’s first and last visit to the Rocky Mountains; most of the artifacts have never been to the United States before this particular tour. In addition to the historical items, the exhibit explores new scientific discoveries from a landmark Egyptian research and conservation project, including the first 3-D CT Scans of King Tut’s mummy. Not from Denver? Purchase a King Tut hotel package and make a weekend of it.

Vienna Music Film Festival
For centuries, Vienna has practically been synonymous with music. After all, the city was home to Mozart, Beethoven, Shubert, and Johann Strauss. The outstanding musical history continues to this day with various concerts and events throughout the year. Since 1991, July and August evenings in the square in front of Vienna’s City Hall have been turned into a grand open-air cinema for films featuring classical music: opera, ballet, and musicals. Vienna is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, if you like movies and classical music, don”€™t miss these hot summer nights. A movie and music along the streets of the Austrian capital will only be beat by the delicious food.

Telling Stories, Smithsonian American Art Museum, through January 2, 2011
This exhibition at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC is the first Rockwell show to highlight the relationship between his paintings and American film. George Lucas and Steven Spielberg independently formed significant collections of his work, but by no coincidence: like them, Rockwell was a masterful storyteller who could distill a narrative into a single frame. The exhibition showcases fifty-seven of his major paintings and drawings, and features new research into Rockwell, his work, and the connections between Rockwell and various movies. A 12-minute film, co-produced by the museum and filmmaker Laurent Bouzereau, is shown continuously throughout the galleries.

CDSea, Long Knoll, England, through September
Bruce Munro has installed his latest artwork in a field near Kilmington after collecting over 600,000 unwanted CDs from the public. Munro’s CDSea is the first of a number of self-funded installations using discarded or recycled materials. Over a weekend, 140 friends and colleagues, including Kevin McCloud and other celebrities from the design-art world, made the installation. Munro says it is an inland sea reflecting light from the sun and moon. His assistants created a footpath through the middle of the sea of compact discs in the shape of a wave. “€œI was very nervous about it”€ says Munro. “€œYou never know how something will work out, but now I could not be happier. I”€™m so grateful to everyone who turned out to help. We had a magical weekend and CDSea looks amazing, like a giant painting on the grass.”€ From one side the CDs present a soft blue haze, but with the light ahead, they glisten like mirrors. The “€œplay of light”€ transforms the artist’s mood, and perhaps the mood of those who visit the CDSea in the Wiltshire countryside.

Night Work
The Scissor Sisters’ latest album is their best yet, as in it makes their first two albums sound like throat-clearers for it. It’s well written, confidently performed, and focused. The non-stop dance album is twitchy, erotic, and mad; the group finally sounds like more than the sum of its sources, instead smartly referencing artists from Elton John to Paul McCartney interspersed with their own free-sex subject matter. Whether you love their in-your-face singles such as I Don”€™t Feel Like Dancing or are chilled by their tip of the cap to Pink Floyd with their cover of Comfortably Numb there is something here to please everyone.


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