Maysles Film Festival @ National Gallery of Art in DC All Summer Long! @ngadc

My cup runneth over. Who needs that vote, when at least they are taxing us and giving us a Maysles Brother Filmfest.  All. Summer. Long. In the cool, hallowed halls of the National Gallery of Art, or more specifically the movie theater. Because who needs to be outside in the middle of the day in a DC summer. Am I right here?

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the oeuvre of the dynamic fraternal documentary duo, they are so much more than Grey Gardens, the documentary regarding reclusive mentally ill wasps related to Jaqueline Bouvier Kennedy (I know you might be thinking that reclusive mentally-ill wasp is a redundant statement, and I left out alcoholic, but hey, I’m trying to cut down on the personal disclosures labelling.)

Here’s the 411. Also, of course, I was exaggerating that I would prefer a filmfest to my constitutionally mandated vote in Congress.  Oh, to have one’s cake and eat it too:

Maysles Films Inc.: Performing Vérité

July 5–August 2

Albert Maysles (1926–2015) and his brother David (1931–1987) expanded the artistic possibilities for direct cinema by espousing “the eye of the poet” as a factor in shooting and editing cinéma vérité. Their trademark approach — capturing action spontaneously and avoiding a point of view — became, for a time, the very definition of documentary. This series focuses on their interest in art and performance and includes several screenings in original 16mm format. It is presented as a tribute to Albert Maysles, who died in March, 2015. Al often visited the National Gallery of Art; his wife Gillian Walker was the daughter of former Gallery director John Walker. Special thanks to Jake Perlin and Rebekah Maysles.

Albert Maysles (far right) and David Maysles during the production of Salesman, 1968
courtesy Maysles Films Inc.

  • Soldiers of Music — Rostropovich Returns to Russia
    July 5 at 4:00
    West Building Lecture Hall

    In 1990, Albert Maysles accompanied cellist and National Symphony Orchestra conductor Mstislav Rostropovich and his wife Galina Vishnevskaya to their native Russia, their first trip in the course of a long exile. Soldiers of Music chronicles this historic reunion, as the couple is treated to a passionate, poignant homecoming. (Albert Maysles, Susan Froemke, Peter Gelb, and Bob Eisenhardt, 1991, 88 minutes)

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  • Horowitz Plays Mozart preceded by Anastasia
    July 10 at 2:00
    West Building Lecture Hall

    Horowitz Plays Mozart documents a legendary moment in the life of pianist Vladimir Horowitz: his first studio recording with a symphony orchestra in more than thirty years. He agreed to record with Milan’s La Scala Philharmonic but refused to allow any rehearsals to be filmed, until the very last one. (Albert Maysles, David Maysles, Susan Froemke, and Charlotte Zwerin, 1987, 50 minutes)

    Anastasia, created at the height of the Cold War for the 1960s NBC news program Update — was an early Maysles work-for-hire about the dancer Anastasia Stevens, the only American in the Bolshoi Ballet. (1962, 8 minutes)

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  • Meet Marlon Brando preceded by Salvador Dalí’s Fantastic Dream
    July 11 at 2:00
    West Building Lecture Hall

    Meet Marlon Brando captures the actor at age forty, confronting journalists (in both English and French) with his typical wit and charisma on the subject of a new film project. (1965, 29 minutes)

    Dalí worked briefly to publicize the New York release of Richard Fleischer’s 1966 Fantastic Voyage. His campaign was documented by the Maysles brothers, then edited into the short subject Salvador Dalí’s Fantastic Dream (complete with cameo appearance from Raquel Welch, the artist’s muse at the time). (1966, 8 minutes)

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  • Jessye Norman Sings Carmen preceded by Orson Welles in Spain
    July 11 at 3:00
    West Building Lecture Hall

    Jessye Norman Sings Carmen is a gripping vérité study of the famous dramatic soprano’s approach to mastering Bizet’s heroine in recording sessions with Seiji Ozawa and the Orchestre National de France. Musical segments include performances of three arias and the great duets between Carmen and Don José (Neil Shicoff). (Albert Maysles and Susan Froemke, 1989, 57 minutes)

    Orson Welles in Spain catches the famous director pitching his ideas for an unusual film on a bullfighter. In classic fashion, the garrulous Welles pontificates on the art of the bullfight and on the state of the cinema. (1966, 10 minutes)

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  • What’s Happening! The Beatles in the USA
    July 12 at 4:00
    West Building Lecture Hall

    The Maysleses’ freewheeling account of the Fab Four’s first visit to the United States in February 1964 follows their historic tour for five days — from the riotous JFK airport reception to candid moments inside the Plaza Hotel to their historic Ed Sullivan Show appearance. (1964, 81 minutes)

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  • The Gates preceded by Yoko Ono’s Cut Piece
    July 19 at 4:00
    West Building Lecture Hall

    Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s The Gates — twenty-three miles of orange fabric-strewn arches positioned in Central Park — were on view in February 2005 for a fleeting sixteen days. As the grandest public art project in Manhattan’s history, The Gates required twenty-five years to steer through the New York bureaucracy. The final product thrilled the world. Quipped Mayor Michael Bloomberg, “I’ve never understood why anybody was against it.” (Antonio Ferrera, Albert Maysles, David Maysles, and Matthew Prinzing, 2007, 87 minutes)

    Yoko Ono’s Cut Piece documents the artist’s 1965 performance at Carnegie Hall, with Ono sitting motionless on the stage as audience members were invited to come forward and cut away bits of her clothing. (1965, 8 minutes)

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  • Sally Gross: The Pleasure of Stillness
    July 23 at 3:00
    West Building Lecture Hall

    New York choreographer Sally Gross — a former Judson Dance Theater member who was cast by Robert Frank in Pull My Daisy — is the subject of Maysles’s film on her stillflourishing career. The title echoes Gross’s work of the same name, which emerged from a Buddhist practice and her own peaceful center. (Albert Maysles and Kristen Nutile, 2007, 58 minutes)

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  • Christo in Paris
    July 24 at 2:00
    West Building Lecture Hall

    Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s first urban wrapping was the medieval Pont Neuf, the oldest bridge in Paris and site of the two artists’ courtship. While relating their love story, Christo in Paris also chronicles Christo’s flight from his family home in Bulgaria. (Albert Maysles, David Maysles, Deborah Dickson, and Susan Froemke, 1990, 58 minutes)

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  • With Love from Truman followed by Accent on the Offbeat
    July 26 at 4:00
    West Building Lecture Hall

    Truman Capote reveals his personal thoughts on his book In Cold Blood, in a new genre he dubbed the nonfiction novel, “turning reality into art.” (Albert Maysles, David Maysles, and Charlotte Zwerin, 1966, 29 minutes).

    In Accent on the Offbeat a dance and music collaboration unfolds at the New York City Ballet, with original choreography by Peter Martins and musical score by Wynton Marsalis. (Albert Maysles, Susan Froemke, and Deborah Dickson, 1994, 56 minutes)

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  • Grey Gardens
    August 1 at 1:00
    East Building Large Auditorium

    The now-famous aunt and cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Edith Ewing Bouvier and Edie Bouvier Beale, lived out their lives in a ramshackle Long Island estate. In 1975, while preparing for a film on Lee Radziwill, Albert and David Maysles arrived at the Beale household and at once became immersed in the lives of its extraordinary inhabitants. Criticized at first for exploiting the two women, Grey Gardens is now hailed as one of the greatest nonfiction works of the twentieth century. “So many people in other ways have had more successful lives. But who among their neighbors would ever be as successful a character in a movie as these two women?” — Albert Maysles. (Albert Maysles and David Maysles, 1976, 95 minutes)

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  • Salesman
    August 1 at 3:00
    East Building Large Auditorium

    Four average American men making a marginal living by hawking bibles in working-class neighborhoods are the subjects of the Maysleses’ beautifully crafted feature documentary — a masterwork of American nonfiction. As the film progresses, it becomes apparent that one of the four, Paul Brennan, has lost his knack to make the pitch and perform, and the camera tracks this apparent crisis. Albert and David Maysles traveled with the team of four, befriended them, and remained in touch for many years. (Albert Maysles, David Maysles, and Charlotte Zwerin, 1968, 91 minutes)

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  • Gimme Shelter
    August 2 at 4:00
    East Building Large Auditorium

    David and Albert Maysles’s footage from the last of the epic 1960s rock ’n’ roll concerts symbolized the demise of the era’s counterculture and, as Pauline Kael cynically noted, “hit the cinema vérité jackpot.” As the concert — which featured, among others, the Grateful Dead, Santana, Jefferson Airplane, the Flying Burrito Brothers, and the Rolling Stones — was winding down, the infamous murder of Meredith Hunter was inadvertently captured on camera. “We structured our film around what actually happened; what came out was a surprise to us as well” — Albert Maysles. (Albert Maysles, David Maysles, and Charlotte Zwerin, 1970, 71 minutes)

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