Tag Archives: David Thomson


SITTING ON A MAN’S HEAD—the durational, audience-participatory work by Okwui Okpokwasili and Peter Born—will be performed at Danspace Project throughout March, 2020, as part of the PLATFORM 2020—Utterances from the Chorus program.

A rotating cast of performers includes Martita Abril, Jennifer Brogle, mayfield brooks, Leslie CuyjetAndré DaughtryEisa Davis, Brittany Engel-Adams, Lily GoldNaja GordonMelanie Greene, Audrey HailesRemi Harris, Jasmine Hearn, Justin Hicks, Shayla-Vie Jenkins, Chaesong Kim, Tendayi Kuumba, Breyanna MaplesPriscilla MarreroAnais MavielMaya OrchinKay Ottinger, jess pretty, Greg PurnellHans Rasch, Katrina Reid, Jean Carla RodeaLily Bo Shapiro, Samita SinhaEleanor Smith, Tatyana Tenenbaum, David Thomson, Pyeng Threadgill, Asiya WadudCharmaine Warren, AJ WilmoreAnna Witenberg, Nehemoyia Young, Okpokwasili, and Born.


Friday, March 6, 13, and 20, from 6 pm to 10 pm.

Danspace Project

St. Mark’s Church

131 East 10th Street, New York City.

Okwui Okpokwasili and Peter Born, Sitting On a Man’s Head, in performance, Berlin Biennale, 2018 (Okpokwasili top right and below center in black dress). Images courtesy and © the artists and participants.


For the last twenty years, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s film THE RED SHOES has been on the mind of choreographer Matthew Bourne, and this year audiences in Los Angeles and New York have the opportunity to see this ideal match of creator, subject, and source. MATTHEW BOURNE’S THE RED SHOES—in its U.S. premiere, at the Ahmanson—is a dance about dance, brought to life with the primary-colored vividness and “stunning visual autonomy” that was a hallmark of the great Powell-Pressburger films.*

Shades of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes stalk the stage in this production of the Hans Christian Andersen story, a Faustian tale wherein a pair of red ballet slippers—functioning like Tolkien’s ring—drives the dancer who wears them (Victoria, played Ashley Shaw) to great heights, followed by exhaustion and death. Victoria is squeezed, artistically and emotionally, between her boss—ballet impressario Lermontov (Sam Archer), who believes a dancer’s one and only relationship should be with the dance—and her lover, the troupe’s composer and music director Julian Craster (Dominic North).

(For THE RED SHOES, Bourne rejected the music used in the film and has fashioned a new score with Terry Davies’ arrangements of Bernard Herrmann’s classic film scores. The “Ballon de Plage” number uses “Ragtime” from Citizen Kane, and several dances are set to music from The Ghost and Mrs. Muir and Hangover SquareThe Ballet of the Red Shoes—the production’s tour de force centerpiece, with projection design by DuncanMcLean—is set to Herrmann’s score for Truffaut’s Fahrenheit 451.)

What David Thomson, in his Biographical Dictionary of Film, wrote about Powell’s films could easily be said about the dances of Matthew Bourne:

“[They] never relinquish their wicked fun or that jaunty air of being poised on the brink. To put an arrow in our eye—to leave a nourishing wound—that was Michael’s eternal thrill… With a very personal mixture of wisdom and naïveté, he treated the artist or wizard as the last potent pagan deity.”*


Through October 1.

Ahmanson Theatre

135 North Grand Avenue, downtown Los Angeles.

Note: Nearly every role is triple cast, and during some performances at the Ahmanson, American Ballet Theatre principal Marcelo Gomes will dance the part of Julian Craster.



October 26 through November 5.

New York City Center

131 West 55th Street, New York City.

In New York, Gomes will again dance Julian Craster in alternate performances, and New York City Ballet principal Sara Mearns will alternate Victoria with Shaw.

*David Thomson, “Michael Powell,” The New Biographical Dictionary of Film (New York: Alfred Knopf, 2010).

Top: Ashley Shaw as Victoria Page and Dominic North as Julian Craster in Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes.

Above: Sam Archer as Boris Lermontov.

Below: Liam Mower as Ivan Boleslawsky, with Shaw.

All Shaw/North photographs by Tristram Kenton. Archer and Mower/Page photographs by Johan Persson.


“Moreau is more watchable in neutral than most others in top gear.” — David Thomson

Jeanne Moreau, January 23, 1928 (Paris)—July 31, 2017 (Paris).

Jeanne Moreau and Miles Davis during the recording of the music for Louis Malle’s Ascenseur pour l’échafaud/Elevator to the Gallows, December, 1957.

Photograph by AGIP/RDA/Everett.


PERFORMANCE is a mirror: You look in it, and it shows you a kind of self you fear or dream of….It’s part of the chronic English addiction to noir. It’s a fairy story, poised between the godheads of Aleister Crowley and Jorge Luis Borges. It has moments that belong to the history of the musical. It has passages worthy of an anthology of the most pretentious films ever made. It takes itself so seriously that it can be very funny….

James Fox and Mick Jagger…are both good enough to hold the film in place, though the most powerful figure onscreen is Anita Pallenberg as Pherber, the seductive impressario….

PERFORMANCE has to be seen—it is very visual. But it is very heady, too—and that requires patience….By now there is enough written about it to nearly bury the film. So hold on to moments, like Jagger singing ‘Memo from Turner.’ ” — David Thomson

This Friday, the American Cinematheque is screening a 35mm print of PERFORMANCE (1970, directed by Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg, with a score by Jack Nitzsche) on the second half of a “Rated X” double-bill with Lindsay Anderson’s landmark of rebellion and anarchy IF…. (1968, starring Malcolm McDowell, in his debut).

IF…. and PERFORMANCE, Friday, July 21, at 7:30 pm

EGYPTIAN THEATRE, 6712 Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood.


Top: Malcolm McDowell in If…. Bottom: Mick Jagger (right) in Performance.

Picture Of Malcolm Mcdowell In If Large Picture If

performance 3 vice versa



After the fall of France in 1940, Jean Renoir, Julien Duvivier, and (briefly) Jean Gabin decamped for Hollywood. Director Marcel Carné and poet–screenwriter Jacques Prévert stayed in their occupied country and, under straitened circumstances, assembled their magnum opus LES ENFANTS DU PARADIS (CHILDREN OF PARADISE).

“The cast is a record of Paris under the Nazis, and one can only regret that some of the players [Arletty] did collaborate, while some were falsely accused of it. It is hard when actors are held up to the standards of human beings.” — David Thomson*

Les Enfant’s first screenings took place in Paris immediately after the Liberation, and the film was celebrated as an emblem of French fortitude and “patriotism” during wartime. Rather than talk about who did what to whom during the dark years, it was easier for Paris to find a symbol of freedom in a 3-hour “panorama of theatrical enterprise, from the lowest street performer to the loftiest actors” [Thomson], set in a simpler time one hundred years prior to its release.



Friday and Saturday, February 24 and 25, at 7:30 pm.

New Beverly Cinema

7165 Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles.

*“Have You Seen…?”: A Personal Introduction to 1,000 Films, by David Thomson, is out in paperback.

Above: French poster.

Below: Jean-Louis Barrault (standing) as Baptiste in Children of Paradise.