Michael Almereyda Here and Now
Aug 21 — Sep 20, 2020
A true American iconoclast, Michael Almereyda has been directing, writing, and producing unconventional, fiercely independent visions in a variety of genres and styles for more than three decades, whether working in documentary, fiction, or a combination of the two. The prolific Almereyda has long challenged viewers with detailed, observant, and idiosyncratic portraits of the previously uncharted emotional depths of photographers, scientists, philosophers, and others who exist at a cross-point between tradition and the future, between the technological and the physical. On the release of his acclaimed latest film, Tesla, which stars Ethan Hawke and Kyle MacLachlan and is the realization of a project the director first conceived nearly 40 years ago, Museum of the Moving Image is pleased to present a recent career retrospective of the director’s work. This selection features some of Almereyda’s most memorable 21st-century visions, including a program of rarely shown shorts.
MoMI will also present an online members preview screening of Tesla and live online discussion with Almereyda at a later date (to be announced).
Tickets for individual programs are $3.99. A discounted series pass may become available.
William Eggleston in the Real World
Dir. Michael Almereyda. 2005, 87 mins. With William Eggleston. Tracing connections between the groundbreaking images of William Eggleston—widely considered the father of modern color photography—and the artist’s private life, Michael Almereyda’s light-touch portrait invites viewers into intimate glimpses of the photographer at work, on the road, and on his home turf of Memphis, Tennessee, tracking his interest in music, drawing, and video as well as photography. William Eggleston in the Real World is presented in a new edition, restoring Almereyda’s vivid consideration of a singular mind.
“Fascinating. Speaks for itself, in roughly the same mysterious way an Eggleston photograph does: it casts more light than you expect, and deeper shadows.”—Terrence Rafferty, The New York Times
Dir. Michael Almereyda. 2015, 98 mins. With Peter Sarsgaard, Winona Ryder, Jim Gaffigan, John Leguizamo, Kellan Lutz, Taryn Manning, Anton Yelchin. In an adventurous biopic almost as radical as its subject—and foreshadowing a style seen in his new film Tesla—Michael Almereyda examines the life and work of social psychologist Stanley Milgram (Peter Sarsgaard). In the 1960s, as Adolf Eichmann’s trial is underway, we meet Milgram as he starts conducting his controversial obedience experiments at Yale University, hoping to uncover the truth about free will and acts of violence.
“Mr. Almereyda has a boundless gift for finding new ways to tell old stories, and Experimenter, as befits its title, is less a straight biography than a diverting gloss on human behavior, historical memory and cinema itself.” —Manohla Dargis, The New York Times
Dir. Michael Almereyda. 2017, 99 mins. With Lois Smith, Tim Robbins, Geena Davis, Jon Hamm. A film that takes us to the edge of the “uncanny valley,” Marjorie Prime is set in a near future where holograms of the dead serve as memory repositories for the living. Lois Smith, who starred in Jordan Harrison’s Pulitzer Prize–nominated stage version, is Marjorie, an elderly woman with dementia kept company by a hologram—a “Prime”—of her recently deceased husband, Walter (Jon Hamm), which she feeds memories. Marjorie Prime was the second of three of Almereyda’s feature films (the others being Experimenter and Tesla) to be recognized by the prestigious Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, in this case for the film’s “imaginative and nuanced depiction of the evolving relationship between humans and technology, and its moving dramatization of how intelligent machines can challenge our notions of identity, memory, and mortality.”
Dir. Michael Almereyda. 2017, 89 mins. With Hampton Fancher. Actor, flamenco dancer, and unlikely producer-screenwriter of the sci-fi classic Blade Runner, Hampton Fancher has lived a life like no other. Michael Almereyda propels viewers down a wild path through mid-20th-century Hollywood, with Fancher recounting episodes from his remarkable life—romantic misadventures with silver-screen stars, wayward acts of chivalry, jealousy, and friendship—alongside a parallel world of film and TV footage of Fancher playing cowboys, killers, fops, cads, and the occasional hero. Escapes shows how one man’s personal journey can unexpectedly shape the future of an entire medium.
“A thoroughly charming, thoroughly engaging portrait of this great adventurer. Part of the pleasure of Escapes is how Mr. Almereyda, drawing deeply from the American pop archives… connects the original Blade Runner to Mr. Fancher’s life with its movie love, romanticism, beautiful women and mad, circuitous rides.”—Manohla Dargis, The New York Times
Fables, Poems, and Experiments: Recent Shorts
To the Unknown (2017, 7 mins.)
Skinningrove(2013, 15 mins.)
The Great Gatsby in Five Minutes(2011, 11 mins.)
The Ogre’s Feathers(2010, 20 mins.)
The North Wind’s Gift(2018, 20 mins.)
Concurrent with his acclaimed feature film work, Michael Almereyda has remained prolific as a maker of shorts. The elasticity of the form has been apt for an artist with an interest in unconventional chemical combinations, genre provocations, and formal fluidity. This program of recent work is representative of the director’s formal and topical breadth. To the Unknown is a tribute to poet John Ashbery by way of Kenneth Koch and an ambulating cat; Skinningrove is an award-winning, entrancing work of nonfiction in which photographer Chris Killip recounts stories behind his own projected images; The Great Gatsby in Five Minutes is very nearly what the title suggests, somehow both lightly and rigorously transposing F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic New York novel to contemporary Los Angeles; and The Ogre’s Feathers is another visionary transposition, adapting one of Italo Calvino’s Italian folktales into an urban epic fable about the infiltration of a menacing ogre’s inner sanctum in a New York high-rise.