On every seat at the Little Cinema show is a sticker that reads “THIS IS NOT A FILM.” There is DJ equipment and a drum kit on stage, a painter on the balcony, and a smaller stage in the middle of the aisle. The emcee is also the DJ, and just before the show starts, he calls, “We don’t just screen films —we DJ them out.”
The Little Cinema experience is best described as “Rocky Horror Picture Show meets Cirque du Soleil with an arthouse sensibility.” The first of its “Bowie in Film” series, Basquiat (Immersive), happened earlier this month, with the film Basquiat being screened along with intervals of live music, dance performances, hoop performers and acrobats, live painting on the balcony, and the DJ giving parts of the film’s dialogue the sound of electronic music.
The film recalls the gritty downtown of New York City in the eighties, and traces Jean-Michel Basquiat’s thrust into fame and his unique and controversial relationship with Andy Warhol, played by David Bowie. It depicts the hypocrisy as well as the excitement of the art world, and the media’s complicated and pushy role in ruining Basquiat’s relationship with Warhol, whom many people told Basquiat was just using him to remain relevant. Hurt and dismayed, Basquiat left New York and the relationship, and Warhol’s death took a severe mental and physical toll on him.
At intervals, certain scenes or dialogues are frozen and reperformed as interpretations, through dance, music, and acrobatic performances. The final performance was a spoken word piece by musician Brian Kelly, who had worked with the director on the film and who recounted his last encounter with Basquiat, six months before his death.
Little Cinema is conducting the rest of its “Bowie in Film” series until June 2018. On April 4, Little Cinema is performing a multimedia screening of Bowie’s debut film and cult classic The Man Who Fell to the Earth at the Brooklyn Museum, with its founder CHNNLS (Jay Rinsky) doing audio and video remixing and with a new live score by musicians from Bowie’s final album, “Blackstar.” On May 18, Little Cinema and House of Yes are hosting a dance party, “Night of 1000 Bowies,” featuring live performances and a Bowie-inspired makeup station and photobooth. Then on June 14, Bowie’s musical dark fantasy adventure film Labyrinth is being performed in an immersive style, with similar features as Basquiat.
All these shows are typical of Little Cinema and its combination of screening and performance; like David Bowie, they transcend genre with rawness and fluidity, and face the strange.