Take a ride through the history of the New York City subway, from dreamy visions of modern city life in the 1930s to the heyday of graffiti art in the 1970s when there was still a K train and rides cost less than $1.
BAMcinématek presents “Retro Metro,” a week-long, throw-back movie series running now through October 5 at Brooklyn Academy of Music.
Monday, September 29
This snappy pre-Code musical confection features kaleidoscopic dance numbers courtesy of native Hollywood surrealist Busby Berkeley, including the show-stopping “I Only Have Eyes for You,” wherein stars Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell ride the subway straight into a geometric acid-trip involving hundreds of floating Keeler heads.
This experimental short by New York poet Frank Kuenstler features footage shot in the 1950s of the now-vanished Third Avenue El, set to a soundtrack of Kuenstler playing a toy piano.
Tuesday, September 30
Just Another Girl on the I.R.T. (1992), Directed by Leslie Harris with Ariyan A. Johnson, Kevin Thigpen, Ebony Jerido
A young woman (Garland, in a rare dramatic performance) and a soldier (Walker) meet and fall in love while he’s on 48-hour leave. Vincente Minnelli’s tender, hopelessly charming love story—which abounds with trademark Manhattan locales, including a famous sequence in the subway—is given visual panache thanks to the director’s typically inventive camerawork and set design.
Brakhage’s kaleidoscopic short—commissioned by fellow avant-garde pioneer Joseph Cornell—is an impressionistic elegy for the Third Avenue El on the eve of its demolition.
Kelly, Sinatra, and Munshin light up the screen as three sailors in the Big Apple with a one-day pass to see everything. Set to a Comden and Green score, this love letter to grand old New York marks the film directing debut of theater director Donen and Kelly, who shot everything on location.
Trailblazing documentarian Pennebaker’s very first work was this jazzy chronicle of a ride aboard the Third Avenue El, snappily edited to the rhythms of the titular Duke Ellington track.
Fear rides the rails in this gritty Gotham nerve-shredder as two sadistic hooligans (Musante and Sheen, each making their film debut) terrorize the passengers (Ed McMahon, Ruby Dee, and Thelma Ritter among them) aboard a Bronx subway train. Steeped in the nihilism of New Hollywood, The Incident is a tense, edgy portrait of violence run amok in the urban jungle.
This time capsule of 1920s New York is an amusement ride from beginning to end, with Harold Lloyd—whose athletic slapstick is in top-notch form—as the title character, a soda jerk turned cabbie fighting to save the city’s last horse-drawn trolley from the evil forces of the mass transit monopoly. This silent masterpiece includes a sequence in which Speedy entertains his girlfriend in Coney Island—a mini-masterpiece of sight gags and slapstick—and be on the look out for a cameo by Babe Ruth! *This screening will feature live piano accompaniment by Steve Sterner.
John Travolta discoed his way into pop-culture immortality as the white-suited Tony Manero, a Bay Ridge hardware store clerk who lives only for the thrill of the dance floor. Packed with Bee Gees hits and colorful 1970s Brooklyn character (including the then-graffiti-scrawled MTA),Saturday Night Fever captures both the glamour and grit of the disco era.