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A sun-stroked nightmare of excessive drinking and aggressive male-bonding set in a desolate, nihilistic Australian outback, Ted Kotcheff’s 1971 Wake In Fright is an Aussie variant of a very 70s cinematic fantasy exemplified by films like Straw Dogs and Deliverance — the parable of the civilized man forced into extreme barbarism by a primitive world with a savage natural order. Opening with an plodding 360 degree pan across barren desert plains stretching towards infinity, Wake in Fright constructs its mental and physical landscape as one of complete mind-numbing emptiness. In a place so inhospitable, the film suggests, the only appropriate response is complete abandonment of the intellect and reversion to base instinct.

Stuck on a one-day stay-over in the sweltering city of Bundenyabba while headed to Sydney, John (Gary Bond), a stodgy overly-educated primary-school teacher, finds himself quickly noticed by the jovial locals. “Let me buy you a beer mate!” the men accost him through sweat-drenched smiles. The first beer — usually chugged hastily — inevitably leads to a second, third, and fifteenth along with a slow descent into evermore brutal and primitive behavior. On his first night John loses his money gamling on a coin toss; the second night ends with him waking up in the decrepit shack of an alcoholic doctor (Donald Pleasence) serving up gruel for breakfast. By the time dusk has rolled around on the third night his booze-filled fugue has descended into a nightmarish Kangaroo hunt depicted with brutal documentary footage of animal carnage and filled with kinetic savagery.

“All the little devils are proud of Hell” says Donald Pleasence early in the film, belying the simple-minded friendliness and good-manners that rest on the surface of these endless, infernal benders. While initially John responds to the calls for more beer and more horsing-around with a resistant smirk and softly-pleading apology that he must be getting on, the persistent and demanding hospitality of those around him makes escape ultimately impossible. While feral brutishness might dominate the wretched landscape, it is actually civilized pleasantries and neighborliness that keeps the whole social order stuck in its degenerate merry-go-round. Society and kindness are the root of inhumanity, not its antidote.

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Ken Loach 2019 100 min DCP
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Alfred Hitchcock 1950 110 min DCP
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Alfred Hitchcock 1927 108 min DCP
2:40pm
Alfred Hitchcock 1963 119 min DCP
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Alfred Hitchcock 1964 130 min DCP
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Martin Scorsese 1976 113 min DCP
12:05am
Brian De Palma 2000 113 min 35mm
12:05am
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Hirokazu Kore-eda 2008 114 min DCP
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James Neilson 1962 98 min 35mm
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Ulrike Ottinger 2009 82 min DCP
3:30pm
Ulrike Ottinger 1981 126 min DCP
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Ulrike Ottinger 1979 108 min 35mm
8:45pm
John Waters 1990 85 min DCP
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Levan Akin 2019 113 min DCP
12:00pm 4:40pm 7:00pm
Cindy Meehl 2019 101 min DCP
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D.W. Young 2019 99 min DCP
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Exhibitions
Chelsea
521 West 21st Street, New York, NY 10011
Tuesday-Saturday, 10:00 am to 6:00 pm
Closes Mar 21
Tues-Sun, 10:00 am to 6:00 pm; open until 8 Thurs-Sat
Closes Mar 22
512 West 19th Street, New York, NY 10011
Tuesday-Friday, Noon to 6:00 pm; Saturday, 11:00 am to 6:00 pm
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537/535 West 22nd Street, New York, NY10011
Tuesday-Saturday, 10:00 am to 6:00 pm
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Downtown
48 Walker St, New York, NY 10013
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38 St Marks Pl, New York, NY 10003
Wednesday- Friday, 2:00pm - 8:00pm; Saturday, 12:00pm to 8:00pm; Sunday 12:00pm - 6:00pm
Closes Mar 22
235 Bowery, New York, NY 10002
Wednesday, Friday-Sunday, 11:00 am to 6:00 pm; Thursday, 11:00 am to 9:00 pm.
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131 Bowery, 2nd floor New York, NY 10002
Wednesday-Sunday 12:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Closes Apr 5
47 Walker Street New York, NY 10013
Tuesday - Saturday, 10:00 am to 6:00 pm
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e-flux, 311 East Broadway, New York, NY 10002, USA
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291 Grand Street, New York, NY 10002
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159 Pioneer Street, Brooklyn, NY 11231
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159 Pioneer Street, Brooklyn, NY 11231
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Queens
36-01 35th Avenue, Astoria, NY 11106
Wednesday–Thursday, 10:30 am to 5:00 pm; Fridays, 10:30 am to 8:00 pm (free admission: 4:00 pm to 8:00 pm); Saturday–Sunday, 10:30 am to 6:00 pm
Closes Dec 31
36-01 35th Avenue, Astoria, NY 11106
Wednesday–Thursday, 10:30 am to 5:00 pm; Fridays, 10:30 am to 8:00 pm (free admission: 4:00 pm to 8:00 pm); Saturday–Sunday, 10:30 am to 6:00 pm
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