With the large AMC Empire 25 movie theater multi-plex so near where we live, it can be easy for Therese and I to settle for whatever the latest movies are that are showing there. But there are so many movie theaters in New York City, and some of them show very off-the-beaten-path movie fare. I lived in the East Village in the 1990s, so I know very well some of the theaters there that are especially well known for showing artisanal, international and obscure movies. Perhaps on the top of that list is the Anthology Film Archives. Back in September, we made three visits to the East Village (my favorite Manhattan neighborhood for food), including movie screenings, good meals and other kinds of exploration.
What initially drew us to Anthology Film Archives is that they were having a run of a new film, the Academy of Muses, that caught our attention. This was a fictional movie that had a documentary feel to it, about a professor who surrounds himself with beautiful female students (with whom he cultivates relationship that, shall we say, go beyond intellectual discussions), and answers to his wife for these dalliances accordingly.
While we were there, we found out about a series that Anthology Film Archives was putting on later in the month called Woman with a Camera. This was a rare chance to see films made by women from the early days of the film industry – movies that are rarely if ever shown. So we made plans to attend two screenings: first, one of three short films by pioneering director Lois Weber (named Suspense, the Rosary, and the Shoes), then a feature from Hollywood before the censuring Hayes Code called “Merrily We Go to Hell” (with a short before it, the 1928 Fieldwork Footage of Zora Neale Hurston).
The first and second times we made our way down to Anthology Film Archives, we had dinner at Zabb Elee, a Thai restaurant on Second Avenue. They offer rather unusual Thai food like duck stew, rather than the usual Pad Thai and such (though I bet you could order Pad Thai there if you really really had to).
So on our first visit, the evening went something like this: early dinner at Zabb Elee, screening of Academy of Muses, and then some lovely frozen dessert at nearby Van Leeuwen Ice Cream Shop. I got two flavors of vegan ice cream with shipped cream and chocolate sauce, and it was incredibly awesome.
The third trip we were in the East Village for an afternoon film, so we came early for lunch. We thought we might have lunch at Momofuku Ko, but we found out when we stopped in there that you have to get reservations weeks in advance. As a plan B, we decided to have chicken sandwiches at Blue Ribbon Chicken on 2nd Avenue and 1st Street.
I can’t say that the fried chicken was dairy free – in fact, the odds are that the breading did have a little dairy in it (sorry!) – but for a once a year thing, it was yummy, I will admit.
After our yummy fried chicken, we had some time to explore the area. Just down the block on 1st Street, we passed the lovely neighborhood green space, Albert’s Garden.
Also on this street are the two John Derian stores, a feast for the eyes. Therese bought their book, which is filled with textile prints, a great representation of what the store contains as well – all sorts of wall-hangings, ornaments, etc., covered with Derian’s designs.
A few blocks further north, we stopped in at Pageant Print Shop. I remember, from the days when I got my first job working in a New York City bookstore, that Pageant in those days was one of the most well-respected bookstores. They did always have a print section, and that is the one part of the store that seems to have survived. We browsed through prints of New York City and our favorite city to visit, Charleston, South Carolina, and looked through lots of other prints.
Down the block from Anthology Film Archives, to the east on Second Street, is one of the most curious establishments in the neighborhood, the NY Marble Cemetery. The people buried there are in below-ground vaults, and many of the markers are plaques on the walls, but there are also graves markers throughout the grounds. In all the time that I lived in the East Village, I never saw this cemetery open – on this day, it just happened to be open, part of the Open House New York weekend.
We still had a little time before our screening of “Merrily We Go to Hell,” so we thought we would have a light dinner-like nosh at Rosie’s Mexican Restaurant, which is right across Second Avenue from Anthology Film Archives. We got a seat right in the middle of the restaurant, where a woman makes tortillas on a grill right in front of you.
At one point, this young woman saw us ogling the tortillas, so she offered us samples. Nice and light, with a little bit of crispness, just perfect. For my pre-movie dinner, I had two tacos that were quite nice.
We need to check Anthology Film Archives schedule to see what they have coming up soon – our times there in September were so fun, and it will be fun to return there. And there are lots of other restaurants and shops for us to explore.