Samurai!, at the Worcester Art Museum through Sept. 6
Worcester Art Museum takes all of the fabled elements of samurai culture and pierces them with pop culture. The museum pulled from the famed Higgins Armory collection it acquired two years ago to showcase the tools and attire of the Japanese military elite: 17th-century arrowheads, even older swords, and stirrups—all beautifully conserved. They're juxtaposed with contemporary paintings and prints. For the newer works, the curators sent images of samurai armor to some of today’s most well known Japanese artists, who incorporated the historic objects into their vivid paintings and prints. Chrysanthemums that ornament a lavish suit of armor also blossom in a nearby print. Indelible samurai figures become the dancers in a bloody ballet. Little sculpted dragons become fearsome ones. It’s a contemporary presentation that traces the samurai’s complex history while bringing the way of the warrior into the modern day.
Edge of Vision, at the Boston Opera House through May 10
Boston Ballet’s latest contemporary program is a triple bill, with pieces all choreographed for the company. First is Helen Pickett’s “Eventide,” which starts slow and sultry and speeds up to hit a terrific energy that tracks the course of a night out dancing to the music of Philip Glass and Ravi Shankar. Next is resident choreographer Jorma Elo’s world premiere of “Bach Cello Suites,” with a cameo by Elo like a magician unspooling his creation. Also on stage is cellist, Sergey Antonov, who won the 2009 Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow and is a treat to hear. The final piece is “Celts”—which is so fast and fun that you wonder how much time the dancers are actually spending on the stage versus in the air.
If you’ve read The Boston Globe in the past 50 years, you’ve seen Bill Brett’s photography. He’s been officially retired from the paper for 13 years but is working more than ever, between continuing his “Party Lines” feature that captures the energy of the city’s splashy soirees and publishing four books. “Boston Irish” is his most recent and personal. It tells the story, through photography, of how the Irish underclass he grew up in evolved, producing both great city leaders like Mayor Marty Walsh and Boston Public Library President Amy Ryan, as well under sung heros making a difference. After a lifetime of photographing the people and events that matter, what's his best picture? "I haven't made it yet," he said. "I'm still looking for it every day."
Far from the Madding Crowd, in theaters Friday
The famous novel by Thomas Hardy is now a new film adaptation and the first first since Julie Christie's 1967 turn. Set in 1870 Victorian England, Carey Mulligan stars as a young woman who’s just inherited her uncle’s sprawling farm and has to run it in a man’s world. She’s strong-minded and tells her mostly male staff, “Don’t suppose because I’m a woman that I don’t know the difference between bad goings-on and good; I shall be up before you are awake; I shall be at field before you are up.” Mulligan is a force both on the farm and in the hearts of three suitors who circle her throughout the film: the brooding, down-to-earth shepherd Gabriel (Matthias Schoenaerts); the devilishly charming Frank (Tom Sturridge); and the prosperous, tightly guarded bachelor next door, William (Michael Sheen). The fifth main character is the landscape, a beautifully shot Southwestern England.