Thursday, December 30, 2010

Week of December 31 to January 6 (Mann)

What’s on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann

Guess you can’t argue with success. The hot threesome of BLACK SWAN, THE FIGHTER and THE KING’S SPEECH are held over for another week. Each is a Golden Globe Best Picture nominee, and each is drawing record crowds. One of them will probably be squeezed out by next week, so take your chance while you have it to see any you’ve missed so far.

I’d also recommend highly the less-high-profile feature HOWL, also held over. James Franco personifies Allen Ginsburg throughout, but the actual words are from transcripts of the poet himself. Even if you’re not a poetry lover, you’ll appreciate the down to earth way in which the film explains and gives insight into this beat generation literary icon. Three threads, all set in the fifties when “Howl” was first published, run through the movie -- Ginsburg reciting his poem in a San Francisco café, Ginsburg giving an interview about it and his work, and testimony at the censorship trial of his publisher -- each giving a window into the meaning of key passages. A movie as original and innovative in its own way as “Howl” itself.

Joining this collection is a new French film, again centering on an adulterous affair. Two weeks ago, in Mademoiselle Chambon, we saw a father bed his young son’s schoolteacher. This week, in LEAVING, we find a bored wife swept away by her gardener. Sorry, my mistake, he’s not a gardener, but a handyman building a shed. But old D.H. and Flaubert, too, might well appreciate this “searing sex drama about an upper-middle-class wife and mother who falls in love and goes a bit mad,” especially because the wife is the estimable Kristin Scott Thomas.

Real film fans will welcome back the Monday Classic Series, with a Damsels in Distress theme for January. This week it’s Hitchcock’s REBECCA, hosted again by our resident classicist Craig Wanous. The master’s first American film and Winner of the Academy Award in 1940, this Gothic melodrama has been rated one of the top 250 films of all time. Joan Fontaine stars as the new second wife of Sir Lawrence Olivier, a wealthy gentleman. But life is not simple at his estate, with the spirit of his first wife (the eponymous Rebecca, who is never seen) and a sneaky housekeeper (Judith Anderson) undermining the new bride.

The Special Event feature of the week is another of the Tropic’s Visiting Filmmaker programs. Boston Phoenix film critic Gerald Peary will present FOR THE LOVE OF MOVIES, his new documentary. Directed by Mr. Peary, and featuring leading critics, including Roger Ebert, and A.O. Scott the film provides “an insider’s view of the critics' profession.” The director will host a Q & A in person after the screenings. Two shows, on Tuesday and Wednesday, both free to members of the Film Society ($15 to non-members).

Why not make it a New Year’s resolution to join the film society? It’s only $35 for a full year’s membership. You’ll save $4 on regular movie tickets and get the benefit of special events like the Gerald Peary show. A no-brainer, I’d say.

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