CinemaDope: Hard Rain

When Hurricane Irene swept through the area, I thought I was prepared. Having grown up at the southern tip of Rhode Island, I’ve been through a few storms over the years, and as a kid I used to sit on the bluffs overlooking the ocean to take in the awe-inspiring display of nature’s power. When Irene was announced, the sight of all the usual preparations—the rush for spring water at Stop & Shop, the run on plywood for boarding up windows—filled me, I’m almost ashamed to admit, with a kind of nostalgia.

I don’t feel that way anymore. When everything was at its worst, I was holed up at my in-laws’ home on top of a high hill in Westhampton. There it didn’t seem so bad: in many ways, that Sunday felt like nothing more than an exceptionally windy, rainy day. We cooked outside, on the grill. We looked at vacation photos. We didn’t even lose power.

Then, in the early afternoon, we began to get reports from friends who lived farther north. Shelburne Falls and other hilltowns were flooding, they said. The Bridge of Flowers was almost under water, they said. Buildings were floating away from their foundations. Videos followed, as they always do now—a quick YouTube search will deliver no end of footage of the devastation. They were still awe-inspiring in their own way, but now they seemed terrifying and overwhelmingly sad, too.

The town is still reeling from the damage. When I got in touch with local movie impresario Phred DeVecca soon after the storm, he reported that both main bridges remained closed, pending inspections which themselves must wait until the water level has receded. “Effectively,” said DeVecca, “the town is cut in two—you can’t walk from one side to another.”

DeVecca also brought a bit of good news, however: his Pothole Pictures movie series at the town’s historic Memorial Hall will continue, offering a much-needed ray of light (literally) in the gloom. So screening on Sept. 9 and 10 is Goldfinger, the quintessential Bond movie—part gadgetry, part Playboy-era leering, with a whiff of spy movie somewhere in there. It’s ridiculous, and entertaining, and just what a lot of people could use about now.

If you know Shelburne Falls, you’ve probably enjoyed a night or two at the turn-of-the-century Hall. And if you’ve never been, I urge you to make the trip this weekend to help support a town in need. Find a spot for dinner, stroll the streets, and enjoy the show.

For those staying further south, Amherst Cinema and Pleasant Street Theater have a pair of law-and-order type features on offer. At Pleasant Street, Oscar-winning actress Helen Mirren (The Queen) stars in The Debt, an espionage thriller in a decidedly grittier vein than the Bond series. Mirren is Rachel, a retired Nazi-hunter hailed as a hero in Israel, whose past hides a secret that suddenly threatens to bob to the surface. When her legacy is brought into question, she finds herself forced to question the honesty of her old friends in the Mossad.

And in Amherst, the wonderful Irish actor Brendan Gleeson costars with the wonderful American actor Don Cheadle in a tale of cross-border cooperation. Directed by John Michael McDonagh—older brother of Martin McDonagh, who made In Bruges, a film about two Irish hitmen in hiding—The Guard is a witty, wordy film that takes the old oil-and-water cop tale of unlikely partners in new directions.

Also this week: Amherst Cinema’s Humphrey Bogart series continues with Sabrina, Billy Wilder’s sparkling 1954 romance. Audrey Hepburn costars as the woman Bogie is trying to drive away from his brother David (William Holden)—only to find that he’s falling for her himself.

Jack Brown can be reached at

Author: Jack Brown

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