Cinemadope: Northern Lights

Here in the Pioneer Valley, it’s easy to get complacent about our entertainment. So many of our hometowns do such a great job of providing us with a smorgasbord of rich cultural offerings that we can sometimes forget to look past our own borders. So it may come as a surprise to hear that around this time last year, a new film festival was inaugurated just up 91 North.

That was when the first annual Brattleboro Film Festival took place, and it proved to be quite a success—no small feat in a time when filmgoers have more viewing options than ever. About a thousand people crowded into the town’s classic Latchis Theater over a handful of days last fall to catch a dozen films and special events. It was such a hit that when organizers drew up plans for this year, the festival was expanded to two full weeks—a run that ends on Thursday, Nov. 14.

But the event is going out on a high note, with a special screening of the “Best in Fest” film. Exactly which film that is I can’t say; the winner will be chosen by the audiences attending the week’s screenings leading up to Thursday. After each show—there are four “people’s choice” films contending for the ultimate honor—filmgoers will be asked to fill out comment cards to help rate the entrants.

What I can tell you is that even if you can only make it for one of the screenings, you’ll be in for a treat: the Latchis has recently reopened after two and a half months of renovation and restoration that brought in comfortable new seats and refreshed the theater’s zodiac-themed ceiling art. Movie lovers from the Northampton area, familiar with the grandeur of the Academy of Music, may find themselves pleasantly surprised—dare I say, maybe even a bit envious—after visiting our neighbors to the north. And after all, we’re lucky enough to live in one of New England’s most scenic areas, we should remember to get out and see it.


Also this week: Amherst Cinema has three special screenings happening. First up at 10 p.m. Friday, Nov. 15 is director Tony Scott’s (Top Gun) 1993 film True Romance—a film that many people consider more a part of screenwriter Quentin Tarantino’s legacy than that of Scott’s. Though it was released after his breakthrough feature Reservoir Dogs, True Romance was Tarantino’s first major script, and one that would set his course for future films.

In it, Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette star as Clarence and Alabama, a young couple who stumble their way into becoming a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde as a means to a better life. The plot is a series of double-crosses, drug deals gone bad and gunplay gone worse, but all done up with typical Tarantino panache (including a recurring vision of Elvis as Clarence’s spiritual guide). It’s helped along considerably by a supporting cast that features Brad Pitt, Christopher Walken and Dennis Hopper, among many more. Added bonus: Amherst is promising an Elvis impersonator before the show to get things going.

On Sunday, the theater teams up with the Karuna Center for Peacebuilding to present Sweet Dreams, a film about the healing power of drumming and ice cream. It features Rwanda’s first and only women’s drumming troupe (made up of women from both sides of the Rwandan genocide), which decides to partner with a Brooklyn-based company to open the country’s first ice cream parlor. Karuna board member and former Speaker of the Rwandan Parliament Joseph Sabarenzi will be on hand for a Q&A.

Things wrap up on Monday evening with an encore presentation of Vermeer and Music: The Art of Love and Leisure. This unique screening offers a chance to delve deep into the details of the Dutch master’s art, thanks to an exhibition from The National Gallery in London. Best known as the painter of “Girl with a Pearl Earring,” Vermeer evidences a mastery of the telling moment that’s proved so timeless that, almost four centuries later, we’re still interested enough to beam his brushstrokes to cinemas all over the world.•

Jack Brown can be reached at

Author: Jack Brown

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