Film

Cinema Dope: Open and Shut

Special shows and limited runs

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Thursday, July 21, 2011
Image Courtesy of FBI
A violent encounter in Freedom Riders

One of the great things about the Advocate's being a weekly is that it makes it easier on the reader—with only one edition every seven days, it's difficult to fall behind. Indeed, by the time the latest copy hits the streets, readers are ready to pounce on a fresh issue at their favorite cafe or sidewalk box, and turn to their favorite sections—I'm a News of the Weird guy, myself. The downside to not being a daily is that it can be tougher to highlight those more time-sensitive events—not just last-minute election results, but a surprise concert or small art show that might otherwise be overlooked. This week, then, we take a look at some cinematic happenings offered as special showings or limited runs. Take a few hours out of the day to enjoy one.

Amherst Cinema is running a couple of special screenings this week, beginning with film noir classic The Big Sleep. Screening as part of the ongoing Humphrey Bogart festival, Howard Hawks' 1946 film comes with quite a pedigree: it's based on the Philip Marlowe detective novel by Raymond Chandler; the screenplay was crafted by The Sound and The Fury novelist William Faulkner. Famously convoluted in its plot (Faulkner and his writing partners tried to consult with Chandler, who, it turned out, was just as befuddled by his own pretzel-twisting), it still somehow works as an experience in lost glamour, thanks in no small part to Bogart's leading lady, Lauren Bacall. It plays Sunday at 2 p.m., and Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.

And on Tuesday, July 26, the theater hosts a 7 p.m. broadcast of Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard as part of Britain's National Theatre Live series. Set in the early 1900s, The Cherry Orchard traces changing times in Russia's history as an aristocratic family begins to crumble. Holding on to the one remnant of their past—the family's famous orchard—a brother and sister find themselves unable to face the future.

Also this week, Hadley's Cinemark Theaters plays host to two special events that show just how varied a schedule the big-box theater can present with its many screens. Not content to limit its offerings to the latest shiny blockbusters, the theater has branched out in many directions, hosting live feeds of concerts and sporting events, sing-along shows of classic musicals, and more. The two shows it brings in this week fall decidedly into the "more" category.

First up is one of the more unusual offerings to come to Cinemark in recent years. Tekken Blood Vengeance, screening Tuesday at 7:30 p.m., is a 3D extravaganza based on one of the world's most popular video game franchises. The film—a standalone kidnapping story whose events fall between the fifth and sixth installments in the enduring game series—was scripted by Dai Sato (Cowboy Bebop) and features a mix of sci-fi and fantasy blended with martial arts action. But don't call it a martial arts movie—despite (or maybe because of) its video game roots, Tekken prides itself on the wide reach of its mysterious story. As an added bonus for fans, screenwriter Sato and Tekken project director Katsuhiro Harada will also provide a behind-the-scenes perspective on how the film came together.

The following night, the theater brings in the highest of high culture when it presents a 6:30 p.m. encore performance of Verdi's Don Carlo, acclaimed as Verdi's most ambitious work, in a production at New York City's Metropolitan Opera. The show was directed by Nicholas Hytner (The History Boys) in his Met debut. It takes its story from the historical drama of the title character, whose life was thrown into disarray when the woman he was to marry instead wed his father, Philip II of Spain, as a matter of political expediency at the end of a 16th-century war. Roberto Alagna stars, with Ferruccio Furlanetto as King Philip and Marina Poplavskaya as Elisabeth of Valois, the woman between them.

Finally this week, the Northampton Committee continues its free social activism series of Friday night films with Freedom Riders, a moving documentary from award-winning filmmaker Stanley Nelson (The Murder of Emmett Till). Charting the dramatic, tumultuous course of history over six months in 1961—when black and white Americans, fighting for civil rights, risked their lives by traveling together on buses and trains in the deep South—Nelson's film has the great fortune of being living history: this is a harrowing but ultimately uplifting story told by those who were there. For more information, visit northamptoncommittee.org.

Jack Brown can be reached at cinemadope@gmail.com.

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