Film

CinemaDope: Parting Gifts

Pleasant Street  remembered and  Tolstoy adapted.

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Thursday, December 06, 2012
Laurie Sparham |
Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Keira Knightley in Anna Karenina.

Veterans of the Valley film scene might remember the day when Pleasant Street Theater went dark—not the day this past June, but the one a few years ago, when the theater shut down for a month or so before being reopened under the aegis of Amherst Cinema. Back then, the future of the now-defunct cinema was far from certain, and it was only after a group of concerned, film-loving citizens got the ball rolling that Amherst was convinced to step in as a buyer.

One of the people who led that charge was Easthampton-based artist Silas Kopf. Working with his wife Linda and their friends Bruce and Rita Bleiman, Kopf rallied the area’s dedicated filmgoers, and together they helped raise $100,000 to keep the theater going. It was a remarkable effort, and although the theater would eventually close for good, Kopf was largely responsible for giving it four more years.

Now he’s giving it one last gift. Kopf is a world-class marquetry artist; he uses thin veneers of inlaid wood (and occasionally other materials) to create his images and designs. With the theater soon to be reborn as an Irish pub, Kopf has donated a piece depicting the theater as he hopes it will be remembered, as “a way of commemorating our area’s commitment to offer the highest caliber film experience possible.”

But the piece isn’t destined to hang in a lobby. Instead, it will go to the highest bidder in an online auction beginning Dec. 9, with the proceeds to benefit the Amherst Cinema. Visit the cinema’s website for details, and to see the piece in person, drop by the R. Michelson galleries in Northampton, where the panel will be on display beginning Dec. 10. We all knew that Pleasant Street wouldn’t last forever, but Kopf is helping it go out in style.

*

Also this week: Anna Karenina, screening this week at Amherst Cinema, might just be the film that at long last breaks the hold that Dr. Zhivago has had on American filmgoers for so long. The melodrama of Pasternak’s story—whatever you think of it—has become our de facto idea of a “Russian” movie. But Tolstoy’s story, here envisioned with a fresh lens by director Joe Wright (Atonement) and screenwriter Tom Stoppard (Shakespeare in Love) is a richer tapestry, with more and stronger threads. If anything, it has been the richness of Tolstoy’s story that has betrayed it when adapted to film before; prior attempts always seemed to leave too much left untold.

Stoppard’s screenplay tries to return the work to its rightful place by not making Anna too sympathetic—a fatal flaw of earlier adaptations. Keira Knightley stars as the woman at the heart of all the heartache, with Jude Law as her bureaucrat husband and the young Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Albert Nobbs) as the coltish Vronsky, whose charm lures Anna away from her family. “Happy families are all alike,” begins Tolstoy’s famous story—luckily for us, a happy adaptation is always something all its own.

A much more recent classic—to use the term loosely—screens on December 12th in Hadley when Cinemark Theaters brings in Home Alone, director Chris Columbus’ 1990 holiday movie about a boy (Macaulay Culkin) left to fend for himself after his extended family mistakenly leaves him behind when they depart for a vacation in France. While he waits for them to return, he is forced to protect the family manse from a pair of inept burglars. It screens at 2 and 7 p.m.•

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

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