Film

CinemaDope: New Year, Old Films

Three classics return.

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Tuesday, January 08, 2013
Shoot the Piano Player

A few weeks back, CinemaDope covered the Valley opening of Sascha Gervasi’s new film Hitchcock. That film, starring Anthony Hopkins as the iconic director and Helen Mirren as his wife and creative partner Alma Reville, told the surprisingly tumultuous story behind the making of the man’s best-known film, Psycho. When he first hit on the idea of making a film based on Robert Bloch’s novel, it was met with skepticism at best in a Hollywood averse to risk-taking. Hitch, of course, plowed through and got his film made, making history (and opening the floodgates to a new genre of horror) in the process.

Amazingly, it’s been over half a century since then. Man has walked on the moon, and we’ve faced wars, Watergate, and AIDS. A lot of icons have lost their gleam, but Psycho is not among them. For all its low-tech effects (the famous stabbing scene is conjured up with a casaba melon and some Bosco chocolate syrup), the story’s chill has stayed with us. This week, local filmgoers have a rare chance to catch the original on the big screen.

It comes to Amherst Cinema for one night only, screening on Tuesday, Jan. 15 at 7 p.m. For those somehow unaware of the story’s plot, it follows a woman on the run (Janet Leigh) who decides to stop for the night at the sleepy Bates Motel, a near-deserted place run by the talkative Norman Bates and his slightly quieter mother. In short: big mistake.

If Psycho proved to be a staple of its genre, Shoot The Piano Player is something similar for denizens of art house screening rooms. François Truffaut’s 1960 gangster tale is a stylized meditation on the American films noir that were produced by Bogart and his ilk, but, for film buffs, the French interpretation offers a touch of deep flavor that the American originals often left out. It screens Jan.11 and 12 in Shelburne Falls, where it kicks off the 2013 season of Pothole Pictures. Both shows take place at Memorial Hall at 7:30 p.m., and both are preceded by live musical acts beginning at 7.

In the film, French musical icon Charles Aznavour stars as Charlie Kohler, aka Edouard Saroyan, a one-time classical pianist who drops out of that world after a personal tragedy. Finding work as a piano player at a seedy bar, he tries to forget his woes but instead finds himself entangled in the problems of his brothers, who have run afoul of some local gangsters. On the run, he finds himself forced to confront the feelings he has kept so carefully tamped down.

*

Also this week: In Hadley, Cinemark brings back a musical classic that is sure to inspire many a sing-along. The Sound of Music returns to the screen as part of the theater’s Classics Series, which reintroduces digitally restored versions of screen gems to audiences old and new alike. Robert Wise’s 1965 film is this week’s entry, screening on Wednesday, Jan. 16 at 2 and 7 p.m. The classic story stars Julie Andrews as the former nun who leaves behind the habit to find work as a singing governess for the seven (I think—I always lose count) children of the wealthy Austrian widower Captain Von Trapp (Christopher Plummer). A harsh taskmaster who has become a cold father in the wake of his wife’s death, Von Trapp and his children are awakened to the richness and warmth of life by the new addition to their family. But it may come too late—as the Captain’s heart thaws, the Nazis are moving into Austria, sending the family on a last-minute dash for freedom.•

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

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