A happy trend of late has been the booming attendance noticed at a broad variety of local arts and culture offerings. Maybe it was easy to predict the blockbuster run of Tennessee Rep's Cabaret at TPAC, extended before the show had even opened. But what about the full houses also for Nashville Ballet's venturesome Attitudes and the long lines at the Tennessee State Museum's new exhibit of Civil War documents from the National Archives, occurring simultaneously last weekend? The thinking has always been that arts organizations in Nashville are fighting to split a limited pool of patronage. From last weekend, you might wonder whether the pool is growing larger, or patrons are taking more chances on the surplus of opportunities.
Either way, that's only going to bring more opportunities. Take movies. The success of The Belcourt and the Nashville Film Festival hasn't killed Nashville's megaplexes; if anything, they've cultivated new audiences of moviegoers and grown niches that no one knew existed. As a result, the options for local movie lovers have never been better, whether they're free screenings at Vanderbilt's International Lens or the downtown Nashville Public Library, or the packed weekend grindhouse bills at Logue's Black Raven Emporium in East Nashville. (More screenings are coming, we understand, at Riverside Village's soon-to-open music and DVD parlor Fond Object.) And yet one niche has remained stubbornly underrepresented: experimental film, avant-garde features and beyond-obscure repertory titles.
That's about to change. Last week, Third Man Records announced that starting Thursday, Feb. 21, it will host a new monthly film series at its Seventh Avenue South headquarters co-sponsored by The Belcourt. Curating the series will be filmmaker, DJ and occasional Scene contributor James Cathcart, a hardcore cinephile whose gregarious, leather-jacketed presence is a staple of The Belcourt's lobby. The goal, Cathcart and Third Man said in a statement last week, is "to provide a venue for marginalized cinema, past and present, unlike any other in our city."
"Doing films in the performance space here is something that's been on my mind to do for a some time, but I wasn't sure what direction it would take," says Third Man co-founder Ben Swank. "At Third Man we never want to do anything that other people are already doing well in town, so it needed to be something that was filling some sort of gap. The screening we did with [documentary filmmaker] Olivia Wyatt (Staring Into the Sun and The Pierced Heart & the Machete) a couple months ago was a kind of a bird down the mineshaft to see what kind of reception and attendance we could get here for something a little off the beaten path, and it was a pretty successful night for those two beautiful short experimental films."
Swank says he sought out Cathcart after reading a lengthy Scene interview he did with Ted Kotcheff, the director of the rediscovered 1971 cult movie Wake in Fright. "It really struck me that James needed to have a platform in Nashville to showcase his infinite knowledge of obscure and underappreciated films," Swank explains. "We met up, and he was really into it. He immediately helped change this from a 'what if?' sort of plan into something solid that we could enact relatively quickly." As for The Belcourt, he says, the indie arthouse was "immediately receptive as well, and has been incredibly supportive."
If the first night's programming indicates what to expect, the series dubbed The Light and Sound Machine is an instant remedy to Nashville's lack of a microcinema devoted to film's frontiers. The opening-night selection is Bad Fever, a 2012 feature that had critics heralding its writer-director Dustin Guy Defa as a talent to watch. In an unblinking character study that The New Yorker's Richard Brody said "makes The King of Comedy look like a comedy," rising indie star Kentucker Audley plays a deluded would-be comic whose monotonous existence is wrenched out of orbit by a drifter (Eleonore Hendricks) harboring her own warped dreams. Rounding out the bill is "The Black Balloon," a short parody of the French classic The Red Balloon by Ben and Joshua Safdie (Daddy Longlegs).
Both Defa and Audley, a rising actor-writer-director from Memphis who's part of the Lena Dunham-Greta Gerwig-Joe Swanberg-Mark Duplass-Andrew Bujalski indie-cinema axis, will attend the screening, and upcoming programs look just as promising. Future offerings include the Nashville premiere of The Unspeakable Act, the 2012 sibling drama by revered critic turned filmmaker Dan Sallitt. (Watch for an appearance by former Middle Tennessean and current New Yorker Sunita Mani.) As for repertory titles, Cathcart promises the first local screening we can remember of Perfumed Nightmare, Kidlat Tahimik's legendary 1977 Philippine magical-realist "transcultural meditation" on post-colonial cultures' uneasy relationship to the West. The screenings will take place on digital and 16mm, which will expand its offerings greatly, and Cathcart says that even though slots are extremely limited, he'll welcome submissions from local filmmakers.
The series begins this Thursday, Feb. 21, at the Third Man performance space, 623 Seventh Ave. S. Tickets are $10 and available at thirdmanstore.com; Belcourt members can purchase discounted $8 tickets through belcourt.org.
In 1923 the executive council of the American Federation of Labor issued an address to…
Higher Ground is a film drama director Vera Farmiga's film themed religious story of two…
Yeah, but what does Elena Chera think?
The New York Times is a fascinating story about disappointments, bankruptcy and trust of some…
Black Nativity film is a film adaptation of the Broadway style dance and music a…