Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Janus Films: Week Two

Posted By on Wed, Jan 10, 2007 at 12:26 PM

click to enlarge walkabout.jpg

Last week, when the Belcourt launched its two-month "50 Years of Janus Films" series, I expected to see the same two-dozen people at every screening. Not so. I keep meeting people I've never seen at the theater before—like Kirk Loggins, somebody I read for years when he was covering courts for the Tennessean, who's been there at least two of the nights I've gone. And the audiences seem to get broader by the day: a large group of high-school kids at The Rules of the Game, a couple on a date who sat kissing and sniffling at the end of Sansho the Bailiff. Everybody hangs out in the lobby afterward, so it's fun just to stand around and find out what everyone has seen.

Lots of good stuff this week as the series enters Week Two. Tonight is Andy van Roon from FilmNashville introducing Roman Polanski's excellent Knife in the Water at 7:30 p.m. Tomorrow night (Thursday) is your last chance to catch Max Ophuls' sublime The Earrings of Madame de.... And here's the rest of the week, in blurbs from the print edition that don't run online: Death of a Cyclist (through Jan. 14) In Juan Antonio Bardem's once controversial 1955 feature, a neorealist melodrama skewering the callousness and hypocrisy of Franco's Spain, an adulterous upper-class couple (Alberto Closas and Lucia Bose) flees the scene of an accident, only to be wracked by guilt and blackmail as the hit-and-run murder festers. Director Bardem, uncle of actor Javier Bardem, was a political enemy of Franco who helped launch the "estetica franquista" movement as a kind of satirical resistance; the dictator returned the favor by jailing him. In Spanish with English subtitles. Note: The 9:15 show Friday, Jan. 12, will be introduced by cinephile James Wilson.

The Lady Vanishes (Jan. 12-14) Alfred Hitchcock's 1938 comic thriller was one of his biggest early successes, and it remains devious fun. A passenger train traveling through mythical Bandrika has stopped at a remote Tyrolean inn. When everyone gets back on board, one person isn't accounted for: kindly governess Miss Froy (Dame May Whitty). The other passengers claim never to have seen her—but once socialite Margaret Lockwood and scholar Michael Redgrave start investigating, they uncover a web of treachery and treason. With Paul Lukas, Cecil Parker, and Naunton Wayne and Basil Radford as the nattering cricket enthusiasts, who were so popular together they went on to several more movies (including the golfing segment in the horror anthology Dead of Night). Note: Peter Neff, a Nashville filmmaker whose feature-length documentary Hitchcock and Art explores the recent Hitch tribute at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, introduces the 7:30 show Jan. 12.

Walkabout (Jan. 13-15; pictured above) A haunting 1971 drama of adolescent awakening and cultural impasse, directed with near-mystical intensity by Nicolas Roeg (Don't Look Now) in one of his earliest and best films. In the Australian outback, two white children (Jenny Agutter and Luc Roeg, the director's son) are left for dead; they are befriended by an Aborigine boy (David Gulpilil) on his own solitary rite of passage in the barren scrub. Unable to speak a common language, the children and their companion form a tentative social unit as they move through desolate wilderness, and sexual tension develops between the adolescent sister and the boy. The ending is unforgettably bleak. Roeg did his own cinematography; the score is by John Barry, with music by Karlheinz Stockhausen. Note: The 7:30 p.m. screening Saturday, Jan. 13, will be introduced by Dean Shortland of the Nashville Australian Festival.

Black Orpheus (Jan. 14-18) An Oscar winner for best foreign film, Marcel Camus' splashy, boldly colorful 1959 musical drama updates the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice to Rio during Carnaval, with Orfeo (Breno Mello) now a streetcar driver who goes on an odyssey to find the doomed country girl Eurydice (American actress Marpessa Dawn) in Rio's bustling underworld. It was an international smash at the time, but its most lasting influence was introducing Brazil's bossa nova sound (via a soundtrack co-composed by Antonio Carlos Jobim) to U.S. audiences and jazz musicians. Cinematography by Jean Bourgoin, who also shot Orson Welles' bizarre 1955 thriller Mr. Arkadin (a.k.a. Confidential Report). In Portuguese with English subtitles.

Next week: Bergman, Bunuel, the movie that influenced Pan's Labyrinth—and the craziest film in the entire series.

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