One of the biggest pleasures of the Janus Films series at the Belcourt has been hearing conversations pop up about the movies in unexpected places all over the city. At Monday's performance by the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra in Laura Turner Hall, former VU student publications advisor Jim Leeson was saying he liked the Spanish neorealist melodrama Death of a Cyclist
more than the arty Knife in the Water
. Jeremy at the Starbucks drive-through on West End said he was holding onto his passbook for the Bergman and Truffaut movies. And I gave away the last of my passes at the Melrose Kroger to someone who saw my Janus Films shirt and said he'd heard about the movies. Can't wait to see where they turn up next.
After the jump, blurbs about this week's entries from the print edition, not available elsewhere online—along with a publicity still that will blow your mind.
(Jan. 20-21) The Seventh Seal
, Wild Strawberries
and Cries and Whispers
may have a larger place in film history, but this early (1953) drama by Ingmar Bergman was for decades the director's most-seen work in the United States—thanks mainly to the efforts of exploitation-film veteran Kroger Babb, who cut it by more than a half-hour, added a Les Baxter score and English dubbing, and sold it under the title Monika, the Story of a Bad Girl
with a press kit that played up star Harriet Andersson's startling nude scenes. Andersson (whose sexy stills became pin-up objects—the young Antoine Doinel gazes at one in The 400 Blows
) plays a 17-year-old girl who runs off for a summer idyll with her 19-year-old boyfriend (Lars Ekborg), which gives way to deadly domesticity once they decide to get married and return to the city. If you find Bergman's name synonymous with heavily symbolic arthouse tedium, as it seems to be with most viewers now, see this for a pleasant surprise. In Swedish with English subtitles. WR: Mysteries of the Organism
(Jan. 20-21; pictured above) Zigzagging furiously from documentary to sketch comedy, from found footage to fiction, and from hardcore shagging to agitprop tomfoolery, this experimental 1971 feature by Yugoslavian upstart Dusan Makavejev (Sweet Movie
) is by turns hilarious, exhausting, bewildering and shocking—but there's never a single moment where you'll see what's coming next. "WR" is Wilhelm Reich, the Austrian psychoanalyst whose theories on the cosmic properties of human sexual energy got him branded as a crackpot in America and made him a target for federal agents and prosecutors. Makavejev interviews Reich's children and colleagues, even the barbershop owner in his adopted hometown, but he sets up the documentary just to puncture it with the free-loving exploits of two Yugoslavian women (Milena Dravic and Jagoda Kaloper) whose attempts at liberation in the oppressive Communist bloc hold up a funhouse mirror to Reich's sojourn in the States. Yet that's far too linear a description of Makavejev's manic, disruptive Godardian bombardment, which intercuts Fugs singer Tuli Kupferberg ("Kill for Peace") loose on the streets of New York in fatigues, jacking off a toy gun; ludicrous clips from a state-sanctioned Stalin biopic, in which Fearless Leader befriends small children and stares like a stone head into the heavens; and orgasmic therapy sessions and a plaster-casting of Screw
editor Jim Buckley's cock. (The rating is a well-earned NC-17.) Dogma is the ultimate anti-aphrodisiac: Makavejev counters its blockage of human feeling with filmmaking that spews freedom in every direction. If you're at all curious, go. In English and Serbo-Croatian with English subtitles.Viridiana
(Jan. 20-23) Invited back to Spain, under Franco's rule, after decades abroad in Hollywood and Mexico, Luis Bunuel responded by making this exploding cigar of a movie in 1961 on the ruler's dime—an attack on Catholic piety and imposed bleeding-heart charity that infuriated the Generalissimo's supporters and sent the Catholic hierarchy into sputtering apoplexy. In other words: mission accomplished. Silvia Pinal is the virginal convent student who goes to stay at the estate of her lecherous uncle (Fernando Rey), who sees the girl as the double of his late wife. In short order, he convinces her to put on the dead woman's wedding dress and asks her to marry him; when that fails, he drugs her and tells her (falsely) that he molested her in her sleep. When the girl ends up with her uncle's largesse, she begins paving a road to hell with good intentions, starting with the local beggars. Bunuel's touch is ironic and sure, and as critic Michael Wood points out, the director later said in his autobiography that Franco himself wasn't all that upset: "To tell the truth, after all he had seen, the film must have seemed very innocent to him." In Spanish with English subtitles. Note: Paul Young, director of film studies at Vanderbilt, will introduce the 7:30 p.m. screening Saturday, Jan. 20.The Spirit of the Beehive
(Jan. 22-25.) One of the most acclaimed films of the 1970s, Victor Erice's 1973 debut concerns two girls in 1940s Spain who become obsessed with the Frankenstein monster and the meaning of mortality after they see the 1931 Frankenstein at a traveling picture show. In an amazing stroke of fortune, this will be playing the same week as the excellent fantasy Pan's Labyrinth
, which writer-director Guillermo del Toro says was heavily influenced by Erice's film. In the Scene
's film section this week, del Toro talks to Noel Murray about his love of the movie
, which he compares to The Night of the Hunter
. In Spanish with English subtitles. Note: Film critic Jason Shawhan will introduce the 7:30 p.m. screening Monday, Jan. 22.