special screenings Articles
Genre: Sci-Fi / Comedy-Drama
Director: Chris Marker / John Hellberg
Starring: Davos Hanich, Hélène Chatelain, Jacques Ledoux / Stepháne Bertola, Gunnar Ernblad, Marienette DahlinIn Brief: Chris Marker's La Jetée (1962) has been shown by World Cinema before, so the real story here is the screening of this year's winner for Best Short Film at Twin Rivers Media Festival, John Hellberg's Mousse. This is a charming and quirky, fairly long (40 minutes) short that details a robbery gone wrong in ways that can scarcely be imagined. It's all about what happens when a Frenchman named Mousse holds up a Swedish betting parlor on the biggest racing day of the year. He also happens upon the most conspicuously odd hostages he could hope for, an incredibly geriatric police force and a compatriot so drunk that he might be dead. Clever, amusing, well-made and more than a little surprising.
Genre: Horror Mystery
Director: Harold Young (The Mummy's Tomb) / William Nigh (Black Dragons)
Starring: Lon Chaney, Jr., Evelyn Ankers, Milburn Stone / Bela Lugosi, Wallace Ford, Arline JudgeIn Brief: It's finally the makeup showing of the canceled The Frozen Ghost (1945) starring Lon Chaney, Jr. in one of his better Inner Sanctum mysteries. This time it's paired with the full-tilt nonsense of the delightfully silly Mysterious Mr. Wong starring Bela Lugosi in the title role, Mr. Wong — a criminal mastermind matching wits against wisecracking reporter Wallace Ford (professional wisecracking reporter portrayer). It rarely makes good sense and even feels like a serial stuffed into a 60-minute movie, but it provides no end of bizarre entertainment with the most anticlimactic ending ever.
Genre: Hyper-Stylized Musical
Director: Baz Luhrmann
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor, John Leguizamo, Jim Broadbent, Richard RoxburghIn Brief: If you've only ever seen Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge! (2001) on a TV screen, you really haven't seen Moulin Rouge! at all. This is a movie that needs to be seen in a theater on the biggest screen possible — and that's just what the Asheville Film Society is offering with this month's Big Screen Budget title: a theatrical event from a brand new digital cinema print. Luhrmann's musical vision of Bohemian Paris in 1899 is an all-consuming audio-visual spectacular that requires size to really work. This revitalization of the musical genre is one of the most stunning and remarkable films of the first decade of the 21st century — at once revolutionary and with a keen sense of film and pop culture history. Here is a chance to see it as it was envisioned.
Director: H.C. Potter (The Farmer's Daughter)
Starring: Cary Grant, Myrna Loy, Melvyn Douglas, Reginald Denny, Louise BeaversIn Brief: While it may be faulted for being the film that domesticated Cary Grant — and that it owes a lot to George Washington Slept Here — there's no denying that Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House is an entertaining picture with a cast that most movies would kill to have. It's the basic story of folks from the city meeting their match — and then some — when they try to escape the bustle of city life for country living. The script is witty and the performances spot on. Plus, Grant and Loy are almost as good a fit as Loy and William Powell were.
Director: Jack Conway (Too Hot to Handle)
Starring: Jean Harlow, William Powell, Myrna Loy, Spencer Tracy, Walter ConnollyIn Brief: Sophisticated comedy with Myrna Loy as the rich society girl who sues a newspaper for libel, Spencer Tracy as the beleagured managing editor, William Powell as a sharp former reporter who knows all the angles and Jean Harlow as Tracy's long-suffering fiancée. The plan is that Powell will marry Harlow, then seduce Loy and destroy her case. It's all the sort of thing that could only happen in the make-believe world of the movies, but that's exactly why it works so well and remains fresh and funny almost 80 years later.
Director: Jacques Tati
Starring: Jacques Tati, Maria Kimberly, Marcel Fraval, Honoré Bostel, François MaisongrosseIn Brief: Jacques Tati's final theatrical film — and the swan song for his Monsieur Hulot character — is a strange affair in that Tati the performer takes a definite backseat to Tati the director. The results are a mixed bag, but a likable one. The plot is nothing more than having M. Hulot transport his fantasticated "camping car" from Paris to a car show in Amsterdam— and though Hulot is rarely the cause of the trouble this time, things do not go smoothly. Rarely hysterically funny, the film is instead mostly pleasantly goofy.
Director: Mikael Buch
Starring: Nicholas Maury, Carmen Maura, Jean-François Stévenin, Amira CasarIn Brief: Wild — but warm and winning — comedy invades the Asheville Jewish Film Festival with Let My People Go!. It's all about Ruben, an awkward young gay Jewish Frenchman living with his boyfriend in Finland. When the two have a falling out, Ruben has no choice but to run back to his eccentric family in Paris. Very unpredictable — and funny — events await him there, along with more than a few revelations about his family in the bargain. As a bonus, Pedro Almodóvar's former muse Carmen Maura co-stars as Ruben's mother.
Genre: Horror Fantasy
Director: Archie Mayo (The Doorway to Hell)
Starring: John Barrymore, Marian Marsh, Donald Crisp, Bramwell Flectcher, Luis Alberni, Carmel MyersIn Brief: One of the most stylish and effective of all early horror talkies, Svengali is a perfect blend of atmosphere, writing and a towering performance by star John Barrymore in one of his two or three best performances. The story, taken from George du Maurier's 1894 novel Trilby, had already been filmed a half-dozen times as a silent, but this was to become the definitive version of the tale of the lovestruck musical genius Svengali (Barrymore) who transforms the unresponsive object of his affections, Trilby (Marian Marsh), into a great opera singer by hypnosis. By turns horrific, darkly funny and even moving.
Director: George Archainbaud (Penguin Pool Murder)
Starring: John Barrymore, Helen Twelvetrees, William "Stage" Boyd, Jill Esmond, Mary DuncanIn Brief: John Barrymore (in a sometimes debatable state of sobriety) stars as a sharp lawyer, whose political ambitions put him at odds with his old pal, gangster Vanny Powers (William "Stage" Boyd). Enjoyable pre-code drama (makes no bones about Helen Twelvetrees' profession or the fact that she and Barrymore are living together without benefit of clergy) that's slickly made entertainment, but that depends almost entirely on the always fascinating Barrymore performance.
Genre: Political Comedy Drama
Director: Jean-Luc Godard, Jean-Pierre Gorin
Starring: Yves Montand, Jane Fonda, Vittorio Caprioli, Elizabeth Chauvin, Castel CastiIn Brief: Jean-Luc Godard's Tout Va Bien may be the single best representation of the filmmaker's work in that it's brilliant, stupid, fascinating, boring, compelling and infuriating at the same time. That strikes me as a perfect summation of the many faces of Godard packed into one movie. What the film is about is hard to say. It's partly about making a film, partly about the malaise following the riots of 1968, partly an examination of the relationship of the world's most uninteresting characters. It's also probably about other things, but you might have to be Godard to say what.
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