Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Film Ahead is a weekly column highlighting special events and repertory programming for the discerning Camberville filmgoer. It also includes capsule reviews of films that are not feature reviewed. 

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Local focus

Lots going on at The Brattle Theatre this week, where the Boston Underground Film Festival wraps up. Out of the gate is an early sneak of the Ben Affleck-directed pic “Air” (review forthcoming) about the rise of Nike sneakers in the late ’80s, when the company pursued Michael Jordan as the face of its product. The incredible cast includes “Good Will Hunting” (1997) co-star and co-scripter. Matt Damon, Oscar winner Viola Davis as Jordan’s dutiful mom, weaselly “Ozark” nebbish Jason Bateman and Chris Messina in a breakout performance as Jordan’s easily triggered agent. The film contains some deft dialogue and quite a few nicely packed Cambridge references and plays Tuesday. Its free tickets went fast.

Also on the week’s slate is a tribute to songwriter and composer Burt Bacharach, who recently died, with four classics he contributed to that begin with the ’60s comedy romp “What’s New Pussycat?!” (1965) on Monday. The ensemble is a who’s who of the era, including Peter O’Toole (“Lawrence of Arabia”), Mr. “Pink Panther” Peter Sellers, who’s in three of the four, Romy Schneider, Capucine, Paula Prentiss, inaugural Bond babe Ursula Andress and Woody Allen. On Wednesday, it’s the Italian crime caper curio “After the Fox” (1966) directed by Vittorio De Sica (“Bicycle Thieves”) and starring Peter Sellers (again) with Britt Ekland, Martin Balsam, Victor Mature and Akim Tamiroff. Also on Wednesday is that third Sellers pairing (and the second with Andress and Allen), the messy, screwball James Bond goof “Casino Royal” (1967) with cinematic royalty David Niven, Deborah Kerr, John Huston, Orson Welles, Charles Boyer and William Holden in the mix. Rounding out the Bacharach remembrance Thursday is the Academy Award-winning pairing of Newman and Redford in the true-crime western drama “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” (1969), which launched a film festival and won Bacharach Oscars for score and song, the B.J. Thomas-sung “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head.” It makes no senes to have a ’60s folk tune in a Western, yet enter the bike as the invention of tomorrow and Katherine Ross as Newman’s pedaling co-pilot and it’s sheer Hollywood magic. 

And for “(Almost) April Fool’s Day,” The Brattle cues up the “Venom” films starring versatile actor Tom Hardy (“Dunkirk,” “Locke”), who stars as a down-on-his luck reporter with a mercurial alien symbiote that takes him over “Hulk”-style every now and then. The Friday slate includes the 2018 first chapter and 2021 follow-up “Venom: Let There Be Carnage,” directed by motion-capture performer extraordinaire Andy Serkis (Gollum in “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy). Both co-star Michelle Williams (“The Fabelmans”) and Woody Harrelson (“Natural Born Killers”).

The Wicked Queer Film Fest – about all things LGBTQIA+ – sets up Saturday for an eight-day run. Opening weekend highlights include Scud’s graphic, semi-supernatural sexual sojourn, “Body Shop,” Cláudia Varejão’s “Wolf and Dog,” Anna Emma Haudal’s coming-of-age lesbian romance “The Venus Effect” and the festival’s centerpiece presentation, “Will-o’-the-Wisp,” about a dying “king” reflecting on childhood dreams and the men he loved. 

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The Belmont World Film Festival kicks off its 21st season, themed “Complicated Identities,” at the Apple Cinema at Fresh Pond. It begins Monday with the Japanese crime drama “A Man,” directed by Kei Ishikawa from Keiichiro Hirano’s novel about a former client who asks her lawyer to investigate her late husband’s past. The screenings take place Mondays through April 15 with discussions led by expert guest speakers. Upcoming films feature international stars Catherine Deneuve, Cecile de France and Daniel Auteuil, to name a few.

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The Tuesday Retro Replays series of “Seeing Doubles: Welles and Lean” at the Landmark Kendall Square Theatre concludes with Lean’s classic saga and romance “Doctor Zhivago” (1968), set against the Russian revolution with the perfect pairing of Omar Sharif and Julie Christie as the doc and the object of his desire. Geraldine Chaplin and Rod Steiger – the lover of Christie’s mother and hers too – round out the cast in a very complicated web of relations amid a turbulent time in history. 

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Winding down its “Remapping Latin America Cinema: Chilean Film/Video 1963-2013,” the Harvard Film Archive shows Andrés Di Tella’s film-in-progress “Diaries” on Monday with the director on hand to talk about recording lives through the lens. On Friday the HFA brings in Rwandan film maker Kivu Ruhorahoza (“Grey Matter”) to screen his latest, “Father’s Day,” an interweaving of three tales about sons and fathers. Ruhorahoza’s appearance is part of a McMillan-Stewart Fellowship that supports African filmmakers. The HFA also launches its “Med Hondo and the Indocile Image” program featuring works by the avant-garde African filmmaker with “Soleil O” (1967), Hondo’s debut feature about the chasm between white and Black in Paris, playing Saturday. And before there was “The Woman King,” there was Hondo’s “Sarraounia” (1986) about a young queen who leads tribes of Niger against French colonialist forces. It play with Hondo’s shorter work “Ballade aux sources” (1965) on April 2. (Tom Meek)

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In theaters and streaming

‘The Recall: Reframed’ (2022)

Harvard Law School lecturer and director Rebecca Richman Cohen’s short documentary examines the justice system via the trial of Brock Turner, who was found guilty of three felonies for sexually assaulting an unconscious Chanel Miller behind a dumpster. Prosecutor Alaleh Kianerci pushed for a six-year sentence out of a maximum 14, but on June 2, 2016, California’s Santa Clara County Superior Court judge Aaron Persky ordered a six-month jail sentence and three years of probation. Days later, Persky was reelected. The California Commission on Judicial Performance looked into the sentencing and found no improprieties, but a Recall Judge Persky organization was formed out of the outrage and submitted 94,539 signatures – more than required – to the Registrar of Voters to put a recall on the June 5, 2018, ballot, and county residents voted Persky out. Cohen’s lens frames the recall as a threat to judicial independence, and the documentary feels like an infomercial to rehabilitate Persky. The film proposes that Brock’s sentence was fair, chastises media for riling people up and critiques feminists for not interrogating the inconsistencies in their advocacy for restorative justice except for sexual offenders. If Persky is above criticism because he acted within a legal framework, the film should have reconciled why the recall election and sentencing guidelines should not get the same treatment. Cohen fails to refer to “The New Jim Crow” while discussing sentencing’s systemic bias and needs to go back to the editing room. (Sarah Vincent) On Peacock.

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‘Salvatore: Shoemaker of Dreams’ (2020)

Fans who could not stomach “Bones and All” (2022) have a second chance to enjoy some recent Luca Guadagnino. Returning to his roots – Italy and feature-length documentaries – the auteur adapts “Shoemaker of Dreams: The Autobiography of Salvatore Ferragamo,” which chronicles Ferragamo’s humble roots in Bonito, Italy, the foundation of his fortune at Hollywood film studios and the establishment of his international fashion house’s headquarters in Florence. The film is best when hearing Ferragamo, who died in 1960, tell his own story through archived audio and home movies. Frequent Guadagnino thespian Michael Stuhlbarg stands in as Ferragamo’s voice when needed. Interviews from 2018 of Ferragamo’s surviving family, all expert raconteurs, are shot in a visual style reminiscent of Guadagnino’s luxurious drama “I Am Love” (2009). Even as a boy, Ferragamo was obsessed with feet. His immigration to the United States included a stop at a Boston shoe factory, which he considered “far below the standard that I had set for myself.” Some movie missteps are musings from talking-head historians, Martin Scorsese riffing on the immigrant experience and various accolades from fashion icons such as red-bottom shoemaker Christian Louboutin, Manolo “Sex and the City” Blahnik and former creative director Vogue’s Grace Coddington. For viewers who cannot imagine a sole reason for watching, a huge section is devoted to the silent film era, with a closing animated sequence of Ferragamo’s shoes reminiscent of a Busby Berkeley chorus girl musical production. A nice parallel touch is the opening credits, shining the spotlight on the artisans behind Ferragamo’s present production. (Sarah Vincent) On Amazon Prime Video.


Cambridge writer Tom Meek’s reviews, essays, short stories and articles have appeared in WBUR’s The ARTery, The Boston Phoenix, The Boston Globe, The Rumpus, The Charleston City Paper and SLAB literary journal. Tom is also a member of the Boston Society of Film Critics and rides his bike everywhere.

This post was updated March 28, 2023, to correct the identification of Chanel Miller.