Sunday, July 21, 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. 


Local focus

The “Reunion Week” program at The Brattle Theatre continues this week with screenings of Billy Wilder’s “A Foreign Affair” (1948, 75th anniversary) and Michael Powell’s “The Red Shoes” (also 1948 and 75th) on Monday. Then on Tuesday it’s a free screening of the trippy animated sci-fi flick “Fantastic Planet” (1973, 50th) as part of the ongoing unticketed Elements of Cinema program. Hard to believe that Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda (“Shoplifters,” “Nobody Knows”) is notching a 25th-year milestone, but he is with “After Life” (1998), which as the title promises, wrestles with the next stage of human existence when it also plays Tuesday. Wednesday brings two 25th year reunion/anniversary films presented with “Strictly Brohibited,” a group promoting women, trans and nonbinary cinema: “Love and Anarchy” (1973) about a farmer’s mission to kill Mussolini, directed by Lina Wertmüller (“Seven Beauties”); and Lisa Cholodenko’s “High Art” (1998) an ethereal contemplation on sexuality and identity that put brat packer Alley Sheedy in a new light. Normally cisgender men are not invited to Brohibited-sponsored events (which are generally private), but for these, all are invited. A hosted conversation will follow each. Patricia Clarkson and Radha Mitchell co-star. Closing out the “Reunion” program Thursday is Djibril Diop Mambéty’s “Touki Bouki” (1973) and Tom Tykwer’s time-rewinding thriller, “Run Lola, Run” (1998).

Beginning Friday are two extended runs of the newly restored poke at the French bourgeois, “The Rules of the Game” (1939), directed by cinematic giant Jean Renoir (“The Grand Illusion,” “The River”) and the “late night” horror curio set on the Cornish Coast, “Enys Men” (2022).


The “May’d Men: Scorsese & De Niro” Retro Replay at the Landmark Kendall Square Theatre wraps up Tuesday with “Casino” (1995), starring De Niro as a casino honcho beholden to the mob, Sharon Stone as his hot-tempered wife and Scorsese regular Joe Pesci as the lethal mob enforcer in the mix. Co-written by Nicholas Pileggi, who collaborated with Scorsese on “Goodfellas” (1990), “Casino” is based loosely on the life of Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal, who came to infamy during the rise of casinos in the Las Vegas desert. Stone, so fiery and fully on in her portrayal, would be the only one nominated for an Academy Award. On deck for June’s Retro Replays are Harrison Ford films, though not “Star Wars” or Indiana Jones. 


The ongoing “Fuck the Nazis” program at the Somerville Theatre rolls on this week with Burt Lancaster in the Nazi art heist and locomotive thriller “The Train” (1964), directed by John Frankenheimer (“The Manchurian Candidate,” “Dead Bang”). It’s Lancaster again in “Judgment at Nuremberg” (1961), with a phenomenal ensemble that includes Spencer Tracy, Marlene Dietrich, Judy Garland, Montgomery Clift and William Shatner. The pair play Wednesday. Then it’s on to a Two-for-Thursdays double play of pre-“Jaws” (1975) works of Steven Spielberg: Dennis Weaver (“McCloud,” “Gentle Ben”) in the the maestro’s road-rage college thesis, “Duel” (1971), and Goldie Hawn as a wife out to free her husband from prison and reunite with their son in “The Sugarland Express” (1974). Then, as part of the ongoing 70mm and Widescreen Fest (Friday to Sunday) it’s Stanley Kubrick’s classic futuristic collaboration with sci-fi novelist Arthur C. Clarke on “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1969). With all our ChatGPT and other AI bots, the benevolently manipulative HAL has even more relevance as a warning sign. (Tom Meek)


In theaters and streaming

‘Love to Love You, Donna Summer’ (2023)

The 1970s queen of the airwaves who bridged disco and soul gets a loving embrace by filmmakers Brooklyn Sudano and Roger Ross Williams. Sudano, Summer’s daughter, brings a lot of unseen family footage to the project, while Williams, the 2010 Best Documentary Short winner, lends a veteran hand in recapping the star’s improbable rise, racial-barrier pushing and domestic woes. There are clips of Summer performing her hits “She Works Hard for the Money” (the first video on MTV starring a Black woman) and “Love to Love You Baby,” but mostly it’s old, bled-out footage. The insights into Summer as a mother and person come from Sudano, and the film reveals Summer’s regular, unhealthy involvement with controlling men. What seems to get missed is the context of Summer’s rocket to stardom and her collective power and influence across decades (she died in 2012 from lung cancer). The film begins with the idea that “a talented Black woman from Boston had to go to Germany to become a star,” but changes the lens to become more of a daughter’s touchingly tender collage. The film does deal with later life matters for Summer, including her faith and her inflaming of the gay community during the AIDs crisis. (Tom Meek) On Hulu and Max.


‘Influencer’ (2022)

Director and co-writer Kurtis David Harder (“Summerland”) creates a lush and gorgeous film that will make his audience want to jump into the screen and join the characters regardless of the looming danger. California gal and social media maven Madison (Emily Tennant) lives the glamorous Instagram life, vacationing at a sumptuous Thai resort. She can’t live without her smartphone and is in a bit of snit because Ryan (Rory J Saper), her British boyfriend and promoter, is a no-show after promising to join her. Another American traveler, CW, (Cassandra Naud) prefers life outside the spotlight and shows Madison the sights off the tourist path until an itinerary change reveals CW’s sociopathic modus operandi: She targets solo women travelers with big social media followings. In texture, “Influencer” has ambient elements of Michael Mann’s “Manhunter” (1986), as well as Brian De Palma’s motif of scrutinizing a filmed image obsessively to uncover the mystery underneath. Harder does a decent job of raising the stakes as CW scrambles to counter increasing complications in ensnaring Madison. Naud gives off an Aubrey Plaza vibe in this edgy psychological thriller that pulls fewer punches than arthouse fave “Ingrid Goes West” (2017), which also explored online culture’s effect on identity and relationships IRL. (Sarah Vincent) On AMC+ and Shudder. 


‘Being Mary Tyler Moore’ (2023)

James Adolphus’ portrait of the 1970s sitcom star is a tender love letter to Moore’s comic genius and the social boundaries she quietly pushed. The challenges she faced were more than you’d expect, and sometimes personally induced. The doc is written by Oscar-winner James L. Brooks (“As Good as it Gets,” “Broadcast News”) and other “Mary Tyler Moore Show” alums, making for an insider’s view of a star who passed away just before Covid and an aptly respectful one that puts Moore up there as an early icon of feminism alongside Gloria Steinem and Marlo Thomas. (Whose dad brokered Mary’s big break on “The Dick Van Dyke Show.”) The film also reminds us of the golden era of TV (hello, Norman Lear), when writing and social limits were pushed within “Ozzie and Harriet” frameworks. Moore won seven Emmys and was nominated for an Academy Award for her portrait as a flawed mother in the Robert Redford-directed Oscar-winner “Ordinary People” (1980), and Redford is one of the many voices chiming in here. Like another recent bio-doc, “Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie,” “Being” employs a bevy of TV and film clips; the difference here is that they’re full five-minute scenes, which nearly compels the watcher to drop out and go to Hulu or the like to see the full episode. The power of Moore’s legacy comes through her in her own words. The adulations and framings don’t feel up to her game, and game she was. (Tom Meek) On Max.

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.