Monday, June 24, 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

This week at The Brattle Theatre marks a loving embrace for Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto, who passed away this year. The celebration (Friday through Sunday) kicks off with a double bill of “Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence” (1983), in which Sakamoto also plays the commander of a World War II Japanese prisoner-of-war camp obsessed with David Bowie’s aloof, imprisoned Brit; and Bernardo Bertolucci’s lush epic chronicling the last emperor of China (played by John Lone), “The Last Emperor” (1987), shot by the great Vittorio Storaro. The film cleaned up at the Oscars, winning nine awards including Best Picture, direction, for Storaro’s framing and one for Sakamoto for the score he composed with David Byrne and Cong Su. On Sunday it’s another collaboration with Bertolucci and Storaro, with the visually stunning adaptation of Paul Bowles’ “The Sheltering Sky” starring John Malkovich and Debra Winger as Americans on a soul-searching quest through North Africa to try to repair their marriage. Others on the slate include the 1990 film version of Margaret Atwood’s futuristic vision of Boston, “The Handmaid’s Tale,” starring Natasha Richardson and Robert Duvall, on Monday; the documentary “Derrida” (2002), about deconstructionist Jacques Derrida on Tuesday, along with “Love Is the Devil: Study for a Portrait of Francis Bacon” (1998) starring Daniel Craig, Derek Jacobi and Tilda Swinton in a love triangle driven by crime; and “Tony Takitani” (2005), Wednesday, alongside Brian de Palma’s 1998 casino crime caper “Snake Eyes” starring Nicolas Cage and Gary Sinise. Closing out the Sakamoto program is the area premiere of the documentary “Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda,” which follows the composer’s return to filmmaking after a diagnosis of cancer; and one of his last feature film efforts, “The Revenant” (2016), directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu (“Birdman,” “Babel”) and starring Leonardo DiCaprio as a fur trapper mauled by a bear, left for dead and seeking revenge. DiCaprio and Iñárritu won Oscars, as well as cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki.

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For some outdoor summer screening fun, it’s the great did-he-really-do-that-stunt extravaganza “Safety Last!” (1923), with the irrepressible Harold Lloyd hanging from a clock face some 30 stories up. The screening of the silent classic will take place at Starlight Square, 84 Bishop Allen Drive, Central Square, with a live musical accompaniment by renowned silent film composer and historian Ben Model. Information is here.

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The final “Harrison Ford’s … Other Films!” Retro Replay at the Landmark Kendall Square Cinema this Tuesday is the 1994 espionage thriller “Clear and Present Danger,” with Ford in his second go as Tom Clancy’s CIA analyst, Jack Ryan (the other was “Patriot Games,” as Ford took over the role from Alec Baldwin, who played Ryan in “The Hunt for Red October”). This time Jack’s down in Colombia to uncover a drug cartel scheme that has rippling political implications back home. (Others to play Ryan include Chris Pine, Ben Affleck and John Krasinski.) And continuing to warm up for Christopher Nolan’s hotly anticipated “Oppenheimer,” the theater’s ongoing Wednesday filmmaker focus will be the director’s second of his “Batman” reboot trilogy, “The Dark Knight” (2008) with Christian Bale donning the cowl (which Affleck and Michael Keaton do in the recently released “The Flash”). Nolan’s retooling resonated with audiences, but the film remains best known for Heath Ledger’s embodied last performance as Joker, for which he won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor posthumously.

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Following the summer solstice and official start of the season this week at the Somerville Theatre, it’s an elongated run of Robin Hardy’s cult classic “The Wicker Man” (1973) about a religiously devout detective (Edward Woodward of “Breaker Morant” and TV’s “The Equalizer”) who is lured by a letter to a Scottish isle to search for a missing girl. What he encounters is quirk, Wiccan ritual, naked moonlight cavorting and far more sinister rites. The 4K restoration run (Friday and onward) marks the 50th anniversary of a film that rebranded the very definition of cult and practically launched the concept of art house horror. The cast features Bond girl Britt Ekland (“Get Carter”) and horror legend Christopher Lee, who would star again with Ekland the next year in her Bond turn in “The Man with the Golden Gun.” The film was remade in 2006 by Neil LaBute (“In the Company of Men”) with Nicolas Cage in the Woodward part; it was a commercial and critical bomb. About the closest anyone’s come to replicating Hardy’s wonder may be “Midsommar” (2019), Ari Aster’s nasty rites-of-spring sojourn to Lapland.

Sprinkled in this week as part of the rolling 70mm and WideScreen Fest is the uproarious Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney romp “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” (1963) on Saturday and Sunday.

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“Ozu 120: the Complete Ozu Yasujiro” continues this week at the Harvard Film Archive with “Early Spring” (1956), which follows a bored, married brick factory employee (Ryō Ikebe) who begins an affair with a fellow worker (Keiko Kishi). The film, which plays Monday, marks Ozu’s longest and his penultimate black-and-white effort. (Don’t confuse it with “Late Spring” (1949), which is part of the Noriko trilogy along with “Early Summer” (1951) and “Tokyo Story” (1953) and an entirely different examination of loneliness in postwar Japan.) Further detailing marital difficulties is Friday’s “The Flavor of Green Tea over Rice” (1952). “Record of a Tenement Gentleman” (1947), Ozu’s first postwar film, follows the difficulties of those living in a bombed-out district trying to remain socioeconomically viable. It plays Saturday with “The Munekata Sisters” (1950), another examination of a marriage in disarray (unemployment and a bad drinking habit will do that). And on Sunday it’s “There Was a Father” (1942), Ozu’s last film before the war, about a schoolteacher (longtime collaborator Chishū Ryū) who blames himself for the accidental drowning of a student on a class trip. Also playing Sunday is “A Hen in the Wind” (1948), about a husband returning from the war (Shūji Sano) only to find out that his wife (Kinuyo Tanaka) had to resort to prostitution to keep the family afloat.whitespace

“Doc West Moves” by Federico Muchnik.

And as part of the Roxbury International Film Festival, a hybrid event that celebrates films by and about people of color, Cambridge filmmaker Federico Muchnik exhibits his short “Doc West Moves” as part of the “Artists in their Own Words” package. It’s available to stream Wednesday. As implied, the film is about the titular Cambridge resident Lewis “Doc” West, a blind, elderly jazz musician in the process of relocating. The festival runs through July 2.


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.