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. It runs Friday to Friday as of this edition, a change from the previous Sunday-to-Sunday approach.


Local focus

The Brattle Theatre, always on point, kicks off its devilish “Vacation Nightmares” program with Brandon Cronenberg’s “Infinity Pool,” released this year, in which frustrated writer Alexander Skarsgård (“The Northman”) ventures to a resort island for inspiration and embeds with an adoring fan (scream queen Mia Goth, “X” and “Pearl”) and, as with any Cronenberg film – like dad’s 2022 “Crimes of the Future” – gets into bodily mutilation and grim alter-realities. The uncut version plays Friday through Monday. Also on the VRBO hell slate is Jacques Tati’s “Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday” (1953), in which Tati plays something of a Clouseau-like Luddite of ineptitude years before Sellers created his indelible detective character. The performance by Tati, who also directs, is near untouchable, and the best physical comedy onscreen since Chaplin. It plays Saturday and Sunday. Then comes Nobuhiko Obayashi’s trippy “Hausu” (1977), about a posse of schoolgirls who take a trip to a remote house and learn it’s haunted, also playing Saturday and Sunday.

Keeping with the “What could go wrong?” theme, it’s John Landis’ witty lycanthrope-abroad chiller bristling with sardonic wit, “An American Werewolf in London” (1981) on Saturday. For your Fourth of July (and Third of July) viewing it’s Steven Spielberg’s “Jaws” (1975), the film that minted the blockbuster concept and delivers some pretty deft performances from Richard Dreyfuss, Bond villain Robert Shaw and Roy Scheider as a Frick-and-Frack trio on a too-small boat trying trying to net The Meg of its era. On Wednesday, The Brattle fires up two eerie vacay getaways from Jordan Peele, “Get Out” (2017) and “Us” (2019). Helping closing out the I-should-have-done-a-staycation bill for the week is Maggie Gyllenhaal’s character-driven delve into self-reckoning and revelation, “The Lost Daughter” (2021), playing Thursday with powerful turns by Oscar winner Olivia Colman (“The Favourite”), Jessie Buckley (“I’m Thinking of Ending Things”) and Dakota Johnson (“Fifty Shades of Grey”). Also on the slate (on Monday) is, as you can imagine, a Hitchcock. No, it’s not “The Birds” (1963), but “The Man Who Knew Too Much” (1956) starring Doris Day and James Stewart as Americans in Morocco who sniff out an assassination plot. Many forget that the film was a remake of Hitchcock’s own 1934 version starring Peter Lorre that was set in Switzerland.


Continuing the warmup for Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer,” at the Landmark Kendall Square Cinema for its Wednesday filmmaker focus will be the director’s brilliant telescopic dovetail of hours, minutes and days (three varying timelines that converge in dark, cinematic poetry), “Dunkirk” (2017) about the famous seaside World War II rescue of the last British soldiers to pull out of France. The widescreen cinematography by Hoyte Van Hoytema, who also shot Nolan’s upcoming latest. The orchestration of time and place by Nolan is a wonder, and a fitting tribute to those who served and those who put their lives on the line to help save them. 


For the “Ozu 120: The Complete Ozu Yasujiro” this week at the Harvard Film Archive it’s “Walk Cheerfully” (1930), an early silent Ozu about a small-time gangster who tries to go straight for a woman of moral fortitude – but getting out of a life of crime is not that easy. It plays Saturday with Ozu’s first talkie, “The Only Son” (1936). On Friday, it’s a dovetailing of HFA programs (“Kinuyo Tanaka – Actress, Director, Pioneer” which ran at the HFA this year), with the actor in a encore screening of “The Munekata Sisters” (1950). (Tom Meek)


In theaters and streaming

‘Every Body’ (2023)

Close out Pride Month by learning what the “I” in LGBTQIA stands for. It’s intersex, a term for people with sex characteristics that cannot only be classified as either male or female. (For example, a person with a vagina may have undescended testes instead of a uterus.) The film looks at early mainstream ways to grapple with the “I,” beginning with Ozzie-and-Harriet-era sexologist John Money, a John Hopkins University doctor whose approach was to impose a single gender identity through surgery with advice to parents to never reveal their child’s ambiguous birth gender. After doctors followed Money’s protocol in treating David Reimer, an 8-month-old who lost his penis during circumcision, Money claimed that Reimer was a success and lived well as a girl. Long after Reimer debunked and denounced Money, doctors still encourage this kind of treatment. Director Julie Cohen interviews three intersex people – artist Sean Saifa Wall, political consultant Alicia Roth Weigel and actor and screenwriter River Gallo – about how they survived this and learned how to thrive. Cohen’s earlier esteemed films, “RBG” (2018) and “My Name is Pauli Murray” (2021), were collaborations with other writers and directors. Here Cohen goes solo from jubilant opening credits featuring a montage of over-the-top gender reveal home videos to playful closing credits acknowledging the people behind the camera using their preferred pronouns. The documentary’s innate human-interest angle saves it from pacing problems when Cohen inserts massive uninterrupted chunks from a “Dateline” episode featuring interviews with Reimer, which has the effect of shifting the focus from the trio. It is still a powerful film that proves gender is not binary. (Sarah G. Vincent) At Landmark Kendall Square Cinema, 355 Binney St., Kendall Square. 

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.