Sunday, June 16, 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.

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Local focus

This week The Brattle Theatre hosts a few centennial fetes, but first comes the area premiere run of Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel’s anatomy-class documentary “De Humani Corporis Fabrica,” which takes an in-depth and super-up-close view of medical care in several Parisian hospitals.

As far as those centennials go, it’s 100 years of Warner Brothers with paired screenings of Ernst Lubitsch’s “So This is Paris” (1926) with cool canine Rin Tin Tin in “Clash of the Wolves” (1925) on Monday, and James Cagney, the original baby faced gangster, with Jean Harlow and Joan Blondell in “The Public Enemy” (1931) on a Tuesday double bill with “Blonde Crazy” (also 1931 and also with Cagney and Blondell). On Wednesday it’s the 100-year celebration of Dede Allen. Who, you might ask? Before there was Thelma Schoonmaker, Scorsese’s ace editor who has been nominated eight times for the Best Editing Academy Award and won it three times (“Raging Bull,” “The Aviator” and Boston-set “The Departed”), there was Allen, who edited the pool hall classic “The Hustler” (1961) to which Scorsese made the 1986 sequel, “The Color of Money” that Schoonmaker edited, and the hardboiled crime thriller “Odds Against Tomorrow” (1959). The films play as a double feature. The first woman to win the Best Film Editing Oscar was Anne Bauchens for “North West Mounted Police” (1940).

Backing up, for Bastille Day (running Friday thru Sunday) it’s Jean-Luc Godard’s “Weekend” (1967), a grim yet trippy off-the-parents-for-money plot that begins with a massive, existential traffic jam that may be too hauntingly reflective of summer Cape traffic and all that the Sumner Tunnel shutdown is about to beset us with. And finally, on Thursday, it’s a sneak peek of brothers Danny and Michael Philippous’ chiller “Talk to Me,” about a cadre of friends who learn how to conjure evil entities from beyond.

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This Tuesday’s blockbuster Retro Replay at the Landmark Kendall Square Theatre is the original Harold Ramis-helmed “Ghostbusters” (1984), starring Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Dan Aykroyd and Ernie Hudson as the ’busters and Sigourney Weaver as the one possessed by Zuul, as well as Rick Moranis as a nebbish accountant at Zuul’s command. Continuing the warmup for Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer,” this Wednesday filmmaker focus is Nolan’s “Tenet” (2020), an opulent, aural overload in which time bandits (covert agents and baddies) wear oxygen masks so they can rewind time and change the past. (Coincidentally, the film was one of the first released as Covid restrictions let up, when masked patrons had to be spaced out, sitting in every other seat and every other row in a theater.) The action and sound literally move in reverse. The effect is unsettlingly cool and pleasingly confounding.

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At the Somerville Theatre this week at midnight Saturday, an old-school AI goes off the rails in “WarGames” (1983), starring Ally Sheedy, Dabney Coleman and Matthew Broderick as a young gamer trying to stave off global nuclear destruction by staying in the game. For the Attack of the B Movies series on Tuesday, it’s stitched-up hokum galore with “Frankenstein’s Daughter” (1958) and “Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter” (1966).

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The “Ozu 120: The Complete Ozu Yasujiro” program rolls on this week at the Harvard Film Archive with some of Ozu’s early silent and pre-World War II works focusing on family and social structures, featuring “Woman of Tokyo” (1933) and “Tokyo Chorus” (1931) on Friday, “The Only Son” (1936) and “There was a Father” (1942) on Saturday and “An Inn in Tokyo” (1935) on Sunday. Also on Sunday is an encore screening of “Floating Weeds” (1959) starring longtime Ozu collaborators Haruko Sugimura and Chishû Ryû (“Tokyo Story”). On Monday, taking a page from Ozu’s Noriko trilogy (“Late Spring,” “Early Summer” and “Tokyo Story”), an independent woman bucks social norms in “Late Autumn” (1960) starring Noriko portrayer Setsuko Hara in a poetically ironic twist as a mother whose daughter (Yoko Tsukasa) refuses to marry, much to her mother’s chagrin. Ryû also has a small part. (Tom Meek) 

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In theaters and streaming

‘Hilma’ (2022)

Lasse Hallström’s “Hilma” is a family affair. The Swedish writer-director’s daughter, Tora, and wife, Lena Olin, star in this 2022 biopic, playing Swedish artist Hilma af Klint at different stages of her life. While studying at the Academy of Fine Arts, af Klint embraces spiritism, communicating with spirits and the dead, and automatism, allowing the spirits to paint through her, to cope with the lingering sorrow of her little sister’s passing. The artist’s career evolved from only channeling the spirits’ vision onto the canvas to injecting her own artistic desires; af Klint is widely considered the mother of abstract art, though the biopic frames her as a painter who painted what she saw in the spirit world. While the filmmaking family consider af Klint a prophet who correctly predicted that her work would be appreciated 20 years after her death and imply in opening and closing scenes that Solomon R. Guggenheim’s Manhattan museum is the temple to art that she tried to build, the film fails to convey her religious beliefs or passionate persuasiveness. Instead, Hallström (“My Life as a Dog”) shows her through contemporary doubters’ eyes as a grief-stricken madwoman, making what could have been a richer delve dull and pedantic. The film never goes deeper than what a passerby would observe and fails to convey af Klint’s fervor. Hallström inserting the cast into colorized, archival footage further detracts from an otherwise solid visual composition. (Sarah G. Vincent) On Amazon Prime Video.

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‘Tommy Guns’ (2022)

Angolan-born, Portuguese writer and director Carlos Conceição’s feature starts in Angola in 1974, the last year of its war of independence from Portugal. While a young, indigenous Angolan woman, Tchissola (Ulé Baldé), journeys through an isolated, verdant area to assist a lone missionary nun, she encounters a wandering Portuguese soldier who is more interested in reading books than a fellow soldier’s recent death, which, in a strange set of meanders, has a huge impact on another set of seven soldiers stationed in a different, distant, unknown location behind a huge metal wall under the command of a paranoid colonel (Gustavo Sumpta). Described as an anti-colonial horror film, Conceição’s second feature marks a swing and a miss because it centers on the plight of the Portuguese men forced to kill in the name of their country, not their victims. The original title “Nação Valente” translates to “Brave Nation,” a reference to Portugal’s national anthem. The film for the most is an antiwar allegory railing against transforming young men into monsters to serve their country. Speaking of monsters, the horror elements (the dead arise) make plenty of visual references to George A. Romero’s films, with hands bursting through fresh mounds of graveyard dirt, et cetera, and these zombies are slow, as most are – but here it’s slow to anger. Yup, these zombs have a political ax to grind and aren’t so much into manic flesh consumption … and they talk. Even in death (and after), they take to the task to educate their murderers into becoming better people. It’s somewhat the epitome of modern post-colonialism in which the progeny of those annexed and killed are being asked how to change and atone for the past. Vengeance is not a priority here, but a distant, indiscernible backdrop. Think “The Village” (2004) meets “Dogtooth” (2009), brought to an apex when the colonel hires sex worker Apolónia (Anabela Moreira) to mollify his restless troops, but instead pulls a changeup and directs them to freedom. (Sarah G. 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.