Monday, July 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

The Belmont World Film Festival is holding an encore run of its “Complicated Identities” program (Aug. 14-22). Part of that redux is the postponed screening of “Stay With Us” on Monday at Apple Cinemas Fresh Pond, followed by five encore screenings online – for “complicated” reasons, the movie couldn’t be screened during the fest’s run this year. The film, a French comedy starring and directed by Gad Elmaleh, has a bit of a meta touch: Elmaleh plays a guy named Gad who, after being away in the United States, returns home to France to convert to Catholicism, much to his parents chagrin. Nearly every character in the film goes by the first name of the actor who played them.

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As one might tell from the Kendall Retro Replay below, there’s something about Hitch lately. No surprise, the master of suspense’s birthday is around the corner (Aug. 13), and for Alfred Hitchcock’s birthday bash, The Brattle Theatre queues up a double bill of his claustrophobic, killer-across-the-courtyard-but-nobody-believes-me thriller “Rear Window” (1953) starring James Stewart and Grace Kelly, and the mistaken-identity spy flick “North by Northwest” (1959). Stewart, who made four films with Hitchcock, wanted the role of the square-jawed ad man on the run from a network of spies, but Hitchcock thought he was wrong for the part and instead cast Cary Grant, who also made four films with the auteur of mystery and intrigue,  including “To Catch a Thief” (1955), also starring Kelly. The cake party takes place Friday, two days before Hitch’s actual birthday.

Rolling on with a “100 Years of Warner Brothers” celebration, it’s a Monday double shot of Bette Davis with “Dark Victory” (1939), co-starring Humphrey Bogart and Ronald Reagan in the tale of an imperiled socialite, and the similarly themed Willam Wyler-helmed “Jezebel” (1938) opposite Henry Fonda. There’s more Davis and Wyler on Tuesday with “The Letter” (1940) on a double bill with the Joan Crawford classic “Mildred Pierce” (1945).

For an ongoing celebration of editor Dede Allen, it’s two very different flicks, the first starring king of pop Michael Jackson alongside Diana Ross, Lena Horne, Nipsey Russell and Richard Pryor in the Sidney Lumet-directed African American spin on “The Wizard of Oz” (1939), “The Wiz” (1978), which has a script by Joel Schumacher (“Falling Down,” “The Lost Boys”). Allen also edited the director’s earlier hits, “Serpico” and “Dog Day Afternoon.” Making its Brattle debut Wednesday is a vastly different film that got the Allen touch: Phillip Kaufman’s steamy adaptation of the Anais Nin memoir “Henry and June” (1990) starring Fred Ward as writer Henry Miller and Uma Thurman, pre-“Pulp Fiction” (1994), as his wife, June.

And finally, for Thrill Ride Horror Thursday, it’s the wedding comedy “Ready or Not” (2019) with Andie MacDowell and Adam Brody on a double bill with the gators-gone-gonzo-in-floodwaters terror-fest “Crawl” (2019), directed by French horror-meister Alexandre Aja (“High Tension”) with a script by the Cambridge-based Rasmussen brothers.

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Hitchcock had a thing for spy thrillers – “North by Northwest”  and “Saboteur” (1942) to name two, but also the earlier “The 39 Steps” (1935), about a Canadian transplant in London (Robert Donat) who witnesses a shooting at a symphony, becoming the target of a spy ring and police who think he’s guilty of the murder. “The 39 Steps” plays as part of the Landmark Kendall Square Cinema’s ongoing Tuesday Hitchcock Retro Replay celebration. 

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It’s cult quirk and Velveeta at the Somerville Theatre with a Saturday midnight screening of “Bubba Ho-Tep” (2002), in which Bruce Campbell (“The Evil Dead”) and Ossie Davis (“Do the Right Thing”) play nursing home residents who claim to be Elvis and a Black JFK, respectively. The title entity is an Egyptian mummy haunting the facility. Zany, right? It’s directed by Don Coscarelli – whose other freaky fringe offerings include “Phantasm” (1979) and “The Beastmaster” (1982) – and based on a novella by Joe R. Lansdale. Breaking out the cheese for the Attack of the B-Films series on Tuesday is “Killers from Space” (1954) and “Mesa of Lost Women” (1953).

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The “Ozu 120: the Complete Ozu Yasujiro” program at the Harvard Film Archive winds to a conclusion this week with “Café Lumière” (2003), a film commissioned by the Japanese production company Shochiku to commemorate Ozu’s centennial. Directed by Chinese-Taiwanese film director Hsiao-Hsien Hou (“The Assassin,” “Three Times”), the film about a Japanese woman (Hitoto Yo) pregnant with an ex-boyfriend’s baby and researching a Taiwanese composer (whose music scores the film) is evocative of Ozu’s “Early Summer” (1951) and “Equinox Flower” (1958). It plays Friday; on Saturday it’s an encore screening of what many consider Ozu’s magnum opus, “Tokyo Story” (1953), the conclusion of his Noriko Trilogy, and on Sunday it’s second shots of “The Brothers and Sisters of the Toda Family” (1941) and “An Autumn Afternoon” (1962), Ozu’s last film. (Tom Meek)

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In theaters and streaming

‘Shortcomings’ (2023)

When Miko (Ally Maki) accepts a New York internship, her arrogant boyfriend, killjoy Ben Tanaka (Justin H. Min), a film school dropout, art house cinema manager and wannabe filmmaker, remains in her dad’s stunningly spacious Berkeley, California, apartment. Ben passes the time with his lesbian bestie, grad student Alice (a scene-stealing Sherry Cola) and pursues his sexual interest in white girls. Though the film is advertised as a rom-com, it’s more a dark dramedy that charts Ben’s descent to rock bottom. Forced to confront his negative emotions, Alice encourages him to discover what he truly wants out of life. Affable actor Randall Park (“Fresh Off the Boat,” “Always Be My Maybe”) makes his directorial debut with this adaptation of Adrian Tomine’s semi-autobiographical graphic novel. Viewers familiar with Tomine’s book will be able to determine whether Park’s translation from the page to the screen is faithful or takes visual liberties. Regardless, Park proves that he can quit his day job. Scene compositions smartly echo inner psychological workings and the health of characters’ relationships. The placement of a door separates Ben from a group of sapphic revelers at a house party, reflecting his loneliness and separation. Tomine, who also penned the script, is unflinching in creating an unlikeable protagonist. Ben’s not easy to take, but he is alluring to watch. (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.