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. 


Local focus

The “Barbie” phenom checks in at The Brattle Theatre with “Barbie’s Roots” films – ones referred to by, akin to or that were an influence on the runaway all-things-pink box office smash by Greta Gerwig. Kicking things off is “The Truman Show” (1998), the Peter Weir (“Witness”) film starring Jim Carrey as a man cluelessly living in a fantasy world under the eye of a reality TV lens and watched by the masses. It plays Friday on a double bill with the live-action, big-screen version of ’70s grrrl rock cartoon “Josie and the Pussycats” (2001) with Rosario Dawson, Tara Reid and Rachael Leigh Cook (“She’s All That”) as the band trio. (“Josie and the Pussycats” also plays Saturday and Sunday.) Then it’s Catherine Deneuve and Jacques Demy’s color-palette musical about an auto mechanic who falls in love with Deneuve’s ingenue in “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” (1964) on a double bill Saturday with the duo’s follow-up, “The Young Girls of Rochefort” (1967) and again on Thursday with Pedro Almodóvar’s crossover hit “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown” (1988).


Then it’s a dial-back to some of Gerwig’s Barbie inspirations: Katherine Hepburn in “The Philadelphia Story” (1940) on a Sunday double bill with “An American in Paris” (1951) and David Niven and Kim Hunter (“Planet of the Apes”) in the World War II drama “A Matter of Life and Death” (1946) on Monday with Bob Fosse’s immersive portrait of backstage decadence, “All That Jazz” (1979) with Roy Scheider (“Jaws”) and Jessica Lange. The Barbie party dials into quirk on Tuesday with Jacques Tati’s second go at his Chaplin-esque, Jerry Lewis-esque Monsieur Hulot portrayal in “Playtime” (1967) and “The Science of Sleep” (2006) by Michel Gondry (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”) about an artist (Gael García Bernal) whose dreams bleed into his waking life. The film is akin to “Barbie” because, like Gerwig’s live-action Mattel pic, Gondry opted for constructed dreamscape sets instead of CGI.

Crossing over from one realm to the next, like Barbie into the real world, it’s Wim Wenders’ tale of longing from afar, “Wings of Desire” (1987), with Bruno Ganz as an angel with an affection for a lonely trapeze artist (Solveig Dommartin). “Wings” plays Wednesday, as does “Frances Ha” (2012), which marks Gerwig’s passage from mumblecore roots to bigger budgets, though this film, starring Gerwig and directed by “Barbie” co-writer Noah Baumbach (“White Noise,” “The Squid and the Whale”) did have a bit of a mumblecore sheen to it, being a situational comedy shot in black and a white on limited sets.


Things shift from all things Hitchcock in August to all things weird and wild as the Landmark Kendall Square Cinema kicks off “The Wonderful and Strange World of David Lynch” for its September Retro Replay Tuesdays. It begins with Lynch’s dark neo-noir “Blue Velvet” (1986), propelled by a perfectly over-the-top performance by Dennis Hopper and Kyle MacLachlan’s square-jawed, aw-shucks naif with great supporting turns by Laura Dern as the small-town sweetheart; Isabella Rossellini as a mother pushed to her moral edge; and Dean Stockwell as one suave fuck who lip-syncs Roy Orbison’s “In Dreams” with unparalleled panache.


Before he made “Enter the Dragon” (1973), Bruce Lee went hand-to-hand with Chuck Norris in “The Way of the Dragon” (1972), which plays as the Saturday midnight flick this week at the Somerville Theatre. Lee wrote and directed “Way of the Dragon” – and no, the films are not related.

Continuing its extended run is the presidential assassination conspiracy thriller “Winter Kills,” starring Jeff Bridges and John Huston. It plays Friday and Saturday.


The Harvard Film Archive comes back online with “Musica de Camara: The Cinema of Rita Azevedo Gomes.” The program celebrating the Portuguese filmmaker begins Friday with her 2018 period piece “The Portuguese Woman,” about a betrothal to an Italian aristocrat.

Before the Gomes works go deeper next week, the HFA loads up two unique programs: the “Psychology in the Cinema of the American Classroom, 1930s-1970s”; and its annual all-night movie fest.

The former features a series of educational films about psychology, therapy and hypnosis; given the era, you can imagine the garb, use of rotary-dial phones and overlay of a Rod Serling-like narration. Several of the shorts are by pioneering psychologist Lester F. Beck (1907-1977). “Psychology in the Cinema of the America Classroom” plays Monday.

That Saturday all-nighter (starting at 6 p.m) is themed around the gambling table and casinos, where criminal activity tends to rear its ugly head. The slate of six films includes Robert Rossen’s 1947 noir “Johnny O’Clock” starring Lee J. Cobb (“12 Angry Men”) and Dick Powell; another tale of a high-class criminal in Henri Verneuil’s “Any Number Can Win” (1963) with Jean Gabin just out of jail and Alain Delon – fresh off his turn as Tom Ripley in “Purple Noon” – as the former cellmate pulled back in. There’s more just-out-of-jail, gang-turf manipulation in Shinoda Masahiro’s “Pale Flower” (1964), and then the bank clerk (Claude Mann) and gambler (Paul Guers) bond in “Bay of Angels” (1963), directed by Demy with Jeanne Moreau as the love interest at the roulette table. As the Sunday sun starts to come up, it’s a dashing Clive Owen as a struggling novelist who deals cards in a casino in Mike Hodges’ “Croupier” (1998), and the marathon concludes with the amateur dice roller (George Segal) and the pro (Elliot Gould) in Robert Altman’s crime comedy “California Splits” (1974).

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.