Tuesday, July 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. 

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Local focus

It’s rock-doc week at The Brattle Theatre with more of an extended, multiweek 40th anniversary rerelease of “Stop Making Sense” (reviewed this week), Jonathan Demme’s brilliantly intimate portrait of ’80s punk-art band Talking Heads. (Same as it ever was: “Stop Making Sense” also rocks on at the Somerville Theatre through Thursday, and has showings in Kendall Cambridge’s Kendall Square and Somerville’s Assembly Square.) Also getting an extended run in an area premiere beginning Tuesday is Ian White’s take on a very different underground band of the same era, The Birthday Party, in “Mutiny in Heaven: The Birthday Party.” Nick Cave was one of the members of what Brattle staffers call “one of the most legendary live acts in rock history.”

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For Silent Film Day, The Brattle showcases 16 mm shorts from its collection on Friday and screenings of Buster Keaton time-tripping in “Three Ages” (1923), in which the king of physical comedy finds himself in the Stone Age, ancient Rome and “modern times,” along with Lois Weber’s early female gaze on celluloid, “Shoes” (1916), about a woman struggling to keep a family running on $5 per week. “Three Ages” and “Shoes” play Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

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The Retro Replay Tuesday series this month at the Landmark Kendall Square Cinema casts an eye on all things Halloween with ’80s horror flicks, beginning with the original man behind the mask (no offense to “The Phantom of the Opera”), Jason, the murderous menace of Crystal Lake, in the original “Friday the 13th.” For this 1980 crossover slasher hit, theater policy might want to disallow goalie masks and sharp objects.

For the highly anticipated “Killers of the Flower Moon,” Martin Scorsese’s take on journalist David Grann’s true-life tale about a series of murders among the Osage Nation in Oklahoma during the 1920s, the Landmark puts its Filmmaker Focus on Scorsese and regular alter ego Leonardo DiCaprio. Running until Wednesday is “Shutter Island” (2010), Scorsese’s second Boston-set tale after “The Departed” (2006). The film, based on Denis Lehane’s novel, is something of a 1950s horror-noir, as DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo’s detectives investigate the goings-on in an enigmatic harbor island asylum. 

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The lens falls firmly on Rita Azevedo Gomes this week at the Harvard Film Archive as the “Música de Câmara: The Cinema of Rita Azevedo Gomes” program kicks into high gear with an encore screening of the director’s “The Portuguese Woman” (2018) Sunday and “Fragile as the World” (2001) Saturday, about a young couple who decide to run away to a secluded forest. Also on the week’s slate are influential films curated by Gomes with a pair of politically charged shorts from fellow Portuguese filmmaker and collaborator Luís Noronha da Costa on Saturday; Elia Kazan’s “Splendor in the Grass” (1961) starring Warren Beatty and Natalie Wood on Sunday; Werner Schroeter’s late-1960s collage of rock culture and German youth, “Eika Katappa,” on Friday; and Aki Kaurismäki’s similarly themed “The Bohemian Life” (1992) on Monday. (Tom Meek)

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In theaters

‘Megalomaniac’ (2022)

Belgian filmmaker Karim Ouelhaj imagines what it might be like if real-life, 1990s serial killer the Butcher of Mons had adult children. The son, Felix (Benjamin Ramon), continues the family business of slaughtering lone women, while his sister Martha (Eline Schumacher), toiling as a factory cleaner, bears the brunt of maintaining appearances and enduring escalating sexual harassment. The siblings live together in their decaying childhood home – think the farmhouse in “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (1974) as a European manse. Later, as the harassment turns physical, Martha’s psyche fractures, her meekness recedes and she looks for an outlet for her outrage. Nothing like the family biz for that, as she mimics and directs her factory attackers’ misogynistic insults at her brother’s victims. The tale feels like an allegory raging against patriarchy and cautioning women from being complicit. A subplot screams #allmen as Martha’s boss, Jerome (Wim Willaert), a wannabe good Samaritan, does next to nothing to stop his underlings from raping her. When Jerome looks at Martha from his office, the office’s walls and window muffle the factory sounds so it is easier for him to tune out the noise. As she stares back, the metallic, cacophonous notes are not minimized. Ouelhaj uses diegetic sound to reflect her pain and condemn a privileged person for tuning her out. The film contains graphic depictions of violence, rape and revenge, emblematic of New Extreme films – the European genre that makes American torture porn feel genteel and restrained. (Sarah G. Vincent) On Amazon Prime Video.

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‘The Hole in the Fence’ (2021)

Set in present-day Mexico during an annual visit to a camp, Catholic teachers groom an elite, all-boys class to become selfish bullies in a rite of passage the teachers themselves experienced as children. Designed to instill fear of the neighboring town’s residents, the camp activities further isolate boys who are in the middle of nowhere without cellphones. Any student who questions the lessons or does not conform to the ideal masculine image – especially one brown-skinned scholarship student – faces ridicule or corporal punishment from the teachers or classmates. The children then amplify this behavior and apply it to the indigenous employees and villagers. British co-writer Lucy Pawlak and Polish-trained, Mexican director and co-writer Joaquin del Paso’s sophomore collaboration is a literal, unsubtle (the final camp activity: a game to “protect the elites”) yet unsettling and compelling coming-of-age allegory for colonization that takes the entitled settlers’ point of view. The opening frames a well-manicured landscape with close-ups of lush shrubs and fruit-eating birds. The accompanying soundtrack evokes the oneiric quality of a fairy tale. The effect, contrary to conquerors’ claims of acting as a civilizing force, suggests Mexico was once Eden and still would be, except for their own influence. The slow burn, something of a harrowing mixture of “Midsommar” (2019) and “Jesus Camp” (2006), may not be graphic, but the psychological effect of witnessing the snuffing out of the boys’ few redeeming qualities is chilling. (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.