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

Beginning Thursday, the Independent Film Festival Boston sets up shop at The Brattle Theatre for its ninth annual Fall Focus, which includes much of the very best from the Sundance and Toronto film festivals – picks that often wind up in Oscar consideration. The opening-night film, “Eileen,” based on Ottessa Moshfegh’s book, stars Thomasin McKenzie (“Leave No Trace”) as the secretary at a prison who becomes enamored with Anne Hathaway’s counselor. The film’s set against a cold 1964 Massachusetts winter. Other highlights of the fest, which has a pronounced Japanese accent this year, include “Dream Scenario,” in which Nicolas Cage plays a man whom millions of people start seeing in their dreams; Wim Wenders’ “Perfect Days,” revealing the life of a music-loving Japanese janitor; “The Taste of Things,” starring Benoît Magimel and Juliette Binoche in a tale of gastronomy and love in 1880s France; “Evil Does Not Exist” by Ryûsuke Hamaguchi (“Drive My Car”) which watches the conflict as glamping come to threaten a father and daughter’s patch of nature outside Tokyo; “Fingernails,” a futuristic love triangle starring Jessie Buckley (“Men”), Jeremy Allen White and Riz Ahmed (“Sound of Metal”) in which AI and science do the finding of true love for you; the fest’s centerpiece film, “Monster,” by Hirokazu Koreeda (“Nobody Knows,” “Shoplifters”), revolving around a mother (Andô Sakura) pressing a teacher about her son’s sudden, idiosyncratic behavior; and the closing-night film, “The Boy and the Heron,” from legendary Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki (“Spirited Away,” “My Neighbor Totoro”). IFFB Fall Focus runs through Oct. 23.

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Earlier in the week at The Brattle it’s “Godard Cinema,” Cyril Leuthy’s 2022 documentary delving into the spirit of the French New Wave icon Jean-Luc Godard, who died at around this time last year. The film makes its area premiere Friday, then moves to a double bill on Saturday and Sunday with Godard’s “Vivre Sa Vie” (1962), starring Anna Karina as an aspiring actor in Paris. Getting an extended run Friday through Monday in the late-show slot is Park Chan-wook’s classic, highly-stylized revenge flick “OldBoy” (2003), which brings a whole new meaning to the term “hammer time.” On Tuesday, the Revolutions per Minute Festival presents a tribute to experimental filmmaker Micheal Snow, who died recently, and on Wednesday, the traveling Museum of Home Video (self-described as “a weekly found-footage livestream for stoners, seekers, archivists and drinkers”) presents “Ring, Ring: A Doorbell Cam Fantasia” – the “very best in porch thieves, patio punks, door-to-door doorbell lickers and local yokels flipping birds.”
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Chucky the killer doll takes over the screen for the ’80s horror Retro Replay this Tuesday at the Landmark Kendall Square Cinema with “Child’s Play,” the original 1988 franchise concept in which a doll possessed by a serial killer tries to take over the soul of a child; mom (Catherine Hicks) has to go knife-to-knife with the psycho blue-eyed doll. The film, directed by Tom Holland (“Fright Night”), launched seven sequels and one reboot. Similar in concept, and a ghoulish watch this time of year, is Karen Black terrorized by a Zuni fetish doll in “Trilogy of Terror” (1975). 

For the final Martin Scorsese-Leonardo DiCaprio filmmaker focus entry in anticipation of “Killers of the Flower Moon,” it’s one of my favorite collaborations (if not the favorite) between Marty and Leo: “The Wolf of Wall Street” (2013). Hard to believe it’s the 10th anniversary of the rise-and-fall biopic about penny-stock tycoon Jordan Belfort (DiCaprio), who turns Wall Street upside down with his regulation-pushing tactics, drugs and other excesses of the 1980s. Margot Robbie conjures a decent Jersey-girl accent as Belfort’s wife and Matthew McConaughey is an uproarious punch as Belfort’s mentor. “Wolf” plays Wednesday; “Flower Moon” opens Oct. 20.

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It’s Halloween already at the Somerville Theatre with extended runs of Nicole Kidman playing an imperiled single mom in Alejandro Amenábar’s 2001 psychological ghost story “The Others” and the locally made “The Sudbury Devil” directed by Andrew Rakich, which takes a page from Robert Eggers’ “The Witch” (2015) in the sense that it’s set in puritan times and sees the line between madness and the supernatural blurred. For an “Attack of the B-Movies” Saturday, it’s a double bill of the Roger Corman comedy-horror “A Bucket of Blood” (1959) – part of a demonic comedy trilogy by Corman that included the original “The Little Shop of Horrors” – and Vincent Price and Agnes Moorehead (of “Bewitched”) in “The Bat” (1959).

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The “Musica De Camara: The Cinema of Rita Azevedo Gomes” program at the Harvard Film Archive winds down this weekend with the celebrated Portuguese filmmaker in person for screenings of “The Sound of the Shaking Earth” (1990), Gomes’ meta debut, about an author whose story keeps entwining with reality, and “The Kegelstatt Trio” (2022), about three characters – a pianist, clarinetist and violist – who come together to play the Mozart piece of the title. The latter, adapted from an Eric Rohmer play, plays Saturday, and “Shaking Earth” plays Friday. Also at the Archive: Dick Fontaine and Pat Hartley’s documentary “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” (1982) that on Monday recounts James Baldwin’s journeys through the South during the tumultuous civil rights era. (Tom Meek)

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In theaters

‘The Burial’ (2023)

This adaptation of a 1999 Jonathan Harr article in The New Yorker dramatizes the rise of a flashy Florida lawyer by the name of Willie Gary from regional showboat ambulance chaser to respected national litigator. Starting in 1995, Jeremiah O’Keefe (Tommy Lee Jones), a humble Biloxi funeral homeowner, decides to sue Ray Loewen (Bill Camp), a competitor who delayed the purchase of a slice of O’Keefe’s business in a gambit to lower the price and swipe everything. Hal Dockins (Mamoudou Athie), an O’Keefe family friend and attorney, convinces the undefeated Gary (Jamie Foxx) to litigate the complaint, even though the odds are not in O’Keefe’s favor. Writer Doug Wright (“Quills”) pens a good old-fashioned odd-couple legal drama that’s serious in tenor but brushed with strokes of good humor and lightness. Wright maintains tension while forgoing David and Goliath tropes in favor of highlighting O’Keefe’s flaws, Gary’s weaknesses and the inherent risk of losing for both sides. The narrative balances deft character studies and interpersonal dynamics with the intellectual challenge of winning a court case. This sophomore feature by director Maggie Betts (“Novitiate”) captures the era’s glorification of wealth with ornate displays of excess. By showing characters’ respective comfort levels when interacting in lower socioeconomic locations, Betts distinguishes Gary’s bootstrap success from Loewen’s exploitation. Without becoming too moralistic or pedantic, Betts holds the shot an extra beat to depict a character’s slight reaction to a microaggression. The whole work has a subtle, intended reflectiveness, in which much lingers beyond each frame. (Sarah G. Vincent) On Amazon Prime Video.

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‘A Place Among the Dead’ (2020)

L.A. filmmaking couple Juliet (director and cowriter Juliet Landau, renowned for playing vamp Drusilla in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) and Dev (co-writer and real-life husband Deverill Weekes) complete the first chapter of their vampire documentary series. Interviewees such as Gary Oldman, who starred in Francis Ford Coppola’s “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” (1992) and “The Vampire Chronicles” author Anne Rice aren’t the only ones on Juliet and Dev’s all-things vamp menu; ignoring others’ reservations, the pair delve into the real-life phenomena of the Santa Barbara vampire copycat serial killer and, in doing so, give voice to his victims. Dabbling in the true crime puts Juliet in the murderer’s path as his next target. This audacious, lyrical and experimental autofiction is a must-see for devotees of found-footage movies or fictional documentaries, especially if they are Landau fans. The film’s strongest assets are disturbing themes of childhood psychological abuse and its long-term effects. In the opening, Juliet reads poetic excerpts from her childhood journal over a sequence of photographs of Landau’s real-life parents, actors Martin Landau and Barbara Bain, which later flash at pivotal junctures with eerie wisps of whispered dialogue to reflect the lasting psychological toll of her parents’ toxic and condemning behavior during the fragile rearing years. It also compels Juliet in the present, ushering her more into the path of possible danger. That said, as evidence points to the serial killer being a vampire, the film gets drained of its edgy freshness by shifting to lean on trite, goth imagery. (Sarah G. Vincent) On Apple TV+ and 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.