Sunday, July 14, 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. 

Editor’s note: We’re in transition – this will be my last helming of Film Ahead, but the column will live on in the capable hands of Oscar Goff. I’ll remain on as film editor and main critic, and more than likely will contribute to the column now and then.


Local focus

This week’s Belmont World Film Festival screening Monday at Apple Cinemas Cambridge was Croatia’s submission for Best International Feature Oscar, “Traces,” about an anthropologist whose father dies and finds the relics that she uncovers starting to bleed mystically into her waking life. Before the screening will be a sampling of Croatian wines. The BWFF runs through May 20, but this is the final Cambridge stop for this year’s fest. 

The colors of the rainbow fly high over The Brattle Theatre as the 40th incarnation of the Wicked Queer Film Festival settles in. The LGBTQ+ fest fills The Brattle for the week – and then some – with screenings also taking place at the newly expanded Coolidge Corner Theatre, ArtsEmerson, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and ICA, among the many venues around town. It all kicks off Friday at The Brattle with the spotlight film “Febrero,” about a 64-year-old Cuban expat in Miami who catches up with a childhood friend who has just come out.

This year’s fest boasts a strong documentary focus. Highlights include “Avant-Drag!,” a celebration of drag around the globe and its use as a tool to fight oppression; the film has recently sparked controversy in Greece, where some scenes were shot. Speaking of Greece, there’s “Lesvia,” which delves into the history of the lesbian community on the Greek island of Lesvos (more commonly known as Lesbos), the birthplace of the ancient Greek poet Sappho. 

Veering into genre is Alice Maio Mackay’s “T Blockers,” in which an alien parasite takes over a town and a young filmmaker finds herself the only one with immunity (sounds like “The Last of Us”) and the ’70s horror homage “Saint Drogo,” a Provincetown horror travelogue and eulogy for a community under social pressure. (The filmmakers will attend). Lighter fare includes “The Queen of My Dreams,” a romantic coming-of-age comedy by Fawzia Mirza about a Pakistani Canadian woman whose relationship with her Muslim parents is strained when she comes out. Marwan Mokbel’s “The Judgment” is about a couple returning to Egypt who believe they may be targeted by witchcraft for the “sins of being gay.” There are plenty of short programs too that cover diverse areas, with “Menergy” (gay male), “Encounters of the 3rd Degree” (women) and “(Trans)portation” among the lot. Another cool thing is the celebration of the history of queer cinema by adding groundbreaking efforts from yesteryear. Two of this year’s recalls are trilogy bookends from 1997: “Nowhere,” Gregg Araki’s irreverent final chapter to his “Teenage Apocalypse Trilogy” (“Totally F****d Up,” “The Living End”) and “Fire,” the first in Deepa Mehta’s Elements series that details the relationship between two emotionally tumultuous women who find solace and passion in each other. Several of the screenings are free and open to the public. The festival runs through the April 14.


“You talking to me?”: The Tuesday New Hollywood Retro Replay at the Landmark Kendall Square Cinema is the gritty street drama “Taxi Driver,” the film that made Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese household names and perennial Oscar contenders. De Niro’s accidental vigilante, sporting a mohawk and the indignities of a disenfranchised, undereducated Vietnam War vet, would not only become an instant quote trove, but deftly reflect the social and political tumult of the Watergate-Vietnam era. The edgy dialogue by film critic-turned-filmmaker Paul Schrader (“American Gigolo,” “The Card Counter”) along with the gorgeous, rain-slicked cinematography by Michael Chapman (“Raging Bull,” “The Last Waltz”), as moody as it is alluring, and ominous, jazzy score by Bernard Herrmann (“Psycho”) help drive Scorsese’s mean streets vision with symbiotic confluence and perpetual menace. Hermann would die before the release of this and Brian De Palma’s “Obsession,” which he scored that same year. The film would earn four deserving Oscar nods for Herrmann, De Niro, a 12-year-old Jodie Foster as the young streetwalker De Niro’s OCD cabbie decides needs saving, and Best Picture.


At the Somerville Theatre, the “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid” program rolls forth with a double bill of “Humoresque,” with Joan Crawford’s slightly sociopathic socialite dragging John Garfield’s reserved violinist around town and Bogie and Bacall in the classic detective noir, “The Big Sleep.” The films, released in 1946, play together Monday. The latter, directed by the prolific and under-heralded Howard Hawks, had a script boost from author William Faulkner adapting Raymond Chandler’s hardboiled Marlowe page-turner. For the “Tale of Two Studios” program (about MGM and Columbia) on Wednesday it’s an early Frank Capra effort, “Ladies of Leisure” (1930) starring Barbara Stanwyck, and the classic husband-and-wife crime comedy, “The Thin Man” (1934). And this week’s “Yacht Rock” program smoothies are Dudley Moore as a perpetually pickled playboy in “Arthur” (1981) and John Cusack getting his summertime nerd on with Demi Moore (no relation) in “One Crazy Summer” (1986) on Friday and Thursday respectively – “Summer” was shot on the Cape and Nantucket. (If you want nerdy wintertime Cusack, you can stream “Hot Tub Time Machine” (2010) on Netflix or Amazon Prime Video.) Dropping in for an extended run is a 4K restoration of Michael Powell’s stirring and controversial “Peeping Tom” (1960), starring Carl Boehm as a photographer with a penchant for carving up his female subjects. Keeping with the macabre is a “Mahoning Drive-In Roadshow!” on Sunday with a double bill of “Drive-In Massacre” (1976) and Mario Bava’s giallo slasher sensation “A Bay of Blood” (1971), which gave rise to Freddy and Jason. The roadshow is the brainchild of the programmers of the Mahoning Drive-In Theater in Pennsylvania, bringing you some of their bone-chilling faves.


As part of the ongoing “The Practice (and Other Works) by Martín Rejtman” program at the Harvard Film Archive comes the title film – the director’s latest – about an Argentinian yoga instructor going through life changes and a self-wellness examination. On Saturday it’s “Silvia Prieto” (1999), a dramedy about a 20-something woman looking to change up her life by quitting marijuana and getting a real job. Rejtman will be on hand at the screenings. For the “Chronicles of Changing Times. The Cinema of Edward Yang” this week, the late Taiwanese filmmaker is remembered with screenings of his 1996 crime-drama “Mahjong” that center on the disappearance of a Taiwanese businessman, and “The Terrorizers” (1986), a metaphysical kaleidoscope looking at three interconnected couples in Taipei. They play Sunday and Monday respectively. Also on Sunday, there’s a screening of McMillan-Stewart fellow Jean-Pierre Bekolo’s “Naked Reality” (2016), an afrofuturistic vision 150 years in the future, when a young woman navigates an African continent operated and run by an immortal race.

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.