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This article by Angelina Sciolla was prepared for the September 4, 2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

At the Movies

With summer winding down, the presence of cinema fluff

at the multiplex begins to wane. Hollywood marches out the serious

films also known as the Oscar contenders. Industry wisdom has it that

as temperatures dip, intellects rise. In keeping with this autumnal

intelligence quotient, the New Jersey Media Arts Center is offering

a season of films designed to challenge as well to entertain.

The New Jersey Film Festival’s fall edition begins this Friday, September

6, and runs until November 23. The 20th annual festival will offer

27 films over 43 days. Cinematic works from Mexico, Hungary, France,

Argentina, and Israel share screen time with classics of the horror

genre and as well as a tribute to the late John Frankenheimer.

Youth and the process of "coming of age" is a prevailing theme

among the seasons’ selections, and the festival opens with Alfonso

Gueron’s "Y Tu Mama Tambien," an erotic joyride across parts

of Mexico not seen by many north of the border. Already an art house

box office smash, "Y Tu Mama Tambien" wraps politics and cultural

commentary around a story of two teenage friends who entice the sexy

wife of a boorish relative into a life-changing trip to the beach.

More teenage hormonal fare follows with the French "Fat Girl,"

a mercenary study of how two sisters, one beautiful and slender, and

one chubby and plain, lose their virginity during a summer holiday

on the Riviera. National Lampoon this is not. Writer and director

Catherine Breillat shows the audience how feminine identities are

cast at an early age and often, tragically, remain inescapable.

Rounding out September are "Promises," a timely narrative

focusing on the children of present-day Jerusalem and their view of

the future, as well as a rarely-seen collection of experimental art

films by Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, the Hungarian Bauhaus artist and founder

of the Chicago Institute of Design. Ram Dass (formerly Richard Alpert,

the Harvard professor who, with colleague Timothy Leary, toyed with

LSD in the ’60s) is the subject of a documentary about his transformation

from academic to New Age spiritual leader in "Ram Dass: Fierce

Grace." The screening will be introduced by director Mickey Lemle.

As the October chill descends, the festival selections expand to film

noir and horror. In keeping with the youth theme, however, "Chain

Camera" offers a real Real World that you’ll never see on MTV.

Ten Los Angeles high school kids film their lives for a week and then

pass the camera on to 10 other kids. The subjects include a Latino

boy who eats out of trash cans as a political statement, a lesbian

couple who go to the prom, and the other sundry struggles of present-day

youth, including poverty, racism, sex, and drugs.

"Gun Crazy," a 1949 noir classic not to be confused with a

more recent film of the same, boasts a bank robbery scene shot in

real time. A trigger-happy couple embarks on a crime spree across

three states. But like all passionate love affairs, the sparks eventually

sputter and hard time follows.

John Frankenheimer, best known for his eerily prophetic political

thriller "The Manchurian Candidate," passed away in July with

over 200 film and television productions to his credit. He is honored

on October 10 with a screening of his film "Seconds," a modern

twist on the Faustian search for youth. Rock Hudson stars as an executive

who gets a new high-tech face and body from a sinister corporation.

Speaking of sinister, Halloween horror is highlighted

with an October 31 screening of Alfred Hitchcock’s "Psycho,"

which still holds up as one of the best horror-thrillers of all time,

despite that freaky scene when Martin Balsam looks like he’s flying

down the steps instead of falling.

A lesser-known but equally creepy choice can be found in Roman Polanski’s

"Repulsion," which stars an exquisite but loony Catherine

Deneuve whose claustrophobia, germophobia, and crack-in-the-sidewalk-aphobia

lead her to psychotic episodes. An uncomfortable but compelling film

to watch, "Repulsion" is a must-see for Polanski addicts and

anybody else who likes to feel his skin crawl.

Also tossed into the scare portion of the festival is Stanley Kubrick’s

"A Clockwork Orange," a perennial favorite on college campuses

and an ever-relevant commentary on the cultural perpetuation of violence.

Other October highlights include "Nine Queens," a heist picture

from Argentina, and "Arnon Goldfinger," an award-wining documentary

about Yiddish theater.

A stellar choice for film buffs is Gianni Amelio’s "The Way We

Laughed." Reminiscent of the neo-classical Italian films of 1950s

and ’60s (most strikingly Luchino Visconti’s "Rocco and His Brothers),

"The Way We Laughed," chronicles the migration of two Southern

Italian brothers to the northern city of Turin in 1958. With the re-release

of films by Visconti, DeSica, and Rossellini, both on DVD and on a

few big screens, the neo-classic style is experiencing some neo-interest.

Could it be a Scorsese conspiracy as the director most reverent to

this genre gears up for the launch of his overdue "Gangs of New

York"? Consider this film a primer for the "Gang" opening

in December.

November noir is represented by the 1943 film "The Seventh Victim"

with a pre-Streetcar Kim Hunter as a woman searching for her suicidal

sister along the shadowy streets of a dark and harrowing New York

City.

Visiting filmmaker Daina Krumins closes the festival as she hosts

a screening of her short films, "The Divine Miracle," "Babobilicons,"

and "Summer Light." A patient, process-oriented filmmaker

who took as long as nine years to finish one project, Krumins defines

the word surreal with her work. Her cinematic experimentations include

capturing 10,000 ladybugs as they crawl across a room and the growth

of slime mold on oatmeal. Not even Sundance can give you that.

— Angelina Sciolla

New Jersey Film Festival screenings are Fridays through

Sunday in Scott Hall, Room 123, Rutgers College Avenue campus, near

the corner of College Avenue and Hamilton Street. Thursday screenings

are in Loree Hall 024, Douglass College campus, near the corner of

Nichol Avenue and George Street; with selected free events at Borders

Books, Mid-State Mall, 300 Route 18 North, East Brunswick. Admission

$5; all programs begin at 7 p.m. Information 732-932-8482 or www.njfilmfest.com

Y Tu Mama Tambien. Fall season opens with the smash hit

from Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron about a pair of young men and

a sensual Spanish woman who share a road trip. In Spanish with subtitles.

Screens Friday to Sunday, September 6 to 8. Fat Girl. Newest

film from French director and screenwriter Catherine Breillat. Friday

to Sunday, September 13 to 15.

Promises. A timely look at the Middle East seen through

the eyes of seven children, Israeli and Palestinian, interviewed by

filmmakers Justine Shapiro, B.Z. Goldberg, and Carlos Bolado. In Hebrew,

Arabic, and English with subtitles. Friday to Sunday, September 20

to 22. Films of Laszlo Moholy-Nagy. Rare screening of the kinetic

experimental films (1926 to 1932) of the Hungarian artist, leading

member of the Bauhaus School, and founder of the Chicago Institute

of Design; Thursday, September 26.

Ram Dass: Fierce Grace, directed by Mickey Lemie. 2002.

Friday to Sunday, September 27 to 29. Gun Crazy, directed by

Joseph Lewis. 1949. Thursday, October 3. Chain Camera. Directed

by Kirby Dick. 2002. Friday to Sunday, October 4 to 6. Seconds.

Directed by John Frankenheimer. 1965. Thursday, October 10.

The Komediant. Directed by Arnon Goldfinger. 2002. $5.,

Friday to Sunday, October 11 to 13. Dreams That Money Can Buy.

Directed by Hans Richter. 1946. Thursday, October 17. Nine Queens.

Directed by Fabian Bielinsky. 2002; Friday to Sunday, October 19 to

21.

Cat Lady by Liesel de Boor, 2002; and More Than Skin

Deep directed by David Gaynes, 2002. Free., Wednesday, October

23, at Borders Books.

Repulsion. The classic directed by Roman Polanski. 1965;

Thursday, October 24. A Clockwork Orange. Back by popular demand,

director Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 cinematic vision of a dark future,

based on the book by Anthony Burgess, and starring Malcolm McDowell,

Friday to Sunday, October 25 to 27. Psycho by Alfred Hitchcock

(1960), Thursday, October 31.

Atanarjuat. Title means "Fast Runner," by Zacharias

Kunuk, 2001. Winner at the Cannes Film Festival, an epic by and about

the Inuit peoples of the Canadian arctic, shot on location. Friday

to Sunday, November 1 to 3. The Seventh Victim, directed by

Mark Robson. 1943; Thursday, November 7.

The Way We Laughed, directed by Gianni Amelio. 2002; Friday

to Sunday, November 8 to 10. Petits Freres, directed by Jacques

Doillon. 2001; Friday to Sunday, November 15 to 17. Experimental

Films of Daina Krumins , 1973-2002; Friday and Saturday, November

22 and 23.


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