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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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
Deep directed by David Gaynes, 2002. Free., Wednesday, October
23, at Borders Books.
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.
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.
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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