"The concept behind Second Chance Cinema is to give discriminating movie buffs the chance to see films that got away, in effect. Either they never played at all in the local commercial theaters, or, if they did, were there so briefly that they never had a chance to find an audience — and vice-versa,” says William W. Lockwood Jr., special programming director at McCarter and curator of the Second Chance series. “Of the 11 titles on this year’s series, almost none played in Princeton at the Garden, although several were at Montgomery, but only briefly. I always find it surprising how many films of quality never make it to our area theaters, even Montgomery, which does a commendable job on the whole in serving as the ‘art house’ for serious adult moviegoers.

The complete schedule of 11 “films you should have seen but didn’t” opens on Monday, February 6, and continues on subsequent Monday evenings through April 30. Films screen at the Friend Center Auditorium in the Computer Science building at the corner of William Street and Olden Avenue on the Princeton campus, where new video projection equipment has been installed by the university. The series is also part of Princeton Adult School’s annual winter-spring movie course. Lockwood introduces each film.

“I always try to strike a balance between titles from other countries, this year Portugal, Romania, South Korea, England, and France, as well as the USA, with particular emphasis on the American independent cinema. I also try to have a documentary or two. This year there is ‘Buck’ and hopefully, a comedy, although good ones are in short supply these days; this year ‘The Trip.’

“There is no overall theme to any particular season’s selection, although as things turn out, there are often common elements in terms of subject matter, although this is not by design. For example, on this year’s series, two titles deal with the institution of marriage; ‘Tuesday, After Christmas,’ one of the most acclaimed foreign films of 2010, and ‘Certified Copy,’ and two more deal with religion and spiritual values, ‘Higher Ground’ and ‘Of Gods and Men.’”

Usually there are one or two films Lockwood feels are particularly significant, and this year he says it is “Mysteries of Lisbon.” The series is showing it in two parts on two successive weeks because it is over four hours long. “It is a masterpiece by the great Chilean director Raul Ruiz, who sadly passed away just after his epic had its New York premiere screening. If Charles Dickens had been a filmmaker, this is a film he could have made,” Lockwood says.

After 17 years there is still a solid audience for the series. “I continue to be grateful that there is still a nucleus of serious moviegoers who continue to believe that since moviegoing is a social exercise, popping a DVD into your TV set at home is no substitute for seeing a film in a real theater in the company of others.”

Schedule

February 6: “Tuesday, After Christmas.” From the Romanian New Wave, a middle-aged couple’s 10-year marriage is rocked by the husband’s affair with their daughter’s sexy dentist. Romania

February 13: “Buck,” the Sundance documentary winner about Dan “Buck” Brannaman, the real-life inspiration for “The Horse Whisperer.” A zen figure in cowboy boots dedicated to helping horses find a place amid human expectations and requirements. USA.

February 20: “Mesrine: Killer Instinct.”A kind of Gallic Scarface with some Godfather thrown in for good measure. France.

February 27 (Part I) and March 5 (Part II) both at 7:15 p.m.: “Mysteries of Lisbon.” Raul Ruiz’ masterly tale of lives and stories and the art of their telling across three generations. Portugal

March 19: “Meek’s Cutoff.” Kelly Reichardt’s minimalist almost surreal Western epic takes place in 1845, when three families head west on the Oregon Trail in a wagon train with a guide who may or may not be trusted. USA

March 26: “Higher Ground.” Without condescension or sentimentality, actor-director Vera Farmiga deals with faith and religion in an evangelical Christian community. Her character insists on the normality of true believers while focusing on the ordeal of a single soul undergoing a complex spiritual struggle. USA

April 2: “The Trip.” British actor-comedians Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan embark on a trip to review pretentious country restaurants in the north of England but all they do is eat, drive, and talk, trading quips, insults, philosophies, and bursts of classic celebrity impressions. England

April 9: “Poetry” at 7:15 p.m. A proper 60-ish woman with dementia struggling to raise a child on her own finds strength and purpose enrolling in a poetry class. This creative process allows her to understand and escape her own pain and to describe beauty before language fails her. South Korea

April 16: “Certified Copy.” In Tuscany, a French emigre (Juliette Binoche) goes off with an English cultural historian (William Shimell) who is passing through town. Taken for a married couple, the two play along but leave us guessing. France/Italy/Iran

April 23: “Life During Wartime.” A battle between the sexes, and an endless struggle between personal desires and society’s structures. USA

April 30: “Of Gods and Men.” In 1996, eight French Cistercian monks in a remote Algerian monastery face a crisis of conscience when Islamic fundamentalists threaten their safety. Should they leave or should they stay? Their shared strength as a band of brothers humbled before their God transcends all considerations of religion and politics. Grand Prize Winner at Cannes. France

Second Chance Cinema, Mondays, 7:30 p.m., Friend Center Auditorium, Computer Science building, Princeton campus (corner of William Street and Olden Avenue). 609-683-1101. Princeton Adult School registration is available at princetonadultschool.org or by E-mail at Reginfo.pas@verizon.net.

Depending on final course enrollment, a limited number of single admissions to individual screenings may be available at the door, but seating cannot be guaranteed.

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