For the past 10 years or so as I've been presenting underrated and overlooked films here in Savannah, I've run into many people who understandably assume I must adore all the movies I promote.
In a way, it only makes sense: Why would someone spend a great deal of time, money and energy to host public screenings of films if he's not an avowed and ardent fan of them?
Well, the truth is that while I don't believe I've ever shown a film I dislike, I often promote films I have no real affinity for.
My impetus was never to screen films I love, but merely to screen films I felt someone would love. Giving all sorts of folks the chance to stumble upon their next favorite movie was - and remains - the goal. It's a pleasure to publicly showcase a forgotten film truly deserving of rediscovery. The act of researching - and then often tracking down rare copies of - these lost gems (and buried misfires) is what drives me.
Every so often, however, I do present films I greatly enjoy. I'll do just that April 10 at the Sentient Bean Coffeehouse, when the Psychotronic Film Society screens a beautiful, uncut and restored version of the 1963 superhero fantasy "Judex" by French director Georges Franju, marking what would have been his 101st birthday.
Criminally ignored for decades (which was easy to do, since only poor quality, truncated prints have been known, and this recently restored cut is not yet available in the states), "Judex" is a condensed remake of a beloved five-hour French film serial of the same title from 1914.
Scripted by the grandson of the serial's creator, and directed by the masterful Franju (best known for his bona fide cult classic "Eyes Without A Face" and for co-founding Paris' famed Cinematheque FranÃ§aise just before World War II), it's an eerie, moody tale of a debonair, wealthy male socialite who dons a mask and cape to sneak about anonymously in the shadows - inspired to fight crime and seek vengeance by the murder of his father.
Judex (Latin for "judge") is a masterful fighter and an expert at disguise, and has a secret headquarters filled with high-tech gadgets in the underground passages beneath an old mansion.
Sound familiar? That's because it's essentially the story of The Dark Knight, aka Batman. Only Judex was written decades before.
Subtitled in English with spoken dialogue in French, this is a respectful tribute to the original serial: stylish, mesmerizing and fantastical. Made just before the international success of the James Bond films unleashed an avalanche of copycat Eurospy and secret agent flicks, it's possibly the last great old-fashioned superhero movie ever made.
Similar in mood to Jean Cocteau's phenomenal, dreamlike "Beauty and The Beast," and starring legendary U.S. sleight-of-hand magician Channing Pollock in the title role, it is quite simply a must-see for fans of archetypal storytelling, German Expressionism and the art of illusion.
And yes, I love this film.
Looking ahead, here are some other notable indie film screenings on the horizon:
â€¢ April 17 at The Sentient Bean, the PFS marks the 70th anniversary of the first known LSD experience with a screening of the impossibly rare psychedelic thriller "Jigsaw." This 1968 gem has never been released on video anywhere in the world (it was actually only shown in one Cleveland cinema), and is highly sought after by collectors. $6, for mature audiences only, at 8 p.m.
â€¢ April 18 at The Lucas Theatre, the Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Films continues with "Follow The Leader," an outstanding and revealing documentary portrait of three 16-year-old high school class presidents - all of whom are conservatives with plans to one day become president of the U.S. Tickets include a live Q&A and catered reception with the filmmaker. $8 ($3 for students and seniors with ID), at 7 p.m.
Jim Reed directs the award-winning Psychotronic Film Society of Savannah - presenting indie, foreign, classic and cult cinema year-round. Read more from Jim on Savannah's film scene at filmsavannah.com.