Over the past few months, CinemaSavannah has presented special, one-day-only engagements of two motion pictures which wound up nominated for Best Foreign Film at the this year's upcoming Academy Awards ("Broken Circle Breakdown" and "The Hunt," for those of you keeping score). Now, with that local film group's Jan. 31 booking of the acclaimed new Italian import "The Great Beauty" at Muse Arts Warehouse, the total comes to three.
Written and directed by Paolo Sorrentino ("Il Divo"), "The Great Beauty" was just named Best Foreign Language Film at the Golden Globes, and was nominated for the same honor by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts. It was also nominated for Best Non-American Film by Denmark's National Association of Film Critics, as well as Best International Independent Film by both the British Independent Film Awards and USA's Independent Spirit Awards. Did I mention that it won Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Editor at the 2013 European Film Awards?
So, yeah. It's official. Virtually everyone whose opinions carry a great deal of weight in the world of international cinema loves this comedic drama about a 65-year-old Italian fiction writer whose longstanding carefree and decadent lifestyle (fueled by lingering fame from a single, massively popular book) is dealt a staggering blow which forces him to re-evaluate the cumulative value of his existence.
Shot in and around Rome, it's said to be (at least in part) an open homage to the absurd, glorious works of iconic Italian director Federico Fellini (whose "ghost hovers wickedly" over this film, according to NPR).
A "daring cinematic high-wire act," which "might just be the most unforgettable film of the year," says New York Magazine. A "deliciously alive movie," raves the New York Times. "Drop-dead gorgeous ... luxuriously, seductively, stunningly cinematic," applauds the Los Angeles Times. And Salon.com opines, "(It's) an ironic and passionate near-masterwork, like a nine-course dessert that makes you entirely forget the meal."
Kudos to CinemaSavannah for bringing this one to town for two shows only, at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m., with an admission cost of just $8. Note: "The Great Beauty" is in spoken Italian, with English subtitles.
The next night, Feb. 1, at Trustees Theater, SCAD's Cinema Circle presents the classic 1973 Paul Newman/Robert Redford con-men comedy "The Sting." Winner of seven Oscars and directed by George Roy Hill ("The World According to Garp," "Slaughterhouse-Five," "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid"), the movie is an unmitigated, timeless smash which cost less than $6 million to make and wound up grossing more than $156 million at the box office in the United States alone.
A period piece set in the 1930s, it concerns two swindlers (one experienced, the other green) who attempt to pull a fast one on a major mob boss. Filled with clever, unexpected plot twists and snappy patter, it's an amazingly entertaining joyride of a movie that begat one official sequel as well as at least one unofficial foreign knock-off. If you've never had the pleasure to see it, do yourself a favor and catch this rare big screen "unspooling." Showtime is 7 p.m. with $8 admission.
Looking ahead to next week: On Feb. 5 at the Sentient Bean Coffeehouse, the Psychotronic Film Society salutes the life and legacy of the late Zalman King, who died of cancer almost two years ago to that date.
Known as an extremely successful producer and director of erotic-themed films ("9 1/2 Weeks," "Wild Orchid" and "Two-Moon Junction") and cable TV series ("The Red Shoe Diaries"), before moving behind the camera, King enjoyed a long, modest career as character actor (and occasional leading man) in a variety of TV shows (from "The Munsters" to "Charlie's Angels") and motion pictures (such as the 1981 sci-fi shocker "Galaxy of Terror" and the 1975 exploitation sleazefest "Trip with the Teacher").
However, it's his unhinged star turn as falsely accused murderer Jerry Zipkin in 1978's shockingly strange and somewhat unforgettably disturbing thriller "Blue Sunshine" that may be his finest hour onscreen.
Considered one of the most unsettling and provocative "message movies" of its era, this independently financed gem is essentially unknown to mainstream audiences, but is held in high esteem by adventurous film fanatics, and was named one of the top 25 cult movies of all time by noted film academic Jamie Sexton.
While I'd love nothing more than to wax rhapsodic on the high points of "Blue Sunshine" (which has been a personal fave of mine since I stumbled upon it as a kid and had the peawodden scared out of me), the simple truth is that the movie works best if one knows nothing of the plot beforehand. So, with that in mind, I heartily encourage anyone unfamiliar with the film to resist the temptation to research it online, lest the element of surprise be lost. The film contains scenes of graphic violence and adult behavior that some may find frightening, so it is recommended for mature audiences only. The PFS will screen the uncut, widescreen version. 8 p.m. showtime, $7 admission.
And finally, on Feb. 6, the Trustees Theater plays host to one of the most critically acclaimed "under the radar" films ever made in the U.S., and certainly in our immediate area: the 1979 adaptation of beloved local author Flannery O'Connor's award-winning debut novel "Wise Blood."
Directed by the great John Huston ("Prizzi's Honor," "The Maltese Falcon," "The African Queen") and starring the always impressive Brad Dourif ("The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers," "Mississippi Burning," "Blue Velvet"), the one and only Harry Dean Stanton ("Wild at Heart," "Paris, Texas") and the reliably fantastic Ned Beatty ("Deliverance," TV's "Homicide: Life on the Street"), it's the wry tale of troubled war veteran who hatches a fervent (if crass) plan to present himself as a charismatic evangelist.
The film was shot in both Macon and Savannah.
This screening will be preceded by a brief panel discussion featuring noted movie producer Stratton Leopold (who worked on the film) and Dr. Bruce Gentry, editor of the Flannery O'Connor Review. Showtime is 6 p.m. and tickets are $8.50 (or $5 with student ID). Look for more info on this very special screening in next week's Film Scene.
Till then, see you at the movies, and don't forget to turn off that cell phone. We know what that can lead to.
Jim Reed directs the Psychotronic Film Society of Savannah. Read more at www.filmsavannah.com.