If you’re looking for some cinematic diversions that are out of the ordinary, the next seven days afford several worthwhile options scattered throughout the greater Savannah area.
Robert Altman classic
First up, on Feb. 9 is the Tybee Post Theater’s latest “Date Night” feature: idiosyncratic writer-director Robert Altman’s romantic “anti-Western” from 1971, “McCabe & Mrs. Miller,” starring Julie Christie and Warren Beatty as a mismatched couple (she a British madam and he an American gambler) who join forces to run a brothel in a small Washington state town near the turn of the 20th century.
A somewhat odd and unconventional entry into the Western genre (which is par for the course where the late, great motion picture risk-taker Altman is concerned), this critically praised sleeper features a score by the recently deceased Canadian folk singer and poet Leonard Cohen and superb camerawork and composition by the one and only Hungarian-born cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond (who was also behind the camera for such iconic films as “The Deer Hunter” and “Heaven’s Gate”). Showtime is 7 p.m., with $10 admission (includes a glass of wine, for those of age, and a chocolate kiss).
Go on a ‘Walkabout’
Two nights later on Feb. 11 at Trustees Theater, SCAD’s Cinema Circle wraps up its triple-play of haunting, provocative art films helmed by visionary British director Nicolas Roeg. They follow rare big-screen airings of Roeg’s “Don’t Look Now” and “The Man Who Fell to Earth” with the atmospheric 1971 gem “Walkabout.” The second feature Roeg ever made, it’s also the first motion picture he directed by himself (his debut, the 1970 crime drama “Performance,” was co-directed with the late Scottish filmmaker Donald Cammell).
“Walkabout” tells the gripping story of a young, upper class British boy and his older sister — both adolescents — who become lost without adequate food and water in the treacherous Australian Outback. Ultimately, nearing death from exposure and dehydration, they stumble upon an Indigenous Australian teenage boy who’s wandering the wilderness on a lengthy, trying rite of passage known as a “walkabout.” The boy, who’s fending for himself without assistance from adults, allows the British children to travel with him in spite of the profound language barrier between them. However, as a result of this lack of verbal communication, he cannot comprehend their need to return to civilization and to their own family.
The visually stunning film stars Jenny Agutter (best known to U.S. audiences as the bewitching nurse Alex Price in the 1981 horror-comedy “An American Werewolf in London”) and Roeg’s own young son Luc as the lost Brits. The finished result is an almost hallucinogenic investigation of human isolation. It is assumed that SCAD’s Cinema Circle will show the extended, restored director’s cut of the film, which adds an extra five minutes of material not seen upon the movie’s initial theatrical release. Consider sticking around after the show for a short talk by Cinema Circle members on the movie’s production and legacy. Showtime is 7 p.m., with $8 admission ($5 for military/seniors/students with ID) or free to those holding SCAD ID.
Veterans For Peace free screening
The next night, Feb. 12 at The Sentient Bean, Savannah Chapter 170 of Veterans For Peace presents a free community screening of the emotionally charged feature-length documentary “DAKOTA 38.” This ultra-low-budget 2012 release follows Vietnam vet and Native spiritual leader Jim Miller as he makes good on re-enacting a scene he first saw in a 2005 dream: riding from South Dakota to Minnesota on horseback to commemorate the 1862 site of a horrific execution by hanging of 38 of his Dakota tribal ancestors.
On the anniversary of this mass execution, Miller was joined on his 330-mile journey by fellow horse riders and a small camera crew that preserved the interactions between the participants and the Native and non-Native hosts that feed and board them along the way. The resulting film is said to be a triumph, and, in the spirit of honoring the belief systems of Native American peoples, it is offered for free in hopes of encouraging healing and reconciliation — something the entire world (and perhaps especially our own country) could use plenty of right now. Showtime is 7 p.m.
Gregory & Audrey
Heading out to the neighboring town of Springfield, there will be a screening the following night, Feb. 13, of the 1953 romantic comedy “Roman Holiday,” starring Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn. The venue? Springfield’s recently restored, single-screen historic movie house, the Mars Theatre. Co-scripted under a pseudonym by the celebrated (and, at the time, blacklisted) screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (“Johnny Got His Gun”), this box-office success was produced and directed by the great German-born filmmaker William Wyler (“Ben-Hur,” “Funny Girl,” “Wuthering Heights”). Hepburn took home an Oscar for her performance as crown princess of an unnamed country who bristles at her rigorously scheduled life and rebels, sneaking out of her country’s embassy to fend for herself alone on the streets of Rome.
She winds up sharing a brief, flirtatious adventure with a kindly ex-pat American reporter (Peck), and in the process takes a memorable and bittersweet ride on a stylish Vespa scooter (this sequence is said to have done more to spur sales of those iconic motorscooters in this country than any other exposure of the time period). “Roman Holiday” is one of those lovely little pictures that has aged quite well, and deserves to be viewed on the big screen, as it was initially. Showtime is 7 p.m., with $7 admission.
A twisted love story
And last but not least, next Wednesday, Feb. 15, the Psychotronic Film Society serves up a unique and refreshing rarity in honor of Valentine’s Day: respected indie writer-director Josh Becker’s unjustly forgotten (and seriously twisted) romantic comedy “Lunatics: A Love Story.”
Never released anywhere in the world on DVD and completely unavailable commercially for ages (its initial VHS release has been out of print for decades), this low-budget neo-noir tale of two lost souls who meet by accident and must overcome their individual emotional difficulties was co-produced by Sam Raimi (“Evil Dead,” “Spider-Man,” “The Hudsucker Proxy”), Robert Tapert (“Don’t Breathe,” “30 Days of Night,” “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys”) and Bruce Campbell (“Ash Vs. Evil Dead,” “Burn Notice,” “Bubba Ho-Tep”). Campbell also has a supporting role in the film.
“Lunatics: A Love Story” stars Sam’s brother Ted Raimi and ’80s cult actress Deborah Foreman (“Valley Girl,” “April Fool’s Day”) as the titular lunatics.
“We shot it in six weeks in 1989, then finally finished the movie in 1991, and it got a minor release in 1992,” says Becker, who has given the PFS special permission to show the film in what may be only its third public screening in almost 20 years.
“We shot it here in Michigan, using an old elementary school gym as our soundstage,” he recalls. “It was a thrill for me because it was the first time I had a real crew and cast and shot in 35mm. And I brought it in on time and on budget.”
The decidedly offbeat nature of the screenplay coupled with its extreme obscurity makes it a perfect match for the PFS’ sensibilities, and the genuinely heartwarming love story at the root of the unpredictable plot makes it a logical programming choice for the night after Valentine’s Day. Becker cites the actors’ performances as a key component of the film’s enduring underground fanbase. “Ted and Debbie worked very well together, and Bruce is funny. I think people like it because it’s ultimately good-natured and funny.”
Becker also says he looks back very fondly at this stage in his career on what was only his second feature film as director.
“Not really wanting to honk my own horn,” he says, “but I do think it’s funny and sweet and reasonably unique. I don’t think there’s any other film that’s anything like it. It seems to get laughs in all of the places I meant for it to, and, unlike many films of the present day, it’s not cynical or bitter or mean; it’s hopeful and sort of uplifting in its own small way.”
Showtime is 8 p.m., with $8 admission and discounts on craft beer and organic wine during the show.
Until next week, see you at the movies, be kind to those around you and don’t forget to turn off that cell phone.
Jim Reed directs Psychotronic Film Society of Savannah. Email email@example.com.
IF YOU GO
What: “McCabe & Mrs. Miller”
When: 7 p.m. Feb. 9
Where: Tybee Post Theater, 10 Van Horne Ave.
Cost: $10, includes glass of wine and chocolate kiss
When: 7 p.m. Feb. 11
Where: Trustees Theater, 216 E. Broughton St.
Cost: $8 or $5 for students/seniors/military, free with SCAD ID
What: “DAKOTA 38”
When: 7 p.m. Feb. 12
Where: The Sentient Bean, 13 E. Park Ave.
What: “Roman Holiday”
When: 7 p.m. Feb. 13
Where: Mars Theatre, 106 S. Laurel St., Springfield
What: “Lunatics: A Love Story”
When: 8 p.m. Feb. 15
Where: The Sentient Bean, 13 E. Park Ave.
The late and respected critic Roger Ebert called “Walkabout” “one of the great films,” noting that it offers little to no moral judgment of its characters. Director Nicolas Roeg’s son Luc, who starred in the film as a child, later made a name for himself in the movie business as a producer of challenging arthouse features such as the Tom Waits concert film “Big Time,” the British true-crime thriller “Let Him Have It,” David Cronenberg’s disturbing mental illness drama “Spider” and the controversial exploration of homicidal children “We Need to Talk About Kevin.”
Native American Jim Miller had never heard the tale of the 36 Dakota Indians hanged in late December 1862 under orders from President Abraham Lincoln when he had a vision of a group of Dakotas being hanged in public. Upon learning of the historic accuracy of that event, he reached out to young, non-Native filmmaker Silas Hagerty and asked him to document the ceremonial 330-mile ride across the frozen landscape “to connect to (Native) youth,” who he felt were ruining their lives and destroying their own people through the scourge of drugs and deadly crime. “DAKOTA 38” is the resultant film.
Josh Becker is now at work polishing his latest script, “Morning, Noon & Night,” which he plans to direct and shoot independently and on an extremely low budget in his home state of Michigan, “just like ‘Lunatics,’” he notes. Two main roles in the film have been written with both Bruce Campbell and Ted Raimi in mind, so, Becker says, “if all goes well and all the stars align in the heavens,” it will be something of an old-school “Lunatics” reunion.