That way-cool, totally free showcase of both recent and vintage award-winning French language features provides folks in the greater Savannah area with a phenomenal opportunity to expose themselves to some terrific examples of world cinema in a variety of genres.
Organized by the school’s student-run French Club and overseen by Armstrong’s director of international education Dorothee Mertz-Weigel, the ninth Francophone Film Fest will take place from Feb. 16-18 at the Ogeechee Theatre in the school’s Student Union building. This year’s lineup includes five motion pictures that were produced in a variety of nations, but all are in spoken French, with English subtitles for those of us who don’t speak the language. The features range from lighthearted 60-year-old comedies to intense dramas made just within the past decade. See my dedicated article on this worthwhile event here for full details and showtimes.
At 8 p.m. Feb. 17, the Lucas Theatre offers another one-show-only engagement of director George Cukor’s classic 1940 screwball comedy “The Philadelphia Story,” starring Cary Grant (“To Catch a Thief”), Katherine Hepburn (“The African Queen”), Jimmy Stewart (“Rear Window”) and Roland Young (“Topper”). This sharply written and expertly acted tale of a prickly, elitist socialite (Hepburn) who finds herself torn between three disparate male suitors was later retooled into the beloved 1956 Hollywood musical “High Society” (starring Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly and Frank Sinatra). It currently enjoys a phenomenal 100 percent Fresh (meaning positive) rating on RottenTomatoes.com, and holds up incredibly well after all these years.
Hey, I get it — a lot of folks who live on Tybee famously cannot be convinced into driving across the bridge to Savannah unless they’re under an evacuation notice or in need of a hospital. Similarly, the idea of making the short drive to Tybee for entertainment options is often peculiarly anathema to many Savannah and west Chatham County residents.
I’ve gotten on this soapbox before in Film Scene, but seemingly to no avail. So, once more with feeling: If anyone reading this column has a hand in selecting titles for any of the area’s older, restored theaters (this includes the Lucas, Tybee Post, Springfield’s Mars Theatre and downtown’s Trustees Theater), for goodness sakes, be reliably bold and creative in your programming choices.
If you follow this unsolicited advice, it is highly likely that not only will your attendance numbers for film screenings increase overall, but those of us who live here year-round will deem your location as infinitely more ambitious and diversified, not to mention more thoughtful of and caring for its audience base.
The next night at the Lucas, they’ll offer the beloved and iconic 1952 MGM musical comedy “Singin’ in the Rain,” starring Gene Kelly (who also co-directed the film with Stanley Donen, as well as handled the choreography), Donald O’Connor (“Anything Goes”) and the recently deceased Debbie Reynolds (“How the West Was Won”). It’s a lighthearted, fictionalized take on the difficult transition Hollywood was forced to make in the 1920s when silent films were replaced by movies with synchronous soundtracks (“talkies”). No less than the American Film Institute ranked this feature as both the Greatest Movie Musical of All Time and the fifth-greatest American movie ever made.
Suitable for all ages, it’s a family-oriented gem that benefits greatly from being seen projected on a massive screen such as that found on the Lucas’ stage. As with the previous night’s selection, showtime is 8 p.m., with $9 admission ($6 for students/seniors/military), and half-price beer and popcorn from 7 to 7:30 p.m.
Day of remembrance
Feb. 19 marks the 75th anniversary of one of the most shameful chapters in U.S. history — the signing of Presidential Executive Order 9066 (which paved the way for the internment of innocent Japanese Americans during WWII). Now known as the Japanese American Day of Remembrance, that day finds both the Regal Savannah Stadium 10 (behind the Savannah Mall) and Bluffton, S.C.’s, Cinemark multiplex joining with dozens of other digital cinemas nationwide to screen an encore broadcast of original “Star Trek” actor (and political activist) George Takei’s Broadway musical “Allegiance.”
Inspired by true events, the stage play portrays one Japanese American family that is forced from their home after the attack on Pearl Harbor — along with 120,000 other families of similar ethnic heritage. The play, which is designed as a testament to the power of the human spirit and a cautionary tale of the type of unethical racial profiling that can arise out of an irrational and anti-American fear and mistrust of foreigners, saw its performers receiving high praise from critics and audience members alike. Said Entertainment Weekly: “‘Allegiance’ is an important show with a phenomenal cast, and it deserves to be seen.” This one-show-only event takes place at 12:55 p.m. at both locations. Call the venues directly for admission costs.
Feb. 22 at The Sentient Bean, the Psychotronic Film Society’s ongoing weekly series of overlooked and/or critically acclaimed features continues with a rare public viewing of an infamously absurd Indonesian exploitation flick from 1987, which was never released theatrically in the U.S. It’s “Virgins From Hell” aka “Maidens’ Revenge.”
Packed with fistfights, explosions, unsavory characters and all manner of low-rent depravity, it’s the ridiculous tale of an all-virgin female motorcycle gang (replete with huge, teased hairdos and skimpy “Flashdance”-inspired outfits) who go to war against a villainous and sadistic organized crime boss who’s keeping scientists against their will in an underground dungeon and forcing them to create the most powerful aphrodisiac ever made (so he can become the richest man in the world).
Psychotronic cinema enthusiasts know that cheap, fast and out-of-control Indonesian action flicks from the ’70s and ’80s are some of the most laughably nonsensical and trashy of their type. However, within that low-budget sub-genre, “Virgins From Hell” is surprisingly well-made — from a technical standpoint, that is. The PFS will screen a fully uncut and restored widescreen print of the film, which has been dubbed into spoken English. Showtime is 8 p.m., with $7 admission for immature viewers.
‘Newsies’ on Broadway
One hour earlier that same night, there will be another one-show-only digital HD broadcast taking place at both the Regal Savannah Stadium 10 and the Cinemark in Bluffton, S.C. It’s Disney’s theatrical production of “Newsies: The Broadway Musical.” Based on the 1992 musical film of the same name (which was a massive and embarrassing flop when first released, but wound up earning a devoted cult following on home video), it features music by Alan Menken and a book by none other than famed stage and screen actor Harvey Fierstein.
Based on the true-life New York City newsboys strike of 1899, this Broadway adaptation debuted in 2012 and earned two Tony Awards. It wound up becoming the fastest Disney-based stage musical ever to turn a profit. The professionally filmed stage performance will be shown at both locations once only, at 7 p.m. Call the venues for admission pricing.
Girls Night Out
And finally, on Feb. 23, the Tybee Post Theater presents a “Girls Night Out,” by showing controversial director Elia Kazan’s masterful 1951 silver screen adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ Pulitzer Prize-winning 1947 play “A Streetcar Named Desire.” Set in a rundown New Orleans tenement building, it focuses on the emotionally scarred former public school teacher Blanche DuBois and her relationships with family members and acquaintances after transplanting herself to the French Quarter.
The film is uncommonly close to its original stage production, owing to the fact that Kazan also directed the play on Broadway, and several key cast members (including Karl Malden, Kim Hunter and Marlon Brando) reprise their roles from that very same production. “Streetcar” resulted in Brando’s first Oscar nomination for Best Actor. In fact, the film set a record by becoming the very first motion picture to ever win an Academy Award in three distinct acting categories: Best Actor and Actress in a Supporting Role and Best Actress in a Leading Role.
A triumphant showcase for charismatic personalities, “A Streetcar Named Desire” is surely one of the most mesmerizing motion pictures of its era, and one that still resonates strongly today, more than six decades later. Showtime is 7 p.m., with $10 admission (includes a glass of wine and a package of tissues in case you are overcome with emotion).
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: Ninth annual Francophone Film Festival
When: Feb. 16-18
Where: Ogeechee Theatre, Armstrong Student Union, 11935 Abercorn St.
What: “The Philadelphia Story,” “Singin’ in the Rain”
When: 8 p.m. Feb. 17-18
Where: Lucas Theatre, 32 Abercorn St.
What: Broadway musical “Allegiance”
When: 12:55 p.m. Feb. 19
Where: Regal Savannah Stadium 10, 1132 Shawnee St.
What: “Virgins From Hell”
When: 8 p.m. Feb. 22
Where: The Sentient Bean, 13 E. Park Ave.
What: “Newsies: The Broadway Musical”
When: 7 p.m. Feb. 22
Where: Regal Savannah Stadium 10, 1132 Shawnee St.
What: “A Streetcar Named Desire”
When: 7 p.m. Feb. 23
Where: Tybee Post Theater, 10 Van Horne Ave.
Cost: $10, includes glass of wine and tissues
The original negative of “Singin’ in the Rain” was destroyed by fire, but the film was painstakingly restored decades later using digital technology for a special Blu-ray edition.
Said one reviewer of “Virgins From Hell”: “Sexy chicks, crazy costumes, non-stop action and violence … All movies should be like this!” Said another: “You just must admire the glaring colors and fat moustaches.”
Jessica Tandy (“Driving Miss Daisy”) had actually originated the Blanche DuBois role in the Broadway production of “A Streetcar Named Desire,” but Vivien Leigh (“Gone With the Wind”), who played that same part in the London stage production, was chosen for the film adaptation as it was deemed she had more draw at the box office than Tandy.