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Film Scene: ‘Streetcar,’ Met Opera and more light up the big screens this week

 

Film Scene: ‘Streetcar,’ Met Opera and more light up the big screens this week

22 Feb 2017

As I mentioned in last week’s column, on Feb. 23, the lovely and intimate Tybee Post Theater (which reopened in 2015 after decades, and boasts a major restoration and modern A/V upgrade) presents a one-show-only screening of controversial director Elia Kazan’s adored 1951 drama “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

Kazan was one of the most supremely gifted theatrical and screen directors who ever lived (he died in 2003 just six years shy of age 100). Over the course of his lengthy, celebrated and divisive career, he co-founded the influential Actor’s Studio and helmed such timeless and award-winning big-screen gems as “On the Waterfront,” “Gentlemen’s Agreement,” “East of Eden,” “A Face in the Crowd” and the spellbinding adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Last Tycoon,” which proved to be Kazan’s final motion picture.

“Streetcar” is one of his best-known features, and is set against the steamy and eclectic backdrop of an impoverished New Orleans working-class neighborhood in the French Quarter. Based closely on the 1947 Broadway play by Tennessee Williams (which was also directed by Kazan) it boasts a career-making lead performance from Marlon Brando (who also played this role on Broadway in Kazan’s production) as the brutish, conflicted salesman Stanley Kowalski, whose violent relationship with both his wife Stella and her emotionally fragile sister Blanche form the emotional core of the piece.

Watching this film intently is like auditing a master class on dramatic acting. Cast members, including Vivien Leigh, Karl Malden and Kim Hunter, all turn in phenomenal performances that make for a rather dazzling ensemble piece.

Be aware, though: this is a film about interpersonal conflicts between family members and their close friends. It pushes a lot of buttons, but doesn’t offer any cheap gags, explosions or car chases. So, if that’s more your bag, these aren’t the droids you’re looking for. However, if you treasure slow-burn, character-driven drama, it’s the bee’s knees. Showtime is 7 p.m., with $10 admission (includes a glass of wine and a package of tissues in the event teardrops fall).

Push the limits in Pembroke

The very next night, I’ll be at the Pembroke Public Library (about a 35-minute drive from Savannah) to co-host the second installment of that facility’s new, four-part series “Pushing The Limits.” It’s a free, monthly movie night in the library’s meeting room that’s designed to be both highly entertaining and thought-provoking. Each month’s selection is related to a specific theme, with the notion being that viewers are encouraged to ruminate on (and discuss afterward) how said theme may apply to their own lives or experiences.

This time around, the theme is “Nature” — specifically how we as humans can push our own limits by exposing ourselves to the wonders and challenges of being “in the wild.” We’ll screen the beloved 1983 Disney film “Never Cry Wolf.” It’s a live-action drama based on the acclaimed 1963 autobiography of Farley Mowatt, a real-life government biologist who, despite his relative lack of experience out in the field, was assigned to spend time in the wilderness personally observing interactions between wolves and caribou in an effort to ascertain whether the wolves were decimating the caribou population through hunting and feeding. Veteran actor Charles Martin Smith stars as the Mowatt-inspired character of Tyler.

Despite the Disney moniker, this was a departure from that studio’s bread-and-butter of lighthearted family-oriented fare. There are still plenty of moments of mirth to be found in “Never Cry Wolf,” but it is definitely a drama with a serious message. Its box-office success (it wound up playing for 27 weeks in more than 500 theaters) is commonly regarded as the catalyst for Disney forming the Touchstone Pictures imprint the following year (which was geared toward producing and distributing live-action movies for more mature viewers than Disney’s traditional animated features and lightweight pre-teen comedies).

Shot over a two-year period in Alaska and British Columbia, the film is filled with gorgeous shots of stunning Arctic vistas, and has earned a loyal following worldwide over the past 34 years. It’s recommended for mature viewers 14 and older. The show starts at 6 p.m. with a free dinner of pizza, soft drinks and dessert and a brief live introduction on the film and the series in general. Seating is limited, so consider calling the library in advance at 912-653-2822 to reserve your seat. We hope to see some of you there.

Met Opera on the big screen

The following night at both the Regal Savannah 10 multiplex (behind the Savannah Mall) and the Bluffton, S.C., Cinemark multiplex, New York City’s Metropolitan Opera will digitally stream a live, hi-def, big-screen simulcast of Dvořák’s 1901 opera “Rusalka,” which was not performed onstage in the U.S. until the mid-1970s. This fantastical work, which one noted critic described as a “sad, modern fairy tale” shares a few common plot points with Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Little Mermaid.” It’s the tale of a Rusalka spirit — also known as a water nymph (sprite) — that presides over a body of fresh water. She falls in love with a handsome prince who happens upon her lake by chance, and employs a witch to transform her from a supernatural creature to a human to marry the Prince — despite warnings of terrible ramifications if she does so.

As one might expect, plenty of woe follows. Thought of as one of the more disturbing and phantasmagoric operas of its time, it’s highly recommended for both those who appreciate the darker side of fairy tales and those who like their opera twisted and intense. As with the other HD simulcasts from the Met, it captures the performance in stunning sound and visual clarity, offering a vantage point arguably superior to even those in the live New York theater audience. During the intermissions and set changes, cinema viewers are treated to behind-the-scenes footage of the backstage area and interviews with the technical crew, actors and singers, making for a truly immersive experience.

The entire event lasts a whopping four hours. This matinee will take place promptly at 12:55 p.m. at both of our local cinemas, with tickets available at the door or in advance through FathomEvents.com. Advance admission prices are about $26 for adults, $24 for seniors and $20 for kids, which is certainly more than a standard motion picture, but a great value for what’s being presented. If you can’t catch this live simulcast, it will return to theaters for a one-time-only encore re-broadcast at 6:30 p.m. March 1.

George Kennedy tribute

And finally, on March 1 at The Sentient Bean, the Psychotronic Film Society tips its hat to the late, great lead and supporting actor George Kennedy, with a Memorial Tribute that falls almost exactly on the one-year anniversary of his death from heart disease at the age of 91.

A rugged, imposing figure with a large frame and an unusually expressive face, Kennedy was a journeyman actor who got a relatively late start in Hollywood (he was in his mid-30s before landing a notable role), yet wound up appearing in more than 200 films and TV shows over the course of his diverse five-decade career. Many remember him best for his Oscar-winning supporting role as the intimidating convict Dragline who tangles horns with fellow inmate Lucas Jackson (Paul Newman) in the 1967 smash dramedy “Cool Hand Luke.” Still others know him for his later, deadpan turns as Police Captain Ed Hocken (opposite Leslie’s Nielsen’s character of Frank Drebin) in the “Naked Gun” series of absurdist crime comedies based on the short-lived, early ‘80s cult TV series “Police Squad.”

For this tribute night, the PFS will screen one of Kennedy’s lesser-known features, but one that is revered worldwide by fans of films that are unintentionally hilarious. While the exact title will remain a secret right up until showtime, it can be said that although this motion picture was not widely seen at the time of its initial theatrical release, it wound up greatly influencing several later movies that went on to become major blockbusters. Adventurous viewers and fans of Kennedy’s work are encouraged to take a chance, buy a ticket and enjoy a rare opportunity to see this film in a public setting. Come prepared to laugh. Showtime is 8 p.m., with $8 admission, and discounts on organic wine and craft beer during the film.

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 psychotronicfilms@hotmail.com.

 

JIM’S NOTES

Marlon Brando received a Best Actor Oscar nomination for “A Streetcar Named Desire.” It was his first such recognition, and wound up being the first of a whopping four consecutive Academy Award nominations in that same category.

Actor Charles Martin Smith spent a total of three years of his life working on “Never Cry Wolf,” and actually helped write much of his character’s voice-over narration for the picture.

In addition to his copious work in film and on TV, George Kennedy also authored three published books, including two murder mysteries set in the world of entertainment, as well as an autobiography.

 

IF YOU GO

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

Info: tybeeposttheater.com

 

What: “Never Cry Wolf”

When: 6 p.m. Feb. 24

Where: Pembroke Public Library, 1018 Camelia Drive, Pembroke

Cost: Free; includes pizza, soft drinks and dessert

Info: RSVP required at 912-653-2822

 

What: Metropolitan opera presents “Rusalka”

When: 12:55 p.m. Feb. 25 and 6:30 p.m. March 1

Where: Regal Savannah Stadium 10, 1132 Shawnee St.

Cost: $20-$26

Info: fathomevents.com, 912-927-7700

 

What: Memorial Tribute to George Kennedy

When: 8 p.m. March 1

Where: The Sentient Bean, 13 E. Park Ave.

Cost: $8

Info: sentientbean.com

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