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Film Scene: ‘Princess Mononoke,’ ‘Fifth Element’ anniversary and more must-see events

 

Film Scene: ‘Princess Mononoke,’ ‘Fifth Element’ anniversary and more must-see events

10 May 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What a treat it was to see the original 1995 anime classic “Ghost in the Shell” on the big screen of downtown’s Trustees Theater last week, courtesy of SCAD Cinema Circle. The groundbreaking animated sci-fi action flick looked and sounded great in that wonderful room, and the several hundred students and members of the public on hand for the event were held in rapt, respectful attention for the entire film.

The ongoing series of notable feature films from years (and sometimes decades) past which is the Cinema Circle is a wonderful opportunity to view a broad variety of classic and/or influential movies, and to learn a little something about those pictures in the process, as each selection is preceded by a short introduction and followed by a post-show discussion led by members of the art school’s film faculty, graduate students and other special guests.

Anime finale

May 12, the organization presents the third and final anime film in its most recent themed series. That beloved feature, Studio Ghibli’s epic 1997 historical fantasy flick “Princess Mononoke,” was written and directed by the legendary Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki (“Spirited Away”) and is considered one of the finest anime films ever made. In fact, it was the highest-grossing film of all time in Japan, and was only relieved of that title when James Cameron’s mega-blockbuster “Titanic” knocked it into second place.

Trustees will present the English-dubbed version released here in the States. It was adored by the critics, but failed to connect with mainstream audiences in the kind of numbers required to make it a financial success on these shores. That’s likely because of an unfamiliarity with the type of animation on display, as this English version — which was scripted by acclaimed graphic novelist Neil Gaiman, of “American Gods” fame — went on to become a big hit on the domestic home video market and helped pave the way for greater acceptance of anime in our country.

Set in the 1400s in Japan, it’s the somewhat dark tale of a young prince who encounters a variety of animal gods and evil demons in a massive forest. Gaiman’s Anglicized take on the storyline is clearly designed to recontextualize some of the more Japan-centric elements of this supercharged supernatural folk tale. Rarely seen in public these days, it’s a can’t-miss event for any self-respecting fan of either animation or fairy tales. Showtime is 7 p.m. with $8 admission ($5 for students/seniors/military) or free with valid SCAD ID.

‘MASH’ on the island

The night before, May 11, Tybee Post Theater offers up a one-show-only engagement of esteemed, idiosyncratic director Robert Altman’s 1970 counterculture dramedy “MASH,” starring Donald Sutherland and Elliott Gould. The inspiration for the long-running network TV series of the same name starring Alan Alda and Wayne Rogers, this “MASH” is a far more grim and sardonic take on the Korean War than its television progeny (although that series pushed plenty of buttons and envelopes, for sure). This winner of the Cannes Film Fest’s Palme d’Or and the Oscar for Best Screenplay shows at 7 p.m., and $10 admission includes a piece of chocolate and, for those of age, a glass of wine.

Locally filmed ‘Gifted’

The following Thursday, May 18, the Post Theater kicks off a three-day run of the recently released family drama “Gifted,” starring Chris Evans (“Snowpiercer”), Tony Award-winner Lindsay Duncan (“Birdman”) and Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer (“Fruitvale Station”).

“Gifted” was shot on Tybee Island and around the greater Savannah area, and locals will get a kick out of the handful of recognizable locations on display (Huc-A-Poo’s, anyone?) in this tale of a precocious and intellectually accelerated 7-year-old girl who’s caught in a bitter custody dispute between her down-to-earth widower father and her self-centered maternal grandmother.

A well-made (if fairly derivative) picture that tugs mightily at the heartstrings, it features standout performances by young Mckenna Grace as the gifted child and newcomer Hai Dang as one of her frustrated math tutors. 7 p.m. showtime each night, with a 3 p.m. matinee on May 20 only. $7 admission ($5 for kids, gifted or otherwise).

Trio of special screenings

Heading out to the Southside of town, there will be three different special events taking place at the Regal Savannah Stadium multiplex behind the Savannah Mall over the next seven days, all courtesy of Fathom Entertainment.

First up, on May 11 is a live performance from the National Theatre of the romantic crime drama “Obsession,” starring Jude Law (“Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”), which has recently been adapted for the stage from Oscar-nominated Italian director Luchino Visconti’s 1943 film of the same name. That well-regarded film was Visconti’s first, and he’d later go on to helm such gems as “Rocco and His Brothers” and “The Leopard.”

Fact is, “Obsession” was actually based directly on the infamous American film noir “The Postman Always Rings Twice,” so consider this stage version the red-headed stepchild of that stone classic of intrigue and deception. One show only, at 7 p.m., with $25.68 admission. The show also screens at the same time at the Cinemark in Bluffton, S.C.

Then, two nights later at the same two locations, the Metropolitan Opera presents a live, high-def simulcast of Strauss’ opera “Der Rosenkavalier,” starring Renée Fleming (in what has been called one of her signature roles) and Elīna Garanča (in her debut North American performance). A comic opera in three acts that premiered in 1911, “Der Rosenkavalier” will be performed in the original German, with English subtitles. And, as with all the Met’s “Live in HD” events, during intermissions, their cameras go backstage for exclusive interviews with the cast, crew and production teams. Admission ranges from $19-$25, and if you miss the live simulcast at 12:30 p.m. May 13, there will be an encore showing at 6:30 p.m. May 17 at the same venues.

Rounding out Fathom’s noteworthy cinematic events this week is a special 20th anniversary revival of visionary French writer-director Luc Besson’s 1997 comedic sci-fi thriller “The Fifth Element,” starring Bruce Willis (“Seagram’s Golden Wine Coolers”), Milla Jovovich (“Dummy”) and — in a somewhat amazingly surreal turn — Gary Oldman (“Léon: The Professional”), along with memorable roles by comedian Chris Tucker and stage great Ian Holm. This futuristic tale features a hardscrabble flying taxi driver (yes, it’s that far in the future) who happens to be an ex-Special Forces agent (I’ll let you guess who plays this role) intent on safeguarding a beautiful and mysterious female humanoid who controls the secret to destroying a supernaturally malevolent force that only appears once every 5,000 years.

Packed with a frenetic pace, snappy, screwball comedy-inspired banter and terrific CGI and special effects that hold up well even today, two decades after its release, “The Fifth Element” is adored by fans of kitschy, campy cult-film fun. For this special presentation, a short bonus feature will accompany the main film, which includes an interview with Besson about the making of this film, as well as a sneak preview of his soon-to-be released sci-fi film “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.” Showtimes are 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. May 14 and 17 at Regal Savannah Stadium 10, with $13.38 admission.

‘Company of Five’

And finally, May 17, the Psychotronic Film Society’s weekly series of underappreciated cinematic gems continues at The Sentient Bean with a special showing of the insanely rare 1968 British teleplay “Shaggy Dog,” starring the late, great John Neville (best known for playing the lead role in Monty Python alum Terry Gilliam’s 1988 film “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen”). Broadcast only once in 1968 by the BBC, this terrifically entertaining B&W dramedy was scripted by none other than critically adored and Oscar-nominated British playwright and TV/film screenwriter Dennis Potter (“Pennies from Heaven,” “Brimstone and Treacle,” “Gorky Park,” “The Singing Detective”).

It is the sole episode still in existence of the ambitious BBC television series “The Company of Five,” which was designed to debut a different, unrelated original teleplay each week, but always starring the same five main actors. Amazingly, a few years after this series was broadcast to great acclaim, the BBC unceremoniously erased the master videotapes of the program, along with hundreds more masters of other TV shows and movies — thus destroying all traces of them forever.

Decades later, a dogged collector discovered one sole remaining copy in a BBC archive in Australia, and so the “Shaggy Dog” episode (about a tightly wound businessman forced into an unduly stressful situation during a contentious job interview) is the only shred of this wonderfully challenging show that remains. It’s a must-see for fans of bold and daring live drama from the earlier days of television. 8 p.m. showtime, with $7 admission.

Until next issue, 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

“Princess Mononoke” was the very first animated feature to win the coveted Best Picture award in Japan’s Academy Prizes (their equivalent to our Oscars). Director Hayao Miyazaki has said he based much of the film’s look on the iconic, widescreen Western films directed by American filmmaker John Ford, and Leonard Klady of Variety said the movie “has the soul of a romantic epic, and its lush tones, elegant score… and full-blooded characterizations give it the sweep of cinema’s most grand canvases.”

Though shot in and around Savannah and Tybee Island, “Gifted” is set in a small town near Tampa, Fla. Generally liked by critics and audiences, it has proven a minor financial success, having generated about $20 million in tickets from a $7 million production budget.

IF YOU GO

What: “MASH”

When: 7 p.m. May 11

Where: Tybee Post Theater, 10 Van Horne Ave.

Cost: $10, includes chocolate and glass of wine

Info: tybeeposttheater.org

What: National Theatre Live “Obsession”

When: 7 p.m. May 11

Where: Regal Savannah Stadium 10, 1132 Shawnee Ave., and Cinemark, 106 Buckwalter Pkwy., Bluffton, S.C.

Cost: $25.68

Info: fathomevents.com

What: “Princess Mononoke”

When: 7 p.m. May 12

Where: Trustees Theater, 216 E. Broughton St.

Cost: $8, $6 seniors/military, free with SCAD ID

Info: trusteestheater.com

What: The Met: Live in HD “Der Rosenkavalier”

When: 12:30 p.m. May 13 and 6:30 p.m. May 17

Where: Regal Savannah Stadium 10, 1132 Shawnee Ave., and Cinemark, 106 Buckwalter Pkwy., Bluffton, S.C.

Cost: $25.68; $23.54 seniors; $19.56 children 11 and younger

Info: fathomevents.com

What: “The Fifth Element” 20th anniversary

When: 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. May 14 and 17

Where: Regal Savannah Stadium 10, 1132 Shawnee Ave.

Cost: $13.38

Info: fathomevents.com

What: “The Company of Five: Shaggy Dog”

When: 8 p.m. May 17

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

Cost: $7

Info: instagram.com/pfssav

What: “Gifted”

When: 7 p.m. May 18, 19, 20, 21; 3 p.m. May 20

Where: Tybee Post Theater, 10 Van Horne Ave.

Cost: $7 or $5 for children

Info: tybeeposttheater.org

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