Do Savannnah

Film Scene: Week’s screenings include favorite classics, modern surprises

 

Film Scene: Week’s screenings include favorite classics, modern surprises

24 May 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

This week’s batch of what we here at Film Scene call “alternative cinema” fare — meaning feature films or festival events that fall outside the boundaries of typical multiplex engagements of first-run mainstream titles — includes two movies that will sound quite familiar to anyone out there who read last week’s column, for two distinctly different reasons.

Thursday night screening

First off, I mentioned May 25’s one-night-only showing of Blake Edwards’ adored 1961 rom-com “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” at the cozy little historic, single-screen venue known as the Tybee Post Theater (on Tybee Island, natch) last week because it takes place on a Thursday evening. Typically, although printed copies of Do Savannah hit racks around the greater Savannah area late on Wednesdays, most readers don’t wind up seeing said copies until Thursday morning (or, more likely, afternoon). That’s also when subscribers to the Savannah Morning News receive their complimentary issue of Do bundled in with their daily paper.

This means that to make sure as many people hear about Thursday night events as possible, we include them in both the week before and the week of the screening. It may seem a bit redundant to those who make it a point to keep up with this column, but hey, we try to err on the side of caution.

Can you dig it?

Anyhoo, the aforementioned Hollywood classic based on a Truman Capote novella and starring Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard as an oddball pair of amorous neighbors in bustling Manhattan is a perennial favorite which — save for a disturbingly offensive “yellowface” cameo by the shockingly non-Asian Tinseltown legend Mickey Rooney — remains a charming piece of trifle. A wonderful batch of supporting players (including Buddy Ebsen and Patricia Neal) round out the cast, and help to elevate the totality of the film beyond its somewhat hacky premise.

If you’ve never seen “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” my suggestion is that you make a point to catch it on the big screen in a restored theater such as the Post. $10 admission includes a glass of wine (for those of legal drinking age) and a package of Kleenex, in case all the heartbreak on display gets to ya. Showtime is 7 p.m.

Take a chance

The next night at the city’s S.P.A.C.E. Gallery on Henry Street, local film organization CinemaSavannah tears a page from the Psychotronic Film Society playbook and offers a one-night-only engagement of a “mystery film,” which is not actually a mystery. That is to say, it’s a dramedy. However, the actual title of the film will remain a secret, and will not be announced publicly. The organizers hope folks will trust their taste and judgment enough to trust them and buy a ticket on faith alone.

Now, why would one do such a thing? Well, for the same reason the PFS has enjoyed great success with such “mystery screenings” from time to time over the past decade or so. Because by this point in CinemaSavannah’s existence, adventurous local film lovers have hopefully developed a decent feel for the tastes of its programmer, Tomasz Warchol. Warchol has built a solid rep for selecting well-made, memorable foreign and independent films in a wide variety of genres, and he is touting this recent, award-winning Italian-made feature as one of the best films he has seen so far this year.

To date, it has not been shown here in the U.S., save for one festival screening (Warchol caught it overseas during a European trip), and as a result, its Italian distributor has kindly allowed CinemaSavannah to screen it as a sort of stateside sneak preview — provided they do not advertise the engagement publicly, which, one supposes, could jeopardize any possible domestic distribution plans.

Warchol describes the film as “an original and perceptive commentary on contemporary relationships in the age of social media,” and says he would not be surprised at all if this film wound up serving as Italy’s official submission for the coveted Best Foreign Picture Oscar later this year. If you can, take advantage of this unusual opportunity to see an impressive narrative film before virtually anyone else in the country. In spoken Italian with English subtitles. Two screenings only, at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m., with $8 (cash only) admission.

Film Scene flashback

And now it’s time for our second flashback of the week. You may recall from last week’s column that this year marks the 40th anniversary of the release of the box-office smash “Smokey and the Bandit.” We featured that low-brow, Southern-oriented goofball action-comedy in the last Film Scene because there was a special one-day-only nationwide revival of it at select multiplexes.

Well, just a couple of days after that high-def simulcast, the tiny, independent, historic Mars Theatre in neighboring Springfield (about a 35-minute drive from downtown Savannah) has booked that very same Burt Reynolds/Sally Field/Jerry Reed/Jackie Gleason crowd-pleaser for a two-night run.

“Smokey and the Bandit” will be shown in all its glory at 7 p.m. May 26 and 27. All the high-pitched laughing, slow-motion car crashes, slightly raunchy double entendrés, slapstick humor and truck-horn cussing you (probably) know and love returns to the big screen for what will likely be the last time in a great while. Never seen this film before? Shame on you. Now you can right that grievous mistake in style for just a measly $7 admission. The Mars has a concession stand serving standard fare, so they probably have Dr. Pepper on tap (or a reasonable facsimile). However, if you want a Diablo Sandwich to get in the proper mood, you’ll have to find that elsewhere.

‘Ottoman Cowboys’

Looking ahead to the following week, on May 31 at The Sentient Bean, the Psychotronic Film Society’s long-running Wednesday night series of overlooked feature films from around the world continues with a rare domestic screening of the 2009 Turkish action-comedy “Yahsi Bati” aka “The Ottoman Cowboys,” written by and starring Turkish megastar Cem Yilmaz.

This big-budget period piece outing (by Turkish film industry standards, that is) takes place in 1881 and finds Yilmaz — that country’s most popular stand-up comic and comedic actor and screenwriter — playing one of two loyal servants of the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire (pre-Turkey) who are sent by their leader to the United States on a mission to present our then-President James A. Garfield with a token of his Empire’s respect, and an invitation to open diplomatic relations.

Shot entirely in Turkey, with that country doubling for the American West and with an all-Turkish cast playing mostly American characters, this silly and crass over-the-top historic comedy serves as both a spoof of American pop culture in general (and our Western films in particular) and a pointed rebuke to the generations of slights and condescension Yilmaz and Co. clearly feel their country has endured at the hands of the U.S. The film is a zany, post-modern pastiche of sight gags, puns, inside references to well-known Hollywood movies and Turkish history that resembles what a Will Ferrell/John C. Reilly buddy movie might look like were it made in Turkey.

The film, which has never been released in the U.S., is light years ahead of the Turkish-made films of the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s, in terms of production value, special effects and even basic technical competency. Though a fair amount of the humor is clearly rooted in Turkish language and culture, “Yahsi Bati” (even its title, which translates to “Beautiful West,” serves as a sly play on the similar-sounding Turkish phrase “Vahsi Bati,” meaning “Wild West”) is easily understood and enjoyed by audiences unfamiliar with the history of that ancient land. In other words, “Blazing Saddles”-esque humor is universal. This fully uncut, widescreen version will be shown in its original Turkish, with English subtitles. 8 p.m. showtime, with $8 admission, and discounts on craft beer and organic wine during the show.

Free doc screening

And finally, the next night, June 1, Wilmington Island’s Lutheran Church of the Redeemer kindly serves as the location for a free screening of the 2015 PBS-made documentary “Being Mortal,” starring Boston-based endocrine surgeon Dr. Atul Gawande. The film is based on his 2014 book “Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End,” which discusses the wide variety of choices available for “end of life care” and serves to challenge many of the more traditionally accepted notions of the role medicine — and medical procedures — play for those with terminal illness.

Presented by Hospice Care of Georgia, the hour-long program takes an in-depth look at the relationships between terminally ill patients and their doctors and questions the long-established practice of the medical community to search for a cure at all costs — which may have the unintended consequence of postponing crucial, difficult conversations about patients’ deeply personal wishes regarding their own end-of-life decisions. The film demonstrates that there are alternatives to prolonging treatments for terminal illnesses, which can allow those facing death to do so on their own terms and with more grace, dignity and sense of self-determination than they might otherwise have were they battling their disease right up until their last breath.

Through this screening, attendees can learn more about the practice of caring for the dying, the creation of living wills, do not resuscitate orders, transferring power of attorney and other key aspects of such situations. After the film, there will be an open discussion with local experts in this field. Although the screening is at a house of worship, the organizers stress that the film is non-denominational and is suitable for people of all faiths or none, as the case may be. While admission is free, advance registration is requested at redeemersav.org or 912-897-1133.

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

The first “Smokey and the Bandit” film was a ludicrous success, costing less than $5 million to make and grossing more than $300 million at the box office. However, the relative quality of each of its two theatrical films decreased significantly, and by the time “Smokey and the Bandit Part 3” was released five years later, that embarrassingly bad movie (which did not include star Burt Reynolds in a sizable part) actually lost $2 million, generating a paltry $7 million in ticket sales on a $9 million shooting budget.

Before breaking into feature films, Cem Yilmaz, writer and star of “Yahsi Bati,” emerged two decades ago as Turkey’s first popular, professional stand-up comic. To date, he has performed more than 4,000 concerts, and is responsible for a string of slick, well-received movies that blend parodies of Turkish culture with perceptive jabs at U.S. politics, art and media from the viewpoint of the Turkish people. He has since retired from comedy and occasionally appears in serious dramatic roles. He is known for always wearing black outfits.

Five years before Dr. Atul Gawande’s book “Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End” was published (inspiring the documentary of the same name), he authored an essay in The New Yorker in which he argued persuasively and passionately that the culture of maximizing corporate profits was a key factor in driving U.S. health care costs through the roof. That article was acknowledged as having a profound impact on President Obama’s efforts to pass meaningful health care reform legislation.

IF YOU GO

What: “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”

When: 7 p.m. May 25

Where: Tybee Post Theater, 10 Van Horne Ave.

Cost: $10, includes wine and Kleenex

Info: tybeeposttheater.org

What: Mystery screening: Italian dramedy

When: 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. May 26

Where: S.P.A.C.E. Gallery, 9 W. Henry St.

Cost: $8, cash only

Info: cinesavannah@att.net

What: “Smokey and the Bandit”

When: 7 p.m. May 26 and 27

Where: Mars Theatre, 106 S. Laurel St., Springfield

Cost: $7

Info: marstheatre.com

What: “Yahsi Bati” aka “The Ottoman Cowboys”

When: 8 p.m. May 31

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

Cost: $8

Info: instagram.com/pfssav

What: “Being Mortal”

When: 7 p.m. June 1

Where: Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, 51 Wilmington Island Road

Cost: Free

Info: redeemersav.org

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