Here at Film Scene, we hope you got your fill of holiday dinner and friends and family over the past week. We also hope there were no fisticuffs involved. Seriously. These trying times are testing the mettle of even the most seemingly solid bonds of kinship and shared personal history.
My suggestion? Don't talk to nobody about nothin', and go to the movies instead.
Polish indie drama
To wit, on Dec. 2 at the S.P.A.C.E. Gallery, 9 W. Henry St., local independent organization CinemaSavannah presents a special, one-night-only engagement of the respected 2016 Polish drama "Zjednoczone Stany MiÅ‚oÅ›ci" - which in English translates to "United States of Love."
It was directed by the 38-year-old Tomasz Wasilewski, whose two previous features "In a Bedroom" and "Floating Skyscrapers" won the praise of critics and several international awards. In fact, 2013's homosexual romantic drama "Floating Skyscrapers" was named the best movie presented that year at New York City's prestigious Tribeca Film Festival.
"United States of Love," which (like both his prior films) was both written and directed by Wasilewski, took home the coveted Silver Bear Award for Best Script at the 2016 Berlin International Film Festival and earned the auteur the Best Director prize at that same year's Polish Film Fest. It has enjoyed a strong showing at the European and British box office, but has barely been seen here in the States.
Set in Poland in 1990 amidst the turmoil of that country's new liberation from the long, dreadful and dispiriting era of Soviet rule, it consists of four interweaving plotlines, each concerning a different woman whose romantic pursuits are complicated by such human character flaws as obsession and bitterness.
The U.K.'s Radio Times calls the film "a treatise on the painful reality of unrequited love." In other words, this is not a feel-good film. However, it is said to be quite compelling and should be greatly appreciated by all who cherish realistic portrayals of life experiences that contain universal truths, yet present vantage points far from our standard domestically produced multiplex fare.
Two screenings only, at 5:30 p.m. and 8 p.m., in spoken Polish with English subtitles. Admission info can be found in the sidebar listings that accompany this column. Don't forget: CinemaSavannah screenings at S.P.A.C.E. Gallery are cash only.
Italian gothic horror
Four nights later and just a couple blocks north at The Sentient Bean, the Psychotronic Film Society's ongoing Wednesday evening series of underrated and/or downright maligned feature films from around the world continues with a rare public viewing of a minor gem of gothic horror: director Giorgio Ferroni's 1960 shocker "Mill of the Stone Women."
Boasting atmospheric set design and unusually creative camerawork and lighting for a foreign genre feature of that time period made on a limited budget (kudos go to director of photography Pier Ludovico Pavoni for going the extra mile), it stands as the very first Italian horror film ever shot in full color.
A slow-paced film that relies more on creepy vibes than flashy action, it was shot in the Flemish countryside, and its visual style was inspired by the work of Dutch master painters. The storyline concerns a reclusive sculptor who resides in a small town near Amsterdam who may or may not be involved in the disappearances of several young women from the village. As with many Italian films of this time period, a clear-cut narrative is often abandoned, so viewers must overlook rather gratuitous errors of both continuity and logic to better appreciate the eerie mood of the production in totality.
Rumors are that iconic Italian director and cinematographer Mario Bava ("Kill, Babyâ€¦ Kill," "Hercules in the Haunted World") was called in to complete this film without onscreen credit after Ferroni had been relieved of his duties by the producers, and at times it certainly resembles later Bava works.
After decades of only being seen here in the U.S. via ghastly, poor-quality full-frame 16mm prints, a completely uncut widescreen European 35mm print was discovered and restored. It is that special version which the PFS will present, with its original English-dubbed soundtrack intact. 8 p.m. showtime, with discounts on craft beer and organic wine during the screening.
The very next night, out on Tybee Island, the historic Post Theater presents a one-show-only engagement of the beloved 1989 comedy "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation," starring Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo and Randy "Hollywood Star Whackers" Quaid.
It's the tale of a series of misadventures around the yuletide season which result in no small amount of low-brow, slapstick humor and gratuitous action sequences. Produced by the late, legendary and famously reclusive John Hughes (the man responsible for such crowd-pleasing popcorn flicks as "Sixteen Candles," "The Breakfast Club" and "Home Alone") and made in association with the iconic college humor mag referenced in the title, it's based on a short story Hughes himself wrote and had published in that magazine in 1980.
The third film to feature the dysfunctional Griswold family as its main characters, it hit No. 1 at the U.S. box office in its third week of release, despite going head to head with the mega-blockbuster "Back to the Future Part II." If you've only grown up seeing this film in censored, time-compressed versions on cable TV, now's your chance to see the full, uncut version, just as it was initially released to theaters. Showtime is 7 p.m. Admission price includes your choice of beer or wine (of you're old enough) as well as a piece of chocolate.
A cautionary tale
And finally, that same night just a bit later, both the Regal Stadium 10 multiplex behind the Savannah Mall and the Cinemark in nearby Bluffton, S.C., offer a high-def digital streaming event with a historical bent.
"George Takei's Allegiance on Broadway" gives viewers a chance to witness a professionally filmed performance of the Broadway run of the famed "Star Trek" actor's original musical about prejudice and governmental misconduct he and his family suffered during his youth. It stars actors who have appeared in such plays, films and TV shows as "Mulan," "Miss Saigon" and "Glee."
It's been a little over 75 years since one of the most shameful chapters in U.S. history took place: the signing of Presidential Executive Order 9066 (which paved the way for the internment of innocent Japanese Americans during WWII). Inspired by those true events, this work 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.
Designed as a testament to the power of the human spirit and a cautionary tale about the type of unethical racial profiling that can arise out of an irrational and anti-American fear of foreigners, the musical received high praise from critics and audience members alike. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. at both venues.
That's it for alternative cinema events in our neck of the woods this week. Until our 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
IF YOU GO
What: "United States of Love"
When: 5:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. Dec. 2
Where: S.P.A.C.E. Gallery, 9 W. Henry St.
Cost: $8, cash only
What: "Mill of the Stone Women"
When: 8 p.m. Dec. 6
Where: The Sentient Bean, 13 E. Park Ave.
What: "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation"
When: 7 p.m. Dec. 7
Where: Tybee Post Theater, 10 Van Horne Ave.
What: "George Takei's Allegiance on Broadway"
When: 7:30 p.m. Dec. 7
Where: Regal Savannah Stadium 10, 1132 Shawnee St., and Cinemark, 106 Buckwalter Pkwy., Bluffton, S.C.