The 2018 Savannah Music Festival is in full swing now (see what I did there?), which means there are fewer specialty cinema events over the next few weeks around the area. That’s because two of the fest’s main venues, the Lucas Theatre and SCAD’s Trustees Theater, are booked practically solid with live concert performances from some of the finest exemplars of their particular genres in the entire world of music.
However, there are still plenty of interesting and worthwhile big-screen offerings to take in for those who appreciate choices which are a little (or a lot) out of the ordinary. In fact, on April 8, in the auditorium of the Jepson Center, the Savannah Music Festival itself presents the area premiere of little-known documentary “Terezín: Refuge in Music.” It focuses on extremely talented and now-deceased pianist Alice Herz-Sommer and guitarist Coco Schumann. Both survived the Nazi atrocities of Hitler’s notorious Theresienstadt concentration camp and eventually achieved great acclaim for their creative and interpretive instrumental skills.
Produced in Germany in 2013 with assistance from renowned violinist (and SMF associate artistic director) Daniel Hope, the film is designed to celebrate and preserve the stories and work of the countless musicians imprisoned against their will who subsequently perished in that disease-filled and violence-ridden ghetto. As of Tuesday, tickets to this special 3 p.m. screening were still available. Admission info can be found in the accompanying sidebar listings for all Film Scene events.
‘Eating You Alive’
Speaking of documentaries, a few days earlier on April 5 at the Regal Stadium 10 behind the Savannah Mall, Fathom Events will present the new doc “Eating You Alive,” a two-hour look at the “dysfunctional relationship” many Americans have with food.
Rooted in the science of nutrition and aggressively promoting a meat-free diet, the film features interviews with well-known doctors and nutritionists, as well as recognizable celebrities who have embraced these lifestyle changes, including Oscar-winning movie director James Cameron (“The Terminator”) and atheist magician Penn Jillette (of Penn and Teller fame). Want to learn more about getting and staying healthier? It screens once only, at 7 p.m.
Fathom’s digital cinema programming continues April 8 at the same venue with another high-definition stream of a professionally filmed live performance from Russia’s famed Bolshoi Ballet. This time, it’s that award-winning company’s fall 2015 production of French opera and ballet composer Adolphe Adam’s 1841 two-act work “Giselle.”
It is a tale of a peasant girl who rises from her grave after dying of sadness upon learning her lover is actually wed to someone else. She is determined to punish the man who betrayed her. It’s an eerie and at times surreal production that is regarded as one of the most challenging roles a ballerina can perform. One screening only, at 12:55 p.m.
40 years of ‘Grease’
And finally, on the same day, the Regal Stadium 10 also celebrates the 40th anniversary of the box-office smash “Grease,” one of the most popular Hollywood motion pictures ever adapted from a musical stage play. A massive worldwide hit that spawned a best-selling soundtrack album, it has grossed close to a half-billion dollars in ticket sales alone (!) since its auspicious debut in 1978.
Set in the late 1950s, “Grease” is essentially a slicker, more stylized and unabashedly nostalgic homage to the actual American pop and rock ’n’ roll-infused musical films made during the 1950s and 1960s. It’s set in a fictional Southern California high school and stars a youthful John Travolta and the then-current Aussie singing sensation Olivia Newton-John as mismatched lovers grappling with hormones, teen angst and (spoiler alert) flying hot rods. This restored and remastered digital version returns to the silver screen for three days only: there will be 7 p.m. shows on April 8 and 11, with 2 p.m. matinees April 8, 11 and 14.
‘The Shape of Water’
Heading out to the beach, two captivating and unusual motion pictures will be screened over the next week at the cozy, 200-seat Tybee Post Theater. Up first is the recent Oscar winner for Best Picture (along with Best Director, Best Original Score and Best Production Design), Mexican-born filmmaker Guillermo del Toro’s masterful romantic fantasy “The Shape of Water,” starring Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins and Octavia Spencer.
A truly mesmerizing and beautiful film that enthralled local audiences during a pre-release sneak-preview at the most recent SCAD Savannah Film Fest, this 1960s period piece is an adult-oriented tale of the unexpected love that blossoms between a mute cleaning woman at a secret U.S. government testing facility and a mysterious, amphibian humanoid creature held captive therein that is somewhat reminiscent of the old “Creature from the Black Lagoon.”
In fact, the idea for this film was hatched years ago when del Toro (“Pan's Labyrinth,” “Hellboy”) was approached about directing a remake of that classic Universal horror film. Apparently, del Toro wanted to reimagine that B&W gem from the standpoint of the creature itself, and to explore what would have happened if the aquatic monster had actually wound up with the human woman he so clearly adores in the original film, rather than having his awkward and rather frightening advances spurned.
Packed with intense, nuanced performances by all the lead and supporting actors, as well as dazzling production design and an evocative score composed by Alexandre Desplat, this emotionally charged and somewhat provocative tale is an unmitigated triumph from start to finish and benefits greatly from being seen in a theatrical environment. The Post screens it at 7 p.m. April 6, 7 and 8, with additional matinees at 3 p.m. the last two days of the run.
‘Rocky' on Tybee
That same venue has a special treat on Friday, April 13, as well. It’s a one-show-only 8 p.m. engagement of the unmitigated champion of all modern cult movies, director Jim Sharman’s 1975 gender-bending rock opera “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” starring Tim Curry (“Legend”), Barry Bostwick (TV’s “Spin City”) and a young Susan Sarandon (“Thelma and Louise”).
Based on British actor-singer-writer Richard O’Brien’s kinky stage play homage to the beloved B&W sci-fi flicks of his youth, this inventive send-up of 1950s middle Americana and the sexual repression that fueled much of post-WWII culture in this country is a triumph of high camp that eventually became part of the mainstream after decades situated proudly on the sidelines.
Expect plenty of foul-mouthed audience interaction with the characters and situations onscreen (as well as perhaps some lightweight objects being tossed about the room), as that once-spontaneous subversive behavior has — unfortunately for some of us — become inextricably linked with the film. Just make sure if you plan on getting in on this action that you are respectful of the interior of this lovingly restored historic cinema space. It ain’t no rundown grindhouse, ya know! Have fun, but show some serious respect, yo.
Jim Thompson tribute
And, last but certainly not least, the Psychotronic Film Society’s long-running Wednesday night series of obscure, forgotten or simply underappreciated feature films from around the world continues April 11 at The Sentient Bean. That night they’ll pay tribute to the life and influential career of iconic mystery and hardboiled crime author Jim Thompson, who is held in high regard for the body of his written work, which at times includes elements of Greek tragedy buried within the plots of his gritty, dark tales of sometimes quite despicable characters who engage in all manner of unpleasant and destructive behavior.
Over the years, a handful of his works have been adapted into respected motion pictures, such as: “The Killer Inside Me,” “The Grifters,” “After Dark, My Sweet” and “The Getaway.” This mystery screening will be held just a few days after the 40th anniversary of Thompson’s death at the age of 70 after a long and hard life.
The exact title of the film featured will remain a secret right up until showtime, but it can be said that this neo-noir is one of the least-known adaptations of his work, and one which was essentially unavailable for years. Its impressive cast includes one of the male stars of one of the highest grossing films of all time, and one of the female leads from one of the most beloved and celebrated TV series ever made. Adventurous viewers who enjoy dark and sexy thrillers are encouraged to buy a ticket, take a chance and be pleasantly surprised. Showtime is 8 p.m. with discounts on craft beer and organic wine during the show.
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 the Psychotronic Film Society of Savannah.