In what can only be termed a fantastic and bountiful week for Savannah cinephiles, the next seven days finds three different independent film organizations presenting three vastly different features - all noteworthy and deserving of big-screen viewing.
Things kick off in a big way April 12 at Trustees Theater with a one-show-only engagement of director Jean Renoir's all-time classic anti-war drama "The Grand Illusion."
Considered one of the greatest movies ever made by legions of critics and filmmakers alike (Woody Allen named it one of his 10 favorite films), this intensely humanistic tale of two captured French soldiers in World War I - an aristocrat and a lowly mechanic - who meet as officers in a POW camp and dream of escape was used by Renoir to critique the then-current mood of Europe as it stared down the ugly, frightening rise of fascism.
His viewpoint - as expressed so beautifully in this film - that common humanity should trump all geographic, racial and ideological divisions - was anathema to Hitler's regime. So much so that after it received a major award at the 1937 Venice Film Festival, Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels declared the movie "Cinematic Public Enemy No. 1," and, fearing its message of tolerance and brotherhood would undermine German antagonism, ordered all copies confiscated and destroyed.
In the late 1990s, a previously unknown negative was accidentally discovered in a French vault and meticulously restored by esteemed distributor Rialto Pictures.
This definitive version (a full 20 minutes longer than previously available) later became the first DVD in the acclaimed Criterion Collection.
The SCAD Cinema Circle presents this in a pristine digital transfer, followed by a discussion moderated by the chair of the school's Cinema Studies department.
A highly influential film that left its mark on generations of subsequent directors (the late, great Roger Ebert noted in 1999 that key sequences were paid respectful homage in both "Casablanca" and "The Great Escape,") "The Grand Illusion" is the first foreign movie ever nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, and a true classic.
This rare opportunity to see the restored version in one of the city's two restored movie houses is simply not to be missed. In French with English subtitles. 7 p.m. showtime, $8 admission.
The Psychotronic Film Society's feature for April 17 at the Sentient Bean is at the opposite end of the spectrum. "Jigsaw" is an insanely rare "psychedelic thriller" that remains unreleased on home video anywhere in the world (in any format).
Originally meant as a high-quality made-for-TV movie, network bigwigs deemed it too controversial to air. It wound up being shown in only one Cleveland theater for a couple of weeks in 1968 before vanishing from sight.
It's an extremely loose remake of the 1965 Gregory Peck-led mystery "Mirage," but rather than having the lead character suffer from garden-variety amnesia, this torn-from-the-day's-headlines update finds a seemingly paranoid man framed for murder by nefarious scientists who cloud his memories with a secret dose of LSD.
The PFS has diligently tracked down a print of this unpredictable and highly sought-out Noir-esque cult gem and will screen it in honor of the 70th anniversary of the first intentional acid trip (by the drug's creator, Albert Hoffman). 8 p.m. showtime, $6 admission for mature audiences.
On April 18, the Lucas Theatre presents the acclaimed low-budget political documentary "Follow The Leader."
Part of the wonderful Southern Circuit Tour of Indie Films, this real-life coming-of-age tale profiles three idealistic high school class presidents who dream of one day running for president of the United States. Over the course of several years, these young, fierce conservatives find their philosophies evolving and their convictions waning as they are forced to reconsider their goals and perspectives.
Made for less than $30,000, it's been hailed as a revealing look at today's complex political scene and features appearances by famous pols such as Ted Kennedy, Michael Bloomberg and Chris Dodd. 7 p.m. showtime. $8 admission ($3 students/seniors w/ID) includes a Q&A and catered reception with the filmmaker.
Jim Reed directs the award-winning Psychotronic Film Society of Savannah - presenting indie, foreign, classic and cult cinema year-round. Read more from Jim about Savannah's film scene at filmsavannah.com.