Here at Film Scene, we usually showcase local screenings taking place at alternative venues rather than established area multiplex cinemas.
That's because, by and large, the vast majority of adventurous features that make it to Savannah come to us courtesy of a small number of independent film societies and/or large, single-screen, nonprofit theaters (like the Lucas or Trustees).
However, from time to time, a noteworthy foreign or indie motion picture does sneak through to a standard, chain cinema - usually for little more than a one-week engagement.
That's the case May 10, when the Spotlight Theater on Eisenhower Drive presents the 2012 Chilean historical drama "No." No small amount of praise has been heaped on this edgy political thriller which was based on true events and stars Gael GarcÃa Bernal ("The Motorcycle Diaries," "The Limits of Control") as a clever young ad executive who finds himself recruited to create daily, 15-minute TV spots. They are designed to encourage the Chilean populace to rise up peacefully against longtime dictator Augusto Pinochet by voting "no" in the public election Pinochet's been pressured by the international community into holding - an election the majority of Chilean citizens feel certain is a sham rigged to ensure Pinochet's continued grip on their country.
Squaring off against an equally savvy rival propagandist (played by respected actor Alfredo Castro), who's determined to prod citizens into either voting "yes" for the fiendishly cruel Pinochet's re-election or at least staying home on voting day to skew the totals in the despot leader's favor, Bernal's character finds himself in an almost absurdly pivotal position: the fate of an entire country quite literally hangs on how well he does his marketing job.
Director Pablo LarraÃn adapted the screenplay for "No" from a play by Antonio SkÃ¡rmeta, and - in an an unexpected but very shrewd move - shot the entire film on vintage, U-Matic video cameras. That's the same, antiquated 3/4" tape format used by virtually all Chilean TV news crews of the time period, and, while the low-resolution of U-Matics may take some viewers aback, this decision allows LarraÃn's fictionalized 2012 scenes to blend seamlessly with actual, archive TV news footage from the election.
Time Out New York critic David Fear called this film, "the closest thing to a masterpiece" he saw at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, and the Village Voice hailed "No" as "an accomplishment in cinematic verisimilitude situated anxiously at the halfway point between "Medium Cool" and "Forrest Gump."
Anyone who's found themselves hooked on the clever intrigue of the advertising machinations fetishized on TV's "Mad Men" may find this "bitingly funny media satire" - which was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar - extremely engrossing. "No" is Rated R, and screens daily at 11:55 a.m., 4:15 p.m., 7:15 p.m. and 9:55 p.m.
On May 15 at the Sentient Bean Coffeehouse, the Psychotronic Film Society hosts a rare public viewing of the twisted, forgotten 1976 sci-fi/horror flick "Embryo," starring the late Rock Hudson as a geneticist who develops a method to accelerate a human fetus into a mature adult in just a few days. As one might imagine, tampering with Mother Nature brings with it all sorts of unintended consequences - all of them dastardly. Before long, the artificially raised woman (played by Nicaraguan former model and Bond Girl Barbara Carerra, best known for roles in "Condorman" and "Loverboy") is acting massively creepy and looking for freaky, murderous ways to stop herself from continuing to age any further.
Made toward the tail-end of Hudson's lengthy run as Police Commissioner Stewart "Mac" McMillan on TV's "McMillan & Wife," this bizarre turkey has lapsed into almost complete obscurity, but its ludicrous premise (filled with more holes than the Albert Hall), cheap special effects (the mutated fetus is quite obviously a doll) and C-grade cast (including Diane Ladd, Roddy McDowall and - as herself - '70s celebrity psychologist Dr. Joyce Brothers) combine to make it one heck of a find for fans of under-appreciated camp cinema. Said one recent review, "This film has aged as gracefully as Mickey Rourke."
This screening marks the 37th anniversary of the movie's original theatrical release. Come prepared to chuckle as well as scream. Tickets are $6 for mature audiences. Showtime is at 8 p.m.
See you at the movies!
Jim Reed directs the award-winning Psychotronic Film Society of Savannah - presenting indie, foreign, classic and cult cinema year-round. Read more from Jim on Savannah's film scene at filmsavannah.com.