While area film buffs - and plain old movie lovers - are no doubt awaiting high-profile upcoming events like Paul Newman's classic, Oscar-winning 1967 dramedy "Cool Hand Luke" (July 12 at the Lucas), and Trustees Theater's continuing Summer of Spielberg ("Jurassic Park" in 3-D on July 13 and "Saving Private Ryan" on July 27), a steady stream of more niche-oriented independent screenings are on tap at smaller, quirkier venues.
Adventurous viewers have three extremely unexpected options available to them over the next seven days - and I emphasize the word "extremely," because the exact titles of two of the three features on tap are complete mysteries.
Well, okay, they're not complete mysteries. The Psychotronic Film Society (which uses the award-winning counterculture restaurant and community hub the Sentient Bean Coffeehouse as its base) occasionally puts on events without divulging just what they'll be showing - instead offering only broad subjects or specific clues until it hits the screen.
It's unusual for the PFS to hold two such Mystery Screenings within a few days of each other, but then again, the PFS is nothing if not unusual.
However, before we get into those perplexing shows at the Bean, I'm thrilled to report that CinemaSavannah, one of the city's most invaluable indie film organizations, has just announced its next three shows (after a lengthy summer hiatus). And the first one is a doozy.
"Berberian Sound Studio" is the second feature from acclaimed British director Peter Strickland (whose 2009 debut "Katalin Varga" CinemaSavannah programmer Tomasz Warchol hails as "one of the most phenomenal feature debuts of my film experience"). This intense shocker recently swept the British Independent Film Awards, taking home trophies for Best Achievement in Production, Best Actor, Best Director and Best Technical Achievement (for sound design). Among other notable wins at numerous European festivals, it also nabbed British Actor of the Year and British Film of the Year at the 2013 London Critics Circle Film Awards.
Set in 1976, it concerns a timid British sound engineer who is sent to Rome to help complete the soundtrack to an Italian horror movie set at an all-girl equestrian academy (in a deliberate nod to the all-girl ballet school featured in Italian director Dario Argento's own 1977 masterpiece of stylized terror, "Suspiria"), but finds the line between celluloid and reality blurring. Is he merely working on a horror film, or is he unwittingly starring in one?
A twisted psychological thriller that has critics falling all over themselves with praise, "Berberian Sound Studio" was described by British paper "The Telegraph" as "a great, rumbling thunderclap of genius," and by our own NPR as "a deeply unsettling dive into the subconscious," which makes this one-night-only engagement at Muse Arts Warehouse a can't-miss event for area horror fans. Two shows only - at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. July 6. $8 admission for mature audiences.
Then on July 7 at the Sentient Bean, the PFS salutes Asia's legendary Shaw Brothers Studio. Since 1930, this creative powerhouse has produced more than 1,000 motion pictures in varying genres, but is most known as the premiere outlet for dazzling martial arts action flicks. In 1934, they released Hong Kong's first movie with sound, and their adherence to the old-school Hollywood model of signing actors and directors to exclusive contracts meant they were able to nurture, develop and control the career arcs of such male martial arts stars as Jackie Chan, Yuen Biao and Sammo Hung, as well as female stars like Cheng Pei Pei (whom many know from director Ang Lee's "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"). Even if you're not a fan of "kung-fu movies," the camerawork, set design and production value of the very best Shaw Brothers flicks of the '70s and '80s are the gold standard for the genre and well worth a look.
While the exact title of this classic Shaw Brothers production will not be announced beforehand, it is a beautiful, restored print in spoken Chinese, subtitled in English. 8 p.m. showtime, $7 admission.
And finally, on July 10 at the Bean, the PFS pays homage to infamous exploitation director and screenwriter Larry Cohen on his 72nd birthday, with a screening of one of his most beloved - if unjustly obscure - films. Known for filling off-kilter and trashy drive-in-style pictures (such as "It's Alive," "The Stuff" and "Hell Up In Harlem") with clever, allegorical storylines and sharp dialogue, Cohen helped create the cult '60s sci-fi TV series "The Invaders," and also wrote the 2002 box-office hit thriller "Phone Booth." This film is a hoot and is suitable for audiences 15 and older. 8 p.m. showtime, $7 admission.
See you at the movies, and don't forget to turn off your cellphone.
Jim Reed directs the award-winning Psychotronic Film Society of Savannah. Read more from Jim on Savannah's film scene at filmsavannah.com.
What: "Berberian Sound Studio"
When: 5 and 8 p.m. July 6
Where: Muse Arts Warehouse, 703 Louisville Road
Cost: $8, for mature audiences only
What: Mystery screening from Shaw Brothers Studio
When: 8 p.m. July 7
Where: The Sentient Bean, 13 E. Park Ave.
What: Mystery screening tribute to Larry Cohen
When: 8 p.m. July 10
Where: The Sentient Bean, 13 E. Park Ave.