Dec. 28 marks local independent film society CinemaSavannah's final presentation of the year. So, for those of you who have not supported this worthwhile, homegrown organization in 2013, this is your chance to earn some celluloid karma points. Tomasz Warchol, the society's founder, has elected to close out its season with a special, one-day-only engagement of one of the most critically heralded European movies in recent memory: "The Broken Circle Breakdown."
The latest feature from Belgian writer/director Felix van Groeningen, "The Broken Circle Breakdown" is based on a stage play of the same title which proved immensely successful prior to this adaptation, reportedly selling out a wide variety of theaters, cultural centers and church meeting halls throughout Holland and Belgium. It's the emotional tale of a young, unconventional Belgian couple who fall in love at first sight and bond over their shared love of American roots culture (specifically bluegrass and old-time mountain music, which fill the soundtrack), but soon find their love and emotional strength greatly tested by an unforseen tragedy that devastates their growing family.
In other words, it mixes elements of Hollywood romances with the kind of tragedies which seem to only flow out of Europe.
If this sounds like rough going that may be difficult for some viewers to view, well, it is. In fact, most of the reviewers who enthusiastically recommend the film make a point to emphasize just how gritty and "tough" it can be, citing the film's treatment of such emotionally draining subject matter as one of its strengths: "An alternately wrenching and ecstatic viewing experience," says the New York Post. "A rich, raw heartache of a film, a beautifully composed, soul-stirring drama about love, family, sex, sorrow, faith and music," adds The Chicago Sun-Times. "A powerful and haunting tale of love, death and bluegrass - a mournful song played on a broken instrument, with striking visual accompaniment," says The Observer. And Moira MacDonald of the Seattle Times opines, "This is terribly sad stuff ... These characters experience big, dramatic emotions, and the movie rides on those waves."
"Terribly sad?" A "wrenching experience?" Why would anyone want to see such a film?
Well, perhaps because films which deal bluntly with the limits of human emotion are the ones you're most likely to come away from having gleaned something legitimately worthwhile about your own life and how you live it. Or, in the words of movie critic David Nusair (from Reel Film Reviews), "The Broken Circle Breakdown" is "a difficult-to-watch yet thoroughly rewarding foreign drama."
However, if the opinions of cinema critics mean inherently less to you than those of average audience members (for the record, I would not blame you if that were the case), dig this gushing review by a moviegoer who was one of the 1,500 audience members lucky enough to catch the film during its packed premiere at the Berlin Film Festival - where it won two major awards, including the Audience Award for Best Fiction Film: "Today I saw this little masterpiece about love and death. At the end, there were 10-minute standing ovations for the filmmakers."
Thanks to CinemaSavannah and the Muse Arts Warehouse (where this screening will take place), Savannah film enthusiasts have an opportunity to experience this film as it was meant to be seen: on the big screen. Note: It's in spoken English and Flemish with occasional English subtitles. Two shows only, at 5 and 8 p.m., with $8 admission.
Then on Jan. 1 at the Sentient Bean, the Psychotronic Film Society kicks off another year of showcasing the area's widest variety of both acclaimed and underrated films with one of their trademark "Mystery Screenings" - in which the exact title of that night's feature will not be revealed until showtime.
This time around, the PFS pays tribute to the late Dana Andrews on what would have been his 105th birthday. A charismatic, rugged-looking Hollywood actor, Andrews found success as a major leading man of the 1940s in such classic features as 1943's "The Ox-Bow Incident" (alongside Henry Fonda), 1945's "State Fair," 1946's Oscar-winning "The Best Years of Our Lives," and most notably, 1944's "Laura," directed by Otto Preminger.
However, Andrews' increasing reliance on alcohol began to take a severe toll on his reliablity and bankability, and by the mid-1950s, he'd mostly been relegated to taking roles in B- and C-grade movies. By the early 1970s, he'd finally gotten clean and sober, but the damage was done. While he continued to act into the 1980s, his marquee value had dimmed to the point where he mostly had small or cameo roles in such fare as "Airport 1975" (he plays a small-plane pilot who accidentaly crashes into a jetliner) and the violent Chuck Norris drive-in vehicle (pun intended) "Good Guys Wear Black."
Though he died in 1992, he's fondly remembered by many movie lovers, and this special birthday tribute is a must-see not only for Andrews fans, but for those who can't get enough of creepy, atmospheric thrillers. Considered one of the very best motion pictures of its kind ever made by critics and fans, this unnamed selection is criminally unknown to mainstream audiences, and will likely prove a very entertaining and memorable surprises. Admission is $7, and showtime is 8 p.m.
Looking ahead to the rest of January, the SCAD Cinema Circle's lengthy series, Dynamic Film Duos, continues with director Arthur Penn's timeless 1967 landmark of graphic violence and conflicted romance, "Bonnie and Clyde," starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway. That smash hit screens once only, at 7 p.m. Jan. 11 in Trustees Theater. Admission is $8.
Great stuff all around, huh?
See you at the movies, and don't forget to turn off that cellphone.
Jim Reed directs the Psychotronic Film Society of Savannah. Read more at www.filmsavannah.com.