Anyone in town who enjoyed the latest Roman Polanski film, "Venus In Fur," likely recalls with great affection the performance of wonderful French actor Mathieu Amalric (who portrayed the male half of that two-person drama).
For those who missed that gripping "small" film, which was brought to town by local organization CinemaSavannah, he may also be recognized from his standout roles in such memorable off-center titles as director Wes Anderson's "The Grand Budapest Hotel" (he was "Serge X.") and "Mesrine," the true-life French gangster saga.
Amalric is currently gracing our shores as the male lead in another "tough" foreign film - meaning one which does not neatly fit into the stereotypical U.S. fare. It's called "The Blue Room," and at only 76 minutes, this relatively short, adult-oriented thriller about two adulterous lovers and a violent crime is being hailed by the Philadelphia Inquirer as "a dazzling deconstruction of the mystery genre that turns its conventions on their heads."
Based on an old book of the same name by the late, highly respected Belgian author Georges Simenon, it's written and directed by Almaric as well, and is being hailed as a "graceful" study of the darker side of romantic intimacy.
Released here in the states with virtually no publicity or fanfare whatsoever, "The Blue Room" - which is in spoken French with English subtitles - was shot in the anachronistic, boxy "Academy format" (also known as "full frame"), and is said to be a sleeper for those who appreciate suspense films which are long on dialogue and short on action. Once more, CinemaSavannah has partnered with Southside's Spotlight Theatres on Eisenhower Drive to promote this weeklong engagement, which opens Dec. 5.
A portion of the opening night's proceeds will benefit that independent organization, so try to attend Friday's 7:10 p.m. or 9:45 p.m. screenings if you can. Mention CinemaSavannah's name and get in for just $7. This film is suitable for mature viewers only.
Two nights later, the Psychotronic Film Society hosts a special Sunday night show at The Sentient Bean Coffeehouse on Forsyth Park. It's a salute to the one and only writer, actor, director and musician Woody Allen, and takes place a few days after his 79th birthday.
Rather than screen one of Woody's classic films, in true PFS style, they've uncovered what must surely be the single rarest feature Woody ever made. In fact, this incredibly obscure gem has never been released on home video in any format and remains virtually unseen by even diehard Allen fans since its original release decades ago.
What is it exactly? Well, the title will remain a closely guarded secret until showtime, but suffice it to say that even casual fans of Woody's unique brand of neurotic, intellectual humor won't want to miss this unexpected chance to see it for themselves. Showtime is 8 p.m., with $7 admission for mature viewers. The PFS will also raffle off some rare items from their archives before the show.
Moving ahead to next Wednesday, Dec. 10, the PFS pays tribute to another one-of-a-kind performer: the late, great Sammy Davis Jr.
One of the most amazing, multifaceted entertainers who ever lived, most folks don't realize that in addition to being an A-list singer, tap-dancer and actor, this "Rat Pack" member was also a gifted mimic, standup comic and jazz drummer and percussionist who could hold his own with the best of them. Little-known fact: In the early 1970s, he also dabbled in ritualistic devil worship under the tutelage of none other than Anton LaVey, high priest of the Church of Satan.
It was around that same time he made a TV movie which was intended to serve as the pilot for a weekly Satan-oriented (!) comedy series. It was rejected by the network, though, and lapsed into complete obscurity.
That's a shame, because 1973's "Poor Devil" is a hoot and a half - an hilarious mashup of slapstick comedy, sly humor, occult symbolism and mod, 1970s pop-culture style. The plot finds Satan (played by none other than British horror and sci-fi icon Christopher Lee, known for his portrayals of both Saruman from "The Lord of the Rings" and Dracula) gives a young down-on-his-luck resident of Hell (Sammy) one chance to redeem himself - by returning to earth in hopes of talking a sad-sack retail accountant into selling his soul to Lucifer.
That sad sack is played by "The Odd Couple's" Jack "Quincy" Klugman, and as if the casting couldn't get any more perfect, his harried boss is played by TV's "Batman," Adam West. As with the previous Woody Allen feature, this forgotten film has never been commercially available, so this is likely your only chance to see it for yourself. Fans of corny, groovy, '70s flower-power schtick (and Satanism) will not be disappointed. Showtime is 8 p.m., with $7 admission.
And finally, that same night at the Carmike Cinemas on Stephenson Avenue, Revolution Yoga Studio is co-sponsoring a special screening of the new documentary "AWAKE: The Life of Yogananda." This "unconventional biography" of Indian Swami Paramahansa Yogananda (who authored the best-selling book "Autobiography of a Yogi" and is credited with bringing the teachings of yoga and meditation to the West in the 1920s) is meant to provide a portrait of a spiritual guru who made Eastern mysticism palatable to innumerable followers and subsequent teachers.
While some critics have criticized the film for merely "scratching the surface" of Yogananda's works and influence (the Boston Globe called it a "feel-good cinematic hagiography"), others have described it as uplifting, inspiring and compelling, with the potential to be of great interest even to those who are unfamiliar with such subject matter. Anyone interested in catching this film on the big screen should make plans to attend now, as it will screen once only, at 7:30 p.m. Contact the venue for ticket pricing.
Until next week, see you at the movies, and don't forget to turn off that cell phone.
Jim Reed directs Psychotronic Film Society of Savannah. Read more at www.filmsavannah.com.