While it's true that every once in a while one of our area's corporate-owned multiplexes will offer a decidedly non-mainstream movie on the big screen, for many years now, two organizations have been instrumental in curating and presenting foreign, alternative and independent films here in Savannah during those titles' first theatrical runs: the Psychotronic Film Society and CinemaSavannah.
Both on their own and through occasional co-productions, these local, not-for-profit outfits have been responsible for exclusive area debut engagements of such noteworthy features as "Greenberg," "Burning Bush," Alejandro Jodorowsky's "The Dance of Reality," "Tata Aqua," "Jiro Dreams of Sushi," "Berberian Sound Studio," "Hobo with a Shotgun," "The Broken Circle Breakdown," "Chico & Rita," "Enemy," "That Evening Sun," "The Hunt," "Melancholia" and "Cold In July," among many others.
CinemaSavannah founder Tomasz Warchol in particular has shown an impressive knack for seeking out and selecting films which later go on to be nominated for - or win - major awards for excellence.
Warchol is understandably proud of his track record for picking winners (or at least runners-up), as he should be, for it speaks volumes of the importance of carefully, personally curated series like his, which take into account not only the obvious voids found in a community's established filmic offerings, but the tastes and interests of the local populace as well.
His latest rather prescient selection screens for one night only, on Dec. 27 at Muse Arts Warehouse. It's the new and highly acclaimed Swedish psycho-dramedy "Force Majeure," which some viewers have described as an emotional rollercoaster with the potential to leave audience members dizzyingly pondering all manner of emotional topics, i.e., marital problems, mental breakdowns and the limitations of traditional gender roles.
"This Saturday's screening of 'Force Majeure' is a big regional premiere," he says. "Especially since it just got a Golden Globe nomination ...
"From the overwhelmingly glowing critical reviews, I figured it's better not to know too much about this film to fully appreciate its lingering quiet pace, breathtaking and hypnotic camera work and crucial psychological twists," he continues. "It surely promises to be a unique aesthetic and dramatic experience, as it's been collecting international prizes and nominations ever since its release (including Best European Film, Critic's Choice, an Independent Spirit, etc. ...)"
While Warchol has a point about not knowing too awfully much in advance about this (or, in my humble opinion, about most any other film one might be considering viewing), many folks do require some sort of a ballpark idea of what they may be getting into. So, here goes: The plot of the "keenly observed" feature is fairly straightforward and deceptively simple: While on a skiing holiday in the French Alps, a businessman, his wife and their two young children witness an avalanche - and somewhat shockingly (perhaps?) the father's actions in this moment of danger throw the family dynamic into chaos.
Just nominated, as Warchol said, for Best Foreign Film by the Golden Globe Awards, "Force Majeure" is considered by many to be a shoe-in for an Academy Award nod in the same category. The word-of-mouth buzz for this feature is coming hard and heavy, with scores of major film critics worldwide offering praise.
New City's Ray Pride says "(Director) Ruben Ã–stlund's brilliant white-on-white black comedy is a precise, exacting psychological horror about the fissures in a bourgeoisie Swedish marriage. Seven Days' Margot Harrison writes "Ã–stlund uses deft editing and musical cues to place an ironic frame around the couple's decidedly first-world problems." And Salon.com calls the film "a prickly moral comedy for grown-ups, full of sharply observed moments, spectacular scenery and masterfully manipulated atmosphere."
It's in spoken Swedish (with English subtitles) and sounds like a must-see for local fans of adventurous and left-of-center filmmaking. Showtimes are at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. only, with $8 admission for mature viewers.
Earlier in the year, CinemaSavannah screened another foreign film which scored a Golden Globe nomination, director Pawel Pawlikowski's wondrous Polish-Danish co-production "Ida," which Warchol calls "surely one of the highlights of this year's program." He says he is very hopeful in 2015 to present the local premiere of the soon-to-be-released Russian feature "Leviathan," directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev, who also made 2003's "The Return" - an "unforgettable gem," according to Warchol, who also promises he'll present a rare local encore screening of the absolutely terrific low-budget Australian thriller "The Babadook" (it was shown here first a few months back as part of the most recent Savannah Film Festival).
As for the city's other celebrated indie cinema organization, the Psychotronic Film Society has concluded its 2014 season, and has no further screenings scheduled until Jan. 7 at The Sentient Bean, when it will launch the next year of its ongoing, weekly, Wednesday night series of little-known and underappreciated movies with a rare public screening of the tense and unnerving British thriller from 1967, "The Penthouse," starring Suzy Kendall ("The Bird with the Crystal Plumage," "To Sir, With Love").
Then, on Jan. 14, the PFS salutes controversial dramatic director Larry Clark ("Kids," "Wassup Rockers") on his 72nd birthday with a "Mystery Screening" of what just might be his cinematic masterpiece. The exact title of this adult-oriented drama will not be announced before showtime, but it's an infamous art-house flick that dazzled (and divided) critics and audience members on the festival circuit before vanishing with nary a trace because most distributors were too spooked by its shocking realism to touch it.
This challenging picture remains commercially unreleased virtually everywhere in the world due to its unsettling subject matter, and as such, this fully uncut version is recommended only for mature viewers 18 and older.
A most sincere thanks to all the readers who chose to keep up with Savannah's alternative cinema offerings this past year by reading Film Scene. Please encourage any friends you think would dig what we're putting down to follow us in print, online and via Twitter and whatnot.
See you in the new year, and remember: Don't forget to turn off that cell phone.
Jim Reed directs Psychotronic Film Society of Savannah. Read more at www.filmsavannah.com.