Hello again, all. I hope your Thanksgiving holidays were festive and filling, and hope against hope that no ugly, drunken brawls rooted in simmering family slights and resentments broke out at your respective dinner tables.
The next seven days (or so) of alternative cinema events in the greater Savannah area are both varied and enticing. From high-def documents of award-winning stage plays to acclaimed first-run indies to little-known psychological thrillers to time-honored holiday classics, I imagine there is at least one screening taking place which likely appeals on some level to every individual reading this column.
We start our roundup of noteworthy shows out in Springfield. There, the restored, historic Mars Theatre continues to program mainstream, family-oriented fare and Christian-themed features designed to appeal to its local audience base. On Nov. 29, the Mars kicks off a three-day engagement of the new, big-budget fantasy adventure “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms,” a CGI-heavy affair that’s being praised for its breathtaking visual effects, if not for its convoluted plot. It screens each night at 7 p.m. from Nov. 29 through Dec.1. As always, admission information for all Film Scene events can be found in the accompanying sidebar listings.
'The King and I'
Heading back into downtown Savannah, a few days later on Dec. 4, the Lucas Theatre offers another of its increasingly well-attended digital presentations of major stage plays from around the world. This time, it’s a new production of the beloved 1951 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical “The King and I,” which dramatizes the true story of Briton Anna Leonowens, who, in the 1860s served as the governess to King Mongkut of Siam’s multiple wives and children. In its initial Broadway incarnation, the play won Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Actress and Best Featured Actor, and after a smash hit big-screen adaptation in 1956 that won multiple Oscars, it became a reliable staple of theater troupes everywhere.
This current production stands as the fourth Broadway revival, and it ran there for a whopping 538 performances, earning nine Tony Award nominations and winning four of those coveted trophies, including Best Revival of a Musical and Best Costume Design. It also won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Revival and was recently restaged at the London Palladium, with Ken Wantanabe and Kelli O’Hara, who both won Tonys for Best Actor and Actress in its initial Broadway run, reprising their roles. It’s that recent British production that was preserved for posterity in this high-def film. It’s a lavish effort with a cast of over 50. Expect dazzling clarity in both audio and visuals on the big screen of this restored 1920s movie palace.
The next night, Dec. 5, at the Sentient Bean Coffeehouse on Forsyth Park, the Psychotronic Film Society continues its long-running series of underappreciated world cinema with a special screening to mark the eighth anniversary of the theatrical release of director Darren Aronofsky’s psychological thriller “Black Swan.” That acclaimed feature about a young American ballerina whose grip on reality deteriorates during high-pressure preparations for a performance of Tchaikovsky's “Swan Lake” wound up with five Oscar nods. Natalie Portman won Best Actress for her performance.
However, while Aronofsky has taken heat for seemingly appropriating plot elements without attribution for his film from the 1997 Japanese animé film “Perfect Blue," which he denies doing, the PFS has unearthed an almost completely unknown Italian feature from 1989 which also seems to be an unacknowledged precursor to Aronofsky’s effort. Director Peter Del Monte’s giallo-nouveau “Etoile” or “Star,” was released in some parts of the world under the alternate title “Ballet,” and its plot concerns a young American ballerina whose personality changes after she becomes disturbingly obsessed with preparations for a performance of Tchaikovsky's “Swan Lake.”
It stars Jennifer Connelly (“Labyrinth”) as the ballerina. This surreal, slow-paced thriller was not shown in theaters here in the states and has never been released on home video in the USA, either. However, Connelly worked with Aronofsky a decade later on his film “Requiem for a Dream,” so he likely would have been familiar with her previous movies. This is a rare chance to see an unusual foreign film which just might have been the basis for an extremely well-known American mainstream hit. This uncut, widescreen print will be shown in its original spoken English.
The next night, Dec. 6, at the Jewish Education Alliance, CinemaSavannah presents another one-show-only engagement of a highly anticipated arthouse feature. It’s “Wildlife,” the new indie period drama based on the 1990 novel of the same name by author Richard Ford. The directorial debut of respected Golden Globe and BAFTA Award-nominated actor Paul Dano (“There Will Be Blood,” “Little Miss Sunshine,” “Prisoners”), who co-wrote the screenplay with his partner Zoe Kazan, granddaughter of Hollywood director extraordinaire Elia Kazan.
The first in a proposed series of directorial efforts centered around dysfunctional family relationships, “Wildlife” takes place in 1960s Montana and follows the troubled marriage of a golf pro turned firefighter, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, and his frustrated wife, Carey Mulligan, when their union is challenged by the husband’s time away from home battling a forest fire. NPR’s Bob Mondonelli says the film’s portrait of family life “is much like the director's many onscreen performances — understated, sad-eyed, deeply affecting.” Showtime is 7 p.m., with seating at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 at the door. CinemaSavannah accepts cash only, so come prepared.
And finally, here’s a heads-up about a special event taking place next Dec. 7 at a public school of all places. The Savannah Arts Academy’s recent horror movie marathon was their first ever show of that sort and served as a fundraiser for the operating budget of their filmmaking classes for young people. It was a success, with over 100 folks in attendance, and so they are trying their luck again with a double-bill of Yuletide classics.
At 6 p.m., they’ll show the 2003 Will Ferrell and James Caan comedy “Elf,” followed immediately afterwards, around 7:45 p.m., by Henry Selick and Tim Burton’s 1993 stop-motion animation fantasy gem “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” There will be popcorn, soft drinks and Chick-Fil-A sandwiches available at their concessions stand. Tickets are only $8 in advance or $10 cash at the door. More details on this cool happening in next week’s Film Scene.
Until next issue, see you at the movies, be kind to those around you and don’t forget to turn off that cell phone.
Jim Reed directs the Psychotronic Film Society of Savannah.
IF YOU GO
What: “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms”
When: 7 p.m. Nov. 29, 30, Dec. 1
Where: Mars Theatre, 106 S. Laurel St. Springfield
What: “The King and I: From the London Palladium”
When: 7 p.m. Dec. 4
Where: Lucas Theatre, 32 Abercorn St.
What: “Ballet” aka “Etoile”
When: 8 p.m. Dec. 5
Where: The Sentient Bean, 13 E. Park Ave.
When: 7 p.m. Dec. 6
Where: Jewish Educational Alliance, 5111 Abercorn St.
Cost: $10 (cash only)
What: Double-Feature — “Elf” & “The Nightmare Before Christmas”
When: 6 p.m.,7:45 p.m. Dec. 7
Where: Savannah Arts Academy, 500 Washington Ave.
Cost: $8 advance, $10 cash at door