July 2027, 2000
by Sam Adams
Columbia Pictures 75th Anniversary Film Festival (July 21-Aug. 3, Ritz Bourse, Fourth and Ranstead Sts.) A dozen movies picked straight off the AFIs 100 Best List, this gimmefest features few surprises but little to argue about either. From sweeping epics (Lawrence of Arabia, The Bridge On the River Kwai) to classic dramas (From Here to Eternity, On the Waterfront) with only a spice of the last three decades (Taxi Driver, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Tootsie), the collection doesnt have much to hold it together, but its doubtful anyones going to see all 12 movies in two weeks, so feel free to mix and match. One thematic suggestion: the blacklist tour. Start with Bridge (July 26), which won a screenplay Oscar for novelist Pierre Boulle, who in fact spoke no English; the real script was written by blacklisted writers Michael Wilson and Carl Foreman. Finish up with a double-bill (July 31, Aug. 1) thats black-and-white in more ways than one. First is From Here to Eternity, the moving anti-war melodrama starring noted anti-blacklisters Burt Lancaster and Frank Sinatra. Its followed by On the Waterfront, written and directed by noted name-namers Budd Schulberg and Elia Kazan. One youve been exposed to the idea, its impossible not to see Waterfront as a defense of snitching, which only makes the movies brilliance all the more confusing. See Showtimes for complete schedule.
The Great Rock n Roll Swindle (July 21, 8 p.m., Moore College of Art & Design, 20th & Race Sts., 215-568-4515, ext. 4099 or www.voicenet.com/~jschwart) Not being the biggest fan of the Behind the Music-y The Filth and the Fury, Secret Cinema-man Jay Schwartz has dredged up this altogether less reputable look at the Sex Pistols mystique. Directed by Filths Julien Temple, Swindle emerged from a chaotic mess that at one point involved Russ Meyer, Roger Ebert and a script called Who Killed Bambi?
Free Speech Cinema (1324 Locust St, 215-627-0710 or www.phillyimc.org) Sponsored by Philadelphias new Independent Media Center, gearing up to provide coverage of the Republican Convention, these screenings are designed to introduce the public to the IMC and its new home (and, not incidentally, to help them raise the rent for their new space suggested donation is $5-$15). July 22 at 8 p.m., the IMC folks will show the short Enjoy as well as Harold Boihem and Chris Emmanouilides The Ad and the Ego, a warp-speed deconstruction of advertising imagery. July 25, stop by for "Blast from the Past," excerpts from coverage of past conventions, as well as Spin, a collection of not-quite-off-the-record remarks from politicians, news anchors, etc.
P.O.V.: Our House in Havana (July 25, 10 p.m., PBS stations) This choppy documentary which has the misfortune to be airing on PBS the same week as the vastly superior Buena Vista Social Club (July 30, 12 p.m. & July 31, 4 a.m., WYBE-TV 39; July 22, 10:45 p.m., WHYY-TV 12) follows Cuban exile Silvia Morini back to her palatial former home in Havana. Despite its promising starting point and the promised glimpse of Cubas off-limits streets, Our House is totally sabotaged by its choice of protagonist: One glimpse at Morinis former mansion and youll be screaming for communist revolution, too. Attempts to balance the film by interviewing Morinis former servants dont pan out they just meet her capitalist ignorance with communist propaganda and were stuck with an egocentric class-unconscious woman who hardly seems worth pitying.
Closely Watched Trains ($29.95, VHS) Returned to video after several years out of print (and with new subtitles and some digital restoration), this 1966 Czech comedy which won a Best Foreign Language Oscar for director Jiri Menzel starts out lighthearted and grows progressively darker, often in puzzling fits and starts. Set during the Nazi occupation, Trains starts out as the sort of gently frank coming-of-age comedy that foreign film buffs cant get enough of; Young Milos (Václav Neckár), a young trainee at a rural train station, is inept at the ways of love, despite the attention showered on him by the nubile conductress Masa (Jitka Bendová). That in contrast to his wordly wise colleague Hubicka (Josef Somr), who gets himself in trouble for emblazoning the naked buttocks of a telegraph operator with rubber stamps. Milos is driven to despair by his inexperience, but finds faith in the resistance, leading to a climax that is too abrupt to pull off the needed black humor. The films wry mix of sex, adolescence and moral dilemma paved the way for such recent films as Europa, Europa, and though its not a satisfying whole, its more fondly remembered than better films of the time.