THE NEXT seven days or so find an unusually varied selection of films and filmed stage productions gracing the screens of the area’s historic theaters, multiplexes and alternative cinema spaces. Everything from mass-market fare to extreme obscurities are on tap for those who savor the comforting experience of losing oneself in projected entertainment.
All notable events we’re aware of at press time are featured below. As always, full details (including admission prices) can be found in the accompanying sidebar listings.
We start on the Southside, where the AMC 11 multiplex behind the Savannah Mall hosts two specialty screenings, both courtesy of the national distributor Fathom Events. First up on Nov. 13 is a high-definition filmed document of the Metropolitan Opera House’s 2006 production of “Madama Butterfly,” by Giacomo Puccini.
This fifth and final version of the work was completed in 1907. It has since become an insanely popular tale of lust and betrayal (this version is considered the sixth most popular opera in the world, based on the number of times it has been staged).
Running just over three hours, it was produced by Oscar winner Anthony Minghella (director of “The English Patient,” among other noted feature films), and stars soprano Kristine Opolais in the title role. The performance itself is in spoken and sung Italian, but English subtitles will appear for those who don’t speak the language. 6:30 p.m. showtime.
A few days later, on Nov. 17, Fathom presents another in the GKids Ghibli Fest series, in which high-definition versions of classic anime features from Japan’s famed Studio Ghibli receive nationwide re-release for as few as one or two days. This time out, it’s the epic 1997 historical fantasy “Princess Mononoke” that’s being reissued.
Written and directed by legendary Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki (“Spirited Away”), it’s considered one of the finest anime films ever made. In fact, only James Cameron’s mega-blockbuster “Titanic” superseded it to become the single highest-grossing movie in Japanese history.
This screening utilizes the English-dubbed version made specifically for the U.S. market, featuring an adapted script by no less than acclaimed graphic novelist Neil Gaiman, of “American Gods” fame, who sought to recontextualize some of the more arcane and Japan-centric elements of this 1400s-set supernatural folk tale dealing with animal gods and demons which would be lost on the vast majority of domestic viewers.
Keep an ear out for the voice talents of everyone from Gillian Anderson to Jada Pinkett Smith and from Claire Danes to Billy Bob Thornton. Seriously, folks, hand-drawn feature-length animation doesn’t get much better than this. 12:55 p.m. showtime.
Moving downtown, on Nov. 13 at the Sentient Bean Coffeehouse, the Psychotronic Film Society continues its long-running, award-winning series of underappreciated cinema from around the world with an ultra-rare screening of the almost completely unknown Hong Kong-made supernatural horror flick “Men Gui Po Ren” ala “Dead Curse.”
Shot on a miniscule budget in 1985 by a first-time director (who’d never make another film), it’s a convoluted hodgepodge of mystical weirdness and Asian action that’s never been released on DVD or streaming anywhere in the world. Recommended to fans of MST3K-quality duds that are “so bad they’re good,” it will be shown from a vintage Chinese Laserdisc with English subtitles. Come prepared to laugh. 8 p.m. showtime.
On Nov. 20 at the Bean, the PFS unearths the little-known but highly respected 1971 “giallo” film (meaning a violent Italian-made murder mystery) “The Fifth Cord,” which they’re showing as a 78th birthday salute to the undervalued Italian leading man Franco Nero (“John Wick: Chapter 2,” “Camelot”), perhaps best known as the man who originated the title role of the mysterious cowboy in director Sergio Corbucci’s 1966 Spaghetti Western “Django,” which later served as the inspiration for Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained” (a film which humorously included a sly cameo by Nero himself).
An unusually beautifully made giallo, this crime thriller was directed by Luigi Bazzoni, who also made the sublimely mesmerizing 1975 suspense film “Footprints on the Moon.” It features stunning cinematography by Bazzoni’s cousin, the Oscar-winning cameraman Vittorio Storaro – celebrated for his work on “Apocalypse Now,” “The Last Emperor,” “The Sheltering Sky,” and “The Last Tango in Paris,” among others. It also boasts a score by Ennio Morricone, the iconic film composer responsible for the soundtracks to such gems as “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly,” “The Hateful Eight” and John Carpenter’s “The Thing.” They’ll screen a restored, uncut widescreen print. 8 p.m. showtime, with a full vegetarian and vegan menu available and discounts on craft beer and organic wine during the film.
A short drive away from Savannah in the small city of Springfield, Ga., the historic Mars Theatre offers two different brand-new fairy tale flicks from the Walt Disney folks, starting with “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil,” the recently-released sequel to the 2014 box-office success “Maleficent,” a dark, live-action fantasy loosely based on the tale of Sleeping Beauty. It screens at 7 p.m. on Nov. 14 through 16, with a 3 p.m. matinee on Nov. 17.
A few days later, the Mars launches a lengthy engagement of the highly-anticipated sequel to the animated international sensation “Frozen” known as... wait for it... “Frozen 2.” This CGI musical fantasy reunites the key creative team behind the first picture (including directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, composer Christophe Beck and producer Peter Del Vecho). 7 p.m. showtimes on Nov. 21 through 23, plus a 3 p.m. matinee on Nov. 24.
Heading back into town, Foxy Loxy Café near the Starland District continues its monthly outdoor “movie night” on Nov. 15. Held in the restaurant’s back courtyard, these events take place on the third Friday of each month, weather permitting. The films presented are, generally speaking, popular mainstream titles, with the exact selections determined in advance by online vote.
As the café often has no idea what they’ll be presenting until just a day or two beforehand, they suggest interested Film Scene readers check Foxy Loxy’s social media sites on the day of these shows, or simply call the restaurant for updated info.
No admission is charged, but they do ask that you purchase food and/or drinks. It’s also worth noting many people in the courtyard are merely there to visit with friends or enjoy the restaurant and not necessarily for the movies themselves. So, if you’re looking for a quiet and respectful environment to pay close attention to a film, know in advance that the inherent chatter and ambient noise of this environment may not be to your liking. Showtime is 8 p.m.
The Lucas Theatre on the corner of Broughton and Abercorn Sts. has two distinctly different screenings coming up. First, on Nov. 17 is the 1957 musical rom-com “Funny Face,” starring Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn. The film was directed by the legendary Stanley Donen, the man similarly responsible for such esteemed movie musicals as “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” “Singin’ in the Rain” and “Royal Wedding.”
The character of fashion photographer Dick Avery (Hepburn’s love interest), played by Astaire, is openly and clearly based on real-life star photographer Richard Avedon, and the songs in the score were composed by the iconic duo of George and Ira Gershwin.
While it’s regarded as a minor classic nowadays, when first released, this MGM-style production (which was actually released by Paramount Pictures) was considered a flop, as it did not even make back it’s production budget at the box-office. However, over the past several decades its stature has increased, and it eventually made it into the black. This is a matinee with a 3 p.m. showtime.
Two days later, on Nov. 19, the Lucas once more presents a high-definition simulcast of a live stage performance from Great Britain’s National Theatre Company. This time out, it’s their new production of “All About Eve,” starring Gillian Anderson of “The X-Files”, and Lily James, star of “Mamma Mia!”. The show will be streamed across the globe from London’s famed West End theatre district.
Based on the beloved 1950 Twentieth Century Fox film of the same name, which starred Bette Davis and Anne Baxter and garnered a record 14 Oscar nominations, this stage version was newly adapted by Ivo van Hove, the celebrated Belgian avant-garde theatre director (who received raves for his reinterpretations of “A Streetcar Named Desire,” “The Crucible” and “The Little Foxes,” among others).
It’s the story of a legendary stage actress who finds herself unexpectedly challenged by a disturbingly aggressive fan, and, as with all National Theatre Live productions, this simulcast offers viewers crystal-clear audio-visual presentation, for an idealized “best seat in the house.” It’s a steal at just $15 admission. 7 p.m. showtime.
And finally, on Nov, 21, the historic Tybee Post Theater kicks off a two-day run of “Judy,” the new biopic of singer and actress Judy Garland, starring Renée Zellweger in the title role. An adaptation of a provocative stage play, the film is singularly focused on a short period of time near the end of the iconic star’s fabled career, during the last year of her troubled life. It’s meant as a recreation of a difficult time for the star, as her voice starts to fail her and the crowds she was capable of drawing begin to dwindle in size.
While many critics gave the film itself mixed reviews –citing a rather formulaic plot and execution– nearly all who have seen it come away with high praise for Zellweger’s performance. More than one critic in fact has dubbed it “the performance of the year,” and it is said that many diehard fans of Garland’s have been stunned by how realistic a portrayal of the idiosyncratic celebrity Zellweger was able to summon. The film screens at 7 p.m. on Nov. 21 and 24, with a 3 p.m. matinee on Nov. 24. The opening night screening costs a couple of dollars more than the rest of the shows, but includes your choice of a drink (beer, wine, sodas or water).
Until next week, see you at the movies, be kind to those around you and don’t forget to turn off that cell phone.