THERE’S NO shortage of notable "alternative cinema" events taking place over the next seven days or so. As always, Film Scene is your weekly advance guide to the myriad of options available for adventurous viewers seeking something outside of the miasma of boilerplate, corporate multiplex programming.
Please do your best to attend one or more of these worthwhile screenings, and in doing so, support the diversification of cultural experience in the greater Savannah area.
We start on Nov. 20 on the Southside of town, where the Ogeechee Theatre inside the Student Union Building on the Armstrong campus of Georgia Southern University presents a public showing of the 2014 Emmy-winning documentary “The Homestretch.”
Originally seen on PBS-TV’s terrific series “Independent Lens,” this 90-minute doc follows three intelligent and ambitious Chicago-area teenagers as they work hard to complete their education. The rub? They’re also homeless, and each struggles mightily with such debilitating issues as the trauma of being abused and/or abandoned as a child.
The film follows these kids into adulthood and provides an eye-opening glimpse at the travails besetting even bright and hardworking young people in contemporary inner city life. Showtime is 7 p.m., and admission is free to all. If you’re not familiar with the layout of the Armstrong Campus, I encourage you to arrive a little early to locate the Student Union and find free parking.
That same night, downtown at the Sentient Bean Coffeehouse next to Brighter Day Natural Foods on Forsyth Park, the Psychotronic Film Society’s long-running, award-winning Wednesday night series of underappreciated feature films from around the world continues with a rare public screening of the 1971 murder mystery “The Fifth Cord,” which stands as a little-known yet beautifully made Italian thriller (or “giallo”).
Featuring haunting cinematography by the legendary, Oscar-winning cameraman Vittorio Storaro (“Apocalypse Now,” “The Sheltering Sky,” “The Last Tango in Paris”) and a score by the iconic composer Ennio Morricone (“The Good, The Bad and The Ugly”), it stars charismatic leading man Franco Nero (whose 78th birthday this event commemorates), best known for starring in the original 1966 Spaghetti Western “Django.”
This restored widescreen print of the film is uncut and in spoken English. 8 p.m. showtime, with a full vegetarian and vegan menu available and discounts on craft beer and organic wine during the film.
Please note that the following Wednesday, Nov. 27, there will be no Psychotronic screening at the Bean, as it is the night before Thanksgiving. The PFS returns there on Dec. 4 with the little-known B&W 1950 French romantic drama “The Glass Castle,” directed by René Clément (“Forbidden Games”). For more information on the PFS of SAV, please join their Private Facebook Group at facebook.com/groups/2519522234807695.
Heading out to Tybee Island, the historic Tybee Post Theater offers up exclusive area engagements of two of the year’s most critically acclaimed dramas.
First up is “Judy,” a biopic of celebrated (yet ultimately rather doomed) American actress and singer Judy Garland, that deals with the final days of her troubled life. Centered around a series of actual stage performances Garland gave late in her storied career, the picture has been faulted for relying on a rather hackneyed narrative approach.
However, its star Renée Zellweger has received almost universal praise for what has been called an extremely uncanny and accurate depiction of the idiosyncratic Hollywood legend. “Judy” screens at 7 p.m. on Nov. 21 and 24, with a 3 p.m. matinee on Nov. 24. Opening night’s show costs a couple bucks more than the rest, but includes your choice of a drink (beer, wine, sodas or water).
Then, on Nov. 27, in what stands as something of a coup for this single-screen, 200-seat venue, they’ve snagged the Savannah area’s sole engagement of fabled filmmaker Martin Scorsese’s latest gangster epic, “The Irishman,” which many are calling one of the finest motion pictures of his long and storied career.
The picture, which is based on a 2004 novel and has been in development for well over a decade, is the story of a truck driver (played by Robert De Niro) who winds up playing a deadly role in organized crime, and ultimately interacting with the infamous, real-life Teamster Jimmy Hoffa (played by Al Pacino). It also marks the long-awaited return to the screen of esteemed character actor Joe Pesci.
Financed by Netflix, it’s being given an extremely limited theatrical window, and, owing to Netflix’s contentious business relationships with most of the country’s cinema chains, is only being booked at independently operated venues such as the non-profit Tybee Post. The film runs three-and-a-half hours, so be prepared to settle in for a long haul (albeit one that virtually everyone who has seen the film says is absolutely worth it).
Kudos to the Post for bringing this picture to town (the next closest screening is well over an hour’s drive away in S.C.). Showtimes are at 7 p.m. on Nov. 27, 29 and 30, plus 3 p.m. matinees on Nov. 29 and 30.
Looking out to the nearby city of Springfield, Ga., their historic Mars Theatre kicks off an extended engagement of Disney’s brand-new CGI animated kids musical-fantasy “Frozen 2,” from the same team that created the blockbuster first film in that growing franchise.
Many of the same voice actors reprise their roles in this sequel as well, including Kristen Bell and Adele Dazeem. 7 p.m. showtimes on Nov. 21 through 23 and 28 through 30, plus 3 p.m. matinees on Nov. 24 and Dec. 1.
Moving back downtown, on Nov. 22 at the City’s Cultural Arts Center near the Civic Center, local film organization CinemaSavannah continues its occasional series of first-run and recently released foreign and independent features with an exclusive area screening of “Synonyms,” a new and highly controversial political drama about ultra-nationalism.
A French and Israeli co-production which won the coveted Golden Bear Prize for Best Film at the most recent Berlin Film Fest, it’s the story of an Israeli man who relocates to France and dives headfirst into that country’s culture in an aggressive attempt to flee from the chaos and political discord in his own homeland.
Hailed by critics as a daring look at the factious nature of our world today and the deep toll it can take on individual psyches, “Synonyms” won two Israeli Academy Awards, and is said to provoke extreme responses in viewers.
In French and Hebrew, with English subtitles. One screening only, at 6:30 p.m. As there is no parking onsite, please factor in additional lead time to find a space on the street or in a nearby parking garage.
Heading back the Southside, on Nov. 23, the AMC Savannah 11 multiplex offers a high-def presentation of a new production of groundbreaking minimalist composer Philip Glass’ three-act opera from 1983, “Akhnaten,” courtesy of The Metropolitan Opera House.
This three-and-a-half hour show includes acrobats and jugglers alongside musicians and vocalists, all of which are used to depict a contemporary reimagining of the life and religious beliefs of the Egyptian pharaoh of the same name. This Met production is a revival of the English National Opera and LA Opera’s co-production which first debuted in the spring of 2016, and won a 2017 Olivier Award.
The final installment in a trilogy of works by Glass (which include “Einstein on the Beach” and “Satyagraha” about, respectively, Albert Einstein and Mahatma Gandhi), it’s meant as a tribute to key historical figures whose strong inner visions manifest substantial changes in the times in which they lived.
Much of the text is taken from original, historical sources and then repurposed to fit Glass’ trademark compositional style, which leans heavily on repetition and trancelike musical and vocal structures. This presentation is subtitled in English. Showtimes are 12:55 p.m. on Nov. 23 and again at 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 4.
And finally, on Nov. 24 at the Savannah LGBT Center, the latest installment of The Look Back (the area’s only Queer Cinema series, jointly curated by yours truly and community activist and drag performer Max Arnzen of the House of Gunt) will occur. This ongoing, monthly series of provocative or historically noteworthy examples of LGBTQ-related filmmaking takes place on the last Sunday of each month in the intimate confines of the center’s meeting room (which seats right around 30).
Admission and concessions (snacks and soft drinks) are free, with voluntary donations of any kind cheerfully accepted to help ameliorate the costs associated with putting on such a public film series.
This month’s selection is “Normal,” the outstanding 2003 family drama based on the play “Looking for Normal,” and starring Jessica Lange and Tom Wilkinson as a Midwestern couple, married for 25 years, who must grapple with the fallout from the husband’s unexpected disclosure that he intends to transition from male to female.
The film, which was well-received at the Sundance Film Fest, initially premiered on HBO, and went on to receive three Golden Globe nominations and six Primetime Emmy Awards, winning one Emmy.
It’s an odd and oddly compelling motion picture featuring standout performances from all concerned. Showtime is 7 p.m. For more info on The Look Back, join the Private Facebook Group at facebook.com/groups/2296346350647094.
Until next week, 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.