So my wife and I just had a baby,* and when he’s not screaming his head off demanding love, affection and breast milk, I like to nap. When he sleeps longer than six hours (not yet, by the way), I like to check in with my local arthouse cinemas to see just what the hell is going on for the summer. New parents gotta get out sometimes—and so does everyone else, unless you’re my great-uncle Bud, who literally never left his house—and that presents us all with some sweet choices.
Do I want to be wowed by Alfred Hitchcock’s brilliance? Do I want to check out beaucoup foreign flicks? Do I want to catch a movie in a place that may have a dragon lurking around the corner?
The answer to all three questions is yes. Here’s what you can find at Santa Fe’s local cinemas, which fulfill each need specified in those questions. (All the theaters have more showing than this, but I only have 1,000-ish words, so these are highlights. Standard disclaimer—check the theater websites for all dates, as films/times are subject to change because blah blah not everything is etched in stone.)
JEAN COCTEAU CINEMA
The (presumably) serpent-loving cinephiles who run this indie house have put together a stellar and diverse roster of films since its opening. Where else can you have a choice of watching the cult film Roar, the manic horror comedy Witching and Bitching or a big-ass blockbuster such as Mad Max: Fury Road, which just ended a run? (By the way, everyone should see Mad Max: Fury Road now. Right now.)
This summer, the JCC is featuring some choice restored films, including René Clément’s celebrated Forbidden Games, which won the 1953 Academy Award for Best Foreign Film (one of the few years Oscar got something right). It’s the story of a 10-year-old girl orphaned during the Battle of France, and her friendship with Michel, a peasant kid whose family takes her in. It’s spectacular and tackles a theme—a child’s innocence—not often seen in films about World War II, until perhaps John Boorman’s Hope and Glory. Forbidden Games has recently been restored and features new subtitles.
Also in the restoration cannon (and part of film canon) is Carol Reed’s The Third Man. This movie has been written about to death, and there’s a reason: It’s one of the greatest films ever made. It’s also the rare film to use a city so effectively as character. Vienna was bombed to hell during World War II, and Reed shot the movie in the city’s war-torn ruins. Plus, The Third Man showcases Orson Welles before he became huge (physically). Of note: Welles would have been 100 on May 6 had his heart not attacked him in 1985.
On the foreign film front, JCC will show The Tribe, a unique film from Ukraine about deaf students told without subtitles or dialogue. It won the Critics Week Grand Prize at Cannes in 2014, and my Spoilerpiece Theatre colleague Kristofer Jenson calls it “astounding, gripping and holy-shit disturbing.” In short, it sounds like a must-see. (And Spoilerpiece Theatre is a must-listen. Find it on iTunes.)
In the indie category, I’m most looking forward to Set Fire to the Stars. Elijah Wood has made unpredictable choice after unpredictable choice since completing the Lord of the Rings trilogy (see the ultra low-budget 2002 gangster picture Ash Wednesday, directed by Edward Burns, and the 2012 remake of the super violent Maniac). While it isn’t as radical as starring in the FX series Wilfred, Set Fire to the Stars has a nifty plot. Wood plays poet John Brinnin, and Celyn Jones (who co-wrote the script) is Dylan Thomas. And it’s in glorious black and white.
Finally, and this is très cool: The JCC will host a monthly series called the New Mexico Film Circuit that runs new independent flicks shot in Burundi. Just kidding! You figure out where the films were made. The first film is Truth, a sci-fi thriller shot around Silver City, playing on May 30 and June 1.
The good people at the Screen always have a solid line-up of movies, but at press time, they were still sorting out the details. But here’s what we can report for sure:
BehindTheLine ProductionsBehindTheLine Productions
On June 5, the Screen will host Charlie’s Country director Rolf de Heer. The film, about Aboriginal Australians and their relationship with contemporary Australia, was co-written by its star David Gulpilil, a wonderful actor who has appeared in films as diverse as Nicolas Roeg’s Walkabout and the Paul Hogan vehicle Crocodile Dundee.
The Saturday Night Live documentary Live from New York will show in late July. In addition, I’m told “[w]e’re going all art, all the time this summer, [a]iming for hard-to-market titles that truly define the ‘arthouse.’ And Doctor Zhivago at some point.” In short, you’ll find the really off-beat stuff at the Screen.
VIOLET CROWN CINEMA
This Railyard branch of the Austin, Texas, movie house hosts the Austin-made Arlo and Julie. Director Steve Mims will be in attendance on May 29. The comedy features Alex Dobrenko and Ashley Rae Spillers as Arlo and Julie, a couple whose relationship is threatened by a jigsaw puzzle. Arlo and Julie marks director Mims’ first film since the 2011 documentary Incendiary: The Willingham Case.
For more information on summer releases, check the Violet Crown’s website.
The Santa Fe Jewish Film Festival may be wrapping up, but that’s the tip of the summer’s iceberg (to mix metaphors—and badly). The Auteurs series, presented by St. John’s College Film Institute, returns starting June 13, and it’s a bumper crop of cinematic goodness.
Charles Chaplin’s The Gold Rush kicks things off, with live accompaniment by Hank Troy. Chaplin was already a star by the time he released this feature, and it has some of the most famous images in all of his films. Remember the cabin teetering over the cliff? That’s here. The other Chaplin film showing is City Lights. While City Lights is technically a talkie, it features no dialogue but has a soundtrack with sound effects and music. And that final moment when the Blind Girl (Virginia Cherill) realizes the Tramp (Chaplin) paid for her sight-restoring surgery? A heartbreaker.
If silent flicks are your game, Buster Keaton’s The General plays from June 20-22. Though a dud in its initial 1926 release, The General is now recognized as one of the best films ever made. Too bad its contemporary audience didn’t get it; when the movie flopped, Keaton lost the ability to make films as he wanted to and struggled professionally for the rest of his life.
There are more wonderful films in the Auteurs series, but for my money, if you can only see one on the big screen, make it Bicycle Thieves, which screens from July 11-13. Vittorio De Sica’s masterpiece of neorealism deserves to be seen in a theater with an audience, not just on Hulu Plus (though you should remember the entire Criterion Collection is available there). Actually, see Hitchcock’s Rear Window, too. And The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, and Nights of Cabiria, and Journey to Italy and Welles’ Touch of Evil.
New Line Cinema
As for the big-budget nonsense headed your way this summer, most of it looks like garbage, but it’s best to keep an open mind. After all, your air conditioning may fail and you’ll need to spend an afternoon in a huge cinema, if for no other reason than to escape the heat (I know it’s a dry heat, but goddamnit, it’s still heat). In that case, maybe peek in on the Vacation reboot starring Ed Helms. It opens July 29, and if the red band trailer is to be believed, it may actually not be shit.
As for the arthouse movies, the list will grow longer as the summer days do. Check in with the local theaters to see what else they have brewing. Maybe someone will get around to bringing back the delightfully terrible The Incredible Melting Man to the big screen. A guy can dream. Time to nap before my kid wakes up hungry.
*Funnily enough, he thinks
Anthony Cumia fans are dicks, too.