Movie Mondays: Werner Herzog, Kurt Russell, and Still More Documentaries



Movie Mondays: Werner Herzog, Kurt Russell, and Still More Documentaries

As a means of rounding up Toronto’s various cinematic goings-on each week, Movie Mondays compiles the best rep cinema and art house screenings, special presentations, lectures, and limited engagements.

Kurt Russell is coming to save your summer in Big Trouble in Little China. Illustration courtesy Travis Bell, The Movie Database.

Well, the big news this week is that the newly-minted Toronto Underground Cinema, which we told you about last month, opens its doors on Friday with two free screenings. Exciting! But not to be outdone, plenty of other theatres are screening some interesting stuff this week.

The Revue (400 Roncesvalles Avenue)

The Revue continues its pun-tastic Classics In Revue series this week, with screenings of Robert Mulligan’s 1962 adaptation of To Kill A Mockingbird and Orson Welles’ 1958 masterpiece Touch of Evil on Wednesday and Thursday. Both of these are well-entrenched in AFI-approved, undisputed classics-of-American-cinema territory. Touch of Evil is particularly excellent, marking both the high watermark of the film noir genre and the end of its golden era in the late 1950s. Plus, if you like Touch of Evil, you totally get to be all “No, no, Touch of Evil is Welles’ most accomplished film” whenever somebody tries to talk about Citizen Kane. (Though everybody already knows Welles’ most accomplished film is really F for Fake.)

The Bloor (506 Bloor Street West)

With Hot Docs gone, The Bloor Cinema in the Annex now returns to its regularly scheduled rep programming. Breaking up the mini–Polanski fest leading up to Friday’s second-run premiere of The Ghost Writer is the Zoom Student Film Festival on Wednesday night. The general rule with student film festivals is that they’re attended solely by the budding filmmakers, their friends, and family. But featuring the works of would-be-Godards all under twenty, the Zoom Fest is a nice chance to see how young people who aren’t jaded, burnt out, or steeped in ironic posturing might make movies. And that’s something you don’t see every day. Another thing you don’t see every day: Polanski’s chilling The Tenant, which plays tonight at 9:10 p.m.

The Ossington (61 Ossington Avenue)

You’re probably thinking “WTF? The Ossington’s not a theatre,” and you’d be quite right. It’s not! But the west end hipster hangout has been expanding its menu beyond cheap bottles of Blue Ribbon and 50 in recent months with Herzogfest, a scattered series of screenings dedicated to hipster-approved German filmmaker Werner Herzog. With Herzog’s profile rising, thanks to his work on recent American films like Rescue Dawn and the fantastic Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans as well as acting roles in Harmony Korine films (and an odd turn as himself on Entourage), exploring his daunting back catalogue seems an enticing proposition. Tuesday night, the Ossington is screening The Wild Blue Yonder, a 2005 sci-fi sort-of-doc, where Brad Dourif plays an alien transplanted to our planet after it has entered an ice age. As a movie, it’s not Herzog’s best, though it is as mesmerizing as anything he’s made. But as an allegory for Herzog, the darling of New German Cinema, awkwardly ingratiating himself into the machinery and culture of American filmmaking, it’s awesome.

NFB Mediatheque (150 John Street)

If Hot Docs riding off into the sunset for another year has left you itching for your a non-fiction fix, the NFB has got your medicine. With strong showings at this year’s Hot Docs (not to mention its seventy-plus years of docudrama expertise), the Nation Film Board is always a reliable source for some decent documentary filmmaking. This Wednesday and Thursday, the NFB Mediatheque is screening Six Miles Deep, a look behind the scenes of the land dispute between the Iroquois Confederacy and residents of Caledonia, Ontario. With awards at the 2009 imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival, Six Miles Deep is the kind of studied, lively doc we’ve come to expect from the National Film Board.

The soon-to-be-packed Toronto Underground Cinema. Photo by Michael Chrisman/Torontoist.

Toronto Underground Cinema (186 Spadina Avenue)

Friday marks the much-anticipated grand opening of the Toronto Underground Cinema, the shiny, new space at Queen and Spadina, with a free double-bill of 1985 board game comedy Clue (the first curious pairing of Paramount and Hasbro, coming well before Transformers, G.I. Joe, and the forthcoming and frankly long overdue Stretch Armstrong movie), as well as John Carpenter’s stupid-fun 1986 summer movie spectacular Big Trouble in Little China, starring Kurt Russell as a truck driver sucked into a fantastic Chinatown underworld. It’ll be interesting to see how the Underground fills out the rest of their schedule, but as far as a summer movie kick-off this bill seems a-okay.