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.
This week in Movie Town (Movie Town being Toronto), we’ve found a handful of screenings well worth your buck(s). And a lecture, which is like a screening except more educational. Or educational in a different way. So grab your knapsack and head to a lecture about Roman Polanski. Or pocket your Visine and put on your movie-going glasses and check out some of the Bruce Campbell, Donald Sutherland, and Gene Hackman we’ve got on screen this week.
Of all the controversial directors under discussion in Adam Nayman’s lecture series on controversial directors, there is perhaps none more controversial than Roman Polanski, a filmmaker whose life has been plagued by controversy so controversial that we can’t even think of a word better than “controversial” to describe it. For those of you who live under a rock, in 1977 Polanski was charged with six counts of criminal behaviour (including sodomy, perversion, and rape) regarding his interactions with a thirteen-year-old girl. Fearing jail time, Polanski fled the U.S. in 1978, never to return. Then, in 2009, he was arrested in Switzerland and placed under house arrest. So there’s that. But he’s also made some really great movies. Oh, and in 1969, his second wife, Sharon Tate, was murdered by the Manson Family.
Very few people would question the quality of a lot of Polanski’s films—Rosemary’s Baby, Chinatown, even last year’s exceptional The Ghost Writer—are the kinds of films so taut, inspired, and perfectly crafted that they can unproblematically be considered art. But how do we separate the art from the work of the artist? Does it make sense to blush over Polanski’s work while condemning him as a person? And what about the Sharon Tate murder? Did the tragic loss of his wife affect him so greatly that he was non compos mentis by 1977? But how can someone who’s that unstable make something as great as Chinatown? Should that even matter?! So much to discuss! So discuss it, already, Monday, March 28, at 7 p.m. at the JCC.
Jimmying Bruce Campbell into a set of sideburns and flared slacks as an ageing Elvis impersonator is a brilliant bit of casting. So brilliant, in fact, that it’d be easy to waste, say, on a movie that’s just about Bruce Campbell playing an ageing Elvis impersonator.
But writer/director Don Coscarelli (Phantasm, The Beastmaster) took it nine steps further with Bubba Ho-Tep, his critically acclaimed 2002 horror/comedy that cast Campbell as an ageing Elvis impersonator squaring off against an evil Egyptian mummy terrorizing a retirement home. It also casts Ossie Davis as a guy who thinks he’s John F. Kennedy. If it sounds pretty awesome, that’s because it is. Besides being funny, Bubba Ho-Tep also works as a surprisingly compassionate portrait of lonely, kind-of-crazy seniors trying to find meaning as they watch the clock tick down. Go Underground and see it, why don’t ya, 7 p.m. on Wednesday, March 30.
In the 1970s, if you needed an actor to be vaguely iconoclastic while running around in a corduroy blazer solving mysteries, you called up Donald Sutherland. He did it in Klute. He did it in Don’t Look Now. And he did it in 1978’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers. A remake of Don Siegel’s 1956 sci-fi allegory for either Communism or McCarthyism (or both), Snatchers casts Sutherland as a San Francisco health inspector who begins to suspect that the people around him are being replaced by vegetative versions of themselves.
With a cast including Jeff Goldblum, Leonard Nimoy (trying his darnedest not to be a Spock), and Canada’s own Art Hindle, Invasion of the Body Snatchers stands as one of the high watermarks of legitimately spooky ’70s sci-fi. And if you haven’t seen it, now’s your chance. Chris Alexander is screening the film at 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 30, at the Bloor. And what’s more, Art Hindle himself will be in attendance. Come and get your Porky’s and Brood and Black Christmas posters signed.
Over the past week or so, the Lightbox has been hosting a nifty little retrospective on American auteur Arthur Penn, probably best known for completely reimagining the stylization of film violence with Bonnie and Clyde (1967). By his own admission, Penn was “known mainly for making movies about people shooting and cutting each other up.” And while that reputation may precede him, it disservices Penn’s ability to craft gripping thrillers that were exciting beyond all the light splatter.
Take 1975’s Night Moves. The film, which stars Gene Hackman as a doomed private eye, was no huge success at the time. But over the decades, it’s come to be regarded as one of the finest American neo-noir films of the 1970s. Trapped in a failing marriage he doesn’t seem to care about, Hackman’s Harry Moseby takes a job locating a down-and-out actress’s missing daughter. He winds up in the Florida Keys, where his brand of scruffy, tightly wound Gene Hackman-ness is threatened by a few free-spirited women, and where his ability to be alive is endangered by all the “accidental” deaths mounting up around him. See Gene Hackman get frustrated by bunch of Floridian hippie freaks at the Lightbox at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 31.