Coming Attractions in Film: June 2011

June marks a sluggish start to the summer movie season, but it’s not without a few big events. New films from art-house hero Terrence Malick and Lost creator J. J. Abrams promise to be must-sees for different segments of movie buffs, and fans of older cinema will have plenty on their plate with throw-back screenings at the Brattle and a Luis Buñuel retrospective at the HFA.

A June Highlight: A Luis Buñuel retrospective at the Harvard Film Archive, including 1967's BELLE DE JOUR starring Catherine Deneuve.

By Taylor Adams.

Tree of Life. At the Coolidge Corner Theatre, starting June 3, at Kendall Square Cinemas and elsewhere in New England.

Terrence Malick films don’t come along very often. The enigmatic and reclusive director—often hailed as a master of visual poetry—has released only five features in the four decades since 1973’s Badlands. The unveiling of his latest, The Tree of Life, has thus caused quite a stir. The epic, generation-spanning tale featuring Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, and the creation of the universe itself managed to pocket the Palme d’Or last month at Cannes—but the film’s premiere was met with some derisive hissing in addition to the adulation. Malick’s pensive, imagery-laden style—on display in Days of Heaven and The Thin Red Line—is not for everyone. But love it or hate it, there’s no disputing the fact that The Tree of Life’s Boston release is a rare event. It may be worth experiencing Malick’s latest creation for that reason alone.

Back to the Future Trilogy. At the Brattle Theatre, June 5.
Those who look back on the adventures of Marty McFly (Micheal J. Fox) and Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) with nostalgia need to jump in their DeLorians June 5 and speed to the Brattle’s marathon screening of all three Back to the Future films—back to back. The time travel theme is apropos, as the event comes in the midst of a spate of throw-back engagements at the old-school movie house this month, including the Jurassic Park trilogy and Poltergeist. Don’t forget your flux capacitor.

Sci-fi schlock fans who enjoy time travel of a more British persuasion might want to check out the Brattle’s Hooked on Who series of Dr. Who screenings the weekend of June 10.

The poster for SUPER 8 ... Be afraid, Be very afraid ...

Super 8. Wide release, June 10.
J. J. Abrams revisits the “movies made by, and partly about cameras” theme he first riffed on in Cloverfield with this science-fiction thriller about a group of youngsters who accidentally film a catastrophic train accident while shooting movie clips on good old Super 8 film (thus the title, in case you hadn’t guessed). Trouble is, what they’ve seen makes them believe there’s more to the “accident” than meets the eye. It doesn’t help that general abduction-style weirdness is going on around their small town. It’s all good fun with genre maven Abrams, whose last outing as a director was the formulaic but thoroughly well-crafted and entertaining blockbuster Star Trek in 2009. He’s a master of reeling audiences in—many will recall he’s had a hand in the TV series Lost and Fringe. Plus, the meta tint of this new film’s ideas can be traced back to media-conscious classics like Antonioni’s Blow Up and Coppola’s The Conversation. Not bad company at all.

Buñuel – The Beginning and the End. At the Harvard Film Archive (HFA), June 17–27.
The archive ends June with a glorious selection of surreal auteur Luis Buñuel’s early and late films. Opening with L’Age d’Or and Un Chien Andalou (the filmmaker’s famous, eye-slashing collaboration with Salvador Dali), the retrospective also includes Buñuel’s controversial later efforts from Spain (Viridiana—which won both the Palme d’Or and the condemnation of the Catholic Church at Cannes—and similarly received The Exterminating Angel). Buñuel’s French classics are also well-represented, with screenings of confounding duo The Milky Way and The Discrete Charm of the Bourgeoisie, as well as his final film, That Obscure Object of Desire, among others. Visit the HFA’s site for a complete schedule.

The African Queen. At the Brattle Theatre,  June 24–30.
Fans of classic cinema have something new to look forward to this month: a restored print of 1951’s The African Queen starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn. This charmingly preposterous, World-War I-era tale has the duo going up against a German warship in a rickety riverboat somewhere in East Africa. The film’s original Technicolor negatives are long past their sell-by date, a state of affairs that has left only faded prints in circulation. Now there’s a bright restoration that aims to do justice to the charisma of two of the period’s most luminous stars.

Art on Film. At the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA), screenings throughout June.

A work of erotic art in the documentary SECRET MUSEUMS. Photo courtesy of Icarus.

The MFA this month appropriately unveils a series of films about art—in the widest sense of the word. Secret Museums explores the oft-hidden world of erotic art and why such works even by noted artists are often kept sequestered from the public eye or in private collections. Hey, Boo: Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird tells the story behind the creation of one of American literature’s most widely-read works. A filmmaker travels around the world and hears from a trio of off-beat artists (Maurizio Cattelan, Matthew Barney, and Takashi Murakami) in Art Safari. Sculptor Dale Chihuly, whose work is currently on display at the museum (See Arts Fuse review), is also represented in the series by two video pieces: Chihuly in the Light of Jerusalem and Chihuly and the Masters of Venice. The series closes with Cameraman: The Life and Times of Jack Cardiff, which offers a window into the work of the cinematographer famous for popularizing Technicolor (speaking of, he shot The African Queen as well). Visit the MFA’s site for a complete schedule.

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