Coming Attractions in Film: August 2012

If your streaming device is re-buffering, or you are tired of watching “Lawrence of Arabia” on your computer, August is a great month to get to a theater. There are some new releases worth seeing, but Boston and vicinity offers some unique opportunities to take in some terrific revivals.

by Tim Jackson

Boston Jewish Film Festival, at the West Newton Cinema, West Newton, MA, on Wednesday, August 1 and Wednesday, August 15.

Mabul (The Flood) (8/1) won awards for Best Film and Best Cinematography at the Haifa International Film Festival and gained 6 Ophir (Israeli Academy Award) nominations. It is the coming-of-age story of a boy named Yoni, who is about to have his bar mitzvah when his severely autistic older brother unexpectedly arrives home after years of living in an institution. The film slowly “reveals that the lives of the brothers’ parents are fractured under the strain of unemployment, addiction and infidelity.”

An intimate moment in the film THE DAY I SAW YOUR HEART

The Day I Saw Your Heart (8/15) is about a beautiful 20-something woman named Justine (Melanie Laurent), who works in an x-ray lab and aspires to be an artist. The youngest of three sisters, she has struggled through a series of failed relationships, eventually moving onto the sofa at her sister’s place. Meanwhile, her 60-year-old father, Eli (Michel Blanc), announces to the family that his (much younger) third wife is pregnant. The film is a comedy-drama that deftly juggles multiple story-lines.

UCLA Festival of Preservation, at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, August 2 through 17.

Film buffs take note. The MFA is the 10th stop on a cross-country tour of pristine prints of rarely seen films and television programs preserved by UCLA. The offerings includes films such as Cecil B. DeMille’s 1934 The Crusades and Douglas Sirk’s Sleep, My Love, a rare domestic thriller that, unlike most film noirs, is set in “lush, overdone homes that reek of Victorian clutter and repression.” There is an amazing opportunity to see the great Buster Keaton in Samuel Beckett’s Film, which screens with a version of Waiting for Godot featuring Zero Mostel and Burgess Meredith. The latter was a TV Play of the Week presentation: “Godot exemplifies the potential heights the small screen could reach as a legitimate venue for meaningful and challenging dramatic arts.”

Recent Raves Wednesdays in August, at the Brattle Theater, Cambridge, MA.

One of my favorite series at the Brattle is its Wednesday screenings of films you may have missed when they first came around. The evening is a one price double feature, to boot. In August the line-up is particularly good, including I Wish, Kid With a Bike, Turn Me On, Dammit, Damsels in Distress and more. All these are wonderful films. I recommend one in particular that went under the radar — the lush, sexy, and heartwarming, Good-By First Love, an unexpected treasure of a film.

A scene from the film OSLO

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, at the Kendall Square Cinema, Cambridge, MA, beginning on August 3.

Ai Weiwei has been much in the news lately, and this documentary about him has been wowing film festival audiences. Its director, Alison Klayman, explores how this brave Chinese artist blurs art and politics while also providing a chilling look at contemporary China. Following his detention for political activities, the artist made this statement about the documentary: “This film is about freedom of expression — about very essential human rights, and it’s about the very essential quality of life to express yourself, to use all the possibilities and all the kinds of forms, voice and actions, to struggle. And the struggle itself has meaning, the meaning is about life.”

Oslo, at the Kendall Square Cinema, Cambridge, MA, beginning on August 10.

Norwegian director Joachim Trier’s second feature film is a striking and hypnotic character study that details 24 hours in the life of once-promising writer turned heroin junkie. Anders (Anders Danielsen Lie) is released from his rehabilitation center for one day to make a job interview in Oslo. The movie screened earlier this year as part of the Emerson Film Series, and it is now being given a short theatrical run. The movie blends the integrity and austerity of Robert Bresson with the playfulness of Louise Malle.

The Wild Bunch at the Coolidge Corner Theatre, Brookline MA, on August 20.

This is part of the theater’s “Big Screen Classics” gathering. There are other great films in the series, but I recommend this one in particular because the lyrical power and gritty vision of Sam Peckinpah’s masterpiece demands a big screen viewing. Considered excessively violent in 1969, the film now can be seen for what it is — an ode to the death of the old west. William Holden, the late Ernest Borgnine, Robert Ryan, Ben Johnson, and Warren Oates are at the peak of their skills playing aging gunslingers whose time has come and gone.

The late Ernest Borgnine in Sam Peckinpah’s masterpiece, THE WILD BUNCH

Summer Classics of Cinema, at the Harvard Film Archive, Cambridge, MA, August 3 through 31.

OK, I made up the title, but the venerable Cambridge institution no longer takes August off, providing film lovers with the opportunity to take in films we should be seeing on a big screen. Every Thursday through Sunday HFA screens a double feature. This month there are lots of early Luis Bunuel classics, such as Mexican Bus Ride and El Bruto, great film noirs, and several showings of one of the cinema’s greatest achievements, Renoir’s Grand Illusion. Other recommendations: Terrence Malick’s beautiful film, Days of Heaven, and Polanski’s Chinatown.

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