Coming Attractions in Film: October 2012

The month features a number of ambitious film festivals and the predictable cinematic excursions, classy and crass, into the spooky.

By Tim Jackson.

This month’s listings include a few great silent films accompanied by live music and a long list of quirky and scrappy film festivals. In addition, there is the Goethe-Institute German Film Series at the Coolidge Corner Theater and a Mysteries of Michelangelo Antonioni series at the Harvard Film Archives. I’ve also included a list of commercial horror films being released this month, in case you need a frightening Halloween treat!

The 6th Annual Boston Palestine Film Festival. At the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, October 5–13.

The MFA presents 10 compelling and thought-provoking films, documentaries, features, early works, video art pieces, and new films by emerging artists and youth. As part of the Middle East Charitable and Cultural Society, the festival seeks to engage local audiences and sustain Palestinian arts.

The Kid Brother. At Knight Auditorium, Babson College, 231 Forest Street, Wellesley, MA, October 7, 2 p.m.

This classic, weakling-son-makes-good comedy from 1927 stars silent-era farce icon Harold Lloyd. It is only since the 1990s that the film has been recognized as one of his finest, in the same league as his Safety Last and The Freshman. The musical accompaniment will be provided by the remarkable Wurlitzer Unit Orchestra theater organ (aka cinema organ), played by Bernie Anderson. This screening is a must-see for movie buffs, history fans, and curiosity-seekers alike.

THE KID BROTHER — one of the great silent comedies made by Harold Lloyd. It didn’t get its critical due until the 1990s.

Boston Bike Film Festival. At the Regent Theatre, Arlington Center, Arlington, MA, October 12, 7 p.m.

Now in its eighth year, this festival, which presents a series of screenings that focus on all things bicycle, supports cycling advocacy in greater Boston.

This Ancient Law. Presented by The National Center for Jewish Film, Goethe-Institut Boston, Non-Event and the Modern Theatre. At Suffolk University, 525 Washington Street, Boston, MA, October 13, 7 p.m.

An opportunity to see what should be a fascinating silent film about Jewish life that hasn’t been screened in American since 1924. Admired German director E. A. (Variety) Dupont is at the helm of a story about “Baruch Mayr, the son of an orthodox rabbi from Galicia, who decides to break from the family tradition and leave the shtetl to become an actor in Vienna.” The evening will also feature the “world premiere performance of an original electronic musical score by Thomas Köner.” (Bill Marx)

The Unknown. Presented by Turner Classic Movies. October 14, 1:30 a.m.

When it comes to archetypal silent horror, the default is Lon Chaney having his mask removed in Phantom of the Opera, a scene that reportedly made some audience members faint. (See the Somerville Theater listing below for a screening of the film this month). The Phantom of the Opera is an eye-filling movie, especially in a tinted version, though it is more creepy than scary. For my money, a much more perverse and horrifying film to come out of Hollywood during the silent era would have to be Tod (Freaks) Browning’s delightfully demented The Unknown, released in 1927. It stars Lon Chaney as Alanzo, an armless “wonder’ of a circus performer, and his lady love, Joan Crawford. You want voluntary amputations? You want pathological sexual obsession? Knifes thrown at scantily clad women? Lions pulling the arms off of people? Serious antics in the House of Pain? This is the film for you—hard to believe that MGM produced this gruesome a yarn. (Bill Marx)

A scene from THIS ANCIENT LAW — this 1923 German silent was the inspiration for THE JAZZ SINGER.

 Arlington International Film Festival. At Regent Theatre. Arlington Center, Arlington, MA, October 17–21.

Small as it is, this festival takes its mission seriously: to be a celebration of cultures as well as being a platform for recognizing the common, global human experience. The result is a carefully curated series of compelling and deeply human films.

Vermont International Film Festival. In Burlington, Vermont, October 19–28.

The organizers started this up as part of the anti-nuclear movement in the 1985. Now based primarily in Burlington, VTIFF has earned a loyal audience for its groundbreaking films spanning the globe, particularly movies that focus on the environment, human rights, and war and peace.

Phantom Of The Opera. At Somerville Theater, Somerville, MA, October 21, 2 p.m.

This great silent film was the first of many adaptations of the Gaston Leroux novel and stars the remarkable Lon Chaney in his most famous incarnation. It is accompanied with live music by Jeff Rapsis, a lifelong silent film fan. He first works up an original musical score in advance for each film and then improvises based on that material at the live screening.

THE UNKNOWN — Lon Chaney and Joan Crawford play an unusual romantic couple in this perverse pleasure of a silent film.

Boston Asian Film Festival. At Various locations, October 25–28.

The BAAFF seeks to empower Asian Americans through film by showcasing Asian American experiences as well as serving as a resource to filmmakers and the Greater Boston Community.

12th Annual Halloween Horror Movie Marathon. At Coolidge Corner Theater. Brookline, MA, October 27.

This year for one ticket price you can sit through The original Exorcist, The Thing (1982), a costume contest, and five more “jolting tales of terror”. Twelve hours of horror. Sounds divinely demonic.

Halloween Specials!
Here are four Halloween “fright” films listed by their release dates. They will be screened at theaters throughout New England.

October 5
Hold Your Breath

Does this sound familiar? “A group of friends on a weekend camping trip find themselves being picked off one by one when one member of the group refuses to abide by the urban myth that you can breathe in evil spirits when passing cemeteries.”


This is the crown jewel of Halloween films, a 3-D black-and-white adaptation of Tim Burton’s own live-action short film made for Disney in 1984 when he was a struggling animator. It’s about a young boy (named Victor Frankenstein) who reanimates the corpse of his dead pet dog. Oh boy!

October 10
Paranormal Activity 4

The fourth entry from Paramount Pictures brings back Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, who directed Part 3. They also put together the wonderful documentary Catfish and the hand-held shooting style is well suited to this “reality horror” series. This just might surprise you.

October 26
Silent Hill: Revelation 3-D

You may not be aware that there are nine installments of Silent Hill as a video, “survival game” series. That popularity spawned a first film and now this sequel. The first wasn’t exactly over praised. Maybe this description of the 3-D sequel will tempt you: “Heather Mason and her father have been on the run, always one step ahead of dangerous forces that she doesn’t fully understand.”

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