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Thursday, May 31, 2007

This week at SFC: Grey Gardens


Our screenings are free and all are welcome.

Film begins: 8:15 pm. Doors open 7:30 pm
The Maysles brothers pay visits to Edith Bouvier Beale, nearing 80, and her daughter Edie.
Reclusive, the pair live with cats and raccoons in Grey Gardens, a crumbling mansion in East Hampton.

/Albert and David Maysles, / USA/ 1976/ 100mins

Edith Bouvier Beale sits on her bed, wrapped in a housecoat, surrounded by cats, singing in a reverie:
"Tea for two, and two for tea. . . ." And we wonder if it occurs to her that the song is the story of the last,long chapter of her life. For more than 20 years, she and her daughter, Edie, have lived together in a
crumbling old mansion by the sea. They are surrounded on both sides by the summer homes of the
wealthy - of people from their class -- but Grey Gardens stands in Gothic decay.

The house was beautiful once, and so were the Beales. They look through old scrapbooks, this woman of
82 and her 56-year-old daughter, and we see them when they were the cream of society. Edith on her
wedding day. Edie modeling at a charity fashion show. Now a slow disintegration has set in; rooms of their
mansion and areas of their lives have been closed off, one at a time, left to the forages of raccoons and

Still, they've preserved a few things, while abandoning so much. They still have wit, style and what I would
define as sanity. "Grey Gardens," one of the most haunting documentaries in a long time, preserves their
strange existence, and we're pleased that it does. It expands our notions of the possibilities. It's about two
classic eccentrics, two people who refuse to live the way they're supposed to, but by the film's end we see
that they live fully, in ways of their own choosing.

The film was made almost by accident. Albert and David Maysles, the directors of such documentaries as
"Salesman" and "Gimme Shelter," were approached, by the two Bouvier sisters, Jacqueline Onassis and
Lee Radziwell. Would the Maysles like to make a movie about the Bouviers? They might. Jackie and Lee
supplied them with information about the family, including their two reclusive cousins in East Hampton, NY
The Maysles shot, on and off, for several months. Then they reviewed their footage and decided there
wasn't a movie in Jackie and Lee - but there seemed to be one in Edith and Edie.

They went back to Grey Gardens and all but moved in for two months, using portable cameras to follow
the Beales in their daily routines. Many of the routines seem intended for the stage, Mrs. Beale, once a
highly regarded concert singer, sings several songs for them. Edie, who'd always dreamed of a career as a
dancer, improvises a soft shoe to the Virginia Military Institute fight song. And the two women, in ways that
have been exquisitely refined over the years, fight a little among themselves.

It is here that the film has its fascinating, mysterious center, We gradually realize that these two women are
absolutely dependent on one another; that they form a composite personality (or, as the Maysles put it, a
"closed system"), Edie never married. She brought a few boys home, but her mother didn't like them. So
that's one thing to fight about. "That was just after the fall of France," Edie says at one time, dating a
memory. "France fell," her mother says, "but Edie didn't." The house is surrounded, as Edie observes, by a
"sea of green." The grounds have grown wild. "I lost a lovely blue scarf in there one day and never found it
again," she muses. Inside, plaster is crumbling from the walls, and raccoons coexist amicably with the
Beales and a large family of cats. Old phonograph records are played once again, and on Sunday night
the girls tune in Norman Vincent Peale from New York. "First, think," he advises. "Then, try . . ."

Edie dresses up in bizarre costumes. She likes to wear skirts upside down. She is never seen without
a turban. She dresses in lace curtains, in bedspreads, in bathing suits that were last seen on the cover of
Life, circa 1948. She and her mother talk all the time, sometimes at the same time -- they both know all the
words. And out of this existence comes a movie that, curiously enough, is comic and bright, as well as
sobering. It's hard not to find these two odd women likable.

Moments: Edie feeding the raccoons a loaf of Wonder Bread. Edith placidly observing that a cat is
defecating behind her portrait. Edie, nearsighted, standing on a scales and reading her weight with
binoculars. Edith confessing that she can't turn around just at the moment because her bathing suit has no
back. The two women at night, alone in their room, the crumbling mansion extending around them,
listening to old songs and replaying old memories.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

This week at SFC: Blue Collar

Our screenings are free and all are welcome.

Thursday May 10th – film begins 8:15 pm, doors open 7:30 pm

Early film footage of the Chicago bluesman Howling Wolf (who features in Blue Collar’s soundtrack) will precede this week's main feature.

BLUE COLLAR (Paul Schrader/USA/1978/114’)

Blue Collar is the 1978 directorial debut of screenwriter Paul Schrader – who wrote the scripts for Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and The Last Temptation of Christ . This drama (with minimal comic elements...) stars Harvey Keitel, Richard Pryor and Yaphet Kotto. Its pounding soundtrack compiled and composed by the late great Jack Nitzsche.

Both a critique of union practices and an examination of life in a working-class ‘Rust Belt’ enclave, the film concerns a trio of Detroit auto workers: Zeke Brown (Pryor), Jerry Bartowski (Keitel), and Smokey James (Kotto). Fed up with mistreatment at the hands of both management and union brass, and coupled with financial hardships on each man's end, the trio hatch a plan to rob a safe at union headquarters. They commit the caper, but find a few scant bills in the union safe. More importantly, they also come away with a ledger, evidence of the union's illegal loan-lending operation and ties to organised crime syndicates.
They soon find themselves wrestling with what to do with this newfound knowledge amidst both a union investigation of the crime and a federal agent's attempts to coerce Jerry into informing on union corruption.

The film is notable for its language, which mimics the street-level profanity found in Schrader's Taxi Driver screenplay and exceeds it in both frequency and rhythm. It is also notable for the performances of its three leads. As Schrader has stated, none of the three got along with each other during the production, and fistfights between takes were not uncommon. Pryor's performance is one of the best of his career.

The film was shot on location at the Checker plant in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and at numerous locales around Detroit.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Check out Antilles

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

This week at SFC: Up and Dancing & Carnival Roots

THURSDAY May 10th – films 8:15 pm Doors open 7:30 pm

Our screenings are free and all are welcome.

Two documentaries this week – both concerning Trinidad Carnival...
Our first feature is a new film about the Kilimanjaro School in Cocorite.

(Harald Rumpf.2007/ T&T-Germmany/51’)

The documentary “Up and Dancing” follows the lives of several students and teachers of the “Kilimanjaro School of Arts and Culture” as they prepare for upcoming carnival parades in Port of Spain, Trinidad.
The film takes a realistic yet tender look at the practitioners of the traditional art of stilt walking; characters popularly know as Moko Jumbies.
Practiced primarily by youths from low-income families in the Cocorite hills, “walking” has become a creative diversion from the sometimes harsh realities of poor urban life.

CARNIVAL ROOTS (Peter Chelkowski/2003/T&T-USA/90’)

“Carnival Roots” is an electrifying documentary film about the people and the music that fuel Trinidad’s carnival.
Made over a period of three years while in collaboration with some of Trinidad’s most dynamic designers, musicians, masqueraders and historians, “Carnival Roots” manages to touch on some of the major elements and themes that shape carnival as we know it today.
With great clarity the film offers an insight into the historical links between traditional mas and the development of new forms within carnival.
What emerges as the film progresses is not a presentation of carnival as revelry and fun but a vision of carnival seen as the act of a nation forging it’s own identity.
From camboulay to steelband, to calypso and soca the film emphasizes of the power of transformation that is inherent in the domain of carnival.

“Carnival Roots” which features the music of Machel Montano, Black Stalin, Bunji Garlin and Super Blue among others, is elegantly shot on 16mm film and would have to be considered one of the most definitive films made on the subject of carnival.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

This week at SFC: Water

Our screenings are free and all are welcome.

THURSDAY May 3rd – 8:15pm – doors open at 7:30pm

WATER (Deepa Mehta/2006/India/140')

Production on the third and most powerful chapter of Indian filmmaker Deepa Mehta's "Elements" trilogy was delayed for years by religious fundamentalists who staged demonstrations, torched the filmmaker's sets, and threatened her life. But she was not to be thwarted. This work of gorgeous fury, about the virtual imprisonment of millions of Hindu widows in the years before independence, transforms Mehta's feminist rage into an eloquent testament to the hunger for freedom. Her heroines, an eight-year-old widow called Chuyia (played by Sarala, a child chosen from a village in Sri Lanka) and a beautiful woman in her twenties (Lisa Ray), come to embody the spirit of the time (the film is set in 1938), when the great liberationist Mahatma Gandhi was on the rise, but the old repressions were still very much in force.