Encores & Curtain Calls: Time for the BIG screen
“I love to go to a regular movie theater, especially when the movie is a big crowd pleaser. It’s much better watching a movie with 500 people making noise than with just a dozen.”
— Steven Spielberg
Now that spring has skipped town and summer is almost upon us, it’s time to stash all second-hand cinema, DVDs, online feeds and such minimalist substitutes and do the right thing: break out the popcorn, grab a cushion and plant yourself in front of the Big Screen at Pothole Pictures’ Movie Palace in Memorial Hall in Shelburne Falls.
Pothole’s spring/summer series has already kicked in. The movies are screened Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and are preceded by live music at 7 p.m.
Admission is $4 for children 12 and under and $6 for adults. Pre-purchased advance tickets are also accepted. The air-conditioned and handicapped accessible theater is located in historic Memorial Hall, 51 Bridge St., Shelburne Falls.
∎ Next up, on June 6 and 7, will be what sounds like a charmer of a documentary titled “Babies” by Thomas Balmes. This film traces the parallel year-long journeys of four newborns in four far-flung cultural settings. Promoters have this to say, “a refreshing absence of narration allows us to simply watch as the infants discover the universe surrounding them. Done with joyful humor and a light touch, the developmental similarities are contrasted by the cultural differences. Sometimes hypnotic, with original music by Bruno Coulais, this is a sweet & adorable ‘home movie for the human race. In color. PG-rated.”
Pre-film music: Friday, Glenn Ceili, Celtic music; Saturday, Daniel Hales & the frost heaves, indie rock, folk, country.
∎ June 20 and 21 brings a French classic, “Jean de Florette,” the tale of a poor hunchbacked tax collector (Gerard Depardieu) seeking his “piece of heaven” for himself and his family in a tract of inherited farmland, where he dreams of raising rabbits and vegetables — a tale faintly reminiscent of another handicapped protagonist, the giant but childlike Lennie in John Steinbeck’s masterpiece of thwarted hope, “Of Mice and Men,” which opens with the Robert Burns quote, ‘The well laid plans of mice and men oft go astray.’ Here too, unkind fate steps in to frustrate even such simple hopes, in the form of a greedy neighbor, played by Yves Montand. “A merciless, relentless tale of evil and cruelty which portrays the unflinching and possibly fatal optimism of human nature, yet still somehow manages to avoid melodrama and cheap sentiment. Exquisitely filmed lush landscapes and perfect performances all around. One of the most emotionally wrenching film experiences ever. In French with English subtitles.”
Pre-film music: Friday, Ken Swiatek, folk music; Friday, Abdul Baki, original piano music.
∎ Then, on July 18 and 19, at 7:30, comes the timeless “The Wizard of Oz,” which, despite all prior viewings, simply cannot be said to have been truly seen unless you’ve seen it on the big screen for which it was eminently designed.
As George Bernard Shaw sagely observed, the single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has (already) taken place.” And so it is with “The Wizard of Oz.” It is so easy to glide through this masterpiece on automatic, slipping into childhood memories and dreams that we can literally miss the forest for the trees. If we could somehow unscrew our heads, shake them free of all the old mapped and recorded reactions, screw them back on again and see the film, as young senator Jefferson Smith (Jimmy Stewart) said in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” as if we were coming out of a dark tunnel, then we might just begin to get a sense of just how cram-packed, chock-full of incredible art and invention and beauty it is. From the extraordinary characterizations by Jack Haley, Bert Lahr Ray Bolger and the Wicked Witch actress Margaret Hamilton (Not to mention their equally brilliant make up), to the classic and compelling songs and score, the film is over the top.
Be sure to sit close, in the first three rows or right on stage, to catch all sorts of strange and intriguing details virtually impossible to notice in miniature-land at home.
Pre-film music: Friday, Small Change, described as ‘acoustic swing’; Saturday, Dick Moulding, “rompin’ piano rags.”
∎ July 25 and 26 bring “Moonstruck,” at 7:30 p.m. A kind of fantasy of contemporary life, with Cher and Nicholas Cage, this is the comic and often simultaneously penetrating saga of an extended Italian-American Brooklyn family. The ambience of the palpable, volatile earthy realities vying with moon-beguiled fantasy makes for great dramatic contrast and all the actors, from Vincent Gardenia and Olympia Dukakis to Danny Aiello, convince you you’ve dropped in on a reality show rather than a movie.
Pre-film music: Friday, Co-op Jazz; Saturday, Helter Celti, which plays Irish tunes, songs.
∎ “Captain Blood” slashes his way into town on Aug. 8 and 9, at 7:30 p.m., in the form of the dashing and irresistible Errol Flynn, for whom no situation is too dire, no man too intimidating to quell his self-assurance. Taken from the (equally thrilling) novel by Rafael Sabatini, the film is loaded with great action, classic Hollywood character actors, exotic locales and, of course, hair-raising duels, the most climactic of which is Flynn’s pas de deux with archetypal villain Basil Rathbone. This is the first of eight films Flynn and Olivia de Havilland danced through together.
Pre-film music: Friday, Adela & Jude, American roots; Saturday, Leo T. Baldwin, folk rock.
∎ On Aug. 22 and 23, comes “Dead Man,” what is described as “an intriguing psychedelic western” (the notion definitely does not intrigue this writer!). Promoters tell us “Jim Jarmusch’s impressionistic film follows accountant William Blake (Johnny Depp) who’s on the run from the law across the wild west. Filmed in gorgeous black and white and accompanied by a haunting soundtrack of Neil Young guitar (as well as clips of Depp reading the poetry of THE William Blake), many consider this Jarmusch’s most exciting and ambitious film. Critic Greil Marcus called it “the best movie of the end of the 20th century.”
The cast includes Robert Mitchum, Crispin Glover, Gabriel Byrne, Iggy Pop, Billy Bob Thornton and Gary Farmer, as the spiritual Native American guide “who is convinced Depp is indeed the dead poet Blake.”
Let me know how you like it!
Music: Friday, Xopo & Friends, ballad music; Saturday, Daniel Hales & the frost heaves, indie rock, folk, country.
∎ The series concludes, aptly, just four days later than its namesake, with the Sept. 5 and 6 screenings of “Labor Day.” Filmed in Shelburne Falls, it stars Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin and features a backup corps of regional extras. This movie is the tale of a struggling single mother and her son, into whose downcast lives enters an escaped felon, with mixed and perhaps predictable consequences. Pothole informs us that we will be afforded “glimpses of the Iron Bridge, Baker’s Pharmacy, Keystone Market, Turners Falls Power Canal and other familiar sites,” and, who knows, perhaps people, along the way, and strongly suggests that it’s virtually a civic duty to see one’s native turf on the big screen.
Pre-film music: Friday, Patrick Boyd Owens on guitar; Saturday, Abdul Baki, original piano music.
An author and composer, columnist Joseph Marcello of Northfield focuses on music and theater. He can be reached at email@example.com.