Film NotebookMovies

Film Notebook

Going Finland: There are a lot of films I’ve regretted missing since a change in my family circumstances has rendered my opportunities to partake of extra-household activities during cinema hours temporarily, at least, severely curtailed. Having to wait for movies to become available for home viewing isn’t the worst thing in the world, of course, especially considering the benefits in the trade-off, but sometimes it’s just a drag not to see something on the big screen when it comes through. I’ll be sorry if I don’t make it out to Hugo while it’s in its second local run at Ciné, and I definitely felt that way about missing Le Havre a few weeks ago.
Aki Kaurismäki, for whatever reason, had never been a director in whom I was particularly interested; maybe it’s because his breakthrough film, Leningrad Cowboys Go America, appeared to me at the time of its release (1989) to be an exercise in the kind of eccentric but detached hipsterism I’d begun to find so wearying in the films of Jim Jarmusch, who had a cameo role in it. I still haven’t seen any of the Leningrad Cowboys films, but I’ve been swayed enough by what I’ve read about Le Havre over the past year to have decided that it’s clearly appropriate to give Kaurismäki’s work a serious look. After watching The Man Without a Past on DVD last week, I see that I’ve been missing out on something important.

Alexander Payne’s “The Descendants” which won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, is playing at Ciné.

The 2002 film is a stunner. The images, for one thing, are soaked in a rich, deeply saturated palette that reminds me far more of the ’50s Technicolor of All That Heaven Allows than the also striking digital color correction of contemporary films like Amélie. But this stylized yet warm and organic feel extends to other elements of the film, too. The oddball formality of Kaurismäki’s compositions, which indeed has much in common with Jarmusch and even the younger Wes Anderson, is made endearing by the thoroughly unpretentious, homemade qualities of his milieu. And the film’s unflinching focus on the denizens of the very margins of society in the director’s native Helsinki, Finland is tempered by a poignantly optimistic conviction that people, despite even the most challenging circumstances, are willing and able to reach out to one another in nearly effortless kinship.
Le Havre will jump to the top of my viewing list as soon as it’s out on DVD, but between now and then, I’ll be seeing as many of Kaurismäki’s other films as I can.

Read This Now: Tino Balio is an emeritus professor of communication arts at the University of Wisconsin whose innovative study of the industrial history of the American cinema made him one of the most notable film scholars of recent decades. Balio will visit the University of Georgia to deliver a special lecture entitled “Hollywood in the New Millennium” at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Mar. 7 in the North Auditorium of the Psychology/Journalism Plaza. The lecture, I’m told, “will discuss the relationship of the major studios to the larger media marketplace, tentpoles and movie franchises, Internet-driven marketing, new distribution strategies, digital cinema, and the indie film scene.” Balio’s most recent book is The Foreign Film Renaissance on American Screens, 1946-1973 (2010), and his lecture should be one of the most interesting events to Athens film freaks this semester. It’s free, of course, and open to the public. See you there.

Quick—This, Too: Cinecitta 4, the UGA Romance Languages Department’s fourth annual Italian film series, is currently underway. If you’re picking this issue up as it hits the streets Tuesday, Mar. 6, there may be time for you to catch Big Deal on Madonna Street, Mario Monicelli’s phenomenal 1958 heist comedy, at 7 p.m. in Room 148 of the Miller Learning Center. If not, go to the same place at the same time Mar. 20 for Gianni Di Gregorio’s 2008 hit Mid-August Lunch, and Mar. 27 for Welcome to the South, Luca Miniero’s charming 2010 comedy. The screenings are free.

Soon at Ciné: The 2012 EcoFocus Film Festival is coming up Mar. 23, so be ready to see a bunch of really well-selected, environmentally focused films when that rolls around. Right about the same time, Mar. 26, Richard Neupert’s always great French Film Festival will make its first-ever appearance at Ciné, with exclusive bookings of major recent French imports like Tomboy and Declaration of War. Watch for more on both festivals as they approach… At 10 p.m. this Friday, Mar. 9, you can enjoy Doggie Woggiez! Poochie Woochiez!, the new video compilation feature from the indescribable Everything Is Terrible! collective. Their website,, can tell you far more than I can… The arthouse’s screens are filled with Oscar winners right now, and good ones: The Artist, The Descendants and Hugo are all playing at least through Mar. 8, and on Mar. 9 we’ll finally have a chance to see A Separation, the Best Foreign Language Film winner by Iranian Director Asghar Farhadi, whose acceptance speech was the most compelling moment of this year’s awards show that didn’t involve a dog or someone’s leg. Get thee to for more useful knowledge.