- The Young Girls of Rochefort
Of the filmmakers who emerged during the brief glory years of the French New Wave, none has undergone a more radical — or deserved — reconsideration in recent years than the late Jacques Demy. Once largely dismissed as a featherweight aesthete who retreated to Hollywood musicals, romances and fairy tales when the rest of the world was literally at the ramparts, Demy has been embraced decades after his death in 1990 as a bold stylist who used the most starry-eyed of genres to explore the complexities of love and human relations, even politics. His reputation is likely to rise even higher as the first major retrospective of his films this century tours North America — including a stop at The Belcourt in late November.
If all you know of the director's work is his glorious 1964 Catherine Deneuve musical The Umbrellas of Cherbourg — a movie that left grown men sobbing at its last Belcourt screening several years ago — a treasure chest of riches awaits you in this nearly complete Janus Films retro, which includes several rarities being shown in Nashville for the first time. For one thing, the series shows the true scope of his work, from 1963's delirious gambling melodrama Bay of Angels (starring Jeanne Moreau, and set to a torrential Michel Legrand score) to 1972's shockingly grim English-language telling of The Pied Piper, with folksinger Donovan and the menacing duo of John Hurt and Donald Pleasence. For another, watching all 11 films (plus three Demy-themed films made by his widow Agnes Varda) allows viewers to trace recurring elements from movie to movie — the use of his boyhood coastal France as a setting, for example, or the heroine from his 1961 debut Lola whose bizarre fate is revealed in his 1967 Gene Kelly musical The Young Girls of Rochefort.
Local Demy completists never imagined they'd get a chance to see the movie considered his unsung masterpiece, the decidedly darker 1982 musical Une chambre en ville (A Room in Town), on the big screen in Nashville. Its appearance here, alongside even more obscure titles such as his 1988 Yves Montand musical Three Seats for the 26th, makes this an occasion for cinephiles on par with previous Belcourt retrospectives of Hitchcock, Bresson, Kurosawa and Shohei Imamura. But the screening series is recommended just as strongly to casual moviegoers, as Demy is among the most accessible and purely enjoyable of great directors. All it takes to appreciate his films is a love of beauty, music and color; the twinge of a once-broken heart; and the capacity to dream.
• Remarkably, the Demy retro will be the second large-scale film event this season at The Belcourt. The Hillsboro Village arthouse's annual Doctober slate of current documentaries has evolved into a month-long survey of nonfiction film including reissues as well as new releases. Having made its bank for the summer on the surprise smash 20 Feet From Stardom — whose full-house audiences were frequently as star-studded as the cast onscreen — the theater hopes lightning will strike twice with the Sundance/NaFF hit Muscle Shoals, featuring Gregg Allman, Clarence Carter, Mick Jagger, Alicia Keys and (not enough) Donnie Fritts. It's joined in the lineup by the Robert Reich economic-divide doc Inequality for All, the gripping K2 disaster-in-real-life account The Summit, the evangelical exposé God Loves Uganda, the restoration of Shirley Clarke's once-scandalous Portrait of Jason, and the self-explanatory The Trials of Muhammad Ali. More will be announced on the theater's website soon. Watch also for high-profile films from the fall festival circuit in first run, especially Abdellatif Kechiche's Cannes sensation Blue is the Warmest Color, whose erotic frankness pushes boundaries even for The Belcourt. And to celebrate the holiday season, the theater shows horror favorites in honor of Halloween — titles pending.
• In recent years Vanderbilt's International Lens film series has become a major boon to Nashville moviegoers, whether it's offering a return big-screen engagement of something that played briefly at commercial theaters or hosting a local premiere — all free and open to the public, and in some cases with the filmmaker on hand. Highlights of the upcoming fall season include a visit from acclaimed documentary filmmaker Ross McElwee (see the story on p. 60), here Thursday, Sept. 12, to show and discuss his most recent film Photographic Memory; a three-film salute starting Oct. 16 to Christian Petzold, the German director who does tightly controlled character-driven takes on pulpy material and thriller plots, often in collaboration with lead actress Nina Hoss (Barbara, Jerichow, Yella); and a variety of Nashville premieres, including the South Korean thriller The Thieves (Sept. 26), the history of U.S. intervention in Latin America Harvest of Empire (Oct. 2), and the documentary Herman's House (Oct. 3), which details the friendship of an activist New York artist and a convicted murderer who's spent much of his life in solitary confinement. All screenings are held 7:30 p.m. at Sarratt Cinema, unless noted otherwise, and most are from projected DVD. vanderbilt.edu/internationallens
• Nashville Public Library fans: If you've never checked out (heh) the downtown branch's monthly Movies @ Main screening series, or its accompanying Legends of Film podcasts, let Popular Materials film guru Bill Chamberlain help you out. September's selection, showing 2 p.m. Saturday in the library's auditorium, is the 1993 fantasy 12:01, starring Jonathan Silverman as a man replaying a day that ends in murder. Its director, Jack Sholder (The Hidden), is this month's podcast guest. October's horror-themed features are the excellent Vincent Price drama Witchfinder General (Oct. 5), with horror host Dr. Gangrene as special guest, followed Oct. 19 by Roman Polanski's still-unnerving Repulsion. Veteran editor Tina Hirsch, best known for her work with Joe Dante on films such as Gremlins and Twilight Zone: The Movie, is the guest for November's podcast, which coincides with the Nov. 16 showing of 1993's Ethan Hawke comedy Mystery Date. library.nashville.org
• Third Man Records' film series The Light and Sound Machine — programmed by James Cathcart and co-sponsored by The Belcourt — has stepped in to fill one of the city's voids, regular screenings of experimental and underground film. They're on the third Thursday of every month, and the fall slate begins Sept. 19 with Speaking Directly, the 1973 debut feature by vanguard American indie filmmaker Jon Jost. Oct. 12's selection is a must-see: the return of the marvelous Alloy Orchestra performing live accompaniment to Dziga Vertov's careening Soviet silent Man With a Movie Camera (reportedly being recorded live to acetate). The series wraps for the year in December with Differently, Molussia, Nicolas Rey's "imagined documentary" about a dystopian state, consisting of nine 16mm segments shown in different order at every screening. thirdmanrecords.com
• Back from a sojourn in the online realm, the International Black Film Festival of Nashville returns to a physical venue Oct. 31-Nov. 3. IBFFN CEO Hazel Joyner Smith says the fest will announce the venue later this month along with its schedule, which she hopes will include a pair of major studio films currently in negotiation. Also encouraging, she says, are "the excellent entries from independent filmmakers" the fest has received this year. New to the fest are partnerships with cable channels TV One and Bounce. ibffnashville.com
• If you've never attended the Nashville Jewish Film Festival, this is the year to go. Boasting one of its strongest lineups yet in its 14th year, the festival opens Nov. 6 with Eran Riklis' well-reviewed drama Zaytoun, starring Stephen Dorff as a downed Israeli pilot rescued by a 12-year-old Palestinian boy. Other entries include one of the most acclaimed Israeli films of recent years, Rama Burshtein's marital drama Fill the Void; a retrospective of Jeremy Paul Kagan's 1981 cult favorite The Chosen; the doc When Comedy Went to School, about the comics who honed their craft in the Catskills; and Ziad Douieri's The Attack. Screenings are split this year among several venues, including The Belcourt, the Franklin Theatre and the Gordon Jewish Community Center. nashvillejff.net
The basement bunker known as Cult Fiction Underground, located underneath Robert and Cemile Bagci Logue's cool East Nashville boutique Logue's Black Raven Emporium at 2915 Gallatin Pike, has become a little slice of heaven for connoisseurs of cinematic rotgut: slasher movies, sexploitation, unjustly forgotten drive-in fare. This weekend's offering is the 20th anniversary version of Ted Nicolaou's vampire chiller Subspecies, starring Phantasm's Tall Man Angus Scrimm and showing 8 and 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; future selections include David Cronenberg's early shocker They Came From Within (Sept. 20-21) and a "Naschy Night" double bill of Spanish werewolf maestro Paul Naschy's Count Dracula's Great Love and Hunchback of the Morgue, hosted by local NaschyCast podcasters Troy Guinn and Rod Barnett (Sept. 27-28). Watch also for CFU honcho Bob Slendorn's Monday-night Motorcycle Mayhem slots of biker movies; the Ed Wood Extravaganza and Unconvincing Drag contest Oct. 5; and one of the East Side's hottest Halloween events, the annual Witches' Ball Oct. 26.