Not many films of note miss The Belcourt's schedule these days. But for some that do, the theater has a safety net: "Movies We Missed in 2012," a series of eight films making their Nashville premieres. These include one of last year's most acclaimed artist profiles (Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present, Jan. 19-21); a real-life mystery in which a director uncovers his Israeli grandparents' postwar history (The Flat, Jan. 18 & 20-22); the conclusion of Jonathan Demme's triptych of Neil Young concert films (Neil Young: Journeys, Jan. 23-24); a portrait of noise-rock pioneer and gendernaut Genesis P-Orridge (The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye, Jan. 23-24); Keanu Reeves engaging filmmakers on the digital debate (Side by Side, Jan. 20 & 22); and last year's most controversial Sundance Film Festival offering, the fact-based psychological thriller Compliance (Jan. 19 & 21-22).
Below, we focus on two series highlights, with more information available at and the Scene's arts and culture blog Country Life:
DIANA VREELAND: THE EYE HAS TO TRAVEL According to Diana Vreeland, two things shaped global culture after World War II: the atomic bomb and the bikini. By the time we hear this half-ironic utterance — captured in the brisk, bubbly Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel — the documentary's title figure has also recalled her glimpse of Hitler in prewar Europe. The dictator's absurd mustache tipped her off: The man had no style. (In the images chosen by producer-director Lisa Immordino Vreeland, the man's broomy little 'stache really does look jarringly rude.)
And style is everything, instructs Vreeland, who made her name as fashion editor at Harper's Bazaar before ascending to icon status as Vogue editor from 1963 to '71. There may be more transparent lenses than personal style through which to view history, but The Eye Has to Travel argues that few people understood the 20th century more clearly than Vreeland. She was a magazine Gatsby, a doyenne not so much of fashion (something she claims here to have deplored) but of self-invention, that talent most crucial to the previous century's success stories. She could tell a real fake from a fake fake and find amusement in either — while recognizing the marvelous depth in authentic beauty.
Director Vreeland married one of Diana's grandsons but never met the Empress of Fashion herself, who died in 1989. There's no insider quite so outside as an in-law, and the movie astutely balances Wikipedia plain-factness (illustrated by brilliantly arrayed old interviews and well-composed new ones) against careful on-camera sessions with Diana Vreeland's two sons. The family story is one of limited or failed parenting, dating back at least to Diana's own mother (who called her daughter "extremely ugly"), but it's told here in tones of fascination, not pain. A movie in which Manolo Blahnik weighs in doesn't have time to bleed. (Jan. 19-22)
NEIGHBORING SOUNDS When Americans think of Brazil, their minds typically veer towards one of two stereotypes: sun and samba (with "The Girl From Ipanema" as accompaniment) or drugs and gun violence (epitomized by City of God). Neighboring Sounds dodges both these archetypes, but not without acknowledging some of the latter's real-life consequences. Director Kleber Mendonça Filho's vision of social meltdown, set in an upper-middle-class community in the city of Recife, recalls the late novelist J.G. Ballard's portraits of high-rise privilege yielding to chaos.
The unrest begins with a relatively minor inconvenience: a woman's CD player is stolen from her car. Nevertheless, the whole neighborhood becomes paranoid about security, hiring a firm of guards to watch over them. Not only don't the guards allay the residents' fears, however, their presence actually makes matters worse. One person even theorizes that they're committing crimes to make their services seem more necessary.
Filho's sensibility has few precedents in Latin American cinema, aside from Argentinean director Lucrecia Martel's La Cienaga. In his feature-film debut, he introduces issues of class and race subtly. Neighboring Sounds never makes an overt point of it, but almost all the neighborhood's residents are white, while the film's only blacks work as maids or guards. The astonishing locations might look great in architecture magazines, but as actual living spaces they seem hellish.
Heightening this unease, Neighboring Sounds, as the title suggests, makes terrific use of off-screen space and sound design. These set a distinctly menacing tone for the ensemble cast's activities, giving the narrative's glacial drift a sinister undercurrent. But while the finale implies a violent conclusion, Filho leaves it up to the spectator to decide exactly what happened. Though this may frustrate some viewers, it stays true to the film's tendency to let its soundtrack do much of its storytelling — since the story it tells is most definitely not "The Girl from Ipanema." (Jan. 21-22)