The Reel Less Traveled


Reeling in October: In Theater or at Home

On the Lamorinda film front, there are two October films to highlight. I also thought, though, that it might also be a good idea to add some personal recommendations just in case the one Halloween-themed film the Orinda will be showing doesn’t do it for you.

We’ll start with the International Film Showcase (an institution that’s been going for nearly as long as I have) which is offering a 2015 Chinese film, Mountain Cry. Taking place in a remote and equally peaceful village, the serenity is shattered by a sudden death. Since everybody knows everybody else, this has far reaching consequences that effect the whole village in general and the victim’s wife specifically. Mute, she is still able to communicate, and as the village makes noble attempts to ease her pain and sorrow, other, more troubling truths, roil to the surface. Early word is that this is as much a travelogue as gripping story. The scenery and the manner in which it’s caught on camera is absolutely stunning, but that should be only a secondary consideration; the first being the important tale this film tells. It will have a one week run at the Orinda starting on Oct. 5 at 7 p.m.
The Film Classics Showcase brings us the one and only Halloween offering this year (although one could argue that last month’s Lost Boys preceded it) with Beetlejuice. One of Tim Burton’s early works, it, more than Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, gave a more accurate picture of the type of film in which Burton specialized. Indeed, one can see almost every influence, from German Expressionism to gallows humor in this movie with an almost equal supply of screw-ball comedy and even a little pathos mixed in that marks Burton’s film style. The entire cast, including Dick Cavett, who makes a hilarious cameo, seemed, not only in on the joke, but reveling in the absurdity of it all. Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, Winona Ryder and Michael Keaton in the title role are also, clearly having fun – and so will you. It will be showing at the Orinda Theater on Oct. 11 at 6:30 p.m. Admission free.
But what about the rest of the month? Aside from always making sure to check with for any last-minute additions, I’d recommend some other little known frightful movies to instill unease in your soul. The film that always comes to mind when I think of creeping dread is Repulsion. Released in 1965 and directed by Roman Polanski, it leaves us trapped in a small Paris apartment with Catherine Deneuve, who is slowly losing her mind. Though we are privy to her increasingly fanciful and disturbing hallucinations, there really isn’t anything “supernatural” in this film, but that isn’t really the point.
If you truly seek a movie that generates fear, I can safely say that this is one film that will burrow under your skin. With only one or two jump-scares, what distinguished this above many other similar movies is the silence. No bombastic orchestral score. No screams or howls. Just the passage of time (and sanity) with nothing but the ticking of a clock to keep you company. Turn off any and all distractions and surrender to this movie. Good luck.
Going back a couple of years (1963), we have an anthology film Black Sabbath starring, in one of the segments, Boris Karloff. Of these three stories, written by such luminaries as Checkov, Tolstoy and de Maupassant, it is the first that stands out most in my mind. Like the aforementioned Repulsion, it relies on an awful silence (Dripping faucets replace a ticking clock.). There is also a heavy Italian influence at work here. Mario Bava, who would go on to make many other distinctive horror films, has an uncredited director’s mention here. Also, like Repulsion, and to achieve the maximum amount of fright, sitting alone and in the dark would be the best way to view this film.
And with those two recommendations, I’ll leave you until next time. As ever (but especially for this bewitching month), I urge you to stay in the dark, for that’s where the reel magic lies.

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