And now for something completely different
Kerasotes' one "arts" screen is no match for the countless number of excellent movies that never make their way to town. That means if you live in Springfield and love foreign and independent films, you're usually out of luck.
Springfield's 2004 Film Festival at White Oaks Cinema is a remedy. Between January and April the festival will show six films from Belgium, Israel, France, Russia, and the United States. The films are chosen by a committee of local movie buffs who narrow down a large list to the six most interesting, diverse, and critically acclaimed.
The festival, a fundraiser for the Springfield Art Association and the Springfield Area Arts Council, will screen one film every other week beginning on Sunday, Jan. 25. Each selection plays at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Sunday and then at 7 p.m. the following Tuesday. Season tickets are available for $35 at the Springfield Art Association (523-2631), 700 N. Fourth St., and the Springfield Area Arts Council (753-3519), 526 E. Capitol Ave. Tickets are $7 at the door -- $3.50 for any student with an I.D. For more information, www.kerasotes.com/2004.
L'Auberge Espagnole (Jan. 25 and 27). A French college student nervous about landing a job decides to learn Spanish to pad his resume. He heads to a cultural exchange program in Barcelona where he lives in an apartment with seven other young Europeans doing the same thing. There's romance and mishap and growing up to do, all of which makes for a breezy, slapstick adventure, a humorous look at what it means to be a young European adult these days. The title translates as Spanish inn, but it is also a French expression meaning cultural mishmash. (Running time 2:02, rated R. Various languages with subtitles).
The Son (Feb. 8 and 10). A wearied Belgium carpenter who teaches his craft to troubled boys takes on a new student with whom he shares a tragic past. To say that this film has been well-received is an understatement. Consider Roger Ebert's praise: "It is as assured and flawless a telling of sadness and joy as I have ever seen . . . Walk out of the house today, tonight, and see it, if you are open to simplicity, depth, maturity, silence, in a film that sounds in the echo-chambers of the heart." (Running time 1:43, not rated. In French with subtitles).
James' Journey (Feb. 22 and Feb. 24). James is a naîve young Christian from north Africa who embarks on a pilgrimage to Israel. En route, James is jailed, rescued and exploited. What he learns and how he applies it lead to an insightful examination of consumerism, the plight of the Third World, and the perplexities of contemporary Israel. (Running time 1:30, not rated. In Hebrew and Zulu with subtitles.)
To Be and To Have (March 7 and 9). A touching documentary that follows a year in the life a small rural French school and its dedicated teacher, Georges Lopez. A.O. Scott of the New York Times describes it as a portrait "of an artist, a man whose work combines discipline and inspiration" and "a meditation on the enigma of young lives and young minds." (Running time 1:45, not rated. In French with subtitles.)
The Cuckoo(March 21 and 23). A beautiful young woman is struggling to manage her farm in Lapland during the close of WWII, which has already claimed her husband's life. After a series of odd events, she finds herself taking care of two men: a Russian soldier who survives a nearby aerial attack on his jeep and a Finnish sniper, the cuckoo, who escapes from a nearby rock some Nazis chained him to. Both men become attracted to the Lapp, but romance is hard-going when clashing politics and a lack of a common language get in the way. "A charmingly slender fable about love, language, sex, and enmity -- and saunas," writes Ty Burr of the Boston Globe. (Running time 1:40, rated PG-13. In Russian, Finish, and Saami with subtitles.)
My Architect (April 4 and 6). The famed Jewish-American architect Louis Kahn left many secrets behind when he died in 1974. His life was the stuff of legend, rumor, grand gestures, and illegitimate children. One of them, his son Nathaniel, decides to get to the bottom of who is father really was. The resulting documentary is, in the words of Village Voice critic Leslie Camhi, "an inspired homage to his father's work, and a bracing, bittersweet testament of filial love mixed with pain and compassion." (Running time 1:56, not rated.)
Bonus film for season-ticket holders. Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress. Sunday, April 11, 1 and 4 p.m. (Running time 1:50, not rated. In Chinese with subtitles.)