Filmgoers were treated to two outstanding artists introducing groundbreaking films at the Senator Theatre last weekend. On Friday, award-winning cinematographer Allen Daviau introduced Orson Welles' 1958 thriller "Touch of Evil," which delighted the audience with its rich black and white photography and soaring camera work.
Daviau, who photographed the Barry Levinson films "Bugsy" and "Avalon," explained that "Touch of Evil," which begins with a legendary tracking shot, owes its distinctive look to the lightweight camera equipment that Welles used -- equipment that gained prominence when used by the French New Wave directors just a few years later.
Saturday's feature, "The Learning Tree," was introduced by the film's star, Kyle Johnson, who was 17 when the film was made in 1968. Johnson recalled that the cast and crew of Gordon Parks' semi-autobiographical film knew they were part of history in the making. "We were highly aware of the importance of what we were doing," Johnson said.
"Everyone in the cast and crew had an intense desire to ensure that the film would be a success." Johnson observed that "The Learning Tree" is considered a classic "because it was one of the few opportunities [African-Americans] have had to show ourselves as complete human beings."
"Touch of Evil" and "The Learning Tree" were part of the Senator's week-long series of films from the Library of Congress' National Registry, which adds 25 titles each year to its list of films of major artistic, historical and cultural significance. By popular demand, the series has been extended to run through Sunday. Today, "Touch of Evil," "Out of the Past" and "Night of the Hunter" will be shown again; Saturday will feature "Raging Bull," "The Searchers" and "Dr. Strangelove." On Sunday, fans who missed them will be able to see "Letter From an Unknown Woman," "Gigi" and "Chinatown." (Call 410-435-8338.)
Sunday, the Senator will show a special evening screening of "Grease," as part of its campaign to elect the 1978 musical to the National Film Registry. You can cast your vote by mailing up to 50 titles to: National Film Registry, Library of Congress, MBRS Division, Washington, DC, 20540. Attn: Steve Leggett. Or e-mail selections to sleoc.gov.
If you haven't yet read Peter Biskind's "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-Rock 'N' Roll Generation Saved Hollywood," hie thee to a Bibelot and get cracking. If you're lucky enough to be reading this gossip-heavy account of Hollywood during the 1970s, you won't want to miss the double feature wrapping up this weekend at the Orpheum in Fells Point: "Mean Streets" and "The Outsiders." "Mean Streets" (in a new print) is Martin Scorsese's seminal film about the small fry of New York's soft white underbelly. It stars Harvey Keitel and Robert De Niro and still has the muscularity and verve that it did when it burst on to screens in 1973. Francis Ford Coppola's "The Outsiders," is an adaptation of the S.E. Hinton teen classic, starring Matt Dillon, Tom Cruise and Emilio Estevez. On Monday, "The Boxer," Jim Sheridan's absorbing drama about a former IRA gunman (Daniel Day-Lewis) who tries to find peace in Ireland and his own heart, starts a week-long run. This critic's advice? Don't miss any of these films.
The Charles Theatre continues its B-Movie series Saturday with "Invaders From Mars" (1953), William Cameron Menzies' Cinecolor classic in which a Martian brainwashes a small town from an underground outpost. Low-budgetania at its rawest. Saturday at 11: 30 a.m.; Monday at 7: 30 p.m.
The Mansion Theater, that venerated shrine of underground, do-it-yourself and otherwise micro-cinema, is closing its doors this month so that curator Skizz Cyzyk can pursue his latest film project over the summer. (Not to worry; the Red Room at Normal's Bookstore, at 425 E. 31st. St., will throw bi-monthly micro-screenings over the summer, and the autumn Microcinefest will have a home at the Orpheum.)
The perfect way to bid the Mansion goodbye will be the Baltimore premiere of "Neil Diamond Parking Lot," Jeff Krulik and John Heyn's much-anticipated follow-up to their underground classic, "Heavy Metal Parking Lot," Thursday. Also: Lost footage from the first film, and more short films. Screenings will be held at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. Bring food, drink and $2 to donate. The Mansion Theater is located at 4201 York Road (York and 42nd Street).
Pub Date: 5/15/98