Last weekend's convocation of Cinema Sundays at the Charles Theatre served as an impromptu memorial service for the late George Udel, who was remembered not only as an avid film aficionado, but also as a bon vivant, generous soul and man of creative interpretations of Baltimore traffic laws.
Before a screening of the Civil War drama "Ride With the Devil," friends and Cinema Sundays members shared memories of Udel, who died last week at age 69. A more formal memorial service at the Charles is being planned for the spring. In the meantime, Raoul Middleman's portrait of Udel hangs in the Charles lobby to remind Baltimore filmgoers that this influential and tireless force behind Cinema Sundays and the Baltimore Film Forum won't soon be forgotten.
Stroheim in 'Grand Illusion'
Don't miss this week's run of "Grand Illusion" at the Charles. A newly restored print of Jean Renoir's 1937 masterpiece plays through Wednesday, and if you haven't seen it lately -- or even if you have -- this is the ideal time to marvel at its pictorial grandness, delicate performances and utter modernity.
The story of two French officers who are imprisoned in Germany during World War I, "Grand Illusion" is less an escape adventure (although it is that) than a highly sensitive document of the end of an era. The film's most heartbreaking performance comes from the legendary Erich von Stroheim, who plays an aristocratic German officer with unexpected tenderness. Desperately trying to hang on to a disappearing class system, he is by turns pathetic and noble, but Renoir makes sure that he is never anything less than human.
"Grand Illusion" will be shown this weekend at the Charles at 2: 30 p.m. and 7: 15. Monday through Wednesday, it will be at 7: 15.
Christmas video ideas
If you're preparing for Christmas holidays with your family, you might want to pick up "It's Christmas Time at the Movies," by Gary J. Svehla and Susan Svehla, of Baltimore's Midnight Marquee Press. This nifty video guide would make an ideal gift or just a useful aid on a mad dash to the video store.
A compendium of Christmas-themed movies from comedies to film noir flicks, this handy guide is guaranteed to keep arguments to a minimum and might even help you come up with some forgotten gems. (We all know about "It's a Wonderful Life," but what about "The Holly and the Ivy"?) "It's Christmas Time at the Movies" is available in Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores.
First runs from Asia
Local businessman Bok Ok has purchased the former Playhouse Theater at 9 25th St. and plans to turn it into a venue for first-run Asian movies. The Kobko Theater will open Dec. 7 with "Attack the Gas Station!" Sang-jin Kim's comedy about four friends whose attempted robbery of a gas station turns into a comic misadventure. "Attack the Gas Station!" will run through Dec. 19.