Watching "Breathless" more than 40 years after its initial release in 1959 is to be struck not so much by how Godard forever changed the grammar of film, or the boyish sexual smolder of Jean-Paul Belmondo, but how much the picture belongs to Jean Seberg.
From the moment she appears, the gamine Iowa native, who plays an aspiring journalist working in Paris as a newspaper hawker for the New York Herald Tribune, never lets the screen go. Usually described as a feckless dilettante who casually betrays Belmondo's petty hood, Seberg's character deserves a second reading. Turning in her boyfriend - who did kill a police officer, after all - should be interpreted as the only unambiguous moral act in an otherwise disjointed paean to hip nihilism.
Whether or not you agree, "Breathless" still makes for fascinating viewing after all these years. The Charles brings it back for a one-week run starting today.
Meanwhile at the Charles, "Dial M For Murder," the 1955 Alfred Hitchcock film that is being projected in eye-popping 3-D, continues to be the surprise hit of the summer. The Charles is holding the thriller over for yet another week.
Also at the Charles, Mike Hodges' tantalizingly obtuse "The Croupier," which was pretty much ignored during an April run here in Baltimore, is back for a much-deserved second chance. Clive Owen plays Jack, a croupier at a London gambling house whose dark past (which the film constantly alludes to but never details) has left him with a holier-than-thou attitude without any basis in reality. Surrounded by mysterious women and double-crossing chums - the film would have made a fabulous 1940s film noir - "The Croupier" is told mostly through a roman a clef Jack is writing about his life. It produces just one of the film's many mysteries: Is what we are seeing real, or a product of Jack's imagination? There are so many layers to "The Croupier" that you'll probably never get to explore them all, but just knowing they're there is half the fun.
Italia al fresco
The Little Italy Open-Air Film Festival continues this evening with a screening of "Il Grido" ("The Outcry"), Michelangelo Antonioni's 1957 film starring Steve Cochran as a man whose inability to communicate with his loved ones causes his disintegration.
The Little Italy Open-Air Film Festival, sponsored by the Little Italy Restaurant Association (LIRA) and the Senator Theatre, is held every Friday through the summer at the corner of High and Stiles streets. Screenings begin at 9 p.m. Admission is free; viewers are encouraged to bring their own lawn chairs for maximum comfort. A nice meal at a nearby trattoria doesn't hurt, either.
Opera on film
"Boris Godunov," the 1990 film of Mussorgsky's opera, will be shown tonight as part of the Maryland Arts Festival's "Opera on Film" series. Jonathan Palevsky, of WBJC-FM, will discuss the film at 7 p.m., and the screening begins at 7:45. Admission is $8, and all seats must be reserved. The "Opera on Film" series is held in the concert hall of the Center for the Arts, on the corner of Cross Campus and Osler drives, on the Towson University campus. To purchase tickets call 410-830-2787.
Hamlet brings issues
Cinema Sundays at the Charles will close its Spring 2000 series Sunday with a screening of "Hamlet," Michael Almereyda's adaptation of the Shakespeare play in which the King and CEO of the Denmark Corp. has recently died, leaving his petulant son (Ethan Hawke) to cope with, uhm, revenge issues. The film, which co-stars Liev Schreiber, Julia Stiles and Sam Shepard, will be introduced and discussed by Paul Dougherty, head of the drama department at Carver School for the Arts.
Doors open at 9:45 a.m., when a buffet of bagels and coffee will be served. The screening begins at 10:30 a.m. Tickets can be purchased at the door for $15.
Lee's 'Kings of Comedy'
We just got word that Spike Lee just filmed "The Original Kings of Comedy" for a concert film due later this summer. The "Kings of Comedy" Tour features Steve Harvey, D.L. Hughley, Bernie Mac and the comic known only as Cedric "The Entertainer." Over the past three years, it's become a cultural phenomenon and the highest-grossing comedy tour in history. Lee caught up with the comedians during a performance in Charlotte, N.C. (The show has yet to play Baltimore.)
Look for Lee's documentary in August.