We’ve come to think of big theaters as being all about the latest and (sometimes not) greatest: the big blockbuster opening weekends, the tie-in promotion with the enormous cola cup, the stadium seating that makes art house denizens, accustomed to ’70s-era chairs and zig-zagging sight lines, swoon with guilty pleasure. The state-of-the-art sound systems can make you feel as if you’re standing right in the room where the chipmunks are singing—but sometimes you want them to do more. And these days, happily, they do.
Take a stroll over to Cinemark Theaters in Hadley this week, and you’ll be treated to the best of both worlds: a pair of classic films, each of which changed the face of cinema in its own way, brought to the theater’s giant screens. It’s a wonderful example of how newer theaters can not merely acknowledge a link to the past, but actively help keep history alive for a new audience by bringing these screenings to a wider crowd than any revival theater ever could.
Kicking things off is the classic to end all classics: Casablanca. Michael Curtiz’s 1942 story stars Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman as star-crossed lovers whose romance is entwined inextricably with the espionage underground in WWII-era northern Africa. Their paths cross again when Bergman—now with her Czech resistance leader husband along for the ride—calls on club owner Rick (Bogart) for help in Vichy-controlled Morocco. It’s such a classic that even if you haven’t seen it, you can still recognize most of its most famous quotes. And if you haven’t seen it, do: it screens Thursday, April 26 at 7 p.m.
Follow that with one of the two May 2 screenings of an even older piece of cinematic history: the 1927 picture Wings. Starring the original “It Girl,” Clara Bow—the phrase was popularized after she appeared in a film titled It—Wings is one of two silent films to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. (The other was this year’s winner, The Artist.) The story is a WWI adventure that follows the exploits of a pair of friends in the Army Air Corps as they chase romance and tragedy over Europe. Bow is the woman between them; screen legend Gary Cooper is their doomed bunkmate.
And while it might not be the biggest screen in the area, the one at Shelburne Falls’ Pothole Pictures will be the one presenting one of my very favorite old movies: The Third Man. Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten star in Carol Reed’s adaptation of a Graham Greene postwar tale. Full of shadows and fog, it also features some of the best soundtrack music in all of filmdom. It screens Friday and Saturday evening.
Also this week: Pleasant Street Theater in Northampton continues its Seeing Sound: Punk vs. Metal series on Wednesday evening with The Decline of Western Civilization II: The Metal Years. Penelope Spheeris (Wayne’s World, Suburbia) followed up her own 1981 punk documentary with this look at the likes of Ozzy Osbourne and other metal luminaries of the age. To modern eyes, the industry of the era can seem almost quaint, as when artists discuss the value of the then-still-novel MTV. One almost wants to ask: “Do they even play music on MTV anymore?” Along for the ride is John Heyn and Jeff Krulik’s infamous short Heavy Metal Parking Lot, in which the filmmakers document headbangers in their natural element: tailgating outside a Maryland stadium prior to a 1986 Judas Priest concert.
And Amherst Cinema brings a bit of value-added moviegoing to the week when it hosts a screening of Porfirio with director Alejandro Landes in attendance to lead a Q&A. Based on the remarkable life of Colombian bar owner Porfirio Ramirez, the film follows him as he attempts to get the state to recognize his lawsuit seeking restitution for the police raid that left him a paraplegic. Ramirez plays himself as Landes, and with a patience rare in cinema captures the frustrations of his protagonist’s daily life. Presented on Saturday at 1 p.m. in collaboration with Amherst College; students from the school can get in for free by presenting college ID.
Jack Brown can be reached at email@example.com.