Film

CinemaDope: Back to School

A local series refreshed

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Thursday, March 03, 2011
Photo Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp
Clockwise from top left: John C. Reilly, Ed Helms, Isiah Whitlock, Jr., and Anne Heche in Cedar Rapids

Having a few teachers in my circle of friends has always been handy. Through them I learn about interesting campus events I might have otherwise overlooked—a concert or seminar, a presentation on the history of comic books, an art opening with rumors of good wine.

And this year, due to alarmingly frequent snow days, I've been running into these people more than ever, as they shuffle around town clutching hot coffees and trying to figure out how they can make up for missed classes without working into the summer.

While it's sometimes sad to see these poor academics struggle, I'm also happy to report that their plight has—in a roundabout way—reminded me of a wonderful local film series that has recently resumed at Amherst College.

Dating back to at least 2003, The German Film Series, presented by (who else?) the Amherst College Department of German, has featured a long string of excellent films over the years, including both art-house hits and overlooked gems. And to top it off, each of the Thursday screenings runs twice, showing at 4 and 7:30 p.m. in Stirn Auditorium on the Amherst campus.

Unfortunately, the first two films in the series—including Sherry Hormann's delightfully named Guys and Balls, a 2004 romantic comedy about a gay men's soccer team—have already come and gone, but this Thursday, March 3 gives you a chance to play catchup. That's when Fr?hlingssymphonie (Spring Symphony) comes to town to tell the story of composers Robert Schumann and Clara Wieck—she the child prodigy who would become his wife.

In Peter Schamoni's film, the struggle of their love story—Wieck's father bitterly opposed the marriage, forcing a court battle before the pair could wed; Schumann spent his last years in a mental institution; and the couple lost an infant in between—is set against the lush background of the European concert circuit of the early 19th century, where a career in the hotly competitive (and lucrative) scene could be derailed by a consuming romance.

The Amherst series runs through the end of April, and features a variety of films dealing with German history from World War II up through the fall of the Berlin Wall and beyond. Cinephiles will want to bookmark the March 24 screening of Wim Wenders' classic Wings of Desire, but should also keep a lookout for the April showing of Sterne, a 1959 film presented as part of the Pioneer Valley Jewish Film Festival. For more information, visit tinyurl.com/GermanFilmSeries.

Also this week: For something on the lighter side, Pleasant Street Theater brings in Cedar Rapids. Ed Helms (The Hangover and TV's The Office) stars as insurance agent Tim Lippe, a wide-eyed innocent who is sent to the big city—Cedar Rapids, Iowa—to represent his company at a convention.
Once there, he falls under the spell of a trio of convention veterans—Lippe's business trip is their spring break—who promise to change his life. John C. Reilly, Anne Heche, and Isiah Whitlock, Jr. play the three hedonists who promise to separate Helms from his money belt.

Finally this week, the 20th anniversary of Brattleboro's Women's Film Festival gets underway with an opening gala to be held during the town's Gallery Walk on Friday, March 4, where digital art and previews of upcoming films will be spotlighted at the Latchis Theater's Gallery Four.

With screenings, a video contest and more scheduled over the course of the month, the organizers will bring over three dozen films to area crowds as part of New England's longest-running women's film festival. Screenings begin on March 11; see next week's column for details.

Jack Brown can be reached at cinemadope@gmail.com.

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