Film

CinemaDope: Better Late Than Never

Midnight movies return.

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Thursday, September 01, 2011
Sofie Van Mieghem Photo/Lionsgate
Dominic Cooper plays Uday Hussein and Hussein's body double in The Devil's Double.

What is it about midnight movies that imbues them with such powerful mojo? Sure, you've heard about The Rocky Horror Picture Show—maybe you've even brought your own toast to one of the film's infamous audience-participation screenings—but while Rocky Horror might be the most famous of midnight shows, it has never reigned alone.

Take any movie—the more outlandish the better, usually, but anything will do—and wait till the clock strikes 12: instantly, you've got something just a little more off-kilter. (For good reason, I can't recall ever seeing Rocky Horror at a matinee.) Moviegoing just feels a bit more alive in the dead of night, and full of possibilities. In a rite of passage as a teenager, I once attended a midnight show that was preceded by a live band; my world turned upside down when the lead singer strode to the front of the stage. He was my substitute science teacher. I don't remember the movie, but I remember the time.

Midnight movies, less shackled by the number-crunching of the box office, have room for that kind of oddity. So I was greatly pleased to hear from Amherst Cinema manager George Myers about a new series of late night films slated to screen on Friday nights at Northampton's Pleasant Street Theater over the coming months. Described as a collection of "first-rate genre films that push at the boundaries," the lineup includes the Blair Witch-meets-Godzilla craziness of the Norwegian film Troll Hunter, the rather self-explanatory Hobo With a Shotgun, and an interesting turn by David Hyde Pierce (Niles on television's Frasier) in the darkly comic The Perfect Host.

The series will launch in mid-September and carry at least through the fall. If successful, says Myers, it could continue indefinitely. The full schedule is still in the works, but interested parties can keep abreast of new additions by pointing their browsers to amherstcinema.org, and the theater is also planning some ticket giveaways via their Facebook page. Even if you're usually in bed by 10, plan to see at least one of these films—I guarantee it will make going to the movies seem new again.

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If you can't wait to visit Pleasant Street, head there now to catch The Devil's Double. Featuring a tour de force performance from Dominic Cooper (An Education), the film turns a lens on one of the more bizarre true stories to come out of the war in Iraq. Cooper plays two roles: Uday Hussein, oldest son of Saddam Hussein and a notoriously spoiled and sadistic hedonist; and Latif Yahia, a lieutenant in the Iraqi Army who has the great misfortune of bearing a striking resemblance to the "Black Prince."

Plucked from his duties on the front line, Yahia is brought to Saddam's palace and offered—which is to say, "offered"—a new job. He is to become Uday's body double, standing in for the dictator-in-training whenever security or laziness demands. To fulfill his new duties, Latif must obliterate his own personality, and immerse himself in the psychosis that is Uday's normality. (To give you an idea: the film's website features a golden Uday/Latif sitting on a gold throne, holding a golden automatic weapon and surrounded by a halo of bullets; Uday is essentially a Middle Eastern Scarface.) It's a remarkable story, and one that speaks to the almost unimaginable control the Husseins maintained in the country: the idea that someone could come to you and say, essentially, "you are no longer you. You are me." The question, of course, is how long Yahia can hold on before he begins to forget who is who.

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Also this week: in Hadley, Cinemark brings in two special screenings for music lovers. First up is a Thursday night screening of I'm With You, which marks the debut of a new album by that name from Red Hot Chili Peppers. The funky outfit will perform songs from the new album along with a clutch of their greatest hits in a live-capture concert. And on the following Wednesday, two musical legends meet up for a one-night only event when Wynton Marsalis and Eric Clapton are featured in the Jazz at Lincoln Center Annual Gala. Accompanied by an octet comprised of Lincoln Center musicians, the two take a tour of America's musical history. 

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

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