This Weekend’s Film Festival Celebrates Eclectic Cinema Starring African-Americans

27 06 2007

With BLACK SNAKE MOAN hitting DVD this week, I thought I’d build the week’s This Weekend Film Festival around cult cinema starring African-Americans. I went through a big list of possible films and picked ones that I felt complemented each other in thematic and/or tonal ways. If you like this lineup some alternative titles for future viewing could include BROTHER FROM ANOTHER PLANET, BAADASSSSS!, SHAFT or CABIN IN THE SKY. All five films have a hot, steamy feel to them, which is quite fitting for this pre-July 4th weekend. Looking for eccentric characters and eclectic stories? Than I have a lineup for you.

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EL TOPO (1970) (****)

27 06 2007
Check Out the Trailer
Check Out the Trailer

This mystical, satirical Western is like if Buñuel, Fellini and Mel Brooks made THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY for the arthouse and grindhouse, simultaneously. Every now and than you see a film so original that it’s more than just something that you’ve never seen before, it’s something that changes the way you think about film. This is one of those rare films. Alejandro Jodorowsky is a master filmmaker, who is like many of the great modern filmmakers, combining elements of cinema that have come before in a way that it makes something revolutionarily new and refreshing. This is post-modern cinema at its best, strangest and most spiritual.

El Topo (Jodorowsky) is a black clad rider, who tells his six-year-old naked son that the boy is now a man and he should symbolically burry his first toy and a picture of his mother in the desert. They ride into a town where the people have been slaughtered by outlaws. While avenging the deaths, he meets a woman he names Mara (Mara Lorenzio), who will urge him to make morally questionable decisions, which lead to his redemption in an underground community of deformed people where he meets a little woman (Jacqueline Luis), who changes his life.

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NASHVILLE (1975) (****)

27 06 2007
Check Out the Trailer
Check Out the Trailer

The quintessential “Altman” feature follows 24 major characters through five days in Nashville, leading up to a political rally/ country concert. More free flowing than any of director Robert Altman’s other hyperlink films, this feature clearly has no main character and moves along on the simplest plot theme, building wonderful character moments, which lead back to its core themes of fame and politics. The “plot” is thin, but the narrative is a complex and brilliantly constructed tapestry of intertwining narratives, surrounded by nearly an hour of music.

Haven Hamilton (Henry Gibson, MAGNOLIA) is a Nashville icon with his big hair and white, spangled jump suit. The film begins with him recording an insipid ballad about the bicentennial. Linnea Reese (Lily Tomlin, 9 TO 5) is a white gospel singer, who is married to lawyer Delbert (Ned Beatty, DELIVERENCE), who is helping organize the political rally for third party candidate Hal Phillip Walker, who is unseen throughout the film. Linnea and Delbert have two deaf sons, which Delbert cannot relate to at all. Linnea is hounded by womanizing folk rocker Tom Frank (Keith Carradine, CHOOSE ME), who is having an affair with his bandmate Mary (Cristina Raines, THE SENTINEL), who is married to his other bandmate Bill (Allan Nicholls, SLAP SHOT). Barbara Jean (Ronee Blakley, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET) is a reigning queen of Nashville, but she is mentally and physically burnt out by the pressures of the music business and her controlling manager/husband Barnett (Allen Garfield, THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY).

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