Charles will try screening two films with separate admissions

May 20, 1994|By Stephen Hunter | Stephen Hunter,Sun Film Critic

The Charles, Baltimore's long-time dedicated art theater that reopened two months ago under a new management, publishes its second schedule today with a two-week run of "Sankofa," Halle Gerima's account of slavery from the slave viewpoint.

"Sankofa," which has been playing at the Westview for a couple of months, moves to the Charles Street venue through June 2. It's the story of Mona (Oyafunmika Oguniano), a completely westernized model who, on a photo shoot in Ghana, is seized by the spirits of the past and forced to endure an ordeal by slavery on an 18th century Louisiana plantation. The movie has gotten excellent reviews in the cities it's played.

On June 3, "Red Rock West" opens, a well-received film noir, western-style, starring Nicholas Cage, Dennis Hopper and Lara Flynn Boyle. Cage plays a drifter who's mistaken for a professional killer recruited by a husband to kill his wife; the wife them recruits him to kill the husband. When Dennis Hopper shows up, he turns out to be the real killer.

On June 17, the theater inaugurates a new policy of showing two different films with separate admissions. "Jamon, Jamon" and "Salmonberries" share the first week. The former is a Spanish comedy about a mismatched marriage. The latter was directed by German Percy Adlon, who did "Bagdad Cafe" and stars k.d. lang, Rosei Zech and the late Chuck Connors of "Rifleman" fame. What the Rifleman, and ex-Chicago Cub first baseman, is doing in a lesbian love story, I can't wait to find out.

One June 24, the two films are Roman Polanski's controversial and reputedly steamy "Bitter Moon," and Gerard Ciccoritti's "Paris, France." The Polanski is yet another Hugh Grant adventure; this time Hugh and his wife, Kristen Scott-Thomas (who was a pal of his in "Four Weddings and a Funeral") are absorbed into the sexual dynamic between a crippled American writer (Peter Coyote) and his wife, Emmanuelle Seigner (who is actually Polanski's wife).

"Paris, France" has less of a reputation but is evidently equally steamy. Leslie Hope stars as a blocked writer who starts an affair with a poet as a way of ending her creative crisis. It wins this warm endorsement from the New York Times: "Explicit sex of more different varieties . . . directed and acted with much zest and humor.

Even more controversial than "Bitter Moon" is the July 1 program -- "Savage Nights" and "The Cement Garden." The former, by the late Cyril Collard and starring him, is an autobiographical film of an angry AIDS victim who continues to have unprotected sex even as his death approaches. Collard died three days before his film swept the French Oscars.

"The Cement Garden" is a creepy number adapted from a novel by the creepy Ian McEwan. It's about four children who bury their mother in the basement and try and go about their lives as if nothing has happened, although they begin to slip into fantasy worlds. Andrew Birkin directed, and the stars are Andrew Robertson, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Alice Courtland.

On July 8, the theater returns to its single-film policy with "The Wonderful Horrible Life of Leni Reifenstahl," which recently played at the Baltimore Film Festival. Over three hours long (with a 10-minute intermission), it's the story of the brilliant German filmmaker who made "Triumph of the Will," that frighteningly compelling Nazi propaganda film shot at the Nuremberg Rally in 1934. Reifenstahl had genuine talent, but like all too many artists very little sense of perspective. She sold out to the Black Shirts in exchange for a shot at making a big movie, and has spent her whole life ever since -- she's in her 90s now -- explaining why it wasn't her fault.

The last two shows -- there's also a one-night fund-raiser for AIDS Action Baltimore for "Zero Patience" July 14 -- are "Spike and Mike's Festival of Animation" and "Cronos," which open July 15 and play through July 21. The "Spike and Mike" series of animated collections tend to be edgier and more outrageous than the more mainstream "Tournees" of animation; this edition has 15 short films. "Cronos" is a Mexican thriller from Guillermo del Toro on the theme of eternal life as an American thug in the employ of a dying industrialist hunts for a device built in the 16th century by an alchemist that confers endless existence upon its holder.

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