Walters screens Renoir's `Country'

FILM COLUMN

FilmColumn

April 12, 2002|By Michael Sragow | Michael Sragow,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

In his film critic days, Graham Greene was one of the first to celebrate Jean Renoir's mastery of poetic realism - his attention to "all the small incidents which English directors cut out of a script because they are not `on the story line.'" Greene felt that Renoir knew "how to get the most out of the everyday life of his characters, the routine of their work."

In his 1936 A Day in the Country, which Pauline Kael called "one of the two or three greatest short-story films ever made," Renoir showed he was equally adept at getting the most out of the routine of his characters' play. This short film about an explosion of love during a bourgeois family's rural outing, based on a tale by Guy de Maupassant, pays tribute to Impressionist painting yet is never merely "painterly." It rouses a fierce poignancy.

The movie screens tonight at 7:30 at the Walters Arts Museum, in the Graham Auditorium. Admission is $5 for members, seniors, children and students, and $6 for non-members.

`Maltese' at the Charles

If you need an excuse to see John Huston's masterpiece The Maltese Falcon when it plays the Charles at noon tomorrow, think of it as an education in the character actor's art. Apart from Humphrey Bogart, who leaped into superstardom with this picture, and Mary Astor, who had years of stardom behind her, the cast is made up of reliable side-men (and side-women) like Elisha Cook Jr., Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet, Ward Bond, Barton MacLane, Lee Patrick, Gladys George and Jerome Cowan - performers who could be counted on to work the corners of a movie and keep it primed for action.

As Cook once said, "We all had a specialty, and the obligation was to do your turn better than anybody else in the world." Cook's specialty was playing thin-skinned fellows who desperately wanted to fit into a hard-boiled universe. If you read Dashiell Hammett's novel after seeing the movie, it's hard not to think of Cook as the "gunsel" Wilmer, whose "features were small, in keeping with his stature," and who moved "with a purposeful sort of slowness, as of a more natural swiftness restrained."

Admission is $5.

Cinema Sundays

The winner of the Palme D'Or at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival, The Son's Room, kicks off the 24th series of Cinema Sundays at the Charles this weekend. Nanni Moretti directed, co-wrote and stars in this drama about a close-knit family facing a sudden loss that, according to some critics I trust, says a lot more about domestic life - and says it more entertainingly - than In the Bedroom. The movie screens at 10:30 a.m.; doors open at 9:45 a.m. Admission is $15. Information: go to www.cinemasundays.com.

`Arab and Jew'

In 1989, Robert Gardner turned David K. Shipler's Pulitzer Prize-winning book Arab and Jew: Wounded Spirits in the Promised Land into a documentary. Last year, he and Shipler returned to the Middle East and re-interviewed Arabs and Jews in Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Gardner hosts an hourlong cut of this new edition on Tuesday at the Kelley Lecture Hall at Goucher College (1021 Dulaney Valley Road). Sun television critic David Zurawik and Judith Yaphe of Goucher will help Gardner field questions about the enduring stereotypes of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its escalation, as well as the process of revising a documentary. Admission is free.

Student films

Some local filmmakers get their moment in the sun tomorrow, as the Johns Hopkins Film Festival 2002 sponsors an afternoon of student films. The "Student Filmmaker Showcase," set for 3 p.m. in Shriver Hall on the Homewood campus, will include films by Justin Levy, Joe Del Senno and others. The festival program promises "lots of nudity, death and sharks." Admission is free, and food will be served after the show.

Information: 410-235-4636 or www.jhu.edu/~jhufilm/fest.

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