Charles has French thriller and `Kandahar'


Film Column

October 11, 2002|By Michael Sragow | Michael Sragow,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

The 1937 French thriller Pepe Le Moko, which was little seen in the United States because Hollywood swiftly remade it as Algiers, features Jean Gabin in his robust glory as a master thief with a telltale heart. He lords it over the Casbah - the perilous demimonde of Algiers - while yearning, fatally, for a knockout Parisienne (Mireille Balin) and the City of Light itself. The movie is director Julien Duvivier's masterpiece, blending electric documentary images with bravura sequences in a style akin to operatic verismo.

Show time for Pepe Le Meko is noon tomorrow at the Charles. Admission: $5. Information:

`Kandahar' and Karzai

Although Cinema Sundays isn't happening this week, the Charles and the Baltimore chapter of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF will update the series' biggest success of 2002: Qayum Karzai introducing and discussing Mohsen Makhmalbaf's movie Kandahar.

This look at Afghanistan under the Taliban follows an Afghan expatriate as she struggles to make her way to Kandahar, where her sister has vowed to commit suicide during the last solar eclipse of the 20th century. Sardonic vignettes, such as those of an American black Muslim "doctor" examining females through a blanket, merge with sequences of disturbing lyricism, such as prosthetic limbs floating to the ground on parachutes. They coalesce into a nightmare landscape filled with human ruins.

Karzai, owner of the Tapas Teatro restaurant adjacent to the Charles and the brother of Afghan leader Hamid Karzai, will report on the recovery of that ravaged country based partly on his own recent trip there.

Suggested donation for admission (at the door) is $15 for the general public and $10 for students; the proceeds benefit UNICEF programs in Afghanistan. The Charles will serve tea and Afghan cookies at 9:45 a.m.; the movie starts at 10:30 a.m.

Maryland movies

These days Maryland is dominating commercial screens on both ends of the movie spectrum, having provided the locations for the R-rated hit Red Dragon and the new Disney family film Tuck Everlasting.

It's also been a heady season for Maryland on the festival circuit. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the latest version of the R.L. Stevenson horror classic, won the Best Independent Feature Award at the Festival of Fantastic Films in Manchester, England. The co-producers and co-writers, Mark Redfield (who also directed and played the dual lead role) and Stuart Voytilla, shot the film at the Redfield Arts Studio in Baltimore County.

And writer-director-producer Rik Swartzwelder and his producing partner Edmund Baxter have won the Crystal Heart Award of the Indianapolis-based Heartland Film Festival for their short The Least of These, a tale of "strong coffee, greasy spoons and America's leftovers" filmed at the Tastee Diner in Laurel.

`People Like Us'

With reality TV vulgarizing the breakthroughs of American fact-film pioneers like Frederick Wiseman but also making them "hot," the timing couldn't be better for two documentary-based film events.

A week from today, the Maryland Institute College of Art Division of Continuing Studies presents "An Evening with Louis Alvarez & Andy Kolker." When Sun TV critic David Zurawik interviewed them about their film People Like Us: Social Class in America, Kolker and Alvarez pointed to a scene filmed at a corner tavern in East Baltimore as the only one "where you actually see two classes interacting."

In gratitude, the team will regale their Baltimore fans with the stories behind their movies (shown in excerpts) - and open up the process of documentary filmmaking.

Alvarez and Kolker take the stage at MICA's Mount Royal Station Building between 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. Oct. 18. Information: 410-225-2219. Admission: $20.


A month later, the Creative Alliance at 413 S. Conkling St. will mount an ambitious Maryland Documentary Symposium, with movies on subjects including Memorial Stadium, Amalie Rothschild and the Fluid Movement water-ballet performance group, and participants ranging from art director Vincent Peranio and talk-show host Anthony McCarthy to activist Chester Wickwire and media analyst Sheri Parks.

The programs number a baker's dozen and are spread out over five days, Nov. 13-17. Admission is $8 per program ($5 for Creative Alliance members, seniors and students), or $55 for an all-symposium pass ($40 for CA members, seniors and students).

Advance tickets are available by mail from Creative Alliance or at Information: www.creativealli

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