Walters has `Love'

FILM

Film Column

February 28, 2003|By Michael Sragow | Michael Sragow,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

Many writers have soared into reverie for Greta Garbo - most famously Kenneth Tynan when he wrote, "What when drunk one sees in other women, one sees in Garbo sober." But too often that mode of praise feeds into her mystique without crediting her amazing skill.

Tonight at 7:30, as part of Vivat!, the Walters Arts Museum, the Maryland Film Festival and the Johns Hopkins Film and Media Studies program will present the 1927 silent romance Love, featuring Garbo's incandescent first performance in the role of Anna Karenina (she did the more famous sound version in 1935), with live accompaniment from the musical group Boister, best-known in film circles for its inspired score to Buster Keaton's Steamboat Bill, Jr.

Boister's leader, Anne Watts, says via e-mail, "I've been completely immersed in Buster Keaton until now. Garbo strikes me as the opposite. ... The electricity in the Keaton film is all in Keaton - it's physical, kinesthetic. In Love, the dynamic is psychological. The focal point is Garbo's psychic journey from anomie to passionate frenzy." The score, she adds, "is an organic bastardization of Prokofieff, Shostakovich, Rachmaninoff and traditional Russian folk songs rushing headlong into the band's Jacques Brel/Kurt Weill/John Coltrane/Frank Zappa tendencies."

In Love, director Edmund Goulding and screenwriter Frances Marion winnow everything away from Tolstoy's novel except for the central story of Anna, Vronsky, her officious husband Karenin (Brandon Hurst) and her young son Seryozha (Philippe de Lacy). But Garbo fills this archetypal quadrangle with her own seductive complexity.

All of 22 when she made Love, she gives a heart-stopping performance under the adoring gaze of her masterly cinematographer William Daniels. As a mistress she's enraged, curious, passionate and sorrowful; as a mother she conveys a domestic ardor that's both moving and unsettling. Garbo's Anna is sui generis - and nonpareil.

Location: The Walters' Graham Auditorium. Admission: $10 for non-members, $5 for members and seniors. Information: www.mdfilmfest.com/vivat.html.

`Metropolis' at Charles

Those who missed the reconstruction of Fritz Lang's Metropolis when it premiered last fall have a rare second chance to see it on the big screen when it plays the Charles tomorrow as part of the Saturday revival series.

The movie spills over with wonders, like a sci-fi horn of plenty - and in the restored version, all the marvels fall into place. Only in a theater can you fully appreciate Lang's vision of a future city as a volatile group-character. At the top of society, stern patriarchs coddle sons of privilege, steering them toward Olympian athletics as well as a pleasure garden filled with courtesans playing hide and seek, and a red-light quarter named "Yoshiwara." (Both a sequence set at an enormous stadium and most of the Yoshiwara episodes were cut from previous American prints.) At society's bottom - and this society has several physical levels to its bottom, like a subterranean silo - workers are so weary of being human cogs in huge machines that when a false prophet ignites a Luddite revolt, they nearly abandon their own children to an ensuing flood.

Lang uses every particle of his huge canvas expressively, including hundreds of extras. There isn't a dead moment in the crowd scenes: Even when the hordes are massed like a Spartan wedge or choreographed to dance in ragged ovals of movement, they pound and bristle and prick your eyes wide open. Despite the remaining ellipses, the restored movie is an outlandish act of visual imagination deliriously fulfilled. It leaves you dazed and sated.

Showtime: Noon. Admission: $5. Call 410-727-FILM or go to www.thecharles.com.

Cinema Sundays

San Francisco-based distributor Roxie Releasing has called Thomas Riedelsheimer's documentary Rivers and Tides "a force of nature in terms of word of mouth and repeat business."

Debuting locally this weekend at Cinema Sundays at the Charles, the movie centers on a Scottish artist, Andy Goldsworthy, who is himself a "force of nature." Artist Raoul Middleman will introduce the film and lead the discussion afterward.

Bagels and coffee: 9:45. Showtime: 10:30 a.m. Admission: $15. Go to www.cinemasundays.com.

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