Beautiful `Black Stallion' rides into the Walters


Film series matches motif of exhibit

April 29, 2005|By Michael Sragow | Michael Sragow,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

Stubbs and the Horse: The Film Series, presented by the Maryland Film Festival and the Walters Art Museum at the Walters' Graham Auditorium, climaxes tonight at 7:30 with Carroll Ballard's enchanting The Black Stallion (1979).

From the opening credits, set against shifting sands that look like the beginning of the world, to the closing credits, which end with a shot that's literally over the rainbow, the movie achieves a mythic splendor. The boy hero (Kelly Reno) may look like a softie in his short pants, soup-bowl haircut and circular specs when he's on the deck of a ship. But after he's shipwrecked on a desert island, he befriends and manages to ride a magnificent (also shipwrecked) horse who has fire in his eyes and smoke bellowing from his nostrils. Their bond is supernal, telepathic.

In one inspired moment, they appear to join their bodies as a centaur; when the boy slaps the stallion's hide, it's a cosmic love pat. As they gambol through spectacular landscapes, they suggest how Adam and the animals helped each other out before the Fall, or how the gods and their creatures played together in the Golden Age. And, miraculously, the boy and the stallion bring their touch of Eden back to "civilization" - in this case, the outskirts of a small, industrialized U.S. city where a grizzled ex-jockey (Mickey Rooney) runs a horse farm.

Shot by Caleb Deschanel (the father of Zooey Deschanel), The Black Stallion is one visual milestone that's also a masterpiece of dramatic empathy. When we see Kelly Reno riding the stallion on the island beach, lifting his arms as if to say, "Look, God, no hands," it's more than just a delightful spectacle. We love that boy's gaiety and freedom - for the moment, we are that boy.

Tickets are $10 for non-members, $8 for seniors and students, free for members.

Knights at the Charles

In an unplanned prelude to the May 6 opening of Ridley Scott's Crusader epic Kingdom of Heaven, the Charles screens a trio of films that connect to this new spectacle. Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the funniest movie ever made about knighthood, and Monty Python's Life of Brian, the funniest movie ever made about ancient Palestine, will run, starting today, on an open-ended double-bill.

And Soviet director Andrei Tarkovsky's episodic epic about a 15th-century icon painter, Andrei Rublev (1966), cited by Scott as a major influence on his latest work, occupies the current slot in the Charles' revival series (tomorrow at noon, Monday at 7 p.m. and Thursday at 9 p.m.).

Call 410-727-FILM or visit

Funny stuff at Pratt

The Pratt Film Shorts Series tomorrow screens Just For Laffs: Funny Shorts, a two-hour program of animated and live-action sprees that, topically enough, includes Hardware Wars (1977) - the very first Star Wars spoof, featuring a lead character presciently named Fluke Starbucker.

It starts at 2:30 p.m. at Wheeler Auditorium in the Pratt, 400 Cathedral St. Free admission.

Elvis is in the house

On Wednesday, the Orpheum Film series unspools Elvis Presley's biggest movie hit, Viva Las Vegas, co-starring Ann-Margret. The screening takes place at the restored Patterson Theatre, 3134 Eastern Ave. Tickets are $5, with free popcorn for members; the movie starts at 8 p.m.

Call 410-276-1651 or visit

Cinema Sundays

Schultze Gets the Blues, which has been described as "About Schmidt in German," is this week's entry in Cinema Sundays at the Charles. It centers on an East German accordionist devoted to the polka who has a Eureka moment when he first hears the blues and decides to travel to Louisiana.

For series membership information, e-mail Karen@cinema Individual tickets are $15 and can be applied to membership. Bagels and coffee: 9:45 a.m. Showtime: 10:35 a.m. For details, visit www.

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