At one point in Citizen Kane, a proper stuffed shirt asks Kane what he would like to have been. “Everything you hate,” growls Orson Welles, who starred in, co-wrote and directed one of the greatest movies ever made.
Welles inspired generations of filmmakers to embrace that badass, uncompromising ethic, making movies that don’t just smash the rules of filmmaking, but gleefully dance on the smithereens. Those films form the canon of art house cinema, and a number of the gutsiest have been chosen for the Michigan Theater’s Cinema Revolution series.
The common thread: Ira Deutschman, the subject of this year’s Cinetopia symposium. The producer and passionate movie promoter has dedicated his life to getting daring new work into theaters. The series includes both his inspirations such as Kane, as well as some of his many triumphs of distribution and marketing.
The selected movies broke down many doors, and will hold particular interest for viewers who either stick to box office hits or prefer to binge-watch on the small screen. “This screen is a lot taller than you,” says Russ Collins, Executive Director of the Michigan. “So you’re completely absorbed in the movie, with no distractions.”
In other words, Game of Thrones geeks can blow their minds with the crazed opulence of Fellini Satyricon. The pitch-dark Putney Swope views late ‘60s advertising in real time, without the glossy soft focus of Mad Men. Fans of La La Land should mark Truffaut’s Day for Night on their calendars, a much earlier movie about making movies and the emotional minefields that accompany the process.
Complex “nasty women,” along the lines of Homeland’s Carrie Mathieson, owe at least some debt to Gena Rowlands’ balls-out performance in A Woman Under the Influence. For oddball, Mr. Robot-esque science fiction/social commentary hybrids, see The Brother from Another Planet. Lush Masterpiece Theatre-style romance arguably began with A Room with a View.
For political agitators and Erin Brokovich lovers, there’s the strikingly topical 1976 documentary, Harlan County USA.
The series ends with a northwest odyssey that anticipates grunge (My Own Private Idaho) and Robert Altman’s sharp-toothed vision of Hollywood, The Player, which revels in the squirmy discomfort that Larry David would perfect.
Any movie in the series offers a chance to feel the thrill of seeing something entirely new “There’s this intrinsic impulse of sitting around and listening to a story,” Collins says. “A darkened theater lets you experience story in a social setting around a flickering light.”
Mondays from March 27 to May 29
For full details, visit michtheater.org
The Michigan Theater
603 East Liberty Street | Ann Arbor | 734-668-8397