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The Cutting Edge

The major innovative series for the HFA this June-July summer is a weekly program of Boston theatrical premieres of new films from the USA, Canada, and Europe. These films "push the envelope" in terms of content and/or storytelling. They are as vigorous and original as they are boldly controversial. (They have been chosen by Acting Curator Gerald Peary, from his trips to film festivals around the world.) There are nine programs in all, and a discount series pass for $40 for the public, $35 for university students will be available at the box office.

June 4 (Friday) 7pm & 9pm
June 6 (Sunday) 9pm

The Dress

dress.jpg (13360 bytes)Directed by Alex van Warmerdam
with van Warmerdam, Henri Garcin, Ariane Schluter
Holland 1997, 35mm, color, 103 min
Dutch with English subtitles

It’s the old movie conceit of some object passed hand to hand, with a focus on each person who touches it. Here it’s a simple summer dress, which we see from the cotton fields, through production, through a series of random owners. But the stories about the dress are extremely weird, and the film bounces from genre to genre (dry comedy, thriller, neorealism), and with some scenes which simpy defy genre. Creepy and exhilarating, droll and daffy, The Dress shows Americans why filmmaker Alex van Warmerdam, undiscovered here, has become a cult favorite across Europe.

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January 5 (Friday) 9:15 pm
January 6 (Saturday) 6:30 pm

The Life of Jesus

Directed by Bruno Dumont
France 1998, 35mm, color, 96 min.
With Sèbastien Bailleul, Samuel Boidin, Geneviéve Cottreel
French with English subtitles

A shocker at Cannes because of its unromanticized coverage of real sex, Bruno Dumont’s incendiary-titled, Cinemascope French film is about a group of misdirected friends in the Belgian countryside.It centers on epileptic, chronically unemployed Freddy’s iintense couplings with sexy Marie, complemented by his motorcycle rides with his bored, nothing-else-to-do, pals. One day, an Arab boy appears in the town, and has eyes for Marie. Racism and revenge follow. Dumont used local, nonprofessional actors to create a naturalistic portrait of rural Flanders for this, one of the most critically praised French films in recent years.

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June 18 (Friday) 7pm & 9pm
Filmmaker Editz and producer Jerry Kolber will answer questions at the 7:00 screening.

The Eden Myth

Directed by Mark Editz
USA 1999, 35mm, color,82 min.

With Julia Dion, Justin Kirk, Zohra Lampert

The American hit of the recent Rotterdam Film Festival, first-time filmmaker Mark Editz tells a modern-day almost-horror story in the most disarmingly straightforward, matter-of-fact way (think pre-stoning in Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery). A family reunion of pale, phlegmatic types (why does a son agree so readily to his dad’s choice of an appropriate bride?) climaxes with revelations which remind of H.G. Wells’ evil Dr. Moreau. We can’t tell you more.

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June 25 (Friday) 7pm & 9pm
June 27 (Sunday) 9pm

The Love Prophet and the Children of God

childrenlovegod.jpg (12632 bytes)Directed by Abbey Nedick
Canada 1998, color, video, 56 min.

An eye-opening documentary about the American cult-like community called The Children of God, led by David Berg, preacher-turned-charismatic leader. He was known as "Dad," as he delighted in sexual experiments that included sharing his wives and pimping the Children of God’s women to bring new males into the group. (River and Joaquin Phoenix’s parents were missionaries.) Interviews with past and present members, including the current leader, Berg’s son.

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Filmmaker Nedick will appear at the Friday screenings

The Fetishist

Directed by Jim Trainor
USA 1998, b/w, 16mm.

This undeniably disturbing animation is based on the serial killer career of William Heirens in the 1940s, known for his lipstick message scrawled on walls: "For heavens sake, catch me before I kill more." Using hand-drawn magic marker images, animator Jim Trainor focuses on the sexual psychopathology of Heirens’ adolescence, intertwining events in Heirens’ life with dreams and metaphoric fantasies.

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July 2 (Friday) 7pm & 9pm

Lena's Dreams

Directed by Heather Johnston and Gordon Erickson
USA 1998, 35mm, b/w, 85 min.
With Forte, Gary Perez, Susan Peirez
As the driven-to-distraction New York actress, Lena, Marilyn Forte delivers a stormy tour-de-force performance in the Cassavetes vein, with almost all the shooting in master shots, allowing Forte to go all out. The tryout scenes for this Cuban-American thespian are especially heart-rending and on target, as she keeps being pushed toward demeaning roles as Latino spitfires and domestics.

Go to Bed, Darling! He's Not Going to Call...

Directed by Ines Hoffman
USA 1999, video, color, 10 min.

A clever conceptual short in which a young woman waits obsessively at a telephone for "him" to call her up. The filmmaker, from former East Germany, works at WGBH.

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July 8 (Thursday) 9pm
July 9 (Friday) 7pm & 9pm
July 10 (Saturday) 8pm
July 11 (Sunday) 9pm

Bury Me in Kern County

bury.jpg (12734 bytes)Directed by Julien Nitzberg
USA 1999, 16mm, color, 90 min.
With Mary Sheridan, Judson Mills, Mary Lynn Rajskub

Countless young filmmakers have tried to shape their works in the risky, anarchic early John Water manner, but they’ve failed in acting, conception, tone, script. Director-writer Julien Nitzberg’s debut is the delightful exception. In this "white trash black comedy." It’s the mid-1980s, and Sandra Winthrop has to figure out a way to raise $660 in one night for the funeral of her speed-dealing boyfriend’s mother. Soon, against her will, she’s the star of a Cops-like TV show, when police and camera raid a motel where she is being bad. Variety: "An impressive debut. . . It’s somehow assuring that original, fiercely committed indie satires like this one are still emerging. . . .with inspired casting choices to fashion a redneck mayhem."  

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July 16 (Friday) 7pm & 9pm
July 17 (Saturday) 8pm
July 18 (Sunday) 9pm

Party Monster

party.jpg (13457 bytes)Directed by Fenton Bailey & Randy Barbato
USA 1998, 16mm, color, 60 min.
With Michael Alig, Eric Bernat, Al Rodriguez

When Warhol died, a snotty, charismatic Velvet Goldmine type (once from Indiana) took over the downtown New York party scene, and made it wilder, sexier, more decadent, and definitely more dangerous, with cocaine and heroin everywhere. This is the mind-boggling, true-life story of Michael Alig, leader of the "Club Kids" scene, who ended up in jail for murdering his lover, putting the body in a suitcase, and sailing it out to sea. An official selection of the Sundance Film Festival.

Raw Images from the Optic Cross

Directed by Karl Nussbaum
USA 1998, video, color, 25 min.

An almost Space Odyssey-like trip inside the head of the filmmaker, the bitter son of a Holocaust survivor, a vivid, eerie, Caballic journey of horrifying, volcanic, freak-show imagery, and with a magnificent score by Joe Arcidiacono, melting European carnival music, shrieks of musical horror, and one piece described as "Neil Young Playing a Bar Mitzvah." 

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July 23 (Friday) 7pm & 9:15pm
July 25 (Sunday) 9pm
Filmmaker Alan Madison will answer questions at the Friday screenings.

Trouble on the Corner

trouble.jpg (9721 bytes)Directed by Alan Madison
USA 1997, 35mm, color, 114 min.
with Tony Goldwyn, Edie Falco, Debi Mazur, Tammy Grimes

In this Roman Polanski-like dark joke of a film, a psychologist (Goldwyn) lives and does therapy in a tenament on the Upper West Side of New York; and the infrastructure of the building is as unstable as his very unstable patients. The roof above comes tumbling down, allowing him to peek into the bathtub activities of his fleshy upstairs neighbor. Everyone gets crazier and crazier, especially our shrink, and the movie gets nutsoid too, sliding into dadaism. The New York Post: "Filmmaker Madison, who also wrote the screenplay, has a sharp sense of the macabre, and the movie’s ending is as unexpected as it is strange."

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July 30 (Friday) 7pm & 9pm
July 31 (Saturday) 5pm & 7pm

Hands on a Hardbody

Directed by S.R. Bindler
USA 1997, 35mm, color, 97 min.

The American Dream takes strange shapes, and here is one of the strangest: each year, a Nissan dealership in Eastern Texas holds a contest in which 23 hopefuls compete for a chance to win a new, hardbody pickup truck. And here are the rules: whoever manages to keep one hand on the truck the most hours wins it. The documentarians stand by filmming for the psychologically grueling hours and days while the contestants drop off one by one. This winner of the Audience Award at multiple film festivals becomes a moving drama of average people faced with physical pain, emotional hardship, a bit of triumph, and lots of defeat.

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