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LARGE POPCORN, EXTRA BUTTER: International movies aren’t big, but they’re grand

The Civic Theatre is showing a run of some of the best movies world cinema has to offer
A scene from the film Living, in which director Oliver Hermanus teams with novelist Kazuo Ishiguro to create a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s 1952 classic film Ikiru. Photo: Submitted

by Jason Asbell

It’s schedules like this week’s that make me happy to be a programmer.

The amount of different stories, glimpses into lives and cultures and imaginings in the breadth of these assembled independent film releases is proof of the power of cinema as an art form.

In the Best International Oscar nominated fable-like film entitled EO, we start off in Poland and journey through contemporary Europe, rooted in its tumultuous past, looking towards its uncertain future all through the eyes of a donkey.

In Broker, the Japanese director of Shoplifters, beautifully crafts an achingly touching crowd-pleaser about an unconventional family formed under the strangest of circumstances.

Meanwhile, in Bangalore, in our South Asian presentation of Romancham, based on true events in the life of seven bachelors, protagonist Jiby introduces a ouija board to the house. Then a ghost named Anamika makes contact.

From the spirit world we return to the Living. In this exquisitely realized remake of Akira Kurosawa’s 1952 film Ikiru, director Oliver Hermanus teams with Nobel- and Booker Prize-winning author Kazuo Ishiguro to renew a classic. Mr. Williams (Bill Nighy) is a stereotypical English gentleman in 1952, with a mid-level bureaucratic job in a postwar London county council.

One day Williams receives a dire diagnosis from his doctor and soon the tightly held reins of his very prosaic life begin to loosen. Williams realizes that he isn’t facing death, he’s been living it. And so, in the clumsy manner of one who is unpracticed in these things, he begins putting work aside for new experiences.

Facing death can be difficult and for the protagonist in Canadian director Brandon Cronenberg’s latest, Infinity Pool, you can possibly cheat it, but at what cost? Guided by a seductive and mysterious woman (Mia Goth), a couple (Alexander Skarsgård and Cleopatra Coleman) on vacation venture outside the resort grounds and find themselves in a culture filled with violence, hedonism and untold horror. A tragic accident soon leaves them facing a zero-tolerance policy for crime: either you’ll be executed or, if you’re rich enough to afford it, you can watch a created stand-in for yourself die instead.

Now we come back to America and incidentally Korea again for a pair of films being featured for Black History Month.

Devotion is the inspirational true story of Jesse Brown, the first Black aviator in U.S. Navy history, and his enduring friendship with fellow fighter pilot Tom Hudner. Helping to turn the tide in the most brutal battle in the Korean War, their heroic sacrifices ultimately make them the navy’s most celebrated wingmen.

And our final feature of the week is an intimate screening at The Shoebox Theatre hosted by Greg Marrast as part of our February weekly Black History presentations. Fruitvale Station tells the true story of Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan), who once spent time in San Quentin and is now trying hard to live a clean life and support his girlfriend and young daughter. Flashbacks reveal the last day in Oscar’s life, in which he accompanied his family and friends to San Francisco to watch fireworks on New Year’s Eve, and, on the way back home, became swept up in an altercation with police that ended in tragedy.

We don’t get many weeks like these, where a gap in possible bigger releases and loosened screening restrictions allows us to be able to share the screen across so many titles. So please don’t miss the chance to be swept away by some of this week’s amazing stories. Support us by coming out to the theatre for these types of programming weeks as well as for the big blockbusters like Ant-Man: Quantumania opening on Feb. 17.

Jason Asbell loves his job as the programming director of The Civic Theatre. Films and showtimes are available at