A digitally restored version of a seminal Australian drama, another dose of Southern Gothic with Matthew McConaughey, and two — count ‘em, two — new Bollywood extravaganzas are among the attractions on Houston’s alt-film scene this weekend.
Ted Kotcheff’s Wake in Fright (at the Alamo Drafthouse Mason Park) — long considered a lost film because of its unavailability on cable, home video, or even revival-house programs — now can be seen for the first time in decades, in a newly struck 35mm print made possible in part by support from the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.
The plot has something to do with a Florida white-trash hottie (Nicole Kidman — no, really, Nicole Kidman) who falls in love while corresponding with a Death Row inmate.
The 1971 movie really is something of a national treasure, often cited as one of the features that sparked a revival of Aussie cinema in the early ‘70s — a revival that led to the Australian New Wave — and widely admired for the enduringly potent impact of its unflinching realism.
The plot pivots on the moral and physical degeneration of John Grant (Gary Bond), a seemingly civilized schoolteacher who gets in touch with his heart of darkness while stranded in an isolated mining community. At first, he tries to maintain his distance from the scruffy locals, most of them Down Under equivalents of boisterous good ‘ol boys. (Among the rowdies: Donald Pleasence and a then-unknown Jack Thompson.) But the longer he remains exposed to their aggressive hospitality, the more he’s willing to engage in their “manly” activities — to demonstrate that he’s just one of the guys. Nothing good comes of this.
Hot stuff and high flying
Fresh from stealing scenes and impressing critics in Bernie and Killer Joe, Matthew McConaughey makes another bid to solidify his standing as a versatile character actor (and not just another pretty face) in The Paperboy (at the River Oaks 3), a steamy melodrama directed by Lee Daniels (Precious).
The plot has something to do with a Florida white-trash hottie (Nicole Kidman — no, really, Nicole Kidman) who falls in love while corresponding with a Death Row inmate (John Cusack), and something else to do with a crusading reporter (McConaughey) who thinks the inmate may have been wrongly convicted, and employs his kid brother (Zac Efron) to get the lowdown on the hottie. The kid brother falls for the hottie and — well, nothing good comes of this, either.
Over at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Austin-based producer Brady Dial will be on hand to introduce the 7 p.m. Saturday screening of Man on a Mission, his documentary about video-game entrepreneur Richard Garriott’s attempt to travel beyond the clouds (just like his astronaut dad, Richard K. Garriott) by buying a $30 million seat on a Russian spacecraft.
Also at the MFAH this weekend: LĀSYA KĀVYA: The World of Alarmél Valli (1 p.m. Saturday), Sankalp Meshram’s documentary portrait of India’s iconic dancer-choreographer.
Bollywood and beyond
Two very different Bollywood imports open Friday at the AMC Studio 30: Delhi Safari, an English-language version of a 3-D animated feature about animals uniting to prevent the destruction of their forest home; and Student of the Year, a romantic comedy (with songs, of course) about the complications that arise at a prestigious academy when two students fall in love during a co-ed competition.
But wait, there’s more: The AMC Studio 30 also will open Tai Chi Zero, a steampunk martial arts action adventure about a young man who must survive a series of brutal beatdowns while learning to boldly kick ass like no ass has been kicked before; and Middle of Nowhere, a critically acclaimed drama about a woman who has more or less shut down her emotions while her husband serves time in prison. The latter movie, is should be noted, received two nominations — for Best Film and Breakthrough Actress (Emayatzy Corinealdi) — when the Independent Film Project (IFP) announced finalists Thursday for the 22nd annual Gotham Independent Film Awards.