This weekend's alternative film lineup, from Hollywood cultists to Bollywood zombies
What's that, fellow movie buff? You claim the pickings are slim this weekend at theaters and drive-ins near you? You say you want something more substantial — or at least less predictable? Something a tad more idiosyncratic than mainstream megaplex fare?
Well, there are times when the term "alternative cinema" really does apply. So here are a few options to consider:
The Source Family — If a seemingly benevolent father figure kept you stocked with killer weed, encouraged various and numerous co-ed sexual activities, and allowed you to perform with his psychedelic rock band, chances are good you might come to view this benefactor as, oh, I dunno, maybe some kind of god.
Apparently, that's precisely what happened to 140 impressionable folks in L.A. during the early 1970s, as a restaurateur-turned-spiritual leader who called himself Father Yod divided his time between operating The Source, a trendy health food restaurant that counted Warren Beatty and John Lennon among its clientele, and overseeing (with a little help from his 14 wives), an "Aquarian tribe" that inspired the title of this provocative (and not entirely critical) documentary co-directed by Maria Demopoulos and Jodi Wille. (At the Sundance Cinemas)
Kon-Tiki — The amazing aquatic adventure of Thor Heyerdahl, previously depicted in an Academy Award-winning 1950 documentary directed by Heyerdahl himself, is recounted by Norwegian filmmakers Joachim Roenning and Espen Sandberg in this critically hailed dramatic feature. In 1947, Heyerdahl, a maverick explorer and ethnographer, set out with a five-man crew aboard a balsa wood raft on a 4,300-mile journey across the Pacific Ocean, from Peru to Polynesia, to silence skeptics who had mocked his theory that Polynesia had been settled centuries earlier by South Americans. The trip, as you'll see here, was more than a little eventful. (At the River Oaks 3)
Detroit Unleaded — Filmmaker Rola Nashef — born in Lebanon, raised in Michigan — expanded her award-winning short for her debut feature, a sharply observed comedy-drama about Sami (E.J. Assi), a young Lebanese-American who reluctantly takes charge of his family's small Detroit gas station after his father is killed during a robbery. Mike (Mike Batayeh), his ambitious cousin, wants to expand the business by opening a second location — even if that means consorting with some dodgy, ahem, investors. But Sami would rather concentrate on winning the beautiful Naj (Nada Shouhayib), a young woman whose free spirit is dampened by her bullying, tradition-bound brother. Detroit Unleaded will be presented at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Rice University Media Center as part of the 2013 Palestinian Film Festival.
You say you want something more substantial — or at least less predictable? Something a tad more idiosyncratic than mainstream megaplex fare?
Pierre Étaix: French Comedy Master — The ambitious retrospective tribute draws to a close Saturday at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, with Land of Milk and Honey (1971) at 6 p.m., and Le Grand Amour(1969) at 7:30 p.m. In a recent New York Times piece, critic Dave Kehr favorably compared Étaix to such diverse screen comics as Buster Keaton, Jacques Tati and Jerry Lewis — but acknowledged that he may not be for every taste, noting that "likability has never been one of his chief concerns." Étaix, Kehr wrote, "presents a comic persona that is remote and a bit chilly. His characters almost always seem to be operating in isolation from the people around him — even, or especially, when those people are members of his immediate family." Consider yourself warned — if not intrigued.
Renoir — Filmmaker Gilles Bourdos' acclaimed drama showcases the great French actor Michel Bouquet as Impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir, depicted here an aged yet still vital sensualist who, despite debilitating arthritis, continues during the summer of 1915 to brush color onto canvases at his farm on the Cote d'Azur. But the film also focuses on the relationship between Andrée Heuschling (Christa Théret), the artist's distractingly beautiful 15-year-old model, and Jean Renoir, the artist's son, temporarily on leave after being wounded in The Great War. To fully appreciate the importance of that relationship, it's helpful to know that, following Andrée’s advice, Jean went on to become a filmmaker — and eventually directed Grand Illusion, one of the greatest movies about World War I ever made. (At the Sundance Cinemas)
Go Goa Gone — And now for something completely different: A multi-genre mash-up — part zany comedy about three buddies on holiday, part action-adventure about flesh-eating zombies — described as "India's first Zom-Com." No kidding. The madcap movie, co-directed by Raj Nidimoru and Krishna D.K., starts out as your typical Bollywood masala of broad comedy, flirtatious romance and extended musical interludes, as three disparate friends begin a vacation in Goa, a party-hearty coastal getaway. But then dozens of undead party-poopers arrive on the scene, followed by a Russian gangster, Boris (Saif Ali Khan of Homi Adajania’s Cocktail), who fancies himself a zombie-killing vigilante. "I keel dead people," he boasts. And then he does, repeatedly. (At the AMC Studio 30)