Oct 17, 2008

Heartland debuts Striped Pajamas/Monsieur Verdoux back on NYC screens

Desperately looking for diversion while in Cincinnati for an altogether crucial political season, I've happened across Indianapolis' Heartland Film Festival, which opened last night with the North American premiere of Mark Herman's The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, a WWII drama about the son of a concentration camp overseeing Nazi general who comes of age amidst the atrocities of an Auschwitz like environment. Only the second film to be greenlit and fully financed under the Miramax banner since Daniel Battsek took the reigns from the Weinstein Brothers at the Disney subsidiary, Pajamas, from John Boyne's novel of the same name (which he claims to have written in two and a half days) opens November 7th.

Although it's probably less grating than last year's Heartland opener, the imminently forgettable August Rush, Pajamas falls pretty firmly in the Heartland wheelhouse - a nostalgic, child oriented drama that seemingly deals with relevant, serious subject matter in a not so serious way - by heaping on the cheese and manipulating our emotional responses. Although one quick perusal of the fest program clearly indicates that Heartland is doing a terrific job of bring independent and foreign cinema to Indy screens that would otherwise never find there way to this midwestern outpost, it also nonetheless reconfirms the absolute commitment of the festival's backers toward cinema as a vehicle primarily for unearned, family oriented sentimentality, which is a notion that leaves this wholesome, corn fed midwesterner a bit churlish - surely in a city without any substantial forum for independent or non-American cinema, other than the much smaller, under financed Indianapolis Film Festival, Heartland could broaden its programming a bit. That said, I am looking forward to catching up with some titles I missed during their initial NYC runs this year (Oscilloscope's water crisis doc FLOW, Claude Miller's A Secret) and seeing some films and filmmakers who I've encountered at other fests (Richie Mehta is here with his terrific Indian dramedy Amal from Toronto 07').

Back in New York, a cult gem by one of Hollywood's most enduring figures is opening for a second run in less than a year. Charlie Chaplin's Monsieur Verdoux is one of the tramps most under seen films. Thought up by Orson Welles, the film is based loosely on the life of serial killer Henri Landru. It was Chaplin's most pronounced critical and commercial failure, but one of his most nimble and darkly comedic pictures. BAM curator Jake Perlin's The Film Desk is rolling it out for a week long run at the Cinema Village.