10.23.13 | Rebecca Jones
I know that making sure you get into Inside Llewyn Davis or checking out that indie film you were an extra in may seem like the most important factors when it comes to planning out your schedule for the festival. However, if you ever feel like mixing it up and taking a look back at some great films of the past with the help of some great filmmakers, AFF’s many fantastic retrospectives have got you covered. Furthermore, I have got you even more covered, as I have taken the liberty to pick out a couple retrospectives from each day that I think would go especially well together. Kind of like each day is themed. If that’s the sort of thing you’re into.
Given that there is only one Retrospective playing on Thursday, I do not have much of a choice when it comes to my first pick, but that does not make it any less worth your time. Playing at 7:05 at the Texas Spirit Theater in the Bob Bullock is Citizen Ruth, a satire about abortion and the pro-life/pro-choice political debate. Citizen Ruth follows deadbeat mom Ruth Stoops (Laura Dern), who is thrown into a pro-choice/pro-life struggle when she is threatened with a felony charge if she doesn’t have an abortion. Co-writer Jim Taylor (Sideways, Election) will be present to provide insight into the film. The retrospective is followed by a screening of Political Bodies, a documentary about the pro-life/pro-choice debate that occurred over several abortion bills that were introduced in Virginia in 2012. I would recommend attending both events, as the satirical nature of Citizen Ruth will surely have an interesting impact on how you view the documentary.
If a night of the abortion debate isn’t your thing, that’s okay, because Friday’s retrospectives are dedicated to comedy. Screening at 12:30 PM at the Rollins Theatre is the cult classic A New Leaf, a dark comedy about a man who comes up with a plan to marry rich after spending all of his inheritance. The screening will be followed by a discussion with the writer, director, star, and comedy legend Elaine May. The perfect companion to this retrospective is the screening of the classic satire Blazing Saddles and subsequent conversation with co-writer Norman Steinberg, occurring at 6:30 PM at the Texas Spirit Theater. I consider both retrospectives essential for comedy nerds, especially those younger fans of the genre who are interested in learning about the roots of what we currently consider funny. I shouldn’t have to do anything to convince you older folks, you guys were actually alive when these films were made.
If Friday leaves you feeling nostalgic, Saturday’s line-up contains retrospectives of several classic dramas that will act as a great chaser. Brian Helgeland (L.A. Confidential, Mystic River) will present the classic prison drama Cool Hand Luke, featuring cinema legend Paul Newman in one of his many iconic roles, at 11:30 AM at the Rollins Theater. The only natural way to follow this up is with man of the hour Vince Gilligan’s retrospective of the classic police drama The French Connection at 4:00 PM at the Paramount. Join our 2013 Outstanding Television Writer Honoree as he shares his thoughts on the film as moderated by AFF’s co-founder and Executive Director Barbara Morgan. Just screenings of these great films alone would be worth going to see, but their combination with discussions by these masters of contemporary TV and film fully guarantees that these events will be memorable, informative and wholly unique experiences.
Finish out your retrospective experience by dedicating your Sunday to Jonathan Demme (The Silence of the Lambs, Rachel Getting Married). Sunday contains all of the films included in Demme’s retrospective series, “Out of the Vault with Jonathan Demme,” but I want to take this time to talk about two in particular. The first is Enzo Avitabile Music Life, which plays at 12:00 PM at the Rollins Theater. This documentary, directed by Demme himself, is a fantastic alternative to the mob scene that will inevitably be Vince Gilligan Presents: Breaking Bad. The documentary follows Demme as he travels to Naples to document an extraordinary gathering of musicians led by acclaimed saxophonist Enzo Avitabile. Demme’s conversation about this passion project will surely be a profound and moving experience, given his deep connection to Avitabile’s music. If you leave the screening wanting even more Demme, head over to the State Theater at 5:30 PM for his retrospective of cult-western Greaser’s Palace, where he will be joined by the one and only Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood, Boogie Nights) to discuss the film. C’mon, you guys, this one’s a no-brainer.