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A Film Oasis In The New York Suburbs

Saturday, December 30-----For Westchester County film buffs, and intrepid New Yorkers not adverse to going off-island, the Jacob Burns Film Center is a distinctive cultural resource in the heart of New York’s northern suburbs. For the past five years, the Film Center has offered a serious alternative to the megaplex monotony of film theaters outside of Manhattan, with unique special programs and the best of independent and international cinema.

This is clearly evident in just the first week of 2007, when the Film Center plays host to a number of intriguing film showcases and special events. On Tuesday, January 2nd, the Film Center is presenting back-to-back screenings of the current Clint Eastwood-directed World War II companion films FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS and LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA, giving audiences a rare opportunity to experience the films as moral set pieces that derive their power from their juxtaposition and mutual resonance.

FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS, which was released earlier this Fall to mixed reviews and lukewarm box office, is based on the best-seller which chronicles the fates of the soldiers forever immortalized in the classic photo of the flag raising after the hard-fought battle of Iwo Jima. Eastwood not only stages the messy wartime confrontation but paints a rather cynical portrait of how the pr “spinners” lay out their message for the home front…..a pointed comment on how the absurdity and human waste of war needs to be draped in voracious patriotism to keep the American public sated and motivated.

LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA, which opened last week, is a startling and rare look at the humanity of the Japanese fighters, who suffered major losses in the same Iwo Jima conflict. It is a testament to Eastwood’s clout with his studio Warner Brothers that a film that is sympathetic to our World War II enemies, performed entirely in Japanese, with a cast of mainly unknowns (the excellent Ken Watanabe a glaring exception) got made in the first place. The irony, among many, is that it is this film that has capture critics awards across the country and stands a better chance of Oscar nominations than its bigger budget companion. The Jacob Burns Film Center offers viewers a rare opportunity to sample both films (screenings at 5pm and 7:45pm respectively) in a single sitting.

The following evening, the Film Center presents a special event screening of the historical thriller PERFUME: THE STORY OF A MURDERER, directed by Germany’s enfant terrible Tom Twyker (of RUN LOLA RUN fame). The film is based on the bestselling 1985 novel by Patrick Süskind about Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, a perfumer with a unique talent for discerning the scents and smells that swirl around him. The film stars Ben Whishaw, Dustin Hoffman, Alan Rickman, Rachel Hurd-Wood, and John Hurt. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with New York Times perfume critic Chandler Burr and film critic Janet Maslin. Burr will also sign copies of his new book, THE EMPEROR OF SCENT: A True Story of Perfume and Obsession.

And as if this mix of war and olfactory sensation was not enough, the Film Center continues its highly praised film series “Rarely Seen Cinema”, as curated by Oscar-winning director Jonathan Demme. On Sunday, January 7th, Demme will present the Hong Kong policier DRAGON SQUAD, directed by action director Daniel Lee. The film is a stylish and ultra-violent tale of urban warfare between a team of Interpol officers and a group of Hong Kong mercenaries. This non-stop action extravaganza, which has been a worldwide hit, is making its East Coast theatrical premiere at the Film Center.

So, if you live in the suburbs and have already seen all the Oscar worthy films of the season and are dreading the doldrums of “dogs” that the studios traditionally unleash on an unsuspecting public in the month of January, make the Jacob Burns Film Center one of your regular haunts. If you are a Manhattanite, don’t be so provincial…..get thee to Grand Central Station and take a therapeutic ride to the pleasant town of Pleasantville. Film treats await the adventurous among you (and yes, you can still wear black).

For more information, film schedules and on-line tickets, visit the official website at:Jacob Burns Film Center


Sandy Mandelberger
Film New York Editor

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