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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Reviews of the Cinematheque's weekend films

Posted By on Thu, Mar 25, 2010 at 6:54 AM

The Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque is showing several great movies this weekend. Here are our reviews of just a few of them.

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House (Japan, 1977) This Japanese horror movie was made more than 30 years ago, and while it’s now become a cult classic, Nobuhiko Obayashi’s film doesn’t hold up. Even by B-movie standards, the special effects are cheesy, and the acting is generally shoddy. The story surrounds Oshare (Kimiko Ikegami), a young Japanese schoolgirl who recruits six screeching friends to go on vacation with her to her aunt's house in the countryside. Of course, the place turns out to be haunted, and it’s not long before an angry ghost comes after them. The ghost chops off one girl’s fingers when she plays the piano and and hurls pillows at another girl, suffocating her. The campy film is more strange than scary and shouldn’t be confused with all the contemporary Japanese horror movies that have received much-deserved stateside attention. At 8:45 p.m. Friday, March 26, and 7 p.m. Saturday, March 27. ** (Jeff Niesel)

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Reefer Madness (U.S., 1936) Produced by a church group as Tell Your Children, this hysterical anti-marijuana tract (with a little carnival-sideshow sex and sleaze on the side subsequently inserted by barnstorming producer Dwain Esper) went on to be a perennial at college film groups across the country, with many a freshman toking in its honor. Even viewers who value their sobriety won’t be able to stifle a giggle at the Squaresville enactment of a deadly dope ring that ensnares a bunch of Archie-and-Jughead type “teenagers,” luring them to a bad girl’s apartment and transforming the hapless youth into maniacs/murderers. The utilitarian scare show inspired the Paula Abdul-choreographed Broadway musical and Showtime feature Reefer Madness, but, unlike those spin-offs, this knew enough to wrap up in a little over an hour — so the traveling filmmakers could welcome in the next carnival tentful of rubes. At 10:30 p.m. Friday, March 26, and 8:45 p.m. Saturday, March 27. *** (Charles Cassady Jr.)

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Sita Sings the Blues (U.S., 2008) In this low-budget, high-imagination cartoon, writer-director Nina Paley wryly retells the Ramayana from the viewpoint of its heroine, the wronged wife of a mighty monarch. Commentary and flavor are added by musical numbers from 1920s jazz vocalist Annette Hanshaw, who “stars” in the film posthumously. Paley also interweaves the sad-absurd story of her own marital breakup. Brilliant minimalism-is-more graphics, music, satire, cross-cultural odysseys, heartache, revenge against an ex — it's all here. At 7 p.m. Friday, March 26, and 10:15 p.m. Saturday, March 27. *** (Cassady)

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