I’m always excited to peruse the month’s cinema schedule, but this month I’m particularly excited. Looking at the schedule, you might wonder why—after the first week of April, no sleeper blockbuster like Quartet, no big-budget digital showcase like Life of Pi, no Oscar-winning documentary like Searching for Sugarman. But that’s exactly why I’m itching to get in the popcorn line. Instead of stuff (even great stuff) that you might catch in the cineplex—Though why would you when you could support your local indie cinema?—for the rest of the month the programming is full of those wonderful gems whose shine usually gets drowned out by the media glare that’s trained on the latest blockbusters.
The thing that indie bookstores and cinemas do that chains and cineplexes don’t is to introduce you to the book or movie you didn’t know you’d love, and this month is full of potential cinematic trysts, from Leviathan, a cutting-edge documentary that chronicles the blood and rough beauty of life inside an industrial fishing trawler, to The Gatekeepers, which gives a previously-unreachable perspective on Middle East politics from inside one of the most efficient and secretive security organizations in the world, Israel’s Shin Bet. Or, on the fiction side, we range from the Godfather, the classic American immigrant film that is both startlingly violent and unexpectedly moving, to No, a Chilean film about an advertiser who helped a crowd of overly-earnest leftists use marketing to fight a dictator.
But there are two films I’m especially excited about. The first is the Essential Cinema screening of Wim Wenders’s Wings of Desire, a film that is achingly beautiful and romantic—and by romantic, I’m referring to the deeper sense of that word, in which love is a bold leap (or, in this case, fall) whose joy is intensified and purified by the acceptance of its inescapable transience. It’s no accident that in order to fall in love, the angel Damiel also has to fall into time, or that this blooming relationship between celestial being and sublunary trapeze artist is set in the bleak, wall-scarred landscape of cold-war Berlin, “the front line of the last gasp,” as Bruce Cockburn put it. The result is a visual and verbal poem that seduces the eye and stirs the heart. People who love cinema usually fall hard for it.
The second film this week that I’m eagerly anticipating (which, now that I think about it, also focuses on time), is 56 Up, director Michael Apted’s latest installment in what is commonly acknowledged to be one of the greatest documentary projects ever undertaken. In 1964, Apted was a researcher for a British documentary film called Seven Up! which followed twenty seven-year-olds from a broad spectrum of social classes and situations. Since then, he has checked in with fourteen of the children every seven years and made a series of documentaries based on where they are at in their lives, following them through education and work, achieved ambitions and lost dreams, long-lasting marriages and personal disasters. Those children are now 56, and watching their lives unfold over the course of the eight films and fifty years suggests so much not only about the individual paths of the participants, but about life itself and what determines how we negotiate it. The Up films provide endless fodder for conversation about people, eras, and ideas. If you’re hopping in at this point in the series, no worries; Apted gives introductions to each of the people in his films as he goes, and you can always catch up either before or after the film by renting the films from your friendly independent video store or browsing about on the web.