Oak Street Cinema prepares for fall films and foliage

The 2009 lineup features Oscar-winners, French auteurs and Burmese “radicals”

Monique Hennessy and Jean-Paul Belmondo in Jean-Pierre Melvilles Le Doulos. Photo courtesy Rialto Pictures

Monique Hennessy and Jean-Paul Belmondo in Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le Doulos. Photo courtesy Rialto Pictures

by Tony Libera

After battling its way back from the precipice of extinction a couple years back, the Oak Street Cinema appears poised for a comeback. The theater still has a somewhat wavering panda-like status with the constant threat of demise intermittently rapping at the door, but the efforts of both devoted patrons and a proud staff have pumped much needed life into the establishment. This forthcoming fall season offers the theaterâÄôs broadest selection yet, running the gamut from a Norwegian horror yarn about Nazi zombies (âÄúDød snø âÄù) to a documentary discussing Lyme disease (âÄúUnder Our SkinâÄù). With such a diverse lineup, the Oak Street Cinema just may prove its necessity and reestablish itself as the premiere Minneapolis locale for the extraordinary, esoteric and obscure. The fall season begins with a series of films dedicated to politics, anti-war sentiment and the human rights movement. Beginning Sept. 11th , patrons can see âÄúFifty Dead Men Walking ,âÄù a film starring Sir Ben Kingsley as a British agent who must spy on the IRA amidst the social and political upheaval of 1988. ItâÄôs certainly not a Bond movie, but it is a taut drama that devoted fans of political thrillers will enjoy. Following close on KingsleyâÄôs heels is âÄúTheater of War,âÄù a Bertolt Brecht adaptation by Tony Kushner starring Academy Award-winners Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline . The star power here is reason enough to see the film, but its true merit lies in director John WalterâÄôs in-depth exploration of BrechtâÄôs multifarious personal politics. But amidst a collection featuring multiple Oscar winners, the must-see film of this series is undeniably âÄúBurma VJ .âÄù The film is a collection of handheld camera footage shot during the 2007 uprising in Burma. When country leaders banned foreign press and disabled the Internet, a small group of committed reporters recorded astonishing events and secretly exported the tapes despite the risk of life imprisonment. This documentary contains footage that is unfathomable here in America. Sure, Americans occasionally see riot squads shooting tear gas and rubber bullets on the evening news, but in âÄúBurma VJ,âÄù the cameras capture soldiers hunting down fleeing protestors with live ammunition. Reporters are targeted with extreme malice and the film ultimately serves as a testament to the videographersâÄô bravery. For that reason, it is a film worth seeing. The subsequent series is a collection of classic French crime films that includes three of Jean-Pierre MelvilleâÄôs masterworks, âÄúBob le flambeur,âÄù âÄúLe cercle rouge âÄù and âÄúLe doulos .âÄù These seminal gangster flicks not only influenced the genre, but also, more importantly, influenced the budding generation of French auteurs. Melville, along with his unofficial protégés, would go on to establish the French New Wave, one of the most important movements in film. However, this historical significance can be viewed as secondary to the craftsmanship found in the films themselves. Still, the Oak Street CinemaâÄôs real value has always come from its willingness to showcase the ultra-obscure, films without big names or hotshot distributors. Keeping in line with this tradition, the Cinema will begin a new monthly series called âÄúNow See Hear.âÄù Every first Wednesday of the month there will be a screening of experimental and underground films. Additionally, the theater will host a short film festival on Sept. 26. Audiences will get a chance to watch the 10 finalists from over 500 global submissions and then vote for best world short and Oscar potential. ItâÄôs not Cannes, but at least itâÄôs close to Village Wok. Død snøâÄù DIRECTED BY: Tommy Wirkola STARRING: Vegar Hoel, Stig Frode Henriksen, Charlotte Frogner. RATED: Not rated DATES: TBA âÄúUnder Our Skin âÄù DIRECTED BY: Andy Abrahams Wilson Rated: Unrated DATES: Nov. 6 – 8 âÄúFifty Dead Men WalkingâÄù DIRECTED BY: Kari Skogland STARRING: Ben Kingsley, Jim Sturgess, Kevin Zegers. RATED: R DATES: Sep. 11 âÄì 17 âÄúTheater of WarâÄù DIRECTED BY: John Walter STARRING: Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline RATED: Not rated DATES: Sep. 18 âÄì 24 âÄúBurma VJ: Reporting from a Closed CountryâÄù DIRECTED BY: Anders Ãòstergaard RATED: Unrated DATES: Sep. 19 – 21, 23 Dates for following three: Sep. 25 – Oct. 1, Oct. 9 âÄúBob le flambeurâÄù DIRECTED BY: Jean-Pierre Melville STARRING: Isabelle Corey, Daniel Cauchy, Roger Duchesne. RATED: Unrated âÄúLe doulosâÄù DIRECTED BY: Jean-Pierre Melville STARRING: Jean-Paul Belmondo, Serge Reggianie, Jean Desailly. RATED: Not Rated âÄúLe cercle rougeâÄù DIRECTED BY: Jean-Pierre Melville STARRING: Alain Delon, Bourvil, Gian Maria Volontè. RATED: Not rated